Roundup, April 6

Everyday Carry Lost & Found Edition

Things I try to keep in my pockets and the number of times I’ve lost them:


Times Lost Times Found
iPhone
0
0
Wallet
1
1
ThruNite Ti3 flashlight 2
1
Apple AirPods
2
1
Tinker Swiss Army Knife 4
4

There’s something to be said for having stuff in your pockets, until it falls out. I’m still miffed about the fact that “Find My AirPods” only seems to work when they are out of the charging case.

CLI Web tools

I’ve been finding some fun command-line tools for messing with JSON. I really love getting a good shell data pipe together with sed, awk, etc. These are some handy tools for handling curl output:

  • jq – “sed for JSON files.” Query and filter JSON.
  • gron – “Make JSON greppable” – outputs JSON in a way that makes it easy to grep, then you can pipe that through gron again to get JSON
  • pup – “Parsing HTML at the command line” – Run CSS-like selector queries against HTML, looks like an easy way to do one-off screen-scrapers.

Checkins

  • Short’s Uncle Steve’s Irish Stout – I have never seen this on shelves before St. Patrick’s day. A little less body than I remember and a roasty aftertaste.
  • Dairy King – local ice cream shop that was once named something similar. They take credit cards now. Before you use Facebook as your website, see how it looks when you don’t have an account.
  • Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams – We are about halfway through Amazon’s sci-fi anthology. It doesn’t hurt as bad as Black Mirror.
  • Best Buy – Best Buy lets you give them up to three electronics items per day to recycle. It’s handy for things that aren’t worth selling/donating

Linkdump

Given all the bulleted lists in this roundup, I’m wondering if I should be putting this in a PowerPoint. I have a couple longer-form thoughts I’m trying to flesh out, I think they’d weight this post down.

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Roundup, March 30

Newsletters

I'm seeing a few people are starting newsletter-format web things. Example a: Ed Vielmetti's Vacuum; example b: Chris Salzman's newsletter blog posts. The format is attractive as a writer because it's not daily and you don't have to write too much about a subject. Just add a heading and type a paragraph. I should try it.

Blogging

People are also blogging more. While I have a professional incentive to encourage blogging (did you know you can get a free blog at my employer, WordPress.com?), I also think there's value in re-distributing the web. You can read much deeper thoughts about that from Dan Cohen's Back to the Blog, (via Kottke, who shares his thoughts on 20 years of independent blogging)

Making the world worse

If you want to make people angry online, show people this tweet:

You can also download the blank bracket if you want to start a fight IRL (note the filename).

You can also make people angry by showing them Smelvetica, an annoyingly-kerned fork of Helvetica:

Movie Order Soundtracks

One thing I have discovered is that my kids prefer to listen to soundtracks in movie order. For example, compare the Frozen soundtrack album with the Frozen Soundtrack in Order playlist. The soundtrack front-loads all the hits, while the playlist mimics the movie. We've also been known to put the Moana – Movie Order playlist on repeat. I couldn't find a Coco playlist, so I created one (corrections welcome!):

We've also experimented with using Plex on a mobile device to stream just the audio of Coco to a Chromecast Audio at bedtime, but that was a little too engaging and didn't actually put the kiddo to sleep.

Checkins

  • Blackrocks' Murray Project – I appreciate an Imperial IPA under 9%. Very good if you can find it, better balanced than a lot of IIPAs.
  • Bell's Oberon – It's nice to have one on release day. Post-over-hype, it's still a good American Wheat. If you want to know what Saaz hops taste like, it's this.
  • Uinta Rise & Pine – Black IPAs where everywhere 5 years ago, now they're almost impossible to find. The Juniper is interesting, but I think I'd like it more with a hop. I love Uinta's Hop Nosh from when I worked remotely for an office in Utah, and am glad to see them distributing in Michigan.
  • El Barzon – very nice Mexican food and very nice Italian food in Detroit. Not fusion. We had the kids with us but it'd be better for a date night. I wonder if this side of Corktown will go nuts if Ford buys the train station.
  • Sidetrack – I guess it's been a while, since they seem to still be expanding. Better service, same great menu.
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Leaving Facebook

Now seems like a good time to talk about when I deleted Facebook in January of 2016, and why I came back.

It started off with buying some boxed wine.[1] I texted my wife a picture of the options to find out what she wanted.

A couple days later, I started seeing ads for boxed wine on Facebook. That freaked me out. I had never looked at boxed wine online. I had never bought boxed wine online. I had no relationship between my online identity and boxed wine. I try to limit what Facebook knows about my browsing habits. [2]. Yet here was an ad for boxed wine, online.

My first thought was that Facebook was looking at the images in my text messages and using that for ad targeting. It's a simple but wrong explanation, like the idea that Facebook is eavesdropping on microphones,  Both errors come from anthropomorphizing Facebook, assuming that Facebook uses the same senses that we do. The scary fact is that Facebook et al have enough data on us that they don't need to listen to us or watch us.

Did you know that Facebook ads have a "Why was I shown this ad?" link? I wanted to know why I was seeing boxed wine ads, so I clicked it to find out.

If you don't have experience buying online advertising, let me translate: DLX gave Facebook a list of personally identifiable information (PII) and calls it an audience. Facebook then links that PII to accounts, and uses it's ad algorithms to decide who to show ads to.

DLX, it turns out, in Datalogix.  They get a list of the things you buy with loyalty cards, and then matches those purchases with your online identity. If you take a look at that link, it has this line: "The company reports that it keeps the information anonymous and gives consumers the option to opt out of data collecting and reporting by selecting the opt-out option on their website."

Here's what I saw when I clicked the Opt Out link on Facebook:

If that's gibberish to you, it's basically screenshots showing that Datalogix's opt-out process is really broken and neglected.

So my options are either stop using loyalty cards (and pay more for groceries), or stop giving value to the data that I'm generating. I made a step toward the second, and deactivated my Facebook account. It was deactivated basically from February to November of 2016.

I don't have too many insights about my life without Facebook. I didn't miss it really. I had one person contact my wife to ask if I'd blocked them over something, and we then had a good email conversation.

I came back partly due to the election. I felt that maybe my "no politics on Facebook" rule had been part of the problem – assuming that we wouldn't elect a nightmare. Maybe my voice needed to be heard. I wouldn't swing an election, but if I spoke out maybe I wound help convince a couple friends who were on the fence. Naive, yes, but I was looking for something to do. Anything.

The other reason I came back was because I was basically offloading a lot of social labor on my wife. She was now the sole invitee to events because our friends couldn't invite me on Facebook. She would tell me news from friends that I couldn't see elsewhere. My subdivision uses a Facebook group to share community news, which I had to get from my wife. I wasn't completely off Facebook, I had unconsciously delegated it. So I rejoined.

After all the recent news, I'm off Facebook again. I'm trying to ween myself off of algorithmic timelines (in favor of chronological) since they are dopamine addiction machines. Also, the snooping they do on phones, how they are polarizing the country, and the newsfeed being largely garbage all made the decision pretty easy. I may come back again, but for now I'm sticking to RSS feeds and (non-algorithmic) Twitter.

1: A boxed, collapsible bag is a pretty great packaging system for non-carbonated beverages like wine. It keeps O2 out while letting you have as much (or as little) as you want. Like beer in a can, it's a great package that has undeserved quality connotations.

2: Firefox just launched a really cool plugin that will segment your Facebook browser identity from your other browsing. Highly recommended.

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Call to Support Net Neutrality (again)

If you live in the US, call your reps and let them know you support net neutrality. Go to this site, put in your phone number and they'll call to connect you with your reps. It took me 3 minutes. It's also good practice talking to your government.

Do it. I don't want to live in a world where my only ISP option presents me with a screen like this:

I've written about this before. Attacking net neutrality attacks both my values as well as my employment. The free market can't help when there's no competition. It's also really scummy that they're trying to use the Thanksgiving holiday as cover for this. Please don't let them hide. Call your reps.

Call.

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Once upon a time there was a dungeon master who really loved the world-building aspect of the job. He would create intricate lore for all the NPCs. Every object had a complete history that the DM could rattle off from memory. The players would wince every time they entered a room, as the DM started rattling off what they saw.

"The stones on the north wall of the room are darker than the rest, implying that they were not gathered locally (since there is no nearby volcanic activity) but instead brought from the mountains. However they are cut in a style of the king's stonemason, so you suspect that they were brought here as part of the mason's expedition recorded 40 years ago, in which…"

The players all made low intelligence, low wisdom fighters in retaliation. Every perception check failed. When one player made a natural 20 on a history check, the rest abandoned her to refresh their snacks and maybe play a couple rounds of Street Fighter.

The DM, seeing his beautiful world being ignored, became cruel. His NPC villains were awful, but the DM would torture both PC and NPC alike. No one was safe. A PC is having a wedding? Kill everyone. A player finds an escape from the prison? Actually that was the villain's plan all along.

The players, fed up, leave the game. The DM still has stories to tell though, so he starts writing them down. Or at least that's how I like to think Game of Thrones got started…

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Backyard Camping

I went “camping” in the backyard with our 3 year old. She loved the campfire of course. She was so thrilled to sleep in a tent that she insisted on going to bed early.

Two hours later she was inside in her bed.

I’d still say it’s a success. If she didn’t have the escape hatch of a nearby house I think she could have made it the whole night. Time will tell.