Algorithms and Victor Hood – What’s That All About?

The newly published author, Victor A. Hood, is better known to followers of his blog as Al Hood. His work can be found at:  The Cvillean – The adventures of little read writing Hood.

Al recently published an autobiography, “So, That’s What It’s All About, Alfie!” I wanted to purchase it. I knew it was being sold by Amazon,  but wondered if it would show up in a ‘Google’ search. I started with the author’s name and the name of the book. The search engine came back with  some books, including ones about Robin Hood, some obits, a type of range hood… but not what I was looking for.

Next I went to Amazon.com and looked in the book section for “So, That’s What It’s All About, Alfie!” Amazon told me I had used too many words, so they showed me 2000 results for a search for the words ‘so thats all’. Al’s book was fifth in the results. The first four books were about preaching, teacher leadership and sex education for youth.

I then tried searching in Amazon for Victor A. Hood. While Al’s book did come up on the top of this list, Amazon asked me if I meant to search for Victoria Hood. That was an interesting suggestion because in Al’s book, he noted that his mother had hoped he would be a girl. She had already picked out a name: Victoria.

Searching and Algorithms – What’s that all about?
The results we see when we search for anything is decided by an algorithm. This is a set of instructions with certain conditions that will deliver a pre-defined result. The people who write these algorithms influence what you are going to see. A Google Spokeswoman unintentionally confirmed this by saying:

We do today what we have done all along, provide relevant results from the most reliable sources available.
– Google Spokeswoman in response to a WSJ article in 2019 –

“The most reliable sources available”  – someone is deciding for you what the reliable sources will be.

Now the Government Wants to Decide What you will See
The Canadian Government has introduced Bill C-10, the internet streaming tax. The primary goal of this bill, as stated by Openmedia.org, is:
… expanding Canada’s Broadcasting Act to apply to all streaming audio or video content on the Internet… In addition to the taxes… C-10 would grant the CRTC the right to set quotas for how much of a streaming platform’s content must be CanCon (Canadian Content), and to require… apps, websites and search results to make CanCon appear more frequently and prominently within the service.

The Canadian Government deciding what you should see. What could possible be wrong with that?!?

For more about Algorithms, click these links to my posts:
Math and Number Quotations
Algorithms – Do They Have a Hidden Agenda?

This is the Week That Was: Perspectives

Digital Perspectives

I’m reading “Digital Minimalism – Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” by Cal Newport. I’m at the part where you do a one month Digital Declutter. I am supposed to step away from any technologies (apps, sites and tools on my computer or mobile phone) that I can take a break from without creating harm to my personal or professional life. Fortunately, I am 50% there even if I do nothing because I don’t have a mobile phone. I don’t have a professional life either… or much of a social life…

As for Apps, I can easily slim down Facebook. All I have to do is ‘snooze’ a few people for 30 days. I can clean-up my Twitter feed too – unfollow, block. News Sites? Shouldn’t be too hard to stop reading the news for a month… I’m feeling calmer already…

Funny Perspectives

My Twitter feed can be quite fun some days:

 

‘Rona Virus Perspective

I’ve read that a lot of people put on weight during the lockdown…

 

I Found my Pizza Crust

Before the ‘Pizza Crust’

In the big scheme of things, it was a little blip. I logged onto my WordPress blog a few days ago, and instead of being greeted with my WP Admin page, I was looking at the contents of the WordPress Feed Reader. Instead of seeing my personal Dashboard, I was seeing the endless list of what other people had posted and what WordPress thought I should read, etc, etc.

I was not amused. Granted, I could still get to my WP Admin page in a few clicks, but that wasn’t the point. When I log on to this account, I want my information to be the priority.

I won’t go into great detail about the discussion I had online with three WordPress ‘Happiness Engineers’; the rating I gave them when I got a cheerful email asking me to rate my help experience; or the message I posted in the WordPress Forums.

That’s now water under the bridge because this morning when I logged on, life was back to normal. My WP Admin page was the first thing I saw. That wretched Reader was back where it belonged – a tab at the top of the page.

The ‘Pizza Crust’

The ‘pizza crust on the sidewalk’ was the email that I got from WordPress (in response to my message thanking them for fixing my problem).

Isn’t that just a hoot!? They changed something in order to fix something which then broke something else, which when they fixed that, it also fixed something that they didn’t know they had broken.

Refreshing honesty and a good outcome for all. Life is Good.

What Say You – have you found any ‘pizza crusts on the sidewalk’ lately?

This is the Week That Was: September 24, 2019

A Sunflower in the hay field across the road. For some reason, there were only about a dozen of these cheerful flowers in the quarter section.  The blooms lasted for about 2 days before the swather cut them down. Timing is everything…

The Quippery

Speaking of music, I downloaded Copy Trans Manager and used it to upload music to two little (and old) iPod Nanos (second and third generation.) The program works well and it was ever so nice not to have to put iTunes on my computer.

Steve Jobs apparently once joked that Apple’s iTunes software for Windows computers was extremely popular, because “It’s like giving a glass of ice water to somebody in hell.” I disagree. Getting iTunes off your computer  – now that is hell.

Speaking of age, here are all my Age Quotations. I have friends I should send this link to, but right now I can’t remember their names. So please forward this to your friends… etc.

When Life Gives you Lemons

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This is a motivational phrase that encourages optimism and a positive attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune.

So, here is my Lemon story:

Bad news: My Lenovo Computer got fried and it was going to cost a grievous amount to fix it.
Good news: The ASUS Computer I bought to replace it had more features than the Lenovo, and cost less than the Lenovo had… maybe that should have been a warning sign.

Bad news: The ASUS was temperamental and did not always play well with Windows updates.
Good news: The store where I bought it has a helpful geek who could always fix the computer within minutes of my arrival (unannounced).

Bad news: The ASUS got stuck in BIOS diagnostic mode last weekend. Diagnosis: the hard drive died. The computer had to go to the computer hospital for repairs.
Good news: The computer is still under warranty.
And more good news: There is an ASUS repair depot in my Canadian province – otherwise the computer would have had to be shipped to Texas.

My 9 year old Sony laptop – slow, but steady. Built to last!

Good news: My last data back up was 7 days previous, so I didn’t lose too much stuff.
Good news/bad news:  My back-up computer is a nine year old Sony laptop with Windows 7.

It was a speedy machine back in the day. Today – it is feeling its age. It took a few hours to prod it into action. I updated the OS, installed a Security system, and downloaded a few of the programs I like to use for photos. I was good to go. The computer, on the other hand, has let me know it has a few strict guidelines:
– it will not say, for certain, that it will work and play well with any of those newer, snooty programs that believe Windows 7 is old and outdated.
– it doesn’t like to multi-task. Therefore it will not guarantee that any task I ask it to do in the morning will be completed before mid afternoon, if I am also asking it to do something else.

A bit more bad news: It is also dawning on me how many things I didn’t back up – like web browser bookmarks and all the little digital post-it notes on my ‘desktop’. I’ve also lost quite a few flower photos that I had recently downloaded from a new camera.

The Lemonade part of the story. I’ve had a home computer of some description for over 30 years. This is the first time a hard drive has failed and the worst case scenario is I’ve lost a very, very small portion of the data I’ve accumulated in that time. In the big scheme of things, this is a nothing event!

When you have finished backing up the data on your computer, do tell me the worst computer failure you have had!

Internet is Watching You – TEDTalk Tristan Harris (Video)

What if this was a dialogue between you and Google?
You: Hello! Is this Gordon’s Pizza?
Google: No sir, it’s Google’s Pizza.

Did I dial the wrong number?
Google: No sir, Google bought the pizza store.

Oh, alright – then I’d like to place an order please.
Google: Okay sir, do you want the usual?

The usual? You know what my usual is?
Google: According to the caller ID, the last 15 times you’ve ordered a 12-slice with double-cheese, sausage, and thick crust.

Okay – that’s what I want this time too.
Google: May I suggest that this time you order an 8-slice with ricotta, arugula, and tomato instead?

No, I hate vegetables.
Google: But your cholesterol is not good.

How do you know?
Google: Through the subscriber’s guide. We have the results of your blood tests for the last 7 years.

Maybe so, but I don’t want the pizza you suggest – I already take medicine for high cholesterol.
Google: But you haven’t taken the medicine regularly. 4 months ago you purchased from Drugsale Network a box of only 30 tablets.

I bought more from another drugstore.
Google: It’s not showing on your credit card, sir.

I paid in cash.
Google: But according to your bank statement, you did not withdraw that much cash.

I have another source of cash.
Google: This is not showing on your last tax form unless you got it from an undeclared income source.

WHAT THE HELL? ENOUGH! I’m sick of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. I’m going to an island without the internet, where there’s no cell phone line, and no one to spy on me …
Google: I understand sir, but you’ll need to renew your passport … it expired 5 weeks ago.
– Author Unknown –

Who Collects Your Data?

Social media platforms come with a price tag. You have given the “Zuck’s” people full permission to collect almost anything from your cache of info. Why are we suddenly surprised that data was collected, sold, exchanged, and shared?
Don’t hold only Facebook responsible for collecting because every app you added to your phone is already doing the same thing. You scroll through after installation and agree to each little pop-up screen and then wonder why they can take your information without permission.
You gave it up willingly, and some was shared illegally, we all could take stock in being a little more cautious…
Don’t get me started about the folks who are angry about everyone knowing their business just before they yell to Alexa to play something from the Little River Band. Let that sink in for a few minutes.
She already knows where you are making reservation for dinner, and that you probably are wearing the new pants and shirt you purchased through Amazon.
– TC, Bangor Maine Police Department –

How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day

Limiting the Information Flow.

Those lists we keep seeing — like Google’s “autocomplete” search suggestions or the news feeds on Facebook — those determine what content we will see and what content we will never see — in other words, what content will be censored. That, as George Orwell warned and as Chinese officials know well, is how you control people: by limiting the information flow.
– Robert Epstein, Daily Caller – Google and Facebook Are the Problem –

Are You Gullible?

… the idea that a “targeted” bleat from a campaign basement to a functional adult will bring that person to vote a certain way can only lead to one of two conclusions: such a person should never go on the internet, or, should not be allowed to vote.
– Rex Murphy, Facebook Made Me Do It, Nationalpost –

They’re Watching You

Facebook: “The notion of being handed a multimedia pass to all your friends, wherever they might be, for free, holds immense appeal — even if “free” turns out to mean “we’re watching you and making money and maybe pulling some of your psychological chains to our own ends.”
– Ted Anthony, Facebook – Should You Leave it, Financial Post –

Auto-Refill

News feeds are purposely designed to auto-refill with reasons to keep you scrolling, and purposely eliminate any reason for you to pause, reconsider or leave.
It’s also why video and social media sites like Netflix, YouTube or Facebook autoplay the next video after a countdown instead of waiting for you to make a conscious choice (in case you won’t). A huge portion of traffic on these websites is driven by autoplaying the next thing.
– Tristan Harris, How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind, Thrive Global –

If We do Nothing

If we do nothing about Google and Facebook, we will get more of the same: more hyper-targeting, more algorithmic bias, less competition and the further erosion of collateral industries, like media. Enough is enough.
-Gabriel Weinberg, CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo, CNBC –

How to ‘Avoid’ GoogleThe Quippery

Yahoo and or Outlook email instead of G-Mail.
WordPress.com blogs instead of Blogger – (though frankly WordPress P*$$ me off a bit now that they are cancelling Photo Challenge.)
Firefox instead of Chrome.
DuckDuckGo instead of Google Search.
Dropbox instead of Google Drive.

What have you done to limit how much of your data is ‘mined’ by one company?

Security – A New Year – Time for New Passwords!

Happy New Year to you all!
Do you have a List of Resolutions?
Thought about adding ‘New Passwords’ to that list?

The Quippery

In 2011, The Car Guy’s Yahoo Mail account sent out invitations to most of his contacts to use Viagra. After hours of looking for a breach, I realized that the account had been hacked through Yahoo itself. We secured the account with a new password, but the whole episode was a good reminder of why it is a good idea to change passwords frequently, and have different passwords for different accounts.

Strong passwords are also highly recommended. Some sites require specific combinations, though not quite as rigorous as this password protocol that I made up:

The Car Guy and I developed and memorized a few mnemonic phrases. They form the first part of our passwords. The second part of each password varies from site to site. We’ve memorized most of them, but keep them all in a database (without the mnemonic part) for those days when we can’t find our car keys, let alone remember a password…

Do you have a Password ‘System’?

Internet – Google Autocomplete – Unfiltered Eavesdropping

Google Search wants to help you find what you are looking for. To speed up the process, it uses autocomplete to list suggestions that are based on the search activity of other Google users.

Here are some of the searches I did and what I learned from my digital eavesdropping:

How do I convertpdf and atheism – two new religions.

How do I know ifOnce the issue of the unlocked cell phone is resolved, we can move on to other pressing matters.

How do I know whenPotatoes were right up there with making babies.

How do I know whyWhy wouldn’t you know why your license was suspended?

How do I stayMaybe if you do the first three, the last will be easy…

Best style ofThe fridge was a bit of a surprise considering the rest of the list.

I will have the children read Hamlet as soon as it is practical. There are some useful cautions against eavesdropping to be gleaned from that.
– Maryrose Wood, The Mysterious Howling –

One of the unique things about the human brain is that it can do only what it thinks it can do. The minute you say, “My memory isn’t what it used to be …” you are actually training your brain to live up to your diminished expectations. Low expectations mean low results. The first rule of super brain is that your brain is always eavesdropping on your thoughts. As it listens, it leans. If you teach it about limitation, your brain will become limited. But what if you do the opposite? What if you teach your brain to be unlimited?”
– Deepak Chopra –

Sounds like you kids have some talking to do. I’ll be eavesdropping from the kitchen.”
– Jill Shalvis –

A raintree bent towards a window in one side of the bungalow, eavesdropping on the conversations that had taken place inside over years.”
– Tan Twan Eng –

Our whole lives are lived in a tangle of telling, not telling, misleading, allowing to know, concealing, eavesdropping and collusion. When Washington said he could not tell a lie, his father must have answered, ‘You had better learn.
– Germaine Greer –

iPad Draw Something! How to Make S’Mores – Traditional and Super Simple

TRADITIONAL S’MORES

Ingredients: graham wafers marshmallows chocolate bar or Nutella

Technique: First, the ideal marshmallow cooking stick must be found, and then whittled to the exact right point. The stick has to be brandished like a sword by a child (or someone who is child like) for a few minutes, until some mom says, “Put that stick down before you poke someones eye out!”

In the meantime, someone has to build a fire. Probably a number of someones – the paper bringers, the match finders, the log splitters, the kindling scroungers. Then there is a discussion of how best to stack the paper, wood and kindling. Once the fire is off and running, the ritual of telling stories, adding more wood, and poking the fire with a big stick, has to take place. When mom says, “Put that big stick down before you burn up the forest!” it is time to get out the marshmallows, and find the very pointy sticks again.

Once a marshmallow is skewered, they are slowly browned until they are golden on the ouside, and drippy goo on the inside. Alternately, the marshmallow can be burned to a crisp in just a few seconds. In addition to the Marshmallow Cookers, there is the Keeper of the Graham Wafers and Chocolate. This person will line up the graham wafer squares on a suitable surface. Alternate wafers will have a square of chocolate or a smear of Nutella put on it.

The Marshmallow Cooker presents the cooked marshmallow to the Keeper of the Graham Wafers, who will try to sandwich the marshmallow between two wafers without burning their fingers. (This ‘recipe’ for Traditional S’Mores is dedicated to the 305 families of Hidden Valley, Alberta who lost their community (and all their campfire rings) in the Floods of 2013.)

SUPER SIMPLE S’MORES

There are other simpler ways to make S’mores, of course. If you have a gas stove and a long handled fork, you are half way there! You can cook wieners that way too, though your mom may not like you doing that any more than my mom did when I was a kid.

 No gas stove? Well, there is always the Microwave Oven. Put the chocolate on one of the graham wafers and the marshmallow on the other. Pop it in the Microwave Oven for only a few seconds, then check to see if the marshmallow has started to melt. If not, microwave a few seconds more and continue until the marshmallow has expanded to about the size of the graham wafer.

Watch the chocolate too. You don’t want it to melt and run all over the place. Remove and make your chocolate marshmallow sandwich. Let it cool before eating. Each S’more will have about zmfxn calories and nbxz fat, sodium and sugar – but they are worth it.

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.
-Erma Bombeck –

What are your S’More memories?

From Rags to Riches – the Spam Way

I opened a few Gmail accounts a while back – I am migrating from Hotmail to Gmail, though for the life of me I can’t remember what prompted me to do that. Regardless of the reason, I have never checked the Spam box of my Gmail account until today. Imagine my surprise when I discovered all the ways I could be a wealthy woman if I simply follow the instructions in these emails:

1. If I can just help out Mrs.Fatoumata Zongo, the wife to the deceased former Head of Delegation to the World Bank in West Africa, I will get 30% of  US $7 million. Her husband was the linkman between the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries – OPEC and the petroleum sector in a West African country. He died from cardiac arrest, though she doesn’t say whether that might have been just after a bullet or an arrow pierced his heart.

I suggest this because it appears like Mr. Zongo was a bit of a shady character. He seems to have skimmed the money off the  allocated oil quota in OPEC. Mrs. Zongo isn’t all that honest either, and she wants me  to assist her to claim his ill gotten gains. The process appears to be very simple. There are some claim documents that will be processed and sent to me. The documents will be amended to reflect me as the beneficiary so that I can  collect the fund as his business associate. Then, I will keep 30% of the total funds and give her the rest when she arrives  in my country.

Now I have to ask the obvious question – why would I give her the 70%?  She anticipated that question, so she appealed to my humanitarian side – she needs it for the up keep of her only son. Well, Mrs. Zongo, you are very wrong if you think I have both a greedy side and a humanitarian side!

My dear Mrs. Zongo – this is a dangerous game you are playing.  Run, Mrs. Zongo before you and your son also experience ‘cardiac arrest’.

2. The next email skipped the preliminary story and got right to the point.  Mrs. Fatu Kabri wished to solicit my partnership to transfer $20 Million US dollars. She would send me more information and procedures once she received this information from me:
1. Full name……….
2. Nationality………….
3. Age…………….
4. Occupation…………..
5. Phone number………….

I expect the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Kabri ‘s $20 million were not all that honest either. Run Mrs. Kabri before you suffer ‘cardiac arrest’ too!

3. The third email was to notify me that I was a Winner in UKNL of One Million Pounds. All I had to do was Contact Agent Larry William Via his Email address and tell him my:
Full Name:
Contact Address:
Tel:
Age:
Country:

Toonaday shark

I had to wonder, how did I win a lottery that I didn’t enter in a country I don’t live? Clearly Agent Larry doesn’t know any of these answers either. Agent Larry also should know by now that One Million pounds is chicken feed compared with what is being offered by his fellow crooks in South Africa.

That was all there was in my Spam Box – three incredibly stupid stories intended to appeal to either my greed or my gullibility. It would all be very funny if the purpose of these emails wasn’t fraudulent, and if some people weren’t victims of the schemes behind these emails.

Think of your Spam Email box as shark infested waters. Don’t even think of going swimming in there!

Unsolicited e-mails, however, are often the initial means for criminals, such as operators of fraudulent schemes, to contact and solicit prospective victims for money, or to commit identity theft by deceiving them into sharing bank and financial account information.
– The United States Department of Justice –