Facebook Has Lost its Mind

I think Facebook has lost its mind (not that it really had one). Within 24 hours of that attempted coup I started getting advertisements related to guns. And today, when posting a quote from a certain Italian fascist during WWII about a certain Germain fascist leader from WWII I was banned for 24 hours despite having only posted the quote.

What the hell?

This happened for one of two reasons:

1. Someone on my friends list (the only people that can see my posts) reported the post.
2. The Facebook algorithms are looking for mentions of certain historical figures.

I honestly don’t think anyone on my friends list would be dumb enough to think me posting a quote from Moussilini (sp?) is something supportive of white power movements in America. One simply would be able to determine that by looking over a day of my posts: cats, guinea pigs, a few COVID memes to lighten the mood, and a fair amount of social and political commentary. I share a lot of news posts from the BBC, NPR, and the like, in hopes of educating people. And sometimes when I’m feeling passionate (and yes, angry–but who can blame anyone these days) I voice some pretty strong opinions.

But those opinions have never been pro Republican or pro alt-left or pro white power.

I use Facebook regularly. It keeps me up to date as to what’s happening in the world, the country, and my community. I try to do so skeptically and intelligently.

But I’ve never been a huge fan of Facebook’s lack off accountability and that, in my humble opinion, is why I got blocked for a day. They’ve been slow to do anything meaningful about hate speach but after the events of last Wednesday they’re freaking out. Mark Z., who I’ve never had a lot of respect for (he seems like a priveleged college kid who can solve technical problems but doesn’t have a big picture view of reality combined with a sense of moral duty), and what I see happening is an extension of what I view as his poor leadership.

Take for example in the spring of 2020. They recognized that people were spreading an enormous amount of fake news about COVID on their platform. Solution? Anytime I shared a valid news article that had the word COVID in it I’d get a warning essentially saying, “What you’re posting has the word COVID in it do you want to post?”

Really? I’m so stupid I didn’t notice “COVID” was in the post?

Mark? Do you really think that’s going to stop any bullshit right wing type from sharing fake news about COVID

Their algorithms are notoriously crap. Yes, they’re good at addicting people but it’s not Artificial Intelligence folks, and anyone that tells you that isn’t a software engineer (as myself). When I’ve listened to more technical talks about their algorithms they’re pretty simple. To put them in laymans terms they work something like this:

1. Feed child candy and junk food and soda pop every day for three months.
2. Block child for 24 hours.
3. Shrug when the kids throws a tantrum or ends up in the Emergency Room.

If they truly wanted to make some positive changes I have two suggestions.

First, when someone’s made a complaint or their algorithms have blocked them, a full and complete reason should be explained (pointing to the “community standards”–which say nothing about posting quotes from historical figures–is not that). Then, instead of having a few options to protest, use what in computer science is called an expert system. Expert systems are pretty dumb forms of AI but make use of tons of data. The system would ask users multiple questions until it can either make a determination about the post or route it to the right human for review. All I could do was say, “Facebook misunderstood my post.”

That doesn’t help their platform get better or smarter, does it?

The second is stop with the bullshit algorithms intended to manipulate us. Here are some ways to do that:

Give users more flexibility in how they see things. For example, I want to see ALL posts from friends and family first, followed by news, followed by science, then it’s all kittens from there. Also, I want to see posts in the order they were posted. Finally, I want to see ALL posts, not have them filtered based on emoticons and comments (this is how FB has become addictive–it uses large data sets to decide what people want to see, not anything remotely suggestive of a real AI system). Give me options to do that. And yes, I understand that the platform is free for me to use so continue throwing in advertisements like you already do, but when I hide and add for mattresses don’t show me ads for mattresses from five other companies.

(assholes)

I have a lot of other ideas and they are, frankly, quite simple. The problem is, they weigh in on the side of the user, not the company. Manipulate people and play on their emotions is how Facebook became as rich and powerful as it has become. They have a duty to humanity, in my view, to figure out how to have a successful business while putting aside practices that are, psychologically and neurologically speaking, not much different than a drug dealer stringing out their users, keeping that flow going.

Talking About Odd Dreams

With COVID a lot has changed. What we eat. How we socialize with people. Where and how we earn our daily bread. And how we dream.

I’ve always felt my dreams were a little more bizarre than normal. For one thing, being chased by monsters or space aliens has never been a nightmare but an adventure influenced, I’m sure, by television shows I grew up on like Star Trek and Doctor Who. For another, the likehood that anything I dreamt about could be easily explained to another has always been low. But now?

This morning I had a dream that I was on a motorcycle riding next to someone down a long dirt road with pastures of dry dirt on both sides. Ahead were two horse drawn carriages. I wanted to pass but they were riding side by side, very fast, so I couldn’t pass. Worse, there were now several cows racing behind them. So we veered our motorcycles into the pastures which were covered in so many cow pies we were bound to step in them (I was no longer on a bike at this point but walking and/or on a horse myself).

We finally reach the ranch where the carriages are headed. I meet two workers in the field but both are native Spanish speaking and I don’t remember how to say, “Parle vous Espanyal?” in Spanish. Someone else comes up and invites us into his house.

From there on a lot is a blur but it was clear we were stuck there until we could get this shit off the motorcycles and would have to wait for awhile. Meanwhile, in the house, I’m making a mess of things. Spaggeti sauce on the carpet. Mud all over some items we’ll be taking back. Little rescue critters everywhere (which has become a recent theme in my dreams). My hands are covered in some kind of yuck at all times and the guy tells me he’s old school and has no sink so it’s outside ot use the high power water hoses some of the workers are pointing at anything that’s covered in mud and shit and I can’t walk anywhere without the noxious mixture ending up on my feet.

Worse, depsite the owner’s hospitality, I’m mortified by the family and friends coming and going from the house–but no one is wearing a mask. At some point I decide, “Fuck it!” I’ve been there so long I’m likely infected with COVID by now and hell, it’s the first time I’ve been around people for so long I’m willing to let sanity go to the wind.

The dream must have gone on and off for several hours, as has become the norm for many of my COVID related dreams surrounded by anti-maskers. And it seems in my age, my dreams have often become obvious, both to me and those on the outside. Perhaps my brain is too bored with the monotony forced upon us by global circumstance. All I have to say, brain, is: Less cow pies, more hot sex fantasies!

Okay, I’m done!

For those of my thousands of followers reading this, I’ve finally finished writing a bunch of PowerShell code to allow me to post blog entries from my Linux server. When I say “Linux Server” I mean a “server-server” where everything is command line. There’s no Graphical User Interface.

So why do I have a machine that’s only command line? It’s simple. For years I’d install Ubuntu on various machines or in VM’s on other machines and while I’d use it, I always ended up doing things via the GUI. I didn’t learn a heck of a lot. So I put the server version on this ancient laptop (with an SSD mind you) and it’s been awesome. I’ve been forced to google the hell out of things as I learn how to do thins like allow the mouse to work, connect to mail servers, get dotnet to work, etc. It’s been a great experience–though time intensive. For example, I’d say the entire work to now have the ability to publish to my website has taken probably hundreds of hours–though not at once. That’s the joy of building up one piece at a time then seeing how all the puzzle pieces combine.

Okay, I’m going to post this, delete all the test posts, and see if HTML means anything when I post via this tool. Wish my luck!

Up Late

Working. I had a feeling something like this would happen. As a result I took more breaks than usual. Boom! Around 13:46pm I got a message from someone. The roof, the roof, the roof was on fire. Since then I’ve had to refactor some code and run some tests that are taking hours (10+ for one). Refactored more of my code to speed things up a bit. Not sure when I’ll be able to go to bed. As a general rule, IT doesn’t learn about the fire until it’s consumed the entire roof.

I spent part of my day working on my book in the Mac application Scrivener. It’s a professional application for writing books and screenplays and can compile projects into any number of formats including E-books which I can copy directly to my Kindle for proofing. I hope to some day learn how to write a screen play, but for now I’m working on my first book which I plan to self-publish by the end of the month.

When I was young I wanted to be a published author. Maybe it was because both of my parents were teachers. Maybe it’s because as a family we’d often sit around on a weekend or during vacations reading books. Maybe it’s because my dad published a handful of novels while we lived in Australia. Whatever the case, it’s been a dream of mine.

In my late teens and early twenties I spend a good number of years writing on a regular basis. Mainly I wrote short stories and poetry and sometimes I submitted them to magazines for publication. I didn’t have much of a self-esteem so only a few rejections ended that, but I kept writing, at least for other people, and worked on a book, which I’ve come to revisit more recently, now that I have more maturity under my belt.

Over the last year I’ve been taking and massaging my old short stories. All but one now are (nearly) ready for publication. That story, my favorite, will likely take me another week to edit before I write introductions to each. The book will come in at just around one thousand pages, something that totally blows my mind. And I plan to put it online for sale as an E-book for around $3, paperback for $4. I don’t expect to sell a lot of copies but then again, the goal is to be published, even if it’s self published. And frankly, I’ll be pretty happy to hold a copy in my hands.

Goodnight, for now. Going to wind down my early morning work and crash here on the couch.

The Saturday that was a Friday

Woke up this morning and could have sworn it was Friday. Needless to say, it’s felt like a long week. Made the mistake of sleeping without my earplugs last night and woke up around 4 or 5am to one of the next door neighbors going to work. This particular neighbor is a real asshole; they’ve woken me up a number of times. One time they were out by their car “talking” with someone at bar volumes for about half an hour. This morning they had their windows down and stereo blaring. I don’t know what they’re trying to prove, but 5am? Really? I feel like I’m living in an apartment again.

Obviously I’m a little frumpy and still trying to wake up. Would have some coffee but it often makes me feel strung out. Just gotta take a shower and get to it.

Recent thoughts on Religion

This past year—2020—my views on religion have changed. I suppose in some respects they’ve long been this way, but with the Trump Presidency and COVID I’ve come to feel more bold in those beliefs. I’ve seen how the world has been effected by superstition and can no longer remain quiet and polite. As I recently told someone, “I don’t know why we’re told to automatically respect all religions. Shouldn’t they have to earn it just like anyone or anything else?”

And like that I woke up.

At last count there are 7.8 billion human beings on the planet. That’s the largest population of any mammal in the history of our small, blue planet. For most of that history we’ve governed ourselves by beliefs that were handed down to us, beliefs that were often not based in reality. We’ve believed in gods plural and singular. We’ve believed that mystical powers control the night and the day, the passing of the seasons, the health of our crops. These beliefs have, to some extent, provided adequate to ensure the human race survived to the next day, but not necessarily better or healthier as a whole. Now, as a globally interconnected species, the application of ancient belief and tradition in key decisions of governance only serves to harm us.

Take for example the obvious: America’s handling of COVID.

Handling a pandemic is straight forward. Prepare. Test, test, test. Contact trace. Wear masks. Social distance. Close down non-essential business. Modify existing business and organizations to ensure the virus doesn’t spread. Devote money towards research and a vaccine. It’s not easy, as we’ve seen, but the steps are made obvious by science.

America has not consistently used science, however, to guide its hand. Both states and the federal government have changed their strategies at the beck and call of political and religious belief (are they not, in many respects, one and the same?). It is not uncommon to hear an individual flaunt restrictions either based on their belief in some undefined “freedom” claimed to be in the ancient text we call the U.S. Constitution or that if it’s time God will decide. These singularly selfish, non-scientific, and frankly superstitious beliefs have resulted in the deaths of millions of people now. It is unconscionable.

So the question is, why should I respect any religious tradition if many of those who are members make decisions based on superstition when those decisions have negative and even deadly impacts on non-believers? Why should I respect a politician or voter who supports legislation that is sexist, agist, racist, or otherwise pushes their own sense of “right” and “wrong” and others? Why should I have anything but disgust for people who quite literally believe in gods and demons, fictions such as “original sin”, or that such anachronisms should be forced on intelligent, critical, free minded people?

To be clear, I have no problem that people are religious anymore than I care what folks eat for dinner. Just don’t eat babies. And don’t force me to eat babies if that’s your thing. To me that’s freedom. It’s starts with believing what you want to believe and doing what you want to do as long as it doesn’t put other people in cages. And that’s, in my humble opinion, the only true sin: to rob someone of the ability to believe and live as they choose. As the core tenant of Wicca teaches, “Do as you will as long as you do no harm.” You’d think if America really were based on the idea of freedom for all we’d follow that path.

I hope I’m able to.

Chapter 2

Writing is still difficult. Actually, it’s always been difficult. But there was a day and a time where I filled my spare time with writing hoping, in large part, to become a professional writer some day. I thought what I had to say had meaning. More important, I thought what I wanted on paper worth reading.

In less than 24 hours I’ll be 47 years old. It’ll be almost a decade since I blogged on an almost daily basis. Back when I thought I had something worthwhile to share. I don’t know what happened between then and now. Maybe it was the Lyme, robbing me of years of my health, my life, and tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Maybe it was all of the social drama I experienced or put myself in or created. Maybe I just realized what a small cog I am in the big picture and that fundamentally, the universe could do just fine without me. And maybe it was simply that I realized for all the things I’d learned in this so called life I really couldn’t make the kind of impact on the world I want to.

I’m back to editing old stories, short stories I’d written in my youth for people I’d loved, admired, and/or was infatuated with. These were stories with meaning. But as with most past endeavors I look back and see how clunky my steps were. Can I improve? What effort would be necessary? Is it worth it?

Will anyone ever care to read what I have to say?

It’s my hope that once I’m happy with these relatively minor edits I can publish these old stories in an e-book, possibly even self publish soft bound copies. “There,” I’ll say to myself, “I’ve done it.”

Reasons 11 through 38

I know, I know, I said I was going to write every day. In my defense, I stopped smoking two weeks ago and have been somewhat scatter-emotioned ever since. And I just don’t feel compelled to write like I once did. There are many, many reasons behind that. One day I hope to “feel compelled” again so I can write about how I haven’t cared about writing or sharing or opening up anymore. For now I will say this: I’ve become so tired of the level of bullshit that’s come to permeate the internet—especially the political “discussion”—that I’ve all but stopped using Facebook and have absolutely stopped giving a shit about whether anyone will listen to any evidence I have regarding the doomed Trump administration. America has really become a country where we’re going to fist fight on the playground regarding the merits of Ford vs. Chevy and we’re willing to put people’s futures on the line for such brainwashed idiocy.

Anyway, I’m not going to waste my time digging into these other reasons I was going to write about, the titles speak for themselves:

Reason #11: Trump Cares About Winning (more than he cares about you)
Reason #12: Trump Doesn’t Want Everyone to Vote
Reason #13: Trump Ignores Experts
Reason #14: Trump is a Male Chauvinist
Reason #15: Trump is Obviously Predictable
Reason #16: Trump Lacks Humility
Reason #17: Trump Manipulates the Government to Fill His Coffers
Reason #18: Trump Spreads Doubt About Trustworthiness of Elections
Reason #19: Trump Trashes the Medal of Freedom
Reason #20: Trump’s a Disgrace to the Office
Reason #21: Trump’s Blatant Disrespect for Veterans
Reason #22: Trump’s Continued Obfuscation Regarding His Tax Returns
Reason #23: Trump’s Disgraceful Lack of Knowledge of American History
Reason #24: Trump’s Disgust for the U.S. Constitution
Reason #25: Trump’s Disrespect for His Own Base
Reason #26: Trump’s Hypocrisy Regarding Protests
Reason #27: Trump’s Near Silence on the Historical Western Fires
Reason #28: Trump’s Nepotism
Reason #29: Trump’s Requirement of Complete Loyalty
Reason #30: Trump’s New SS (the DHS)
Reason #31: Trump’s White House Pays Women Less than the National Average
Reason #32: Trump’s Wild Claims about COVID Treatments has Killed People
Reason #33: Trump’s Willingness to Supporter’s Lives at Risk
Reason #34: Trumps Views of America’s Enemies vs. His Enemies
Reason #35: He’s the World’s Most Accomplished Failure
Reason #36: Trump is a Bigot
Reason #37: Trump Runs Things Like a Reality Show
Reason #38: Trumps Sides with Kim Jong-Un

Stopping Smoking

For this of you that can’t, you’re likely to never have smoked. If you have, you should be able to relate that like me, you’re really good at stopping smoking given all the practice you’d had over months, years, or decades. We’ve all become experts; the only problem: We’re just as good at starting again.

I starting smoking at 18 as a way to get back my parents. They were both teachers at my high school and as a straight A student I thought it was the best (most passive-aggressive) way to get back at them. Needless to say, I had it as much as possible from them. I didn’t smoke at home and generally only smoked in the car with all the windows open. Hell, for at lest six months to a year I didn’t really “smoke” at all as I just liked to light up, suck a mouthful of smoke in, watch it dance the air as I exhaled. And I absolutely loved flame.

This year I’ve had limited success quitting. Already having multiple pre-existing conditions, the COVID pandemic made it a very clear choice: either I quit smoking or potentially die. Even then, it’s been stop and go. Every other weekend or so I’ll go cold turkey or put on patches but never seem to be able to make it to the other side. I like smoking–no, I love it! I love sitting on the deck several times a day reading the latest news and articles on my Facebook feed. I love that it wake’s me up in the morning. I love I can focus on it when I’m frustrated, tired, scared, angry, or feeling defeated. I love that it makes me feel tough. And I especially love, after a long day or all my emotions are frayed, sitting on the deck with a dram or two of Scotch drinking, commenting on FaceBook articles, and forgetting all the physical pain I’d been in all day.

Damn, smoking is damn good.

It’s not easy to quit. I’ve smoked on and off for decades. Even changed from cigarettes to a pipe back to cigarettes and then finally on Swisher Sweet Cigarillos. But whatever the input device, the reality is quitting is never quite the same any time. Generally though, the several days I tend to feel increasingly confused. For example, if I were sitting in a chair ever minute or two I’d wonder why I was sitting there watching tv instead of doing something more important. If I get up to do something important in hopes of keeping my mind off of it (as if one can as it’s completely screwing with ones thoughts) I find my mind will go into all sorts of wonky territory. Why did I go into another room? Why am I cooking? Why do I go to the work in the morning? Why am I here? As it gets worse uncontrollable anxiety kicks in, something no drug or meditation can put a dent in. And regular actives, like reading news, becomes pointless. The mind wanders uncontrollably. Then when I go to sleep at night, at least that first couple of nights, I’m likely to wake up with night terrors, my mortality somehow being thrown like a giant Redwood tree into my face. Somewhere around day two the mind is a chaotic confusion. Time slows down. One minute can become five, five ten, and so on—the whole idea of saying to oneself, “This will all be over in n days,” becomes meaningless when time stretches ones patience to its limits.

So here we go again. I’ve only had a couple today, one this morning, two this afternoon. Since this is a three day weekend I’m going a combination of patch and cold turkey tomorrow, in hopes that I can lower my dependency enough to be full cold turkey come Monday (Labor Day). I know I won’t be running on all thrusters come my first day back on Tuesday. And despite how difficult it is to write while “Jonesing” I will continue my daily reasons for not voting for that jackass in the Oval Office.

Gotta keep moving forward.