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M Sinclair Stevens has been at 2 events

HostFollowersTitleDateGuestsLinks
Google Local Austin356,196*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 18:30:00144  
Sarah Hill2,823,684Calling 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  

Shared Circles including M Sinclair Stevens

Shared Circles are not available on Google+ anymore, but you can find them still here.

Activity

Average numbers for the latest posts (max. 50 posts, posted within the last 4 weeks)

3
comments per post
2
reshares per post
13
+1's per post

1,319
characters per posting

Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 16

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2015-07-12 22:50:40 (16 comments, 16 reshares, 170 +1s)Open 

Travel New York City: Central Park 

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Photo: 2007-03-18. Central Park.

Most reshares: 16

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2015-07-12 22:50:40 (16 comments, 16 reshares, 170 +1s)Open 

Travel New York City: Central Park 

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Photo: 2007-03-18. Central Park.

Most plusones: 170

posted image

2015-07-12 22:50:40 (16 comments, 16 reshares, 170 +1s)Open 

Travel New York City: Central Park 

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Photo: 2007-03-18. Central Park.

Latest 50 posts

posted image

2015-07-28 03:57:28 (1 comments, 2 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

The Plot Improves: Thanks to Hadley Wickham 
Not only does he write amazingly useful code (and lots of it) he writes really good documentation, too. He's one of the few technically gifted people I've ever encountered who also has a knack for explaining what he's doing, even to novices.

From the article
-------------------------
'R was created in 1993 at the University of Auckland by statisticians Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman. The language was designed for data analysis, and has some quirks (like the way data structures are indexed and have to be stored in physical memory), so programmers coming from other languages often find it peculiar. Having programmed in Java, VBA, and PHP, Wickham found R to be “totally different.”  “[Many programmers] see R and think it is ridiculous and awful, but that didn’t happen to me,” he says. “I thought it wasreally intere... more »

The Plot Improves: Thanks to Hadley Wickham 
Not only does he write amazingly useful code (and lots of it) he writes really good documentation, too. He's one of the few technically gifted people I've ever encountered who also has a knack for explaining what he's doing, even to novices.

From the article
-------------------------
'R was created in 1993 at the University of Auckland by statisticians Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman. The language was designed for data analysis, and has some quirks (like the way data structures are indexed and have to be stored in physical memory), so programmers coming from other languages often find it peculiar. Having programmed in Java, VBA, and PHP, Wickham found R to be “totally different.”  “[Many programmers] see R and think it is ridiculous and awful, but that didn’t happen to me,” he says. “I thought it was really interesting.” '___

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2015-07-17 15:28:09 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

Blinded by Bias 
The worst biases aren't malicious and willful. Those are easy to identify and combat. They're the ones we aren't even aware we have; the ones that blind us to what's right before our eyes.

Ant-Man's visual effects supervisor spent two years studying ants in order to accurately portray their anatomy, movement, and behavior in stunning detail. "He wanted Ant-Man's ants to be scientifically spot on." Yet at no time did it occur to him that the workers and warriors he observed were female. Not until he screened the movie for some entomologists.

From the article...
-----------------------------
"I thought it was fantastic. It shows some respect for the actual biology of the ants," Brady agrees. "You see other ant movies and the ants don't even look like ants, and they're not acting like ants.... more »

Blinded by Bias 
The worst biases aren't malicious and willful. Those are easy to identify and combat. They're the ones we aren't even aware we have; the ones that blind us to what's right before our eyes.

Ant-Man's visual effects supervisor spent two years studying ants in order to accurately portray their anatomy, movement, and behavior in stunning detail. "He wanted Ant-Man's ants to be scientifically spot on." Yet at no time did it occur to him that the workers and warriors he observed were female. Not until he screened the movie for some entomologists.

From the article...
-----------------------------
"I thought it was fantastic. It shows some respect for the actual biology of the ants," Brady agrees. "You see other ant movies and the ants don't even look like ants, and they're not acting like ants. And here, they clearly took the time to figure out what ants actually do, what they look like."

"Ants are the good guys," Jesovnik says approvingly.

"Good girls, though," Brady adds quickly, and they both laugh. This, they agree, is the only thing Ant-Man really got wrong. In real life, most of the ants crawling out in the world are sterile females. They're the farmers, workers and soldiers. Jesovnik says in earlier movies like Antz or A Bug's Life, Hollywood has gendered ants incorrectly.

"It's always boys and girls," she says "Or boys. And ants really are only girls, mostly."

The scientists have no quibble with Ant-Man, who is, after all, a made-up Marvel Comics character. But male ants have short little lives. They live in the colony, mate with the queen, guard her and die. In the movie, the main ant character is a winged carpenter ant named Antony. He most certainly would be female in reality.

"So it should have been Antoinette really, then," Morrison says, sounding slightly abashed when told about the scientists' reaction to the movie...."We'll get that right on the next one," he adds.___

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2015-07-17 14:43:39 (2 comments, 1 reshares, 4 +1s)Open 

#WARONWORDS FOR IDIOTS
The following summary is offered as a means for minimising the repetitive diversion of having to recapitulate the core problems in Google Plus, and in repeated design changes, that have kept a discussion alive and loosely connected by the
#waronwords hashtag for more than a year now:

✪ No font and size controls.

✪ No block indenting.

✪ No inline pictures in posts and comments.

✪ No inline text-linking to URLs.

✪ No linking to comments within threads.

✪ No simple, user friendly font styling controls (italics, bold, fixed width, and not with underscores and asterisks).

✪ No bulleting/numbering.

✪ No effective searches for text, particularly comments under an original post.

Add to these the #googlepluschanges ' more recent emphasis on largerimages and vide... more »

#WARONWORDS FOR IDIOTS
The following summary is offered as a means for minimising the repetitive diversion of having to recapitulate the core problems in Google Plus, and in repeated design changes, that have kept a discussion alive and loosely connected by the
#waronwords hashtag for more than a year now:

✪ No font and size controls.

✪ No block indenting.

✪ No inline pictures in posts and comments.

✪ No inline text-linking to URLs.

✪ No linking to comments within threads.

✪ No simple, user friendly font styling controls (italics, bold, fixed width, and not with underscores and asterisks).

✪ No bulleting/numbering.

✪ No effective searches for text, particularly comments under an original post.

Add to these the #googlepluschanges ' more recent emphasis on larger images and video placeholders dominating the streams at the expense of longer text previews.

This trend culminated in the #googlepluschanges2013  iteration which included:

✪ Nested ‘box’ elements, euphemised as ‘cards’, which require several layers of scrollbars that need to be fiddled with to bring relevant text into focus in a fixed maximum height box.

✪ Enforced clicking of multiple ‘read more’ links to expand individual comments within a thread.

✪ An apparent requirement to open a new tab/window to see a full post plus its associated thread.

✪ An apparent increase in resource footprint for displaying Google Plus feed, increasing incrementally per tab/window, and more severe for Apple OSs.

There is a core of literate, literarily-inclined people on Google Plus who feel these changes have unnecessarily reduced the usability and prominence of written communication to the detriment of Google Plus as a forum overall.

This is the starting position for discussion on the war on words.

#ildl  ___

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2015-07-17 14:43:13 (1 comments, 2 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

___

posted image

2015-07-17 14:42:10 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Displaying Text in Google+

Starting today, all of my posts will be duplicated in images, until such time as Google+ recognizes that text is just as important (if not more so) than photos.

I will also try to ensure this image uses clear, readable text in a conventional font that is easily visible on standard computer monitors. #googleplusupdate   #newgoogleplus   #newlook   #waronwords  

Personally, I use an extension called “Replies and More” now to auto-expand posts in my feed, but I don’t feel you should have to install a Chrome extension to experience Google+. So I am going to do the work for you.

Note that this will obviously not be able to apply to reshares of links or photos, as Google only allows you to really attach one thing to a post.

Text should be allowed to reach the maximum card size that images can expand up to. Google+needs to ... more »

Displaying Text in Google+

Starting today, all of my posts will be duplicated in images, until such time as Google+ recognizes that text is just as important (if not more so) than photos.

I will also try to ensure this image uses clear, readable text in a conventional font that is easily visible on standard computer monitors. #googleplusupdate   #newgoogleplus   #newlook   #waronwords  

Personally, I use an extension called “Replies and More” now to auto-expand posts in my feed, but I don’t feel you should have to install a Chrome extension to experience Google+. So I am going to do the work for you.

Note that this will obviously not be able to apply to reshares of links or photos, as Google only allows you to really attach one thing to a post.

Text should be allowed to reach the maximum card size that images can expand up to. Google+ needs to recognize this as a mistake deserving of immediate remedy.

This post serves as a test of this methodology.___

posted image

2015-07-17 14:40:10 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

A belated vote of support for +M Sinclair Stevens and his advocacy on the #waronwords   I had just completed my first real blog post done on G+ when I saw it displayed in the new format. And I too thought G+ had traded away too much information density to keep the stream nutritious, like a high-end restaurant with tiny bits of food on big white plates. It's a balancing act to get enough to nourish elegantly and not be chintzy or faux artsy. I look forward to seeing improvements from the G+ team and I think a lot of small tweaks could really help. 

A belated vote of support for +M Sinclair Stevens and his advocacy on the #waronwords   I had just completed my first real blog post done on G+ when I saw it displayed in the new format. And I too thought G+ had traded away too much information density to keep the stream nutritious, like a high-end restaurant with tiny bits of food on big white plates. It's a balancing act to get enough to nourish elegantly and not be chintzy or faux artsy. I look forward to seeing improvements from the G+ team and I think a lot of small tweaks could really help. ___

posted image

2015-07-17 14:39:24 (4 comments, 1 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

The inevitable image test

The inevitable image test___

posted image

2015-07-17 14:38:43 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Drop in average interaction with the new Google+ layout

Many people are mentioning in the last days that there is less interaction on their posts with the new layout.
We had the same feeling, but we like also to see some analytics with objective numbers ;)

We have analyzed 9.787 posts from 100 persons for the last 3 months and here is the result.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words check out the image in this post (and engage! ;) )

You can find this chart also on this page where it is more interactive so that you can check the exact numbers for every day:
http://www.circlecount.com/postsanalysis/


ping: +Dede Craig King +Max Huijgen +Lee Smallwood +Michele Messenger +Paul Stickland +Wolf Weber +Yonatan Zunger +Marie Hélène Visconti +Eileen O'Duffy +Erik Andersson +Lise Bjerregaard Nielsen +Eve A +Jaana Nyström +EuroMa... more »

Drop in average interaction with the new Google+ layout

Many people are mentioning in the last days that there is less interaction on their posts with the new layout.
We had the same feeling, but we like also to see some analytics with objective numbers ;)

We have analyzed 9.787 posts from 100 persons for the last 3 months and here is the result.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words check out the image in this post (and engage! ;) )

You can find this chart also on this page where it is more interactive so that you can check the exact numbers for every day:
http://www.circlecount.com/postsanalysis/


ping: +Dede Craig King +Max Huijgen +Lee Smallwood +Michele Messenger +Paul Stickland +Wolf Weber +Yonatan Zunger +Marie Hélène Visconti +Eileen O'Duffy +Erik Andersson +Lise Bjerregaard Nielsen +Eve A +Jaana Nyström +Euro Maestro___

posted image

2015-07-17 14:36:52 (1 comments, 1 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

The Behemoth may win, but ...
Here's why I won't be silent about my opinions about the google #waronwords  no matter what ridiculous reasons are thrown at me for leaving or being quiet.

My investment
I use an electronic journal to type up most of my comments longer than around 200 words, and certainly all my essays.  I trawled through those journals going back to October 2011.  I added up all the words I wrote for Google Plus, subtracted October 2011 and June 2013 numbers, and came up with a word count of 489,000.  That’s around 900 a day for 19 months.

That's not counting my handwritten journals, though there is some duplication across the electronic and longhand volumes.  Nevertheless, half a million words is not a casual engagement.

I can hear the peanut gallery already: volume ain’t quality.  True.  Read some of my essaysand tell m... more »

The Behemoth may win, but ...
Here's why I won't be silent about my opinions about the google #waronwords  no matter what ridiculous reasons are thrown at me for leaving or being quiet.

My investment
I use an electronic journal to type up most of my comments longer than around 200 words, and certainly all my essays.  I trawled through those journals going back to October 2011.  I added up all the words I wrote for Google Plus, subtracted October 2011 and June 2013 numbers, and came up with a word count of 489,000.  That’s around 900 a day for 19 months.

That's not counting my handwritten journals, though there is some duplication across the electronic and longhand volumes.  Nevertheless, half a million words is not a casual engagement.

I can hear the peanut gallery already: volume ain’t quality.  True.  Read some of my essays and tell me that again, this time with feeling.

In any case, the word count evidences a great deal of personal commitment to the platform, and is not nearly as worthless to me as it is to Google.

You might argue that persisting with ‘an escalation of commitment to a sunk cost’ that is ultimately futile is insanity.  So be it, but I get to decide to on that, and I have been spreading myself around a little more since November last year, exploring other platforms and opportunities.  This is still no reason for me to give up on this platform until it really can’t be revived.  With a defibrillator if necessary.

Your investment
Now let’s look at some simple economics to put to bed another big lie: Google is free and we shouldn’t complain that the company does what it will with the Google Plus platform.

Bullshit!

Google is not free.  Every single consumer who buys from Google advertisers has paid for it.  Everyone who is affected by inflationary pressures in any economy in which Google advertisers sell their wares has paid for it.

The economics is simple.

Advertisers pass on their costs of advertising in incremental price increases on their products and services.  They pay Google huge sums, Google re-invests some of that money in tax shelters innovation, and we swallow the price increases across a huge range of consumer goods.  Which ones?  Look up the list of Google’s advertising clients.

Moreover, price increases in consumer goods fuel inflation, which in turn devalues buying power, meaning that you have to work harder, or more jobs, or at higher rates, or live on borrowed money just to keep pace, which of course also drives inflation.

Sure.  Price increases may be moderate to low right now, depending on where you are, but even fractional amounts add up when we are talking numbers in the hundreds of millions of users, and billions of dollars.

So, no more moronic arguments about Google as philanthropists, and me as a freeloader on a platform for which I actually pay an incremental sum every day I buy anything.  This is, of course, doubly true when Google chooses to ‘minimise’ its tax in my local economy where that shortfall is then carried by ordinary, dumb, 'not-equipped-to-cheat-on-tax' taxpayers.

With these two lines of thought in mind, why would I not argue my case, prosecute my arguments to their fullest extent, and give ground only grudgingly?

Sure, the behemoth will probably win.  But not because I ran away and sucked my thumb.
______

For background on #waronwords , see also: https://plus.google.com/u/0/110695872689494369839/posts/X2NEAY7kj4L, https://plus.google.com/u/0/110695872689494369839/posts/UVf9TQcBDVR___

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2015-07-17 14:36:19 (1 comments, 1 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

The war on words continues on g+

The latest contribution is a "read more"  (on posts and comments) which now tells you how many lines more only when it's "a lot" (by comparison to a usual mindless facebook comment about how good a pizza looks, or a tweet)…

Some have presented this as « good UI » (e.g. plus.google.com/u/0/115620878851836664537/posts/1oJx3mwqyjp) and in a sense  it is, but it is also the reinforcement of social media shallowness and the promotion of "tl;dr".

• If "good UI" is the twitter or facebook UI, then what's the difference of g+?
• If it's an author rank signal, it obviously doesn't need to be publicly visible. Most signals are not.
• If it was to help "foster engagement" by helping people know what to "read later" because it is long, then a systemof bookmark... more »

The war on words continues on g+

The latest contribution is a "read more"  (on posts and comments) which now tells you how many lines more only when it's "a lot" (by comparison to a usual mindless facebook comment about how good a pizza looks, or a tweet)…

Some have presented this as « good UI » (e.g. plus.google.com/u/0/115620878851836664537/posts/1oJx3mwqyjp) and in a sense  it is, but it is also the reinforcement of social media shallowness and the promotion of "tl;dr".

• If "good UI" is the twitter or facebook UI, then what's the difference of g+?
• If it's an author rank signal, it obviously doesn't need to be publicly visible. Most signals are not.
• If it was to help "foster engagement" by helping people know what to "read later" because it is long, then a system of bookmark, or the ability to tick a post to make it "stick near the top of the stream (until unticked)", would be good UI…

Because it doesn't provide a mechanism to "read later", this UI change is only sending you one signal: "don't read now, it's too long".

Do I need to switch to medium.com/here-now? Is g+ continuing its trend toward: more images (Pinterest), more one-liners (Twitter), and more link-littering (to separate blogs or articles, of which the word count won't be displayed) because this will be the only posts not getting the official "tl;dr" badge?


#WarOnWords  ___

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2015-07-17 14:35:43 (2 comments, 1 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Google+ doesn't expect to engage us with a tiny portion of an image. Why do they think we will engage with a tiny portion of text?

Would you click on the image for more based on that top portion?

Stop the #WarOnWords !

Google+ doesn't expect to engage us with a tiny portion of an image. Why do they think we will engage with a tiny portion of text?

Would you click on the image for more based on that top portion?

Stop the #WarOnWords !___

posted image

2015-07-17 14:33:41 (1 comments, 1 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

It seems the tag of the day is #WarOnWords And it's not without good reason. Ever since the new layout was introduced it seems as if Google+ will only display two to four lines of text before it goes to "Read more". The number of lines decrease if one tries to use bold text as a headline. I think I'm not the only one who believes that this had led to a decrease of interaction here on Google+. Quite simply, I think text posts (with only two to four lines displayed) are getting lost among the now ultra-large images.

Now to me the solution for Google+ is a simple one. Go back to the way text was once handled, where several more lines were displayed! I like images just as much as the next person and I don't mind that they are really big, but ultimately I prefer engaging posts on which I can comment and interact with others. Sadly, I don't think that is going to happen as... more »

It seems the tag of the day is #WarOnWords And it's not without good reason. Ever since the new layout was introduced it seems as if Google+ will only display two to four lines of text before it goes to "Read more". The number of lines decrease if one tries to use bold text as a headline. I think I'm not the only one who believes that this had led to a decrease of interaction here on Google+. Quite simply, I think text posts (with only two to four lines displayed) are getting lost among the now ultra-large images.

Now to me the solution for Google+ is a simple one. Go back to the way text was once handled, where several more lines were displayed! I like images just as much as the next person and I don't mind that they are really big, but ultimately I prefer engaging posts on which I can comment and interact with others. Sadly, I don't think that is going to happen as long as purely text posts are getting lost among the images!___

2015-07-15 23:16:13 (5 comments, 1 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

Politics: Mhairi Black's Maiden Speech
OMG! If only the US had politicians that were this articulate and this passionate. She tells the story of one of her constituents, from her time working at a food bank. And how we punish and humiliate those who most need our help.

"He burst into tears. That grown man standing in front of a 20-year old, crying his eyes out. Because what had happened to him was the money he would normally have used to pay for his travel  to come to the charity to get his food. He decided in order to afford to get to the job center he would save that money. Because of that so he didn't eat for five days or drink. When he was on the bus on the way to the job center, he fainted due to dehydration. He was 15 minutes late to the job center and was sanctioned for 13 weeks.

When the Chancellor spoke about fixing the roof when the sun wassh... more »

Politics: Mhairi Black's Maiden Speech
OMG! If only the US had politicians that were this articulate and this passionate. She tells the story of one of her constituents, from her time working at a food bank. And how we punish and humiliate those who most need our help.

"He burst into tears. That grown man standing in front of a 20-year old, crying his eyes out. Because what had happened to him was the money he would normally have used to pay for his travel  to come to the charity to get his food. He decided in order to afford to get to the job center he would save that money. Because of that so he didn't eat for five days or drink. When he was on the bus on the way to the job center, he fainted due to dehydration. He was 15 minutes late to the job center and was sanctioned for 13 weeks.

When the Chancellor spoke about fixing the roof when the sun was shining, I would have to ask, "Upon whom is the sun shining?"
--------------
Note: I can't get the video to embed directly.___

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2015-07-15 12:30:22 (0 comments, 2 reshares, 7 +1s)Open 

When the Segregated Team Up: Black Baseball Teams in Japan 
In the mid-twentieth century my dad ran track in college. He was a vision of the midwestern American farm boy: pale freckled skin set off by flaming red hair. The college where my parents met, Knox College in Galesburg Illinois, had been founded in 1837 one of the first in the US not to discriminate on the basis of race. My mother still remembers being deeply impressed to learn that if a restaurant refused to serve a black runner on the team, that the entire track team, black and white, would stand up and walk out together.

Yes. There were color lines in Illinois, a "northern" state.

How easy it is for so many of us from the comfort of the present to forget the bigotry of the past. While there remain some vocal white supremacists who want to return to the past, we must confront the reality that bigotry... more »

When the Segregated Team Up: Black Baseball Teams in Japan 
In the mid-twentieth century my dad ran track in college. He was a vision of the midwestern American farm boy: pale freckled skin set off by flaming red hair. The college where my parents met, Knox College in Galesburg Illinois, had been founded in 1837 one of the first in the US not to discriminate on the basis of race. My mother still remembers being deeply impressed to learn that if a restaurant refused to serve a black runner on the team, that the entire track team, black and white, would stand up and walk out together.

Yes. There were color lines in Illinois, a "northern" state.

How easy it is for so many of us from the comfort of the present to forget the bigotry of the past. While there remain some vocal white supremacists who want to return to the past, we must confront the reality that bigotry was not limited to a few unenlightened hicks in a few backward states. Racism was systemic, north and south. 

Nor is bigotry simply black and white. On the west coast where there were many immigrants from China and Japan, the rhetoric was pretty much the same stuff Donald Trump and Ted Cruz spew today against Mexicans.

So here is a little antidote to demonstrate that things can be different if we make the effort to make them different. The story (not so much "secret" but untold and unremembered) of how the excluded got together and got on.___

posted image

2015-07-14 23:09:14 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

Fiction: Men Influencing Men About Women 
I really enjoyed fellow Austinite, Ernest Cline's, first book Ready Player One and am looking forward to seeing him in a couple of weeks at a book signing for his new one, Armada 

In his recent Playboy interview, he describe how he was influenced to write strong women characters by James Cameron. Nice to be moving into new generation of male writers who just take it as a given that women are interesting as characters, not just part of the scenery.
-----------------------------
From the interview
-----------------------------
Q: I love the women you write. Unique, strong female characters are still so few and far between in science fiction, even now. Can you talk about where you find the inspiration for them?

A: Thank you so much for that question. I do have a lot of strong women in my life. A lot of myf... more »

Fiction: Men Influencing Men About Women 
I really enjoyed fellow Austinite, Ernest Cline's, first book Ready Player One and am looking forward to seeing him in a couple of weeks at a book signing for his new one, Armada 

In his recent Playboy interview, he describe how he was influenced to write strong women characters by James Cameron. Nice to be moving into new generation of male writers who just take it as a given that women are interesting as characters, not just part of the scenery.
-----------------------------
From the interview
-----------------------------
Q: I love the women you write. Unique, strong female characters are still so few and far between in science fiction, even now. Can you talk about where you find the inspiration for them?

A: Thank you so much for that question. I do have a lot of strong women in my life. A lot of my friends are women, and I always really love stories that reflect that. They’re treated as different than male characters. I hate it almost as much, I think, as women do. I feel like the biggest influence that James Cameron has had on me is that he always, always has strong female characters in his movies. In the Terminator, it was Sarah Connor. Sigourney Weaver was nominated for an Oscar for playing Ellen Ripley in Aliens. Even in Avatar, Neytiri ends up saving the hero. Cameron always takes pains to have strong female characters. I always try to do that too just because I appreciate it. And I have a daughter, and someday she’s going to read my books. I want her to be proud of the way that I portray women.___

posted image

2015-07-12 22:50:40 (16 comments, 16 reshares, 170 +1s)Open 

Travel New York City: Central Park 

--------------
Photo: 2007-03-18. Central Park.

Travel New York City: Central Park 

--------------
Photo: 2007-03-18. Central Park.___

posted image

2015-07-12 15:11:43 (9 comments, 6 reshares, 16 +1s)Open 

Writing as Inquiry 
"Good writing is good thinking made visible." I was taught. As a technical editor, I've had many occasions to confront "subject matter experts" with their tangled prose only to discover, as we unravel it, that they had no idea what they were talking about either. The ones who have worked with me long enough to know I'm there to help them, have learned to admit up-front, "Yeah, I wasn't really sure how that worked."  Then together we work to sort it out.

I know from experience that if I ask the right questions, I can trigger a revelation my writers' brains. Suddenly it becomes clear to them and in turn we figure out how to make it clear to our readers.

Which Comes First: Writing or Thinking?
While some people might advise me to know what I'm going to say before I open my mouth, I've foundt... more »

Writing as Inquiry 
"Good writing is good thinking made visible." I was taught. As a technical editor, I've had many occasions to confront "subject matter experts" with their tangled prose only to discover, as we unravel it, that they had no idea what they were talking about either. The ones who have worked with me long enough to know I'm there to help them, have learned to admit up-front, "Yeah, I wasn't really sure how that worked."  Then together we work to sort it out.

I know from experience that if I ask the right questions, I can trigger a revelation my writers' brains. Suddenly it becomes clear to them and in turn we figure out how to make it clear to our readers.

Which Comes First: Writing or Thinking?
While some people might advise me to know what I'm going to say before I open my mouth, I've found that I don't know what I think until I write it down. For me, writing is an act of inquiry, exploration, and discovery.

I learn best when I try to explain something to someone else. That's when I see both the patterns and the missing pieces.

Inquiry and Genre: Writing to Learn in College 
Recently I picked up this slim college textbook designed around a freshman writing class from the dollar table at Half Price Books.

In it there's a chapter on how to be a more inquisitive and active reader. Here I was confronted with the realization that for most of my non-professional reading, I'm fairly lazy and undisciplined. After all, I rationalize, I'm off the clock. I'm reading for pleasure.

Yet, I know full well that if I don't take the time to synthesize what I've read, then I might as well just have stared blankly at the ceiling because it's as if I didn't read it at all. The ideas flow through my brain as if it were a sieve. I must grasp and grapple with the ideas, if I'm to master them.

Nor is it enough to pull quotes (one of my favorite habits). I have to take that extra step of saying why I was struck by the thought. 

The book provides four techniques for writing a response to reading. 
* Identify your emotional response and then explore why it evoked that feeling. (Most of us stop to report the emotion but never examine or analyze it.)
* Summarize the text. (Can you convey the key points to a third party?)
* Paraphrase the text. (This is what I do most often do in my professional work. I can't understand something unless I rewrite it.)
* Question the text. What underlying questions does it answer? Do you agree or disagree with the answers the author provides? Does the author frame the argument in a way to lead you to a conclusion you might not otherwise make? What is the author's motivation for writing this particular piece? 

The Questing and Questioning Mind  
I think the beauty of the human mind stems from its inquisitiveness. Curious. Searching. Observing. Examining. Analyzing. Synthesizing And finally, most importantly, creating. 

We characterize curiosity as childlike because by the time most of us reach adulthood it has been drummed into us not to ask too many questions, or ask the wrong questions of the wrong people. 

Don't believe it. Inquisitiveness is our birthright. Keep asking questions.
------
Illustration by +Dieter Mueller Mutan-T (my alter ego) confronts Curiosity.___

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2015-07-11 23:37:11 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 9 +1s)Open 

A View of 5th Avenue
When we are on the inside looking out, as +nomad dimitri  noted recently, windows not only limit our perspective but insulate us; they create a barrier that separates us from physical contact with the world and prevents us from passing through intimate experience.

At other times, we may find ourselves on the outside looking in, glimpsing at a life we can never hope to attain.

I found this window display at Bergdorf Goodman on New York's 5th Avenue more ominous than inviting: the female figure objectified and faceless, no eyes to see; the sneering herd of male figures leering down on her from above; the passerby on the street looking in. The reflection of other windows. Who gazes down at us unseen from those windows? And I behind my own lens and filter, hidden from view provide the window that constrains your gaze.
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Photo:... more »

A View of 5th Avenue
When we are on the inside looking out, as +nomad dimitri  noted recently, windows not only limit our perspective but insulate us; they create a barrier that separates us from physical contact with the world and prevents us from passing through intimate experience.

At other times, we may find ourselves on the outside looking in, glimpsing at a life we can never hope to attain.

I found this window display at Bergdorf Goodman on New York's 5th Avenue more ominous than inviting: the female figure objectified and faceless, no eyes to see; the sneering herd of male figures leering down on her from above; the passerby on the street looking in. The reflection of other windows. Who gazes down at us unseen from those windows? And I behind my own lens and filter, hidden from view provide the window that constrains your gaze.
--------
Photo: 2007-03-20. Bergdorf Goodman, 5th Avenue, New York City___

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2015-07-09 12:57:57 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

Straight and Narrow
Classic European gardens have lots of straight paths which provide an excellent illustration that when you see everything laid out plainly before you, it can be boring. The unvarying scene makes the journey seem longer.

To pique interest, garden designers place something at the end of the path. They provide a goal, something to fix on, something to draw you forward.

I dislike this space because it is at once too confining and too revealing. The high hedges feel like they are closing in but the straight path leaves one exposed.The proportions enforce the illusion that the space is even more narrow and longer than it actually is (and actually it is pretty long). One feels trapped and only the light peaking through from the left, provides a clue to possible escape routes.

From the perspective of the castle looking down at the gardens, the path... more »

Straight and Narrow
Classic European gardens have lots of straight paths which provide an excellent illustration that when you see everything laid out plainly before you, it can be boring. The unvarying scene makes the journey seem longer.

To pique interest, garden designers place something at the end of the path. They provide a goal, something to fix on, something to draw you forward.

I dislike this space because it is at once too confining and too revealing. The high hedges feel like they are closing in but the straight path leaves one exposed.The proportions enforce the illusion that the space is even more narrow and longer than it actually is (and actually it is pretty long). One feels trapped and only the light peaking through from the left, provides a clue to possible escape routes.

From the perspective of the castle looking down at the gardens, the path seems more convenient than ominous...just the border between the great open lawn and what had been formerly the kitchen garden.
----------------
Photos: 2013-08-30. Powis Castle Gardens, Wales.___

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2015-07-07 04:01:44 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 9 +1s)Open 

The Low Door in the Wall
“But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
--------------
Photo: 2003-07-02. Christchurch College, Oxford University.

The Low Door in the Wall
“But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.”
― Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
--------------
Photo: 2003-07-02. Christchurch College, Oxford University.___

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2015-07-05 23:35:10 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Language: Validation 
Japanese is hard for English-speakers. And if I could have learned it in the time shown in this graphic, I'd be overjoyed. I don't agree that the writing system is the biggest barrier, however. I think that the difficulty arises because English and Japanese don't share any common roots so there are no mental hooks to connect the vocabulary.

Also, Japanese has far fewer sounds than English and endless homophones...to me many words sound alike or so similar that I can't keep them straight.

Language: Validation 
Japanese is hard for English-speakers. And if I could have learned it in the time shown in this graphic, I'd be overjoyed. I don't agree that the writing system is the biggest barrier, however. I think that the difficulty arises because English and Japanese don't share any common roots so there are no mental hooks to connect the vocabulary.

Also, Japanese has far fewer sounds than English and endless homophones...to me many words sound alike or so similar that I can't keep them straight.___

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2015-07-05 20:20:20 (4 comments, 6 reshares, 49 +1s)Open 

Travel England: Westbury White Horse, Wiltshire 
2007-07-10. En route from rural Cheshire to the old Sarum Air Field, we saw several of the famous chalk horses carved into the Salisbury Plain.

Travel England: Westbury White Horse, Wiltshire 
2007-07-10. En route from rural Cheshire to the old Sarum Air Field, we saw several of the famous chalk horses carved into the Salisbury Plain.___

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2015-07-05 12:29:07 (0 comments, 2 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

Critical Thinking: Is There an App for That?
Teaser: "[In university], ...people are given method and technique, but not the skill of thinking critically about what these imply in various specific circumstances. They become professionals who unthinkingly apply models that are inherently limited, and in ways that completely ignore the need for adapting models to match context and expected outcomes"

Critical Thinking: Is There an App for That?
Teaser: "[In university], ...people are given method and technique, but not the skill of thinking critically about what these imply in various specific circumstances. They become professionals who unthinkingly apply models that are inherently limited, and in ways that completely ignore the need for adapting models to match context and expected outcomes"___

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2015-07-04 14:41:21 (5 comments, 0 reshares, 7 +1s)Open 

A Window for Dimitri
Windows admit light and air but they also omit part of the view and so limit our perspective. We frame windows as we frame arguments, to define the boundaries of the subject under consideration.

The Japanese design some kinds of gardens to be viewed through windows. By constraining the viewer's perspective to a single point, an illusion of perfection can be achieved. Politicians, merchants, magicians, and spies also try to control the vantage points from which you can examine their wares.

Admit, transmit, omit all have a root in the Latin mittere to send. What message did we send? What do we hide? What do we let in? What do we shut out? What gets through?

------
Photo: 2012-06-21 Mesa Verde

A Window for Dimitri
Windows admit light and air but they also omit part of the view and so limit our perspective. We frame windows as we frame arguments, to define the boundaries of the subject under consideration.

The Japanese design some kinds of gardens to be viewed through windows. By constraining the viewer's perspective to a single point, an illusion of perfection can be achieved. Politicians, merchants, magicians, and spies also try to control the vantage points from which you can examine their wares.

Admit, transmit, omit all have a root in the Latin mittere to send. What message did we send? What do we hide? What do we let in? What do we shut out? What gets through?

------
Photo: 2012-06-21 Mesa Verde___

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2015-07-03 16:43:49 (4 comments, 0 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

Leitmotif: Portals and Passages
One of the recurring themes I notice in my photography is images of portals, passages, passageways, and pathways. These photographs nudge the viewer to ponder, "How do we get from here to there? Are we ready to take that first step forward and cross the threshold?"

In Japanese, the kanji 「経」(kei) means to "pass through" as in the word 経験 (keiken) "experience". Thus keiken combines the concepts of passing through and inspecting, examining. This is how I experience life and I think that's why these glimpses of passageways attract me.

So begins a new collection.
------------
Photo: 2008-05-30. Fort Point, San Francisco.

Leitmotif: Portals and Passages
One of the recurring themes I notice in my photography is images of portals, passages, passageways, and pathways. These photographs nudge the viewer to ponder, "How do we get from here to there? Are we ready to take that first step forward and cross the threshold?"

In Japanese, the kanji 「経」(kei) means to "pass through" as in the word 経験 (keiken) "experience". Thus keiken combines the concepts of passing through and inspecting, examining. This is how I experience life and I think that's why these glimpses of passageways attract me.

So begins a new collection.
------------
Photo: 2008-05-30. Fort Point, San Francisco.___

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2015-07-02 23:22:38 (11 comments, 10 reshares, 28 +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, 9 +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 (8 comments, 10 reshares, 71 +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 (3 comments, 7 reshares, 70 +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, 6 reshares, 54 +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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2015-06-22 23:59:42 (8 comments, 3 reshares, 30 +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, 6 reshares, 92 +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___

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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, 1 reshares, 62 +1s)Open 

Travel: San Francisco
Resist

Travel: San Francisco
Resist___

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2015-06-17 12:20:53 (4 comments, 5 reshares, 60 +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.___

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2015-06-16 10:22:38 (2 comments, 4 reshares, 65 +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.___

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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. ___

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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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