America’s experiment in democracy

A friend mentioned the above phrase General Mad-Dog Mattis often uses in posting about the death of the badass Cryptologic Technician. This happened on Facebook and it being Facebook, it spurred a troll who completely misunderstood the phrase. He took it to mean the United States attempting nation building.

Here is an example of Mattis’ usage in a paper on the national defense strategy:

“Increasing the lethality of our troops, supported by our defense civilians, requires us to reshape our approach that managing our outstanding talent, reinvigorating our military education and honing civilian workforce expertise.

“The creativity and talent of the department is our deepest wellspring of strength, and one that warrants greater investment.

“And to those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy, they must know: If you challenge us it will be your longest and your worst day. Work with our diplomats; you don’t want to fight the Department of Defense.”

He is using the phrase to talk about attacking the United States. Not Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, or Yemen.

Mattis, having read far more about history, the founding of the US, and Constitutional scholarship uses this phrase to indicate that the democracy we have is pretty fragile. Democracies can fail. The United States has somehow lasted over two centuries as a republic, but it is still possible for our country to fail. We have to protect it. We have to be wise in our choices. Or we might find ourselves beholden to Putin-like totalitarianism. He viewed his job as more than just protecting the country, but as protecting something special in the world that deserves to survive.

And, that is why he had to go. His loyalty was primarily to democracy, not the Commander-in-Chief who demanded personal loyalty.

Read more about how democracies fall into totalitarianism:

ʻOumuamua images and representation

Artists_impression_of_ʻOumuamua
By ESO/M. Kornmesser

I ran across this image of the interstellar asteroid. It struck me that I recognize an artist’s impression as the actual representation of the object. Because we do not have an actual photo, an artist made something. And yet, to me, it IS the asteroid enough that when I see the impression photo, I think it is.

It started to bother me that my brain has become so tricked, but I think I am about to get over it. We do this all the time. When I think of a very generic term like cat, my current cat comes to mind. Even if I go for an animal I have never seen before in person, then I think of an image of one or something similar. Being visual creatures, images are how we think, so we need something like an impression to recognize it.

New Blog Project

In sharing stuff on Twitter and Facebook, I feel like I could be writing more instead of just sharing a quote. That is where the blog comes in, but I also feel like RRRv4 is all over the place. So, I started a new one: Polymath Parent.

Some self-imposed rules:

  1. Semi-anonymous: I’m not going to use names on it. No photos.
    • It’s not anonymous because I am still using the WP Jetpack sharing options to put them on my public Facebook page. I’m not anonymous, but anyone stumbling across it from WP might not know how to find them.
  2. Mainly going to talk about science, observations, and tie together what I am reading about parenting applies to the kids.

Maybe I will keep it up. If not, then I can always eventually roll them back up into this one.

Also, maybe it will encourage me to blog more here too.

Brainstorming Ebola under America First

Saw a story that got me wondering what the reaction would be under the current president if the test had come back positive.

An unidentified patient who was kept in isolation at a Philadelphia hospital while being tested for Ebola has been confirmed as not infected with the deadly virus.

  1. Thoughts and prayers? That seems to be the go-to for so many things like massacres at home and abroad.
  2. Deny travelers to Ebola prone countries the ability to fly to the US until they have self-quarantines elsewhere for the contagious period, thereby spreading it around the world?

The Obama administration’s Ebola response was to send 3,000 health officials to the region who:

  1. Constructed treatment units in the region.
  2. Provided protective equipment and medical supplies.
  3. Operated almost 200 burial teams.
  4. Conducted aggressive contact tracing to locate other potentially infected cases.
  5. Trained health care workers and conducted community outreach.
  6. Identified travelers who may have Ebola before they left the region.

I suspect health officials would lobby for the same response with the rationale, the faster we end the outbreak there, the fewer infected individuals overall and less like they end up in the US: America First! But, this is the region the current president referred to as “shithole countries.” My guess is this is just the excuse needed to bar travel to or from there.

“Look Like Them”

Read an article about pay disparities by gender in the system by which I am employed which mentioned research that students get along best with faculty members who look like them. It made me laugh out loud.

I cannot recall a teacher who looked like me: male, tall, and half-white / half-black. Or at least of brown skin.

The only male teacher that comes close to matching this might be my 8th-grade math & science teacher who lectured by popping his wrist with a rubber band. He is also African-American, tall, and broad shoulders. Cannot say we got along that well so much as we students cowered in fear of him.

Certainly, that year, I got along much better with my literature teacher, but she is short, Caucasian, and female. My recollection of my 2nd-grade teacher was she was African-American but of lighter skin color.

 

Sort by delivery date

If Amazon wants a better way to take my money, then they would add to the filter a sort by delivery date. Two day shipping doesn’t mean something I order today gets here in two days. It means what is the date it goes out the door, it should arrive in two days.

For most of my orders, I don’t really care. But in this case, I wanted it ASAP. So first, I looked for online order pickup so I could get it tomorrow. None of the usual places had it. (Saying the store has it, but in 4-7 days is not helpful Target.)

Amazon had lots of options, so I filtered to 4 or above average reviews. (I know that system suck.) I checked the prime eligible because non-prime shipping can be a week and cost extra.

In looking through options, I noticed most said it would get here on Tuesday. Same as Target. A couple said Saturday. That is a day after tomorrow, so I went with the one I liked better.

All they need to do is add to the sort filter “Delivery Date” with one 1 to 7 days out. Then have a higher price on the closer date. Obviously the 1 day out is a closer distributor and next day shipping. Two days is a closer distributor and 2 day shipping. They could even give me a higher price for the 2 day.

I was willing to pay 25% more to get it in 2 days. Not 250% the price to get it in one. Instead, I got it for the sale price I saw somewhere in hopefully 2 days.

The Social Media Evolution

The Make Me Smart Podcast episode 96: Do it for the ‘gram had an interesting quip that Instagram was what the Facebook News Feed was before it got corrupted by ads and political arguments: the trivialities of our daily lives.

Screenshot_20180704-075738_FacebookAll social networks became popular because of trivialities. “What’s on your mind?” THAT is what we want. Users flocked to them because of trivialities. We want gossip, random, and meaningless.

Corporations need to monetize somehow. Ads are how social networks try to do so. Facebook showed that targeting ads by getting numerous attributes about us is the way to make the most money on it. Tumblr, for example, has completely inane ads that only get clicked by accident because ever couple posts presented is an ad. Instagram has almost as many ads as Tumblr but the targeting of Facebook.

Tribe, Friendster, and Myspace died because users left. The triviality was lost, so there was no reason to stay. Something I find fascinating is Facebook survived several of the exodus movements. Not enough people left to kill it.

I wonder if Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc are capable of dying in the modern era. Will enough people leave to cause an exodus movement?

Yes, Google+ was killed, but it died because it never made it into the user consciousness. I suspect that is because Google tried to make it the cornerstone of their ecosystem. It would be like Microsoft creating a social network around Office. Productivity tools do not a social network make.

Facebook should honor those privacy notice hoaxes

I’ve seen several friends post the new variant of the notice saying that in order to have privacy, you have to post the note that does not give Facebook permission to use your photos or status updates.

Here is the thing. Taking away that permission makes Facebook unusable as no one can see them even people you want to see them. If Facebook cannot use them, then it cannot show them to others on your behalf.

I think Facebook should start:

  1. Programmatically look to see if these statuses are posted by a user.
  2. Disable access to photos and status updates for any user who has posted it and not allow them to make new ones.
  3. Let them see the posts of others who have not posted it.
  4. Highlight to the user that no one can see their stuff due to having that post. Give them the option of deleting the post to restore access.

My guess is if Facebook did this, then these posts would disappear from Facebook pretty quickly.

Happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy; Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

I occasionally review how I am using social media. For years now, I worry about how I leverage social signaling. (read more) There is an awareness of the temptation to make myself appear more successful than I am. And that excessive signaling on social media contributes to chronic depression.

When I see friends posting a lot of happiness, I start to wonder if they are actually depressed. Is that smile genuine? Are the eyes engaged in that smile?

Some comments about how my family looks so very happy put in front of my face: are we? Yeah, we really are. Sure, we have challenges like everyone. But, on balance, I love the life I have and find it so much more fulfilling than my life a few years ago.

Relative Dating

“Today” and “Yesterday” are intuitive ways to indicate when something happened. Except when one cannot determine when today is.

See, I appear to have a weird DNS issue where some software is not able to communicate with servers. Microsoft Teams appears to be one of those products affected. So, in a thread that says “Today”, I end up scrolling back up in the feed to verify that today is today and not say yesterday because the time did not refresh.

This is better than Facebook or Twitter where the feed is non-temporal, so scrolling up does not mean that a yesterday or 3 days ago reflects a date relative to today. Especially when the phone is connected to a shoddy WiFi and has not refreshed in hours unknown to me.