El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

The Open Internet is Back. The Fediverse is Here

When Facebook/Twitter/Google+ et al, showed up they published open interchange formats. Facebook’s messenger chat was XMPP, which meant you could use your own IM client to communicate with your contacts.

A company or individual could publish directly to their Facebook page from their website. Then, little by little they closed off all that 3rd party functionality. You now could only publish from their platform. Your own website could no longer be the hub of your communications. You can pull data from social media sites, but you can’t push. These social media sites wanted you engaged on their platform only. And why wouldn’t they. They can’t monetize you if you’re not there, can they?

Now, Mastodon (and others) come along with #ActivityPub. Public utilities, FEMA, weather service, local services etc, could publish to a regional mastodon instance, funded perhaps by the local municipality or province. This interchange format isn’t beholden to one company, and your channel of communications could be funded with public money and be maintained as part of jurisdiction’s emergency response.

I hated that Twitter was the default for important public services.

It’s ready right now. All that is required is some forward thinking agency to set up their own instance.

But it gets even better. There’s even an #ActivityPub plugin for #Wordpress? https://wordpress.org/plugins/activitypub/

WordPress runs 44% of the web. Every single one of those websites could publish on the #Fediverse right now.

What does mean? It means your website right now could publish to the public Fediverse and be found and followed by any user on any instance in the world.

This brings a few benefits. A decentralized platform is infinitely more resilient to censorship and bad behavior by a private corporation. You cannot be monetized of manipulated by corporations and their algorithm.

Are Google/Facebook/Twitter good stewards of privacy? Do they protect the identities of dissidents when their governments come for them? Do they protect you?

I’m telling you, Elon’s meltdown may be the best thing for re-exposing people to what an open internet looks like. Let’s not screw this up again, okay?

To Peel a Mango

This morning, I was faced with the task of preparing a bowl of fresh mangoes. Mangoes are some of the tastiest and finest fruits anyone will ever eat. Yet, I hesitated. I wish they would just appear in the bowl ready to eat. Eating them is the fun part. The effort, it seems to me, is nearly identical to the enjoyment, that is to say, enjoyment nudges out effort by only a smidge. Let’s get to it then, I sighed, resigned to the task.

It may seem simple. It’s fruit. How hard could it be? I assure you, to peel a mango is a difficult thing, so difficult, in fact, that I believe it to be an excellent measure of a person.

I have talked to country folk in Puerto Rico. I have watched Youtube videos. I have tried different kinds of peelers, knifes, and widgets. This is a test, the kitchen’s version of the Kobayashi Maru from Star Trek. How do you function in a no-win scenario?

If you want to see what kind of person someone is, whether they may be a potential mate or friend, ask them to peel a mango. They will fail, and it is in their failure you will find out who they are.

I have been peeling mangoes for 25 years, and I still struggle nearly every time. They are slippery. They are messy. They resist process. They resist technique. The knife must be razor sharp, your fingers nimble, your grip delicate. You don’t know where the pit is. It could be shallow. It could be deep. How could such a heavy fruit have so little flesh? They foil you in unique and frustrating ways EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

If you want to find out how a person is when they fail, ask them to peel a mango.

If you want to see how a person plans, ask them to peel a mango.

If you want to see if a person is open to new things, is curious or adventurous, ask them peel a mango.

If you want to find out if someone is a good sport, ask them to peel a mango.

If you want to see how perseverate a person is, ask them peel a mango.

It is all there, contained within the mango, the truest test of a human being I can imagine.

Buses Out of Texas

This is the governor of Texas in his own words.

“To help local officials whose communities are being overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants who are being dropped off by the Biden administration, Texas is providing charter buses to send these illegal immigrants who have been dropped off by the Biden administration to Washington D.C.,” he said.

So I have a few questions. I didn’t know it was possible to bus a horde. But, bravo, Gov, I like your can-do solution to being overwhelmed. A bus is cheap. easy, not complicated, and it will get these brave desperate people to someone who can help them.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing that the people arriving in D.C. have all been processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “so it’s nice the state of Texas is helping them get to their final destination as they await the outcome of their immigration proceedings.”

Asylum seekers are not undocumented or “illegal” as they have committed no infraction and are, in fact, in the process of obtaining a legal status.

Penne

Family at the grocery story today.

“Hey Asier, do you think we should get penne pasta for tonight?”

“Ay papi, it sounds wrong when you say it.”

I had said “penne” (from Italian) like the word “pene” (from Spanish), which means penis. Asier picked up on it and let me know.

“Papi, in Italian, you say the double n like this payn-nay.”

“Oh, yeah?” I repeated it. “Payn-nay. Payn-nay. Thank you Asier. You know so much, my little Italian boy!”

Vaccine Spam and Bad Actors

If anyone has any doubt about the veracity of these anti-vaccine conspiracies going around, I can assure you they are pure unadulterated lies. These are not well meaning, but misinformed, people who really believe these things and just “want to help.” These are malevolent forces, bad actors actively trying to sow discord in the US. Probably other places as well, but I can tell you definitively about what I see in the US.

My day to day job is running communications and web infrastructure for a wide variety of clients – email, web, messaging. This means that I am privy to the attacks that happen, the attempts to sell pharmaceuticals, scam you out of bitcoin, steal money, phish identities – you name it, I’ve seen it for going on 25 years now.

Currently, there is a concerted effort to undermine people’s faith in government, public health, and society. I will share one example here in image form, because I do not want to give it any visibility to search engines.

excerpt of the body of a website comment form spam

The rest of the body contains various links to a google drive account with hundreds of meme-ready images to share on social media professing to the myth that the Covid-19 vaccines somehow shed live viruses to other people, something called vaccine shedding. If you want a quick history of this and to see if there is any truth at all, read the wikipedia article.

In short, there are no modern live virus vaccines in use. So virus shedding is not a thing, okay? It was only partially a thing with the oral version of the polio vaccine in the 1950s.

Why are they posting this stuff, you might ask. Why work so hard to hunt down and post contact form, email, website spam?

Why would someone anyone do this?

Let me be clear, these are not concerned citizens “trying to get the word out.” These people, organizations, state actors are paid to spread this misinformation. Based on the webserver logs, I show that between 50% and 85% of all traffic to websites that I host and maintain is coming from China, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Belarus.

There is no content I host that would interest any individuals in those places. The only interesting bit to them is that these sites are hosted using WordPress, the single most popular content management software in the world. It’s popular and predictable, so it draws in bad actors trying to foment discord and steal money.

This the reason that captchas exist, folks, in addition to all the behind the scenes stuff – mitigation techniques that attempt to weed out automated spam posts. Sometimes, however, it’s just people being paid to post stuff.

And someone is getting paid to do this.

If you are disposed to believe these sorts of posts, please understand that these people are not your friends. They are not aligned with you politically or spiritually. They are manipulating you for nefarious ends. They are attempting to undermine your faith in the rule of law, public health, science. What they gain is a divided country, hobbled both politically and economically.

Morgan Freeman Casting for the Part of God

“So, hey Morgan, we’re looking for someone to play God in a little movie we’re doing.”

“Sounds interesting, tell me about it.”

“Well, you’re God, right? It’s funny because God is black. Unexpected.

“Okay. Hmmm. So what do I do in this movie.”

“You’re mopping floors.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s just a bit… you know, expectations an all. God’s a black man who mops floors. It’s hilarious.”

“Ok, so it turns around right? I get to do something cool and powerful?”

“Well, sorta. You’re going to turn over your powers to a white man.”

“Excuse me?”

“A white man is going to take and abuse your powers so he can learn to appreciate how hard being God is.”

“Well, I guess…”

“Bottom line, Morgan, you’re going to help a white man who feels under appreciated and oppressed. You’re going to help him achieve his potential. Isn’t that great!”

But I Thought it was Trump’s Vaccine

So here’s another thing I don’t understand. Vaccine hesitant people – I see you on Facebook. Your sharing of crazy “facts” from random websites is truly awe-inspiring.

For example, there’s a thing where some people think that vaccinated people shed DNA and it affects people around you. Another is that the mRNA mechanism of the vaccine itself can rewrite your DNA. I am not making this up.

I apparently have never ever fully grasped the depths of human stupidity… but that’s a post for another day.

The short of it for now: I thought the vaccine was Trump’s triumph. Operation Warp Speed. Remember that? Dear leader saved us all with his remarkable leadership and vision.

I remember him and you decrying the liberal media’s ingratitude for the vaccine. Trump himself lamented that he wasn’t getting credit for the vaccine. Nobody thanks me.

Pouty face.

But then suddenly, there’s a good 40% of the US that says they don’t trust it. Is it now Biden’s vaccine? What happened?

No, I really want to know. No, I actually don’t. That’s a rhetorical question.

Trumpists’ Cult of Personality

I’m only posting about this to get it off my chest. I know he’s out of office, but the rubble from his destruction is still littered about. I can’t ignore it, especially when I keep tripping on it and when these conversations still happen:

Well, YOUR guy is doing X. It could be Hunter Biden. It could be Andrew Cuomo. It could be Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio Cortéz, Schumer whatever. Whataboutism is alive and well.

You see, those that have gone all in on Trump worship, have connected their entire beings to him. They don’t seem to understand that those that disagree with them on policy and values may not have an equivalent. There’s no liberal cult figure that I can see.

So, I respond. My guy? I don’t have a guy. What are you talking about? If Hunter Biden did something illegal, investigate him and prosecute him. If his dad, the President profited, then burn him too. Investigate them all. Prosecute them all. I am not loyal to a party or a person. I’m loyal to the values of honesty and integrity.

Why is that so hard to understand?

AOC? Okay, I don’t have any particular loyalty towards her. What is it that you don’t like about her? What things do you disagree with? Well, she wants to destroy America. She’s a socialist. Really? How does she want to destroy America? Again, I don’t have any particular loyalty to her, just to values and policy. What is she doing? Invariably, they can’t say absolutely anything except for what the idiot talking heads on Fox News, OAN, Rush Limbaugh, Breitbart say. Which is to say, absolutely nothing besides false innuendo, relying on listeners/viewers laziness to verify for themselves.

Then there’s some sputtering about Clinton, Bill or Hillary, take your pick. I can’t defend Bill. He was rightfully impeached. He should have been removed.

Perjury was a technicality.

What he was really guilty of was using the office of the President to personally enrich himself. He took liberty with his office to “get chicks.” It’s a very dangerous indicator of his personal values of loyalty and fealty to a higher calling, to the responsibilities and duties of the office. Time, I think, has revealed more and more truth about his self-dealings with regard to the Clinton Foundation and his behaviors towards women and his problematic relationship with Jeffery Epstein. I mean, if you want to show pictures of Trump with Jeffrey, you’ve got to acknowledge that Clinton was right up in there too.

So burn them both. Clinton and Trump both violated the public trust, enriched themselves to the detriment of the country and should never ever be trusted ever again.

So, yeah, I don’t have a guy. Go to a Biden rally? What? Are you kidding me. Who’s got time for that. He just needs to do his damn job. I’ll do mine. He should do his.

Shortcut to Waking Up

I love how Foxnews and the like are talking about Dr. Seuss in their ongoing segment, “Libs are trying to destroy America – Endless Culture War edition.” Frankly, the recent news is a gift to radical right wing media. They can’t get enough of the outrage.

But I don’t really want to talk about that, I guess. It’s sort of the context, but I really want to talk about the great white middle class, those with whom Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was so impatient.

Why is it taking so long for us? Why is realizing that society is deeply racist and has been built that way for centuries rolling along in such slow motion? Yes, the arc of the moral universe is long and it does bend toward justice. But why so long, and why is the arc so gentle?

I reflect on my own journey of understanding and the increasing granularity of my own personal discoveries of racist things. I personally wouldn’t have found Dr. Seuss racist growing up. Haha, look at the funny characters. That’s what Chinese people are. Look at the interesting African tribal guys. Oh, that’s what Africans look like. My personal journey didn’t get me very far, because it’s a feedback loop of normality.

Why is your favorite dish something your mom made?

As time has gone on, I, like a lot of other normative white folks, have awakened to the realization that black people and Asians don’t like being portrayed like that, that stereotypes are bad. They would never draw themselves like that or portray themselves like that.

I get it. Now let me continue to take myself on my personal journey toward woke-ness. Bravo. Please let me pat myself on my woke-ass back.

Bah! It’s this personal journey bullshit that’s making it take so long!

But here’s the thing – there’s a shortcut.

Psst. They have been telling us for decades, and sometimes for even hundreds of years.

All we had to do was listen.

When people tell you what you said was hurtful, believe them.

When people tell you a depiction is racist and hurtful, believe them.

When people tell you that police profile and harass them, believe them.

When people tell you their city’s water is full of lead, believe them.

When people tell you they have experienced sexual harassment/assault in public and in their workplaces, believe them.

When people tell you they hurt, believe them.

Really, it boils down to – believe people when they tell you things they experience and don’t filter their words through your own completely different experiences.

Ad Hominem and Silly Arguments

Today’s big story on foxnews.com is a real head scratcher, but it perfectly encapsulates the silly arguments that they and radical right media make to distract, score vague emotional points, and stir up discord in society.

John Kerry’s family still owns private jet as he leads climate fight, FAA records indicate,” they breathless report while clutching their pearls.

Okay, so let’s break this down folks. First, this is a classic ad hominem, attempting to discredit the messenger rather than the message. Most of what Fox News does is attack the person, rather than policy position or relevant actions. What’s more, most of the time the person they are attacking is made of straw, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing.

What are you saying, Fox News? Kerry is a hypocrite? Okay, let’s go down that path. He’s a hypocrite. I agree with you. What now? Are you insinuating that he will not enact or support policy that will promote sustainable energy investment?

Are you saying he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

“Look,” you say, “he says he’s all about conservation, but he flies around in a private jet.” And then you leave that hanging in the air as if that’s it. Case closed, wrap it up boys, we’re done here. Dem discredited!

If we dig a little deeper, we have to ask ourselves if what you’re really saying is that John Kerry is a duplicitous energy wasting bastard who does not support what we, Fox News, support, namely that global warming is an existential threat.

John Kerry is not a serious proponent for real policy change with respect to renewable energy, because he flies around in a private jet.

I do not think your argument means what you think it means, Fox.

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