Google This; Be Wary of the Machine

In this day and age of Facebook and Google we tend to easily lose ourselves in a barrage of endless information. Caught up in being part of what we regard as “the Pack” we tend to engage ourselves by participating in an electronic reality where it is dangerously easy to become lost in a morass of sometimes meaningless data. Not only can this become a predictable way to express our own identity it can also quash our sense of individual worth. Some of us end up believing that we need to emulate the people we see on reality television to succeed or even the boobs on you tube doing various and assorted ridiculous stunts to draw attention to themselves in hopes of creating a “viral video”. The younger generation seems particularly vulnerable and decidedly numb to this type of exploitation.  Unfortunately the very same tools which can bring about so much potential convenience are the very same ones that can bring about a bridge of no return.

Not only are we being exploited on reality television we are also being exploited by what has become to be known as “Big Data”. As the use of electronic devices become necessary for our very existence in this highly competitive and technologically oriented world it is nearly impossible to “go off the grid”. Thus we are exposed to being tracked and marketed in every sense. Every website we go to, every store we make a purchase at, the types of products we use are tracked even our movements in retail outlets are recorded for future use. Our friends are tracked as well, the products they use, our interests, their interests — all of this information becomes valuable marketing data which is bought and sold like so many sacks of potatoes. Our privacy is gone. Today as this article was updated from a previous post the New York Times reports that Google is under investigation for illegally gathering data by scanning email from people using its “free” Gmail services. This includes an estimated half billion people worldwide.

The time has truly come to fruition were the marketers can now predict our behavior to a frighteningly large degree. Why is this new method of marketing so frightening? Simply because we are now considered commodities — as opposed to being individuals with unique thoughts and needs — we have now become the property of “Big Data” and are under their control with customized advertising geared to tell us what we need before we even know it ourselves. The ancient Chinese proverb says: “May you live in interesting times”. Well indeed we are and let’s keep up our vigilance to not lose our identity or our children’s identity in a pile of “Big Data” sponsored by your friendly neighborhood Google and Facebook where we voluntarily “feed the machine”.

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“America’s Facebook generation shows a submission to standardization that I haven’t seen before. The American adventure has always been about people forgetting their former selves. Samuel Clemens became Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac went on the road. If they had a Facebook page they wouldn’t have been able to forget their former selves.” — Jaron Lanier

“All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.” — Marshall McLuhan

Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween

China and The Reign of Error

We should look to China as a harsh and toxic example of what can happen in a society where industrialization is left unchecked. “Man must conquer nature” was a popular slogan of Chairman Mao and the carryover of such an attitude and the consequences of such values are quite evident today. The air in the country is so polluted that in many cities it is unwise to go outside without some form of respirator on to clean the air you breathe. Recent photographs of China are tinted in a strange yellowish haze attesting to the huge amounts of particulate matter that is in the atmosphere there as a direct result of coal fired generators powering their factories. Eventually the dust of all the extensive heavy industry settles and now much of the rice in China is tainted with very dangerous amounts of heavy metals. One metal in particular, cadmium, is quite toxic to the liver and kidneys as well as being a carcinogen that is also proven to weaken bones. The government, as is typical in China, is of course denying there is any problem but the public result has been for consumers to switch to rice grown in Thailand when available.

Quality control in China suffers as well as is evident in the proliferation of failing solar panels. Today the New York Times reported on such defective panels that are failing after only two years of operation when their reported durability is twenty five years. It was several years ago that they flooded the market with cheap panels and drove many of their competitors, particularly those based in the United States out of business. One can only conjecture if those panels had a higher trade tariff imposed and perhaps were not subsidized by the Chinese government that a better quality, made in the U.S.A. product would have emerged as a longer lasting reliable product! This is what happens when corners are cut and deregulation runs rampant. It is also a clear illustration of ways that government can impose safety regulations and minimum production standards in a manner that is beneficial to the environment and the consumer as well. Cheaper is almost never better in the long run!

Now a Chinese company,  Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. has made a bid on a United States company for the acquisition of Smithfield Foods Inc. for 4.7 billion dollars. This deal, the largest purchase to date of a U.S. company would take the worlds largest pork producer private. Let’s hope that the food contamination issues as well as the incredible lack of quality control issues that are mentioned above don’t carry over to taint the food supply in the United States. At this point in the purchase it is up to the regulators to examine this deal and make sure that the food supply remains safe. As consumers we should look at this deal with a skeptical eye. We have seen what happens when regulations are overlooked and business is allowed to run rampant. Suddenly that ham on rye doesn’t sound so appetizing!

“Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources.” — Ronald Reagan

“Ronald Reagan really said that. No wonder he is the figure head of the Republican Party. Remarks like that are quite frightening and damn ignorant in their lack of scientific fact.” — Jake Shween

Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween

Nanoparticles, A Muddy Iditarod and Scientology Saves Mankind

Several new threats to humanity arose this week! One is the presence of nanoparticles in the food supply which was reported as early as 2008 in an article in Scientific American. Apparently companies have been putting tiny amounts of these substances into food and drink for quite some time and many safety issues have recently been called into question according to the New York Times which cited a study by the non profit group: As You Sow (asyousow.org). Interesting how this stuff is suddenly ubiquitous in everything from beer, baby drinks and powdered donuts to name a few. If you are relying on the Food and Drug Administration to protect you well think again. The government often does nothing to help the average Joe except to tell him that corporations are people too and corporations should be allowed to sell us just about anything to make a profit.

Please help protect our sled dogs in the Iditarod race this year. These dogs are highly specialized athletes who perform best when temperatures are between zero degrees and twenty below zero. If the temperatures are much warmer they can easily overheat and muddy conditions may prevail which can be quite dangerous as well. One cannot help but wonder if the mouth of Wasilla, Sarah Palin, will be out there still claiming there is no global warming.  She has plenty of time now to proclaim her own brand of home grown Wasilla wisdom since she was recently booted by Fox News. Maybe her and Todd can get out there and help shovel some mud so the race can go on.

Thank goodness in the times of trouble and turbulence we still have the rock of the Church of Scientology! With all the worries and the strife we can still rely on L. Ron Hubbard’s scotch soaked incantations, hallucinations and proclamations to lead us out of a world of confusion, bribery and delusion! It was comforting to see that wonderful inspiring ad during the superbowl and to know that the most revered of our society, our illustrious Tom Cruise, our venerable John Travolata not to mention that superb example of female pulchritude Kirstie Alley have taken the high road before us to save the earth. Need any more be said? Look to the wisdom that actors can instill unto us. Movies and glamor, egos and clamor no wisdom needed just David Miscavige. So fret not of thy nanoparticles in the food supply, shed not a tear over the arctic heat wave, the Mother ship is coming to save us all from a cauldron of boiling fat!

“I have to believe there’s some other life force out there. I don’t know in what form. But we can’t have all these galaxies and universes without something going on.” — John Travolta

“I didn’t become an actor to have power, but it just happens that I have it and so I have a lot of opportunities.” — Tom Cruise

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“I’d rather have a free bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy.”                    — Tom Waits

Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween

The Stealthy Killers Hidden in Our Homes; The Pestilence of Pussies

Recently a study was instituted about the killing ability of the domestic house cat. Thank goodness a study was instituted. Lord knows we never have enough instituted studies to explore the dark depths of domesticity. Not only did this study consider local surveys and pilot studies according to the New York Times it also was expanded upon by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in conjunction with the Fish and Wildlife Service. It turns out that many of us are harboring domestic death traps that masquerade as affectionate furry, purring companions but who are really terrorists to the defenseless birds and small mammals who would like to just enjoy their liberty like everyone else.

Billions, yes billions of small innocent mammals and birds are assassinated every year according to the estimates of this recent study. Is this possibly the fault of the cat apparently descended from felines who once roamed the African savannah surviving gracefully on whatever moved that was smaller than they were and evolved over the course of thousands of years into the fur ball curled up on the couch in the parlor? No it’s simply what they do to survive, an instinct purely genetic in origin. The guilt actually lies with the humans who are slowly but surely multiplying and now occupying areas of the earth in which they where never found before and with a constancy belaboring the earth. The blame is clearly the fault of the owners of these bloodthirsty killing machines.

The solution is up for debate. Obviously we need more studies. The dark depths of domesticity have just begun to be explored. We should immediately set aside huge sums of money to see if we can possibly subvert this perfectly evolved killing machine and creator of terrorism in the animal kingdom. Don’t let your cat out of the bag! It may have blood on it’s paws! Perhaps while we are commissioning this study to help small mammals survive we might do well to consider the future difficulties facing their larger cousins. Before it’s too late!

“Did Saint Francis preach to the birds? Whatever for? If he really liked birds he would have done better to preach to the cats.” — Rebecca West
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Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween