Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Here We Go Again

September 17, 2022

It all sounds so new and exciting. Virtual property. Virtual reality. The Metaverse. Companies flocking to buy up space and presence. What baffles me is the frightening shallowness of context. After all, this isn’t the first time companies and individuals have laid out real money for virtual value.

Dial the time machine back about 15 years and it wasn’t the Metaverse it was another alternate reality option called Second Life. It still exists though you rarely hear anything about it anymore. Like so many iterations of Internet phenomenon it crested in popularity over a decade ago. It also promised broader vistas than the humdrum everyday work-a-day world of actual reality. Pick your look. Pick your outfits. Spend real money to upgrade and customize, to suit your every whim and taste. Not just your personal avatar but your living quarters and even your business. Yes, Second Life boasted a robust commercial presence of major industries as well as hopeful start-ups selling skins and other in-world options.

So to read the breathless hype about Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse is somewhat, well, stale. It’s been done before. Maybe not on the scale Zuckerberg promises or envisions. Then again, perhaps those visions are supported by tenuous presumptions. And though Facebook’s run has been impressive, the Internet is a short history with a lot of corpses. Many of which were top dog in their day, and people could never imagine an Internet without them.

Granted, Second Life never claimed to be more than entertainment, while Zuckerberg undoubtedly has loftier goals. Still, it’s a precedent at least worth mentioning and remembering.

So, don’t sink your 401K into buying virtual property just yet. It may well be true there’s nothing new under the sun, and therefore there’s a sucker born every minute. Or every decade or so.

Which Texts, Please?

June 27, 2022

I mean, how hard did you have to look to find a group like this to support your-predetermined conclusion that religious groups are in favor of abortion?

The group’s website is here, but although it claims to have started in the 70’s, the copyright information is only indicated as last year and there’s literally no information or activity on this site (at least without being a member). Not only that, there’s absolutely no indication of which sacred texts support the idea that a baby can be physical but not spiritual, or rather a clump of cells like a fingernail and then miraculously a human being with an immortal soul simply because of the birth process.

I’d love to know which texts they’re relying on. But really, for reporting purposes, we don’t need to actually substantiate anything. The average reader is neither literate enough nor has the attention span to process it, so we’ll just skip it.

Trust us. It’s true. Really.

Watching From Afar

June 26, 2022

I’ve been privileged now to have observed some pretty major events in recent American history while abroad. It’s a curious feeling, being physically so detached while glued to Internet news feeds. A few observations.

Of the multiple dozens of news feeds I scan daily, I have seen exactly zero headlines indicating there is a large percentage of US citizens who oppose abortion and are relieved this heinous practice is no longer federally protected. Not a single one. By just reading headlines you would be led to believe nobody in America was praying and hoping for this reversal, and that it’s a cruel and barbaric ruling imposed on a population overwhelmingly opposed to it. Although survey data is hard to analyze, what is clear is that the numbers fluctuate greatly depending on how terms are defined. Although there is a +- 10% at either end of the spectrum, who either support or oppose abortion under any circumstances, the vast majority of Americans fall somewhere in between. And somewhere in between is not what Roe v. Wade provided for.

The only headline I’ve seen all week indicating the presence of Americans who welcome the overturn of Roe v. Wade was from the British publication The Guardian.

Headlines almost universally refer to the repeal of Roe v. Wade in language that would lead the uneducated person to believe abortion is now illegal throughout our country, rather than the reality that it is no longer a federally mandated option. Abortion is not illegal in our country. It may be illegal in certain parts of the country, or may become illegal. But that’s a decision best left to more localized populations than dictated from the national level.

Much is said about the changes conservatives are bringing to American policy, but all of the extremely liberal changes that have been wrought since Roe v. Wade are depicted as de facto rights that have always existed and should be above challenge, as opposed to legislation and judicial decisions which, per our Constitution, are always open to review or revision. As amazed as many news stories sound, it is not an alien thing for the Supreme Court to reverse a previous decision. It is rare that it reverses it’s own decisions, but this should be a good thing, assuring both sides that such instances represent some very lengthy deliberation and study of the Constitution and law rather than a simple response to popular pressure. For example, the original Roe v. Wade decision is about 36 pages long. Dobbs vs. Jackson, which overturned Roe v. Wade this week, is 213 pages long. Clearly a lot of thought was given to this case.

I’ve seen stories citing cherry-picked, Western and European countries who are shell-shocked America could change it’s mind on this issue. This ignores the fact that abortion is limited in a large number of countries in the world. Again, since abortion has not been outlawed in the US, it would be more helpful if news reports compared apples to apples in their reporting.

There have also – predictably – been news stories featuring Christians lamenting this decision and asserting their support for abortion. Very little is mentioned – if at all – in such articles that probably the overwhelming majority of Christians worldwide understand abortion to be a violation of God’s Word in the Bible, and that certainly the largest Christian denomination on Earth – the Roman Catholic Church – has and does and (God-willing) will continue to oppose the practice steadfastly. I know there are Christians (some of them Catholic) who disagree with the Bible and their denominational stance, but it’s dishonest to ignore this difference of opinion simply to make it sound like all Christians everywhere support abortion (or should support it).

The (apparent) total lack of regard many lawmakers, celebrities, politicians, and other leaders in our culture have for the many, many people in America who believe abortion to be morally wrong, and who therefore believe it should not be a mandated right (paid for with tax dollars no less) or believe it should be illegal, is indicative of the growing polarization of our population and contributes directly to it. If you wish to disparage the logic or argumentation or conclusions of another citizen, all well and good. But if you simply want to insult and deride them and flip them off, you are not part of the solution to our polarization, you are part of the problem. This applies equally to people on both sides of any given issue. The unwillingness and inability to actually debate and simply scream and yell is a condemnation of our churches, our schools, and should be of utmost concern to our leaders. That they prefer to exploit it for their agendas is abysmal.

Much mockery has been made in recent years of those Americans who openly question the honesty and reliability of American media and news outlets. I suspect most of us are too jaded these days to implicitly trust much of any source (outside a sacred text). The incredibly disproportionate tone of the news media just this week alone ought to give pause for thought to whether or not the major American news outlets really are, as they claim, representing the news fairly and without bias. Not that this shouldn’t have been obvious for decades, but if anyone had any doubts about it, this week ought to make it clear.

My Technology Timeline

June 14, 2022

As someone who has been on the Internet for over 30 years (I was online before there was a World Wide Web and the graphical interface so ubiquitous to the online experience now), this is a really cool stroll down memory lane, as well as a fantastic visualization of the Big Dogs of Internet companies and how they have changed over time.

Which onramp did you use to get on the information highway and when? I had my first dial-up account in the early 90’s, and was checking e-mail through Unix-based systems like Pine and ELM. My route into IT was unexpected (and for some hilarious), but it was a part of roughly two decades of my professional life to some degree.

I remember the arrival of Yahoo! and providing internal training to staff at the corporate IT training company I joined in the mid-90’s, teaching them about the rapidly shifting Internet landscape as Yahoo! and other companies began to gain on American Online (AOL) in terms of providing portals or gateways to online web sites and destinations. Being able to see how companies arrived, jockeyed for position, enjoyed their moment in the sun, and then disappeared is fascinating. Good to find useful and fun things on the Internet instead of just fear-mongering and mis/dis-information!

A Gift That Keeps On Giving…

May 2, 2022

A bit late for the Christmas gift-giving scene, but perhaps an idea for birthdays or next Christmas? After all, it’s not often you can buy someone the gift of nobility!

That’s right, for an amazingly low amount (with a correspondingly low level of actual royal benefit!) you can purchase Scottish lordship or ladyship for someone. Since seeing this originally I’ve discovered there are other organizations with a similar model. But still, how cool is this?

Problematic Cuteness

December 16, 2021

I’m not immune to cuteness. Certainly there’s no lack of it available on the Internet. Perhaps you watched this little video as well. Cuteness a-plenty. And the first few times I watched it I chuckled. He is, certainly as the headline captures, a cheeky lad.

But then I kept thinking about it. And little by little I viewed it less than cute and more as problematic.

This isn’t a kid’s spontaneous exuberance. This isn’t a burst of spontaneity. This was planned. And I’m pretty positive the kid didn’t plan it all on his own.

There’s no hesitation. No uncertainty. No getting star-struck by the size of the arena or the lights. No wavering when being pursued. There’s an accomplice – assisting in either distraction or perhaps as an extra pair of hands to grab the ball initially or pass off to at the last minute. This was a pretty well-orchestrated heist.

And on its own there’s still a certain cuteness to it. It’s just a one-off event, after all. It’s not like they don’t have more game balls. But what does it teach us? What if it wasn’t a one-off but this happened in games and matches everywhere, all the time? I mean, beyond the fact that at some point the game balls would become more worthless because everybody already had one, what would this bring us to? The assumption that games should be regularly interrupted by the shenanigans of fans? What if they started swiping other things instead of just game balls?

All of this sounds pretty Grinch-y, but it just points out to me the double-standard we continue to create for young folks and reinforce in older folks. On the one hand we desperately want people to play by the rules and be good neighbors and co-workers and citizens and fans. On the other hand, we actively applaud those who flout the rules. This sets up an eventual collapse of order. You can’t tell kids in school to obey the rules and then act shocked when they don’t obey them because they’re being rewarded for breaking the rules.

Additionally there’s the sticky wicket of not being able to differentiate between which rules are acceptable to be broken and those that must not be broken. It’s ok to steal game balls but not ok to shoot up schools. Seems like a no-brainer, but obviously people are struggling with that differentiation. Or it’s ok to steal game balls but it’s not ok to default on legal and financial obligations you’ve sworn to uphold.

In which case you get articles like this (warning – profanity ahead) not explicitly telling people not to default on their student loans, but warning them there could be long-term repercussions beyond just freeing up short-term cash flow. Since they weren’t equipped by our massive and impressive educational system to realize that there are repercussions sometimes in going to college, and that loans need to be repaid. Obviously we can’t have everyone defaulting on their loans, can we? Even if they defaulters are cute. And yet when you break free morality and virtue from any comprehensive mooring, what else should you expect? If there isn’t a larger narrative wherein morals and virtue play important roles, why just pretend they’re important if you really believe there’s nothing bigger or greater than the moment or the span of this short life?

Kids aren’t stupid. They figure out pretty quickly that rules are arbitrary. And this further reinforces the larger cultural narrative that nothing has any real meaning anyway. We’re all just cosmic burps, accidents of gasses and molecules with no past greater than human desire and no future beyond the wall of death and no greater value in between than what we can beg, borrow or steal. We sit around and wring our hands about why the kids aren’t all right. More likely we just don’t want to acknowledge what we’re lacking. Contextualization. Meaning. Purpose. Not pretend stuff we make up for ourselves, but something rock-solid that carries us from the dawn of creation to the eternity after our deaths. Nothing short of this kind of meta-narrative can bear the weight of our personal disappointments and losses in this life, the voluntary (or involuntary) restraint of our desires and rages.

I’d have much preferred the cheeky lad to be met by parents who made him give the ball back, but I’m betting the parents are likely the ones who helped him plan it. Either actively with their presence or through their absence during his planning with others. It would ultimately have been not only cute but also important to have a morality and virtue greater than cuteness showcased. And I can quietly hope that actually happened. But you’re certainly not likely to see it filmed and going viral on the Internet.

The rod and reproof bring wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Proverbs 29:15

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 1:7

Watching Netflix

October 13, 2021

I’ve watched very little Dave Chappelle. A few YouTube clips at most. I don’t have a feel for his comedic style or where he might be coming from in life. The little I know about him is just that – little. So I don’t have opinions or perspectives on the controversial material that has thrust him into the spotlight again. Opinions and perspectives expressed in comedic observations, but which directly conflict with or challenge the prevailing championing of transgender issues.

This has earned him the ire of those who once felt he was on their side. A small group of Netflix employees have demanded Netflix remove the show. Netflix has thus far refused to do so, claiming it supports the creative license of content producers, and noting that Chappelle’s work as a whole has been some of the most widely viewed material Netflix has produced. No official word on whether this latest offering from Chappelle, entitled The Closer, follows in that lucrative and widely viewed path.

Personally, I wonder what Chappelle is up to. Either he’s boldly taking a stance contrary to the currently dominant vocal minority, or he’s orchestrating a larger-scale comedic event, where he’ll reveal at some point down the line how he was trolling those folks who cheered his countercultural stance. In the long run, I’d argue that it doesn’t matter.

What does matter, and what we should all be watching for carefully, is whether Netflix caves to that strident but very, very small minority of voices within the company insisting Chappelle’s show should be removed because it conflicts with their personal opinions and ideologies. The rest of Hollywood appears to have mostly caved to such voices long ago, and set about dutifully creating content that supports and encourages the sorts of lifestyles and world views championed by this minority. Upcoming new releases include a son-of-Superman comic line where the titular character is bisexual. Another includes a reboot of the awful 80’s horror franchise Child’s Play, this time serialized on cable channels and involving the main character (other than Chucky) just figuring out he’s gay.

Certainly there are a few voices like Chappelle’s willing to challenge this tidal wave of gender confusing material aimed squarely at children and adolescents ill-equipped to make healthy sense of it. But those voices are few and far between, or at least sparsely covered. When they are covered countering opinions overwhelm the actual material the article is allegedly about.

How ironic that those who champion inclusivity and diversity are adamant that any voice out of step with their own ideologies should be silenced. That was one of their complaints when other voices were reflecting or directing our cultural opinions.

What’s at stake here is creative license, to be certain. The reality is that approval and assent to gender and sex redefinitions is nowhere near unanimous. The minority of liberal voices seeks to create the appearance that their views and ideas (which are always in flux) are the majority view. If contrary material is made available to the public and is commercially successful it will demonstrate this is not the case, threatening the control these voices now exercise.

I commend Netflix. Not for their ideology necessarily, but for being a company instead of an ideological power. Their job is to create content and earn money for doing so. The market determines whether they continue to produce certain kinds of content. I don’t personally like slasher films like Child’s Play, nor am I much of a fan of most comedians today, Chappelle included. The question is whether people should determine what is produced by spending their money on it, or whether companies should determine what people like by only producing a certain kind of material.

So far the latter approach is holding sway, and I believe history will judge that trend harshly – both as a business model as well as a sociological movement. In the meantime, be aware of what your kids and grand-kids are watching, and don’t be surprised if they come to some conclusions about the world and right and wrong that are starkly different from your understandings and beliefs.

A Collection of Misinterpretations

August 11, 2021

A random assortment of interesting/frustrating news articles that caught my eye today.

First, as usual a great article from GetReligion.org (the Protestant jab aside). The press is insistent on characterizing the refusal of Sacraments to public and unrepentant members as ultimately a political ploy aimed at President Biden. That’s hardly the case. The press willingly and repeatedly ignores actually reporting on the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church (and many other Christian denominations) in favor of straw-man caricatures that suit their intentions of disparaging organized religion (particularly Christianity – you don’t see many similar articles about Judaism or Islam) or pressuring believers to view their historic and clearly articulated faith as no longer valid or binding in our more enlightened culture.

Second up in terms of allowing our implicit and explicit biases’ to affect our interpretation of things is this little article. The presence of gender-specific articles for both men and women in a single grave becomes an argument for historical evidence of a non-binary leader – someone 1000 years ago who didn’t neatly fit our allegedly cultural sex and gender classifications.

Because, you know, that’s the only possible explanation, which just so happens to justify the latest in cultural fads.

Because nobody is ever buried with items from someone else – possibly even someone of the opposite sex. A meaningful piece of jewelry from Mom or Dad, for example. How is it that objects can or should be used to argue for a sexual orientation (or lack thereof) in a burial from a thousand years ago? Is that good science? Good archaeology? Or just a convenient way of appealing to the apparent swing of the cultural pendulum, a swing that might mean a few bones thrown in terms of grants or donations?

Ugh.

And finally, I’ve been loathe to blog further regarding Covid and our responses to it (or responses imposed on us). I’m simply so tired of it all. The rhetoric on both sides is ridiculous. But this article I found somewhat darkly amusing. Apparently there have been posts online referencing I Am Legend, a mediocre but different zombie movie. People are referencing the movie claiming the zombies in it were the result of a vaccine.

That’s not literally true, as this article points out. But that’s rather splitting hairs, I’d argue. Yes, this is just a movie. A piece of fiction. And I’d hope that most of the people posting the memes are fully aware of that and aren’t presuming to claim the movie as any sort of evidence or justification of rejecting the Covid vaccine.

However it is fair game to remind us all that even the best-intentioned efforts can have unanticipated consequences, something the critics of such memes are quick to forget. The fact that the scientific method and scientific processes and individual and collective scientists did and continue to do their best in formulating Covid vaccines does not, in and of itself, preclude the possibility of unanticipated, negative side-effects. Rare but causal side effects have already been identified in many of the vaccines, and such observations are quickly drowned out by shouted insistence that the benefits are far greater to far more people than the infrequent side-effects. That may or may not be true – we won’t know for some time, as more and more unanticipated side-effects are identified, and as the overall effectiveness of the vaccines becomes better understood.

The role of good science fiction is to contemplate not just literal science but potential side-effects or abuses of science. Great heroes and villains populate the genre for their manipulation of various aspects of science and technology or their responses to it. The genre provides a ‘safe’ zone for contemplating real issues in the context of make-believe. The original Star Trek series utilized it for these purposes, as have great authors such as Ray Bradbury and Walter Miller Jr. Even The Lord of the Rings could be (and has been) interpreted as a commentary on science and technology and industry, noting that it isn’t these things in and of themselves that are evil, but only how they are used or misused or, just as validly, accidentally developed or implemented without enough information to accurately determine longer-range consequences.

GetReligion

May 22, 2021

That’s not intended to be proselytizing (though of course I would be the first to advocate not simply for religion but Christianity). Rather, it’s the name of a great web site dedicated to analyzing media reports on various subjects and topics to point out the “ghosts” in mainstream media – places where religion could have been brought into the report but wasn’t, presumably because liberal media has no interest in talking about religion, or when reporters simply appear to be ignorant about the religious dimensions of a story.

I’ve been following this site for over a decade and greatly appreciate their examination of the media. In case you’ve forgotten, give them a check out!

End of an Age

May 20, 2021

Roughly 25 years ago I made my first major career transition, moving from a network support role for a major private educational institution to a small company providing cutting edge IT training primarily to corporate customers. I became known within this new company as the Internet expert, though I doubt my credentials were a lot better than most of the other trainers. However my familiarity with the Internet from the pre-World Wide Web version we’re all familiar with today was considered deeply qualifying to make me the Internet expert.

I was sent to Redmond, Washington to be trained by Microsoft, Inc. on their new web browser – Internet Explorer. I had cut my teeth on UNIX command line interfaces and then moved to NCSA Mosaic and then Netscape when the World Wide Web began to be a thing beyond the limited scope of university pages and home pages dedicated to pets.

It was heady and exciting to be sent off for training by the premiere software company in the world. But it also seemed crazy. Someone was going to challenge Netscape’s practically universal dominance of the browser market? After Microsoft had essentially ignored the potential importance of the emerging Internet? Crazy! And yet, a quarter century later IE is still running out there while Netscape is long dead and buried.

I’ve long since moved beyond Internet Explorer. For years I made Google my default browser, enchanted with their early mantra/mission statement of Don’t be evil. They have discovered that this is harder than it might seem, and so I’ve been looking for an alternative. I’ve experimented with Firefox and other options but laziness always drove me back to Google. But now, on my latest laptop, I’ve decided not to download the Google browser and utilize the on-board alternative , Microsoft Edge – the successor to Internet Explorer.

No complaints thus far. Hopefully it’s sucking up less personal data than Google was, but I won’t be shocked to find that’s not the case. But in any event, it’s sad to see that Microsoft has definitely, finally announced the end of support for Internet Explorer. The end of an age…multiple ages perhaps, at least in technology terms.