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Truth and accuracy in the new world

We live in a marvelous technological age, an age in which we have easy and ready access to almost every piece of information we could ever want.

Unfortunately, that easy access comes at a price. At a time when anyone with a computer and a little spare time can fake a video or photograph of practically anything, can you believe anything you see? In an age where the sharing of information is prized but the verification of said information is not (hello, Facebook), can you believe anything you read?

These were all issues that existed long before the Internet and computer technology — art forgeries, counterfeit money and goods, hoaxes of all kinds have existed pretty much as long as value has been associated with anything that humans treasure, be it physical items or ideas. Lying (and it’s gentler cousin Tricking) has existed since the dawn of time. Today’s technology just makes it easier, and the culture of the Internet encourages it. Think of all the well-intentioned people you’ve known who’ve passed on hoax emails or stories simply because they didn’t bother to conduct a tiny amount of research before forwarding.

I have a number of friends and pages I follow on Facebook who are prone to posting inspirational quotes that they’ve found on some quote site somewhere (or that someone had in turn forwarded to them). They don’t bother to consider whether or not the person they’re attributing the quote to actually ever said or wrote it. And so they propagate the misinformation even more. Often the true originator of the quote never gets credited. Occasionally it’s a quote I like, but I’d like to know the specifics before I re-use it. And I usually can’t find that. Tonight, I’ve been trying to find the origins of following quote typically attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” You can’t find the quote in that form (or anything similar) on sites that contain the texts of all of his works, such as rwe.org or Project Gutenberg. And the Wikiquotes discussion for his page is no help either. So it’s unlikely that it was something that came from Emerson, but it will be forever attributed to him all the same. Which is a shame, since it dilutes the impact and import of the words he *did* write.

Further reading:

  • Falser Words Were Never Spoken, NY Times article by Brian Morton from August 2011 that discusses this very issue (I’ve come across this article several times over the last week or so, via different avenues)

Is the Universe conspiring against me?

I can’t seem to place an online order to save my life these past two weeks. Orders that normally would have been shipped within 48 hours sit for a week with no update and no shipping before I finally contact the companies and cancel the orders. And others are cancelled by the supplier because they discover too late that the item is out of stock and unobtainable. I got a new computer for my birthday (very early) and we couldn’t place the order online for either love or money.

I’ve never had such a hard time trying to spend money before and I have to wonder if Someone isn’t trying to tell me something.

“Stop shopping!”, perhaps.

A near perfect day

Harvest moon photography at Wikipedia

From my window now, about an hour and a half after true full  and about 6.5 hours after the official start of Fall (my second favourite season), the full moon is like a giant spotlight as it descends to the west. It’s easy to see why this is called the Full Harvest Moon. It’s really so bright that you wouldn’t need a flashlight or a street lamp to see outside. And it’s quite beautiful, especially with the wispy tendrils of cloud drifting in front of it. I forget to look at it like this most of the time. Sometimes good things come with insomnia.

Today, here in Ottawa, daylight is expected to last fo 12 hours and 8 minutes, darkness for 11 hours and 52 minutes. The perfect 50/50 split between day and night (also known as the autumnal and vernal equiluxes in Autumn and Spring, respectively) never really happens, at least not this year — Saturday will have 12:02 of daylight and Sunday 11:59.

I think that’s why I like Spring and Autumn so much: this sense of the planet either beginning to wake up or dropping off to sleep at those times.

Full moon, start of Autumn, and a cool 9 degrees (at least for now — we’ll forget about the 31 degree humidex forecast for Friday for now). My sinus headache seems to be gone,  the cat is eating properly (and not throwing it back up again), and some freelance work is on the horizon. Since I am heading to bed now rather than starting my day, I can say that it (the last 24 hours) has been a pretty lovely day, all things considered.

The whole world’s goin’ crazy

Crazy, crazy, crazy, cra-a-a-a-azy

OK, maybe it’s just me. I feel like I’m going absolutely bonkers lately. I’m up, I’m down, I’m all over the place. Happy, sad, confident, fearful, resolute, panicky, optimistic, pessimistic. Pick an extreme and I’ve probably been there over the past few weeks. Hell, I occasionally cycle through them all in a single day. I’d love to blame it on hormones or my mother dying but those are just individual components of a massively huge ball of issues. I know it’s shaking changes out of me that need to be made, but jeez-us it’s a rough way to do it.

My Jonathan Cainer horoscope for this weekend pretty much addresses my current state:

You have known easier times. But have you ever been in such a potentially rewarding situation before? Perhaps you think there’s nothing so satisfying about your circumstances. Maybe you doubt that they will ever lead to a development worth celebrating. But when we are in the midst of a slow, frustrating process, optimism famously fades. Venus now passes through your opposite sign. You’re not alone and, even if the company you are keeping infuriates you at least as much as it inspires you, there’s help at hand. Be graceful, patient and good-humoured and you’ll yet make the most constructive progress.

Happy Friday the 13th

Have I mentioned before that I really like the number 13? I’ve never really understood the whole “Friday the 13th is bad luck” thing.

This is the only Friday the 13th we’ll have this year (the next one isn’t until May 2011)  so celebrate it. Like an eclipse, only slightly less awesome.  (I say “slightly” rather than “extremely” because who doesn’t love a Friday the 13th with meteor showers?)

Remember, don’t look straight at a Friday the 13th or you’ll go blind.

MYOB

In May, when she could still hold a lengthy conversation without veering off into another world, my mother mentioned in passing that my brother once told her that she was responsible for my being overweight. (How we got to that point in our conversation is a very long story that I will spare you.) Or, rather, that she was responsible for my not losing the weight once I had gained it.

(I should explain. This particular brother has never had an excess weight problem. Not as a teenager and not as an adult. Like my sister, he’s always been one of those people with a need to be physically active. When we were younger, he and I looked alike enough to be twins. But we do not have the same interests or the same minds or the same outlook on exercise. He’s always been a bit of an exercise freak. He worked out all the time, ran even more, and was continually on the go. As a result, he’s always been kind of wiry. Me, on the other hand, I’m more cerebral, more indoorsy, sedentary. My pastimes were things like reading or painting or writing poetry, while his were judo, running, and suntanning.)

I’m not sure my brother actually understands my mother or where she comes from. Oh, he knows the dry facts of her early life, but I don’t think he really understands what that early life has done to her. Still, that’s his issue to deal with and really  none of my business except as I try to clean up the damage his comments leave behind.

But when you start blaming my mother for the road my life has taken, you’ve crossed the line well into my business…which, interestingly enough, is none of his concern. He has no idea why I’m overweight, or why I do or have done anything in my life. We really hardly know one another as adults. I’m not privy to the details of family conversations about my size, though I’m sure there has been one or two, but the fact of the matter is that no one involved in those conversations knows anything about me that I haven’t shared with them (or that isn’t several decades out-of-date). And I may or may not have shared the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Some days I don’t even know what the Truth is with respect to my life and my internal motivations. Humans are complex creatures.

I don’t really care if family members talk about me, behind my back or in front of my face, or speculate to their hearts’ content about my life and my future. But I have a huge problem with people deliberately making my mother feel bad — adding to the guilt she has been carrying since she was ten years old — on my behalf. It’s mean, and it’s cruel.

Dude, look after your own house. Mine is none of your beeswax.

Pack up your troubles, kids

I frequently wonder at the choices that marketing and advertising people make. I wonder if they come up with those choices on their own, or if they grudgingly implement the desires of their clients despite their own misgivings. Are they ignorant of the connotations, or do they go into things eyes wide open, fully understanding (or just not caring).

The latest Dell Inspiron 15R commercial shows school children stuffing their backpacks and then repeatedly falling over from the weight, over which you can hear “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.” *

And I wonder if the advertising people who came up with that know the history of the song as a WWI marching song, or have ever really listened to the lyrics…even just the rest of the lyrics in the chorus:

Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
And smile, smile, smile,
While you’ve a lucifer to light your fag,
Smile, boys, that’s the style.

That’s right. Smoke ’em while you got ’em, kids.
You never know when a stray enemy ball might take you out at recess.

School is hell, y’all.

* The commercial version of the song was supposedly sung by James Mann, based on an arrangement of the song by the Minnutes. If anyone cares.

This would be so awsome…if it were real

ThinkGeek always makes me a little sad on April 1 by advertising some really awesome products that don’t exist…yet.

I’m still waiting for the PC EZ-Bake Oven, USB Fondue Set, and the iZilla Media Monster.

(By the way, I wish the new YouTube look was an April Fool’s joke but I don’t think it is.)

Beware of scareware

So there I was, minding my business this morning, browsing through the Cheezburger family of sites using Firefox, when all of a sudden I get a warning from Ad Aware that there’s a suspicious process (a keylogger) running on my computer and that it was running a scan in the background.

Of course, it wasn’t really Ad Aware telling me that. It was something calling itself XP Antimalware. (It’s hard to keep track of its various names but that’s the one it used on this occasion.) It really gave itself away when it popped up a fake Windows Internet Security window with completely wrong settings. It’s an interesting little bugger. It’s what’s known as a “rogue scanner” or scareware, which is an anti-virus or anti-spyware program that attempts to trick you into buying a full version of the program by popping up numerous warnings that your system is infected. It also sort of highjacks your existing anti-virus or anti-spyware programs — I couldn’t run Ad Aware from the Start menu, for example, because XP Antimalware would start running instead. Stopping the process in the Windows Task Manager and then clearing my cache and running Spybot cleaned up everything.

I have to reluctantly admire the manufacturers of the program. It mimics Windows messages and dialog boxes really well, which is why they are so successful at making money at this. People no doubt panic slightly when they see the initial message, and then even more so as the fake scanner pops up and lists dozens of infected files on their computer. And in their panic, they agree to buy a license for the scareware program.

The lesson to be learned from that is that people really need to be more aware of what their legitimate anti-virus, anti-spyware, and security programs look and behave like…and don’t click anything that you don’t recognize.

Pulling up stakes

When I was a child, we lived on Vancouver Island for three years, mostly in and around the town of Sidney. I loved British Columbia in general and Vancouver Island in particular, and it’s always been one of the few places in Canada I could picture myself living. I miss the ocean a great deal and, while the North Atlantic is the ocean that is in my blood, the Pacific would be a fair second choice. Still, I’ve never really seriously considered moving to BC an option.

Moving to the West coast has been an ongoing joke between one of my friends and I for years. We’ve known each other since the early 80s. I moved here to Ottawa because she was here and had offered me a place to stay while I got settled. Within a year of me moving here, she moved to Vancouver with her then-husband. I’ve been telling her ever since that I am categorically not following her to BC. We laugh about it. It’s funny mostly because I think we both know subconsciously that it is probably going to happen anyway (and that she’ll probably then move somewhere else, where I will also categorically NOT follow her). My Universe is funny that way.

During a very recent conversation with someone (I can’t remember who) about “doing what you love”, I mentioned in passing that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grow up, but that I wished someone would pay to move me out to Vancouver Island for a well-paying job doing something at least moderately enjoyable. It’s the first time that I’d ever put that thought out there, in front of someone else. And it’s the first time in a long time that I’d actually considered the possibility of moving somewhere else.

Tonight, I got an e-mail from a recruiting company here in Ontario that was recruiting for a long-term contract in Vancouver. Not sure what about my Workopolis profile gave the impression that I was open to relocation (in fact, it clearly states that I am NOT open to it). I replied to the query indicating that I wasn’t a good fit unless they were looking for a telecommuter or wanted to pay to relocate someone. I don’t expect to get a response — I’m fairly certain the initial query was a mistake on their part — but it did get me thinking about the prospect of picking up and moving. If it’s something I would really like to one day do, then I should start preparing now. I don’t want another situation like the one that brought me to Ottawa.