Doctors performing likeotomy on a volunteer subject.
A reading from the book of Demotivational Dictionary:
noun (pl. likeotomies) [ usu. in sing. ]
usage of the “favorite” button on tweets about my lobotomy: too bad you are now unable to grok the likeotomy I gave you.
A reading from the book of Demotivational Dictionary.
I’m pretty much a collector of likes. Feel free to share one of your own. I always appreciate them. I think.
[I] want to say thank you to you. I haven’t had an orthodox career and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it. And I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me! Thank you.
–Sally Fields, March 25, 1985
Sally Field about to bludgeon a cretin who failed to favorite her tweet.
Thank you, Ms. Fields. That’s exactly how I feel each and every time one of my tweets gets a star on the Twitter Walk of Shame. I’ve personally counted more visits by Halley’s Comet, though.
It works like this: You see a tweet you like (or some other masturbatory form of social media expression) and you like it. So you click the little icon that means favorite, like, upvote, star and/or what not. What’s so hard to understand about that?!
It turns out that “like” is sometimes the wrong tone.
“My father molested me every single day until I was eight years old.”
Do you think, somehow, that “like” seems misplaced here?
To me, a Topsy-Turvy is worse than a Catch-22. The latter is a logical impossibility due to contradictory rules. Topsy-Turvy, on the other hand, is pure and utter bullshit.
Here’s a couple examples I’ve noticed of late.
A new term has cropped up recently to describe the act of publishing a person’s real name, address and other personal information on the internet with the intent to cause harm.
Yes, it happens so much there’s a word for it now.
The term is “dox.”
Years ago, long before it was trendy, I was doxxed. I had banned a couple of racists from an online forum and they were none too happy about it. So they threatened to kill me. “You have 24 hours to get out of town. Or else.” Seriously? You just did that? I didn’t realize I lived in the town of Tombstone. Oh, look. There goes a tumbleweed. Somewhere a chicken clucks.
I reported the emails to the police. They contacted me and I showed them the printouts. “That happened online? That’s not real. There’s nothing we can do.” True story. Good times.
Later the racists doxxed me on Craigslist, published photoshopped pictures of me and my wife, and took credit for killing my missing cat. Craigslist wouldn’t reply to my requests for help. Remember, I was years ahead of my time. Again, I turned to the police. I had proof I had been doxxed. Their reply? “Nothing we can do about that. It’s not illegal. That’s public information.”
Fast-forward to today and the Topsy-Turvy part: Oregon currently has about 55 “juvenile sex offenders” attending class in 24 different school districts. Parents and other students are not notified of their presence. Why? Because of federal and state laws that protect the privacy of the sex offender student.
How do you know when a situation is Topsy-Turvy? When it only flows one way – against you – at every possible turn. That’s Topsy-Turvy!
You may remember the name Ethan Couch. Recently his name has been coming up in the news again. He’s the Texas teenager who used the “affluenza” defense to get out of serving jail time for killing four persons while driving drunk at over three times the legal limit. He was 16 at the time when he crashed into a stalled pickup on the side of the road.
A CBS television station in Dallas, Texas, reported yesterday that Ethan will be released “very soon” from about a year spent in rehabilitation. Once released, he will be on ten years of probation. He will not have served any jail time for his actions.
And now some Topsy-Turvy: A 90-year man was arrested and taken away, in handcuffs, by Fort Lauderdale police. His crime? Feeding the homeless.
For 23-years Arnold Abbott has operated a non-profit organization called “Love Thy Neighbor” which distributes hundreds of meals per week to the needy. The mayor of Ft. Lauderdale supports a city ordinance that essentially bans food sharing among local citizens.
The mayor was initially defiant. “Just because of media attention, we don’t stop enforcing the law,” he said. Now, in light of media attention that threatens tourism and the local economy (which consists primarily of horny millennials drinking lots and lots of booze and having gratuitous sexual relations with each other and inanimate objects like fire hydrants) he has adopted a more conciliatory tone.
A killer of four walks free among us while a 90-year old man is “dragged away in cuffs” for feeding hungry people and threatening the rights of young people to act like assholes. That’s a whoop ass can full of fucking Topsy-Turvy.
I don’t know things. I just like to posit The Possible with the most negative spin. I guess in my world that makes it The Probable. As you’ll see, I have an active imagination. Imagine the worst to avoid surprises on down the road. -Ed
Have you been worried about what the NSA is up to since the big Snowden season finale reveal? Allow me be the first to say you ain’t worried about nothin’ yet. Or something like that.
That’s the one thing about technology. It’s a curse but it’s also a bigger curse. It’s funny that way.
Tom’s Law #42
Every leap in technological prowess is accompanied by an exponential leap in the Machiavellianism of human beings.
I know that sounds complicated and confusing and chock full of jargon. In layman’s turns it simply means that technology is the means by which we get to be extra shitty to each other. Like always, this can take many forms.
The government, it turns out, likes to make secret arrangements known as “Gentlemen’s Agreements” with the innovators and makers of technology. The public is generally not privy to these manufacturer deals.
In one case, “tiny yellow dots” were generated by color printers and added to printouts. The dots were invisible to the naked eye and could only be seen using a “special kind of flashlight.” These dots are used to watermark the print and encode information specific to the printer like serial number and date and time. The program reportedly existed during the 1990s and was discovered and cracked by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in 2005.
Officials at Xerox said that the encoded dots were added at the request of the United States Secret Service which had asked for help and that the program was designed to provide information useful to law-enforcement authorities in tracking down criminals. (Source: Washington Post.)
The process required the involvement of a U.S. consumer (known as the “sucker”) and worked like this:
Sucker buys a printer.
Sucker fills out the warranty “registration” card with factual information and sends it in.
Sucker prints a document using an MS-Word template with help from a paper clip: “It looks like you are writing a death threat and/or extortion demand. Would you like help?”
Law-enforcement cracks the code and is led to the sucker like Hansel and Gretel following a trail of bread crumbs.
Sucker is transformed into a criminal and gets free meals and lodging for a long time to come.
In this particular example, we get a fairy tale outcome and everyone is happy. But the moral, so obvious to you and me in this jaded age, is that the program could have been applied to any of us at any time and for any reason.
Another moral of this story: “Registration” is not required for full warranty eligibility. (In some cases a manufacturer can require it for limited warranty.)
So what’s the deal with those cards often euphemized with adorable names like: Warranty Card, Warranty Registration, Product Registration, etc.
Product registration and warranty cards don’t do very much for the consumer, but they are a gold mine for marketing companies. Notice that many cards go way beyond asking for your name, address and the serial number of the product. Questions such as your age, marital status, salary, education, do you own or rent and what kind of car you drive are common.
“Product warranty cards are information collected under the pretense of a benefit where the information goes straight to marketers. The purpose of a product warranty card is not to protect you, it’s to collect marketing information.”
Voluntarily filling one of these cards out when you don’t have to is the proper procedure for earning the “sucker” moniker. And, for bonus points, you’ve also signed up as a participant in a secret government program. Congratulations.
So that covers one example. What else ya got?
You know those blank CD-ROMs you buy to burn your stuff? Did you know that when you do you’re paying a “royalty” to organizations like the RIAA with the federal government acting as the gatekeeper? The theory goes that you couldn’t possibly want blank CD-ROMs for any other purpose than the illegal sharing of copyrighted content, therefore intellectual property holders are entitled to a piece of the action. Yeah, just like that episode of Star Trek.
Initially, in the United States, there was a market separation between “music” CD-Rs and “data” CD-Rs, the former being several times more expensive than the latter due to industry copyright arrangements with the RIAA. Physically, there is no difference between the discs save for the Disc Application Flag that identifies their type: standalone audio recorders will only accept “music” CD-Rs to enforce the RIAA arrangement, while computer CD-R drives can use either type of media to burn either type of content.
17 U.S.C. § 1008 bars copyright infringement action and 17 U.S.C. § 1003 provides for a royalty of 2% of the initial transfer price for devices and 3% for media. The royalty rate in 17 U.S.C. § 1004 was established by the Fairness in Music Licensing Act of 1998. This only applies to CDs which are labeled and sold for music use; they do not apply to blank computer CDs, even though they can be (and often are) used to record or “burn” music from the computer to CD. The royalty also applies to stand-alone CD recorders, but not to CD burners used with computers. Most recently, portable satellite radio recording devices contribute to this royalty fund.
The moral of this story is really fun. If you’re the sad sack, that one poor son of a bitch who actually obeys the law, you still get to pay the royalty fee. In essence, for being a good person you are rewarded by subsidizing everyone else’s criminality. Of course, if your only use of blank recordable CD-ROMs is backing up your weekly Quickbooks file, you pretty much deserve what you get. Because, what a shitty piece of software.
For a long time the makers of CD-ROM burners secretly installed “generation” controls. This basically prevented people from burning “copies of copies.”
No doubt about it. Apple makes getting screwed look good. That screen is so elegant and well designed.
I went to the store to buy an Apple TV. It’s a device, like a Roku, that streams content from an internet connection to a television. I asked the salesperson if it could be used to send content from the iPad to the TV. “Yep, it does that! Airplay makes it easy as pie! Airplay allows you to share anything from your iPad and project it onto your TV. Your TV essentially becomes a monitor for your iPad.”
“Golly, gee,” I said, forking over my money. “That sounds good to me!”
At no time was I informed that some restrictions may apply. The box (which I still have) said nothing of this. It wasn’t on the store receipt. I don’t recall seeing it on the instructions inside when I finally got home and opened it up. To this day I have no knowledge of ever participating in an “informed consent” decision. Yet, there it sits, on my TV. The message that says, “No, we will not do what you ask. Your TV does act like a monitor, only that it also has the power to refuse requests, albeit politely.”
It’s like a car that won’t drive you to a strip club. Actually, to be honest, it’s like a car that will happily drive you to the Apple Store but suddenly displays a friendly apology when you try to go to the Microsoft Store. (Not that anyone would ever try that.)
The moral here is that the concept of “informed consent” in a retail context is bullshit. You can’t consent to that which was deliberately concealed. “Gotcha,” exclaims Apple. “All your money belong to us.”
What else is going on? Lots and most of it (or all?) takes place without court orders or subpoenas.
Location tracking via mobile phones.
Social media compliance with government requests.
Collection of phone call records.
Eavesdropping on international conversations.
It doesn’t have to be secret and it doesn’t necessarily always come from the government, either. Researchers recently did a study where, using only publicly available “like” information on Facebook, they could deduct, with amazing accuracy, things like an individual’s “intimate personal attributes.” Things like “race, age, IQ, sexuality, personality, substance use and political views.” And that’s using only the Facebook “like” button. Information that Facebook users make publicly available by default. Researchers refer to this sort of data as a “generic class” of digital record. (Source: University of Cambridge.)
Hell, even Pandora, the online music streaming service, recently got in on the act claiming that it can determine the political leanings and voting preferences of its members based on their up/down votes on songs. (Source: Wall Street Journal.)
Data is being collected. And, as incidents like Target and Kickstarter tell us, data is being successfully hacked on a massive scale at an alarming rate. Assuming we trust the collectors to always take our best interests to heart (which we shouldn’t) what about the interests of the people who steal it away? I wonder how much regard they’ll have for us? Dangers like these used to be esoteric thought experiments. Now they are here and growing routine.
If you know me, you know that I like to take what is knowable, that which is established, and treat it like the tip of a giant iceberg. I like to ponder. What else is out there? What else might be going on? Take what is known and extrapolate. Deduct. Guess. Use your imagination.
How would you feel if you went into a job interview and they could pull up a history of everything you had ever search for on the internet? Including phrases like “rubber hose plumpie porn” and what not? Technology makes that scenario not only possible but probable. Don’t forget that computing power is expected to continue to double on a regular basis until it will exceed the combined thinking abilities of every human brain on Earth. That power is going to be used for something.
Police cars currently have the ability to drive through parking lots and scan, in real time, all the license plates. If a car is stolen or the drive has wants and warrants the computer immediately lets them know. What if this scanning technology was extended beyond parking lots and didn’t require a human to operate the system? What if a technology was developed so these types of scanners could be cheaply and easily deployed everywhere that cars go?
I’m also the guy who predicted the NSA Masturbation Database. Imagine if that ever got in the wrong hands? (Meh!) Hackers steal the database, sell it to the Catholic church, and next thing you know, your entire block is being denied holy communion, is excommunicated, or worse!
A lot of people have worried about the day humans will be bar-coded or have RFID-style devices implanted under their skin. But what if the reality turns out to be much more subtle and nefarious than that? “Devices? That hurts. We would never do that to you. You wound us.” What if technological advancement makes it possible to do that, and so much more, using non-invasive means that the individual is literally helpless to prevent?
What then? What will that society look like?
Today’s homework exercise: What else can you imagine? What might be out there right now? Or in the near future? Can you think of any specific examples? Please share them in the comments section below. The NSA will automatically receive a carbon copy.
Today we study a particular variation of the classic so-called Urinal Problem. For millennia great thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Bill Gates and others have pondered the great mysteries of gentlemen’s restroom etiquette. Now it’s my turn to take the problem out for a spin.
The classic definition of the problem, of course, involves an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of urinals. It’s easy to see how a problem like that could humble even the greats. In a flight of hubris, even I once made the attempt, and was left humbled and feeling flushed.
For simplicity, we will closely examine a three-urinal subset of n and attempt to fully solve the problem variation.
Abstract. A man walks into a men’s room and observes n empty urinals. Which urinal should he pick so as to minimize his chances of maintaining privacy, i.e., minimize the chance that someone will occupy a urinal beside him? In this paper, we attempt to answer this question under a variety of models for standard men’s room behavior. Our results suggest that for the most part one should probably choose the urinal furthest from the door (with some interesting exceptions). We also suggest a number of variations on the problem that lead to many open problems.
It was easy to theorize a solution for the three urinal-subset based on the process of elimination (no pun intended). This is also known as The Vizzini Gambit. (See: The Princess Bride.)
Clearly you should not choose the urinal in the center as the next visitor must choose one of the adjacent urinals. Thus, it is obvious that the solution must be one of the end urinals. But which one? Elimination only gets us so far.
As is often the case, field research is required to test theoretical constructs. And that’s where the shit hit the fan. (The results of that experiment are beyond the scope of this article.) Continue reading →
Simple in concept but, like most things, the devil is in the details. How will we as an evolving society continue to embrace this simple concept? Under this basic principle, being arrested is decidedly not the same as being guilty.
Once upon a time I, yours truly, was arrested by the police. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you that story. It’s a harrowing tale of poop, felis catus, neighborly love, and C.S.I. And just like most episodes of C.S.I. the identities of the guilty will be revealed in time for the credits.
I imagine the whole thing looked a lot like George Clooney being handcuffed and taken into custody. Yeah, exactly the same. Continue reading →
A quick post about this week’s flap about electronic spying. (Stay tuned for a review of Jaron Lanier’s new book, which is quite interesting in this context, as well.)
First—most of the information is deeply secret, so we really don’t know anything.
Second—the guys holding the secrets are very good at keeping secrets and at manipulating public opinion. Some “leaks” are deliberate misinformation, the best misinformation is plausible and partly true.
That said, there appears to be an amazing amount of hand-wringing about reports that the US security agencies are routinely obtaining all the phone records from telecom companies. Some of the reports seem “shocked” that this is happening, despite the fact that it has been happening for many years. Note that this is legal (under current laws), reported to Congress (per usual mechanisms), and routine. I.e., the US national security agencies should be assumed to have all phone…
I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends A chance to share old memories and play our songs again When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name No one recognized me, I didn’t look the same But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
Let’s just say that I’m not the most social wildebeest in the herd. Ya think? So when an invitation comes my way it’s a big, big decision. A really big decision. Monumental. Did I mention yet that it is big?
Of course I don’t want to go. That’s a given. That part is never open to debate. The only question is should I go? Put in an appearance, as it were. My normal procedure, if I go at all, is to keep it as brief as possible before doing The Slink.
For argument’s sake, let’s say the decision has been made. (It could happen.) What then?
The Slink is my trademark move. One minute I’m there and then. Poof. Hey! Has anyone seen Tom in a while?
I don’t believe in goodbyes at parties. It creates a commotion, focuses undue attention (I’m not a narcissist in real life) and can take 90 minutes or more. The Slink is the much preferable option.
But before I could activate the magical powers of The Slink something else happened. Something very untoward. Of course, great umbrage and acrimony was involved. Curious? Well load up the fucking Facebook. I’m sure you can read all about it. Continue reading →