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M Sinclair Stevens has been at 2 events

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Google Local Austin356,314*Win a pair of seats to our exclusive evening at Franklin BBQ* – goo.gl/2Sn5jB We're giving you a chance to experience every Austin carnivore's dream: the most mouthwatering brisket, ribs, sausage and salty sides imaginable...without waiting three hours in line! Want access to chow down at Franklin's during our private buy out, complete with live music, ice cold beer, and enough leftovers to last a week? Start writing local reviews on Google. Each high-quality review you write between now and August 7 will increase your chances of landing two coveted spots at our family style table.  1) Make sure you’re signed up for City Experts: g.co/cityexpert 2) Enter the contest: goo.gl/2Sn5jB 3) Get your reviews in by Thurs., August 7. We'll announce the winners here (and via email) on Friday., August 8. _Photo by Franklin Barbecue_Franklin BBQ Takeover2014-08-12 18:30:00145  
Sarah Hill2,817,815Calling all inhabitants of the Ghost Town.   Let's #HIRL in Austin, TX!!!   (Hangout In Real Life). Hear how ★ Plusketeers are using the +Google+  platform to create their own #humanmedia posse and how 2013 could be the year for + Google +.  Our venue only holds 100 so you *must RVSP* early and email googleplus@vu.com if you'd like to join us for lunch. +Veterans United is picking up the tab for free food and drinks but you're ghosts...so you don't eat much right?  ♥♥♥   #SXSWHIRL  HIRL in Austin, TX2013-03-09 12:00:00246  

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Most comments: 37

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2015-06-03 13:23:17 (37 comments, 15 reshares, 35 +1s)Open 

Censorship: Subjective Measures 
From the article...
"In 2009, the subject of my student's complaint was my supposed ideology....That was, at best, a debatable assertion. And as I was allowed to rebut it, the complaint was dismissed with prejudice. I didn't hesitate to reuse that same video in later semesters, and the student's complaint had no impact on my performance evaluations.

In 2015, such a complaint would not be delivered in such a fashion. Instead of focusing on the rightness or wrongness (or even acceptability) of the materials we reviewed in class, the complaint would center solely on how my teaching affected the student's emotional state. As I cannot speak to the emotions of my students, I could not mount a defense about the acceptability of my instruction. And if I responded in any way other than apologizing and changing the materials we... more »

Most reshares: 15

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2015-06-03 13:23:17 (37 comments, 15 reshares, 35 +1s)Open 

Censorship: Subjective Measures 
From the article...
"In 2009, the subject of my student's complaint was my supposed ideology....That was, at best, a debatable assertion. And as I was allowed to rebut it, the complaint was dismissed with prejudice. I didn't hesitate to reuse that same video in later semesters, and the student's complaint had no impact on my performance evaluations.

In 2015, such a complaint would not be delivered in such a fashion. Instead of focusing on the rightness or wrongness (or even acceptability) of the materials we reviewed in class, the complaint would center solely on how my teaching affected the student's emotional state. As I cannot speak to the emotions of my students, I could not mount a defense about the acceptability of my instruction. And if I responded in any way other than apologizing and changing the materials we... more »

Most plusones: 77

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2015-06-22 03:58:13 (0 comments, 5 reshares, 77 +1s)Open 

Travel: Mesa Verde 
2012-06-21. 

Latest 50 posts

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2015-07-02 23:22:38 (5 comments, 7 reshares, 24 +1s)Open 

Artifacts: Cleaning Up What's Left Behind 
In Japan an increasing number of people die alone. Many are not discovered for weeks or months after their deaths. This happens, in part because of Japan's aging population: 1 in 5 people is over the age of 65.

However, another factor is the alienation of men in their 50s and 60s who had given their entire lives to their jobs and lost all sense of worth when they lost their positions in the economic collapse. 

"Although the apartment is crammed with ephemera, it is empty of identifying belongings. There are no letters. There are no postcards. There are no family photographs, no paintings or pictures. The nicotine-stained walls are bare but for the ominous shadows of the workers, whose faint silhouettes are the dead man’s gruesome legacy. Family, so important in Japanese tradition, is absent here."
...&... more »

Artifacts: Cleaning Up What's Left Behind 
In Japan an increasing number of people die alone. Many are not discovered for weeks or months after their deaths. This happens, in part because of Japan's aging population: 1 in 5 people is over the age of 65.

However, another factor is the alienation of men in their 50s and 60s who had given their entire lives to their jobs and lost all sense of worth when they lost their positions in the economic collapse. 

"Although the apartment is crammed with ephemera, it is empty of identifying belongings. There are no letters. There are no postcards. There are no family photographs, no paintings or pictures. The nicotine-stained walls are bare but for the ominous shadows of the workers, whose faint silhouettes are the dead man’s gruesome legacy. Family, so important in Japanese tradition, is absent here."
...
"During the boom years many of these workers sacrificed family and friends for the growth of their companies. However, when the Japanese economy eventually crashed in the early ’90s, many of these salarymen lost their jobs or were forced into smaller, less prestigious roles with less social security. Having lost their status they found they had no purpose in life."

“Around 90 percent of the cases I deal with are men,” Koremura says. “Unlike women, men seem incapable of integrating themselves into a community when they live alone.”

こどくし【孤独死】

#whatwekeep  ___

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2015-06-30 22:05:49 (4 comments, 0 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

Lifetime Learning 
Grades are in. I just completed the third course in this series. The exercises have been quite challenging but all those years doing ETML in the 1990s at Evolutionary Technology Inc. suddenly came back to me for this latest course: Getting and Cleaning Data. So the concepts aren't difficult, just learning the language (R). I wish I had had some of these tools then. 

A week off and then on to the next class. I suppose I should fill in this week by catching up on my Japanese lessons.

Launch your career in Data Science: http://bit.ly/1Ji1BJS___Lifetime Learning 
Grades are in. I just completed the third course in this series. The exercises have been quite challenging but all those years doing ETML in the 1990s at Evolutionary Technology Inc. suddenly came back to me for this latest course: Getting and Cleaning Data. So the concepts aren't difficult, just learning the language (R). I wish I had had some of these tools then. 

A week off and then on to the next class. I suppose I should fill in this week by catching up on my Japanese lessons.

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2015-06-30 21:09:15 (0 comments, 3 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

Today's Unicorn Chaser (I Think She Caught Him)
Runner finishes 30-hour, 100-mile race with seconds to spare...and takes the all time record finish for the 70-and-older category. The crowd goes absolutely wild!

Today's Unicorn Chaser (I Think She Caught Him)
Runner finishes 30-hour, 100-mile race with seconds to spare...and takes the all time record finish for the 70-and-older category. The crowd goes absolutely wild!___

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2015-06-29 13:07:10 (2 comments, 1 reshares, 6 +1s)Open 

If you're drinking Silicon Valley Kool-Aid, then Uber is the pioneer leading us into a new economy. If you're not, then you might see a company determined to avoid all the traditional responsibilities of an employer. This is a long--but revealing--story of how they brought out the big guns to try and invade Portland. It isn't pretty. Uber is just a new-age corporate raider.

If you're drinking Silicon Valley Kool-Aid, then Uber is the pioneer leading us into a new economy. If you're not, then you might see a company determined to avoid all the traditional responsibilities of an employer. This is a long--but revealing--story of how they brought out the big guns to try and invade Portland. It isn't pretty. Uber is just a new-age corporate raider.___

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2015-06-29 00:37:05 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

RIP: Chris Squire 
A Fish Out of Water. Scenes from the Relayer Tour. December 2, 1974 at the Houston Astrodome.

RIP: Chris Squire 
A Fish Out of Water. Scenes from the Relayer Tour. December 2, 1974 at the Houston Astrodome.___

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2015-06-29 00:06:16 (6 comments, 2 reshares, 43 +1s)Open 

Travel Scotland: Loch Katrine
2007-06-27. This morning turned out to be one of those peak life experiences—a few hours when everything went right and we weren't rushing to get anywhere, we just enjoyed being where we were. I had wanted to tour via bike and Loch Katrine, only twenty minutes from where we spent the night in Callandar, provided the perfect spot. The private road around the Loch was mostly flat and mostly empty. We had the landscape practically to ourselves (one of the advantages of always being up at dawn and ready for an unfashionably early start to the day).

As I bicycled along, I could feel the "aliveness" of the scene. A rustle of leaves in the trees. The rush of a small beck over rocks. One could easily imagine an alternate universe populated with nature spirit and sprites. I fell under the enchantment.

Travel Scotland: Loch Katrine
2007-06-27. This morning turned out to be one of those peak life experiences—a few hours when everything went right and we weren't rushing to get anywhere, we just enjoyed being where we were. I had wanted to tour via bike and Loch Katrine, only twenty minutes from where we spent the night in Callandar, provided the perfect spot. The private road around the Loch was mostly flat and mostly empty. We had the landscape practically to ourselves (one of the advantages of always being up at dawn and ready for an unfashionably early start to the day).

As I bicycled along, I could feel the "aliveness" of the scene. A rustle of leaves in the trees. The rush of a small beck over rocks. One could easily imagine an alternate universe populated with nature spirit and sprites. I fell under the enchantment.___

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2015-06-28 18:20:37 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

Breaking News: Chris Squire Has Died
+Aaron Wood +paul beard 

Heart of the Sunrise___Breaking News: Chris Squire Has Died
+Aaron Wood +paul beard 

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2015-06-27 18:09:00 (2 comments, 5 reshares, 48 +1s)Open 


“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.

Herman Hesse. Siddhartha, 1922.

Image: Photography of the river Seine (Paris) by Pierre-Yves Petit, ca. 1920.

#literature #hesse #photography #petit #river #life


“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.

Herman Hesse. Siddhartha, 1922.

Image: Photography of the river Seine (Paris) by Pierre-Yves Petit, ca. 1920.

#literature #hesse #photography #petit #river #life___

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2015-06-27 10:29:15 (2 comments, 2 reshares, 35 +1s)Open 

Travel Scotland: Luss at Loch Lomond
2007-06-26 Tuesday
05:48. Leave Mobberley in the rented Yaris. Mileage: 9344.
11:33. Arrive Luss on Loch Lomond. Mileage: 9604.
We were looking for a gas station which we didn't find but decided to stretch our legs and enjoy some scenery. Luss is quite picturesque. Apparently they film some sort of TV drama (or soap opera?) here. The old industry was mining but now it is mostly tourism. The church and attendant graveyard are attractive. There are some very distinctive "hog-back" graves and one gravestone with a odd carving of a mother and child particularly fascinated me.

Travel Scotland: Luss at Loch Lomond
2007-06-26 Tuesday
05:48. Leave Mobberley in the rented Yaris. Mileage: 9344.
11:33. Arrive Luss on Loch Lomond. Mileage: 9604.
We were looking for a gas station which we didn't find but decided to stretch our legs and enjoy some scenery. Luss is quite picturesque. Apparently they film some sort of TV drama (or soap opera?) here. The old industry was mining but now it is mostly tourism. The church and attendant graveyard are attractive. There are some very distinctive "hog-back" graves and one gravestone with a odd carving of a mother and child particularly fascinated me.___

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2015-06-26 22:36:14 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 6 +1s)Open 

Double Rainbow: What Does This Mean 
Now we know.... "OMG. It's full on. Double rainbow all the way across the sky....It's so bright and vivid. It's so beautiful. OMG! It's so intense."

Double Rainbow: What Does This Mean 
Now we know.... "OMG. It's full on. Double rainbow all the way across the sky....It's so bright and vivid. It's so beautiful. OMG! It's so intense."___

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2015-06-26 14:10:25 (4 comments, 2 reshares, 22 +1s)Open 

Congratulations, American Couples 
...to a marriage of full partnership.

Congratulations, American Couples 
...to a marriage of full partnership.___

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2015-06-25 04:11:31 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

ATX: Leslie, Queen of Austin

“Queen of Austin” Leslie Cochran honored with Sixth Street plaque http://atxne.ws/1dhnb3a___ATX: Leslie, Queen of Austin

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2015-06-23 21:57:13 (11 comments, 1 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

Heart of the Sunrise

Heart of the Sunrise___

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2015-06-23 21:32:15 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Lonesome Traveller

Lonesome Traveller___

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2015-06-22 23:59:42 (8 comments, 2 reshares, 21 +1s)Open 

Travel: Southwest USA
2012-06-22. We drove almost deserted roads between Mancos and Las Vegas. Stopped at Four Corners to do the tourist shot: straddling the boundaries of four states at once. At Kayenta, deep in Navajo country, we ate a a Burger King that also served as a museum to the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. Then Red Mesa. Page, which is the motel capital of the southwest. Hurricane...strange name for a town in the middle of the desert, but lovely and green. We see our only tumbleweed of the entire trip.

Descent from St. George, Utah. Fast and windy. Potentially quite frightening but actually kind of fun. I would not have liked to be the passenger.

The drive into Las Vegas was not as bad as I was expecting although we did 70 mph at a minimum almost the entire way. We avoid downtown freeway traffic by turning off some expressway way north of town. This had a... more »

Travel: Southwest USA
2012-06-22. We drove almost deserted roads between Mancos and Las Vegas. Stopped at Four Corners to do the tourist shot: straddling the boundaries of four states at once. At Kayenta, deep in Navajo country, we ate a a Burger King that also served as a museum to the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. Then Red Mesa. Page, which is the motel capital of the southwest. Hurricane...strange name for a town in the middle of the desert, but lovely and green. We see our only tumbleweed of the entire trip.

Descent from St. George, Utah. Fast and windy. Potentially quite frightening but actually kind of fun. I would not have liked to be the passenger.

The drive into Las Vegas was not as bad as I was expecting although we did 70 mph at a minimum almost the entire way. We avoid downtown freeway traffic by turning off some expressway way north of town. This had a cool light system that warns you when you reach a point that you will not make running the light.___

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2015-06-22 13:39:08 (0 comments, 2 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

TECHNO-NARCISSISM: DELUSIONS ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

Looking at media coverage of Edward Snowden’s allegations, what is surprising is not their content, but that we are shocked by the close links between Silicon Valley companies and state intelligence agencies.  Our dismay suggests that we have credulously accepted the fairy-tale reporting of firms like Facebook and Google as ‘tech’ or ‘social media’ outfits rather than seeing them for what they really are: intelligence gathering, manipulation and sales corporations.

Using Google as our example here, let’s have a closer look at why we have deluded ourselves about what to expect from it.

Google is no more a technology company than auto manufacturers, pharmaceutical corporations, or food conglomerates.  The latter all use and develop technology too, but we name them according to their products and services, notthe tools the... more »

TECHNO-NARCISSISM: DELUSIONS ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

Looking at media coverage of Edward Snowden’s allegations, what is surprising is not their content, but that we are shocked by the close links between Silicon Valley companies and state intelligence agencies.  Our dismay suggests that we have credulously accepted the fairy-tale reporting of firms like Facebook and Google as ‘tech’ or ‘social media’ outfits rather than seeing them for what they really are: intelligence gathering, manipulation and sales corporations.

Using Google as our example here, let’s have a closer look at why we have deluded ourselves about what to expect from it.

Google is no more a technology company than auto manufacturers, pharmaceutical corporations, or food conglomerates.  The latter all use and develop technology too, but we name them according to their products and services, not the tools they use to develop and sell them.

In a disciplined process of analysis we might question other assumptions too.  The word ‘users’, for example, is far too neutral about the relationship between the corporation and us.  We are actually more akin to patrons who frequent a ‘market’ where we purchase third party goods and services either directly or indirectly through the influence of advertising.  Goodies like email, office software, and online chatting facilities are not really products so much as the enticement to turn up.[1]

Also, the term ‘social media’ is immediately apparent as being possessed of a weasel word, meaning that one of the words here is destroying the meaning of the other.  In this case there is nothing actually ‘social’ about the online media used to collect and aggregate information, but more on that later.  The important point is that Google is in the business of collecting information, massaging it into a product, and selling it.  It is a commercial intelligence corporation, not any kind of social platform, and it is for this reason alone that we should expect very close ties to state intelligence agencies.  In fact, we should expect much closer links and much more extra-legal activity than anything Snowden had to say.

If this all sounds like a dramatic overstatement, that may be because we all rely heavily on our news media to shape our thinking about everything.  But in that reliance we have become uncritical about the distinct subjectivity adopted in the selection of ‘news’ to report, and the way it is presented to us.  This point has been made at great length elsewhere by people like Marshall McLuhan, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, and recently also by more conservative writers like Ron Unz and Conor Friedersdorf.[2]  The point is, we know our news media sometimes misrepresents what it publishes, or omits news altogether.  We know many business, civic and political leaders lie and mislead us, and yet we don’t question uncritical reporting of their words by the new media.  Why are we so surprised, then, that we are lied to, cheated, and taken for fools?  Perhaps because we have fallen out of practicing a bit of critical analysis ourselves?

Assuming that not everyone is familiar with the notion of critical analysis, this is an analytical technique of examining a circumstance, message or artefact with a disciplined approach to uncovering or explaining significant features.  The word critical does not always imply a negative criticism, just a reasoned, informed, and adroit judgement about the analysis.  It is the opposite to assertion based on ignorance or vested interest.

Techno-narcissism as religion

In that light, one of the least enlightening perspectives on Google to accept is the one proposed by Silicon Valley executives and employees, but also all those whose livelihoods are dependent on them.  This perspective is infused with a stifling combination of narcissism and ignorance.

The narcissism has two vectors: a kind of self-obsessed navel gazing that places the subject at the centre of an ahistorical universe in which only the now and its rhetorics have any reality; and the jargon-laden echo chambers of mountebanks, charlatans, and ambitious self-promoters, repeating nonsensical hymns to technology and void concepts like ‘social graphs’, ‘social capital’, or how everything has changed for awesomeness, even though it hasn’t.

The ignorance referred to above is probably most elegantly and diplomatically explained by George Packer in his New Yorker essay, ‘Change the World’, in which he quoted an anonymous Silicon Valley identity commenting on Silicon Valley identities altogether:

“They actually think that Facebook is going to be the panacea for many of the world’s problems.  It isn’t cynicism – it’s arrogance and ignorance.”

Further on in the piece, Packer talks to a heavyweight:

Andreessen said: “It’s very possible for somebody to show up here – a twenty-four-year-old engineer who’s completely state of the art in building companies and products – and have no exposure at all to politics, social issues, history.” [3]

In other words, there’s a technocratic mentality of embracing a stunning degree of ignorance while asserting with missionary zeal the idea that technical nous somehow makes of fundamentally flawed and socially corrosive ideas a brave new world for everyone.

Techno-narcissism is a new religion, relying on not knowing anything about human history as the foundation for a blind faith in what Evegeny Morozov has called ‘solutionism’,[4] which is really no more than a crypto-fascist, reductionist determinism whereby everything is squeezed into algorithmic parameters, which are then also touted as the answer to any questions left over.  All human striving is stripped of anything that doesn’t fit this mechanistic conception, and suggestions are made and taken seriously that human ends should fit into the solutionist products offered by ‘engineers’, who are presented to us as the high priests of the new religion.  Ergo we have ridiculous concepts like social graphs and gadget culture seeking to dismiss class conflict and economic struggle as non-existent, with corporate exploitation becoming ‘awesomeness’ and a continuing history of concentrated wealth, militarism, discrimination, all being banished by the propaganda that nothing will ever be the same again.  Except, of course, that nothing has fundamentally changed since the 1980s, and it isn’t really any more awesome than it was then.

Unfortunately even the emerging mass media critiques of this techno-narcissism appear to be infected by premisses that are uncritical of the technology-centric propaganda peddled by the corporations.  The propaganda is breathlessly naïve and sincere in some cases, but it is nevertheless composed of paper-thin justifications for pretty traditional extractive economic exploitation.

Take, for example, Jaron Lanier, whose Silicon Valley celebrity status and cultivated nouveau hippy chique ‘credibility’ might endear him to the faithful, but whose ignorance or silence about political economy and history undermines his more valid points, such as those about an online lynch-mob mentality arising from the combination of anonymity and group-think, and of the bare-faced lie behind the proposition that any activity involving human labour can be regarded as free.

A much more rational and grounded critic is Evgeny Morozov, who carefully deconstructs the pompous, misleading rhetorics of technological utopianism, but even he stops short of a pluralist critique of combining historical political, social, and economic dimensions.

Not that rational critiques are likely to penetrate too far.  The internet acronym for ‘too long; didn’t read’ (TLDR) has become not just a mantra for the indolent and idiotic, but a pseudo-dictum.  Writing is being devalued as part of the techno-narcissists through their demands that it be permanent synopsis, and devoid of style, elegance, cadence, literary sophistication, or nuance.  Instead it has been recast by the semi-literate technocrats as no more than the necessary creation of words to constitute an online content whose sole function is to be consumed as disposable information rather than as a vehicle for anything meaningful like literature, critique, rhetoric, polemic, satire, Socratic dialogue.  The technocrats aren’t educated enough to understand these forms of prose, so they condemn them as too long, meaning too complex for their own attenuated analytical skills, and ‘didn’t read’ because it might require effort and concentration.

There is no conception here of joy in writing and reading, the explication of concepts too complex to describe in tweet-length summaries, and the value of grammar, diction, and spelling.  All of this reductionism appears to be an aspirational justification for ignorance and devaluation of anything that cannot be understood in attention deficit time-spans.

In these contexts one must wonder how any worthwhile critiques of intelligence corporations and their products can ever actually arise within the constraints of the new religion.  The answer is: they can’t!  What’s required is, of course, an educated and disciplined approach.

Critical theory

To illustrate one possible method, let’s build a framework of reference.  A critical perspective or paradigm within which to examine digital technology issues.

Here we will begin with some exposition of the ideas put forward by Herbert Marcuse.  Why?  Because he combined political, economic, and social critique as a single approach rather than separate and discrete strands, and because he talked about technology as an artefact as well as a driver of political economy.

Uncritical thinking derives its beliefs, norms, and values from existing thought and social practices, while critical thought seeks alternative modes of thought and behaviour from which it creates a standpoint of critique. Such a critical standpoint requires developing what Marcuse calls “negative thinking,” which “negates” existing forms of thought and reality from the perspective of higher possibilities. This practice presupposes the ability to make a distinction between existence and essence, fact and potentiality, and appearance and reality. [5]

In other words, let’s ditch group think and orthodoxy, or whatever passes as expert opinion, and let’s admit the possibility that things do not have to be as they are, and can be changed if we so desire.

… Marcuse sketches the historical decline of individualism from the time of the bourgeois revolutions to the rise of modern technological society.  Individual rationality, he claims, was won in the struggle against regnant superstitions, irrationality, and domination, and posed the individual in a critical stance against society.  Critical reason was thus a creative principle which was the source of both the individual’s liberation and society’s advancement.  The development of modern industry and technological rationality, however, undermined the basis of individual rationality.  As capitalism and technology developed, advanced industrial society demanded increasing accommodation to the economic and social apparatus and submission to increasing domination and administration. Hence, a “mechanics of conformity” spread throughout the society. The efficiency and power of administration overwhelmed the individual, who gradually lost the earlier traits of critical rationality (i.e., autonomy, dissent, the power of negation), thus producing a “one-dimensional society” and “one-dimensional man.” [6]

Marcuse was quite insightful in predicting how individuality is crushed rather than nurtured by the technocracy of administering the superstructure of advanced technological capitalism; that superstructure might be thought of as private companies, the apparatus of state, institutions like universities, the ‘press’, and political parties.  It certainly includes companies like Google.  It is the expected conformity to bureaucratic structures, organisational rules, and echo chamber thinking that kills off individuality, creativity, and liberty.

… Marcuse claims that: “The defeat of Fascism and National Socialism has not arrested the trend towards totalitarianism. Freedom is on the retreat—in the realm of thought as well as in that of society.”  In Marcuse’s view, the powers of reason and freedom are declining in “late industrial society”: “With the increasing concentration and effectiveness of economic, political, and cultural controls, the opposition in all these fields has been pacified, co-ordinated, or liquidated.” Indeed, reason has become an instrument of domination: “It helps to organize, administer, and anticipate the powers that be, and to liquidate the ‘power of Negativity.’ Reason has identified itself with the reality: what is actual is reasonable, although what is reasonable has not yet become actuality.” [7]

This is precisely the rationale of the technocrats dominating intelligence corporations: that humanity and humanism should be displaced by the logic of developing digital technology markets to which people should mould themselves instead of questioning the actual utility and benefits of consumer technology to independently human ends.  And that’s precisely what we see on Google Plus in the endless free advertising for consumer platforms masquerading as comments on, or reviews of, smart phones, tablets, and apps; in endless ‘social media’ strategy babble by ‘thought leaders’; in the striving for cachet and prestige in the faux ‘social’ sphere of online echo chambers; and in the worship of digital technology superstars as if they were Soviet era Stalinist leaders, or religious prophets; names like Jobs, Andreessen, and Page come to mind immediately.

The lessons of history

How did we ever end up in the grip of techno-narcissism?  Ignorance of history is one answer.  What history?  Let’s start with The European Reformation, which ended in so much bloodshed and internecine destruction that Thomas Hobbes was able to compose, and be remembered for The Leviathan, in which he argued that all religious and private factions had to surrender to the sovereign state the ‘freedom’ to kill and torture each other in return for some minimum protections of life, limb, and property.

From Hobbes let’s move to John Locke, who asserted the liberal democratic principle that the state needs the consent of the governed to be governed.  John Stuart Mill added the restraint that the will of the mass is tyranny if imposed on an unwilling minority.

In a separate strand of history let’s consider that Adam Smith was not an advocate of completely unfettered capitalism, but assumed a degree of ethics, as expounded in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, which seems to be entirely absent from contemporary discussions of economic policy and corporate conduct.

Let’s consider that Karl Marx established the theory about exploitation of labour through an appropriation of its surplus value as the basis of capitalist profit.  But let’s also consider John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich August von Hayek as bookends of conventional economic theory in the West until the 1980s, arguing state intervention in times of private sector failures, and state restraint from intervention in times of private sector successes.

Let’s move back a little, in tangent, to Gladstone and Disraeli in England and Bismarck in Germany, who saw the benefits to the state and society of an educated population, of an agnostic secularism in state institutions to prevent precisely the religious determinism now re-introduced by technocrats, and of a basic social welfare infrastructure, if only to prevent social unrest and revolution.

It’s a skimpy list of names and ideas, but short of presenting a fully-fledged thesis it will suffice to bring us to the mass consumerism of the 1950s through to the 1970s, with an unsustainable economic dithering between Keynes and Hayek leading to the sharp rupture in Western political economy that began with Reaganomics and Thatcherism, which were all about reverting to a 19th century laissez faire model writ large.

Silicon Valley corporations

It is this form of political economy, dominant particularly in the UK and USA, but accepted as orthodoxy almost universally by now, that led in the US to a particular kind of capital accumulation, based on highly risky stock market speculation, leading to massively inflated bubbles of artificial value, which underwrote the Silicon Valley boom.  In other words, without the precise history and economic development of the West, creating the right kinds of mass consumer societies and the right kinds of high-risk venture capital, with the right kind of unregulated commercial space, Silicon Valley might not have developed at all, or developed elsewhere.

As a product of robber baron capitalism, Silicon Valley corporations themselves are not fundamentally different to their more traditional counterparts in, say, oil, automobiles, or pharmaceuticals.

They are amoral, anti-social, and selectively lawless.  Amoral here means a lack of ethics rather than obedience of laws, which is really only a selectivity about which laws to obey and where, via the legerdemain of trans-national corporate structures, and a willingness to break laws in order to manipulate markets if the penalties are smaller than the profits.  They are anti-social to the extent that they withhold significant capital reserves from job-creating re-investment to boost their share prices, and they cheat on taxes as a profit maximisation strategy, all of which robs the societies from which they profit of tax revenue, and destroys jobs, thus undermining social stability.

It is here, too, that we can locate the lies inherent in the term ‘social media’.  The social is a direct engagement of people in close proximity to each other to resolve common problems or to cooperate for mutually beneficial outcomes.  The social dimension contains all there is to know about human interaction, including class structures, and differentiation according to gender, opinions, race, economics, and community membership.  None of this is contained in the so-called social media, which are only market places for commercial activity, bringing together disparate people who may not share any common social ties or outlooks in an entirely contrived environment.  The physical manifestation of social media is no more than an online forum, directed and restricted by its design and functionality.  Unlike real social engagements, none of the patrons of the forum have any power to change its structure or purpose.

Recognising these constraints is not synonymous with a demand they be altered.  That recognition should, however, clarify in our minds that intelligence corporations are commercial enterprises, governed by the same imperatives as other corporations.  That includes features not often highlighted in mass media.  Contrary to free market rhetoric about private sector activity being more efficient if unregulated, late capitalist corporations all work to distort markets to their own benefit, meaning they only eschew regulation that doesn’t benefit them.  Nor is it clear what is so ‘efficient’ about profit maximisation driven by unsustainable extractive principles.  Non-profit organisations can be at least as efficient in pursuing outcomes not measured by direct profitability: schools for turning out educated kids, public transport for running on time, hospitals for reducing the social cost of sickness.

Also contrary to free market rhetoric, most corporations are responsible to no one at all, because their boards are made up largely of institutional shareholders, meaning a very small and highly concentrated composition of boards staffed by the same people – corporate executives looking after corporate interests, which are not always about shareholder benefit or dividends.  It might be argued that the collapse of 2007 wouldn’t have happened if there had been critical intervention by real people on boards rather than corporate proxies.

Social media economics

Despite everything stated here being more or less common knowledge, the economics of social media corporations still flummox a great many people, who assume that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and some others, give ‘stuff’ away for nothing, like altruistic benefactors.

Let’s have a look at why that is simply not true.  We’ll use Google Plus as an example, but the model can be adapted to any of the others as well.

Google purports to offer a free social media platform (and other services like Gmail and Google Docs) in return for the right to use personal information and usage trends as a product with which to attract advertising.

Google in fact needs people to use its artefacts and to populate it with their content in order for this to work at all.  So, there is what Maurizio Lazzarato called immaterial labour,[8] which is essentially no different from Marx’s description of the appropriation of surplus value of labour by capitalists to derive profit, except this immaterial labour is entirely unpaid, and has no tangible commercial product as its end point: no one gets paid to post cat gifs, and no one pays to look at them.

Well, not quite.  We all pay to post on and look at social networks via the costs of our internet infrastructures.

There are also other larger but more indirect costs to us all.  First, for every advertising dollar spent, the price of products and services thus advertised has to rise to make up for the expenditure.  When we buy from Google advertisers, we pay for Google profits, and therefore Google’s ‘free’ products.

Further diffused in the economy is the inflationary pressure of price rises, which are partly offset by reduced advertising costs elsewhere, but not completely.  Advertising spend has risen overall, even if the landscape of beneficiaries has changed somewhat.  Inflation affects everyone, whether they use Google’s products or not.

In short, we all pay for Google, which is quite obviously far from free.  A corollary is that arguments about ownership of the ‘free’ services actually being vested in their patrons become respectable, with the proviso that this does not confer a controlling power in any traditional sense of ownership.  It is, however, quite clear that the value of the services would plummet to zero if patronage were withheld.

That is the lesson of the Snowden media circus: public opinion can and does matter to social media corporations if the risk of ignoring it threatens patronage.  It is perhaps the only lever to demand ethical behaviour from social media corporations, much as boycotting conventional companies and products has worked in the past.

Technocrat ethics

Could it be that companies like Google are confused about public reaction to their unethical behaviours because they are disproportionately populated by technocrats whose ethical sensibilities are stunted or entirely absent?

If so, how is it that these technocrats could be so divorced from wider public perceptions about morality and demands for ethical corporate behaviour?

Running roughly in tandem with the 1980s rise of plutocratic political economy was a vandalism of the public education systems in the Western world to monetise its products (students) and services (diplomas, degrees).

This meant that education with no direct return on investment visible to the ideologues who made such policies was eclipsed in favour of merely technical training for the professions: engineers, architects, lawyers, doctors, scientists (of commercial appeal), and, latterly, nerds trained as IT ‘engineers’.

However, by sidelining the humanities in education, a new generation of professionals emerged as largely ignorant about anything outside their specialisations, like history, philosophy, the arts, and particularly literature, which is important not only in explaining philosophical concepts to neophytes, but in fostering literacy and an appreciation of how to communicate in a less rudimentary fashion than the semi-literate ‘business’ English of dot points, ungrammatical formulations, an absence of recognisable spelling, and a superabundance of meaningless technical and business jargon.

These absences in education make it difficult for professionals to ever come to an understanding of ethics, moral principle, and why these are important to society and individuals.  As a consequence we now have two generations[9] of graduates who are functionally amoral and convinced that ethics just means obeying laws or paying lip service to Sunday School sermons.

A recent congressional report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Commission on Humanities and Social Sciences suggests that not only do employers prize liberal arts education more highly than was supposed by policymakers since the 1980s, but the knowledge and skills inculcated in such curricula are being missed at more senior levels than just graduate positions.[10]

The absence of a more broadly-based education may partly explain why corporations behave amorally.  The people running them have no conception of what it would mean to behave differently, and that doing so is an option limited only by inaction.

A matter of perspective

It is in this context that Silicon Valley trans-nationals might be justifiably considered as ethically suspect, and their complicity in police state surveillance shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

From Marcuse’s point of view, both the state and the trans-nationals are really in the same business: perpetuating the currently dominant political economy.  If the articulation of police state apparatuses is seen as a logical or necessary administrative form of economic, political, or social control, then the state and corporations have a joint interest in facilitating such mechanisms.

This context sheds light on Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s statement: ‘If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.’[11]  Not only might Schmidt lack the education to understand how crypto-fascist he sounded, but it actually makes perfect sense in terms of Google’s business model, in which there is no room for political or economic dissent, and in which there is a great deal of naïveté about what kinds of opinion and behaviour are acceptable, and from whom.  It did not escape George Packer that Silicon Valley businesses are the preserves of mostly white men from already affluent backgrounds; women and racial minorities are simply not front of mind, and neither are the economic, political, and social discrimination they face as a matter of routine.  We might consider this a Silicon Valley exceptionalism, on top of American exceptionalism more generally.

It is clear that Schmidt seems woefully unaware of the potential for his business to deliver to others information that can and probably is already being used to entrench that discrimination.  That’s just the US we are considering now.  For every opinion spread through the Google infrastructure world-wide, not only can it find support, but it must also expect to encounter secret and not so secret police intent on eradicating the opinion and its source.

The largely apathetic indifference by Western populations to revelations of the extent to which this symbiotic relationship between social media and distinctly sinister police state activities has progressed is a good indication that the suppression of dissent described by Marcuse has worked entirely as predicted.  We don’t even recognise it as sinister anymore, particularly not if it has the veneer of legality.

Without any need to adopt alternate perspectives on this symbiosis, it is nevertheless useful to keep in mind that many millions, if not billions of non-Western people might see social media corporations in contexts very different to the ones we are presented with in our own mass media.  Consider, for example, the following excerpt from an opinion published in the Russian Pravda by the China Daily’s Eric Sommer:

Google is, in fact, is a key participant in U.S. military and CIA intelligence operations involving torture; subversion of foreign governments; illegal wars of aggression; and military occupations of  countries which have never attacked the U.S. and which have cost hundreds of thousands of lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

To begin with, as reported previously in the Washington Post and elsewhere, Google  is the supplier of the customized core search technology for Intellipedia, a highly-secured online system where 37,000 U.S. spies and related personnel share information and collaborate on their devious errands.

Agencies such as the so-called ‘National Security Agency’, or NSA, which is implicated in the current ‘spying on Americans’ scandal, have also purchased servers using Google-supplied search technology which processes information gathered by U.S. spies operating all over the planet.

In addition, Google is linked to the U.S. spy and military systems through its Google Earth software venture.  The technology behind this software was originally developed by Keyhole Inc., a company funded by Q-Tel http://www.iqt.org/, a venture capital firm which is in turn openly funded and operated on behalf of the CIA.

Google acquired Keyhole Inc. in 2004.  The same base technology is currently employed by U.S. military and intelligence systems in their quest, in their own words, for “full-spectrum dominance” of the planet.

Moreover, Googles’ connection with the CIA and its venture capital firm extends to sharing at least one key member of personnel.  In 2004, the Director of Technology Assessment at In-Q-Tel, Rob Painter, moved from his old job directly serving the CIA to become ‘Senior Federal Manager’ at Google.

As Robert Steele, a former CIA case officer has put it:  Google is “in bed with” the CIA. [12]

What we get are editorials describing Snowden as ‘ridiculously cinematic’ and that he’ll go down in history ‘as a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood’,[13] or that:

The president knows all about it. It may be that this consensus is wrong, even immoral. But it’s not being executed without the knowledge of public officials elected by the people. [14]

This reassurance might come as a relief to some, but it seems that regulatory considerations, which must have already been in train when the Snowden story broke, have attracted more widespread media attention as a consequence of the Snowden allegations than they might otherwise have been granted by our mass media.  For example, Sweden’s data protection authority has ruled that its public sector should not use Google cloud services for concerns about its privacy policies – a ruling likely to be closely examined by EU regulators in their current deliberations on privacy and data protection.[15]  France is threatening Google with fines for privacy breaches,[16] and Spain has just announced it is pursuing possible breaches by Google of its own data protection laws.[17]  In Australia there was news that Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has joined with none other international privacy guardians to demand answers from Google about its Glass product,[18] while the PRISM fallout was being considered at an altogether higher level still according to Foreign Minister Bob Carr.[19]
Full circle

Our little analysis of what Google might be, or not, is almost done.  It needs a word of caution: this is not an exercise in politics.  The critique does not imply any kind of endorsement for radical change or for the status quo.  It is merely a way of gaining perspective on Google’s activities, and to at look at what some of the less common, less orthodox ways of describing them.

Imagine, now, how much more complex and intricate a picture we could paint if we filled in the entire approach with more names and theories, with more detail to be examined, and with more different, contrasting perspectives on the various aspects we considered.  Imagine, instead, if we had used entirely different names and theories.  The point is that critical analysis requires some kind of anchor in a known framework or reference, with admitted influences and stated ideas.  In that way critical analysis differs sharply from blithe assertions backed by nothing but the premisses of the assertions themselves.  This latter route is often confused as objective reporting.

Consider the following from the Washington Post:

A high-profile legal showdown might help Google’s efforts to portray itself as aggressively resisting government surveillance, and a victory could bolster the company’s campaign to portray government surveillance requests as targeted narrowly and affecting only a small number of users.

In its petition, Google sought permission to publish information about how many government data requests the surveillance court approves and how many user accounts are affected. Google long has made regular reports with regard to other data demands from the U.S. government and other governments worldwide, but it has been forced to exclude requests from the surveillance court, which oversees an array of official monitoring efforts that target foreigners. [20] 

Sounds really straight-forward and reasonable, doesn’t it?  But it assumes there are no extra-legal data exchanges between Google and US agencies, or with states internationally.  Why?  Because we don’t ordinarily question such things.  Just as we don’t ordinarily question the meaning of terms like ‘social media’, or ‘technology company’, or a whole slew of other euphemisms that conceal other meanings.  Built into the message from the article are base assumptions about the legitimacy of Google operations, the notion that the current issue is a purely legal one, and internal to the US, and also the notion that a small number of privacy intrusions is to be seen as quite normal.

It may be that such assumptions are to be considered normative in the context of US politics, society and culture.  It would nevertheless help to know what the assumptions are before accepting them uncritically, and without critical analysis that never happens.

Without driving the analysis engaged in here towards a specific call to action, as you might for your own purposes, we can nevertheless recognise two very uncontroversial conclusions: Google will not act with any kind of honour or ethics without being forced to by circumstances that might threaten its business model; and public opinion, particularly if expressed and reflected in mass media, is a powerful tool for instigating change in corporate behaviour.  Google could have launched legal action to reveal more of its surveillance collaboration at any time, but did not until the Snowden story broke and created public concern.

More generally, what we can conclude about the religion of techno-narcissism is that it adopts all the usual features of spiritual religions: ignorance; denial of alternative perspectives as heresy; faith in liturgy; and a proselytising character.  It may be a little bit more benign, but there are already signs of reductionist absolutism by which human qualities become less than human as they are shoehorned into technocrat artifices like algorithmic pattern matching, the always-on culture of being dictated to by gadgets rather than using them for human ends  In the same vein, we are frequently confronted with the dim-witted propositions that calling something ‘new’ works even when it’s not new at all, referring to ‘innovation’ is actually more than just a marketing word, and anything labelled as ‘technology’ is always good, regardless of its content.  What is lost here is that Marcuse predicted what technology would lead to 50 years ago, innovation has been largely just the expected miniaturisation, and technology, like guns, takes on the moral quality of those who wield it, and the ethical dimensions of their purposes.

If we feel like we’ve been lied to or misled as a consequence of this little analysis, maybe we should consider that we wilfully collaborated in the deceptions by just not looking too hard and just not asking any real questions.  That will do for our purposes here.

You and I can form larger or more forceful conclusions of our own.  Ultimately such conclusions remain merely interesting speculation unless they are also tied to action.  But that is an entirely different story, even in this benign context.

 
NOTES

[1] Google does make a small return on ‘rents’ from corporate users of these toys, but it is not its main business.

[2] See McLuhan, Marshall (1964).  Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.  New York: McGraw Hill.  Chomsky, Noam; and Herman Edward (1988).  Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.  New York: Pantheon Books.  Unz, Ron (2013).  ‘Our American Pravda’.  The American Conservative, 29 April, http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/our-american-pravda/, accessed 21 June 2013.  Friedersdorf, Conor (2013).  ‘Why Does the American Media Get Big Stories Wrong?’.  The Atlantic, 3 June, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/06/why-does-the-american-media-get-big-stories-wrong/276454/, accessed 21 June 2013.

[3] Packer, George (2013). ‘Change the World’.  The New Yorker, 27 May, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/05/27/130527fa_fact_packer?printable=true&currentPage=all, accessed 19 June 2013.

[4] Tucker, Ian (2013).  ‘Evgeny Morozov: “We are abandoning all the checks and balances”’, The Guardian, 10 March, http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/mar/09/evgeny-morozov-technology-solutionism-interview, accessed 19June 2013; Babbage (2013).  ‘The Folly of Solutionism’.  The Economist, 2 May 2013, http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/05/evgeny-morozov-technology, accessed 19 June 2013.

[5] Kellner, Douglas (1991).  ‘Introduction to the Second Edition’, in Marcuse, Herbert (2002) One Dimensional Man, London: Routledge, pp xiv-xv.  Originally published in 1964.

[6] Op cit, pp xix-xx

[7] Op cit, p xxiv.

[8] Lazzarato, Maurizio, trans Emery, Ed (2005). ‘Towards an Inquiry into Immaterial Labour’.  libcom.org, 1 November, http://libcom.org/library/general-intellect-common-sense, accessed 19 June 2013; Lazzarato, Maurizio (undated),  ‘Immaterial Labour’, Generation Online, http://www.generation-online.org/c/fcimmateriallabour3.htm, accessed 19 June 2013.

[9] Measuring a generation as 18 years – the time it takes from birth to legal adulthood in most Western nations.

[10] Gordon-Reed, Annette (2013).  ‘’ Critics of the Liberal Arts Are Wrong’, Time, 19 June, http://ideas.time.com/2013/06/19/our-economy-can-still-support-liberal-arts-majors/, accessed 19 June 2013.

[11] Metz, Cade (2009).  ‘Google chief: Only miscreants worry about net privacy’, The Register, 7 December, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/12/07/schmidt_on_privacy/, accessed 21 June 2013.

[12] Sommer, Eric (2013).  ‘Google’s deep CIA and NSA connections’, Pravda, 17 June, http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/17-06-2013/124841-google_cia_nsa-0/, accessed 20 June 2013.

[13] Cohen, Richard (2013).  ‘The NSA is doing what Google does’, The Washington Post, 10 June, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-06-10/opinions/39871066_1_pentagon-papers-dog-bites-man-daniel-ellsberg, accessed 20 June 2013.

[14] Cooper, Matthew, and Franke-Ruta, Garance (2013).  ‘Breathe, People: We Shouldn’t Rush to Judgment About Edward Snowden’, National Journal 11 June, http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/breathe-people-we-shouldn-t-rush-to-judgment-about-edward-snowden-20130611, accessed 20 June 2013.

[15] Leyden, John (2013). ‘Swedish watchdog: Google’s chocolate cloud? Nej, not private’, The Register, 17 June, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/06/17/google_apps_setback_sweden/, accessed 20 June 2013.

[16] Walt, Vivienne (2013), ‘What’s Europe Got Against Google? France Threatens Fines Over Privacy’, 21 June, Time, http://business.time.com/2013/06/21/whats-europe-got-against-google-france-threatens-fines-over-privacy/#ixzz2WpnCqahf, accessed 21 June 2013.  de Beaupuy, Francois, and Bodoni, Stephanie (2013).  ‘Google Gets 3 Months to Fix Privacy or Face French Fines’, Bloomberg, 20 June, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-20/google-to-get-3-months-to-fix-privacy-policy-or-face-french-fine.html, accessed 20 June 2013.

[17] Huet, Natalie, and Kane, Clare (2013).  ‘France, Spain take action against Google on privacy’, Reuters, 20 June, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/20/google-privacy-idUSL5N0EW14X20130620, accessed 21 June 2013.

[18] Hopewell, Luke (2013).  ‘Aussie Privacy Commissioner Got Cranky About Google Glass, Wrote A Letter’, Gizmodo Australia, 20 June, http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2013/06/aussie-privacy-commissioner-got-cranky-about-google-glass-wrote-a-letter/, accessed 20 June 2013.

[19] AAP (2013).  ‘Australians have no worries from PRISM internet monitoring: Carr’, The Australian Financial Review, 10 June, http://www.afr.com/p/technology/australians_have_no_worries_from_SiqqmFmi5TGPrGFxFYpV1L, accessed 21 June 2013.

[20] Ehrenfreund, Max (2013).  ‘Google, responding to Edward Snowden’s leaks, challenges gag order on NSA’, The Washington Post, 20 June, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/google-responding-to-edward-snowdens-leaks-challenges-gag-order-on-nsa/2013/06/19/e6bdea0a-d8ef-11e2-a9f2-42ee3912ae0e_story.html, accessed 21 June 2013

Read here for desktop screens: http://peterstrempel.com/2013/06/23/techno-narcissism-delusions-about-social-media/

Read here for gadgets: https://medium.com/minority-reports/5f4a16e0e6c1___

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2015-06-22 03:58:13 (0 comments, 5 reshares, 77 +1s)Open 

Travel: Mesa Verde 
2012-06-21. 

Travel: Mesa Verde 
2012-06-21. ___

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2015-06-21 23:00:54 (0 comments, 3 reshares, 20 +1s)Open 

Terrorist Targets Community Leaders 
Who they were: read more...
http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/18/us/charleston-church-shooting-victims/index.html

___Terrorist Targets Community Leaders 
Who they were: read more...
http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/18/us/charleston-church-shooting-victims/index.html

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2015-06-20 19:18:50 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 4 +1s)Open 

Aged Skin
In a comment on the recent Fast Company spread of aged human skin shared by +Cara Evangelista  +Melina M  said that the photos reminded her of wood. Me, too. And vice-versa. When I shot this photo of a tree in Golden Gate Park, I did so because I was fascinated by its resemblance to a human being, or perhaps a wood nymph frozen in time.


http://www.fastcocreate.com/3030679/heres-your-future-photos-provide-a-close-up-look-at-100-year-old-models

Aged Skin
In a comment on the recent Fast Company spread of aged human skin shared by +Cara Evangelista  +Melina M  said that the photos reminded her of wood. Me, too. And vice-versa. When I shot this photo of a tree in Golden Gate Park, I did so because I was fascinated by its resemblance to a human being, or perhaps a wood nymph frozen in time.


http://www.fastcocreate.com/3030679/heres-your-future-photos-provide-a-close-up-look-at-100-year-old-models___

posted image

2015-06-20 18:34:56 (0 comments, 3 reshares, 17 +1s)Open 

Patience 

My dear girl, the day you see I'm getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I'm going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don't interrupt to say: "You said the same thing a minute ago"... Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don't want to take a bath, don't be mad and don't embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don't look at me that way ... remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life's issues every day... the day you see I'm getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I'm going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we're talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can't, don't be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

And when my old, tired legs don't let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don't feel sad... just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I'll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I've always had for you, I just want to say, I love you ... my darling daughter.

Original text in Spanish and photo by Guillermo Peña.
Translation to English by Sergio Cadena___Patience 

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2015-06-20 14:56:03 (0 comments, 2 reshares, 56 +1s)Open 

Travel: San Francisco
Resist

Travel: San Francisco
Resist___

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2015-06-17 12:20:53 (4 comments, 5 reshares, 48 +1s)Open 

Travel Nevada: Valley of Fire
This so-called "other-worldly" landscape is used in movies as a stand-in for distant planets (notably on Star Trek). However, I think it diminishes our experience and appreciation of our own planet to call any unusual feature "other-worldly". Let's look in awe and wonder at the treasure at hand.

Travel Nevada: Valley of Fire
This so-called "other-worldly" landscape is used in movies as a stand-in for distant planets (notably on Star Trek). However, I think it diminishes our experience and appreciation of our own planet to call any unusual feature "other-worldly". Let's look in awe and wonder at the treasure at hand.___

posted image

2015-06-16 10:22:38 (1 comments, 3 reshares, 45 +1s)Open 

Travel Patagonia: Tierra del Fuego 
2015-03-15. As we motored up Perry Sound in zodiacs, the glacier calved, sending a wave which compacted the ice around our inflatables. Took a couple of hours to beat a path through the ice back to our boat using oars, poles, and our feet. Over and over, as we pushed a block of ice away from the front of the zodiac, it would go under the boat and tangle in the engine.

Travel Patagonia: Tierra del Fuego 
2015-03-15. As we motored up Perry Sound in zodiacs, the glacier calved, sending a wave which compacted the ice around our inflatables. Took a couple of hours to beat a path through the ice back to our boat using oars, poles, and our feet. Over and over, as we pushed a block of ice away from the front of the zodiac, it would go under the boat and tangle in the engine.___

posted image

2015-06-15 22:56:29 (8 comments, 0 reshares, 4 +1s)Open 

Statistics: Weighty Problems 
For once I'm happy to be below average. Spousal unit and I are both below even the averages of our 1960 counterparts. 

Statistics: Weighty Problems 
For once I'm happy to be below average. Spousal unit and I are both below even the averages of our 1960 counterparts. ___

posted image

2015-06-15 21:29:00 (2 comments, 2 reshares, 7 +1s)Open 

Technology: Revenge of the Analog 
Personally, I prefer Leuchtturm notebooks now, but I have my archive of Moleskines. The point is, what I write by hand is different in both content and experience than what I write on computer. Lined notebooks are different than blank ones, just as what I type in BBEdit is different than what I keep in Evernote or Google+ posts or Scrivener.

Tools shape the product.

Related: My Journals 
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MSinclairStevens/posts/82rMZ2EiKtc
-------------------------
From the article, " Moleskine’s ascent, and the evidence of it that I observed in Toronto and other places, is symptomatic of a shift that I call the revenge of analog, in which certain technologies and processes that have been rendered “obsolete” suddenly show new life and growth, even as the world becomes increasingly driven bydigital... more »

Technology: Revenge of the Analog 
Personally, I prefer Leuchtturm notebooks now, but I have my archive of Moleskines. The point is, what I write by hand is different in both content and experience than what I write on computer. Lined notebooks are different than blank ones, just as what I type in BBEdit is different than what I keep in Evernote or Google+ posts or Scrivener.

Tools shape the product.

Related: My Journals 
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MSinclairStevens/posts/82rMZ2EiKtc
-------------------------
From the article, " Moleskine’s ascent, and the evidence of it that I observed in Toronto and other places, is symptomatic of a shift that I call the revenge of analog, in which certain technologies and processes that have been rendered “obsolete” suddenly show new life and growth, even as the world becomes increasingly driven by digital technology.

....

"The notion that non-digital goods and ideas have become more valuable would seem to cut against the narrative of disruption-worshipping techno-utopianism coming out of Silicon Valley and other startup hubs, but, in fact, it simply shows that technological evolution isn’t linear. We may eagerly adopt new solutions, but, in the long run, these endure only if they truly provide us with a better experience—if they can compete with digital technology on a cold, rational level."___

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2015-06-14 22:10:44 (5 comments, 5 reshares, 69 +1s)Open 

Travel Patagonia: The Blue Massif, Torres del Paine
El macizo azul, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

Travel Patagonia: The Blue Massif, Torres del Paine
El macizo azul, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine___

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2015-06-07 15:48:07 (0 comments, 2 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

Hair-of-the-Dog
Bracing and ascerbic. Sunday morning wake-me-up from one of my pals,  +Angelina Williamson.

Hair-of-the-Dog
Bracing and ascerbic. Sunday morning wake-me-up from one of my pals,  +Angelina Williamson.___

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2015-06-03 13:23:17 (37 comments, 15 reshares, 35 +1s)Open 

Censorship: Subjective Measures 
From the article...
"In 2009, the subject of my student's complaint was my supposed ideology....That was, at best, a debatable assertion. And as I was allowed to rebut it, the complaint was dismissed with prejudice. I didn't hesitate to reuse that same video in later semesters, and the student's complaint had no impact on my performance evaluations.

In 2015, such a complaint would not be delivered in such a fashion. Instead of focusing on the rightness or wrongness (or even acceptability) of the materials we reviewed in class, the complaint would center solely on how my teaching affected the student's emotional state. As I cannot speak to the emotions of my students, I could not mount a defense about the acceptability of my instruction. And if I responded in any way other than apologizing and changing the materials we... more »

Censorship: Subjective Measures 
From the article...
"In 2009, the subject of my student's complaint was my supposed ideology....That was, at best, a debatable assertion. And as I was allowed to rebut it, the complaint was dismissed with prejudice. I didn't hesitate to reuse that same video in later semesters, and the student's complaint had no impact on my performance evaluations.

In 2015, such a complaint would not be delivered in such a fashion. Instead of focusing on the rightness or wrongness (or even acceptability) of the materials we reviewed in class, the complaint would center solely on how my teaching affected the student's emotional state. As I cannot speak to the emotions of my students, I could not mount a defense about the acceptability of my instruction. And if I responded in any way other than apologizing and changing the materials we reviewed in class, professional consequences would likely follow.
..........
"This new understanding of social justice politics resembles what University of Pennsylvania political science professor Adolph Reed Jr. calls a politics of personal testimony, in which the feelings of individuals are the primary or even exclusive means through which social issues are understood and discussed."
...
"So it's not just that students refuse to countenance uncomfortable ideas — they refuse to engage them, period. Engagement is considered unnecessary, as the immediate, emotional reactions of students contain all the analysis and judgment that sensitive issues demand. "

---
via +Jim Philips ___

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2015-06-03 11:58:24 (1 comments, 1 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

Economics: Loss and Reason 
As +Yonatan Zunger points out,  _"...discrimination -- be it explicit or implicit -- also imposes costs on the economy as a whole.

The reason is fairly simple: if a market were truly "free" (with all the subtleties that that phrase entails), people would be doing what they're best at, in the way that rewards them the most."_

What's good generally for individuals adds up to the general good.

Certain groups have long pushed social policies by waving the flag of economic benefit.  "Cutting costs," "saving money," "being responsible and prudent" have all been used as rallying cries to cut programs, social benefits, infrastructure, and even safety regulations. The justification we're told is that it's good business and a "rising tide raises all boats." That wasthe... more »

Economics: Loss and Reason 
As +Yonatan Zunger points out,  _"...discrimination -- be it explicit or implicit -- also imposes costs on the economy as a whole.

The reason is fairly simple: if a market were truly "free" (with all the subtleties that that phrase entails), people would be doing what they're best at, in the way that rewards them the most."_

What's good generally for individuals adds up to the general good.

Certain groups have long pushed social policies by waving the flag of economic benefit.  "Cutting costs," "saving money," "being responsible and prudent" have all been used as rallying cries to cut programs, social benefits, infrastructure, and even safety regulations. The justification we're told is that it's good business and a "rising tide raises all boats." That was the lie.

Now facing data providing evidence that the opposite is true, these same people are scrambling to dress up their ideology in other clothes. (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/06/colorado-contraception-family-planning-republicans)

However, it is naive to think that people who have long trumpeted themselves as economically responsible would change direction when faced with the facts that they are not. In doing so, you've made the assumption that what they say is what they want. You've bought the excuse for their behavior without examining their actual motivation. You think they care about efficiencies and about the general good.

They care only that they benefit from the status quo.

Facts and reason will not sway someone who already understands how the system work and uses that knowledge to his own benefit. He doesn't want anyone to fix it. 

Step one of change is to expose the lie that has kept us from changing. We're doing that. Great!  But we can't stop there. We can't assume that the same information that changes our behavior because it is more reasonable and just will change everyone else's behavior merely by the nature of its reasonableness.

We have to take action to dismantle the policies of favoritism one by one. And you can bet that the favored will fight with everything they have.
-----------------
ht +Yonatan Zunger , +Kee Hinckley , +Peter Strempel ___

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2015-06-02 19:05:46 (0 comments, 1 reshares, 14 +1s)Open 

MY ADLER DECADE
In the autumn of 1984 I was broke and in between things when I drafted a couple of entries for an essay competition sponsored by the Sunday Times in Perth, Western Australia.

The entries were to be typed or 'neatly handwritten'.  My submissions were in longhand!

Shortly later I moved on and became distracted by other things.  Months later I ran into my old neighbour, who had some dead mail she'd saved for me.  In the slim package of envelopes was a letter from the Sunday Times, telling me I had won the competition, with a cheque enclosed.

My winning entry was a comment on the set topic of George Orwell's inevitably tempting dystopian vision for 1984.  I don't even have a copy of the essay anymore, but I dimly remember that I was as disturbed by the intrusion of Stalinist themes into Western social and political discoursesas ... more »

MY ADLER DECADE
In the autumn of 1984 I was broke and in between things when I drafted a couple of entries for an essay competition sponsored by the Sunday Times in Perth, Western Australia.

The entries were to be typed or 'neatly handwritten'.  My submissions were in longhand!

Shortly later I moved on and became distracted by other things.  Months later I ran into my old neighbour, who had some dead mail she'd saved for me.  In the slim package of envelopes was a letter from the Sunday Times, telling me I had won the competition, with a cheque enclosed.

My winning entry was a comment on the set topic of George Orwell's inevitably tempting dystopian vision for 1984.  I don't even have a copy of the essay anymore, but I dimly remember that I was as disturbed by the intrusion of Stalinist themes into Western social and political discourses as I remain to this day.  In other words, it's likely to have been an impassioned rant.

The cheque was a modest prize, but I spent $35 of it on an Adler Tippa portable typewriter (as pictured), manufactured c 1960 in my native Germany.  It was expensive at the time, but in immaculate condition, and worth foregoing the beer, or shoes, or books I could have bought instead.  Machines of this vintage, and still in good nick, sell for around $400 to $500 these days; they are now collector's items rather than the workhorses they were designed and built to be.

One of the first pieces to be pulled from between the pinch rollers of the Adler was an arse-kissing letter to the Dean of the School of English at the Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University), Don Yeats, explaining that despite having dropped out of a graphic design course in 1981, I was now ready to knuckle under and he should admit me to the BA English (Journalism) course.

Yeats' doctoral thesis had been on John Donne, and the implication that I might have dropped out to pursue 'wine, women, and song' may have swayed him to accept me back into the academy.

The Adler was my most constant companion for the next three years, and seven more.  All my undergraduate essays were typed on it, and much more besides.

I had acquired a passing familiarity with my father's machines, which included Remington and Olivetti portables, and the imposingly big Olympia electric that would have cost me my right hand had he caught me using it.

It was on the Adler that my bad habits were set in stone: three fingered hunt and peck that was once tested at 110 words per minute with 95 per cent accuracy.  It was the heavy pressure required to punch out the letters on that machine that have left me to this day with a pugilist's approach to the rather more fragile keyboards I now use, much to the amusement of younger colleagues who think typewriters were used by Shakespeare's generation, and my punishing style is an expression of my mood rather than habit.

It was also the Adler I associate with the foundation of my present writing disciplines, even if they were much more likely to have been due to academic strictures, and the tips and tricks I picked up from Humphrey McQueen, Scott Macwilliam and Stephan Millett (later also Bob Pride) rather than any particular writing tool.

Nevertheless, the tool-set also had an impact on understanding the discipline.  Starting with the reading, and the handwritten notes, progressing to a longhand manuscript.  That's right.  Several thousand words in longhand.  Maybe two or three drafts of that before touching the typewriter.  Then maybe two drafts of typewritten manuscripts, each with carefully set manual headers and footers, indenting for quotes, and lines left over for footnotes.

There's just no explaining to anyone who hasn't done it the sense of achievement at the end of such a process.  Moreover, all the young smartarses who tell you that their writing methodology, beginning and ending in a word processing package, is just 'working smarter', are actually dead wrong.  What they miss is an incomparable process of thinking yourself into the material, and an appropriate diction, that can occur only when you iteratively hone your meaning and vocabulary across successive drafts that require also attention to a physical end product.  It's more like the layering of thin steel in the creation of a katana blade than the tellingly contemporary and contemptuous task of slapping together prefab Macburgers.

The proof of the pudding is that many contemporary, notionally professionally written pieces in newspapers, magazines, and blogs, produced by 'working smarter', show the signs of haste, lack of care with grammar and diction, and even the incomprehensible sins of grammatical and spelling errors; a single spelling error would have seen me fail an assignment in my degree, and the spelling had to be OED, not some local variant like Macquarie's or Merriam Webster.  It was an English degree.

While still at university I began to use black-screen word processing packages, and even early Apple Macintoshes, but typewriters were still omnipresent for anyone in the writing game, and for a couple of years in my early career I had an IBM Selectric monstrosity on my desk.  The kind with the golfball 'font element'.  My Adler remained a fixture on my writing table at home.

In 1993/94 it travelled with me by car across the top end of Australia.  An epic journey from Perth to Brisbane via Broome, Kununurra, Katherine, Darwin, Mt Isa, Townsville, Cairns, and Cape York.

By 1995 the Adler went into semi-retirement when I started to use, and like, WordPerfect 5.1, 6, and finally MS Word.  But even then the typewriter was rarely without paper wound across the rollers, ready to go.

By the early 2000s it was mostly tucked away in a cupboard or on a shelf, and in 2008 it went into storage with most of my other possessions.  In 2011 it was lost to me, along with journals and manuscripts dating back to the late 1970s, and many other things, in the great Brisbane flood.

I haven't used a typewriter for some years now, but I still keep longhand journals as well as the electronic ones.  These journals are where I start my writing process for almost everything, though bad habits have crept in with email and Google Plus.

There are times, though, when I fancy I can smell the typewriter ribbon ink, and the acidity of the typing paper.  A smell suffused ever so slightly with the machine oil that kept the action of keys passing through the comb smooth and predictable.
A smell that sets in motion nostalgic memories, like the perfume of a former lover that you will never forget, even if it never wafts past your nose again.

✯✯✯

It's a shame I can't present this reverie in the typewriter font I used in my word processor.  Unfortunately the Google hacks and geometricians never used typewriters, and understand nothing about the romance and craft of writing, let alone the love of it.

The image is not of my typewriter, but the machine is exactly alike, including the colours.  All photos in which my Adler appeared were lost in the same flood that took the typewriter.___

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2015-06-02 16:20:26 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 10 +1s)Open 

Politics: The People Have Spoken 

___Politics: The People Have Spoken 

2015-06-02 03:22:15 (0 comments, 3 reshares, 13 +1s)Open 

G+ displays early signs of anti-intellectual culture

Google Plus is not an altruistic venture, nor does it owe me a damned thing, but as a ‘member’ I nevertheless not only use the platform for my own purposes, but also form opinions about it. What I saw last night was a dismaying deference to anti-intellectual pop culture that does not value fresh ideas, articulate exchanges, or genuine debates. In other words, a tilt towards an anti-intellectual, slavishly populist pap culture.

Demotion of literate exchanges
The diminution of the text-based features of G+ must be seen as deliberate, and therefore as a trend that may well continue rather than be addressed at a certain but unknown point.

The problem I foresee is that this emphasis removes from G+the possibility of promoting a vehicle for empowering, re-enforcing and strengthening the one feature ofWes... more »

G+ displays early signs of anti-intellectual culture

Google Plus is not an altruistic venture, nor does it owe me a damned thing, but as a ‘member’ I nevertheless not only use the platform for my own purposes, but also form opinions about it. What I saw last night was a dismaying deference to anti-intellectual pop culture that does not value fresh ideas, articulate exchanges, or genuine debates. In other words, a tilt towards an anti-intellectual, slavishly populist pap culture.

Demotion of literate exchanges
The diminution of the text-based features of G+ must be seen as deliberate, and therefore as a trend that may well continue rather than be addressed at a certain but unknown point.

The problem I foresee is that this emphasis removes from G+the possibility of promoting a vehicle for empowering, re-enforcing and strengthening the one feature of Western civilization that has made it arguably pre-eminent in the world: the free speech and widely disseminated written discourse about all aspects of life from which have sprung democracy, liberty, social advances, challenges to tyranny, and the most educated people in the history of the known universe.

There is a trend in civil society for education and erudition to be under-valued, and mass market products to be lionised unduly just because of profitability and numbers. This trend has already led to massive social and economic dislocation in the US, the UK,and continental Europe. Should we not attempt to halt that disturbing phenomenon? And if so, how can we do that without discourse that is unashamedly intellectual and informed? Do we really need to be shoved aside for a quick buck, or because some people feel threatened by what they see as elitist snobbery?

I think at Google the answer is YES! And that’s a disturbing, personally disappointing observation to make, but I can’t really reach an alternate conclusion. Here’s why.

The interface re-design: what it says
My first few months on G+ were a roller-coaster ride of making discoveries about features and connections with people all over the world. It was a refreshing departure from the focus on juvenile trivia that appears to characterise other networks, social and professional.

Yesterday’s unannounced and unexplained interface re-design speaks for itself, screaming at me that G+ is changing direction to become a picture-sharing and YouTube distribution platform.

I say unannounced because I’m not in any Google in-crowd,and unexplained because the +Vic Gundotra blog is marketing puffery, not an explanation of purpose or intent. In the absence of knowledge in these two opaque areas, I must use the only evidence available to me, which is predominantly a massive re-sizing of picture and video content, and a displacement of text by those placeholders, as well as an inexplicable greying-out of posts, making them harder to read, and therefore less appealing to follow.

My assumption is that the interface designers at Google are among the best in the world because the company is an employer of choice. Therefore they didn’t make amateur mistakes, and their choices reflect deliberate strategies to encourage certain ways of using G+, while discouraging others.

So, beyond the grotesquely brash promotion of visual posts,and the deliberate demotion of text-based interaction, what else does there-design tell me?

The disappearing navigation bar for moving between circles,and the need to use multiple menu levels to get to my own circles, suggests G+ wants me to focus mainly on an indiscriminate stream. That stream also compulsorily promotes the rather asinine trending feature, which is invariably linked to lowest common denominator content with appeal primarily to a mass audience that does not discern. No problem with the feature, just the fact that I can’t disable it or swap it out with something more useful.

It is understandable that hangouts should be given increasing focus on G+, and I understand the technology is rather good, to a point. But hangouts are synchronous and limited in number of participants. The asynchronous feature of text posts is a key ingredient to attracting an international audience or communities of interest.

I’ve already vented about the poor text formatting features elsewhere (cf https://plus.google.com/u/0/110168665701189567035/posts/K1btJ2Ex3eW), but I must conclude from the relative neglect of the text-based features that they are not seen as important to Google. That, in itself, says to me that the asynchronous interactions on G+ are regarded as relatively unimportant, a corollary of which is that international interactions are not seen as important to Google.

Is Google business model ghettoised?
Does this mean that Google’s business model is ghettoised by region? By lack of concern about markets other than the US and Europe? I wouldn’t know, and I suspect that there is a disconnect at senior executive levels in Google itself between the technical aspects of G+ and an overall business strategy (not the short-term tactics). But as I said, I’m not an insider, and my guess is only as good or bad as yours.

My own response to all of this is to actively look at alternative platforms to continue to connect with people who want to do more than share pictures and watch videos. It’s the first time I’ve been tempted to do that since I started using G+.

My outlook is a bit glum. If the trend apparent in the interface re-design continues, people with literary and intellectual tastes will increasingly abandon G+ as a platform for connecting with likeminded people all over the world. So, if and when Google starts to find an intellectual demographic appealing, I suspect it will have destroyed that consumer base in G+.___

2015-06-02 00:49:48 (1 comments, 1 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

Learning: A Scientific Mindset
Hadley Wickham, who I consider to be one of the most readable writers of technical material I've encountered, gives some insights into to what makes a successful programmer. He sums up quite succinctly my own approach to any subject and concludes with something I learned long ago: one of the most reliable ways to find a solution is to articulate the problem. I learn by teaching, and by iteratively asking (like a small child), "But why...?"

Hadley Wickham: "A scientific mindset is extremely helpful when learning R. If you don’t understand how something works, develop a hypothesis, design some experiments, run them, and record the results. This exercise is extremely useful since if you can’t figure something out and need to get help, you can easily show others what you tried. Also, when you learn the right answer, you’ll bementa... more »

Learning: A Scientific Mindset
Hadley Wickham, who I consider to be one of the most readable writers of technical material I've encountered, gives some insights into to what makes a successful programmer. He sums up quite succinctly my own approach to any subject and concludes with something I learned long ago: one of the most reliable ways to find a solution is to articulate the problem. I learn by teaching, and by iteratively asking (like a small child), "But why...?"

Hadley Wickham: "A scientific mindset is extremely helpful when learning R. If you don’t understand how something works, develop a hypothesis, design some experiments, run them, and record the results. This exercise is extremely useful since if you can’t figure something out and need to get help, you can easily show others what you tried. Also, when you learn the right answer, you’ll be mentally prepared to update your world view. When I clearly describe a problem to someone else (the art of creating a reproducible example), I often figure out the solution myself."___

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2015-06-01 12:01:09 (1 comments, 1 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

ATX: Memorial Day Floods v. 2015
I missed this great footage when the storms and flooding happened last week but post it now because almost all of the locations shown are within a mile of my house. So this is where I go and what I see during my walking commutes downtown. My familiar landscape. My Austin transformed.

The waters have receded but the hike and bike trail is washed out in many places. I walked down to the new boardwalk and it seems intact.

Note: I have watched Shoal Creek pour over the breakwater into Lady Bird Lake on several occasions but never seen it like this (0:16 and 0:30). They just spent years upgrading that breakwater...I hope it did what it was supposed to do.

ATX: Memorial Day Floods v. 2015
I missed this great footage when the storms and flooding happened last week but post it now because almost all of the locations shown are within a mile of my house. So this is where I go and what I see during my walking commutes downtown. My familiar landscape. My Austin transformed.

The waters have receded but the hike and bike trail is washed out in many places. I walked down to the new boardwalk and it seems intact.

Note: I have watched Shoal Creek pour over the breakwater into Lady Bird Lake on several occasions but never seen it like this (0:16 and 0:30). They just spent years upgrading that breakwater...I hope it did what it was supposed to do.___

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2015-06-01 11:38:56 (4 comments, 10 reshares, 73 +1s)Open 

Grand Canyon - Stop 130:  John Wesley Powell and the Great Unconformity

Everywhere there are side gulches and cañons, so that these gulches are set about ten thousand dark, gloomy alcoves. One might imagine that this was intended for the library of the gods; and it was. The shelves are not for books, but form the stony leaves of one great book. He who would read the language of the universe may dig out letters here and there, and with them spell the words, and read, in a slow and imperfect way, but still so as to understand a little, the story of creation.

~ John Wesley Powell, Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries, pg.s 193, 194 at http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/Powell/id/365

On May 24th, 1869, at the age of 35, one-armed Civil War vet and geologist John Wesley Powell led a team of eleven men into uncharted territory, thev... more »

Grand Canyon - Stop 130:  John Wesley Powell and the Great Unconformity

Everywhere there are side gulches and cañons, so that these gulches are set about ten thousand dark, gloomy alcoves. One might imagine that this was intended for the library of the gods; and it was. The shelves are not for books, but form the stony leaves of one great book. He who would read the language of the universe may dig out letters here and there, and with them spell the words, and read, in a slow and imperfect way, but still so as to understand a little, the story of creation.

~ John Wesley Powell, Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries, pg.s 193, 194 at http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/Powell/id/365

On May 24th, 1869, at the age of 35, one-armed Civil War vet and geologist John Wesley Powell led a team of eleven men into uncharted territory, the vast unknown area around the lower Colorado River. Four boats loaded with provisions, guns for hunting, and scientific instruments to map the terrain were lowered into the river. Powell set out to follow the Colorado though the Grand Canyon despite having no knowledge of what lay ahead. 

“Following the twisting, tortuous river, negotiating the rough and dangerous waters, the whirlpools and rapids, Powell’s expedition made its way down through the high plateaus of eastern Utah. They were carried through the heart of colossal, soaring rocks; they exploded through canyons and over falls, roaring down the cataracts, or when possible portaging around them. Sometimes they glided around bends that revealed vistas stupendous and sublime; other times they drifted in the deep noontime shadow cast by towering canyon walls. They clambered up the cliffs, measuring and surveying.”

Before the journey ended, the party lost a boat, a third of the food, and 3 men. Despite the hardships, the intrepid explorers made one of the most important geological journeys of all time, and although Powell did not realize the significance, discovered one of Earth's greatest mysteries.
 
Traveling down the Colorado, the Canyon carves its way through older and older layers of rock. Powell discovered that near the very bottom of the Grand Canyon there is a place where the 575 Mya Tapeats sandstone (Cambrian) rests (unconformably) upon the highly metamorphosed rocks of the 1.7 Bya Vishnu schist (Precambrian). This gap in time (although Powell did not realize it), represents over a billion years missing from the rock record. 

This “Great Unconformity” is so large that it represents a quarter of the entire time the Earth has existed. In those billion years continents shifted, mountain ranges were formed and eroded away, oceans filled and drained, massive volcanic eruptions occurred, and life itself evolved from simple single-celled organisms to highly complex organisms. But every rock that represents those events has been eroded completely away.

Please enjoy this beautifully written and wonderfully illustrated blog, Written In Stone by Dr. Jack Share, who explains how to read the “stony leaves” that Powell spoke of and explains the true mystery of the Great Unconformity and the geology of the Grand Canyon with accompanying pictures : http://written-in-stone-seen-through-my-lens.blogspot.com/2012/01/great-unconformity-of-grand-canyon-part.html

On August 30, 1869, ninety one days after they started, the Powell expedition reached the end of its journey. They had filled in the last blank spot on the nation's map. Powell became a hero, giving public lectures and speeches, and popularized the Grand Canyon with an illustrated account of his journey (link at the top of post). By the early 1880s, he was the director of the Smithsonian and the new US Geological Survey where he worked tirelessly to protect the lands around the Grand Canyon and the Native Americans who lived there.

In 1902, a year after Powell’s death, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon and declared it to be "a natural wonder absolutely unparalleled in the world . . . one of the great sights every American should see."  Thanks to Powell and Roosevelt, today the Grand Canyon and its Great Unconformity is part of the Grand Canyon National Park (http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm), preserved and protected so that all can see its beauty and learn the secrets written in the leaves of stone.

Read more about John Wesley Powell’s explorations and life here: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2012/05/17/john-wesley-powell-soldier-explorer-scientist/

18 miles across at its widest point, 277 miles long, and more than a mile deep, the Grand Canyon can be seen from space. Image from: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/grand-canyon-from-space/

This post is inspired by the 1886 children's geographic game, Rambles Through Our Country. By the time the game was published in 1886, Powell’s illustrations, pictures, and stories would have captured the world’s imagination and is thus a very worthy stop on our Rambles.

The game involves a gameboard, a book or key to the stops, and some kind of spinner. Find the gameboard here: http://goo.gl/7ORK1E  and the book here: https://goo.gl/u96JE3 To spin, use the random number generator at: https://www.random.org/ and set the maximum number to 4.

I rolled a 1 on our makeshift  teetotum and moved from Prescott, Arizona - Stop 129 to the Grand Canyon - Stop 130. Your spin, +The Cloberth!

#ramblesthroughourcountry   #johnwesleypowell #thegrandcanyon #thegreatunconformity___

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2015-05-30 18:55:48 (0 comments, 1 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

Unsayable

Slavoj Žižek

In our permissive times, a new form of the unsayable is more and more acquiring a ­central role: it is not only that certain things are prohibited to say – the prohibition itself is prohibited: we are not allowed to say openly what is prohibited.

Already in Stalinism, it was not only prohibited to criticise Stalin and the party publicly, it was even more prohibited to announce this prohibition publicly. If someone were to shout back at a critic of Stalin, “Are you crazy? Don’t you know that we are not allowed to do this?” he would have disappeared into the Gulag even faster than the open critic of Stalin. Unexpectedly, the same holds for the relations of domination in our permissive post-patriarchal societies: a modern boss is tolerant, he behaves like a colleague of ours, sharing dirty jokes, inviting us for a drink, openly displaying his weaknesses, admitting that he is “merely human like us”. He is deeply offended if we remind him that he is our boss – however, it is this very rejection of explicit authority that guarantees his de facto power.

This is why the first gesture of liberation is to force the master to act as one: our only defence is to reject his “warm human” approach and to insist that he should treat us with cold distance. We live in weird times in which we are compelled to behave as if we are free, so that the unsayable is not our freedom but the very fact of our servitude.

and Nick Cave:

The lovely thing about the unsayable is that it is unsaid. As soon as it is said, it is sayable and loses all its mystery and ambiguity. Art exists so that the unsayable can be said without having to actually say it. We cloud it in secrecy and obfuscation. The mind is free to roam and all things can be imagined, under the cover of darkness. How nice that is. The unsayable. How tired we are of having things explained to us. Having things said. How nice it is, when people just shut the fuck up.

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/05/what-can-t-you-say-stephen-fry-slavoj-i-ek-elif-shafak-and-more-say-unsayable___Unsayable

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2015-05-30 18:42:04 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

___

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2015-05-27 22:42:15 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Models meet reality.

Models meet reality.___

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2015-05-25 01:41:26 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

ATX: Barton Springs Pool Flood 
Even worse in San Marcos and Wimberley. http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/24/us/severe-weather/index.html

ATX: Barton Springs Pool Flood 
Even worse in San Marcos and Wimberley. http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/24/us/severe-weather/index.html___

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2015-05-23 20:52:28 (0 comments, 2 reshares, 10 +1s)Open 

Education: The Customer Myth

quote: If given the benefit of the doubt, these assertions have some merit: College today is far too expensive. But let’s leave aside the fact that ballooning tuition does not, I repeat, does not, go to professors’ imaginary $200,000 salaries. Faculty are by and large co-victims, along with students, in the cratering of the American university system. Scaring the beejezus out of professors is largely redundant, and the GOP’s thirst for their blood is ideological.

But college students are not customers. That analogy needs to die. It needs to be drowned in the world’s largest bathtub. It needs a George R.R. Martin–esque bloodbath of a demise.

Legitimate research has determined that student evaluations of professors are biased, and so their “customer ratings” aren’t fair. Legitimate research also indicates that while professorial popularity and effectiveness do overlap, one does not immediately signify or correlate with the other. Further, most students don’t actually view themselves as customers, because they know how education works and actually want to get one.___Education: The Customer Myth

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2015-05-22 12:06:08 (2 comments, 1 reshares, 31 +1s)Open 

Travel Yosemite: Mist and John Muir Trails
Five years ago today, we did a short version of our Half-Dome hike, making a loop by going up the Mist Trail to Nevada Fall and then coming back down the John Muir trail.

What a difference the season makes. Our first experience of these trails was in September 2009 and then the Mist Trail was as dry as a bone. This time, in late spring, the Mist Trail lived up to its name. We were walking enveloped in cloud, water streaming around us. When we reached Vernal Falls rainbows danced in the mist as the sun broke into the valley.

At the top of Nevada Fall, the weather changed abruptly and it began to snow lightly. Snow melt was running in rivulets, cascading down mountain everywhere including the trail. A wet hike home.

This paragraph describes our experience in May of 2010 exactly, even to the rainbows. "To proceed... more »

Travel Yosemite: Mist and John Muir Trails
Five years ago today, we did a short version of our Half-Dome hike, making a loop by going up the Mist Trail to Nevada Fall and then coming back down the John Muir trail.

What a difference the season makes. Our first experience of these trails was in September 2009 and then the Mist Trail was as dry as a bone. This time, in late spring, the Mist Trail lived up to its name. We were walking enveloped in cloud, water streaming around us. When we reached Vernal Falls rainbows danced in the mist as the sun broke into the valley.

At the top of Nevada Fall, the weather changed abruptly and it began to snow lightly. Snow melt was running in rivulets, cascading down mountain everywhere including the trail. A wet hike home.

This paragraph describes our experience in May of 2010 exactly, even to the rainbows. "To proceed directly to the top of Vernal Fall, follow the Mist Trail 0.5 miles (0.8 km) up a steep granite stairway of over 600 steps. Prepare for slippery footing and a tremendous amount of waterfall spray in spring and early summer (hence the name for this trail!). You will delight in views of Vernal Fall all along this stretch of trail and may even be able to see a rainbow in the spray of the fall. At the top of Vernal Fall, you can experience jaw-dropping views straight down the length of the 317-foot waterfall (please don't cross the railings and use extreme caution while you're near any flowing water or wet rock in this area)."

When we went the first time in fall,  it was quite dry and we wondering what the guide books were talking about.

Whenever people say, "Been there. Done that." I always laugh. It's never the same twice. Season, weather, time of day, and even changes in your own life experience all filter the moment.
-------------------
For more information about this hike: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/vernalnevadatrail.htm

#yosemitenationalpark  ___

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2015-05-21 23:26:57 (1 comments, 1 reshares, 6 +1s)Open 

Language: More Fun with Google Translate 
"Before a doctor became a demon instructor, every one of the cycle clinic also cringing. Driving school is a series of happenings! "

【あす】チャリダー★快汗!サイクルクリニック「本日開校!自転車教習所」
[BS1]5月23日(土) 午後6:30~6:50

本格的自転車情報番組「チャリダー」。
サイクルスポーツがブームになっている中で、意外に知らないのが、そのルールとマナー。
ドクター竹谷が教官となって、楽しく自転車の乗り方を学ぶ教習所がオープン! 手信号や、交差点のわたり方、必須の装備など、チャリダーならしっかり知っておきたいルールを学ぶ。
鬼教官となったドクターを前に、サイクルクリニックの面々もたじたじ。教習所はハプニングの連続!

【司会】うじきつよし
【出演】朝比奈彩,猪野学,レイザーラモン,堤下敦
【コメンテーター】竹谷賢二
【語り】千葉繁,七緒はるひ

==========
チャリダー★快汗!サイクルクリニック
[BS1]
土曜 午後6:30~
http://www.nhk.or.jp/charida/
==========___Language: More Fun with Google Translate 
"Before a doctor became a demon instructor, every one of the cycle clinic also cringing. Driving school is a series of happenings! "

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2015-05-20 12:57:51 (0 comments, 2 reshares, 4 +1s)Open 

Power: How Prestige Overcame Strength
And how you can make being an asshole work for you. 

This was a long article and I almost didn't get to the good part because I thought it was going to blithely confuse correlation with causation. However, it turned out to be worth the read, more thoughtful and thought-provoking than is initially apparent.
-------------------------
From the article, "Homo sapiens developed a newer, uniquely human path to power. Scholars call it “prestige.”... Prestige emerged when our ancestors gained the ability to exchange know-how. An undersized ape-man who knew a better way of finding berries or building a fire or trapping a gazelle could now, instead of being forced to accept beta status, attract a clientele who would trade deference for access to his expertise. Unlike dominance, which is mediated by fear, prestige is freely conferred.But ... more »

Power: How Prestige Overcame Strength
And how you can make being an asshole work for you. 

This was a long article and I almost didn't get to the good part because I thought it was going to blithely confuse correlation with causation. However, it turned out to be worth the read, more thoughtful and thought-provoking than is initially apparent.
-------------------------
From the article, "Homo sapiens developed a newer, uniquely human path to power. Scholars call it “prestige.”... Prestige emerged when our ancestors gained the ability to exchange know-how. An undersized ape-man who knew a better way of finding berries or building a fire or trapping a gazelle could now, instead of being forced to accept beta status, attract a clientele who would trade deference for access to his expertise. Unlike dominance, which is mediated by fear, prestige is freely conferred. But once conferred, of course, it decisively changes the dynamic of power: five ordinary ape-men can, in conjunction, overcome even the strongest single antagonist. The question of “who’s in command?” was now complexified by the question of “who’s in demand?”"

Whether this new, competence-based path to power emerged is not debated by scholars. If it hadn’t, The Iliad wouldn’t have opened with Achilles, the greatest warrior in all of Greece, working for Agamemnon. The question is whether prestige supplanted dominance as the only path to power—or whether the older system also remains operational.___

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2015-05-20 01:32:58 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Politics: Education and Democracy
"...the evolution of neoliberalism from a set of economic policies into mode of reason imperils not just liberal institutions but democracy itself. Education across the board is jeopardised by the corporate university model."

___Politics: Education and Democracy
"...the evolution of neoliberalism from a set of economic policies into mode of reason imperils not just liberal institutions but democracy itself. Education across the board is jeopardised by the corporate university model."

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2015-05-19 22:24:06 (0 comments, 5 reshares, 30 +1s)Open 

Travel Wales: Powis Castle
Gardens are not all about the flowers. Contrast in foliage (texture, color, shape) provides interest. Long term investment versus short term.

Travel Wales: Powis Castle
Gardens are not all about the flowers. Contrast in foliage (texture, color, shape) provides interest. Long term investment versus short term.___

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2015-05-17 01:36:25 (4 comments, 2 reshares, 40 +1s)Open 

___

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2015-05-16 14:07:10 (16 comments, 7 reshares, 15 +1s)Open 

Artifacts: Cultivating Delight 
One of my continuing interests has always been what the physical objects which we create and with which we surround ourselves say about us, both as individuals and as a society. 

Who does not walk into someone else's living space and eye the collection of books, or music, or video to help form some opinion of the person who lives there?

Our possessions are both archival (what we treasure about our pasts) and aspirational (what we hope to accomplish in our future). When we feel overwhelmed by our possessions, a need to purge them, it's evidence that we need to move on from some impediment, some shackle to the past or illusory future. 

People tend to foist stuff on us (think spam mail) and we find it hard to say no. Tidying up is the physical first step to regaining our sense of self, to assessing our own true needs andde... more »

Artifacts: Cultivating Delight 
One of my continuing interests has always been what the physical objects which we create and with which we surround ourselves say about us, both as individuals and as a society. 

Who does not walk into someone else's living space and eye the collection of books, or music, or video to help form some opinion of the person who lives there?

Our possessions are both archival (what we treasure about our pasts) and aspirational (what we hope to accomplish in our future). When we feel overwhelmed by our possessions, a need to purge them, it's evidence that we need to move on from some impediment, some shackle to the past or illusory future. 

People tend to foist stuff on us (think spam mail) and we find it hard to say no. Tidying up is the physical first step to regaining our sense of self, to assessing our own true needs and desires.

In writing these little meditations on "what we keep", I came across Marie Kondo and her konmari method for taking control of clutter. Her method is far closer to my own than say, the Puritan-style "Clutterers Anonymous". Cleaning isn't about focusing on what to get rid of, on shaming people to get rid of their stuff. (Apparently so they can buy new stuff and keep the consumerist economy going.) No. No. No. It's about focusing on what to keep, those things that bring us delight.

When I sit here drinking my tea, I consider my cup. And yes, it brings me delight. Because I was quite poor in my youth, I always spent a great deal of time carefully weighing the characteristics of any purchase until finding just the thing that brought that spark of delight. If I didn't find it, I didn't buy it. (For example, I didn't own a couch until my late 30s).

When I look at my tea cup, I also think of the Japanese tea ceremony, which is about truly appreciating (paying attention to) the present moment, the radiance of the ordinary. Every time I look at this cup it makes me happy. I just have to remember to look.
-------------------------
So ends my long introduction to the linked story which examines the KonMari Method from the perspective of an economist. I think it will be interesting to those of you who prefer a less lyrical explanation.


#whatwekeep   #theradianceoftheordinary  ___

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2015-05-16 11:01:28 (0 comments, 1 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

ATX: Charting Tech Start-ups

ATX: Charting Tech Start-ups___

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2015-05-16 10:25:47 (0 comments, 1 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

Artifacts: Save Our Global Cultural Wealth
+nomad dimitri "It makes me sad that, as we spend our time chatting about receiving Amazon packages via drones, using self-driven Google cars, hailing taxis via Uber, and counting our calories with Apple smartwatches, this historical masterpiece will be forever wiped out."

"Why haven't the global tech giants, in particular, who could provide funds, reconnaissance & tech support, teamed up with the UN to help protect our shared cultural heritage from thieving fanatics? "

Don't let IS destroy Palmyra, the "Venice of the Sands"

The city of Palmyra, in Syria, more than 2000-years-old, is one of the most magical places I have ever visited.  Islamic State (IS) fighters have been advancing towards Palmyra and it is a matter of days before it falls into their hands to be pillaged and destroyed.

Palmyra sits at the edge of an oasis of date palms and gardens and has been, for millennia, a watering place on a trade route from the east.  Think caravans bringing Chinese silks, stopping to water their camels on the way to Rome!

It makes me sad that, as we spend our time chatting about receiving Amazon packages via drones, using self-driven Google cars, hailing taxis via Uber, and counting our calories with Apple smartwatches, this historical masterpiece will be forever wiped out.

Why haven't the global tech giants, in particular, who could provide funds, reconnaissance & tech support, teamed up with the UN to help protect our shared cultural heritage from thieving fanatics?  

Larry, we need an initiative urgently: this is a hornet's nest but it is your cup of tea as well.

(read more about Palmyra on BBC today: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32748392)
---
#nomadimitritravel___Artifacts: Save Our Global Cultural Wealth
+nomad dimitri "It makes me sad that, as we spend our time chatting about receiving Amazon packages via drones, using self-driven Google cars, hailing taxis via Uber, and counting our calories with Apple smartwatches, this historical masterpiece will be forever wiped out."

"Why haven't the global tech giants, in particular, who could provide funds, reconnaissance & tech support, teamed up with the UN to help protect our shared cultural heritage from thieving fanatics? "

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2015-05-12 13:02:22 (5 comments, 0 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

Women Work: Erased From (Cinematic) History
Another example of how some demographic groups seem never to have participated because they are specifically erased from history. This case is so weird because it's fiction...and it's something that would give anyone who just saw the movie a double-take. "Wait, Captain America wasn't in that scene. It was Black Widow."

So what possible justification could there be? Only the very recent idea that boys won't play with girl action figures. Hell, in my day, the boys had to commandeer the girls Barbies to create our fictional universes with female adversaries and allies for our GI Joes.

#genderdeterminism   #pinkghetto   #blueghetto  

Women Work: Erased From (Cinematic) History
Another example of how some demographic groups seem never to have participated because they are specifically erased from history. This case is so weird because it's fiction...and it's something that would give anyone who just saw the movie a double-take. "Wait, Captain America wasn't in that scene. It was Black Widow."

So what possible justification could there be? Only the very recent idea that boys won't play with girl action figures. Hell, in my day, the boys had to commandeer the girls Barbies to create our fictional universes with female adversaries and allies for our GI Joes.

#genderdeterminism   #pinkghetto   #blueghetto  ___

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