Friday, January 28, 2011

Taylor Marsh On Egypt And The Modern Electonic Press

Caption: Northeast Egypt as seen from STS-58 Most Western news agencies don't give us a much closer view than this.

Image credit:

Events in Egypt appear to be reaching a boiling point. Taylor Marsh wrote this earlier today:
When Al Jazeera English became available in parts of the U.S., like the Beltway, it was a seminal event as far as I am concerned. It’s the most important channel not enough people are watching, a tiny part of that because it’s not available everywhere. It’s the first successful channel to connect the Arab world while blasting what is happening into America, which the U.S. media ignores at our peril and they do so because it doesn’t pay and we’re such a navel gazing country most don’t understand the repercussions of our own ignorance.

EGYPT: Al Jazeera and White House Mixed Messaging in the Age of Wikileak Cables, Twitter and Facebook
Which sums up the Middle East and our relationship to it pretty well, I think, except for our constantly interfering in the place to advance our own interests. That combination is a dangerous one, given how volatile things are there, and how much both we and Europe depend on the oil that flows out of that region.

Taylor's article is well worth reading. Her comments on Al Jazeera are spot on. These days, it seems to be the only truly honest news network on TV. One observation I've made from watching it is that they have a habit of hiring local reporters nearly everywhere they cover routinely. Reporters from America are American, reporters from Africa are, if not from the particular countries covered, at least clearly from that part of the world. It's certainly the only one that's been paying real attention to what's going on there, rather than seeing it through the eyes of one particular region's prejudices and interests.

UPDATE (Jan. 29): Added the picture finally. For some reason, the Blogger software wasn't uploading the right picture yesterday.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Delicious Smackdown

Image credit: found it here

There's a reason Just An Earthbound Misfit is on my blog roll, and it's not because I'm on hers. She has the kind of mind that can come up with questions like this one for the morons who believe in the Mayan calender silliness:
If You Think That the World Will End in 2012...

... what are you doing reading this blog[?] Or any blog.

Seriously. If you believe that "Mayan calendar says the Universe will end on December 21, 2012" claptrap, why are you still going to work? Why don't you quit your job, sell your house and all of your shit to those of us who don't believe that guff and go work on your bucket list?

If you really think that there are 697 days left until the world ends, why are you putting up with this guy every day at work?

If You Think That the World Will End in 2012...
I get a chuckle sometimes imagining what a Mayan astronomer would say to these people if he could have been brought here in a time machine. It would probably go along these lines:

"Hey, we figured if it worked for two thousand years, fixing it wasn't our problem. You've had all this time. What are you, idiots or something?"

I once wrote a program that I knew wouldn't work after 2035, and delivered it that way. I wrote a comment in it to the effect that if anyone was still using it by then, they should fix it. Really, some things are too far off to worry about (see Note 1).

Why is that so difficult to understand?

NOTE 1: In the meantime, they fixed the system function that was causing the problem. So there.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Quote Of The Day

On the January 24th edition of The Dylan Ratigan Show, Ratigan and Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake discussed the continued imprisonment of Army PFC Bradley Manning under conditions that many psychiatrists consider to be torture:
Dylan Ratigan: [W]hat is the implication, for a nation theoretically of rules and laws and rights, and all the rest of it that we teach our kids in public school, where clearly the government maintains the right to arbitrarily detain any individual that they see fit for whatever reasons that they see fit, not charge them, and torture them in our own country? What does that say about ... President Obama?

Jane Hamsher: Well it means, and I think it was Jimmy Darden at Boing Boing who said, you know, that we should all be very worried, because this represents the offshoring of the techniques used at Guantanamo Bay on enemies of the state [are now being moved] onto U.S. soil.
[Like I said, this is my transcript, not the official one. Apologies for any errors.]

This is one hell of a thing to have to listen to about events that are happening in America. If you'd told me thirty years ago that some day, journalists and activists would be having conversations like this about events happening in our own country, I probably would have thought you were nuts. And yet here we are, and you can still find very few progressives who seem to think that this is important, because if we complain the Republicans might win.

And that last sentence is the saddest thing of all.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Hearkening back to something I wrote months ago about who benefits from government "austerity", University of Massachusetts Emeritus Professor Richard Wolff writes:
California's new governor proposes to continue for five more years the massive, broad-based tax increases begun during the crisis and also to cut state services for the poor (reduced Medicaid funding) and the middle class(reduced budgets for community colleges, state colleges, and the university system). The governor admits that California's budget faces sky-high interest costs and reduced federal government assistance just when the crisis increases demands for public services. The governor does not admit his fear to tax the state's huge corporate and private individual wealth. So, he announces an "austerity programme", as if no alternative existed. Indeed, a major support for austerity comes from the large corporations and wealthiest Californians, who hold the state's bonds and want reassurances that the interest on those bonds will be paid.

The Myth Of 'American Exceptionalism' Implodes
[link from original, emphasis added]

Those people who are wealthy enough to buy the various bonds that states and other governments are selling to balance their budgets and fund infrastructure improvements are the ones who are benefiting from this. Interest rates on these bonds are far higher than just about anything available to the rest of us. Of course, they also benefit from the cheap, docile labor that high unemployment produces.

If you want to know who our government and our press work for, all you have to do is ask yourself why neither ever frames austerity measures in any terms but that they are inevitable. The fact is, they're not. Raising taxes on the rich would be any easy solution, if that's not who they worked for.

UPDATE: Let's riff on that "who they work for" theme for another moment, courtesy of Jesse at Cafe Americain:
In case there was any question remaining in your mind as to what is really happening.

It should be noted that GE was the number one corporation in lobbying, spending $40 million on the purchase of political influence last year.

Obama is looking more like Herbert Hoover every day, but without the Great Engineer's accomplishments.

GE's Jeff Immelt To Replace Paul Volcker
Paul Volcker was the closest thing to an advocate for everyday people among Obama's economic advisers, and it's an epic understatement to say he wasn't all that influential. Now he's gone, to be replaced by someone who Marcy Wheeler rightly labels as a big part of our competitiveness problem, and who ran a company that one news article recently described as a major recipient of bailouts during the financial crisis. This wouldn't be the first guy I hired to head a council on restoring American economic competitiveness and employment. In fact, he wouldn't be my 100th pick, either. But he was Obama's. Go figure.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Robert Reich, on what China can teach us:
China is eating our lunch. Why? It has a national economic strategy designed to create more and better jobs. We have global corporations designed to make money for shareholders.

The Real Economic Lesson China Could Teach Us
What's really going on at the business meetings is that American corporations and their political prostitutes are giving the Chinese access to advanced aviation technology in exchange for keeping a few jobs here at home. The corporations are selling out our future, because the people who run them can make a lot of money right now.

Our politicians will continue to let them, because Americans are too busy obsessing about nonsense to make them do anything else. If you want to have a future, I suggest you learn Chinese. The age of American domination will soon be over.

UPDATE: Dean Baker on the same story:
Well President Obama has not, thus far, had a press conference on the topic, but a "senior administration official" is touted an agreement by China to buy $45 billion in U.S. exports. The Post article provided no information about the time period over which these goods would be purchased (e.g. 2 years? 10 years?), nor is there any reason to believe that the deal actually involves new exports. (One of the items in the Post article is planes being sold by Boeing, the sale of which had already been announced.)

While $45 billion may sound like a big commitment, senior administration officials know that it is not. The United States had a trade deficit with China of more than $250 billion over the first 11 months of 2010. Exports of $45 billion over some indefinite number of future years, many of which were already in the pipeline, will not affect this in any noticeable where.

President Obama's $45 Billion in Exports to China: Where Is the Ridicule?
The only people who are likely to make much noise about this are the empty-headed chorus of Obama fanboys who make up the "progressive" establishment. Anyone with any sense will probably be speechless when they realize what an embarrassment this behavior is in the face of the country that will almost certainly be our principle rival in this century.

And the really smart ones will figure out that this was the day that the writing was finally on the wall for America. With pathetic leadership like this, we aren't going anywhere but down for a long while.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Football's Not Quite Over For Some, 2011 Edition

Caption: The Seahawk's Twelfth Man flag flies over some football monument in Seattle. Image credit: USA Today

Yes, it's that time of year again, when a couple of teams will end up being the lucky ones who endure two weeks of pointless interviews before they play the last game of the season. This year, neither the Seattle Seahawks, nor the Philadelphia Eagles will be the ones answering ridiculous questions.

Of course, I haven't really been following either team. I haven’t followed the Seahawks since they had themselves a new stadium built at phenomenal expense to the taxpayers. They managed to make it to the big game a few years ago, which created a bit of excitement, but since then they'd returned to their old style of play - which is to say they generally weren't very good. This year, they managed to back into a division championship, but lost this weekend.

For a team with such a lovely stadium, they sure don't play very well.

The Eagles, on the other hand, lost because they deserve it. At least, I could tell myself that if I believed that we lived in a just universe. Any team that would hire a guy who tortured dogs because, well, what the heck, he had this farm and all, deserves to lose as long as it can't remember that sometimes the price of winning is too high. As it is, they just didn't play very well, which is pretty typically their playing style, as well. At least, that's what the score tells me - I don't follow the Eagles anymore, either.

My relatives in Pennsylvania tell me they have a lovely stadium, too.

So, that's it for this year, except for two conference championships and that other thing I already mentioned. You can be sure everything I have predicted will come to pass, plus one team will lose each game.

It's the kind of analysis you just won't find anywhere else.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Krugman Asks: What Will Europe Do?

Image credit: Fotopedia, reduced by Cujo359

Economics professor and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote a terrific article yesterday explaining where Europe, and the euro are likely to be in the next few years. It's not a pretty picture, filled as it is with the combination of narrow national self interest and dysfunctional politics. This may be the quote that best sums things up:
In early December, Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg, and Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s finance minister, created a storm with a proposal to create “E-bonds,” which would be issued by a European debt agency at the behest of individual European countries. Since these bonds would be guaranteed by the European Union as a whole, they would offer a way for troubled economies to avoid vicious circles of falling confidence and rising borrowing costs. On the other hand, they would potentially put governments on the hook for one another’s debts — a point that furious German officials were quick to make. The Germans are adamant that Europe must not become a “transfer union,” in which stronger governments and nations routinely provide aid to weaker.

Yet as the earlier Ireland-Nevada comparison shows, the United States works as a currency union in large part precisely because it is also a transfer union, in which states that haven’t gone bust support those that have. And it’s hard to see how the euro can work unless Europe finds a way to accomplish something similar.

I should point out that international trade is Krugman's area of study. If there are any experts on this sort of thing, he should be considered one of them.

Europe's problems are different from ours. As Prof. Krugman points out, European countries have better social safety nets than we do - for the average person, the situation is probably less dire in most of those countries than ours are in America. But, on the other hand, the different countries of Europe, while mostly using a single currency, don't help each other out in the way that our federal government system does our individual states.

What the future holds is very important for us here in North America, as well as in Europe. Europe is a big trading partner, and collectively is our biggest military ally. How it goes will, to a significant degree, determine how our future goes as well.

The article is well worth a read, if only to understand what's been going on, and what it means for us.

Dr. King's Nightmare

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

As most Americans know, civil rights leader Martin Luther King had a dream. What relatively few of us know is that he also had a nightmare:
The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: 'This way of settling differences is not just.' This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military 'defense' than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
I don't think that the form of arrogance Dr. King referred to is unique to Western culture - any sufficiently successful culture is bound to contain people who think that their way is the best way, and that they have nothing to learn from the rest of us. But the West does have such people, and they seem to be far more influential than their limited view of the world merits.

It's the priorities MLK spoke of that I find interesting. In retrospect, he seems to have predicted the place we're in now - a nation diminished both economically and intellectually from what we were in his time. We've become more inclusive, but we're mostly more inclusive at the bottom 99% of our society. The ones who really count are what they've always been.

Caption: Soldiers from Company A, 3-187th Infantry watch from an observation post as bombs are dropped on insurgent positions during Operation Iron Blade II in Ghazni Province Nov. 28.

Image credit: Lt. Col. David Fivecoat/U.S. Army

In a time when we have no real enemies worthy of the name, we've become obsessed with defense, spending far more than any other advanced country and getting even less. We pay for these priorities in lost jobs and diminished prospects. After the Second World War, we were the world's leader in physics. Now, thanks to our neglect, coupled with Europe's interest, they appear to be regaining the lead they had in the early part of the Twentieth Century. From going to the Moon in a decade, our space program can't even service the space station it built. The next generation of boosters has been canceled. Our infrastructure inadequate and crumbling thanks to decades of neglect. We sacrificed all this, not to mention our health care and retirement, to be better at destroying someone else's country than anyone else is.

I'm not a pacifist. I worked for the defense industry for two decades, so I recognize that there is both a use and a need for defense spending. I feel, like both Sherman and Lee, that war is almost necessarily an awful thing. I also believe, as they eventually did, that it should be a rare thing. A country that spends so much on its military, when there is no clear need, is a country with a screwed up sense of priorities. It won't use that military judiciously, either. That's particularly true, as is the case now, when that country neglects its own needs to spend so outrageously.

Over the years, we've both fulfilled Martin Luther King's dream, and made his nightmare come true.

(h/t to David Swanson for that MLK quote.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Now Is The Winter ...

Image credit: Cujo359

The snow fell last night, even though it was right around freezing. Figuring that it wasn't going to last until I woke up this morning, I decided to try using the timed exposure settings on my camera to take a picture. This and a couple of others came out pretty well.

Pictures like this tend to work out, because the snow reflects so much light. Normally, even with a street lamp overhead, my yard would be too dark to take any interesting pictures in these atmospheric conditions. Snow changes that.

The quote, of course, is from the opening of Shakespeare's Richard III, a tragedy about, at least peripherally, the War Of The Roses, another of England's many civil wars. It's how I feel right now, watching the aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. It's molestus hoc, ergo propter hoc writ large - whatever bothers people about this country is the cause, no matter whether the evidence points to it or not. It's not ironic that I first wrote about that concept after another crazy shooting spree; it's just part of a pattern. Sarah Palin's rhetoric didn't create this situation - she's just a grifter who came along to take advantage of it. She's a little like our current President, only not quite as smart, and not quite as successful. Depressingly few people are interested in that idea, though. Everyone wants to shout, and I don't feel like shouting over them.

It's tough watching your country die amidst squalid, nonsensical arguments about things that, generally speaking, are really just symptoms of our current problems, but that's where we are. As I've said before, stupidity has its price, and we're paying it, one loud, stupid argument at a time.

But here's a pretty photo. Now, back to the shouting...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Shot

Image credit: U.S. Congress official photo

Another Update (1:20 PST): David Dayen, who was live-blogging a hospital press conference, writes that Rep. Giffords is alive, and has had surgery, and is in critical condition but that the attending physician is optimistic that she'll recover. My guess is that we'll know in a day or two at most.

Meanwhile, a federal judge and a nine-year old boy have died in the shooting.

Update: A local TV station reports conflicting stories about Rep. Giffords' condition. As I mentioned in the previous update, the local sheriff reported that she is still alive.

I've left the main body of this article as it was originally written. Any changes will be in updates, or new articles.

It happened only three hours ago as I write this, but it now appears that U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-08), a Democratic congresswoman, has been shot and killed at a public meeting in Tuscon:
Chief Richard Kastigar with the Pima County Sheriff's Department has confirmed that 12 people were shot at a Gabrielle Gifffords event. The shooting occurred this morning at a Safeway Store near Oracle & Ina.

Gabrielle Giffords was shot. Her condition has not been disclosed by authorities. One shooter is in custody, authorities said.

12 people shot, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords wounded
The Arizona Daily Wildcat (the local college paper) reports:
Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head during a "Congress at Your Corner" event at a Safeway in northwest Tucson at approximately 10:15 a.m., according to reports from National Public Radio and Arizona Public Media.

Rick Kastigar, bureau chief for the Pima County Sheriff's office, said 12 people were wounded "some of them greatly," according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords shot and killed in Tucson
The report of her death has been confirmed by Talking Points Memo and The New York Times, based on NPR reporting. TPM reports this about the gunman:
Local news confirmed initial reports by NPR that the suspect in his late teens or early twenties was tackled on the scene and is in custody.

Congresswoman Giffords Shot In Arizona
The NYT article describes the event:
The shooting occurred at a Safeway supermarket in northwest Tucson as Ms. Giffords hosted an event, called “Congress on Your Corner, to allow members of the 8th Congressional District to meet her individually. She has held several events since first taking office in January 2007. At one such event in 2009, a protester was removed by police when his pistol fell on the supermarket floor.

Last March, her Tucson office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation’s health care system, the authorities said. Earlier events in Tucson, Oro Valley, Green Valley, Sierra Vista, and Douglas had attracted between 75 and 150 people, according to a statement announcing the event. This was her first event since her re-election to a third term in November.

Congresswoman Giffords Shot in Tucson
As the photo shows, Rep. Giffords was young for a congressperson, 40 years old. She was married just three years ago, according to the NYT. That makes this shooting particularly tragic.

But perhaps the most tragic thing is the nature of this event. You won't have to read too many articles on Congress here to see that one of the problems I have with that body is how disconnected it is from its electorate. This event was one where a congresswoman went out to meet her constituents, rather than making them come to her. I don't know what her voting record was, but that willingness to seek out her voters where they are is something I find admirably unusual about her. Incidents like this, which happened at a place that's hard to secure, will probably increase Congress's isolation.

My condolences to Rep. Giffords' friends and family, and to the other victims of this event.

UPDATE: From FireDogLake, this update:
Update II: Sheriff Dupnik says that Gifford is still alive but in critical condition, says he is 100% sure, at 2:29 pm ET.
That's a half hour after the report I quoted at the top of the article, but I'm not sure if it's any more reliable. At this point, the people who are most likely to know about her condition are the staff at the hospital Giffords was taken to. Everyone else gets the information second hand.

At least at the time the sheriff last spoke with the hospital staff, though, Giffords' fate was still in doubt.

UPDATE (1:40 PM PST): The alleged gunman, Jared Loughner created an incoherent stream-of-consciousness video a couple of weeks ago. In his opening sentence, he refers to himself in the past tense. I think it's safe to assume this guy's missing a couple of fries from his happy meal.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Quote Of The Day

In an article on Bill Daley, President Obama's choice to replace Rahm Emmanuel as his chief of staff, jm writes at Corrente:
Which bring us back to the president and today's announcement concerning his new BFF, Bill Daley. I've been holding off commenting on the "Obama's a conservative" meme because I find it less than satisfying. Obama is not a conservative. My 82 year old father is a conservative. Despite a few less-than-enlightened views on things in general, he is at heart a well intentioned and generous person who has lent a hand on numerous occasions to individuals in need. There is nothing well intentioned or generous about Obama. Neither is there is anything classically conservative about him. What is he conserving? Traditional values? Bullshit. Political comity and collegiality? Only if you share his belief in the superiority of the ruling class. The whole vocabulary of "liberal versus conservative" is utterly inadequate for describing the current dynamic of how we are ruled. The appointment of Daley as his caporegime puts this dynamic on display and shows, without doubt, Obama's true colors [Ha! Colors! I'm a racist]. It doesn't matter which party is in charge. Either way, the powers-that-be will attempt to rob us blind.

Obama is a blood sucking corporatist scumbag marking time as the imperial manager, doing the will of our owners, until he can retire and take his place on various boards of directors, go on the speaking circuit, maybe do a little discreet lobbying here and there, etc. You know, make some real money. So what if some little people have to suffer and die as a result of his actions. It's the way the big boys do business.

In which I eventually dump on Obama for appointing Bill Daley
He gets Obama as right as anyone has. There are people, the truly clueless ones, who ask why Obama would choose to be a one-term President, or why he'd sell out his party and his supporters for these people (with the obvious implication of their question being that this is the best that anyone could do). This is the answer. He stands to become one of them when he's done. If you don't believe that, look what his predecessors have done. Jimmy Carter largely avoided this, and George H.W. Bush was already plenty rich, but among those who weren't, all have done a quick book and tour to cash in on their new fame, with plenty of speaking engagements for truly obscene amounts of money.

That's the motivation.

So, yes, Obama is a con artist. He has the job, and soon he'll have the money. Meanwhile, he's living pretty well already.

It's so simple that in order to miss it, you almost have to want to not see it. That's probably why I haven't mentioned it lately. That, plus all the clueless abusive assholes who always show up when I point out this obvious thing.

UPDATE: Added that bit about the obvious implications. Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald has summed this thing up pretty well, when it comes to the implications of Daley's appointment:
Shipping in a JP Morgan executive to be White House Chief of Staff isn't a cause of any of this; it's just a nice symbol for what our political culture is, more than ever in the Era of Change. It's the other side of the revolving door that sent Peter Orszag to his multi-million-dollar a year reward at Citigroup for his 18 months in an administration which lavished that bank will all sorts of gifts. Getting exercised about Bill Daley's empowerment is like going to the beach and being angry that it's full of sand: this appointment is the inevitable by-product of the essence of Washington and of the Obama presidency. It's what they do and who they are. As Matt Stoller suggested, the most surprising thing about the Daley pick is that he has no Goldman Sachs experience.

Daley Is A Reflection, Not A Cause
There are certainly people who are too young, or too foreign, to have yet worked out that this is the way things are in Washington, DC, but it shouldn't be mysterious to any American who is over thirty and has received anything close to an education. Our system rewards this kind of behavior, and it's only when voters start acknowledging this and demand that things change that it will. Voting for people because of some feeling of identity (no matter if it's about race, religion, or party affiliation), or for some superficial reason like giving a nice speech is not going to get it done. Only making your congressmen aware that their jobs depend on it is going to have even a chance of making reform happen.

The Path Of Good Code

I suspect this xkcd cartoons will be appearing soon on cubicle walls all over the English-speaking world Real Soon Now (Note 1):

Image credit: xkcd

Based on my own experience, it is sadly true.

Note 1: An expression used by science fiction writer and technology fan Jerry Pournelle to describe the possible imminent arrival of some wonderful bit of computer technology or another.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back Online

Many of us, me included, say that we can do just fine without television, but I really missed this box while its hard disk was awaiting replacement:
Image credit: Cujo359

That's my MythTV box recuperating from its latest operation, having its old hard disk replaced with a 2 terabyte "long life" disk. We'll see about "long life". With this thing, nothing seems to last very long. MythTV is a set of open source software that turns a computer into a digital video recorder (DVR). Add a few extras like a remote control and a special case like the one in the picture, and it's just like having your very own DVR that you can actually get to do what you want without having to beg. It's also possible to expand its capacity whenever you want, as long as you're willing to buy a new hard disk and copy the files over from the previous one. Right now, I can store as much as 250 hours of high definition TV on mine. That ought to be enough for a couple of months, at least.

The problem with having one of these is that it's hard to go back to watching TV "live", as in, not being able to pause or rewind the program. I can also edit out the commercials, which is practically a necessity during election season. It's also great to be able to record things like Al Jazeera's English broadcasts, which the local public TV stations put on at some ungodly hour so that no one will be bothered by it.

Anyway, I might be able to live without TV, but I doubt I could live without the DVR.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Facebook Brings Out My Inner Luddite

In my travels around the Internet today, I encountered a couple of interesting articles related to Facebook. Given that Time magazine seemed to think that Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg was more worthy of being named Person Of The Year than Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, or any of a hundred or so heads of state, perhaps we should take a moment and look at what Mr. Zuckerberg has wrought.

The first is from George W. at Decrepit Old Fool:
Recently I used a “Log in using your Facebook account” button on a blog somewhere to leave a comment. I was then informed that doing so would “reset my privacy settings to Default” and on checking, it was true. All the adjustments I’d made to my Facebook privacy settings were gone and everything was set so that “friends of friends” could see everything. (A little math would reveal why that’s a staggering number of people even if, like me, you don’t have that many friends).

To Hell With Facebook
Based on the second thing I read, there might not be that many Facebook friends, or whatever they're called, who would bother with all that math, but we'll get to that in a moment.

Meanwhile, count this as being among the reasons I'm not on Facebook. If you are, George has a bit of advice I think you'd do well to follow:
I’m going minimal. I’ve stripped out as much personal information from my profile as I can. I’ll “friend” people that I actually know in some way (please don’t be offended if I don’t recognize you – sometimes context plays identification tricks on my mind). But otherwise the profile is only required information and I won’t checking the account very often.

To Hell With Facebook
Generally speaking, I think that's good advice anywhere, but it's especially good when you're dealing with a service that pulls this kind of crap on a routine basis. I've read and heard enough, mostly second hand, that I haven't wanted to get within ten bastion hosts of Facebook, but I'm not especially sociable, anyway.

Meanwhile, here's an example of what people do on Facebook. It comes courtesy of P.Z. Myers at Pharyngula:

Yes, not only was what this individual wrote spectacularly wrong when she (that blurred-out picture looks like a "she") asserted that something was a "Fact", but she couldn't stand to be corrected. I must add that it wouldn't have taken an astrophysicist to know that she was utterly, one might even say cosmically, wrong.

I'm perfectly comfortable with the idea that I could avoid these people there if I wanted, but still, it's an example of how social networking can insulate you from the opinions of others, if you really want it to. I realize that not a whole lot of folks with differing views from mine are likely to happen by here, but I figure if I've made a mistake, it's nice that there are plenty of folks who can just wander by here by mistake and correct me.

At least, that's the theory...

I guess I'll just hang out here a while longer in Internet 1.0, at least until they turn out the lights.

Sunday Photo(s)

On the last day of 2010, I was walking on the BPA trail when I noticed the unusual condition of Panther Lake:
Image credit: All photos by Cujo359

Here's a closeup:
I've photographed it in summer, when it was dry, and in a more ordinary winter, when it was full, but I've rarely seen it frozen.

We had quite an interesting storm the previous night. The trail still had some wintery coating on it late in the afternoon:
You might have assumed that white stuff was snow, but you wouldn't have been entirely correct, as this closeup shows:
It hailed first, then it snowed. Welcome to winter in the Pacific Northwest.

One good thing about winter in the Pacific Northwest is that it coats Mt. Rainier with snow, and on the really clear days it's very easy to see:
What's especially remarkable is that it's easy to see the Cascade Mountains in front of Mt. Rainier. Usually, they look kinda like one mountain ridge at this distance.

As always, click on the images to enlarge. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.