peristaltor: (J' Acuse!)
I have not been one to bitch about every change companies attempt in their whimsical attempt to maximize shareholder value. Ah, but there are limits.

I've been sending them subscription money for years. Nine years in fact. In that time, I've enjoyed the service, especially the streaming.

Until today.

For some ball-sucking reason, Netflix has decided to drop shows I've had on my streaming wish list including the very first one I listed. (I was only a ten or so shows from finishing the series, and ironically slowed my watching because I couldn't bear to end the run.) In all, eight shows disappeared as of midnight last night. What really pisses The Wife™ and I off to no end is that the notices that these shows would go appeared a mere month before their demise, and only the enigmatic "Until Jan 31" announced this change without the fanfare it deserves. We learned tonight that January 31, the day we were going to marathon on a series we almost finished was not the day, but the day after they were disappeared.

No official notice was issued. Google searches fail to reveal any notice. (If anyone can find one, I would appreciate it.) As far as I can tell, this happened with a whisper and not the bang it deserves.

Yes, yes, I know I can get the discs. The trouble with discs is simply that they are discs, and not the on-demand watching option the streaming offers. I tend to reserve discs for movies; perhaps that is a bias I can abandon by necessity only. Series have far too many discs; watching a series on streaming has the further benefit of keeping track of viewing better than the discs.

I seriously think Netflix is trying to self-destruct through stumbling incompetence. First their mad-cow decision raise rates without consulting the users, then to split the company between discs and streaming, then this crap.

Anyone else notice Netflix silliness?
peristaltor: (Default)
By now, everyone has heard about what is happening seemingly all at once in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. Republican governors are trying to ram "emergency" legislation through their senates and houses that would strip the most robust union demographic, public employees, of their collective bargaining rights.

Here's a question: Why now?

I haven't seen this point raised by anyone, but I think it has everything -- and I mean everything -- to do with the baby boom generation.

Hear me out. )


X-posted to [livejournal.com profile] the_recession.
peristaltor: (Default)
Unhappily for us all, we are surrounded by corporate accomplices willing to influence our hearts and minds. I gave you a taste of this in Part II. In at least three of the four examples I provided we find a strong fiduciary incentive to warrant the noted shenanigans, obvious reasons why the participants would go to such misinformation extremes. Toyota wanted to squelch as much of the criticism of its cars as it could. The Canadian recording industry stands to gain millions, perhaps billions, if it can in the future prevent even fair use infringements on its copyrights. Never mind the ideological victory it would prove; dismantling the social safety net might prove an enormous boon to private health care providers simply by impeding government efforts to reduce the current cost of health care (which is, compared to the rest of the world, a tad expensive).

In Part I, I said early on that I wanted to focus primarily on how this swarm swatting, this manipulation of the crowd for fun and/or profit, deflects from our society's ability to make rational decisions regarding the economy. I'll stick to that aspect of society not to simply discount other, perhaps more pressing avenues of public controversy, but because the economy has, as [livejournal.com profile] bleaknemesis notes, a relatively weak moral component. Struck by Part I of this series, he said two weeks ago in an email:

I am thinking though that the ox situation and your own rent adjustment story may only work under certain conditions to validate the crowd wisdom and that under other conditions a less than wise outcome may occur. For this I am thinking of Nazi Germany or segregationist South US. Now I am aware that I might be  trying to impose our current moral standards on the past which may not be fair. Actually as I was writing this and reading it over it occurred to me that maybe the reason the ox story works as an example for crowd wisdom is that there is no moral component to the weight guessing. Kind of the same with the rent story for the most part.


Mr. Nemesis, from all the reading I've done on this topic, you are absolutely correct on all points. Furthermore, you also mentioned a book I had either never heard of (or, more likely had forgotten about), James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds. I got the book from the library, and oh, boy, am I glad I did. Along with Steven Johnson's Emergence (which I've gushed about before), Wisdom proves one of the best synopses of crowd wisdom I've ever read. In fact, in the end notes Surowiecki mentions Emergence and notes how his direction with Wisdom differed from Johnson's:

There are obvious resonances between Johnson's book and my own, although in his model local influence is important and generally beneficial, while I see independence as essential and see influence as, on the whole, inimical to good cognitive judgments. On the other hand, local influence is clearly a good thing when it comes to coordination problems. More to the point, Emergence is only tangentially concerned with decision making, and is more interested in, as the title suggests, self-organization and the emergence of order.

(James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds, Doubleday, 2004, p. 282.)


We should discuss what he means by independence. )
peristaltor: (Default)
In Part I of this series, I noted that our stories, the conversations we have with ourselves and use to frame the world around us in a fashion we can understand, are being hijacked. Yes, I said "hijacked," as in forced to go where they would not otherwise go. While this should be no surprise to any longer term readers out there, allow me to explain once again what I mean and provide some recent examples to back my argument.

I first quickly mentioned the Overton Window over three years ago. To review, Overton is a political strategist who during campaigns floods the airwaves and print media with opinions far to the right of the conservative position he supports. This way, people reading and listening are given the mistaken impression that the views being expressed have some how become more mainstream, and adjust their own views accordingly. Overton's media blitzes get people talking about issues; thanks to Source Amnesia and the Repetition Effect (aspects of the Overton Window effect I covered more carefully in The Whispers and the Early Screams), the mean average political opinion shifts closer to the one desired by Overton's team.



To interpret the image, the opinion pieces and bias inserted by Overton's team during an election shifts the actual political center marked by the 0 (as determined by a survey of opinion before the campaigning begins) a couple of points to the right of that center simply by dint of repetition and paying for some to espouse far-right beliefs for the record in ways that fail to question how wide-spread those beliefs really are.

Got that?

Once you're aware that this is happening, it's really quite easy to find examples. All you have to do is follow the Long Green (to use my favorite euphemism for money from the movie Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!). I'll give you just a few examples you might not have heard about for illustration, but which may in the very near future affect us all. Let's start with the media with which we're all familiar, the news. )
peristaltor: (Default)
I got a lesson in life last night. Weirdly, I got it from playing with the Nintendo Wii.

The Wii has wireless networking and a few games that take advantage. One is Everybody Votes. It's simple. People submit questions and answers. Nintendo sifts through the submissions and finds about one a day to put to the people. Players at home then have the option of voting on which answer they think is right (What is a rhino's horn made of, bone or hair?) or sharing their personal habits (When do you usually shower or bath, at night or in the morning?).

There's another feature. After you've given your vote, you get to guess how the majority of voters responded. I find this feature far more interesting than the actual voting. First, it forces you to guess the demographic makeup of the voters. Next, you have to put yourself in their demographic shoes. I like it for the same twisted reason I liked this ill-fated game show.

Last night, we got the answers from an old question, "Which was invented first, shampoo or the telephone?" Shampoo won. That is, more people guessed shampoo was older on the first round of polling. Ah, but I guessed they would say that in the polling's second round. I originally guessed the telephone.

So I won twice.

You see, this question has an answer. An answer that does not rely upon the whims of those that accept an answer, but rather the answer that exists outside of public opinion. A quick Google search finds that "the first successful bi-directional transmission of clear speech by Bell and Watson was made on March 10, 1876", while "shampoo originated in England in 1877".

The telephone wins. I win. I doubly win because I correctly suspected that most people would not suspect or know this. My Mii jumps for joy.

But my wife pointed out a problem. Her Mii was also jumping for joy, even though she originally guessed "shampoo." Wasn't she right, too?

And that was a problem. In answers testable in the real, physical world, opinion doesn't matter. Opinion may in fact be so very wrong that it clouds one's judgment, interferes with one's ability to see the answer staring them in the face. There are so, so, so very many issues that can be simply or painstakingly tested (depending upon how subtle the science of detection in the specific arena has become) that are being obfuscated because people have already determined the "truth" of the issue and do not wish to confront the hard physical realities that bitch-slap their opinions into submission.

Ah, but the Telly News does not work that way. If you don't agree in the science of anthropomorphic climate change, natural selection as the originator of species diversity, or coming shortages in primary energy supplies, you get just as much air time as experts in their fields. Never mind that there are ten, twenty, perhaps a thousand experts who would disagree with you -- you get just as much time to present your case (or more likely, to try and obfuscate, belittle and dismiss theirs).

The Telly News is wrong to do this. They have probably been cowed by vested interests (which keep funding them through advertising and therefore can yank their leash and chokechain). Their news budget dedicated to actual investigative reporting has been slashed and burned, even though their revenue expectations continue to rise. They are being punked (and I mean that in the proper prison meaning, not as a more recent synonym for "practical joke") by their owners, corporations and individuals who have a very meaty vested interest in seeing public opinion kept ill-informed simply because that ignorance means dollars in their pockets.

Life is not fair. Reality is not balanced. It doesn't matter how many people agree with you: If you hold an opinion on a topic that attempts to directly contradict demonstrable physical evidence, you are very simply just wrong.
peristaltor: (Default)


This can't be emphasized enough. To quote Rachel:

Americans are showing up at these events to shout down the discussion and to chase their congressmen. And they are enraged. And they're enraged, at least in part, by over-the-top conspiracy theories about health care. And they're being orchestrated by the corporate interests that do this for a living and do it very well.


The problem? Too few people know when they're being duped. Or dupes.
peristaltor: (Default)
I just can't let this teevee thing go, it seems. I'll try to make this my latest last speculative rant on the subject, at least for a while.

To catch you new readers up on the drama, I almost suffered a kidney refill without respite from a television. That got me to correlate that near-trauma with an email a friend sent a fast food joint, which led me to speculate about a possible synergetic commercial/corporate/political conspiracy riding on the laziness of stunted American brains. Confused yet? Well, here I go again. Perhaps I'm not finished. I got to wondering exactly why that idiot box is so damned appealing.

As with everything, I kept that thought stewing in the back of my head as I went about my daily routines. One of those routines involves podcasts, which I truly feel will supplant radio at least in frequency of listening and listeners in the near future. Why? I can't tune in Stephen Fry on the local Seattle yakkity-yak, now can I? His latest podgram, recorded live at the iTunes Festival in the Camden Roundhouse, touches on the origins of the word "focus," which coincidentally might have something to do with my latest two rant entries. I transcribe below:

Let's cast our mind way back to when our species, Homo sapiens, first emerged from earlier versions -- Homo sapiens naught point one alpha version, or beta versions, if you like, from Homo erectus and neandrathal, the first versions of humanity -- one of the first things we learned to do was to tell each other stories, as it seems, around the fire. Fire is very important, incidentally. I don't know why I mention it. It always interests me . . . the way language is so much wiser than any of us tends to be. The Latin for "hearth" is focus. We've used that word "focus," now, to mean almost anything around which we concentrate ourselves. Indeed, the focus of your cameras that are pointing I'd like to think lovingly at me. And the Old English for "hearth" is hearth, from which we get our word "heart."

So it is very deep inside us to do what you're doing, to be in a round place listening to someone telling a story usually with a fire flickering in the middle. . . . Anyway, that's what we first did when we'd hunted and we'd mashed up grain and we'd fought off dangerous animals and we'd survived yet another difficult day. We sat around the focus, the hearth, and we told each other stories.

(I also emphasize. Peri S.)




So let's parse this.

Here we are, an offshoot of creatures that would become monkeys and apes, newly introduced to hot meals through our mastery of fire, meals that may have led to our divergence from our more monkey-esque cousins. We gather as daily as we can around this chemical-phase miracle, its heat denaturing our proteins and gelatinizing our starches and collagens, its light warning us of danger. It's the perfect place to share wisdom to a huddling crowd. Lessons can be imparted while we all gnaw on our charred roots and fat-dripping meats, lessons perhaps so important that they can impart a survival benefit . . . to those that bother to pay sufficient attention.

Could fire have inadvertently become our species' mental trigger for trance states? Could the flicker of the hearth become our ancestral cue for absorbing information without undo criticism -- the importance of which is reflected in our ancient languages -- simply because those whose brains rejected the fiery siren lights failed to absorb verbal information crucial to survival and thus failed to pass on their always-skeptical genes?

Cop a squat. Spike a dog or a marshmallow. Discuss. If you get bored, switch to ghost stories.
peristaltor: (Default)
I'm sorry, but I'm still on this telly, telly, everywhere tear. It's something that is pretty much turning into an obsession.

In case you missed it, yesterday, I moaned about a television in waiting rooms that I legally couldn't leave or turn away from either the sound or the image. I was spared the trauma by a helpful receptionist, but had I been forced to be there later in the day things could have gotten water-torture ugly.

Why this antipathy? I'm seeing more and more evidence that these ever-present flicker screens are causing perhaps grievous harm to our collective ability to think. )
peristaltor: (Default)
A friend of mine did something noteworthy the other day, and forwarded me a copy. He wrote his local eatery with a complaint:


Why does the Bothell, Washington Qdoba have Fox news on the only TV? I would think that offends more people than it pleases. The food is good, but I can't eat in a place with that contemptuous and contemptible garbage on.


They responded (to their credit), but without saying anything (to their detriment):

Thank you for your e-mail regarding Qdoba #2089. We appreciate your taking the time to provide us with your feedback and will be following up with the restaurant management to assure they are aware of your concerns. Please don't hesitate to contact our Guest Relations department at 1-888-497-3622 anytime you have a comment or concern you want us to be aware of. Our representatives are available Monday through Friday, 7am to 4pm PT.


I guess they did say they would contact management, and that might be something. The local Qdoba nearest my work plays something other than Faux. Maybe programming decisions are left to the local management. Maybe that will change. One can hope.




This morning, though, I realized that he noted the wrong problem. The issue isn't with Faux News on the tube, it's the fact that there is a tube to watch. )

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