Fly Me To The Moon …

December 14, 2017

Harrison Schmitt was the last of only twelve humans ever to walk on the moon. Forty-five years ago today — yes, way back in 1972 — his ship took off from the moon and we have not been back since.

Manned space flight was the dream of my father’s generation.  We boomers pushed us into the unmanned and more machine-driven discovery of space at the same time as we were inventing programmed stock trading, robotic automation, and plugged-in entertainment.  We love machines apparently.

I wonder where the millennials will take us?

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Double Decker Busses, At Last!

November 16, 2017

Way back in April 2012, I wrote a post about using double-decker busses in Vancouver. So, it was a great pleasure to read today that Translink are finally trialling the beasts in Metro.

And when they are done — the busses that is — we already know how to recycle them creatively.

 

 

 


60 Years Ago — “Beep Beep Beep”

October 4, 2017

I was just a few weeks away from my 8th birthday when my father sat me on his knee specifically to listen to our old radio spit out some strange sounds — “Beep.  Beep.  Beep.”  Even through the static we knew we had never heard the like of it before.

On October 4th, 1957 — just sixty years ago — the space age began with the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.  I’m sure the surprise in the US was far greater than we felt in Europe.  We Europeans were already terrified of the power of the grey beasts just a few hundred miles to the east of our cozy nest in West London.  It seemed to many that Russian tanks could overrun Europe at any moment, and the technological genius of Sputnik simply confirmed our anxiety.

But again, there was always that secret spot inside that reveled in the fact that a European power had beaten the Americans into space.  And for my socialist grandfather and his cadre of friends, it was yet another sign that the Workers’ Paradise was superior in every respect to the Mickey Mouse- and Doris Day-loving capitalists.

In the end, I’m sure this had little to do with the ultimate end of the Cold War.  The costs of the space race were minuscule compared to the economy-shuddering trillions spent on the arms race by both sides.  But without Sputnik and all that followed, we would be a very different and more distanced world today.


Reason #229 NOT To Use Facebook

September 15, 2017

Companies and organisations that want to advertise on Facebook can apparently choose to target their ads to a wide variety of demographics. That sounds like a useful tool. However, as the Guardian reports:

“Facebook has allowed advertising to target users interested in the topics of “Jew hater” and “How to burn Jews”, according to an investigation that adds to mounting criticisms of the way the company allows and profits from unethical ads. ProPublica, an investigative news organization, reported on Thursday that the social network’s self-service ad-buying system allowed people to direct advertisements to nearly 2,300 users interested in several explicitly antisemitic subjects, including a category labeled “History of ‘why Jews ruin the world’”.”

During the previous week, it was revealed that:

“a group that appeared to be based in Russia had spent $100,000 on ads [on Facebook] promoting political messages in a two-year period. The ads had spread divisive views on topics such as immigration, race and LGBT rights … A recent report in the Daily Beast suggested that Russian operatives used Facebook’s events tool to organize and promote political protests and anti-immigrant rallies while hiding behind false identities.”

It seems that, until they are found out and shamed, Facebook will sell anything to anyone provided it makes money for them; and ethics be damned.

 

Previous Reasons NOT to use Facebook.


Reason #228 NOT to Use Facebook

June 16, 2017

Facebook wrote some code that was so faulty that it revealed to terrorists the names of FB moderators who were charged with shutting down terrorist postings. As the Guardian reported:

Of the 1,000 affected workers, around 40 worked in a counter-terrorism unit based at Facebook’s European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Six of those were assessed to be “high priority” victims of the mistake after Facebook concluded their personal profiles were likely viewed by potential terrorists. The Guardian spoke to one of the six, who did not wish to be named out of concern for his and his family’s safety. The Iraqi-born Irish citizen, who is in his early twenties, fled Ireland and went into hiding after discovering that seven individuals associated with a suspected terrorist group he banned from Facebook – an Egypt-based group that backed Hamas and, he said, had members who were Islamic State sympathizers – had viewed his personal profile … Overwhelmed with fear that he could face retaliation, the moderator, who first came to Ireland as an asylum seeker when he was a child, quit his job and moved to eastern Europe for five months.

Any complex system can have issues, but, once discovered,

the bug in the software was not fixed for another two weeks … By that point the glitch had been active for a month. However, the bug was also retroactively exposing the personal profiles of moderators who had censored accounts as far back as August 2016.

Previous Reasons Not to Use Facebook posts


Reason #227 NOT to use Facebook

May 19, 2017

Because of their censorship in Malta.

Facebook has deleted four posts from a Maltese journalist and they blocked him from his FB account because — well, why is still an open question (“Facebook is investigating the circumstances of the deletions and declined to comment”).

“The posts, which were written in Maltese, contained allegations of wrongdoing by prime minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, and minister of energy Konrad Mizzi. Each post included images of documents from the Panama Papers leak … The deletions raise questions about how Facebook moderates journalism.”

 

Sure looks as if the local  FB office wanted to protect the power elite.

Previous Reasons NOT to use Facebook.


Reason #226 NOT to use Facebook

May 11, 2017

During the Presidential campaign last year, Mark Zuckerberg occasionally complained about Trump policy ideas, especially those that hurt his own business (like immigration reform).  However, FB was also a major source and platform for much of the fake news that helped swing the campaign to Trump.

There has been much talk this year that Zuckerberg will run for office in 2020. What as, one wonders. Many of Trump’s polices, such as tax reform, will do little but make Zuckerberg even richer than he already is,  and it cannot be a coincidence that he has had “multiple” telephone conversations with Trump since the inauguration.

Now, Facebook has attacked and censored a group that supports women’s right to choose by assisting them to access medical supplies (I wonder how many big pharma companies are banned from FB for promoting “drug use?)  This is music to the far-right GOP base and provides yet another reason NOT to use Facebook.

 

Previous Reasons NOT to use Facebook