It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Yesterday was our 20th wedding anniversary. One the one hand, it’s incredible. About half of first marriages don’t last 20 years, so the odds aren’t good on average. But on the other hand, we’re not average. We didn’t rush into getting married. In fact, we had to overcome major geographical, legal and financial hurdles to even get to a point where we could consider getting married. I wonder how the stats go for people who have to really put effort in?

Pizza or zap?

A few months ago we were in a pizza restaurant. Pop music was playing moderately loudly, and at a nearby table a family was tucking in to pizza. I noticed that their child had a slice of pizza, but also a tablet he was using to watch cartoons. I’m no expert on child rearing, but I think that the combination of parental interaction and pizza should probably be sufficient excitement for most kids, without having to add pop music and cartoons.

Cobblers

To quote Robert Burton (1577—1640): Him that makes shoes goes barefoot himself. This is known nowadays as the no-self buffs trope: Strangely often, the magician, witch, wizard, cleric, Evil Sorcerer, Mad Scientist, support class, etc. have the ability to bestow strange and amazing transformations, alterations, powers and enhancements on other people, for whichever reason, but are unable to use this ability to directly benefit themselves. In my case, the fact that I spend my days dealing with databases, web pages, style sheets, JavaScript and the like, left me highly unmotivated to spend my off-work hours dealing with the same things.

The Youtube Rabbit Hole Game

Here’s a new game we can all play. The rules are simple: Log out from YouTube and clear your cookies, so you’re viewing the site as some anonymous person it knows nothing about. Go to the front page, and pick a totally innocuous video from its recommendations. Clicking only on recommended videos in the sidebar on the right, see how quickly you can get steered to either white nationalism, or mad conspiracy theories.

Medicare for All

Right now there are a bunch of competing proposals for how to create a universal healthcare system for the USA. People are starting to talk about which 2020 candidates support which schemes, and who to support in the Democratic primaries based on that information. In particular, Beto O’Rourke has been criticized for not backing Medicare for All, and instead backing a scheme called Medicare for America. Based on my experience of UK public and private healthcare, and US HMOs and other health insurance, I have some strong opinions about what a good healthcare system should look like.

Social networks: What if there's no right answer?

In recent articles I’ve talked about what’s wrong with social networking and some ways I think we might improve it. This week I saw a Twitter thread about a Facebook group with a few hundred members that was being used to organize harassment campaigns. Then came the news that private Facebook groups were spreading the conspiracy theory that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in a coma, or even dead and being replaced with an impostor.

How to mend life?

In the previous article I talked about some of the history of social media, and identified 14 pervasive problems of today’s online social networks: Addiction to social media Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) and the negative psychological consequences Pervasive annoying advertising Privacy invasion to justify advertising spend and allow microtargeting Spread of extremism through engagement maximization Spread of propaganda through microtargeting Funding of extremism through automated advertising

WWW: What Went Wrong?

The Internet sucks. This is something that pretty much everyone seems to agree on to some extent. Somewhere along the way, things went seriously awry. The result has been a series of news stories of the Internet’s impact on the real world that are hard to distinguish from the dystopian nightmares of science fiction.v Social media has been a big part of many of these nightmares. WhatsApp triggering lynchings in India.

Kanto YU2

A while back I realized that I spent most of my time listening to music on my desktop speakers while working. The speakers were an old system from Cambridge Soundworks, a local company back when I lived in Cambridge MA. The company had been founded by Henry Kloss, an audio engineer who had also founded KLH and Acoustic Research. Their business model had been midrange to high quality at bargain prices via direct sales, until Kloss died and the assets were bought up by Creative Technology for use in PC speakers.

Judge Glenn Devlin: Recent news

October 22, Houston Chronicle: Two Harris County judges accounted for more than one-fifth of all children sent to the state’s juvenile prisons last year, driving up the county’s Texas Juvenile Justice Department commitments even as those figures fall in the rest of the state. The two courts — overseen by Judges Glenn Devlin and John Phillips — not only sent more teens to juvenile prison, but they also sent them younger and for less-serious offenses than the county’s third juvenile court, where Judge Mike Schneider presides.