Truth Tellers, Not Ratings Seekers

As someone who studied journalism and went on to work as a journalist for a little while, and who spent a lot of time writing headlines, I feel the need to illuminate a few things. Headlines are not news. They are clickbait. They were clickbait long before clicking was a thing. They are eyecatching, barely informative tidbits designed to get you to read the rest of the story. The best headline I ever wrote, which won me an actual award, was … Student Council Out For Blood. Doesn’t tell you much does it? Makes you want to know what the story had to say, I bet. That’s what headlines are created to do. It is their function. They are meant to attract your attention. Once again, repeat after me, all headlines are clickbait and always have been, throughout all of journalistic history. They are not news.

And here’s something you should know about the stories under the headlines … 75% or more of every story is mostly unnecessary fluff and cruft. Once upon a time, the first paragraph of a story would contain all the most important information. Who, what, when, where, why, and how. The rest of the story descended through layers of further information to flesh that out, and the lower any particular paragraph of information appeared in a story, the less important it was. Why, you ask? Long ago in the dark ages, those of us who worked in the layout and paste up room had to make stories fit into spaces. We’d trim from the bottom up until it fit. If doing so made the story incomprehensible or otherwise less readable, then it had to be rewritten or was simply left out. Being a journalist meant you wrote every paragraph as though it might the closing to your story, and you were always ready to do some light editing if that wasn’t going to work. My how times have changed, and quite frankly, I believe that most of the problems journalists and journalism itself face today have been caused by the lack of any necessity to be concise and precisely accurate in a limited space.

It’s not just the change to Google News that’s grinding my gears today. That was just the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve been irritated and sometimes enraged by the state of journalism generally and American journalism particularly for quite a long while. Without respectable news sources and journalists who are willing to be truth tellers rather than ratings seekers, we are … to put it bluntly … doomed. Why do you think one of the first things a dictator does is take over all sources of information? Because that’s where the power resides. That power can be used for good or evil, and I’m not seeing a great many news outlets using it for good these days.

News today feels like propaganda, because in essence, that is what it has become. It’s market tested, light on facts and heavy on opinion, and the vast majority of it is designed to persuade rather than inform. And in its mad glee to appear “unbiased”, modern journalism tells both sides of stories that only have one actual factual side. Such is the crazy world we now live in. Most days, I feel as though it has all gone so far over the brink that journalism as we know it now cannot be redeemed, and there is no coming back from this “scoop first, find out facts later” insanity. I hold out hope that somewhere out there are young people wanting to be journalists … old school, tell it like it is, hell-be-damned journalists, and not just using words and “access” to gain fame, fortune, glory, and power. I guess time will tell. I’ll be watching and waiting for a new generation of truth tellers to emerge, but I suspect I’ll be watching and waiting for quite a while.

Seeing Clearly

It’s funny story time!

Last night, I was lounging in my recliner playing FFXIV, without my glasses on. If I’m doing something mind boggling repetitive in a game (ex: leveling up crafting), seeing it 100% clearly isn’t necessary. When I decided I wanted to go kill some things, I grabbed my glasses and put them on. Everything looked wrong, and I got instant vertigo. I mean, it was like they weren’t my glasses at all! I took them off, laid them on the side table, and proceeded to kill slightly blurry wolves for a few minutes. A little while later, having completely forgotten the first experience, I absentmindedly put them on again. The same thing happened. WTF!!! I immediately removed them again.

While killing a few more slightly blurry wolves, I mentally ran through all the health problems that might cause a severe and immediate change in vision. I didn’t even need to consult Dr. Google, because I’d looked it up before. The list is pretty short, and none of them are good (though a couple are not actually life threatening). You know, stuff like strokes, brain tumors, and so on. I discounted all but a migraine, though that would be an unusual migraine symptom for me. Also, I can’t recall the last migraine I had, because I just don’t really get them anymore. Therefore, I chalked it up to my eyes being tired from too much reading this week, because I do know from experience that too much reading does change my distance vision pretty dramatically. Usually not THAT dramatically, but yeah, maybe that was it. I really have been doing A LOT of reading.

A little while after that, I needed to read something on the screen, which is something I can’t comfortably do without my glasses. So I grabbed them and put them on. Surely, they’ll work this time, right? Same damn thing! Like the prescription was just completely wrong. I closed my right eye, and everything seemed fine. I closed my left eye, and HOLY HELL WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY RIGHT EYE!!! I prepared to consult Dr. Google, and began to feel just a little bit anxious. I removed my glasses so I could put on my reading glasses (yes, I still refuse to get bifocals), and as I placed them on the side table, this time something different happened. My fingers went through the area where there should be a lens! Yes, the right lens was missing!

Earlier in the day, my glasses had been on the left arm of the recliner, where I like them to be, and a certain large cat had launched himself up to the back of the chair off that arm, very nearly flinging glasses onto the floor. I was pretty sure that was when the lens went missing. So I searched the floor and surrounding environs. No lens. Therefore, I searched the deep inner recesses of the recliner. Lo and behold, my lens was found and popped back into place. I can see! I can see clearly! Well, I guess it wasn’t a stroke or brain tumor. Phew! Just an overweight cat determined to keep me from having nice things, like corrected vision.

And thus ends another installment of Cat and Recliner vs. Human Possessions. It appears this will be a long and ongoing tale. It’s making my hate my recliner.Ronin and Myu

Why Won’t They Listen

I’m good at researching things. People, cars, consumer goods, what have you. Because I am good at researching things, I am quite often asked by friends and family members to do just that for them. So, I toddle off and spend a great deal of my time, energy, and brain power digging down into the nitty gritty of whatever it is they need information on. I enjoy it, so it’s usually not a bother for me to do.

Yesterday, for example, it was microwaves. The specifications were that it be under 12″ tall, 1000 watts or close to it, can be shipped and arrive by the weekend, cost under $100, and that it not suck. I spent some hours looking at the specs and reviews for a gazillion microwave ovens, and I find exactly the thing needed. If I were buying a microwave right this minute, it’s the one I would buy. Whenever I do these things for people, my final recommendation is always what I would get if I were getting that thing, and aside from being good at researching things, I am a tightwad who doesn’t like buying crap that needs to be replaced every year. I’m not going to tell someone to get a thing unless it’s the best thing that can be gotten under the required specifications.

So, I informed the microwave needing person of the microwave that fits their needs, and the response is that it’s not white, and it has to be white. Okay, no one mentioned that it had to be white, and it’s not like their kitchen has perfectly matched appliances and is about to be featured in Home Magazine. Having already looked at a gazillion microwaves just yesterday and having a fully functioning memory, I already know that if they want a white microwave that is under 12″ tall, they are going to have to give up something else on their list, like power or not sucking or having it this weekend or costing less than $100. They will most likely have to give up more than one of these things. This makes them unhappy, and they become argumentative.

Um … it’s not my fault that the universe is in love with stainless steel appliances, or that white microwaves tend to be cheap pieces of crap that don’t last but a few months, or that you only have a 12″ tall space in which to place a microwave. I don’t work for a microwave factory and so don’t care which one gets your money, and I don’t work for the microwave needing person either and don’t care whether or not they ever get a new one. I was asked to solve a problem, and I did so. That the answer doesn’t fit into their unstated expectations is not my problem. In fact, I don’t have a problem. My microwave is working fine.

It’s irritating that more and more often, people ask me to do some research, solve some problem for them, and ask for my advice, but then when I give it, they want to argue about it for … sometimes unknown reasons. Presumably, they ask me to solve these problems for them, because they believe I can do so better than they can and/or are too damn lazy to do the job themselves, so why not listen to my outcome and actually take it as fact? It’s really just making me not want to help people anymore, when I used to enjoy doing so. There’s a list of people I have now who will only get a stock “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible!” reply when they ask me to do one of these things for them, which is really just my polite way of saying “Fuck you, solve your own damn problem. I’ve got better shit to do than argue you into believing me.”

So that’s how my morning is going! Months of silence and then this ranty blog post. Well, it felt like it was going to take more than a brief Facebook post to get it out of my system, so I thought why not on the blog. It’s possible I might be getting my ranting mojo back, because let me tell you, people have been irritating the hell out of me lately. And now, I’m going to take a shower, have some coffee and play some Elder Scrolls or Neverwinter to unwind. Hopefully, the microwave needing person will come to the correct conclusion and take my advice and not choose the white, underpowered, no-brand-name, piece of crap one and instead choose the really good one I suggested. I would hate to have to tell them to fuck off three months from now when they need a new microwave again.

A Well Refilled

What follows is a post I started writing some weeks ago, on the day I decided that instead of returning to political blogging full on I would be stepping away from the Internet entirely deleting my Facebook and Twitter accounts, taking down the blog, axing the Livejournal, and just not interacting with the digital world at all. I don't even remember what day it was or what had happened on that day, but I'd lost hope. The fire was gone from my belly. I let fear win. I fully intended to lurk around quietly until Inauguration Day, and then make sure I had physical contact info for those people who mean the most to me before just quietly disappearing from the online world. I felt I didn't have the energy to deal with what being a public opinionated female voice on the Internet entails. It takes a deep well of passion to face death and rape threats and stupidity on a daily basis merely for speaking your mind, and my well felt very, very dry.

Then … Inauguration Day happened. I watched, because I felt it was important to bear witness, and I haven't missed one since I was a child and old enough to know what a president is. It's important to me to see history that happened during my life with my own eyes, so that in the future when people try to rewrite it, I can say “No! That's not what happened!” because people always try to rewrite history to suit their needs. Anyway, I found myself posting on Facebook and writing Tweets and getting angry, but I still intended to wake up Saturday and begin extracting myself from the online world.

But … Saturday happened. I watched the DC Women's March, and over the course of the day, the spark that ignited in my heart and mind became a conflagration. My well of passion began to refill. And then the lies and gaslighting and absolute bullshit being spewed by the current administration began rolling in, and I found my voice. I found my passion. I found maybe I do have the strength to be an opinionate woman on the Internet, and while I doubt I will be making daily posts, I can't be silent. None of us can afford to be silent. Silence lets the win, and we can't let them win.

So for posterity and completion of public record, I post the following which was to be the last thing I said on the this blog. So you know, and I don't forget … that we can all be beat down but we can't stay down. The only way to go when you find yourself at the bottom is up.

*******Unfinished Undated Post*******

I'd intended to hop back into political blogging full on. I mean, there's plenty to rant about right now, isn't there? And I have tried. I have no less than three lengthy blog posts I have been working on diligently for over a week, but a couple nights ago, while I was toiling away trying to find just the right words to express the idea that we are all so fucked right now in a more polite and less offensive way, I closed my blogging app, stared at one of my paintings hanging in the living room, and contemplated my existence on the Tree of Woe. As the afternoon turned to evening, my soul searching came to an end, and I had come to a few conclusions.

I popped out of my mother's womb into a family that was very political and a world that was full of problems, and my interest and desire to solve these problems and be a part of creating a better world for everyone started early in my life. For all the decades of my life, I have seen my country slowly plodding forward into a more progressive, inclusive, and equal society. Baby steps all the way, and the occasional back step as well, but always moving generally in the right direction, even though we've had to drag some portion of our populace along kicking and screaming. Along the way, I always held firm to the belief that humans are inherently good. I was an eternal optimist. Sure, things might be messed up and crazy right now, but it's all going to turnout okay in the end. Maybe even better than okay!

But also along the way, a small part of my heart began to harden and cynicism found a home there, and over the years, that small part has grown larger and harder as I have watched my fellow Americans (and just my fellow humans everywhere) growing once again more vocally hateful, bigoted, and willfully stupid about all manner of important issues. I have watched as all the decades of work fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, and all forms of bigotry, oppression, and discrimination began to roll backwards, and my inner cynic said, “I told you so! People are shit.” My inner optimist held firm though, insisting that most of humanity was good or at least redeemable.

That was all before the current U.S. election cycle kicked off and my household spent a year with zero income during which we lost a great deal of what we'd gained in our lives and nearly lost it all. Let me tell you, when you have no money and nowhere to be and nothing to do, it gives you plenty of time to contemplate things, and so I did. Over the course of my year long deep thoughts on life in planet earth, my inner cynic finally convinced my inner optimist that it's true … people are shit. Not all people obviously, but the vast majority of humanity is a lost cause with no hope of redemption. Oh sure, eventually everything will be okay, but it's not going to be okay this year, or next year, or maybe not even next decade. I very seriously doubt that the world will be okay again in my lifetime.

Friends and Bullshit

This isn’t going to be the big “first post” marking my return to blogging that I’d intended, but I encountered a situation today that requires some long form writing, and because I would like to have it available for later reference and linking, Facebook just wasn’t going to work as a outlet, though it is, in fact, Facebook related.

There are a number of reasons I unfollow people on my friends list, and it isn’t necessarily the road to unfriending, but quite often, that is the end result. About once a month, I revisit the people I am currently not following on my feed and ask some questions: Have I missed them? Are they still doing whatever it was I didn’t want to see my on Facebook feed? If I miss them, and they are still at it, they stay on the unfollow list for another month. If I haven’t missed them at all, and they are still at it, they get unfriended. Whether or not I have missed them, and they seem to have changed their ways, I refollow them. What doesn’t happen is people sitting on the list of people who I am friends with but whose words and thoughts I don’t want to see. I mean, you’re not really “friends” at that point, now are you? Anyway, it’s a simple system and has served me well for years.

Never in all the years I have been managing my friends list this way has anyone ever messaged me after I have unfriended them. Until today… when someone who I unfollowed months ago, who I actually unfriended way back during the Presidential primaries, messaged me. I guess they just noticed.

“Seriously, you unfriended me…”

So I visit their Facebook page. There at the top, just posted a few hours before was a perfect example of why I decided that no, I didn’t really miss them, and yes, they were never going to be someone whose words and thoughts I would want to see on my Facebook feed. This person’s particular crime? Posting made up bullshit that happens to agree with their views … things which can be proven ridiculous and false with only the barest minimum of research or even just a moment of logical, rational thought. I used to carefully and cautiously point out the bullshitty nature of these things to people who post them, supplying cites and links and factual information, but it never made any difference. They always argued, and it was time consuming and tiring for me … because it can become a nonstop job. There are a lot of people posting bullshitty stuff on Facebook, and my friends list used to be quite large. People posting easily refuted bullshit on Facebook is actually why my friends list management system was born!

But just this once, because I want this post to be an example I can point to in the future when someone I have unfriended wants to know why (or someone wants to know why I unfriend people), I will refute some internet bullshit.

This is the image that was posted…

Before sourcing this image and the individual images used to create it, let’s look at it with a critical eye. I haven’t seen a 2016 county electoral map yet, but I do recognize a couple of counties that I know did not go to the Democrats. The blue areas on this map do seem to align with major population centers though, so let’s mentally note that will be a good place to start sourcing the original image. The bottom map also seems to align with major population centers, and it’s kind of a no brainer that there is more crime where there are more people, but I know I have seen this map before somewhere labeled differently. It’s a weak graphical display, no matter what it’s trying to convey.

What is it this particular set of images and labels is trying to communicate in its current form? I assume it’s that crime is higher where there are liberal voters. But owing to the fact the top map is showing some counties blue that I know are not in fact heavy Democratic/liberal voters, the whole thing is highly suspect isn’t it?

SIDE NOTE: I could create an an image like this one using a map of Christian church density and one of rape incidence. It too would overlap nicely. It would be bullshit to try to show a causation factor between these two things, but if I created and posted such an image, people who want to believe such a thing would willingly and gladly spread it across the internet without even thinking about it. Correlation can be found between many statistics, but CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION.

The search for the original source of this combined image went surprisingly quickly. I typed … electoral map 2016 crime … into Google, and the very first link took me to Reddit. A number of other hits took me there as well. After enduring more Reddit than I normally would, it appears that is where this image was born. Just that source alone makes it highly suspect, but the fact the first few posts on each appearance I found of it on that website are people I would never agree with on any other matters pointing out its bullshitty nature mean … it’s true bullshit. Even bullshit artists seem to think it’s bullshit.

And what do you know, someone had done some of the research for me! Right there on Reddit, I found the link to the top image. It’s not a 2016 county level electoral map. It’s a map displaying the counties where 50% of the United States population resides. So indeed, it’s a map of major population centers not a map of dense areas of liberal voters. Those two things are not actually synonymous.

The bottom image continued to look familiar to me. I do a lot of research on crime, particularly murder. So instead of turning to the internet, I flipped through my own resources and found it. It’s a map showing murder hotspots. Like I said earlier, it’s a weak graphic that really provides no information, and it’s designed mostly to appeal to emotions. It’s original source, which I will not link to, is always suspect, and any information I read upon it I fact check six ways to Sunday before using.

So the bottom line is, all this set of images tells anyone is that crime/murder happens more where people (of any political persuasion) live. Is this news to anyone? Isn’t news to me. Probably not to you either. But these two images put together with some new labels and spread around the internet by people who very much want to believe that liberals and Democrats are murdering murderers? Tells a different tale then, doesn’t it? And it was so easily debunked! All I had to do was type a few words into Google and click a couple links. That’s all I ask anyone to do before posting bullshit on Facebook … take a few minutes to make sure it isn’t made up bullshit you just happen to want to believe.

And if you can’t be bothered to do that, I can’t be bothered to have you on my friends list. I have standards for who I friend on Facebook. I know a lot of people will just friend anyone, but I don’t. The people on my list are there for reasons, just like the people that aren’t on my list aren’t on it for reasons (and sometimes, it’s just that I haven’t gotten to know them yet). Furthermore, do you see how many words I had to write to debunk one stupid image? Why should I have to choose to either do that ten or more times a day on Facebook or to just let people put crappy bullshit in front of my face all day without trying to educate them. It’s really just better we go our separate ways. Saves everyone time and energy and aggravation.

But someone finally commented about their unfriending, and so the above is the explanation. It’s actually just one explanation (and one example). Other reasons one may be unfriended? Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, hate speech of any kind. But that kind of unfriending is immediate. There is no “unfollow and see how I feel about it next month” stage. You’re just gone. Some posting crimes lead to being put on life support with hopes for a full recovery, and some posting crimes are just a friends list death sentence.

The First Fifteen

I stumbled to the kitchen to make coffee and found the new bag of outdoor cat food, which was safely stored in a cat proofed location, had been plundered during the night. It was definitely an inside job, and I believe it was a group effort. The indoor cats have been monsters the last few days, and no I have not been ignoring their every kitty need. Spoiled is what they are.

After setting last night's last load of laundry to fluff and dewrinkle, getting the water kettle on a burner, and taping together the shredded bag of cat food, I go to the bedroom to get some coat hangers and step in ice cold cat puke. Someone had stuffed themselves with the Purina and then drank a gallon of water and left a nice gift right in front of the bathroom door (a favored cat puking location).

Then, once the laundry was put away and the delicious hot coffee had been poured into mugs, I sat down on the couch, looked to my right, and there's a small multi-colored cat hovering over my perfectly frosty giant mug of tasty water, and there's water dripping off her chin. Just stick your whole face in my water why don't you?! Jeez!

That was the first fifteen minutes of my day. Argh! Currently, the big fat grey one is passed out at my feet, the small striped one is sitting behind me tapping me repeatedly on the head with her claws out, and the somewhat fluffy black one is rolling around on the couch to my left meowing as loudly as she can. It's going to be a long day at Casa de Orb.

The Weight of Data

As I contemplate replacing my beloved decade old iMac, I'm having thoughts about the decade's worth of digital photos living on its hard drive. It's … a lot of photos. They sit there, silent and unseen, and I have no desire to move all of them to a new hard drive. Hell, I never did finish moving all the photos off my prior decade old computer, so there's even more there (and yes, the Win98 box still sits under my desk waiting for me to do that). I always meant to go through all the photos and thin them down, but it's tedious and takes so much time. It never happened.

I don't want the same thing to happen on a new iMac. I don't need to keep every photo I've ever taken only to have none of them ever looked at. So, I think I have decided something. I will go through them all quickly, making gut reaction decisions, and select the best of the best to have printed (on paper!) and then … put them in nice albums. Maybe even do some scrap booking (the only crafty thing I haven't yet tried). Not that they'd be looked at any more than they are now (though maybe they would), but at least I'd feel like some tangible proof of my existence … um … existed.

Lots of ways I could go with this idea. Make an album per year. Make albums by theme (flowers alone might be more than one album). Make albums by location. I don't know how other people do photo albums/scrapbooks. They probably do them in a more organized manner and more contemporiously to when the photos are taken, rather than at the end of every decide. I guess I can do it any way I want. I'll have to think about it some more. Perhaps some thematic organizing system will come to the surface as I thin out the ridiculous number of photos I have hoarded.

Of course, none of this is here nor there just yet. I won't be getting a new computer or anything right this minute, but owing to the immense problem of too many digital photographs, I do need to start planning ahead. Otherwise, just like the last time I replaced my computer, the new shininess will be sitting on my desk being new and shiny, and the old and busted will be sitting somewhere else being ignored … and I'll never go through them all and deal with it. And going forward, I need to learn to not save every photo I take. There will need to be a plan, and I will need to stick to it. Otherwise, a decade from now when the time comes to replace an old computer again, I'll be in the same damn position. I would like to avoid going through this again at age 61. I'm sure I won't have the patience required.

And with all that said … here's a quick shot of the latest street cat addition. We paint the house orange and aquire an orange cat. LOL!