Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mozy, sketchy

Here’s the text of an e-mail I received this morning, purporting to be from the (excellent) backup service Mozy:

This message looks sketchy to me: no greeting, no signature, no contact information. The tech jargon reads as if its purpose is to baffle. There’s significant inconsistency: upgrade, update. And the strange underlining in that ominous final sentence: “Please accept the update request when it occurs.” Even the period is underlined.

This stern, cryptic message makes quite a contrast to Mozy’s shiny, cheerful newsletter-like e-mails to users. An excerpt from such an e-mail, one I received this morning, twenty minutes before the upgrade e-mail:

I can think of two ways to explain the upgrade e-mail:

1. It’s bogus.

Yet the e-mail appears to come from a genuine Mozy address. So:

2. It’s genuine, written by a tech-minded employee who wasn’t thinking about how the message might look to a lay reader.

At Mozy’s user forum, the authenticity of the upgrade e-mail has been an open question for eleven hours. How about it, Mozy? Are you willing to tell your users whether this e-mail is real? And if it is, are you willing to do better?

Thoreau pencil

From an auction to benefit the Thoreau Society and Thoreau Farm Trust: a “genuine Thoreau pencil.” Current bid: $270.

Cambridge Analytica, continued

Channel 4 News continues its report on Cambridge Analytica. Today, the company’s work with a recent presidential campaign.

“On the Road”

Here is a fourth (and probably final) piece of Lassie fan-fiction. You can click on each image for a slightly larger page. Enjoy.

Related reading
All OCA Lassie and Route 66 posts (Pinboard)

And three previous pieces of Lassie fan-fiction
“The ’Clipse” : “The Poet” : “Bon Appétit!”

[The lines that Buz recites are from sonnet 18: “Kiss me, rekiss me, & kiss me again: / Give me one of your most delicious kisses, / A kiss in excess of my fondest wishes: / I’ll repay you four, more scalding than you spend.” From Louise Labé, Love Sonnets and Elegies, trans. Richard Sieburth (New York: New York Review Books, 2014). Paul Martin recites Exodus 22:21 (KJV). The Timmy and Buz backstories will be familiar to fans of Lassie and Route 66. This story has a few treats for anyone who’s read my other Lassie stories.]

Monday, March 19, 2018

Steroids and stilts

“Trump is Nixon on steroids and stilts”: John Dean (who should know) on CNN just now.

[Meaning: Trump has gone well beyond Nixon in obstructing justice. I realized only this morning why this remark caught my ear: alliteration and zeugma.]

Channel 4 News
and Cambridge Analytica

From Channel 4 News, a five-part series about Cambridge Analytica: first, about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook; second, about Cambridge Analytica’s claims to use bribes and sex workers to entrap political candidates. Part three, about the company’s doings in the United States, arrives tomorrow.


Part three, about the company’s work with a recent presidential campaign.

“Facebook’s Surveillance Machine”

In The New York Times, Zeynep Tufekci writes about “Facebook’s Surveillance Machine”:

Facebook doesn’t just record every click and “like” on the site. It also collects browsing histories. It also purchases “external” data like financial information about users (though European nations have some regulations that block some of this). Facebook recently announced its intent to merge “offline” data — things you do in the physical world, such as making purchases in a brick-and-mortar store — with its vast online databases.

Facebook even creates “shadow profiles” of nonusers. That is, even if you are not on Facebook, the company may well have compiled a profile of you, inferred from data provided by your friends or from other data. This is an involuntary dossier from which you cannot opt out in the United States. . . .

A business model based on vast data surveillance and charging clients to opaquely target users based on this kind of extensive profiling will inevitably be misused.
I’d like to say that I’ve never been happier not to be part of Facebook, but there’s probably a shadow profile of me somewhere, lengthening.

Branching out

From the Father Knows Best episode “Bud Branches Out” (October 12, 1959), father Jim Anderson speaking to his son Bud, a college freshman:

“I still say you ought to branch out more in the courses than you’re planning to. I know you’re taking a pre-engineering course, but remember, the successful engineer today also needs to know languages, economics, philosophy, the humanities.”
These days Jim’s advice sounds almost counter-cultural.

Other FKB posts
“Betty’s Graduation” : Flowers knows best : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : “A Woman in the House” : “Your dinner jacket just arrived”

Mystery actor

Who can it be now? Do you recognize him? Leave your best guess in the comments. I’ll drop a hint if necessary. But I don’t think it will be.

10:08 a.m.: That was fast. The answer is in the comments.

More mystery actors (Why not collect them all?)
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Trappist survival

The New York Times reports on Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery struggling to survive. Aging monks, dwindling numbers, and a plan to attract month- and year-long affiliate members.

I remember watching a PBS documentary about Mepkin some years ago, when the abbey appeared to be flourishing.