Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Conundrum of Social Media

I should probably stay out of Turkey in the foreseeable future. The president-cum-dictator Erdogan has a penchant for throwing people in jail for making derogatory statements about him, and I'm certain I've posted prison-worthy comments on Facebook about what an arse he seems to be. Credit to the mayor of Geneva, Switzerland for not kowtowing to Turkish pressure to remove a poster about a young boy killed by Erdogan's storm troopers. Shame on Germany's Merkel and other European leaders for sucking up to Turkish demands and even giving them billions of blackmail euros over the refugee crisis.

I should probably avoid Saudi Arabia as well, as I have glibly commented about their barbaric practice of beheading dissidents.

Social media has become a bit of a minefield. Posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc. are being hoovered up by the NSA and GCHQ to interpret whether you are a terrorist, probably by the IRS etc. to calculate whether you are an oversees account-holding tax cheat, and by prospective employers to ascertain whether you might embarrass them as a future employee.

Even Facebook is in the information control game, choosing via its algorithms which messages you see from friends ... and especially from disguised advertisers. There have been suspicions that FB has been manipulating political posts to skew the US presidential election.

All of which leads to self-censorship. A recently released study showed a significant drop in searches for terms which could be interpreted as showing terrorist interest - terms such as jihadist and ISIS. (Damn, I just triggered the NSA's dongle-bell.)

I self-censor potential posts, we all do. Aware that my grandchildren may read my FB page, I am circumspect in the photos and language I use. On Twitter, which I use primarily for business, I am careful not to offend clients. And I have learned never to post to social media contacts with large followings (such as Robert Reich) - it only results in a rash of flaming, vile responses from total strangers who disagree with my viewpoint.

Social media has its benefits. It's a good way to keep up with distant friends and relatives, and to show them what we have been doing (and eating, eh Larry?). To a certain extent, you can keep up with the news of the world without having to go to a news website or turn on the television.

And then, of course, there are cat photos.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Traumatique? No, Dramatique.

If I hadn't taken that helicopter trip into the heart of the Grand Canyon three years ago, I might have been jealous of Donna-Lane's helicopter "ride" from Argèles-sur-mer to Perpignan. But since she was lying on a stretcher in the back of the bird, enroute to the hospital, unable, I thought, to see Canigou or the Med coast from the air, I could hardly be envious.

The emergency flight was probably more dramatic than necessary. But since it was approaching rush hour, and they thought her possible condition was a heart problem, I'm sure the SAMU (Service d'Aide Médicale Urgente) paramedics preferred to wisk her the 20 kilometres by air rather than chance a wheeled ambulance getting stuck in traffic in one of the half-dozen roundabouts enroute.

A couple more episodes like this and we'll be able to write the scripts for a whole season of Grey's Anatomy (or Anatomie de Gris, if you prefer). We have been in hospitals in Geneva, Bern, and now the south of France in the past year. Actually, this was a return visit to Clinique Saint-Pierre; D-L had an esophagus attack last April as I was transiting home from a conference in the States. Fortunately, we have many friends in ASM, and they made sure she was well cared for. (Perhaps with the exception of a local doctor whose main concern was that he get paid on the spot.)

This episode, too, was more a digestive issue than cardio. Problem is, the location and severity of her pain suggests it might be either. So best to get it checked out by professionals. They even did a pulmonary scan, an EKG, and a cardio scan to rule out lung and heart issues.

It will be interesting to learn the cost of the helicopter flight - a relative of mine was charged $41,000 for a 9-minute EMS helo flight in the States, and I have seen recent news questioning the high costs of such situations. Donna-Lane was attended to by two pilots, a doctor and nurse (who arrived on the helicopter), five paramedics, three ASM gendarmerie who wandered down the street from their headquarters to check out the commotion, three different doctors at the Urgence, at least three nurses, and of course the payments secretary.

The Eurocopter (Airbus) EC145 helicopter had to land in the centre of the rugby stadium (stade), one of the few places in Argèles with enough open space to accommodate a rotorcraft. Most of the streets are too narrow even for a van-sized ambulance; the one that transported Donna-Lane from the house to the stade had to park at the end of our street in front of the cafe. 

Ironic that I have been preparing for a helicopter training conference in a few days. (Perhaps I'll use D-L's event in my presentation.)

Yes, she's fine. (The word "fine" seems to be required, at least once and preferably several times, in every episode of Grey's.) No heart problems. No lung problems. It all started in mid-afternoon, and we got home a few minutes before midnight.

Just another routine day. 

(Oh, she told me she did have a view of the mountains and the sea, even lying prone in the back of the helicopter. Still not jealous.)