White Noise

I have no idea what this entry will entail. I think I’ll just jump around with life updates until I find something worthy. I’ve found that you can start out with one thing and delve deeper as you go. Writing is a muscle, and blogging, for me, is “working out.” It’s completely stream-of-conscience and changes topics on purpose. I remember one woman thinking that my blog was tied to my mental disorder (Bipolar II) because of it. She didn’t understand, and some people don’t. Tangents upon tangents are just the way I roll (most of the time, anyway). It’s not a sickness- it’s how blogging has been for many people since they premiered on the Internet.

Speaking of mental illness, though, I will say that the pandemic has reinforced my agoraphobia. Mask or not, I’m afraid…………. but that’s not a bad thing in this type of societal climate. Too many people are eager for “normal” when in the United States, we are clearly not ready for it. No state has gotten to zero and in many, cases are on the rise. This is because we do not have a safety net. There is no socialized medicine, unemployment insurance that gives you enough money to take care of one’s basic needs (especially in big cities, where rent and mortgages are high), and no leadership from the federal government. Other countries are doing so much better.

So, my response is to stay in my own home 99% of the time. I put off getting groceries and medicine, or I order them over the Internet. For instance, I need coffee creamer (my main basic food group), and I can’t even bring myself to go and get it.

I should be doing more writing than I have been, because I have more time to do it and I’m not taking advantage. I’m hoping that will change. 2020-07-17 14_37_43-WindowOne of the things that’s helping me today is a new app I found in the Windows store. It’s called “White Noise,” and it actually comes with lots of free sounds. Today I’m listening to brown noise, but the one they’re giving away for free is a thunderstorm on a loop. The app is a gift because there’s a great Linux app called “ANoise,” and before today I hadn’t found a Windows equivalent. I still have ANoise on my laptop, but for some reason, my desktop has problems with Linux, no matter what distribution I try. I can’t get the OS to boot from a USB key because it can’t find my hard drives and gets stuck. I’ve sped up my computer as far as it will go because I put in 16 GB of RAM (eight on each channel), and an SSD for Windows. I have a two TB mechanical hard drive for all my “stuff,” excluding my most frequently used applications. I have no idea why Windows will install and Linux won’t, and I have too little energy to figure it out. The thing about being good at technology and getting a job doing it is that you have very little patience for dealing with your own. The only thing I’ve done with my laptop is add an SSD to it, because even with a relatively slow processor, it screams with an SSD. If you don’t have one, they’re cheap and it’s worth it. I got a 256 GB because on my laptop, I hardly ever store things. I use Internet apps and streaming media.

I’m sorry if this is boring for non-IT people, but I’m basically putting on a commercial for SSDs. It’s the fastest and easiest way to speed up everything and took me less than a half hour to install. The longest part was unscrewing everything and putting it back together. If you’ve never done it before, there are YouTube videos for nearly every computer on the market, and so much cheaper than hiring someone else. If you do need to store a large amount of data, there are kits to take out your optical drive and put a mechanical hard drive in its place, because most people don’t need them anymore. Think about the last time you watched a physical DVD or ripped your music. It’s so 2001. If you have a lot of CDs and DVDs, there’s a lot of free software to copy them before you put them in the trash. I am all about the minimalist lifestyle. 😉

In terms of saving your data, just make sure you back it up so that you have a failsafe if and when your hard drive fails. Two copies of everything will save your ass someday. You’ll thank me when you don’t lose all your family pictures, the only thing that’s truly irreplaceable. If you want/need cloud storage for pictures, there are plenty of free services. Mega is the most generous– you get 70 GB free, and additional is cheap- about $6.00/mo.

Sometimes I think about how much I miss my family’s old pictures because our house burned down in 1990. If cloud storage had existed back then, they wouldn’t have burned. Even the ones that survived had streaks on them and smelled like a camp fire. My grandparents helped us piece them back together, but they only had so many…… and that’s why technology is so important to me. It’s not the technology itself, but the things that can be preserved. Memories are precious, and because of computers, phones, tablets, etc. none of it is clutter. If you’re anything like me, you have or have had giant stacks of pictures thrown in a box that you say you’re going to put in an album, and the day you say you’re going to scan them turns into into 25 years. I know me. We’ve met.

For instance, I am grateful for every picture I have of my mother and my grandparents, only one of which is still alive, and he turned 90 on July 13th. He loves movies, and I always ask him for recommendations when I call. The last one was “Mrs. Miniver,” and I immediately bought a copy. I enjoyed it so much, and so did other people. It was the Oscars’ Best Picture in 1942…… the entire reason I ask my grandfather for so many recommendations in the first place. I haven’t seen many of the great old movies out there, and he knows them all.

The only old movie that I haven’t finished is “Three Days of the Condor.” A bunch of innocent CIA case officers and analysts get shot in the first half. I had a visceral, nauseous reaction, and there’s a reason for it. I’ve met case officers, albeit retired, and in my mind those people were replaced by people I know and have pored over their books. It was horrifying.

In terms of horror, I am much more interested in fiction. I started “American Horror Story” two nights ago and it’s fabulous. I’m late to the party because I didn’t think I’d like it, but between the pilot and now I’ve loved several scary movies and TV shows……. most notably “It” and “Stranger Things.” Eleven completes me.

The other show I love right now is “American Soul” on BET. It’s the story of how Don Cornelius started “Soul Train,” and as you can imagine, the music is divine and lots of famous people are portrayed. My favorite has been Wayne Brady as Little Richard. The only horror in it is how blacks are treated, because we still haven’t solved the problem (I say “blacks” instead of African American because not all black people in the United States are from Africa).

I also watch a lot of YouTube, because I enjoy the hell out of seeing James Baldwin. He was so integral in my becoming a teenager. “Go Tell it on the Mountain” was assigned to me for summer reading before my sophomore year. I devoured it and went on to read all of Baldwin’s other works. Because he was black and queer, there were lots of similarities between the discrimination he faced and what was happening in my own life.

I was lucky in my freshman and sophomore years to have black English teachers, because I have found that most of my white teachers didn’t bother to include black authors (surprise). The one book by a black author I was assigned by a white English teacher was “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. I loved it as well, but it seems to be the only book written about black people that white teachers across the country assign (i.e. the only book white English teachers will let cross over into their generally white classrooms). With my black teachers, we read Alan Paton (white author, but wrote about race relations in South Africa), Richard Wright, and Toni Morrison as well.

The black authors I read were usually better at creating a lasting impression. I still remember lines from “Beloved,” “Native Son,” and “Black Boy.” I need to get digital copies of them as well, because they’re not books I ever want to lose. There are three reasons that, at least for me, digital trumps paper books. The first is they’re in the cloud, so they keep. The second is that I don’t have any books that I’ll lend to people and I still haven’t gotten them back years later. The third is that I’m always in the middle of at least three, and I don’t like it when my backpack weights 30 lbs.

I give digital books as gifts a lot, and they’re a big hit. For instance, I gave one friend a copy of “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” and she said “that’s one of my favorite books, no idea where the hardback is.” I thought that might be the case, because her life is books and dogs, so it seemed like the kind of book she would have swallowed whole the moment it came out…….. but I sent it to her anyway because I couldn’t imagine a world in which she hadn’t read it and I had to make sure. 😉

She’s also Latina, so I sent her my favorite Latinx novel, which is “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya. It’s about a Catholic boy and the curandera who mentors him. The laugh lines I love the most in it is the scene when the young boy is going to his first communion, and worries that Jesus will get stuck to the roof of his mouth.

The last thing I’ll say about books is that I go through periods of reading, then writing, but not both simultaneously. It’s because I tend to pick up the style of the last author I read, and I’m not interested in filling their shoes.

I want to wear my own.

 

Facebook Thinks I’m Black

In terms of ad preferences, Facebook lists your likes and dislikes and compiles information they infer about you by what links you engage with (like, share, click through) the most. The most maddening of these inferences is race, because they can’t come out and ask what race you are, they call it “Cultural Affinity.” There are already minority groups chomping at the bit to get Facebook to remove it, because it has led to more than one case of housing discrimination. Facebook insists that it’s just a cultural identity, not a way to actually determine race, but I believe this is untrue. In 2016, they mined for “ethnic affinity,” and had to quickly come up with neutral language to spin it. Oh, it’s not racial profiling. It’s an “affinity.” That it’s OK because Facebook does not have an official channel to report race. They’re not talking about the color of your skin, just saying that if you’re a member of the NAACP on Facebook, you’ll probably like ads targeted towards African Americans.

This is why I find it troubling, and my Facebook status yesterday:

I did that thing where you look up what Facebook thinks about you (in terms of ad preferences). Apparently, Facebook thinks I’m black. I have mixed feelings about this. I am proud of myself for posting so many things about inequality that Facebook has noticed. I am weirded out that Facebook thinks just because you post things about inequality that you must be a minority. It’s not that I care about being labeled African American. I care that so many white people don’t care that companies infer that I’m a minority because I do.

Here’s the thing. I looked it up, and there is no “Caucasian Cultural Affinity.” If Facebook believes you are white, there’s no Cultural Affinity at all. This is problematic because yet again, white is the default and non-white is a classification. It is especially troubling because 85% of Facebook’s daily active users are outside the United States and Canada, and non-white is the default in the rest of the world…. that I can identify. Some scientists do not consider race to be a valid identifier, and some do. But by and large the statistics I could find by world population say that Asian is the majority for the globe. I found a web site claiming racial population, but did not deem it a viable source of information.

It is a valid argument that race is invalid, considering that there are billions of people who have genetics from every continent. For marketing purposes, though, the current thinking seems utterly backward for all sorts of reasons…. the biggest being what are we missing by giving different audiences different ads? Why do you, as advertisers, only want to cater to people you think will already like you? Isn’t the whole point of advertising to reach out to new people rather than the ones already on board?

It causes more problems than it solves, because the information gathered can be used in nefarious ways. It is not as inert as you think.

For instance, you can find ways to advertise jobs to an overwhelmingly white audience, or perhaps real estate listings. Facebook was sued in November of 2016 for this very thing, and after looking through the docket, I can see no evidence that the case has been resolved. The closest is that Facebook made a motion to dismiss, then vacated the motion to continue mediation. But that was in October of 2017, and no official decision has come down (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or law student- if an official decision has come down and it hasn’t been published publicly, I wouldn’t be able to get into Lexis-Nexis to find it).

Here is the last order that is public facing:

By December 14, 2017, the parties shall file a joint status report addressing the status of the mediation efforts and, if appropriate, propose new dates for the hearing on Facebook’s Motion to Dismiss and Initial Case Management Conference.

I can find articles on Facebook claiming that they’re taking down the “Cultural Affinity” classification altogether, but mine is intact and sources referenced, again, aren’t viable.

I am going to be chewing on this for a while, because I think Facebook believes what it’s saying- “cultural affinity” is not race. However, intent and reality are not the same thing. There is a wide margin between Facebook’s claims and how the information is being used.

I am dismayed because instead of erasing divisions, we seem to be striving towards sustaining them, or finding new ones altogether.