WTF Weekly

my thoughts on the week that was

22 Nov 2020

No, I’m not dead. No, WTF Weekly is not dead either! Stop it already.

I was taking my sweet time to move things to a new server, and now I’m there. As a result, I will start generating WTF Weeklys again. And yes, I do realize I missed the entire election.

However, I am thinking about taking a more focused approach with one or two things per week instead of a huge list of links. I don’t know. I think I’ll try it a few times and see how it goes.

As always:

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 Oct 2020

Originally I started writing a WTF Weekly about the Apple Sept 15 event, but life (cough:work:cough) intervened and too much time has passed. Besides, the world is far more fascinating now: Orange Dipshit One, who goes around mask-less to appease his low-IQ ego, has contracted coronavirus. It couldn’t have happened to a better person.

The President Is Not Well

This account is already old news, so short is the news cycle these days. In fact, Trump has apparently recovered completely, something that leaves me with mixed emotions.1

Still, the takeaway for me is that when you ignore all social distancing and mask guidelines, as much of Trump’s party does, there’s a high probability of contracting COVID-19.

The Swamp That Trump Built

Federal tax-return data for Mr. Trump and his business empire, which was disclosed by The New York Times last month, showed that even as he leveraged his image as a successful businessman to win the presidency, large swaths of his real estate holdings were under financial stress, racking up losses over the preceding decades.

But once Mr. Trump was in the White House, his family business discovered a lucrative new revenue stream: people who wanted something from the president. An investigation by The Times found over 200 companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments that patronized Mr. Trump’s properties while reaping benefits from him and his administration. Nearly a quarter of those patrons have not been previously reported.

Coronavirus ‘Can Survive For 28 Days On Surfaces’: Study

I have to admit that over time, I’ve probably worried less and less about the likelihood of coronavirus infection from touching random surfaces, but maybe I shouldn’t get complacent. Still, other humans are a much larger potential source of transmission.

Director of US Geological Survey James Reilly is blocking studies of the impacts of coronavirus on black-footed ferrets. Part of why he’s doing so seems reasonable, to be honest, but much of it stems from fear of accidentally unleashing mutated viruses.

Reilly’s opposition to the research appears to gibe, to some extent, with the Trump administration’s line on the pandemic’s origins. While most researchers believe that the new coronavirus spread naturally from bats to humans, perhaps via an intermediary host, senior White House staff and some Republican members of Congress have speculated that the virus was engineered in a lab in Wuhan, China, and then unleashed, deliberately or not, from there.

On the surface, these human-engineered theories seem like nutty conspiracy theories, and we’ve got more than enough of those. But in fact it’s inevitable that labs dealing with pathogens will have accidents. Which leads us to a great read on that particular topic.

The Non-Paranoid Person’s Guide to Viruses Escaping From Labs

This happens even in well-run labs. The National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases estimates that, at their labs, a lab-acquired infection will occur once for every 600,000 hours of work. That’s really low, and if there were just a few scientists working with these pathogens, the odds of an accident would also stay low. But with hundreds, maybe even thousands of such labs proliferating around the world, even low-probability events can become relatively common.

And finally, from the Department of “I can’t even”:

Lindsey Graham says Black people can ‘go anywhere’ in South Carolina if conservative

The GOP really IS this bad at trying to emulate being actual human beings.

But wait, there is one more thing… and it’s a great one.

Hamilton goes beyond his wildest dreams with 91st F1 win

Lewis Hamilton becomes only the second person in history to win 91 Formula One Grands Prix, a record by a huge margin over third place Sebastian Vettel, who has 53. He’s also on pace to equal Schumacher’s record 7 F1 World Championship titles this year, and is certainly one of the best drivers ever, if not the best.

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


  1. I’m not bragging about the fact I wouldn’t be sad to see this particular man suffer, just being honest here. ↩︎

 

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