Priorities: A Snapshot


As much as people complain about the media, it is occasionally worth attending the self-inflicted wounds. To wit, Huffington Post readers:

"Trending" sidebar widget noting popular articles at the Huffington Post, 17 March 2017.• “Pro Wrestler Comes Out As Bisexual After Video With Boyfriend Hits The Web”

• “7 Signs Of A Nervous Breakdown”

• “7 Reasons Your Pee Smells Weird”

• “‘Girls’ Is Now Officially Unwatchable”

• “These Will Be The Best Places To Live In America In 2100 A.D.”

So, yeah. Trending. According to HuffPo’s metrics, this is what people are reading and promoting.

____________________

Image note: “Trending” sidebar widget noting popular articles at the Huffington Post, 17 March 2017.

Something About Today I Can’t Explain


Composite image: uncredited photograph of Kurt Gödel ca. 1950, via Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, left; detail of stained glass window from St. Anselm Catholic Parish, Toronto, Ontario, right.

The infinite condition is itself a paradox, as it must necessarily include its own finite limitations, lest it create finite limitation through exclusion.

Just an (ahem!) internal memorandum, sort of. It’s an abstract notion sometimes manifesting in applied logical argumentation, but only in finite and situational considerations. The formulation that struck was that, The infinite must necessarily include its own limitations. Which is, of course, a problematic notion.

Nor can I claim any sense of originality; the statistical likelihood that I am the first person to tread into this realm is precisely measurable: exactly zero. And while it is unclear what role exactly we might ascribe, it is also true that Radiolab visited Gödel during last night’s broadcast.

At any rate, this clumsy paradox exists somewhere in the record, and in much more refined expression. In turn, refined expression is crucial because application of such a crude tool invites catastrophic potentials. The point is remembering to chase it down, lest the idea strike again sometime in the future, and meet similar apathy.

Continue reading

Ghosts in the Making


Summertime in Ferguson

When it was Trayvon Martin, I pitched a fit.

Michael Brown? Not so much.

It’s fair to ask why, and the answer is to simply look at what is going on in Ferguson, Missouri. The twenty-one thousand plus residents have seen their city torn to pieces, body and soul, as protesters and police battle over the murder of an unarmed black man by a city police officer whose record includes being fired as part of another small police department in Jennings, Missouri, that was disbanded by its city council for being so corrupt and generally awful. The town is in chaos; residents are intervening to slow the most vocal protesters, and are also reportedly attempting to prevent media from covering the events. Ferguson has become the latest incarnation of our nation’s sick heritage of deadly racism, emerged as a symbol of our dark slide toward militarized police, and found itself the butt of one of the worst jokes on the planet after a protester tweeted a comparison of the situation there to what is going on in Palestine, and instead of being indignant the Palestinians tweeted back with good-faith advice.

I first addressed the death of Trayvon Martin with friends on March 13, 2012, some weeks after the George Zimmerman stalked and pursued him for no good reason, shooting the seventeen year-old to death and then claiming self-defense. And when I first mentioned it, I did not expect what was coming. Certes, my gorge rose to learn the story, but like so many Americans the idea that an apparently murdered black man will die under the presumption that he needed to be shot just did not seem all that unusual. That is to say, like many I expected Trayvon Martin would become another forgotten lamb.

And, yes, I was wrong.

This time, the nation did not wait weeks. Before the name Michael Brown finished echoing after the first wave of press coverage the town was beseiged by chaos. Screaming and shouting from my evergreen corner of the country really doesn’t do me or anyone else any good.

And, yet, Justice still seems nearly destined for disappointing failure.

Continue reading

Good Enough for the Software Industry


If ...?  Then ...?

I don’t think it is especially nitpickety to wonder what it is about software design for commercial purposes used by media research companies that this little outcome should occur.

“We appreciate your interest,” they politely tell us, “but unfortunately this survey is now closed”.

Just for that, I ought to put iModerate into my popup blocker. After all, I don’t mind the occasional survey request from websites I frequent; nor am I offended that this one launches in a way that evades the popup blocker in the first place.

But let us be clear: When N(sufficient) then stop launching the popup. That is to say, sure, I am not a computer programmer, but I still don’t see what is so difficult about a very basic if/then statement.

Instead, when N equals or exceeds the intended sample threshold for the survey, the subroutine simply changes the message to thank the user for their interest in a survey they did not ask to take and most likely would have bypassed, anyway.

And, yes, it is true one could run their browser with a less stringent cookie policy, so that the survey software might identify a user who has already answered, but that still does not explain the odd decision to continue launching the survey window with the new message. The nearest I can guess is that their unscientific poll might somehow or other have enough bad data that they might need to reopen the survey a couple days later. But even for marketing data that would seem a sketchy survey protocol.

So, you know … Just stop launching the survey when you have enough responses. Is this really so hard? After all, I will happily concede that it really does seem a strange thing to fret about. Then again, it happened, and I noticed, and then the question persisted. And, still, it persists.

It has long been said, “Good enough for government work.” But over the last twenty or so years, what has emerged is a business model that reads, “Good enough for the software industry.” This would seem just a particularly peculiar example of where that idea shows through.

Something, Something, Burt Ward


A legacy of acrimony between President Putin and the Muslim-dominated North Caucasus came to the fore last week when a female suicide bomber from that area blew herself up on a bus in Volgograd, killing six people. The town where she was from–only a day’s drive from Sochi–had been under counterterrorism surveillance for at least a year . . . .

Emma Margolin

It is not that one cannot be more specific, but, rather, the question of why one needs to Emma Margolin’s report for MSNBC verges on revolutionary language:

ScochiA legacy of acrimony between President Putin and the Muslim-dominated North Caucasus came to the fore last week when a female suicide bomber from that area blew herself up on a bus in Volgograd, killing six people. The town where she was from–only a day’s drive from Sochi–had been under counterterrorism surveillance for at least a year, according to Time magazine.

The bomber’s motives remain unclear, but she appears to have been aligned with an insurgency group whose aim has been to transform the region into an Islamic stronghold and expel Russian forces, whom they view as occupiers. Over the summer, the movement’s self-proclaimed Chechen leader released a video message calling for the use of “maximum force” ahead of the Winter Games.

The attack follows a bloody two months in which over 130 people have been killed in clashes between government forces and militants, sparking nationalist riots this month in southern Moscow. A majority of those deaths took place in Dagestan, where the Boston bombers lived before emigrating to the U.S.

As prime minister, Putin directed the second Chechen war. Over a decade later, those separatist powers remain strong. Experts have warned that last week’s suicide bombing could be the first in a chain of attacks against Russian targets.

Colbert-QUOTE-RealizeLiberalCertes, there are all manner of newsish biscuits and treats to be found in all that, but the narrative is what counts here. To the one, there is something about the liberal bias of reality. But, to the other, there is also the part about recognizing one’s liberal tendencies in making human choices instead of simply cheering the cause.

Something, something, Burt Ward.

This thing writes itself.

At least, I hope, since I can’t explain it otherwise.

There Must Be An Answer, Let It Be, Let It Be


Do It!And then there are the things we probably didn’t need to think about, but it’s America, so setting the obvious point aside, yes, there are scarier things in the world, and risk is choice, you know?

And, no, there is nothing about The Beatles that actually goes here. I just needed a title, and Macca mewling over Mother Mary happened to be the first thing to mind that didn’t involve the proverbial bleach and eyeballs.