Black and white and read’s all over

Happy International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists everyone.

I feel like I intended to do some silly piece about getting to parties late, but I’m taking a hard 90°. I’ve been thinking lately. It’s not a change, but it’s a change in direction. Throughout this past election cycle, I’ve really noticed how neutered journalism has become. I’m not breaking ground here. I don’t even know if it’s a phenomena that’s North America specific. Journalism is failing its fourth estate principles. The journalistic code of ethics is playing second fiddle to cultivating an audience. The news cycle no longer works in the best interests of citizens, and that’s a problem. What am I talking about?

I’m talking about softball questions, failing to speak truth to power, and letting the dominant get away with inexcusable behaviour. Impartiality has been compromised and contorted into something all new. Biases are all too evident, and they’re impacting the strength of reporting. It’s no big secret that most major publications have political leanings. It comes with the territory. It’s part and parcel of having an audience. People tend to follow views that resonate with their own. They’ll more readily agree with things they already agree with, or are a few minor deviations away. We don’t want to be challenged, we want to be reaffirmed that we’re on the right track. With media outlets, this leads to a bunch of pandering. They’re less likely to publish material that would alienate their audience, because this could push that audience away. So they reinforce the status quo, and fail to provoke anything.

Why is this happening? Because traditional media outlets are facing challenges from this new online driven world. It’s becoming too difficult to compete with the news cycle, so they’re adopting online techniques. It’s not entirely their fault, but I’m sure it’s out of their hands. The money that was once abundant has now shifted in new directions. In order to stave off extinction, these outlets are trying their best to retain any semblance of an audience. This means reaffirming their views, publishing un-challenging stories and more or less clickbait. It means following the popular stories and picking up their crumbs. Donald Trump has shat all over whatever political structure America had. He’s been a human wrecking ball, taking without giving and leaving a shambles in his wake. Of course people want to know what he’s going to destroy next. It’s like rubbernecking 24/7. He’s news relevant, and people will click on stories about him. Hell, I do. I’m part of the problem here. News organisations are stuck in a difficult position. If they got rid of Trump, where would their ratings go? Where would the money go? Where would the jobs go? It’s not in their best interests to build a case against him, because they’d go down with him.

Lather, rinse, repeat for other contentious figures.

There are nigh infinite things to press these people on. Calling them out on what would be crimes, if they didn’t have the money and influence to contort the law. Let’s look at this election cycle. Why was Scheer given so much room to spread bullshit disinformation without being challenged? Because that would seem unfair or imbalanced, especially from left wing outlets. There’s been this idea on the left of keeping the moral high ground. The right, however, does not have these scruples. So it’s some Prisoner’s Dilemma shit. The right keep spreading the message they want to spread, while the left holds its punches. The right gains ground. The left tries to retain this notion of impartiality by giving corrupt individuals the benefit of the doubt, when their actions deserve anything but. The truth is not impartial. The truth is not biased. If these people have done immoral things, then calling them on these is not media bias. It’s reporting the truth.

It’s not that easy though. Media has been so thoroughly bifurcated, that people of interest can just ignore the other side. Why open themselves to bad publicity? So if journalists grill them, they can just stop talking to those journalists. If that kept happening, these journalists would lose all of their access. They could no longer report on these news relevant individuals, and their ratings would wither away. No ratings = dwindling staff = closed news outlets. It sucks, because the fourth estate principles are a defining pillar of the profession, but the profession has been hamstrung by the fiscal restrictions of the medium. Journalists need to get paid to do their job, but their job has shifted. Fourth estate plays second fiddle to keeping the lights on, and the lights are run by ratings. Good journalism doesn’t rate anymore, and I’m not sure whether it’s gonna exist for much longer outside of the pages of Teen Vogue.

This next generation though? They’re out for blood, and I’m here for them.

Yeah yeah yeah, you turn it into a rectangle, then how do you not get tangled?

Oh I love The Internet.

It probably consumes most of my waking hours. Whether I’m scrolling through Reddit/Facebook/Twitter, playing Magic, streaming shows or, well, doing exactly what I’m doing now. I’ve become used to the internet as a forum for arguments, hatred and showcasing the worst that humanity has to offer. Political rhetoric may not have overtaken porn as the central use of the internet, but it’s zooming right up its butthole. Even with the absurd amount of time I spend on it, I still forget how genuinely useful the internet can be.

I’ve had this muscle in my arm that’s been sore for days. At the top of the forearm, kind of on the outside, by the bicep. I don’t know how I stressed it (some kind of overuse, no doubt), but it’s been making itself known quite profoundly. Any time my right arm has been bent and doing some sort of pulling motion, I’ve felt pain there. Bicep curls, obviously. Pull ups, definitely. Outside of gym stuff, certain gripping actions have inflamed it. Feeling down the arm, I noticed that the muscle was connected somehow to my index finger. I wondered if it’d been because of workplace RSI. I’ve tried at multiple junctures to do trigger point release. In short, finding points on the muscle where pressure created strong pain, and holding that point firmly until the pain eased. Letting the muscle relax, basically. I did a bunch while lying in bed last night, and found the stress abating a bit. Pleased, I nodded off. I woke up this morning, with the pain still there.

Disappointed, I consulted the internet. Google has gotten adept enough to handle my dumb queries (“muscles connected to the index finger”), and I found a page full of individual arm muscles. I looked through them all until I found the one that seemed to fit my symptoms/arm location. The brachioradialis. I then searched for brachioradialis stretches. Within a minute I’d found a YouTube video of a British physiotherapist giving a stretch for the muscle. I tried the stretch, it went straight to the source of the pain. I tried on the other arm just to test. Nope, no pain. I’m pretty sure that I’ve found how to ease the strain over the next few days. I consider this a total success.

It’s so easy to forget this part of the internet, but it kinda feels like that was what people originally had in mind. The internet, despite all the trolls and clickbait, is a massive repository of human knowledge. Chances are, anything you’ve asked has already been solved (and/or, pornified. Thanks Rule 34). I don’t know how many times I’ve asked the internet questions like:

  • How do I fold a suit for travel?
  • How do I fold a fitted sheet?
  • How do I iron a shirt?
  • How do I cook ______?
  • What is a remedy for _____?
  • How do I sew a button?
  • Sorry, I forgot the fitted sheet thing?
  • Which bike accessory fits my needs?
  • What do I eat/drink/see in this city I’m visiting?
  • Is there a free alternative to this software?
  • Is there an easier alternative to fitted sheets?

Mostly, the internet has delivered. There are any number of tasks that get so much easier with guidance, and if you’re willing to look, the internet provides.

Also, thanks to The Google effect, I still haven’t bookmarked that Martha Stewart folding fitted sheets video.

Is there such thing as an outernet?

Remember when we used to be offline?

First and foremost, here’s what this entry is not going to be: It’s not gonna be an exercise in ripping on “millenials” and their “phones”. It might be an exercise in “excessive quotation mark use”, but that’s about it. I have no leg to stand on in shitting on phone use. It takes very little downtime for me to be checking Facebook/Twitter. It’s a habit I’d like to curb, but it’s one I’ve developed. I love having my finger on the pulse of what’s happening. That’s how I sell it to myself. Realistically, I’m addicted to a combination of stimulation and validation. If I get “likes” for something I’ve written, it makes me feel great. The concept that people enjoy my output is obviously compelling. It’s the world we live in. The other side, of course, is that these smart tech companies and their R&D departments have zoned in on how to make their stuff really addictive. My brain receives the message that I’m keeping on top of things, when really, I don’t need to know that much all the time. It’s a fallacy. If I instead went several hours without checking my phone, I’d probably get the same info. I’m just hooked up to that ol’ stimulation IV and I feel like I need my fix. I’ve gone for periods without Facebook before. It turned out I felt less anxious about the state of the world, and far more present. Does that mean I’m gonna delete my app today? Hell no. If it were that simple, I would’ve done it already.

What I do find interesting, are those moments where our reliance on “The Information Superhighway” (I think I might be done with this “quotation bit”) gets in the way. At work last night, our company internet went down for a few hours. No problem, I thought, I use offline editing software. I could just do my job, and still get what I needed from the internal network. It turns out that while my software is offline, it does regular license validation checks, and that’s cloud based. I was midway through describing an episode of The Real Housewives of Dallas (and an aside, these Real Housewives shows are fucking bullshit. Terrible, terrible TV. I’m not judging anyone who wants to throw on an episode and forget about their troubles, but hoo boy it’s wall to wall rich white women arguing about manufactured tension. Abysmal), and I got an error message. My license couldn’t be validated, and the program was shutting down. I blinked, saved my work and waited. I tried a restart, but no dice. I was hamstrung, and couldn’t do anything. My supervisor suggested scripting the rest of the episode so I could finish it once the internet came back up. It made sense, so I followed through. I waited. Eventually internet came back in, but I didn’t know our License username and password. One of the other dudes did, but he had gone home hours ago. I hated having to call him at 11pm, but thankfully he slept through it. No reason why he should need to be on hand for that. So I went home. I couldn’t believe that a lack of internet meant I couldn’t work on something that had nothing to do with the internet. Who would’ve thought that was a pre-rec?

But it makes sense. We’re always online. I’m sure that makes sense.

I think.

DARE to resist pun and meme posting

On my birthday this year, I turned off posting to my Facebook wall.

Please be aware, that this will be one of the pettier posts I’ve made. Y’all have been warned.

I was deep into a solid depression, and birthdays are usually kind of messy, fucked up times for me. I hated the idea of people wishing me a happy birthday, when all I wanted was to not be living anymore. Strange juxtaposition, y’know? So by turning off posting, I wasn’t faced with a ton of well-meaning jovial messages that would only make me hate myself more for not being well or jovial. It worked, and took a lot of strain off. Then I just kept commenting off. I didn’t forget, I kind of liked how peaceful things got.

Here are some things. I make puns. I love puns. I’m known for my puns. People know that I love puns, and whenever friends would hear puns they’d reach out and post them on my wall. This all sounds fine so far, right? Here are some more things. I have very specific tastes in puns. I’m into weird, niche puns that need hyper-specific contexts to work. I’ve heard a lot of puns in my life. I’ve made a lot of puns in my life. There’s a certain threshold where puns just don’t impress me much, or rather, rarely the Twain shall meet. Not everyone has the same needs in a pun that I do. Am I a snob? Probably. I don’t begrudge others enjoying puns. Rather, I encourage it. At the same time, I get all kinds of NIMBY when it comes to people making puns that they just assume I’ll like. I’m on the internet a lot. I’m in a few pun related groups. I see a critical mass of internet content, because I’m a goddamn addict.

So, back to my wall. People love posting puns they’ve heard on it, and I entirely get where that sentiment comes from. They’re excited about a pun and want to share it with me. That’s a sincerely lovely gesture. On some level though, I believe there’s something else to it. Yes, they think it will bring me joy, and since I’m a pun guy they probably think that friends of mine will be pun people who will enjoy it too. At the same time, because I’m known as a pun guy, they can post the pun and get my approval in a public space. I’m not saying that I’m such a wizard of wordsmithery that my approval is tantamount to glory. I am saying that there’s part of the equation where they’re getting public acclaim for it. In my head, if that’s what they were looking for, why not just post it on their wall? Why would I need to be included? If it was a good pun, I’d see it in my newsfeed and I could give it a like. Most people probably aren’t thinking about that. I am because I’m a petty sombitch, but I wouldn’t entirely discount the idea on a latent level. If people just wanted me to see their pun, why not message me directly? It’s very personal, and shows a thoughtful touch. It’s private, with entirely pure motives. By turning off posting to my Facebook wall, I took the choice out of their hands. They could message me directly, or just post on their own wall. It’s been working.

The gross and mercenary side to this, is that there are elements of personal branding tied up in it. Like it or not, we’ve all started curating our own online spaces. We shape how we appear online, and package that for others. I want to try and make my Facebook wall the purest distillation of who I am. I post dumb puns, strange personal observations, weird internet articles I find to be interesting, and specific nostalgic stuff I experienced. It’s kind of like this page, but on Facebook. I’m pretty honest on there, because that’s important to me.

When other people posted, assuming my sense of humour, I’d end up with a bunch of things that didn’t personally resonate. It felt weird. Why were ideas that didn’t jive with me taking up my personal online real estate. To be clear, I have no issue whatsoever with people commenting on my stuff, having discussions, etc. That’s all part of it, because I can curate that and learn new things. There’s no reason why I can’t repost things people have sent me on messenger, giving them full credit. At the same time, I find it to be weirdly presumptuous for others to decide what they think should represent me. On some level, that’s peculiar, right? It was peculiar enough for me that I nipped it in the bud. I’m so glad I did.

Was this a bizarre and pedantic thing to do? Of course it was. Do you think I’m totally off-base? Well I haven’t turned commenting off on this site. Let me know below, if you… dare?

Hot take it or sleeve it

I sent an email to HR today.

I had no complaint, but I did have a question. Is there such a thing as workplace appropriate sleeveless male attire? Most of my female coworkers tend to have bunch of options. There are tanktops, sleeveless dresses, blouses, etc. They’re all totally fine within a professional environment. Some have open toed footwear, even. This isn’t me bitching about gender inequality, because the workplace still exceedingly revolves around the needs of men (office thermostat, etc). Our workplace is pretty forgiving in terms of attire. Lots of people wear graphic tees. I sometimes do on a short Friday workday. It all goes without comment. I like that our dress codes are quite relaxed, I feel comfortable for the most part when I’m at my desk.

I’m also a husky dude who sweats a bunch. This is less comfortable. My entire back, my chest, my belly, they’re all problem areas that accumulate perspiration by my simple existence. I’m never not somewhat sweaty. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to install a fan at my desk. I wear plain t-shirts most days. They’re tidy enough while remaining basic and unassuming. What options do I have for cooling down through clothing? If I’m normally wearing t-shirts, are they suddenly no longer appropriate if my arms are showing? I’m not talking some kind of loose workout shirt that shows off chest hair/nipples. I just want more airflow. Are arms inappropriate? Most people have them. Why are male arms less appropriate than female ones? Once again, I’m not complaining, I just find it arbitrary and would appreciate clarification. Hell, if I could wear a sleeveless blouse, I’d consider it. We’ll see what HR says.

Little Mermaid controversy. She’s black now. Who cares? I’m not gonna take this space for easy dunks on entitled racist dipshits. There’s a talking crab with a French accent. Suspension of disbelief is part of the whole Disney arrangement. Like pretending the new Lion King is live action. What I think is more interesting is our collective take on dissenting responses. Is anyone actually concerned that the anti-black mermaid mob has a point? Do you think Disney really cares? They’re printing money by making the film. That’s all that matters. Like the “Star Wars White Genocide” blockheads, and “Ein as a husky? Cowboy Bebop is ruined!!?!” dorks, these are opinions that aren’t worth our time. What would happen if we let them shout into their echo chamber without responding? What would they do? Would these children tucker themselves out? Get bored and move on? Give up the ghost? I know it would take immense self control not to correct someone on the internet (I’m definitely not immune), but it could be done.

The thing is, we give them the attention, and it convinces them that their opinion has even an iota of credibility. We’re responding, getting riled up and giving the trolls what they want. News sites desperate for content run stories on the controversy, then they try to present both sides. The other side is tilting at windmills. We can just let them. It’s an option. What will they do? The chances that Disney would recast are considerably negligible (not that I trust Disney whatsoever, especially after the James Gunn bollocks). I know we’re all desperate for that sweet, sweet, hot take, but it’s not worth interacting with these ideas. The world is enough of a tire fire that hot takes are an unlimited, renewable resource. These clowns can be (and are) wrong, even if they don’t know it.

I may have a chip on my shoulder, but it’s only cause I have to wear sleeves at work.

I’m a crunchy kinda guy, myself

If Rob Thomas became a surgeon, would he be a Smooth Operator?

It’s hot today, as if t’were six inches from the midday sun. I know this, because I went for a run within the midday hour and it was hotter than the ninth sphere of Hell. Sure, that wasn’t a tall bar to o’erleap, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I don’t know I’m peppering this with archaic contractions, but I suspect I’ve run out by now.

I was thinking today how having this writing project basically disqualifies me from any serious public facing positions. Not that I planned for a governmental career, but if anyone did even a scant dig, there’d be a colossal amount of dirt they could find (in context or otherwise). I say stupid shit constantly in an effort to hit my half hour writing target. I’m sure it’ll come back to bite me at some stage, and that ultimately doing this will hurt me more than it helps. So it goes. With the absence of any impending future, I may as well just continue.

I wonder if we’re gonna hit a tipping point with online pasts haunting those in the public eye. Everyone by now has no doubt said some idiotic or misguided things on the internet. Unless they were birthed as a fully formed adult from a test tube. Will there come a time where that stops mattering? Where people can just pivot into a new narrative that sticks? Where nobody is judged for past online indiscretions? I fucking hope not. I’ve said some foolish, truly idiotic and myopic things on the internet, and I think it’s fair that I answer for them when my time comes. I definitely know that there are a bunch of people who’ve posted hateful and bigoted things. If those prove to be entirely consequence free, how will they learn they’ve erred?

For the most part, I’ve probably grown and changed. Maybe once a week I’ll notice a terrible post pop up in my Facebook memories. I see them as a good sign that the crude, ignorant opinions I had in my early 20s have shifted. That I’m more conscious of how I approach the world. It’s maturity, and a very visible sign that I’m acquiring it slowly. I don’t know a better personal goal in life than meaningful self-improvement, so noticing how far you’ve come is a boon. I’m sure at some stage I’ll look back at what I’ve been writing at age 32 and marvel at my own ignorance. Fingers crossed, anyway. We’ve all got space to evolve.

But honestly if I’m gonna evolve, I mostly want wings. If I can get some big ol’ bat wings that would be perfect. Great for fitness, very fashionable, and a fantastic way to avoid transit costs.

Please, science?

Yeah, but a Trillion dollars is way cooler than a Billion

An unusual, possibly informative and likely boring entry today. It’s also probably riddled with factual inaccuracies. I had to do a short presentation at work, so I whipped this up in 40 or so minutes.

Here goes.

My hypothesis is that the future of broadcasting is going to greatly resemble the structure of cable in the early 90s. With all of these companies splitting their online content into exclusive services (Disney taking its content from Netflix, NBC taking back Friends and The Office, etc). My uneducated guess, is that larger companies will start creating “packages” of these services (maybe a Corus subscription comes bundled with Prime Video and Tidal or something).

Because of this, my guess is that people are going to find it too expensive and confusing to get all the content they want. Many will likely turn to other methods.

Today I’m gonna try and do a little ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5) on Torrenting.

Let’s jump back 20 years, because some of you are literal zygotes and might not remember this. Napster. Remember when Justin Timberlake told Jessie Eisenberg that a Billion dollars was cooler than a Million dollars in 2010’s The Social Network? That was one of the guys who made Napster.

Napster was peer to peer (P2P) software that allowed users to share mp3 files over the internet with other users. It was all searchable, and if you found someone who had the song you wanted, you could download it directly from them. It was amazing, revolutionized how music could be shared and sold. It was also a colossal breeding ground for copyright infringement.

Eventually this split into a bunch of copycat software. Morpheus, Kazaa, Bearshare, Limewire, etc etc etc. These programs let users download all manner of file types. Images, video, etc etc. Mostly, a lot of movies and TV shows. I downloaded a lot of anime. Because I was 14.

I want to state that P2P software and file serving are not illegal. The software can be used for very legitimate reasons. It mostly isn’t. It’s debatable whether or not most modern streaming and download services would exist without the advent of P2P software, because if there’s one thing these industries love, it’s locking people into the outdated status quo for profit. Why let people download an album for cheap, if they can charge $30 for a physical CD? In my day I bought a lot of $30 CDs.

Enter BitTorrent.

Programs like Napster, Limewire, etc all work around making files available through a specific client, and you download from the person who has that file. BitTorrent is a little different. With Torrenting (the verb for using this process), a file is split into a number of sections, so you can download from many many people simultaneously.

Reddit user Slukaj puts it this way:

Imagine you want a copy of a book. You get online and say “Hey, anyone have this book?”
A conventional download would be like one person saying “I’ve got that book. Let me give it to you.”, and then giving you the whole book.
A torrent is more like 200 people saying “Hey. We’ve each got pages of this book. Let us give you the pages and you can put the book together yourself.”

Torrent files work like little beacons. You download a torrent file of the content you want, and it says “hey all you people who have this file, I also want this file” then it downloads little bits from those people in a random order, and assembles them into a complete file you can use. Then you can in turn upload that file to other people who are looking for it. Quick, easy distribution.

My guess is that Torrenting is going to become more and more popular as the streaming service market diversifies into exclusive silos. It’s not definite by any means, but I think it’s worth knowing about. A quote:

According to Sandvine, distributors of the Global Internet Phenomena report, “Back in 2011, Sandvine stated that BitTorrent accounted for 52.01% of upstream traffic on fixed broadband networks in North America. By 2015, BitTorrent’s share of upstream traffic on these networks had dipped to 26.83 percent, largely thanks to the rise in quality, inexpensive streaming alternatives to piracy.

File-sharing accounts for 3 percent of global downstream and 22 percent of upstream traffic, with 97% of that traffic in turn being BitTorrent. While BitTorrent is often used to distribute ordinary files, it remains the choice du jour for those looking to distribute and trade copyrighted content online.”

Karl Bode: “The Rise of Netflix Competitors Has Pushed Consumers Back Toward Piracy” – Oct 2 2018

For reference, Netflix is 15% of the total downstream volume of traffic across the entire internet. BitTorrent is currently 1/5 of that.

A lot of people wanted to watch Game of Thrones. A lot of people did not have access to HBO Go or Crave. A lot of people found ways to watch Game of Thrones. There will be more GoT style tentpole shows, and these will be more expensive to access as they diversify across providers. There will very likely be a point of fatigue where consumers don’t want to pay for five different TV streaming services. My assumption is that they’ll have one or two, then find ways of acquiring content from the other ones.

I don’t think BitTorrent is an emerging technology, but I do think that until something else more efficient or accessible comes along, BitTorrent is going to become a re-emergent technology.