Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Upon A Trip to the Mailbox

Did you know how much more you could have with our other services...?
Do you know how much you could save by switching...?
If you want to sell your house...?
Twenty percent off, this weekend only!

Junkmail seems endemic to life now. I wonder sometimes, in more wistful moods, whether anyone has actually figured out whether it is worth it. You assume it must be, because it keeps coming. I get solicitations from the same two realtors every month, both under the same company banner, both with the same form letter. Often they arrive on the same day. That sort of precision brings to mind automation. Is there a program or robot out there endlessly spewing out form letters to the same mailing lists, or is some human responsible. Or is it two humans following the same procedure, perhaps at the behest of another human. I suppose I'll never know, because I'll never bother to find out. They send me mail I don't want about goods and/or services I don't need that can be purchased with money I shouldn't be spending. And I put it into the recycle bin. One circle of modern life.

When we went online, it came with us. In this there is definitely automation. The sending of it is automated. The disposal of it is automated. And it morphs over time as one side of the automation fights the other to get it to or keep it from your eyeballs. Web technologies brought tracking capabilities to give us "targeted" ads that were supposed to eliminate the junk. But it seems they haven't learned to lead the target. I see you have bought some pants. Can I interest you in some pants? No. No you can not.

I don't really get mail from humans anymore. Except at Christmas. And then it's often a copied mini-newsletter, automation rearing its head again. Take a picture, upload the list, you don't even have to touch your own cards anymore. Efficiency. Email killed off letters. Texting cut down on phone calls. Messaging cuts into both texting and email. Social media allows content to be broadcast; a view into the everyday thoughts, large and small. One they have managed somehow to get us all to opt in for. Inefficient words are usurped by emoji and pictures. Pictures expanded to gifs and video. And yet, there is more text and writing than ever before. Communication abounds, expands, becomes manifold, becomes noise, becomes junk.

Contentment is such an elusive thing. Happiness remains the art of picking the wheat from the chaff, focusing on the positive rather than the horrible or the terrifying. Seeking solace in the everyday banal miracles, the inching forward movements. Convincing yourself that the question "what do I want to do next?" is a source of hope and empowerment rather than a acknowledgement of fear. And this is what we do, each and every one of us with our own personal struggles. Trapped in our own heads, looking out at the world, and hoping not to misinterpret too badly. And yet we all remain inextricably tied together. Not just by words and pictures, but through action (and sometimes inaction). Together we move everything forward. Together we sift through the junk.

One trip to our various mailboxes at a time.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Watching the Watchers: Trump is a Bully

I'm a stereotypical nerd who grew up in the 80s, and I was at times bullied. One particular kid stands out in my memory because he was at it for years. At one point he gathered a literal mob lead by a football player who was two years ahead of us by telling the player I had insulted him. Until the day I die, I will never forget the glee I saw on his face in that moment, standing behind the mob and leaning to his left to get a good view of my discomfort.

Trump, to me, reads exactly the same as that boy, and similar to others of his ilk I have encountered. That is why I am not going to be neutral or indifferent about his run for President. While there is still a slim chance that the Republican party can pull some parliamentary tricks to prevent it, right now Trump is their presumptive nominee. Many people can't understand that, but once you see the middle school bully, the pattern holds pretty well.

The abuse of reporters and protesters (and the follow-on denials). The petty and puerile attacks on his opponents. The central importance of ego ("I've never lost a lawsuit."). It's all there. And other folks see it too, though they may cast it into a different light.

According to Politifact, fully half of Trump's statements are flat false. He's lying at a shocking rate even by politician standards. But it doesn't matter. As Nicole Hemmer points out for USNews, "They brought facts to an ego fight, and found them to be worthless weapons." She invokes Gaslighting, which is a type of psychological abuse. The pattern really does seem to fit. And later this fall we will see whether an entire nation will fall for it.

I would love to speculate on why. Did the Republican hate-rhetoric against Obama cause their party's downfall because they were seen as failures? Is it pent-up Racism (again, "thanks Obama"). Is Trump just that much of a "master persuader" as Dilbert creator Scott Adams refers to him? (Adams also refers to him as a con-man in that post, lest I be accused of picking and choosing quotes.) But in the end it doesn't really matter. There are only two ways to deal with a bully. You remove yourself from anywhere you might come in contact with them, or you beat them soundly enough that you no longer seem like an easy target.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Rambling Thoughts on a Post that I'm Not Going to Make

I want to post a thought I just had:
"Not enough time. Not enough sleep. Feedback loop."

Feels perfectly formulated for Twitter. But Twitter is where I go to put more disengaged things. I try at write things there that could, at least theoretically be of interest to others. It's my squeaking-into-the-void social media outlet. And that thought is a very on-the-nose personal one right now. That's why I had it in the first place.

I could put it on Facebook, but that's seen by my parents, pastors, and random-[donkey] people I knew in high school. It feels a little glib for that venue, but at the same time a little too accurate. I don't want to look like I'm fishing for sympathy, I just want that thought out of my head so I can move on. I suppose this is why some people keep a journal. I've tried that, and I'm bad at it. (Though I do it reasonably well for work.) It points out the sameness of my day-to-day life, which is boring to write about. A sameness I would point out, that I have worked very hard to provide myself.

No doubt sleep is on my mind because earlier this afternoon I set some clocks ahead for tonight's time change. Also because of a study that reported six hours of sleep being, in the long run, almost like not sleeping at all. I'm a person that needs a good amount of sleep, but it's hard to know just how much anymore. I haven't been left to my own devices to set a sleep schedule since I started working. And I haven't consistently gotten more than six hours of sleep a night in the better part of two decades. I'm old enough now to feel it. There are good and bad things about that.

It looks like I won't be posting that little thought to my more widely seen outlets. Instead, it wound up here. Hidden in a public place. With far more justification than it probably deserves.

Now you must excuse me. I have a few more things to do today, and I'm running short on time.

Watching the Watchers: Political Crassness

Some people are concerned with the crassness on display in recent Presidential debates. On the grand scale, America remains pretty tame. For a little bit of global perspective, I present for your consideration the Kosovo Parliament wherein the opposition party attempts to obstruct the majority party by setting off teargas. In every session for the past six months. This quote, I think, sums up the situation nicely:
"In their latest protest against a 2015 EU-brokered deal with Serbia, opposition members of parliament on Thursday released two canisters, threw a glass of water at Prime Minister Isa Mustafa and aimed red lasers at the interior minister's face." —Fatos Bytyci for Reuters