Wednesday, July 13, 2016

We have a complete dossier on you…

"It’s just a game," a friend posted on Facebook recently.

A rather sophisticated augmented reality game where you use your mobile phone to capture “Pokemon” in a mix of real and virtual worlds. But still, just a game.

"That's it. No, there really isn't anything more to it than that."

But of course there is more to it than that. I mean, it is a game, but it’s a game that regular people like you and me can’t win.

The real point of such games (as well as the "My Vocabulary Size Is.. " and "My Celebrity Lookalike Is.. " and "If I were a Star Trek Character I Would Be..."  Facebook games that you see every week), is for big data companies to find a way to get people to voluntary sign up for software that allows them to collect tons of data about them personally.

They then sell this data to the highest bidder (usually companies associated with digital advertising) and productize you and other people who behave like you and sell you to advertisers.

A lot of people don't care that they are being packaged and sold, it's been going on to some degree almost since the beginning of advertising. The difference these days is that the data collected is waaaaaay more sophisticated than the advertiser suspecting your between 18-45 years old and you really like Jackie Gleason’s brand of misogynistic bombast.

These days, when you opt in to this kind of data collection, you’re telling them precisely where you are (down to the latitude and longitude coordinates) and when. You’re letting them in on which websites you're browsing, what products you're shopping for, what physical malady you happen to be suffering at the time.

The level of insight that can be drawn from this kind of data, the predictions that can be made about your preferences and behavior, would make Miss Cleo soak her pants.

You might have noticed that over there in the right-hand rail of your Facebook page there’s an ad for that pair of shoes, or shorts, or maybe that vacation getaway that you were Googling earlier today. That’s no coincidence. The advertisers have you pegged.

Again, some people don’t care about that. MOST people don't care about that. Indeed, some people say “Good. I get ads for stuff I’m interested in instead of some dumb punch-the-monkey spam for a high-rate mortgage.”

And that’s cool. That’s all just fine. Buuuuuut…

I just think we should all have our eyes open to OTHER ways the data could be used. I mean, some companies (like Niantic in the case of Pokemon Go) say they won’t sell your data to third parties. I mean they promise and pinkie swear and everything. But let’s face it, when the going gets tough and the investors are at the front door with pitchforks demanding their exit strategies and returns-on-investment, who do you think is going to get sold out?

That’s right it’s you, me and all of our precious behavioral data. And even more troubling, who do you think we’re going to be sold too?

The paranoid among us would say “the NSA… or even scarier, some nefarious foreign spy agency!” But the reality is government agencies don’t need to buy data about you since they already have a direct tap into ALL internet traffic and are already constantly spying on you (thanks for the heads-up, Edward Snowden!).

Anyway, if you think government agents snooping through your Google accounts and sharing your naked selfies with each other is the worst that can happen, then my friend you suffer from a lack of imagination.

Here are a couple of more likely (and probably already happening) scenarios:

First, it’s probably difficult to overstate the amount of lifestyle data that gets collected about you, especially if you use a FitBit or similar activity tracker. From your physical activity, to your food interests, to your drinking habits, to how much TV/internet video you watch… all of that is being collected and packaged and is super valuable to companies that aren’t advertising firms.

For one thing, insurance companies (auto, health) love to learn all they can about you. Do you think they won’t use your own data against you to jack up your premiums and copays? Of course they will. And since Obamacare now means we’re all criminals if we DON’T buy health insurance, well, they pretty much have us by the short curlies, don’t they?

But there are other more nefarious abuses that are (probably) already happening. Imagine what kind of web browsing/lifestyle data is available on pretty much every old whit guy making laws in Washington, DC. Do you really think it’s beyond a company like Koch Industries, or Goldman Sachs or even Google or Apple to use this kind of personal data as “leverage” on key legislative measures?

Do you really think it was out of the pure consideration for the public good that nobody from Goldman Sachs was prosecuted for ruining the global economy a couple of years ago? Do you really think all of the highly technologically literate old white dudes thought the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was good public policy?

No? Me neither (and your staring to get it, good job!) After all, our senators and congressmen are only poor corrupt public officials. They have kickbacks to pay and mistresses to feed.

So, what’s the upshot here? I guess it’s just to say that whenever an app or program or web widget asks for access to your Facebook page, or Google account or Twitter stream, you should tell it to fuck right the hell off.

Or make up a fake internet identity and spam the system.

Friday, June 17, 2016

YouTube Tuesday: Ghost in the machine

A very special Father's Day edition of YouTube Tuesday. Enjoy, dads…

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

YouTube Tuesday: Office Invention

In case you haven't heard, our good friend Joe, former proprietor of Hip Suburban White Guy, recently got a new gig at a new cube farm.

It turns out his new gig isn't as, well, demanding of his time. Which leaves him a few minutes throughout the day to focus his creative energies to solving humanity's pressing concerns... like finding a cheap source of perpetual energy.

He sent me this video of his latest scale model. Well done, sir!

Friday, April 08, 2016

Reflective Ruminations, by 3 AM

Reflective Ruminations for April 8, 2016

  • I think "beaver" is a terrible slang term to use for a woman's … adorable son in the late 1950s.

  • Some people look at a glass and say, "It's not half empty, it's half full." Then they get throat-punched by me.

  • Here's something they won't teach you in History class: GEOMETRY.

  • It doesn't really bother me when people say "et cetera," but I get really annoyed by people who say "et cetera, et cetera.

  • It seems like we're all putting a LOT of faith in the guy who came up with the original alphabetical order.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

YouTube Tuesday: Toon time

If you weren't around in the '80s, or if you were but you weren't of cartoon-watching age, here's everything you need to know about every Saturday morning cartoon...

Monday, April 04, 2016

Initial results

Yes, Mr. Zimmerman, we've had our best people crunching through your data and I just wanted to schedule this quick call to present some of our initial findings. Please take a look at the attached spreadsheets…

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cuban Reverie

An original composition from Three O'Clock AM
Cuban Reverie
The stage is set, now pay the price
High priests of holocaust, fire from the sea
Rise so high, yet so far to fall
Entrails in the sky
Entrails in the sky

One decree that stands alone

Chased up all the dead end streets
Like the walls are closing in
One decree that stands alone
Chased up all the dead end streets
Killing for religion

A book written by man
Make sweet the breeze now defiled

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

YouTube Tuesday: Arrow

Here at the beginning of the end of society as we know it, as technology becomes our master, as resources dwindle, as the thin veneer of civilization begins to peel back to reveal a reality in which we feast on our own kind… it's probably a good time to brush up on the skills that will allow us to eek out a miserable existence in the post-apocalyptic hellscape that will become our planet.

That's where the good folks at Primitive Technology are being so darned helpful. Check them out for all of your primitive tool tutorials such as Making Charcoal and Basket Weaving

And, of course, the exceedingly helpful, Primitive Bow and Arrow

Monday, March 14, 2016

Updating the classics...

This is going to be meaningless to the massive set of the population who don't know what Kodachrome is, or even what "film" photography is, or who Paul Simon is. But, hey...

When I look back on all the crap I've watched on YouTube
It's a wonder I can blink at all
And though my lack of punctuation hasn't hurt me none
I still read updates on your Facebook wall

It give us those weirdo filters
like the world is out of kilter
make you thing something's wrong with your camera's lens, oh yeah!

I got an iPhone camera
I love to take a selfie shot
So mama don't take my Instagram away.

If you took all the girls I met while browsing Snapchat
(I mean before I met my lovely wife)
I know they'd never match their sexy selfie profiles
Everyone look worse in real life.

Friday, March 11, 2016


In this season of March Mental Mania, I just wanted to say a quick good luck to all you fans of men who play with balls.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

YouTube Tuesday: Yo

I kind of consider it a failing of the previous generation that I wasn't encouraged more in my early aspirations to become a professional yo-yoer.

I mean, I was pretty good there for a while. Nobody yo'd better than me. They should've looked out for me a little bit. I could've had class. I could have been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum (which is what I am, let's face it).

Monday, March 07, 2016

How d'Ya Like Them Apples: Empire

I think by now it's pretty well accepted by society at large that the only variety of apple worth eating is the Honeycrisp. So tasty, so crispy... I could (and have) live off of these sinfully delicious fruits for extended periods.

But since Honeycrisps aren't always in season (if you can find them around town this time of year, they tend to be smallish and blemished), and since I'm always keeping any eye open for the next big apple trends, I went out of my comfort zone the other day and picked up a couple of Apple varieties I haven't tried yet.

Today's taste test: The Empire.

The Empire looked good in the produce section: Deep red, shiny and smooth (much like my Russian friend). It was about the size of a baseball with no blemishes. A promising start!

From my extensive, Google-based research which I conducted over the past six minutes, the biggest benefit of the Empire is that it doesn't bruise easily. You can see why this would be good, since bruising is the path to the dark side. Bruising leads to rotting, rotting leads to anger, anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

But I suspect that the resistance to bruising also leads to the apples being harvested too soon, shipped too far and kept on shelves too long.

The sample I had tasted kind of like an apple, but it was a weak, faded apple taste. Like, if it were a coloring book, you kid (or office mate who is really into those "grown up" coloring books) only colored part of the picture and they used the very palest colors. It was like an old-timey, staticy recording of an apple taste.

So, the taste was just kind of meh. Not bad necessarily, but not the explosion of flavor you get from the Honeycrisp, the gold standard of apples.

What was bad was the consistency. When I bit into the Empire, the consistency of the fruit was kind of a cross between dry and chalky, and dry and mushy. Try to imagine dry oatmeal shaped into apple from and slightly moistened with apple-flavored water. Then you take a bite and it just has no resistance to your teeth at all.

 So, bottom line here is that the Honeycrisp is still the reigning champion of apples. It wasn't even close.

The Empire strikes out.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Take off, eh

Around about this time in every election cycle you start to hear people threaten to "move to Canada if [insert name of other side's candidate] wins this election." Indeed, reports following the Super Tuesday elections were that "How to move to Canada" was the leading Google search by far.

Well search no more. Here's a little (not so) helpful advice:

How to Move to Canada If Trump Wins, By a Person Who Moved to Canada When Bush Won
Getting a student visa is not the same as becoming a Canadian permanent resident. You can extend the visa upon graduation, but you’ll need to find a job in order to keep it. I, personally, did not find a job in Canada after graduating with a degree in English Literature, and so I was kindly asked to leave.
Uh… your welcome…?

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

YouTube Tuesday: Got you under my Synn

What a fascinating, entertaining and slightly disturbing take on an old classic. Well done, Anastasia Synn.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Bullitt list -- 02.26.16

Today's category: What I learned this week

Hey, look, I think that by now we all realize that life is tough and full of disappointment and the best that you can hope for is to enjoy any rare, brief moment of happiness and maybe learn a few things along the way.

So, here are a few things I've learned this week…
  • That movie Thor: The Dark World is even more unwatchable than most comic book movies.

    I get that part of enjoying most movies, but especially comic book movies, is suspension of disbelief and "buy-in" to the internal logic of the film's story line. But even by its own logic, a race of hyperintelligent, god-like aliens should know better than to bring a sword to a laser blaster battle.

    I mean, why not give all of the regular foot soldiers in the Asgardian army an Odin Plasma Spear, or at least an assault rifle. I mean if you've got superior technology and science, use it! I'm guessing there's no Second Amendment on Asgard.

  • But it's good to know that science has your back when your up against the wall, when you desperately
    need to cross the bridge but some weirdo trollish wizardy guy is blocking your path, making you answer he these silly questions three. In those situations, its nice to have this little factoid in your mental pocket:
     The air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow (European) is...

  • Speaking of science, no less of a luminary than Albert Einstein himself made an appearance this week with the news that he had verified that there was a force in the universe even more powerful that the splitting of an atom: The Power of Love.

    In a letter to his daughter, Einstein wrote,
    …what I will reveal now to transmit to mankind will also collide with the misunderstanding and prejudice in the world.
    But there was one late 20th Century philosopher who did understand. I refer of course to Hugh Anthony Cregg II, who once wrote…
    The power of love
    is a curious thing
    Make a one man weep,
    make another man sing
    Change a hawk
    to a little white dove
    More than a feeling
    that's the power of love

  • And speaking of philosophy, the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō once said
    A flute with no holes is not a flute. And a donut without a hole, is not a donut.
    … or something like that. It loses a little in the translation. The important point is that I learned this week that regardless of flutes and donuts, a croissant is still a croissant even if it's not crescent shaped, at least if your in the UK.

    This is terrific news… for some reason… probably…

  • Finally, since we're getting into the realm of poetry, I just wanted to mention that I learned this week that one of my favorite new bands is getting ready to release a new album.

    I first heard of Frightened Rabbit on an NPR music segment and almost immediately went online to buy their album Pedestrian Verse. In my opinion there's not a weak track on it. Here's the video for the excellent Woodpile

  • The new album, Painting Of A Panic Attack, is on pre-sale now on all of the major online record stores (Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify… is that all of them?), and I expect a review very soon on Dan's new blog. In fact, I'm specifically DEMANDING a listen from Dan ASAP.
That's enough knowledge from me for now, I don't want to blow your mind too much. Hey, here's an idea: Let me know in the comments what YOU learned this week (if anything)…

Thursday, February 25, 2016

3AM Episode VII: The Blog Awakens

You might have noticed that I'm trying to shake the dust off this digital fish wrap after a bit of a hiatus. I don't like to dwell on wherefores and whatnots, since I think blogs about blogging are the bloggiest thing you can blog.

Instead, here's some Bill Shakespeare to class up the joint a bit.

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December's bareness every where!
And yet this time removed was summer's time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me
But hope of orphans and unfather'd fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or, if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Vital Vinyl

I watched the first few minutes of the pilot for HBO's new series Vinyl last night... then stayed up to watch the rest of it.

It's been an while since HBO has had a series I could get into — a sad fact that has almost let me to cancel my subscription. Well they must have been using their NSA contacts to track my internal monologue and learned what a sucker I am for pretty much any historical period costume drama (srsly, you should also check out The Last Kingdom when you get a chance).

I was hooked on Vinyl from the first few minutes. What a great idea for a show. It manages to reach a terrific balance of great music, pop culture, nostalgia for a dead industry (at least, dead as we knew it) and of course dreamy Bobby Cannavale.

I've liked Cannevale in pretty much everything he's ever been in, especially that movie where he and Tyrion Lannister were super into trains. So it's awesome to see him getting a solid leading role. In the pilot, he had some great scenes showing some real emotional range.

I appreciate how they give so much love to the soundtrack. The music really is one of the main stars of this show, much like with Tremé, and not just background soundtrack. We also get a chance to see Ray Romano in another serious (though supporting, in this case) role and a cameo and (spoiler) terrific death scene from Andrew "Dice" Clay.

So, bottom line: I think I'm hooked. This should keep me interested until the new season of Game of Thrones starts.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Is there anybody out there?

Somewhere in a lonely hotel room
there's a guy starting to realize
that eternal fate has turned it's back on him.

It's 3 A.M