I’m starting to be annoyed when people say “no problem” instead of “you’re welcome.” Middle age achievement unlocked.

Three deliveries

I’m expecting three packages for delivery Friday:

(1) New toothbrushes.

(2) My new iPhone XS.

(3) Tea tree oil shampoo. I’ve become conscious that my scalp is REALLY flaky and itchy, and Head & Shoulders isn’t doing the job.

For my friends in PR

This is the best advice I can give to PR people: Your pitch should be the length of a single tweet. 280 characters.

I am dead serious about this. Every journalist gets HUNDREDS of pitches a day. If a pitch doesn’t stand out in seconds, it’s dead.

RIP Vans, 2017-18

They served only a short time, but honorably and comfortably and they’re cheap. My first Vans, and I love them. I think they were same color when I got them but I’m not 100% sure. Current everyday shoes: Converse sneakers.

Linkblogging on self-hosted WordPress is too damn hard

Seems like every year I try to move my linkblogging to a self-hosted WordPress installation on mitchwagner.com. And every year I reach the same conclusion: Too much work. Too much fussing with plugins, and having to come up with subject lines for every single post, and figuring out where the link goes. And then the server stops responding a couple of times a week. My hosting provider, WestHost, is no help — NOT RECOMMENDED! I don’t want to spend the time learning WordPress more than I already have, or doing server maintenance, or moving the blog to another host.

So, once again, I’m back to linkblogging on the public web on mitchwagner.tumblr.com. I’ve been mirroring posts from here to there all along, so this change won’t be a big deal to people following me there. And I also share the same links on facebook.com/mitch.wagner, which is where most people who follow me do so, was well as plus.google.com/+mitchwagner and twitter.com/mitchwagner.

I hope not to repeat this experiment again in 2019 — or ever. Not until and unless the technology landscape changes. I would like some kind of self-hosted linksharing platform that doesn’t require maintenance. I don’t think that thing exists, or ever can; self-hosting by definition requires maintenance.

TV drama goes inside the Palestinian conflict

The Israeli TV series “Fauda” is a thriller that looks at both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s available in the US on Netflix. I’ve seen it compared with “The Wire” and “The Americans,” two shows I love.

“Fresh Air” interviews series creator Avi Issacharoff, a journalist who spent years reporting on the conflict.

How Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Reporting Became The TV Series ‘Fauda’

Qanon is the XFiles in real life

Mattathias Schwartz looks at the Pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory, for the New York Times. A Trail of ‘Bread Crumbs,’ Leading Conspiracy Theorists Into the Wilderness:

Go hungry for too long, and a lot of strange things will start to look like food. The smallest morsels become precious, especially if you believe they form some kind of trail with a meal at the end. This is true not only of physical sustenance; it is true of knowledge as well. You always find scattered crumbs — inscrutable analogies, esoteric equations, unverified allegations from anonymous sources — gathered around those questions about which we know the least.

For months now, one such anonymous source — an internet user called “Q Clearance Patriot” or “Q,” posting on anarchic, underbelly-of-the-internet message boards like 4chan and 8chan — has been spreading its “crumbs” across the web, offering up a running commentary on the state of the nation in a gnomic and paranoid style. To call the result a mere “conspiracy theory” doesn’t quite do it justice, shortchanging both its utterly absurd wrongness and its vast pseudo-explanatory power. Q’s prophecies are something closer to a grand unifying conspiracy theory, one that incorporates older absurd theories (stretching back to the Kennedy administration) and continuously spins off new tendrils, glomming itself onto news events as they unfold. Good and evil, it claims, have mustered two warring teams; the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. The heroes are the military (especially the Marines) and President Trump, who is secretly cooperating with Robert Mueller to, some disciples imagine, uncover a global ring of sex-trafficking pedophiles. And even this risks making it sound more realistic than it is.

What’s most striking about the Q phenomenon is how many people take it seriously. #QAnon billboards have started showing up beside highways in Georgia. Q’s supporters have turned up en masse, with signs and T-shirts, at Trump rallies. Roseanne Barr tweets about it. In June, an armed man was arrested after blocking traffic near the Hoover Dam; in jail, he reportedly wrote a letter to Trump including Q’s motto: “Where we go one, we go all.” Trump shows no particular inclination to discourage the theory. In August, he posed for a picture with the former talk-radio host Michael Lebron, who promotes Q theories online, inside the Oval Office.

Google’s Larry Page is the invisible man

“While Alphabet faces existential challenges, its co-founder is exercising his right to be forgotten.” Mark Bergen and Austin Carr report at Bloomberg Businessweek:

Larry Page was a no-show. The co-founder and de facto leader of Google is famous for his wild bets on airborne taxis and space elevators, but he apparently couldn’t make the flight to Washington, D.C. Page had been called to testify on Capitol Hill, alongside Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, about the ways state-sponsored actors have exploited their platforms. Page spurned the request. When the hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee began on Sept. 5, a black leather chair reserved for him sat empty next to Dorsey and Sandberg. A place card marked “Google,” in front of a blank notepad and muted microphone, served as a blunt reminder of his absence. As senator after senator tore into the company for skipping the hearing, they often directed their ire to the void where Page would have sat, with Florida’s Marco Rubio labeling the snub “arrogant” and fellow Republican Susan Collins of Maine calling it an “outrage.” News cameras panned to the unoccupied seat.

Google faces a crisis of criticism from the public and governments, including a $5.1 billion fine from Europe. It needs leadership from its co-founder, who’s nowhere to be found.

In 2015 at least Page was focused on big bets, like robotics, Google Fiber and autonomous flying vehicles

Another skunkworks project that consumed Page, started in 2015 and previously unreported, was a Disney-esque idea to reimagine transportation, code-named Heliox. According to three people familiar with the effort, a team operating out of a former NASA hangar in the Bay Area built a tube of plastic the width of a subway car, snaked around a circular track, designed to propel bicyclists at rapid speeds through a swirl of oxygen and helium pumped into the tunnel at their backs. Heliox was pure Page, a space-age concept both preposterously imaginative and mechanically marvelous: The vision was to stretch this tube system, arced hundreds of feet in the air, from a ground-level entry point on Google’s Mountain View campus to an exit 35 miles north, in San Francisco, so Google’s rainbow-colored beach cruisers might one day be seen flying over U.S. Highway 101. Yes, it sounds like a Hyperloop for bikes.

#ICYMI: Europe approved the disastrous Internet copyright directive last week

Europe just voted to wreck the internet, spying on everything and censoring vast swathes of our communications. Cory Doctorow @ Boing Boing, Wednesday:

Lobbyists for “creators” threw their lot in with the giant entertainment companies and the newspaper proprietors and managed to pass the new EU Copyright Directive by a hair’s-breadth this morning, in an act of colossal malpractice to harm to working artists will only be exceeded by the harm to everyone who uses the internet for everything else.

Here’s what the EU voted in favour of this morning:

  • Upload filters: Everything you post, from short text snippets to stills, audio, video, code, etc will be surveilled by copyright bots run by the big platforms. They’ll compare your posts to databases of “copyrighted works” that will be compiled by allowing anyone to claim copyright on anything, uploading thousands of works at a time. Anything that appears to match the “copyright database” is blocked on sight, and you have to beg the platform’s human moderators to review your case to get your work reinstated.
  • Link taxes: You can’t link to a news story if your link text includes more than a single word from the article’s headline. The platform you’re using has to buy a license from the news site, and news sites can refuse licenses, giving them the right to choose who can criticise and debate the news.
  • Sports monopolies: You can’t post any photos or videos from sports events – not a selfie, not a short snippet of a great goal. Only the “organisers” of events have that right. Upload filters will block any attempt to violate the rule.

Here’s what they voted against:

  • “Right of panorama”: the right to post photos of public places despite the presence of copyrighted works like stock arts in advertisements, public statuary, or t-shirts bearing copyrighted images. Even the facades of buildings need to be cleared with their architects (not with the owners of the buildings).
  • User generated content exemption: the right to use small excerpt from works to make memes and other critical/transformative/parodical/satirical works.

Also:

The entertainment industry figures who said that universal surveillance and algorithmic censorship were necessary for the continuation of copyright have done more to discredit copyright than all the pirate sites on the internet combined. People like their TV, but they use their internet for so much more.

It’s like the right-wing politicians who spent 40 years describing roads, firefighting, health care, education and Social Security as “socialism,” and thereby created a generation of people who don’t understand why they wouldn’t be socialists, then. The copyright extremists have told us that internet freedom is the same thing as piracy. A generation of proud, self-identified pirates can’t be far behind. When you make copyright infringement into a political act, a blow for freedom, you sign your own artistic death-warrant.

Also: My interview with Cory just prior to the vote, on Light Reading: Why Euro Regs Threaten Internet ‘Extinction’

Google collaborates on Chinese censorship & surveillance

“Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users’ searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries… Google compiled a censorship blacklist that included terms such as ‘human rights,’ ‘student protest,’ and ‘Nobel Prize’ in Mandarin.” Ryan Gallagher reports at The Intercept: Google China Prototype Links Searches to Phone Numbers