Tag Archives: news

Watching The Races

I’ve been keeping an eye on the COVID race for a few months now.  The players I watch are all standout players:  FL, TX, PA, and GA.  Those are the places that have people that I know, so I watch their progress.

I remember when FL was the star, I seem to recall it was in the top 5 for a while.  But PA put forth a massive effort and shot right up the charts.  TX was a slow starter, but it’s been doing pretty well lately.  GA has always been mediocre, which I suppose is a good thing, honestly.  But FL is recently finding its mojo and is climbing in rank again.  Go, FL!  Obviously, no one is going to take the crown from NY, and NJ is probably always going to be second to NY (in everything), so there’s only so far you can go.

For three of my players, I watch their personal progress dashboards.  Two of them, FL and TX, use the same software, so it kind of gives some equal comparison of the numbers.  But in both cases, they use graphs that are misleading.  Well, they aren’t if you understand the data, but for casual observers and those that don’t want to put the minimal effort into understanding, the response could be either, "this isn’t so bad", or "this is great" when the reality is neither of those sentiments.

Take a graph from FLs dashboard:


Wow, that’s impressive.  Deaths are falling, and dramatically at that!  This is all behind us, let’s go party!

But there is a small disclaimer below the chart, for those that care to read: "Death data often has significant delays in reporting…".  That means that those low numbers in the near term are low because there’s no data yet.  Those numbers will rise as time goes on, but that’s just fine, because there will be newer, lower numbers to report as time goes on as well.

Here’s a graph from TX’s dashboard.


This is just dumb design: plotting two values, one that will constantly increase, and one that will remain relatively constant on the same scale.  This will have two effects.  First, the number of deaths per day (in blue) looks like a really small value.  And comparing 20 to 1,698 does make 20 seem very small.  But as the total number grows, and it will, every day, the scale is going to eventually have to be adjusted, and the daily value is going to be insignificant.

TX does the same charting with the number of cases, with the same effects.


Maybe its incompetency that made these charts, but in the current political climate, and judging that these two states have pushed very hard to justify their reopening plans, it might not be a stretch to think this is just propaganda.  The numbers don’t lie, they’re not telling you anything false.  It’s just being presented in a way that looks most favorable.

You All Fail Economics


Have you seen the headlines for this news story?

NASA Asteroid Tracker Eyes Giant Golden Asteroid, Could Make All Humans Billionaires
NASA to explore heavy metal asteroid 16 Psyche that could make everyone rich
Golden Asteroid Could Make Everyone on Earth Wealthy

Who?  Who believes this?  First of all, who thinks that anyone, corporate or government entity, is going to spend the money to capture a distant asteroid, haul it back to Earth, then distribute the asteroid’s contents to all people on the planet, making everyone rich instantly?  Like they will do it out of the kindness of their hearts?  Just trying to make everyone’s life better, you know.

Then there’s the simple economic reality that gets in the way.  Let’s say that this crazy idea is implemented.  Is everyone rich now?  Of course not.  Everyone is exactly where they were before, because all that happened was the floor was raised.  Your net worth increased by two billion dollars – you’re rich, bitch!  But your neighbor’s increased by the same amount.  Are you both rich?  You’re richer than everyone you were richer than before.  Good job!

The sad reality is that the one(s) that will be rich beyond comprehension will be those in possession of the asteroid.  And even then, will they be rich?  Kind of.  Because wealth is really just an illusion.  Maybe you’ve read some fringe articles that express disbelief that our world economy even functions.  How does it function?  It’s all on faith.  We all agree a dollar is worth so much.  What makes it worth that much?  Agreement.  That’s it.

Value is determined by scarcity.  If there is less of something and with the assumption that demand for that something remains equal, the value rises.  If supply increases or demand falls, the value falls.  It’s simple supply and demand equations we all should have learned in school.  Now, take a mega-millionaire like Bezos, Gates, or Zuck.  They are mega rich because they have tons and tons of stock in their respective companies.  Yeah, they’re rich, but what if they wanted it all in cash, right now?  If they sold all their stock, the supply of stock for the company would explode and because it’s not scarce anymore, the value falls.  They aren’t as rich as they are on paper, when they control the supply.

And that’s what would happen to the golden asteroid owner.  They can’t cash all the gold in right away, because the price of gold would plummet.  Even if they dole out the gold over a period of time, it’s still going to affect the quantity available, reducing scarcity, reducing value.  Just like a company owner, it’s a stockpile of wealth that can’t really be utilized directly.

I could go on about this, but my only real point was the stupidity of the headline suggesting that everyone on Earth could be made a billionaire.  While it may technically be true, it doesn’t mean that anyone would be wealthy as a result.

Nevar Forget

I was reading a thread on a music forum and the participants were lamenting the rise of “anniversaries”.  When I first got into the thread, I thought they were going to be complaining about anniversary reissues, as a lot of 80’s big hits are now hitting 30-yr anniversaries, and some later ones are nearing 25-yr milestones.  But surprisingly to me, it was something else.

Specifically, the jab was at a music news outlet making posts like “7 years ago on this day, we reviewed this album.”  Ok, that’s a little weird.  First in that it’s not a standard milestone like 5, 10, or 15 years, and also that it’s something they did.  As if the world needs to remember the awesomeness of something they did… 7 years ago.

The consensus was that it was just a “slow news day” or a way of making a post to fill things up.  As bloggers, I suppose we’re all guilty of such things.  Although to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever done a “year in review” or “in case you missed this” post with links to my nearly 10 year archive of shit.  Maybe because a vast majority of it is shit, or maybe because I respect you enough to expect you to use search or tags or categories to find what you want.

But that forum thread gave me a lead-in for a post I’ve wanted to make for a while.  I just keep forgetting about it, which is ironic.  With this concept of rehashing old stuff to other people, there is also a different rehashing going on, the rehashing of your own stuff to you. (#rehash?)  Specifically, I’m talking about Facebook Memories.  Not having FB myself anymore, I hear about the things I’ve done via my GF, whose life is documented on FB.  “Remember when we did this last year?”,  “Looks like five years ago we were doing this.”  and on and on, each day.

On one hand, it’s kind of insane to think that life is moving so quickly and events are so superficial that we need to be reminded of what happened to us a year ago.  On the other hand, more fingers.  The idea of reminding people what they did for their own benefit is not new. 10 years ago (I swear this is just a coincidence), Microsoft Research presented SenseCam to help improve the memory of those with Alzheimer’s.

Facebook “On This Day” was introduced five years later, in 2015.  And I think I might have been on FB at the time, but I do remember (without the use of any technology) the small backlash it caused, like “Thanks for reminding me my dad is dead, Facebook.”  But the feature stuck around, and now with much more data to work with, I guess it’s become more accepted?

Anyway, the point I was writing about is that it will be curious to see in 20 years or so, undoubtedly in an anniversary post or something, if FB’s looking-back feature has had any diminishing effect on Alzheimer’s. Maybe as we age, the Ai will start showing you things that happened a few months ago or last week.

Things You Should Never, Ever Do When Reading This Blog

#1: Take it seriously.

But anyway, it’s becoming more and more common that news headlines have to try harder to get your attention.  After all, we have been in a 24/7 news cycle for quite some time now and with more and more “reporters” out there trying to generate clicks on their articles so they can get the fractions of pennies for their efforts, well, desperation sets in.  (FYI, “Desperation” is a word I’ve been using quite a lot lately.)

It seems to me that advice articles have tried the hardest in the click-bait ascendency.  You used to have articles that wanted you to do things correctly.  Headlines like:

“Best Ways to Cook a Turkey”, “A Dozen Crafts for Kids”, or “How to Paint a Room”

Ah, the good old days.  Then, as competition heated up in the clicks department, the authors – or more likely the editors – had to get more stealthy.  It actually didn’t matter if the article was useful to you anymore, just as long as you clicked on it.  That became more important than providing relevant, useful information.  Now you had:

“You Won’t Believe How These People Cook a Turkey!”, “Incredible Crafts Your Kids Will Love You For”, and “You Must Do This In Every Room of Your House!!!!”

It should not be a surprise that all news now is driven by fear. (It’s not true, people!)  So, keeping in step with the times, headlines switched to a negative tone. So then:

“Don’t Make These Mistakes When Cooking a Turkey”, “No More Crying With These Kid’s Crafts”, and “Is Your Room a Disaster?”

But then, a bit of fear just didn’t go far enough.  Like building up a tolerance to a drug, the news peddlers had to up the dosage.  Enter the adverb “never”.

“You Should Never Do This When Cooking a Turkey”

And then, when that wasn’t enough, they added another adverb, “ever”.

“Never, Ever, Think About Cooking a Turkey.”

And once you reach that point, don’t you realize you’re talking to people as if they’re children?  Maybe that’s the point, that no one will heed a warning unless it is smacked upside their head?  They will never, ever heed a warning.  Never, ever.

And the thing that has irked me as of late is how that wording has infiltrated the most benign articles.  Things that shouldn’t ever (never, ever) need such treatment.  Here’s a quick list of actual titles:

  • 4 Alarming Shifts In Your Sex Life You Should Never, Ever Ignore
  • 10 Things That Good Houseguests Never Ever Do
  • 8 kids’ songs that I never ever want to hear again
  • Why You Should Never, Ever Order This Drink at McDonald’s
  • Apparently you should “never, ever” brush your hair in the morning.

And I could go on and on.  There’s already “never, ever, ever” starting to creep in.  Fucking hell.

Journalism Is Dead

Every day, I read a lot of articles.  And every day, I get more and more saddened by the decline in journalistic standards.  It’s near impossible to find an article that does not clearly express the author’s biases and preferences.

The promotion or derision of any product, service, or company is done both by what is said and what is not said.  An author may compare only features or facts that are superior to competitors, or vice versa if that’s the author’s goal.  An author will state opinions as facts. as in, “no one likes or will use this feature.”  Even if an author tries to defend his or her bias with “everyone I asked agrees that…”, it is still a flawed sample, since like-minded people tend to attract each other.  This is the echo chamber where clusters of people come to believe something as truth when it is simply an exaggerated – or even made-up – opinion.

Spelling and grammar are obsolete.  The argument, “you still understood what I meant,” seems to have grown beyond common comments into the articles themselves.  Editors are either non-existent, with many articles being published by a person whose title is “Editor”, or if they are, they are ineffective.  I just finished reading an article in the Wall Street Journal (now corrected) where the editor’s review comment was left in the article body.  This is what passes for quality?

And it’s not just print media that has died.  I don’t watch TV anymore, so when I do by happenstance, I am astounded at the behavior of news anchors.  The tone and inflection in their delivery takes ordinary news to tabloid levels.  You would never see an exclamation point in a real news story, but these talking heads are trying their hardest to indicate what emotion you need to be feeling about the story at hand.

The emotional aspect comes back to the print media as well, where “news” is essentially an opinion piece with a few facts mixed in.  Product reviews are not objective, but instead are a litany of praise or condemnation as to how the product suited the reviewer’s needs.  And this is pretty much standard now.  The best way to get a review is to find a reviewer who has the same wants and needs as you do.  Reviewers don’t simply explain features, they explain how you should feel about features.  For example, “the product has a hinge that allows it to open up 45 degrees” versus “the product has a hinge that allows it to only open to 45 degrees, limiting its usefulness.”

And a rant on article comments should be forthcoming…

Things To Do Alone: Stop Being Alone


In the “articles that didn’t need to be written” category, as well as the “articles that make no sense” category, I came across this one.  There have been lots of articles written about introverts lately, trying to educate others as to how introverts behave and why they behave that way.  So I assumed that this article was written with the same consideration.  Nope.

Here’s a summary of the suggestions for things to do alone:

  1. Go to a bar
  2. Go to a wedding
  3. Go to a concert
  4. Do a DIY project at home
  5. Go to a restaurant or café
  6. Go to local stores
  7. Go on a vacation
  8. Go to school
  9. Go to the movies

First off, the fact that masturbation didn’t make the list is a major oversight and destroys the author’s credibility.  That would be the #1 thing to do while alone.

Jokes aside, the author doesn’t seem to know what the word “alone” means.  All but one suggestion involves going out to where people are, many times with the intention of meeting new people.  That’s not being alone.  The article title should be “10 things to do alone when you don’t want to be alone”.

This article was an easy target, but there are becoming more and more easy targets every day.  Another alarming trend I am seeing is grammatical errors in news stories.  Things like missing words or misspelled words (probably via autocorrect).  In print media, there used to be a position called “editor”, whose role it was to read and correct all stories before publishing.  The editor would do normal proofreading, but would also manage the style and tone of the story.  When you understand how involved this could be, you gain a greater respect for the editor role.

But in the modern world of self-publishing, immediate deadline, 24-hour news, the editor role seems to be obsolete.  Editors would be more suited for weekly magazines like Time or Newsweek where the articles would be a more in-depth retrospective of events.  It’s kind of sad to me.

So what’s my excuse when I have a spelling mistake or a grammatical error?  Well, I don’t have an editor.  I do a re-read of my posts usually, sometimes a couple of times.  But we know how easy the brain can skip over double words or can mysteriously fill in missing words when you know what’s coming next.

Let Me Tell You

This is something that I’ve seen for a long time.  Maybe I’ve complained about it before.  But I’ve started to see the problem manifested in different ways and the progression is a little disturbing to me.

Quite a long while ago, news channels discovered there wasn’t really enough news to support a 24-hr cycle.  So they started doing more sensationalistic pieces.  Then they started moving towards opinion pieces.  With “opinion news”, they could discuss the same news story in many different ways, filling up the time needed.  The problem with that is that it’s opinion.  That’s one person telling you what you should believe.  And you know what?  That works very damn well.

Recently, an organization I was affiliated with came under attack by a variety of people led by a single blogger who drew a multi-step path of loose connections into an accusation of racism.  And you know what?  It worked pretty damn well.  Not flawless, because many people were able to think rationally and refute the claims.  But, when led down a path – “and if that’s true, then…” – some people will see whatever it is you want them to see.

Most recently, I saw a funny video on Youtube.  In the related videos, I was surprised to see some new genre, “reaction videos” was now legitimate.  Think about that.  You’re watching a video of people watching a video.  I bring this up because it’s another way of leading you down the path.  “You see how these people are reacting to this?  You didn’t react the same way.  You’re different.” 

And that’s the root of the problem.  All of these sources are trying to tell you how to think, how to behave, and what to believe.  Be yourself, be confident, be good.