Category Archives: In Our Time

Twitter more racially diverse than rest of Web (and, I’m guessing, way more so than this blog)

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This, from the WSJ, sort of surprised me:

For most of its rather short life, Twitter rarely mentioned that its user base is more racially diverse than U.S. Internet users as a whole. Now, as a newly minted public company needing to generate revenue, it is moving to capitalize on its demographics.

In November, Twitter hired marketing veteran Nuria Santamaria to a new position as multicultural strategist, leading its effort to target black, Hispanic and Asian-American users.

Together, those groups account for 41% of Twitter’s 54 million U.S. users, compared with 34% of the users of rival Facebook and 33% of all U.S. Internet users, according to Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project….

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s racist of me to have assumed that Twitter was way white. I think it probably had something to do with it being a geeky medium, and I think of geeks as white, the fictional Rajesh Koothrappali notwithstanding.

Facebook, as it turns out, is every bit as white bread as I thought it was. Twitter, less so.

These are not vast differences, but it seems meaningful that the Twitterverse is 50 percent blacker than the U.S. population as a whole. I don’t know what it means, but it seems it means something.

Lest you throw stones at me for being taken by surprise, I’ll have you know that many of my friends/followers/contacts are non-white. Although…

And I’ve sort of wondered about this…

I find myself associating more with nonwhite friends and acquaintances in real life than in the Twitterverse, or elsewhere on the Web. Look at my church (especially the Mass I attend, which is in Spanish), or the membership of the Capital City Club, etc.

In fact, and I hope I’m not insulting anyone here, I kinda think of most of y’all as white. Based on the regulars I actually have met — Kathryn, Doug, Silence, Bryan, Karen, Phillip, Bud, Mark, KP, etc. — that seems overwhelmingly the case. Of course, that’s totally anecdotal, but I tend to pick up on a pretty white vibe in most of our conversations.

This blog seems to lack crossover appeal. Unlike Twitter. I knew Twitter was cool, but I didn’t realize it could be quantified to this extent….

The end of civilization as we know it: The lifestyle of Thomas Ravenel, as entertainment for the masses

This is so low, so base, so degrading to all of us who belong to the same species, that I’m just going to make you aware of it, and comment no further. This is from an item about the new Bravo reality show “Southern Charm,” which stars Thomas Ravenel and several other decadent slackers:

Paternity drama, lots of sleeping around and black tie functions? How scandalous! Bravo describes the cast as “Southern bachelors who suffer from ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ by refusing to settle down; and the women in their lives who challenge them to grow up.”

Look for the series to chronicle political careers, businesses, and of course love lives while trying to protect their family names “Because in Charleston, you’re only as good as your last garden party and one social screw-up can taint generations to come.”

Southern Charm debuts Monday, March 3 at 10 p.m. on Bravo.  A half-hour preview special airs Monday, Feb. 3 at 11:30 p.m….

Maybe when they were casting this thing, they saw this picture from Ravenel’s Facebook page.

And yeah, we elected this guy treasurer once. My newspaper even endorsed him.

We descend into lawless chaos: Basketball player travels 7 steps, without penalty

My son shared this with me, knowing the sort of thing that makes me all indignant. Note that neither officials nor the announcer paid any attention when this player moved one foot or the other seven times, without dribbling.

Well, what are we to expect? We long ago stopped enforcing basic rules of the game “Shooter” regarded as “the greatest game ever invented.” Is it any wonder the world is in such sorry shape?…

So, how did Brigid Schulte find the time to write a BOOK?

Congrats to my long-ago colleague Brigid Schulte, who just received a starred review in Publishers Weekly for her new book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time:

51FQv8OfA7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_On her quest to turn her “time confetti” into “time serenity,” journalist Schulte finds that, while it’s worse for women and hits working mothers the hardest, what she calls the “Overwhelm” cuts across gender, income, and nationality to contaminate time, shrink brains, impair productivity, and reduce happiness. Investigating the “great speed-up” of modern life, Schulte surveys the “time cages” of the American workplace, the “stalled gender revolution” in the home, and the documented necessity for play, and discovers that the “aimless whirl” of American life runs on a conspiracy of “invisible forces”: outdated notions of the Ideal Worker; the cult of motherhood; antiquated national family policies; and the “high status of busyness.” The result is our communal “time sickness.” Schulte takes a purely practical and secular approach to a question that philosophers and spiritual teachers have debated for centuries—how to find meaningful work, connection, and joy—but her research is thorough and her conclusions fascinating, her personal narrative is charmingly honest, and the stakes are high: the “good life” pays off in “sustainable living, healthy populations, happy families, good business, [and] sound economies.” While the final insights stretch thin, Schulte unearths the attitudes and “powerful cultural expectations” responsible for our hectic lives, documents European alternatives to the work/family balance, and handily summarizes her solutions in an appendix. Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency. (Mar.)

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Brigid Schulte

Brigid was the reporter I hired as Lee Bandy’s successor in The State‘s Washington Bureau. My memories of her sort of illustrate the theme of her book. First, there’s the way we met. I went to Washington in January 1993 — there was snow on the ground of the Mall around the booths set up for the first Clinton inauguration, which was to occur a few days later. I had set up interviews with a number of candidates, using an empty office in the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau as my base. But Brigid was out of town, and wasn’t getting back until almost exactly the moment my returning flight left.

So we met in the airport, as she was coming and I was going. I was sufficiently impressed to bring her down to Columbia for further interviews. We ended up hiring her. About a year later, she got drafted by the KR national staff, and not long after that moved on to The Washington Post.

Another quick anecdote: She was covering the round of BRAC hearings that led to the closing of Myrtle Beach Air Force Base. The climax of the process occurred on a Sunday afternoon. I happened to have the desk duty that day, and Brigid was having to wait for it all to happen, then write the story and somehow catch a train on which she was to depart with her then-new husband on vacation. This was before cellphones. She filed the story (on a Radio Shack TRS-80, I guess) at a time when it seemed physically impossible for her still to catch the train. Of course, I wasn’t going to let her go until I had the story.

Then there was the matter of calling in to answer my questions after I had read it. She did so, literally breathless and a bit dazed, from a phone on the train — which in those days was a technological marvel. “I’m on the train!” she shouted. “I’m on the phone, on the train! I’m calling you from the train! I made it!” That’s wonderful, I said. Now, here are my questions…

Of course, life has become even more hectic since that time. I mean, she didn’t even have kids back then.

So, I have to wonder: How did she find time to write a book? I always wonder that — I marvel that anyone finds time in a lifetime to do that — but I particularly wonder, given that she knows so well how insane modern life is. Well enough to write a book about it.

But she was always well-organized. She used to carry two notebooks — one for the live stories that day, another for enterprise stuff she was working on for later. I suppose that, while working on this book, she carried a third. Or the electronic equivalent of a third…

No hard feelings between Clowney, cops

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Not sure what to make of this, beyond concluding that Jadeveon Clowney is a good-natured young man.

He Tweeted out the above picture today with the words:

We in here me and my boys lol

I’m not sure that being charged with going 110 mph is an LOL matter, but that’s probably because I’m a sour-natured, buzz-killing alter cocker.

‘What did the world search for in 2013?’ Google knows…

zeitgeist

Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald are feeling like pretty important guys (just ask ‘em; they’ll tell ya), especially since they finally got one federal judge to agree with their view of NSA surveillance programs.

But as far as Google is concerned, they’re not all that interesting.

At least, they don’t show up in the Google Zeitgeist list of top 10 global trending searches of 2013. Here’s what does:

  1. Nelson Mandela
  2. Paul Walker
  3. iPhone 5s
  4. Cory Monteith
  5. Harlem Shake
  6. Boston Marathon
  7. Royal Baby
  8. Samsung Galaxy s4
  9. PlayStation 4
  10. North Korea

There’s more — much more. From Google’s blog:

Every day, around the world, we search. We want to find out more about our heroes, explore far-away destinations, or settle a dinner table dispute between friends. And sometimes we just search to find out how many calories are in an avocado.

In our annual Year-End Zeitgeist (“spirit of the times”), we reflect on the people, places, and moments that captured the world’s attention throughout the year. This year marks our most global Zeitgeist to date—with 1,000+ top 10 lists across categories like Trending People, Most-Searched Events and Top Trending Searches from 72 countries.

As we get ready to turn the page to 2014, we invite you to take a global journey through the biggest moments from the past 12 months in our Year in Review video

And how did the largest number of users finish the query, “what is…?”

With the word, “twerking,” that’s how. Really. We’re serious. Even if the rest of the world wasn’t. It was “twerking,” not, say, “metadata.”

Somewhere at The Guardian, there’s an editor weeping right about now. Probably the one who keeps leading the paper (or at least, the Web version) with Snowden/NSA stories

Yes! Gov’t likely to continue banning phone calls on U.S. flights

I like the sound of this:

The federal government is moving closer to approving the use of cellphones on planes, but with a catch: Consumers couldn’t use the devices to make calls.

The effort would be the culmination of separate rules being considered at two federal agencies. The Federal Communications Commission is taking steps Thursday to allow airplanes to install technology that would enable cellphone service.

Separately, the Department of Transportation is considering a proposal that would ban calls outright. Passengers could still use their data plans on smartphones and tablets to surf the Web or send e-mails and texts….

I’ve been dreading the idea of having to listening to other people’s obnoxious conversations ever since I heard the gummint was talking about loosening its ban on phones. Obviously, I was far from the only one:

The idea of allowing cellphone calls on planes generated a massive storm of public criticism after it was first put forward by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last month. Travelers, flight attendants and lawmakers voiced concern that the proposal unleash unbearable cacophonies of phone conversation on packed airplanes….

On Thursday, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that also would prohibit cellphone calls on commercial airlines, echoing an effort in the House this week.

“Keeping phone conversations private on commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but it is certainly enshrined in common sense,” Alexander said. “This legislation is about avoiding something nobody wants: nearly 2 million passengers a day, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts.”…

Y’all see what I mean about Lamar being one of those senators who needs to stay in Washington. He’s a true voice of sanity. (That problem with his chief of staff notwithstanding.)

Speaking of voices… Ever since I heard that the rules might be loosened, I’ve thought about this one woman I was trapped on a plane with for nine hours, going to England. She was across the aisle and a couple of seats in front of me, but I couldn’t help hearing every loud, self-important word she spoke to the poor guy seated next to her. She didn’t speak the whole time — the guy must have pretended to go to sleep or something. But imagine if should could have filled those gaps with phone calls. I shudder. Some people shouldn’t be allowed out in public, much less making phone calls while enclose with a hundred other people in an aluminum tube in the sky.

Thoughts?

Fascinating NYT piece about Google Maps

maps

I continue to believe that Google Maps is, next to HTML code itself, the most amazingly absorbing thing I’ve ever encountered on the Internet.

This NYT piece, headlined “Google’s Road Map to Global Domination,” gives an extended glimpse into what Maps is all about, and the implications for the future. An excerpt:

 Where-type questions — the kind that result in a little map popping up on the search-results page — account for some 20 percent of all Google queries done from the desktop. But ultimately more important by far is location-awareness, the sort of geographical information that our phones and other mobile devices already require in order to function. In the future, such location-awareness will be built into more than just phones. All of our stuff will know where it is — and that awareness will imbue the real world with some of the power of the virtual. Your house keys will tell you that they’re still on your desk at work. Your tools will remind you that they were lent to a friend. And your car will be able to drive itself on an errand to retrieve both your keys and your tools.

While no one can say exactly how we will get from the current moment to that Jetsonian future, one thing for sure can be said about location-awareness: maps are required. Tomorrow’s map, integrally connected to everything that moves (the keys, the tools, the car), will be so fundamental to their operation that the map will, in effect, be their operating system. A map is to location-awareness as Windows is to a P.C. And as the history of Microsoft makes clear, a company that controls the operating system controls just about everything. So the competition to make the best maps, the thinking goes, is more than a struggle over who dominates the trillion-dollar smartphone market; it’s a contest over the future itself….

 

Overdramatizing to make celebrities seem interesting

Lewis as Lt. Dick Winters.

Lewis as Lt. Dick Winters.

I started reading this with some interest yesterday, at the recommendation of Michael McKean:

The United States, locked in the kind of twilight disconnect that grips dying empires, is a country entranced by illusions. It spends its emotional and intellectual energy on the trivial and the absurd. It is captivated by the hollow stagecraft of celebrity culture as the walls crumble. This celebrity culture giddily licenses a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Day after day, one lurid saga after another, whether it is Michael Jackson, Britney Spears [or Miley Cyrus], enthralls the country …

Until I saw it was turning into an Occupy-style rant (which “locked in the kind of twilight disconnect that grips dying empires” should have hipped me to, but I had skimmed over it)…

…despite bank collapses, wars, mounting poverty or the criminality of its financial class.

In any case, I shared the concern over celebrity obsession. We really shouldn’t be fixated on celebs, unless they happen to be Christina Hendricks.

But you know, if a significant proportion of the few remaining journalists who are paid to do their thing must focus on celebrities, at least they should do so honestly and well. You don’t have to be writing about war or famine or the fates of nations to do a good job with it. Look at the great tradition of fine sports writing, from Ring Lardner through Sports Illustrated. And let’s not forget that Renaissance man George Plimpton.

Admittedly, there are grace and nobility in sport, while what actors and singers and people-who-are-famous-for-being-on-TV do can be relatively lacking in poetry. But if you must write about them, at least do so honestly, instead of making lame attempts to make them seem more interesting than they are.

I had been delving in triviality myself — looking for most popular Christmas songs — when I saw a link to some apparent controversy regarding something Damian Lewis had said. Being a fan of his work in “Band of Brothers” (and to some extent in “Homeland”), I clicked on it:

Sir Ian McKellen has a bone to pick with Damian Lewis…

Lewis recently commented that when he was in his 20s, he became concerned that if he didn’t break out of the theatre in time, he “would be one of these slightly over-the-top, fruity actors who would have an illustrious career on stage, but wouldn’t start getting any kind of film work until I was 50 and then start playing wizards.”…

Oh, gee — let’s see what sort of verbal artillery McKellen unleashed on Lewis:

The X-Men actor went on to describe Lewis’ statement as “a fair comment”, before adding: “To rebut it: I wouldn’t like to have been one of those actors who hit stardom quite early on and expected it to continue and was stuck doing scripts that I didn’t particularly like just to keep the income up.

“I’ve always wanted to get better as an actor. And I have got better. You’ve only got to see my early work to see that.

“As for a fruity voice? Well, it may be a voice that is trained like an opera singer’s voice: to fill a large space. It is unnatural. Actors have to be heard and their voice may therefore develop a sonorous quality that they can’t quite get rid of, so you think actors are as pompous as their voice is large. I suppose Damian was thinking of that a little bit, too.”…

So… McKellen was fairer, and more thoughtful, about what Lewis said (which, by the way, could as easily be applied to Richard Harris), than this story was.

Where was he “reeling”? Where did he pick a bone?

Sorry, folks — no slugfest here. Move along…

McKellen as Gandalf.

McKellen as Gandalf.

The Thing I Hate Most About Facebook (at the moment)

And now that my temper is up, I may as well go on and abuse every body I can think of.
— Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

Still grumbling about strong-mayor, and irritated by bad Christmas music everywhere (I’m going to do a Top Five List on that sometime in the next few days), I might as well abuse Facebook.

There are a lot of things I don’t like about Facebook, but this tops them all…

I always leave it running on a tab on my browser, alongside Twitter and a couple of different views of my blog’s dashboard, my email, my calendar and the public face of the blog itself. Those are all things I click and alt-tab back and forth among a lot, and it’s far more convenient to have them all running simultaneously than to have to call each one up when I need it.

Almost invariably, when I click back to the Facebook tab, at the very top of my screen will be something interesting that I had meant to click on and read earlier, but hadn’t had the time, and left sitting there for when I did have time.

Only now, when I click on the FB tab, and I see that interesting thing in front of me for ONE SECOND, I yell “No! Don’t!” as the page automatically refreshes and brings up whatever is the most recent thing on my feed, which invariably will be something not interesting at all — thereby burying what I wanted to read under an avalanche of irrelevant material.

So I have to go hunting for the interesting thing.

That’s what I hate most about Facebook. At the moment.

Jeff Bezos tantalizes us with drone delivery


I meant to mention this yesterday, but didn’t get to it.

The first thing I saw about Amazon’s tantalizing “unveiling” of drone delivery of packages — within half an hour, we’re told! — was a piece on Slate pooh-poohing it:

In an infomercial hosted by Charlie Rose on CBS’s 60 Minutes this weekend, Amazon announced that it plans to deliver small packages via drone in the near future. Many media outlets have credulously repeated this claim, just like they did with the beer-delivering drone and the taco-delivering drone.

However, the technical, regulatory, and logistical challenges of autonomous flight in crowded American urban airspace are far more profound than Bezos allowed on TV. As he said, the FAA is now revising its rules regarding autonomous flight. The FAA roadmap is complex. But it bluntly states (on Page 33): “Autonomous operations are not permitted.” There is an exception for line-of-sight operations for small UAVs. But Bezos’ vision of autonomous delivery in a city is not, according to the FAA roadmap, in the cards in the next few years….

Well, to be fair, Bezos did tell Charlie Rose it would be a few years. (But if the writer had Slate had really wanted to mock the media’s gee-whiz, boosterish reaction, he should have commented on the breathless “making of” feature about their Amazon scoop.)

In the spirit of scoffing, I thought about writing a post headlined something like, “Why doesn’t Bezos promise us teleportation while he’s at it?”

But truly, this is pretty much of a gee-whiz idea — little flying robots gently dropping stuff off at our front doors, and NOT taking the stuff back because we’re not there to sign for it? Who couldn’t love that.

Of course, I hope my libertarian friends will now stop insisting that the private sector is the place where innovations that make our lives better originate. I mean, the government’s been using drones for years, with deadly effect. And delivering payloads WAY bigger than five pounds, baby. It just shows how lame the private sector really is that we get excited over something that’s such a “been-there, done-that” to government.

Sorry, Doug. Couldn’t resist.

Seriously, folks, this is exciting. And we communitarians must admit that the one barrier to doing this is government — that is, the FAA. On the other hand, count me among those grateful that the FAA won’t automatically approve thousands of mini-helicopters buzzing around the yards where our kids play.

Someday, we’ll have this. Just as someday, we’ll have self-driving cars — once the liability issues are worked out.

And I like that Bezos is straining at the limits, getting out there, breaking molds, challenging assumptions, yadda-yadda.

It’s stuff like this that makes me hopeful that he’ll come up with mold-breaking ideas that save the newspaper industry, now that he’s in that business. I’d love a chance to help him do it. It would be wonderful (not to mention tremendous fun) to be on the technological frontier as a part of forging the salvation of the Fourth Estate.

Maybe we could even work drones into it…

The Word of the Year, and a picture to go with it

I learned this from listening to NPR this morning:

Good morning. I’m Renee Montagne announcing the word of the year: Selfie. The Smartphone self-portrait. The Oxford Dictionary says it perfectly captures 2013. Selfies lit up social media and dirty ones derailed political careers. Teens even took one with the Pope. The word’s come a long way since popping up on an Australian message board a decade ago. It beat out binge watch, meaning marathon TV watching, and twerk. You can look that one up.

But what really made me enjoy the news was this Tweet from NASA’s Curiosity Rover:

selfie

By the way, as a guy who has had occasion to shoot a number of pictures of himself over the years, what with blogging and the avatars needed for social media, I really don’t like the way that word sounds.

It’s beginning to look a lot like pushing the season

holiday cups

Above is a cropped shot taken of three of my kids in Central Park in NYC on Nov. 23, 2007. It was the day after Thanksgiving, the day merchandisers call “Black Friday.” It was bitterly cold, and those cups of hot coffee were welcome.

I show you this in order to note that, to the best of my recollection, that was the first time I ever saw the red Starbucks “holiday cups.” Ever since then, I’ve been happy to see them come out again each year, because I have pleasant associations with that trip to New York.

I was a bit less delighted than usual to see them come out this year on Nov. 1, All Saints Day. Yes, when kids had hardly dented their candy hauls from Halloween.

That, to me, is going too far.

Nor was I thrilled to receive the below promotion on Veterans Day. The text with it said:

One Cyber Monday a year just isn’t enough. That’s why it’s a month-long event here at Musician’s Friend…

No, actually, one is quite sufficient, thanks. Or if you must have two, have the second after the usual one. Have three or four, if you like. I’m all for everybody making a living. But wait, please…

cyber

TIME: ‘The 140 Moments That Made Twitter Matter’

collage1

TIME must have had a lot of fun putting this together.

Maybe you don’t think Twitter matters at all. Maybe you think I’ve been wasting my time posting those 10,000 Tweets. Well, you’re wrong.

But don’t listen to me. Just peruse this collection of moments — with separate lists of #Fails, #Feuds, #Scoops, #Stunts, #Backtracks, #Rants, #Raves, #LOLz, #Debuts and #GameChangers — when Twitter really did matter.

Yeah, a lot of those are just fun, but many are serious. No one can doubt any more the power of Twitter as a medium that means business.

You can’t deny the power when…

Yeah, it’s a little less earth-shaking when a Hollywood star finds a fresh way to make a public fool of himself. Yeah, Alec Baldwin, I’m talking about you.

But there’s no question that Twitter matters now. And you don’t even need 140 characters to say that, to mean it — or too prove it.

Yes, that's Patrick Stewart posing in front of a sign that says "Picard." You sort of have to know about "Star Trek" to get this...
Yes, that’s Patrick Stewart posing in front of a sign that says “Picard.” You sort of have to know about “Star Trek” to get this. This is from the #LOLz category…

I just passed the 10,000-Tweet threshold! Is there a prize?

10000

It happened when my last blog post automatically went out on Twitter.

Ta-Da!

It is perhaps fitting that the landmark Tweet was an instance of me asking you, the reader, what was going on. In the olden days — gather ’round, children, while Big Daddy tells you how it was — we, the journalists, told you, the great, passive, unwashed out there, what was going on.closeup

Not so in this era. Oh, sometimes I go cover something and tell y’all about it, but since this blog is not limited to things I’ve personally investigated and experienced, crowd-sourcing can often be the way to go. I mean, if you had to wait for me to go out physically and find 10,000 things to write about, you might have to wait longer than you’d like.

I’m excited about this milestone, and really feel like I’m entitled to some sort of prize for getting here. But I think I’m to be as disappointed as Calvin. Remember this strip?

Calvin (running in circles, throwing his arms up and exclaiming in delighted triumph: “Mom! Mom! I just saw the first robin of spring! Call the newspaper quick! Ha ha! A front page write-up! A commemorative plaque! A civic ceremony! All for me! Hooray! Hooray! Oh boy! Should I put the prize money in a trust fund or blow it all at once? Ha ha! I can’t believe I did it!”

Mom’s voice, from out of frame: “Calvin…”

A dejected Calvin, to Hobbes: “It’s a hard, bitter, cruel world to have to grow up in, Hobbes.”

Hobbes: “Cheer up! Did I tell you I saw a robin yesterday?”

Have YOU been harmed by the DOR hacking?

Or do you know anyone who has?

I raised this question, sort of indirectly, earlier — I was questioning the value of Vincent Sheheen trying to get everybody outraged over the hacking, which broke a year ago, when we don’t know whether anyone has been harmed. I was reacting to this passage in an AP story:

It’s unknown if anyone’s identity has been stolen because of the hacking. A Federal Trade Commission attorney has said the selling and trading of stolen information makes it virtually impossible to trace an identity theft case to any particular security breach.

But since that was Friday afternoon, and things I post on Friday afternoons tend to drift off into a vague place, only a few comments were offered, none of them answering the question above.

So, let me know, straight up — do you know of anyone who has good reason to believe he or she was in any way harmed by the breach?

I know someone who has had a terrible time from having her identity stolen, although it happened well before any of this, so I don’t think it’s related.

Someone filed false tax returns for 2011 using my next-to-youngest daughter’s Social Security number and other info. It was a huge hassle getting it all straightened out.

Then, just over a week ago, she got this seriously threatening letter from the IRS saying that she had ignored their previous notices (she had received no previous notices) and that if she didn’t pay more than $7,000 RIGHT NOW her property was going to be seized.

There was no way she had at any time owed the IRS $7,000.

Supposedly, that is now straightened out, also. A guy at the IRS named “Mike” — no surname that I know of — said just to tear up that letter; it was all a mistake. OK, so we’re, um, somewhat reassured. (I assume that if there are any more threats from the IRS, we’re just supposed to say, “Fuggedaboudit. Mike says it’s cool….” We’re counting on Mike being the guy behind the guy.)

I don’t know whether that particular incident is related to the earlier theft or not. I think it is. I’m somewhat confused by the fact that my daughter was out of the country last month, and her purse was stolen — with passport, driver’s license, everything. She had to get a provisional passport from the embassy to get back into the country.

Oh, yes; one other thing — last week I got a notice from Adobe saying that when I bought PhotoShop Express from them several months back, my information was stolen. They want me to sign up for monitoring on their dime, I believe. I guess I’d better get on that; I’ve been busy the last few days and had managed to shove that to the back of my mind…

Unfortunately for Vincent Sheheen, I don’t blame any of these incidents on Nikki Haley.

My point is, people’s identities do get stolen, and it does lead to hassles. So has anyone had any such hassles that they know or merely suspect were related to the Department of Revenue hacking?

And if not, isn’t that sort of odd?

Snowden’s new employer kept secret ‘for security reasons.’ No, I am not making this up.

The Slatest brought this to my attention:

Edward Snowden has a new job. His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, tells Russian outletRIA Novosti that Snowden has landed a new gig in technical support. Kucherena isn’t saying who Snowden’s new employer is, but did describe the company as a major Russian website. “He will be part of the support team of one of the largest Russian websites,” Kucherena told the Russian news agency. “I can’t say the name of the website now for security reasons.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

First, what employer on this planet would be so monumentally stupid as to hire Edward Snowden, someone who so famously betrayed every oath, every rule and principle held sacred by his former employers?

For a full reminder of the extent to which Snowden personifies the concept of betrayal, betrayal of everyone and everything around him, I urge you to go back at read David Brooks’ column of June 10. And I quote:

He betrayed honesty and integrity, the foundation of all cooperative activity. He made explicit and implicit oaths to respect the secrecy of the information with which he was entrusted. He betrayed his oaths.

He betrayed his friends. Anybody who worked with him will be suspect. Young people in positions like that will no longer be trusted with responsibility for fear that they will turn into another Snowden.

He betrayed his employers. Booz Allen and the C.I.A. took a high-school dropout and offered him positions with lavish salaries. He is violating the honor codes of all those who enabled him to rise.

He betrayed the cause of open government. Every time there is a leak like this, the powers that be close the circle of trust a little tighter. They limit debate a little more.

He betrayed the privacy of us all. If federal security agencies can’t do vast data sweeps, they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods.

He betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed. Snowden self-indulgently short-circuited the democratic structures of accountability, putting his own preferences above everything else….

“For security reasons…” Har-de-har-har-har.

Whose security? Edward Snowden’s? Who should feel any obligation to respect or protect confidentiality for his benefit?

It’s a hoot the way Pinterest thinks it knows me

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Remember that picture I posted the other day of the protester from 1963?

Well, I posted it on Pinterest, too, and today I got a message from that social media service headlined, “Pins you’ll love!”

One of them was the picture above, with the caption, “Fashionable men.”

Pinterest thinks it knows me. It’s decided that what I want to see is natty young black men in skinny retro ties.

People worry about increasingly intuitive algorithms knowing too much about them. I look at the way those programs actually work, and have to smile. They have a tendency, shall we say, to leap to thinly supported conclusions.

You especially get wild results when the principal medium of expression is photographs, which are so subject to misinterpretation. I’m a word guy; I was interested in the words on the protester’s sign. All Pinterest saw was the picture….

Why do political flacks risk the hazards of Twitter? Because they HAVE to

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Talk about your nightmares.

White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer made an observation Tuesday on Twitter about how the changing media world was adding to political polarization in the country. Then he tried to add, to @jmartNYT, “also a much bigger factor on the right.”

Only his finger slipped, and he typed an N rather than a B on “bigger.” (Look at your keyboard; they’re right next to each other.) This was on an official White House Twitter account, mind you.

The Tweet was deleted, and he apologized. And the world moved on.

But then, some “veteran politicos” on the Hill started wondering why a senior adviser to the President was fooling around with anything as dangerous as Twitter anyway?

POLITICO explained, as would we, that he has little choice:

For years now, Twitter has served as the public square for political journalists, the place where the conventional wisdom is shaped before it turns into “the narrative.” Communications aides have always monitored that conversation closely, and some have long had an active Twitter presence. But many — top White House spokespeople, especially — often felt safer limiting their own remarks to carefully edited statements shared via press release. As a public forum, Twitter was too informal, too risky, too off-the-cuff.

Increasingly, however, flacks have come to see Twitter as a necessary tool in their communications arsenal. Instead of waiting to respond to reporters’ inquiries, Twitter enables them to influence reporters’ thinking and nip negative coverage in the bud.

“Twitter, like cable news, is another medium where the conversation in Washington gets shaped,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told POLITICO. “Given the current media environment, we engage in real time so that as many folks as possible understand our perspective. Twitter is simply another resource to get our message out, and we generally like to avail ourselves of every opportunity to do just that.”

Brendan Buck, the press secretary for House Speaker John Boehner, said Twitter was “what the Speaker’s Lobby used to be. You want to find and talk to assembled reporters, open your Tweetdeck.”

Absolutely.

I am reminded of Trav Robertson who dealt with media for the Vincent Sheheen gubernatorial campaign in 2010. I ran into him (at Starbucks, of course) some months after Sheheen narrowly lost that contest, and he confided that there was one thing that he had been unprepared for: the fact that the old “news cycle” was gone, and that he had to pump out information, and counter stuff that was out there, 24/7.

I was surprised that he was surprised, and wondered if that played any role in Sheheen’s defeat. Probably not, but it was a close race, for a Democrat in South Carolina…