Software

Not Really Worth Your Time

[#nevermind]

Detail of video for "You Tell 'Em", by Zebra Katz x Leila

Two and a half not-quite random notes on blogging:

(1) While This Is has seen, in recent months, an apparent increase in readership, it is, as near as anyone can tell, all bots and spiders and whatever else. The pattern is clear, though: When posting daily, it is true the blog sees greater readership than, say, this time last year. Longer periods between posts can trigger a swell in readership; it really does appear some manner of Scooby-Snack behavioral econ, trying to get attention so someone will be encouraged to use the product more.

This Is weird: Top Searches for This Is, ca. 19 February 2018.(2) While this would seem to point back to WordPress and Automattic, neither can I explain the weird phenomenon about “Top Searches”. Then again, this has been going on longer than the increased reader statistics that never really do add up. Still, the constant inquiries about journalists are ridiculous.   (more…)

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A Note on Why the Internet Goes to Hell When It Dies

[#nevermind]

Did you Know? In 2009, Eminem tweeted proof that he scored 465,800 in Donkey Kong, making him one of the highest scorers in the world. [via Salon.com, 11 November 2017]The Internet—(no, I do not like Capitalizing the Word)—sees fit to inform me that—

In 2009, Eminem tweeted proof that he scored 465,800 in Donkey Kong, making him one of the highest scorers in the world.

(via Salon.com; #nevermind)

—and no, it is true I did not know this before; nor is it clear how I should feel about this information. No, seriously, other than the fact that some editor somewhere saw fit to include a trivial widget to tell me stuff like this, I had precisely no reason to care.

Meanwhile, something, something, and now for something completely different.   

Hey, how about this: If I blame Tom Clancy, how fucking smart are you?

Even More (Rape Culture)

[#rapeculture]

Fight: Mikasa awakens ― Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, 'The World the Girl Saw: The Struggle for Trost, Part 2'.

The lede from Reuters:

Amazon Studios chief Roy Price was put on an immediate leave of absence Thursday, the company said, following allegations that he harassed a producer and ignored an actress’s claim of a sexual assault by producer Harvey Weinstein.

Prognostication being more or less the art of capricious but not quite arbitrary projection, a certain obvious question arises: How many entertainment execs are about to fall? One of the interesting questions becomes whether Tinseltown is about to explode into a million billion tiny, glittering pieces; Hollywood, after all, is a town that has long needed more than just an enema.

There is an alternative at least as obvious as the question itself, that maybe one or two more high-profile entertainment executives might fall from grace, and then society will decide that we have discovered and weeded out the few bad seeds, and get on with show business as usual.

And, hey, maybe the next round can be in the music industry, so we can finally free Kesha, but society probably needs a couple years off, first. You know, only a few at a time. I mean, there are only a few bad seeds, y’know, at any one time.

(cough)

Just compared to shattering Hollywood, which itself seems unlikely, what, really, is the chance this is the beginning of a chain reaction lashing severely through the halls of American financial and commercial power tearing away significant chunks of institutionalized rape culture?

(sigh)

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Image note: Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, “The World the Girl Saw”.

Reuters Staff. “Amazon Studios chief Roy Price suspended following harassment allegation”. Reuters. 12 October 2017.

A Deplorable Nexus

#deplorable | #WhatTheyVotedFor

"Shame on The Daily Beast for stealing this joke headline from our draft folder, we [puts finger to ear] ah, I see" [@pointclickbait, via Twitter, 29 August 2017]

The tweet is not a joke. Or, as Brian Patrick Byrne really does explain for the Daily Beast:

On Friday, Persson, who sold Minecraft to Microsoft for $2.5 billion in 2014, tweeted “(pizzagate is real),” to his almost 3.9 million followers. The tweet immediately caught the attention of a vocal crowd of supporters that continues to believe a debunked conspiracy theory that Democrats led a pedophile ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C.

When The Daily Beast asked Persson to clarify his beliefs on Friday, the 38-year-old responded: “I feel more like people are picking one of two sides emotionally in this incredibly insanely huge binary split, much like politics.”

However, shortly afterward, Persson embarked on a verbose defense of Pizzagate. The man who publicly called Zoe Quinn, the initial victim of Gamergate, a “cunt” in June, rallied up even more support among ardent believers, writing: “People are saying there’s a lot of suspect codewords including the word ‘pizza’. That place has very disturbing art and social media.”

Persson was referring to Comet Ping Pong, the name of the pizzeria from where conspiracy theorists falsely believe Clinton, and her former campaign chairman John Podesta, operated a child sex trafficking ring in its basement, despite the shop having no basement. The theory was born out of what believers say are coded messages in Podesta’s emails, like “pizza” for “little boy,” made public by Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential election.

And, you know, while it is easy enough to appeal to any excuse to recall Elton John, but sometimes the answer is simply no. We already know this story and its sickness, and while it is easy enough to say this is all about supremacism and lulz, at some point these facts are supposed to mean something. We might suggest this is an astonishing nexus of deplorability, but would be overstating the circumstance. Predictable is hardly astonishing, and a steaming heap of blended whatnot does not a nexus make.

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@pointclickbait. “Shame on The Daily Beast for stealing this joke headline from our draft folder, we [puts finger to ear] ah, I see”. Twitter. 29 August 2017.

Byrne, Brian Patrick. “Minecraft Creator Alleges Global Conspiracy Involving Pizzagate, a ‘Manufactured Race War,’ a Missing Tabloid Toddler, and Holistic Medicine”. The Daily Beast. 29 August 2017.

(h/t to Barry Deutsch.)

Unsurprising (Touchy Feelgood)

Detail of frame from 'Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor' episode 8, "Twinkling Sun on a Summer Day …"

This is the least surprising news since the last time we said something of the sort; via Amitha Kalaichandran at The Cut:

In the study, researchers from the University of British Columbia surveyed 99 people and found that they behaved more “rationally” when shopping at a desktop computer compared to a touchscreen device (in this case, an iPod Touch). In one experiment, for instance, participants using the touchscreen indicated that they were more likely to make a “hedonic” purchase, like a restaurant gift card, than they were to buy a more useful item like a grocery store gift card; for desktop users, the opposite was true. In another experiment, the study subjects took a test to measure their thinking style on a scale from experiential (a more freewheeling, impulsive thought process) to rational (careful, analytical). In general, those using the touchscreen were higher on the former way of thinking, and those on the desktop on the latter.

Part of the discrepancy, the researchers note, likely stems from the fact that touchscreens are just more fun to use: “When a consumer uses a touchscreen device, the novelty and fun generated by finger movements create experiential and affective feelings, in alignment with the playfulness and emotional nature of hedonic products,” they wrote.

No, really. Just try to tell yourself you didn’t see that one coming.

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Image note: Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor.

Kalaichandran, Amitha. “Touchscreens Turn You Into a More Impulsive Shopper”. The Cut. 25 August 2017.

A Tragic Tale of Tools

#lulz | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 2, 'Firestarter'.

Trying to explain #pizzagate reminds of an old lyricα: “Baring your soul was the in thing to do. It’s fun and it’s easy for an empty-headed fool.” And it’s true, those recalling the period closely―and thus painfully―enough, yes, the line works well enough. Indeed, we might cringe recalling Iron John and the mythic Fire in the Belly, but the vinyl memory also brings to mind a trend of men exploring their feelings, shedding fear about shedding tears, and, of course, reinforcing the stereotypes they would ostensibly otherwise break by pursuing their feminine sides. It is then, merely coincidental―or, you know, not, given how the interconnectedness of all things is most affecting of our lives when asserting through the historical record―that scattershot assertions of traditional masculinity find themselves so close to an invented scandal asserting child sexual exploitation by one group while relying on an opposing group wallowing in child rape fantasies.

Never mind. Andrew Breiner takes his turn for Salon:

But a small number of people on message boards like 4chan and Reddit were more interested in seemingly mundane emails about small social gatherings and parties hosted by Podesta and his friends. Specifically, they noticed that these emails mentioned pizza a few times.

Boldly disregarding the simple explanation that the emailers, like most Americans, eat pizza regularly and find it to be an easy food to serve and eat while socializing, self-appointed Internet detectives decided that “pizza” was a complex code for pedophilia. Using this code, Pizzagaters claim, Podesta and his well-heeled pals could brazenly discuss their plans for throwing disgusting sex parties exploiting enslaved children, in between exchanges about Clinton’s campaign strategy and setting up conference calls.

It’s important to note that since the theories that would become Pizzagate began on 4chan and Reddit, sites known for trolling people with cruel, complicated pranks, it’s likely that many of the conspiracy theory’s originators were joking―coming up with absurdities to entertain themselves.

But it took a very short time for /r/Pizzagate, the now-closed Pizzagate-focused Reddit subforum, or subreddit, to fill with people who appeared to be true believers. The theory also became popular on Reddit’s “The Donald,” a hub for Trump supporters. From there, Pizzagate caught the attention of conservative fake news sites, minor white supremacist celebrities, and supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It’s been amplified for unknown reasons by Twitter bots traced to the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Vietnam.

To the one, we can only reiterate the question of whether or not Trump supporters are complaisant assets to the machinations of international interests, but perhaps more importantly we should note, to the other, the question of lulz.

That is to say, we might recall Brendan Gauthier’s report for Salon in September:

Perhaps the most noteworthy admission came from a 4chan user who openly acknowledged the big scary alt-right’s satirical (and inflammatory) edge: “CTR shills still not realising that pol is a board of satire and our only mission is to meme the retarded manchild to the white house for the lulz.”

This is one of those weird facets we might wish to pay some attention to. Overseas twitterbots are sufficient to move a soft-headed religious fanatic to terrorize a pizzeria as a means of taking up arms against Hillary Clinton; the lulzaholics ought to be proud, but what about the rest of Donald Trump’s supporters?

In the end, it’s all the same. They get played by Russian trolls, international misinformation bloggers, and botnets around the world because they want to.

It is easy enough to remind that it always has been about supremacism and lulz; as the excuses fall away, what else will be left?

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α Memory insists it comes from a Seattle band from the late eighties into the early nineties called Chemistry Set, but that vinyl echo is really dusty.

Image note: Naota gets screwed. (Detail of frame from FLCL episode 2, “Fire Starter”.)

Breiner, Andrew. “Pizzagate, explained: Everything you want to know about the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria conspiracy theory but are too afraid to search for on Reddit”. Salon. 10 Deceember 2016.

Gauthier, Brendan. “Pepe’s post-debate identity crisis: Online alt-right turns on Donald Trump after his presidential debate fiasco”. Salon. 27 September 2016.

The Eternal Question of Laughing or Crying

Detail of 'xkcd' #1726 by Randall Munroe, 28 August 2016.“I’m excited about the proposal to add a ‘brontosaurus’ emoji codepoint because it has the potential to bring together a half-dozen different groups of pedantic people into a single glorious internet argument.”

Randall Munroe

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Image note: Detail of xkcd #1726 by Randall Munroe, 28 August 2016.

A Note About Software

Detail of frame from 'Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor' episode 8, "Twinkling Sun on a Summer Day …"

It is true I really, really don’t understand the bit about how software gets to decide, arbitrarily, when to function or not.

Obviously, that’s not really the case, but I don’t get why simple functions like writing proper data to files randomly escape various applications’ faculties. It would seem that the basic functions of the software ought to include working properly, but as people I know in the industry remind, that’s just not fair. Making software is really hard, and nothing is written to standard because there are no standards despite the fact that the industry has formal standards.

This is not necessarily, then, a software issue. Rather, it seems a matter of the business model.

Nor am I being fair; not all software is written to the nickel and dime prime directive informing the decisions of the tech sector in general.

Look, if I’m doing something really complicated? Yeah, occasionally the software is going to glitch up. But I’m sorry, while software is really, really hard to do, that line becomes something of a head scratcher when the issue is why saving files properly is somehow too much to ask of software.

Because I don’t understand this. The best work-around at present is stop production and wait for the update. Spending for alternative software is not always feasible.

Honestly, if expecting your application to properly save data is asking too much, look, I’m not going to drive a stake through your heart, or anything, but come on. What’s the problem? You and I both know the answer isn’t to say that software is hard to do. We both know this is a problem has to do with the business model.

The joke used to be, Good enough for government work. These days it is, Good enough for the tech sector.

This is what it comes down to: Creating software is essentially a matter of setting billions of switches properly according to intricate designs. It is not worth the investment to actually do this properly.

Update: It would seem a bug believed fixed seven years ago is once again in play. Workaround: Figure out which non-alphanumeric characters―especially Unicode resolutions like u2026 (ellipsis)―do or don’t write properly to image file comment data. You know, where you might put copyright information. Good luck. [8 Aug. 2016]

Guesticles (Bug Style)

'I have completed the laundry'.  Detail of Bug Martini, by Joel Duggan, 31 August 2015.When last we heard from Adam, our hero departed to France in search of capers, though hopefully not one involving old pottery and a Dick.

Meanwhile, back at the ‘Toonion Hall, the ever-talented Joel Duggan dons the super-suit, and it’s worth noting at least the laundry was finished.

And if you’re going to tell me you don’t know who Joel freakin’ Duggan is, I’m just going to tell you to do what I did, and go read Starcrossed.

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Joel Duggan, 31 August 2015. Everybody say, “Thank you, Joel!”

Every Little Thing the Reflex Does (Clarence Mark Remix)

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas laughs while talking with other guests at The Federalist Society's 2011 Annual Dinner. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

This seems significant:

Justice Clarence Thomas has not asked a question from the Supreme Court bench since 2006. His majority opinions tend to be brisk, efficient and dutiful.

Now, studies using linguistic software have discovered another Thomas trait: Those opinions contain language from briefs submitted to the court at unusually high rates.

The findings that the taciturn justice’s opinions appear to rely heavily on the words of others do not suggest misconduct — legal writing often tracks source materials — but they do illuminate his distinctive role on the court.

Since his views on major legal questions can be idiosyncratic and unlikely to command a majority, he is particularly apt to be assigned the inconsequential and technical majority opinions that the justices call dogs. They often involve routine cases involving taxes, bankruptcy, pensions and patents, in which shared wording is particularly common.

Justice Thomas’s seven majority opinions in the last term were on average just 12 pages long and contained little but a summary of the facts and quotations from or characterizations of the relevant statutes and precedents. Since opinions are signed by justices but often drafted by law clerks, it may be that any borrowed language was the work of Justice Thomas’s clerks.

(Liptak)

It is true that such notions and the details from which they arise seem to many people obscure, or even petty. But to even casual observers of the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas is something of an enigma. And every time we get a glimpse into how he undertakes his role and duties as a Supreme Court Justice, we only end up with more questions, each stranger than the last.

But that’s the thing; compared to other aspects of his tenure, this isn’t exactly scandalous. In questions of scandal, it is just another piece of data that could be construed as relevant. Without worrying about such questions of scandal, this really is fascinating.

No, really:

In June, he slipped in a playful aside. What he had just read, a description of synthetic drugs, he said to laughter, was “a sentence which I completely do not understand.”

Still, there is actually a lot more to Adam Liptak’s report for the New York Times; and, yes, it really is fascinating.

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Image note: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas laughs while talking with other guests at The Federalist Society’s 2011 Annual Dinner. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

Liptak, Adam. “A Supreme Court Justice of Few Words, Many of Them Other People’s”. The New York Times. 27 August 2015.