WTF Weekly

my thoughts on the week that was

03 Sep 2020

I feel like we’re entering a Neo-Dark Ages. Brains are leaking out people’s ears, and they’re ecstatic about it.

I’ve despised the Q-Anon types from the beginning, but I never imagined so many people would associate with it, believe in it, radicalize around it. The fact that it seems to be mostly middle-aged Facebook types says a lot to me about both the mental capacity of many computer-illiterates of a certain generation to distinguish fact from fiction and about Facebook itself. Neither those people nor that service should have ever been given internet access, because clearly they can’t handle it.

In my darker hours, I almost wish for a purging of the earth, because I don’t know how we get back to reality from here.

Bill Barr Mocked After ‘Playing Dumb’ Over Legality of Voting Twice

If Bill Barr and the Trump administration aren’t working towards overthrowing an election, then I have no explanation for anything they’ve said and done in the past month. I’m really afraid America is just going to sit back and let this happen. We’ve done nothing but let ourselves get steamrolled for the past 4 years.

Protests In Rochester, N.Y., After Bodycam Footage Released Of Daniel Prude’s Death

If you’re Black in America, at best you have to pretend the police don’t exist, because if you call them for help you’re going to wind up arrested, injured, or dead. At worst, you can’t pretend they don’t exist, because even if you don’t call them you’re going to wind up arrested, injured, or dead.

A co-worker of mine expressed to me the sentiment that yeah, racism is real and it’s a problem, but that the rich and powerful also want us divided and fighting amongst each other, so they’re pushing this narrative.

No. People who are tired of getting killed for not being white are the ones who are pushing it, and they’re right. It’s real, it’s a problem, and it’s not a political agenda. In point of fact, politicians on BOTH sides of the fence ignored this as long as they possibly could. It’s only become an issue when individuals gathered together and made their feelings known.

SpaceX gets Starship rocket closer to Mars with another successful hop

SpaceX is doing cool things, but I cannot look at this without thinking grain silo. Grain silos in space. Grain silos on Mars. Grain silos on the moon?

Your Beloved Blue Jeans Are Polluting the Ocean—Big Time

Here’s one the climate change deniers can’t argue humans aren’t responsible for: bits of jeans ruining the oceans. I mean I guess if people can believe the Q Anon stuff, people can also believe that Orcas and porpoises and seals are washing jeans and destroying the oceans themselves, but it seems unlikely. If reality is a thing. Which apparently it isn’t.

How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism

I saved the best for last, because it’s a long read. It’s worth it.

Cory Doctorow is a very perceptive observer of technology and society, and he’s got some concerns about the effects of surveillance and overreach.

What if the trauma of living through real conspiracies all around us — conspiracies among wealthy people, their lobbyists, and lawmakers to bury inconvenient facts and evidence of wrongdoing (these conspiracies are commonly known as “corruption”) — is making people vulnerable to conspiracy theories?

There’s definitely something to that. It does go back to the fact that dumb people can’t weed out the likely bad things from the very unlikely bad things, but still it’s true that for a lot of people, it’s hard to know when to stop when there are very clear real conspiracies to get the mind reeling. Critical thinking skills would help, but those aren’t in abundance anymore.

Figuring out what we want our tech to look like is crucial if we’re going to get out of this mess. Today, we’re at a crossroads where we’re trying to figure out if we want to fix the Big Tech companies that dominate our internet or if we want to fix the internet itself by unshackling it from Big Tech’s stranglehold. We can’t do both, so we have to choose. I want us to choose wisely. Taming Big Tech is integral to fixing the internet, and for that, we need digital rights activism.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me if you really think that will help.

You can find my thoughts on tech and other projects on my personal site at scottwillsey.com

 

24 Aug 2020

Wisconsin calls out National Guard after unrest over police shooting of Black man

It’s hard to believe that police just keep shooting black people in the back considering all the scrutiny they’re under in 2020, but they just can’t help themselves. Police in the U.S. are clearly either not trained adequately to handle stressful situations, or are purposely trained to eliminate all risk, no matter how minute, by shooting anyone they can claim they feel threatened by.

“12 more years!” Trump’s opening speech got the 2020 RNC off to a dark start

Trump is laying the groundwork for the brain donors who believe in him to swallow another conspiracy theory should he lose the 2020 election. And they will.

I don’t think we can assume this is trolling or setting up an excuse for losing in advance. At this point, I’ll be amazed if Trump leaves quietly.

The FDA Just OK’d Emergency Use of Plasma for Covid-19

Filed under the Activities, Not Results category comes the news that the FDA is ok’ing the use of convalescent plasma for people sick with Covid-19. The problem is, no one knows if it’s actually effective or not, because no scientific trials have taken place. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from claiming that it’s another miracle drug.

It’s also important to note that Emergency Use Authorizations (of which this is one) don’t make claims of benefit but simply authorize utilization of a given treatment. The FDA already issued one for hydroxychloroquine earlier, so this current EUA should be met with some healthy skepticism.

Coronavirus catches up with Usain Bolt, world’s fastest man

As if the dummies who think physical fitness is a defense against Covid-19 need any further proof to the contrary, one of the world’s fittest humans caught the disease after a crazy birthday party full of social non-distancing.

Interstellar visitor ‘Oumuamua could still be alien technology, new study hints

When a Harvard University astrophysicist starts claiming that aliens are behind the unaccountable acceleration of the bizarre interstellar object known as Oumuamua, you know things are weird. And yet it’s still not as weird as most of the things currently happening here on planet earth.

It’s ok to be skeptical of Avi Loeb’s claims though, because he’s pimping a book he authored about this being the first sign of intelligent life beyond earth. It seems a little premature to be that certain about it, but apparently not everyone agrees.

Ultraconservative evangelical leader Jerry Falwell in sex scandal

Another famous evangelical, another sex scandal. Really it’s getting tiring, the tendency of conservative Christians to hold up the worst possible human beings as role models, especially since none of these people are remotely Christ-like.

I won’t miss this idiot, but sadly, he’ll probably just take some time off and then will be able to proclaim redemption and resume some form of “ministry”.

Spain warned of dire impact of second coronavirus lockdown

As amazed as I am by some of the anti-lockdown protests in Spain that have taken place recently, I’m kind of glad to know Americans aren’t the only people in the world who can’t handle reality.

Look, being in lockdown is bad, and no one is denying that it poses very real and very big problems for everyone. But the Spanish seem like a lot of Americans in their desire to completely ignore the pandemic itself and focus solely on the effects of trying to get the disease under control.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me if you really think that will help.

You can find my thoughts on tech and other projects on my personal site at scottwillsey.com

 

11 Aug 2020

Cops Arrest 17-Year-Old Suspect in Massive Twitter Hack

“He’s a 17-year-old kid who just graduated high school, but make no mistake, this was not an ordinary 17-year-old. This was a highly sophisticated attack on a magnitude not seen before,” the State Attorney said in a video statement.

I wonder if we’ll ever again hear news of a hack that isn’t characterized as “sophisticated”. In truth it seems like it was standard social engineering and a powerful admin tool with very few safeguards on its operation.

That’s not to say it was not a noteworthy security breach, because Twitter is influential and we now know it has a powerful administrative tool that has just one level of access control.

I sure hope that $100,000 or whatever he got was worth it, because this kid is going to spend some time in prison.

More on the this:

From Minecraft Tricks to Twitter Hack: A Florida Teen’s Troubled Online Path

Here’s the part of this story I’d like to hear more about:

At 15, he joined an online hackers’ forum. By 16, he had gravitated to the world of Bitcoin, appearing to involve himself in a theft of $856,000 of the cryptocurrency, though he was never charged for it, social media and legal records show. On Instagram posts afterward, he showed up with designer sneakers and a bling-encrusted Rolex.

Facebook internal investigation finds millions of members in QAnon groups

I don’t mean to be rude, but can we just not with Facebook anymore? If you’re still using it, why?

Honestly I think at this point the FB demographic is also the most gullible demographic. Either that or people are just so bored with their horrible lives that they’re willing to believe anything remotely exciting to escape reality. And escaping reality they are, in huge numbers.

Facebook in particular and social media in general are destructive. The tech non-sophisticates aren’t wired to handle it. I know that sounds arrogant, but there are a lot of people who just can’t correctly evaluate anything they read online.

A mysterious group has hijacked Tor exit nodes to perform SSL stripping attacks

Tor has always only been as secure as its exit relays, and I’ve always thought if I were a government agency interested in uncloaking people, I’d just run all the exit nodes. But apparently Bitcoin thieves are even more motivated than the NSA.

The group has been so prodigious and persistent in their attacks, that by May 2020, they ran a quarter of all Tor exit relays — the servers through which user traffic leaves the Tor network and accesses the public internet.

I’d say that’s a pretty significant problem for a lot of people using Tor.

Idaho Lawmaker: “Listening To Experts Is An Elitist Approach” To Coronavirus Restrictions

I really cannot comprehend what’s happening to conservatives in this country. They literally can’t tell the difference between totalitarianism and trying to get a pandemic under control. Worse yet, some of these dummies are in charge of school boards or local governments.

Does being conservative now mean mandatory lobotomies?

Characterizing people who understand that diseases actually do spread as “fearful” and characterizing themselves, who want to take no precautions, as “not fearful” is kind of mind-blowing. I wonder if they realize that biology doesn’t care about their beliefs?

Every single one of these pandemic deniers reminds me of the administration at my daughter’s school. It’s a frustrating time to be a person who believes in data-based decisions rather than reactionary thrashing and misguided moaning about personal liberties.

A’s outfielder Ramon Laureano says vile remark by Astros hitting coach spurred brawl

And just what you don’t want to see during a pandemic, baseball players who are unable to control themselves brawling and mixing it up.

America – time to get a grip.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me if you really think that will help.

You can find my thoughts on tech and other projects on my personal site at scottwillsey.com

 

01 Aug 2020

I said yesterday I really needed a visual change on this site, and voila! Here it is. I still need to get my header image looking good, but I like the cat and I do approve of the colors now for both light and dark themes.

I also took the opportunity to do some site code refactoring since my Hugo site best practices adherence was a bit lacking. Working with Vic Hudson on Hugo projects has opened my eyes a bit regarding taking advantage of Hugo’s organization and inheritance conventions. It’s a great platform.

Anyway, enjoy the cat, enjoy the colors, enjoy the fact that I’ll be back spamming you with the horrors of the modern world and especially 2020 very soon.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me if you really think that will help.

You can find my thoughts on tech and other projects on my personal site at scottwillsey.com

 

31 Jul 2020

It’s been almost a month since I’ve last WTF’d for you. I have been working on a lot of different projects and not managing to be especially productive on any of them. But I’m alive!! And I’m here now.

Looking at this site really makes me want to overhaul the look, by which I primarily mean the CSS and the one piece of artwork (using the term “art” very loosely). The colors are horrendous. I’m going to start a new feature branch and start fixing that problem. It may take me a while, but it will happen.

In the meantime, please ignore my previous sad life choices and read about other people’s current sad life choices.

Federal Agents Unleash Militarized Crackdown on Portland

It’s crazy in Portland. No one wants the feds here, probably not even a lot of the feds. But here they are. And they’re being jerks. And they’re making people even madder than they already were. It takes a special brand of people to say “let’s prove those idiots who say we just beat the shit out of everyone wrong by beating the shit out of everyone”, but the feds are just that brand.

The teams, which include 2,000 officials from Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard, are supporting the Federal Protective Service, an agency that already provides security at federal properties.

Thanks, guys!

Black in Japan: Shifting the Narrative

I found this to be a fascinating read, because way back when I lived in Japan, I thought the Japanese looked even more uneasily at the very few black people we ever saw there than they did us still rare (at the time) white foreigners. I’m genuinely encouraged to read that there are positive black experiences in Japan, or at least some attitudes towards them that are the same as attitudes towards all gaijin.

Police Are Buying Access to Hacked Website Data

If you’re law enforcement and you want information about people without having to wait for normal legal channels or face the possibility a specific warrant won’t be issued, what do you do? You pay the same hackers the bad guys do for stolen data, that’s what.

This, of course, is very similar to the problem that mass surveillance poses, which is that police using this method of data gathering will undoubtedly encounter a lot of data about people who aren’t criminals and who aren’t related to whatever case they’re supposedly working, which is the whole point of warrants and legal processes in the first place.

Law enforcement is always going to feel like they need access to all data, all the time, in order to fight crime, and sometimes they don’t care too much whether it’s all legal and ethical or not.

Google accused by developer of retaliation for cooperating with House antitrust investigation

Hey, Google, next time wait a week (or at least until Trump tweets something especially stupid) before retaliating against someone who complained about you to the government. Someone might notice. 😂

Speaking of noticing things:

Google has historically been more relaxed when it comes to approval of apps on its store. The company’s Android operating system also makes it easier to install apps without using the official app store.

Yeah… and let’s make sure not to mention that they’ve had huge problems with malware because of it, ok? Because they have.

Apple Q3 2020 results: Everything up

Tim Apple may have no problems making wildly inaccurate statements to Congress about App Store policies, but he did preside over a quarter in which Apple had record 3rd quarter earnings Y-o-Y despite the worldwide pandemic. So there is that.

Part of it is obvious: people are working from home and just generally staying home more, and their computing devices are indispensable. Still, it’s interesting that Mac and iPad did better in terms of sales increases than the iPhone did. Again, that’s in line with people upgrading or complementing work-from-home setups, but it’s still unusual for Apple.

Good job, Tim Apple! Enjoy being yourself while you can! I have a feeling the government is going to start meddling in your little App Store at some point.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me if you really think that will help.

You can find my thoughts on tech and other projects on my personal site at scottwillsey.com