Friday, July 20, 2018

Random Thoughts About the Internet

In its current iteration, I think the Internet has a net negative effect on humanity. This wasn't always the case -- I miss the early days of the World Wide Web when its naive potential was not overshadowed by monetary value. The Internet was weird because people are weird and there was plenty of unique content to stumble across even within a fairly limited number of sites. You could connect with strangers through homepages, forums, and chatrooms and form all sorts of relationships without any pre-existing connection other than a shared interest.

Now that the Internet is well-established and over-populated, SEO, advertising, and eyeballs and clicks are the name of the game. Individuality has gone away. There is still a vast trove of information out there, but it's hard to discover it all when everything is curated by the biggest providers. Getting noticed requires gaming the system or being the loudest voice in a sea of other loud voices, reducing the overall level of discourse.

An example of this can be seen on a site like Reddit, where a small "subreddit" of people with a common interest can connect and converse. Once the number of subscribers crosses a certain threshold, posts start to devolve from interesting topics that spur discussion towards cheap memes that aim to get the maximum number of upvotes with as little effort as possible. To a lesser extent, you can see it in MMOs, where the best friendships were fostered in the 90s and early 2000s. When I start an MMO these days, I no longer have the patience to invest in making new friends or joining a new guild. After a brief flirtation with all of the soloable content in the MMO itself, I generally end up switching games to keep playing with the gaming friends I already have.

One paradoxical area where the Internet is having a negative effect is creativity. It's a well-known fact that everything artistic has already been done by someone else before. With the Internet, it's much easier to find this prior art and much harder to carve out your own space and not get dismissed as a copycat. I used to write a column on the URI! Zone called Newsday Tuesday where I would mock current events or news articles. Towards the tail end of those columns, it was getting to the point where any clever joke I might think up independently was already trending on Twitter from a late-night talk show host or found in the comments section of the real article. I'm glad I came of age as a composer in yesteryear, because I would probably be too intimidated to put myself out there today.

The Internet today weaponizes a massive push towards homogeneity, where the "right" answer is the one most broadly promoted, not necessarily the correct one or the one most people agree with. Social brigading has never been easier, as it just takes a well-written sob story to raise a fleeting sense of outrage in a pitchfork-wielding mob. I remember reading blogs years ago where any popular author could play the victim and instantly have a well-meaning, misguided pack of readers ready to defend them (this social interplay has been on my list of topics to blog about since 2004 but I'm lazy). Nowadays at scale, all it takes is a single-misguided tweet and thousands of people are up in arms and ready to vilify someone or some business. Is the conflict grounded in truth? No one has the time or inclination to do the research!

tagged as deep thoughts | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Data Day: Maia's First Year

Milestones

  • Social Smiling: 2 months
  • Foot Grabbing: 3 months
  • First Laughs: 3 months
  • First Solid Food: 4.5 months
  • Sitting Up: 5.5 months
  • Clapping: 6 months
  • First Airplane Flight: 8.5 months
  • First Teeth: 8.5 months
  • Crawling: 9 months
  • Drinking Through a Straw: 9.5 months
  • Cruising: 10 months
  • First Word In Context ("Dada"): 10.5 months
  • Upwards Stair Mobility: 11 months

Here's how Maia's height, weight, and head circumference stack up against her peers:

Key takeaways: Maia will be small like her parents and her head's not going to be nearly as big as initially expected.

tagged as data, offspring | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, July 16, 2018

Weekend Wrap-up

Rebecca has a permanent 4-day weekend in her schedule now from Friday to Monday, which is pretty awesome for her. On Friday, she took the morning to go to a new yoga studio with Kathy while I stayed home and worked and Maia hung out with her maternal set of grandparents. In the evening, we went to Mellow Mushroom for dinner for delicious hoagies and pizzas.

On Saturday, Rebecca met Ben and Andrea, up visiting from Cary, North Carolina, at the Lake Anne Farmer's Market. Everyone came back to our house after the market so the babies could play together, and Amelia spent the period poking a tired Maia in the eyeball. After a well-deserved long nap, Maia got to swim around our new kiddie pool on the deck. We invited the across-the-street neighbours over so their son could also be in the pool (no eye poking occurred) and had burgers with colby jack cheese.

On Sunday, Rebecca tried yet another new yoga studio, this time in Reston, while I organized the living room. In the afternoon, we re-organized the entire kitchen for maximum efficiency (following such common best practices as "put all the baby junk in consecutive drawers for maximum network throughput" and "move the fajita kit to the top shelf since we never make fajitas").

How was your weekend?

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, July 13, 2018

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

12 pictures of your day on the 12th of every month

6:17 AM: Showered and ready for work.
6:32 AM: Breakfast.
6:46 AM: In the home office, ready to write about things and stuff.
10:05 AM: Good morning!
12:10 PM: This is a robbery. Hand over the adult food.
12:28 PM: Spoons are for wusses.
1:15 PM: Afternoon Beat Saber workout while Maia naps.
3:05 PM: Bottle service before a trip to grandma's house.
5:03 PM: Maia performs a magic trick. (Those flowers used to be a rabbit).
5:55 PM: New stairs to conquer.
7:31 PM: Home from grandma's, exhausted and disheveled but possessing a tin of Toasted Oats.
8:46 PM: Guess who's home!

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Sinfonia Pop by Mika:
This DVD is a delightful live concert of Mika performing with orchestral accompaniment. The conductor is also the arranger, and allows Mika's songs to exist away from Mika's normal electronica. Great performances all around, including the little peppy backup singer who is clearly having a ball. For example, here's the song, Grace Kelly, as originally recorded and orchestrally arranged.

Final Grade: A

3%, Season Two:
I really enjoyed this season (though I could only watch it during Maia naps where I could pay attention to the Portuguese subtitles). The story grows organically from the simple baseline set out in the first season and focuses on four characters with clear, complex motivations that don't just change their mind to further the plot (unlike The 100). There's great interplay between the leads and good progression towards the season's conclusion, albeit with a few too many dream sequences. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B+

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Season Three:
It took us a long time to get through this season. The story went where it had to go, but it's hard to laugh at the continued absurdity when things like attempted suicide are also in the mix. The main character morphs from someone doing crazy things that you can laugh along with into someone with more awareness of the bad things she does to other people (yet continues to do them anyhow). The songs, though fewer, are still pretty fun. Free on Netflix.

Final Grade: B-

KT Tunstall at Wolf Trap:
We saw KT Tunstall (followed by Better Than Ezra and Barenaked Ladies) at Wolf Trap on July 2 in the worst, clammy heat possible. We bumped into Larry and Janice at the concession stand (as fans of the headliners) and took our yuppy pavilion seats with a good view of the proceedings. KT Tunstall was great in person and worth the price of admission. Better Than Ezra was fine -- engaging performers playing music I'm not particularly enthralled by. BNL were also good, although I'm not a huge fan of their music either. We left about halfway through the BNL performance to relieve the grandparent babysitters, but not before a fun duet between KT Tunstall and BNL.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

 

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