Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Pajamas Diplomacy

One of our favorite times of the day is early morning, after the dog has been walked, when we crawl back into the heated bed and solve the world's problems by expressing likes, laughs, and anger on Facebook and posting our opinions on social media.

It's the modern version of reading the morning newspaper. Except we get to read stories from around the world, some well written and documented, others disjointed and pure hyperbole. NYT, WSJ, WaPo, smaller town papers from around the US, the British press, French and Swiss journals, German, RT, Al Jazeera, the Intercept, Common Dreams, China Post, India Times, Australia, economic publications, aviation magazines, tekkie journals, and of course the oftentimes breathless commentary of friends who range from the almost far right to the almost far left of the political spectrum.

We love it when friends from one era of our lives connect with friends from another era, even if one is conservative, the other liberal, and it's a textual joust.

We're amused when someone leaps to the erroneous conclusion that we support some politician or other because we dared to question the veracity of an online story about them ... when our only purpose was to question the veracity. Even more amused when one person thinks we support one candidate and someone else thinks we support their opponent - when, in fact, we support neither. (That veracity thing again.)

I particularly like to play devil's advocate, stir the pot, as they say, and chuckle at the vitriol that follows. (Did those of you who attack me or my views personally realize you are merely providing entertainment?)

Unfortunately, our words and images on social media probably won't change the world. They may, however, drive Zuck's Facebook algorithms crazy, which is some solace.

Then, when we get out of bed each day, we try to take some concrete action to make the world a bit better in ways that we can.

Oh, I almost forgot. Love animal videos. Snippets of sanity in the media maelstrom.

See you online.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Devil(s) Made Me Do It

Hillary Clinton believes she lost the 2016 presidential election because white men told their wives to vote for Donald Trump. Those devils. Really, Hill? It was a vast white whinge conspiracy? If I tried to tell my wife to vote for anyone, much less Trump, she'd probably stuff me in a ballot box.

Others believe Putin did it. Name a problem in America or Western Europe - election meddling, hacks of DNC emails, poisoned double agents, dirty water in Flint, murders in Baltimore, dogs dying on airplanes (oh, wait, that was United), snow in Scotland ... well, pretty much everything is Putin's fault.

Now there's a story that the election was manipulated by Steve Bannon and his Cambridge Analytics associates, who borrowed data from Facebook to - gasp - target messages to American demographic groups and individuals based on their social media personality profiles.

This is shocking? That the American people are being manipulated?

Advertisers have been manipulating the minds of consumers for years. Now, thanks to Mark Zuckerberger and friends, who freely sell the information you provide to them for nothing, the manipulation is more sophisticated, perhaps a little more subtle. But manipulation nonetheless.

Your vote - ie, your "purchase" of a candidate for office - is just another target of consumer marketing. The candidates' manipulators use every means possible - TV, print, social media, and disinformation spread by the media ... and through your own word of mouth in the office or among friends.

What I find more insidious is the manipulation of events, groups, and people. Infiltration of otherwise peaceful groups by thugs paid to incite violence and bring disrepute on the group. It might be a conservative group or liberal. From BlackLivesMatter to the current students against guns movement. The thugs may be hired by George Soros, Charles Koch or the government. The ultimate aim is to create a news narrative that promotes one agenda or discredits another, and the underlying objective of that narrative is to get you to vote for or against a candidate or party. (I would not be surprised if the spy poisoning was not done by the British government as a means of shifting attention from their Brexit dilemma to their convenient Russian bogeyman.)

I doubt the manipulation tsunami has truly changed many minds. That really only comes from analyzing all the knowable facts of a situation ... not just jumping to an hysterical conclusion based on the first fact-thin manipulative story in the media.

What the pervasive social media era manipulation has done, I think, is ramp up the polarization. Amped up the anger. Solidified people in whatever belief they previously held.

Yes, Putin did it. And Trump's people. And Hillary's people. And the Koch Bros. and Soros and Adelson and ... it's no longer may the best man (or woman) win; it's may the best manipulator win. And when we believe their twisted messages, we all lose.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Easy Pleasy

DUELING BLOG - Read D-L's at http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.fr/2018/03/poubelle.html/
My wife has mellowed a bit in the five years we've been together. She's keen on neatness and order, but she has come to tolerate my penchant for, shall we say, controlled chaos. I prefer order, too, but with me it's more irregular.

Such as yesterday. At the end of the day, all was in order in the apartment. But during the day, wanting to sort through my clothes - so I could take some of them to the donation bin - I brought down four suitcases of stuff from The Nest (D-L's studio apartment around the corner) and emptied all the clothes onto the bed. Plus the clothes from my closet. Plus summer clothes that had been stored under the bed.

Donna-Lane went into her office and closed the door for much of the day. She was allegedly working on her German pronunciation.  (Either that, or cursing me out in three languages.)

Not really. She knows by now that I (almost never) leave the place in a mess overnight. And that my disorder is (usually) a pathway to order.

So now my closet is ready for spring and summer (with a couple winter things, just in case). Most of the winter stuff is under the bed. There's a suitcase packed for Geneva. And there's a bag ready for donation. I even got rid of a couple of clunky radiators and some old satellite boxes in The Nest.

But the real message of this brief blog is that two days ago, I bought something for my wife which made her ecstatically happy. Not a diamond necklace. Not a gold bracelet. Not the $45-million business jet she's been hinting she'd like.

I bought a $10 waste basket for the car. Yeah, she likes order there too. No food wrappers and soda bottles on the floor when we travel. For awhile we had a plastic bag for trash, but I guess I trashed that at some point. So she wanted a more permanent solution. Thus, the gray bucket - complete with flip top - you see pictured on the hood (or bonnet, if you prefer).

This is not the first discussion we've had about trash bins. We used to have one under the sink, which our landlady had rigged to open when the door was opened. But it was tough to empty and clean, and it took up valuable space. I acquiesed on that one, but managed to save it elsewhere for glass recycle bottles.

And my open-top bin by my desk - for paper recycle - has been replaced with a flip top ... because Sherlock kept stealing the paper and shredding it all over the place.

Now that the trash problem's solved, there's only one point of disagreement between us. (Wouldn't you like to know.)

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Shoveling S***

DUELING BLOGS with D-L and J - http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.ch/2018/03/snow-day.html and http://viewsfromeverywhere.blogspot.ch/2018/03/snow-day-in-switzerland.html

To me, snow is a four-letter word.

1. You can't play golf in the snow. 2. You can't drive in the snow. 3. The only way to get rid of it is to shovel or wait until Spring. (Oh, wait, yesterday was the first day of meteorological spring - https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/whats-the-difference-between-meteorological-and-astronomical-spring/70000979.)

Arriving late by train from Paris the night before, and with sparse wifi connections, I was not aware that a storm was expected. D-L was too sleepy groggy to warn me that the white stuff was coming. I hadn't even bothered to put the tarp over the car because I figured any windshield frost would melt before we needed to leave for our lunch appointment.

Quelle surprise! I woke to a blanket of white about 4-6 inches deep and rising.

Of course the dog needed to go out.

Sherlock loved it. I think he thought he was at the beach and the snow was the sand he loves to dig in and burrow his nose under. At times he hopped around like a rabbit, nipping at the chunks of snow he kicked up.

He stayed out much longer than I would have preferred. Every ... time  ... during ... the ... entire ... day. (By the way, kids, don't eat yellow snow.)

Our lunch was cancelled, and we weren't going anywhere, so we decided to chill and make it a real "snow day."

Of course, I can't be idle for long, so I bundled up and went looking for a shovel. The landlord's car was gone, and the gate was open, so I thought perhaps they used a plowing service to come and clear the driveway. Nonetheless, I found an old small pushbroom in a shed and used that to brush the snow off our Peugot. The broom didn't work as well on the ground, so back to the shed where I found a rake. That worked better, but not entirely as the snow was too deep.

I wandered out to another shed off the front yard, found an old broom lying next to it ... then the motherlode inside - an actual shovel, and a sturdy one at that.

D-L expressed the opinion that, at my age, I shouldn't be shoveling snow at all. She had read something that said men over 50 should refrain from the strain - http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/shovelling-snow-heart-attacks-cardiac-arrest-research-bmj-deaths-winter-a8103166.html

It took me about four sessions to almost completely clear the driveway and the steps leading to our garden apartment. Judicious rest in between.

I'm glad I did, though. After a mild thaw through the day and the cold air returning overnight, the snow would have been impenetrable ice today. And we do have to go out on some errands.

I must admit, the crystal stillness of the day was beautiful. The airport was closed, so no aircraft engine noise reverberating across the lake. Almost no traffic on the roads. You could distinctly head individual birds trilling. The conversations of people walking by. And when Sherlock and I stepped out for his Noon romp, the church bells rang and rang as clearly as if we were standing next to the bell tower.

I'll still be glad when it melts.