🎧 The Power Of Categories | Invisibilia (NPR)

Listened to The Power Of Categories from Invisibilia | NPR.org
The Power Of Categories examines how categories define us — how, if given a chance, humans will jump into one category or another. People need them, want them. The show looks at what categories provide for us, and you'll hear about a person caught between categories in a way that will surprise you. Plus, a trip to a retirement community designed to help seniors revisit a long-missed category.
The transgender/sexual dysphoria story here is exceedingly interesting because it could potentially have some clues to how those pieces of biology work and what shifts things in one direction or another. How is that spectrum created/defined? A few dozen individuals like that could help provide an answer.

The story about the Indian retirement community in Florida is interesting, but it also raises the (unasked, in the episode at least) question of the detriment it can do to a group of people to be lead by some the oldest members of their community. The Latin words senīlis ‎(“of or pertaining to old age”) and senex ‎(“old”) are the roots of words like senate, senescence, senility, senior, and seniority, and though it’s nice to take care of our elders, the younger generations should take a hard look at the unintended consequences which may stem from this.

In some sense I’m also reminded about Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and why progress in science (and yes, society) is held back by the older generations who are still holding onto outdated models. Though simultaneously, they do provide some useful “brakes” on both velocity of change as well as potential ill effects which could be damaging in short timeframes.

The 86-Year-Old Breakout Star of Sundance | The Daily Beast

Read The 86-Year-Old Breakout Star of Sundance (The Daily Beast)
After six decades in showbiz—she made her film debut opposite James Dean—Lois Smith is finally getting her due as a grieving widow in the Sundance sci-fi drama ‘Marjorie Prime.’
Continue reading The 86-Year-Old Breakout Star of Sundance | The Daily Beast

Trial Balloon for a Coup? | Medium

Read Trial Balloon for a Coup? (Medium)
Analyzing the news of the past 24 hours

Analyzing the news of the past 24 hours

The theme of this morning’s news updates from Washington is additional clarity emerging, rather than meaningful changes in the field. But this clarity is enough to give us a sense of what we just saw happen, and why it happened the way it did.

I’ll separate what’s below into the raw news reports and analysis; you may also find these two pieces from yesterday (heavily referenced below) to be useful.

From “The Day After Tomorrow.” I resisted the temptation to use the analogous shot from “Planet of the Apes.”

Continue reading Trial Balloon for a Coup? | Medium

The Republican Fausts | The New York Times

Read The Republican Fausts (nytimes.com)
They struck a deal with the devil, Donald Trump, that comes at too high a price.
President Trump at a retreat last week in Philadelphia for congressional Republicans. Doug Mills/The New York Times

Many Republican members of Congress have made a Faustian bargain with Donald Trump. They don’t particularly admire him as a man, they don’t trust him as an administrator, they don’t agree with him on major issues, but they respect the grip he has on their voters, they hope he’ll sign their legislation and they certainly don’t want to be seen siding with the inflamed progressives or the hyperventilating media.

Continue reading The Republican Fausts | The New York Times

Trump’s voter fraud expert registered in 3 states | Associated Press

Read Trump's voter fraud expert registered in 3 states (AP News)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A man who President Donald Trump has promoted as an authority on voter fraud was registered to vote in multiple states during the 2016 presidential election,

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A man who President Donald Trump has promoted as an authority on voter fraud was registered to vote in multiple states during the 2016 presidential election, the Associated Press has learned.

Gregg Phillips, whose unsubstantiated claim that the election was marred by 3 million illegal votes was tweeted by the president, was listed on the rolls in Alabama, Texas and Mississippi, according to voting records and election officials in those states. He voted only in Alabama in November, records show. Continue reading Trump’s voter fraud expert registered in 3 states | Associated Press

The Web Cryptography API is a W3C Recommendation | W3C News

Bookmarked The Web Cryptography API is a W3C Recommendation (W3C News)
The Web Cryptography Working Group has published a W3C Recommendation of the Web Cryptography API. This specification describes a JavaScript API for performing basic cryptographic operations in web applications, such as hashing, signature generation and verification, and encryption and decryption. Additionally, it describes an API for applications to generate and/or manage the keying material necessary to perform these operations. Uses for this API range from user or service authentication, document or code signing, and the confidentiality and integrity of communications.
h/t

This has to be the most awesome Indieweb pull request I’ve seen this year.

This has to be the most awesome Indieweb pull request I've seen this year.
WithKnown is a fantastic, free, and opensource content management service that supports some of the most bleeding edge technology on the internet. I’ve been playing with it for over two years and love it!

And today, there’s another reason to love it even more…

This is also a great reminder that developers can have a lasting and useful impact on the world around them–even in the political arena.

🎧 Entanglement | Invisibilia (NPR)

Listened to Entanglement from Invisibilia | NPR.org
In Entanglement, you'll meet a woman with Mirror Touch Synesthesia who can physically feel what she sees others feeling. And an exploration of the ways in which all of us are connected — more literally than you might realize. The hour will start with physics and end with a conversation with comedian Maria Bamford and her mother. They discuss what it's like to be entangled through impersonation.
I can think of a few specific quirks I’ve got that touch tangentially on mirror synethesia. This story and some of the research behind it is truly fascinating. Particularly interesting are the ideas of the contagion of emotion. It would be interesting to take some complexity and network theory and add some mathematical models to see how this might look. In particular the recent political protests in the U.S. might make great models. This also makes me wonder where Donald Trump sits on this emotional empathy spectrum, if at all.

One of the more interesting take-aways: the thoughts and emotions of those around you can affect you far more than you imagine.

Four episodes in and this podcast is still impossibly awesome. I don’t know if I’ve had so many thought changing ideas since I read David Christian’s book Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History[1] The sad problem is that I’m listening to them at a far faster pace than they could ever continue to produce them.

References

[1]
D. Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. Univ of California Press, 2004.

Fitbit will lay off 110 employees amid challenges in wearable market | The Verge

Read Fitbit will lay off 110 employees amid challenges in wearable market (theverge.com)
Fitbit today released preliminary results for its upcoming fourth quarter earnings report, and the news isn’t good.
Continue reading Fitbit will lay off 110 employees amid challenges in wearable market | The Verge

Day 40 – Melancholy | Aaron Parecki

Listened to Melancholy from aaronparecki.com
Day 40. This is mostly me playing the piano live. In a few places I adjusted the timing, and I added a couple notes that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach. I doubled the piano with two slightly different piano sounds, and they are panned hard left and hard right. This adds a bit of depth to it. I added the drum track at a relatively low volume to kind of keep things moving a bit more than it would without the drums. This one came out a lot more melancholy than I thought it was going to despite it being in a major key.

IndieWebify.Me and the Knowledge Gap | DataHive Consulting

Read IndieWebify.Me and the Knowledge Gap by Lynne Baer (DataHive Consulting)

Last week, a friend asked me what I thought of IndieWebify.Me, a movement intended to allow people to publish on the web without relying on the tools and storage of the giant corporations that currently control the majority of the social web. I’m the kind of person who gladly supports her local independent bookstores and farmers’ markets and food purveyors, links to IndieBound.org instead of Amazon to buy books, and admires the ideals of Open Source Software. So, I’m biased towards an independent and open experience.

IndieWebCamp, the conference devoted to strengthening the Indie Web, describes the concept of the “Indie Web” thus: “We should all own the content we’re creating, rather than just posting to third-party content silos. Publish on your own domain, and syndicate out to silos. This is the basis of the ‘Indie Web’ movement.” You’d think I’d be all over a movement aimed at bringing back more of that feeling to the modern internet.

I’d love to be, but I can’t just yet. IndieWebify’s an ideal with some pretty serious barriers to implementation; key among them, the base level of knowledge necessary for the average citizen of the internet to “Indie Webify” themselves.

If you look at IndieWebify’s main page, there are three levels of “citizenship,” each with two steps to implementation. In theory, six steps don’t seem that challenging. Unfortunately, the reality is more like WordPress’ Famous Five Minute Install – it assumes familiarity with technical concepts that your mainstream Internet citizen lacks. I’m a reasonably tech-savvy person. I can write HTML and CSS and SQL and work with JavaScript and JQuery; I’ve maintained self-hosted websites for almost 15 years now. Steps 1 and 2 seem fairly straightforward – set up a domain name, then on the home page, add a few slightly enhanced links. Not too difficult. But Step 3 (the first step to publishing on the “Indie Web”) is more confusing: “Mark up your content with microformats2.”

Okay, clearly, I’ve got some reading to do, so I click through to learn about microformats2. The general idea isn’t too difficult for someone accustomed to writing HTML and CSS – microformats2 is a collection of standardized class names that should be applied to web content to help computers contextualize things like blog posts and comments. But this leads me to a lot of questions: Can I make my existing installation of WordPress automatically include the microformats2 markup when I write blog posts? (No.) Do I need to manually mark up my content every time I write a post? (Maybe, but that’s a long list of class names to memorize or be constantly referring to.) What is an h-card in this context? Why does it seem to represent multiple opposing standards? … and who do I know that knows how to use the existing “implementations” (which are actual code libraries to be imported and implemented, rather than more user-friendly plugins)?

Talk about jargon-filled! The amount of technobabble here depends on any users possessing a fairly high baseline of coding knowledge. Though I’m willing to click on the links to learn more, this process is nowhere near as quick and simple as joining an existing social site. And this is just step 3 of 6 – we haven’t even gotten to implementing the technology to have the federated (whoops, more technobabble) cross-site conversations that are the core that would allow for you to properly “own” and attribute all of your words to you in the context of your personal domain. Compare this to the existing Corporate Web options, like Facebook and Twitter and Google, where the only thing you need to know how to do is type the natural language words you want to share.

Even assuming you have the motivation to learn, this is not an easy proposition. Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel wrote of Twitter: “Ask a longtime user to tell you about their first experience with Twitter and they’ll probably lead with some variation of, “Somebody showed me how to use it…” The idea [is] that, unlike most social networks [today], you didn’t usually just discover and use Twitter – you are taught, or at least climb a fairly steep learning curve.” He then goes on to explain that this isn’t good enough anymore; that for Twitter to continue growing, they need to cater to the mainstream, and make it easier to understand. IndieWebify’s version of this is so far from that point of being accessible to the mainstream that even early adopters are barely on the horizon.

Noted tech evangelist Anil Dash has pointed out how this technical insularity burned the development of the Open Web in the past: “We took it as a self-evident and obvious goal that people would even want to participate in this medium, instead of doing the hard work necessary to make it a welcoming and rewarding place for the rest of the world. We favored obscure internecine battles about technical minutia over the hard, humbling work of engaging a billion people in connecting online, and setting the stage for the billions to come.” Right now, IndieWebify.Me feels like it’s a lot of technical minutia. Maybe that’s how it starts, but it needs to get beyond that for broader adoption.

So, if you’re one of the few who actually knows how to implement these new Open Web tools and want to see the Open Web succeed, what can you do to spread this? As I mentioned above, “somebody showed me how to use it” doesn’t scale, so new tools require accessible design and/or tutorials. The challenge is that IndieWebify.Me currently has a simplified set of instructions, but these still need to be translated further to the technical capabilities of the early adopters, not all of whom are programmers. In comparison, most new social apps and websites come with engaging tutorials that do not require learning a complex set of standards or platform protocols, or being tied to a dictionary of these terms. This is the opportunity for evangelists who are serious about the development of the Indie Web as a competitive and viable alternative: create tools that will let users add these capabilities to existing publishing platforms as easily as I installed Facebook and Twitter on my phone. Heck, WordPress itself is already Open Source. I’d love to be able to install a WordPress plugin that would IndieWebify this blog; there are some plugins out there for older microformats standards, but none fully supporting the microformats2 standard as far as I can tell. I don’t want to have to write my own CMS just to connect this blog to the Indie Web communications mechanisms.

Despite my idealism and my honest desire for an Open Web, I am concerned about IndieWebify’s ability to support this dream; it can’t be just a niche for techies. They need better outreach targeted to idealists like me whose desires outweigh their current coding capabilities, and they need to make the process itself much simpler. I hope the current model of IndieWebify is an intermediate step towards a simpler adoption pattern that will compete with Apple and Google from a usability perspective. In today’s computing world, usability has proven to be the ultimate judge of adoption as social tools such as Tumblr and WhatsApp have proven. By bridging the knowledge gap, the IndieWebify movement can go a long way towards building the next generation of the Open Web.

(Editor’s note: sometime prior to 1/20/18, the site with the original copy of this post disappeared from the internet. A copy of it can be found on the Internet Archive.

Google Recalls Staff to U.S. After Trump Immigration Order | Bloomberg

Read Google Recalls Staff to U.S. After Trump Immigration Order (Bloomberg.com)
Alphabet Inc.’s Google delivered a sharp message to staff traveling overseas who may be impacted by a new executive order on immigration from President Donald Trump: Get back to the U.S. now.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google delivered a sharp message to staff traveling overseas who may be impacted by a new executive order on immigration from President Donald Trump: Get back to the U.S. now.

Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai slammed Trump’s move in a note to employees Friday, telling them that more than 100 company staff are affected by the order. Continue reading Google Recalls Staff to U.S. After Trump Immigration Order | Bloomberg