The escape of exnzpat, Part 20

The other side of the mountain


After a few hours, I realized we were walking downhill.  The ice fog, steaming up from the snow about us, gave me the impression we were walking inside a tunnel and, dissipating now, lifted that dark heaviness one feels when in tunnels.  A new stillness came over me.  I dare say I felt somewhat lighthearted, considering all that had gone before.

Lilith too was improving.  Her body, morphing back into its human form, seemed to break the terrible grief that had assuaged her over Lincoln’s passing.  Her grief remained but I felt it subside to a point that did not literally have me falling to the ground in despair every time Lincoln, our good dog, crossed her mind. Continue reading →

    “The more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become.”

    From a must-read new article by Ezra Klein at Vox: How politics makes us stupid showing that often what conditions us to resist changing our minds in response to new information (i.e. learn) is partisanship

    Imagine what would happen to, say, Sean Hannity if he decided tomorrow that climate change was the central threat facing the planet. Initially, his viewers would think he was joking. But soon, they’d begin calling in furiously. Some would organize boycotts of his program. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of professional climate skeptics would begin angrily refuting Hannity’s new crusade. Many of Hannity’s friends in the conservative media world would back away from him, and some would seek advantage by denouncing him. Some of the politicians he respects would be furious at his betrayal of the cause. He would lose friendships, viewers, and money. He could ultimately lose his job. And along the way he would cause himself immense personal pain as he systematically alienated his closest political and professional allies. The world would have to update its understanding of who Sean Hannity is and what he believes, and so too would Sean Hannity. And changing your identity is a psychologically brutal process.

    It is Keynes who is quoted as saying, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?”

    Well, not so easy! As Klein points out: “Individuals subconsciously resist factual information that threatens their defining values.”

    Yeah, that’s the whole thing with allowing (suffering from?) our paradigms which act to filter out facts that don’t support them. See this post, Negative campaigning and comments following.

    Throw in a bunch of membership-of-this-club-means-I-let-others-do-my-thinking-for-me and, well, a recipe for ignorance. Wilful ignorance.

    - P

    h/t John Gruber

    By the way, this, from Steven Price, The news according to Mike Hosking, is well worth a read.

      Glimpse the implications of globalisation, via Disney’s ‘Let It Go’ …

      Wow. More to those language choices on the DVD than meets the eye, huh?

      (Excellent song too. Moving.)

      - P

        More discussion on the Press Council’s move to ‘embrace’ new media

        Drinnan-column-on PressCouncil-50

        More discussion on the Press Council move to embrace new media … with a few different points of view — including a sound bite of my own.

        The NZ Herald‘s media columnist John Drinnan, I think, ‘gets’ the distinction between blogging as self-expression/discussion/current affairs and ‘blogging’ as a dirty, abusive, weaponised PR campaign … which we’ve discussed here a bit now and then.

        See: John Drinnan: Press Council embraces the bloggers (NZ Herald)

        The question for many is whether treating blogs under the same rules as newspapers will make blogs more careful or diminish the stature of traditional media. Even among bloggers like Peter Aranyi there are concerns,
        Some bloggers seeking legitimisation as ‘news media’ …through membership of the Press Council – should more properly be applying for membership of the Public Relations Institute, said Aranyi who has written a lot about a culture of attacks in some blogs.

        Let me expand on those thoughts of mine …

        Some bloggers seeking legitimisation as ‘news media’ — perhaps, later this year, through membership of the Press Council — should more properly be applying for membership of the Public Relations Institute. That would be a more honest umbrella for their activities. But even there, members are required to be honest, ‘accurate and truthful’ in their endeavours on behalf of their clients.

        We are accurate and truthful in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.

        from PRINZ Code of Ethics (PDF)

        Anyone can blog. That’s freedom of speech. But clearly not every ‘new media’ enterprise is a ‘news medium’ — not by a long chalk. It’s pretty clear that some blogs and bloggers take their partisanship to a highly personal level.

        Some run political and business vendettas, and engage in ongoing abusive public campaigns to unfairly denigrate or corrode the reputation of others.

        That’s not journalism.

        In some cases, those activities can be seen to be a commercial enterprise, or in support, or at the service of such enterprises. Cameron Slater’s efforts to demean striking watersiders using personnel files leaked by someone at the Ports of Auckland come to mind.

        One might think bringing the online cowboys under the Press Council, with its complaints system and standards for ‘accuracy’ would be a good thing.

        Well, maybe. But, as the target of a particularly nasty online campaign wrote last year: Some of them are no more journalists than they are brain surgeons. (see: Target of Cameron Slater’s ‘campaign’ speaks up)

        - P

        Here’s the Press Council’s press release: NZ Press Council to extend coverage, gain new powers (PDF)

          Et tu, RTF? (WTF)

          Oh crikey. (click to read Graham Cluley's article)

          Oh crikey. (click to read Graham Cluley’s article)

          See this article by UK-based computer security specialist Graham Cluley Just previewing an Outlook email could infect your computer. Microsoft warns of zero-day flaw.

          Just previewing it? Gah! I remember when Microsoft Office macros were shown to be able to be exploited to infect computers. I ran my (since departed) MS Office suite with the ‘Disable Macros’ option selected, and was, you know, careful what I clicked on. But previewing a message now?


          In the context of news last week about the NSA (reportedly) sensing malware around the planet, I can see why people within real reason for security maintain some equipment that is never connected to the internet — ‘air-gapped’.

          This, from a fascinating article in the New York Times How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets makes the point:

          Once she began working on her surveillance film in 2011, she raised her digital security to an even higher level. She cut down her use of a cellphone, which betrays not only who you are calling and when, but your location at any given point in time. She was careful about e-mailing sensitive documents or having sensitive conversations on the phone. She began using software that masked the Web sites she visited. After she was contacted by Snowden in 2013, she tightened her security yet another notch. In addition to encrypting any sensitive e-mails, she began using different computers for editing film, for communicating and for reading sensitive documents (the one for sensitive documents is air-gapped, meaning it has never been connected to the Internet).
          These precautions might seem paranoid — Poitras describes them as “pretty extreme” — but the people she has interviewed for her film were targets of the sort of surveillance and seizure that she fears. William Binney, a former top N.S.A. official who publicly accused the agency of illegal surveillance, was at home one morning in 2007 when F.B.I. agents burst in and aimed their weapons at his wife, his son and himself. Binney was, at the moment the agent entered his bathroom and pointed a gun at his head, naked in the shower. His computers, disks and personal records were confiscated and have not yet been returned. Binney has not been charged with any crime.

          I’m still struck by how the US government cancelled Edward Snowden’s passport without any charges & trial or any apparent due process, in an effort to strand him stateless — trapping him in Moscow airport.

          Who can you trust?

          - P

          See also: Beware the ubiquitous PDF? Really?

            Quite a good editorial on the issue of bloggers as journalists

            Should bloggers be seen as journalists? Why not doctors? Or lawyers? pic: (click)

            Who needs training & qualifications? Some bloggers are keen to be seen as journalists. pic: (click)

            The Southland Times Editorial: Discomforting scrutiny is worth a read. The editorial is a reference to the news that the NZ Press Council wants to offer a warm embrace to bloggers — perhaps to shore up its membership. And relevance? (Am I being too cynical?)

            Although, describing a judge’s decision as of “dullardly calibre” because you see an issue differently, based on a fraction of the background material in a defamation case (!), makes me think the (anonymous?) editorial writer is warming up for his or her own opinionated blog. Welcome along.

            The council’s decision to expand its membership further highlights the dullardly calibre of the decision from Judge Charles Blackie late last year that Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater isn’t a journalist, so isn’t entitled to rely on the protections, such as they are, that protect journalists’ sources. The judge appeared to have taken a steer from a Law Commission report critical of blogging practice but then to have either overlooked or disregarded the commission’s final report which did acknowledge bloggers’ media status.

            Majoring on minors

            My own view of the sideshow that is attack blogger Cameron Slater grasping for ‘news medium’ status (and source protection) for his dreck-filled, abusive and [allegedly] defamatory ravings* as he tries to fend off accountability for a prolonged and abusive campaign against a failed Auckland businessman hasn’t changed since I wrote this: Part of the news media? or a “PR blog” dedicated to “destroying” reputations?.

            It seems to me that IF it turns out (i.e. is proven or shown to be likely) that Slater did his hit-job on the businessman as a commercial venture … well, in my view he’s got no business being on the Press Council’s membership list, however much they lower their standards.
            Continue reading →

              Edward Snowden TED Talk March 2014

              via Robot … well worth watching:

              Pay attention to what he says about the risks of speaking out versus the risks of ‘exposure’ of the material (PRISM etc). Yet, without the courage to face those, where would we be?

              Remember, Daring — if there was no risk it wouldn’t take guts.

              “I did not do this to be safe. I did this to do what was right.
              I’m not going to stop my work in the public interest just to benefit myself.”
              — Edward Snowden

              ‘Terrorism threat’

              Here’s a crucial section (audio clip) from the talk, where Snowden exposes governmental calls of ‘Terrorism threat!’ as a fig leaf for what spy agencies want to do anyway. According to Snowden, Terrorism threat is ‘a cover for action’:

              MP3 file

              We’re not immune to the deployment of that ‘talking point’ here in lil ol’ New Zealand. You might recall this from Justifying mass surveillance with ‘terror threat’ is a right wing talking point during the GCSB power expansion debate (NZ Prime Minister John Key speaking):

              MP3 file

              What does that make you think?

              - P

                Success is sometimes just a matter of ‘beating the averages’

                From the Colliding Worlds department, here’s an article I just posted at the Empower Education website

                Click to read this article at

                Click to read this article at

                Comments & discussion welcome there.

                - P

                  FIRST KISS (video by Tatia Pilieva). Heart-warming.

                  via Jason Kottke who says:
                  “Tatia Pilieva asked 20 strangers to kiss for the first time and filmed it. The result is surprisingly sweet.”

                  So right. I can feel the endorphins from here. Lovely.

                  - P

                    iOS7.1 features

                    These are nice improvements, in my view… I did the upgrade immediately.

                      Snowden’s statement to European Parliament Surveillance Inquiry (Read it for yourself)

                      In situations like this, I like reading the original statement. Available here as a PDF via the European Parliament. (Drop me a line at the email address here if this suffers from link rot. I have made an archive copy.)

                      A good review (with an appropriate amount of modulated outrage) from Glyn Moody here: Snowden Gives Testimony To European Parliament Inquiry Into Mass Surveillance, Asks For EU Asylum (TechDirt)

                      Click to read Glyn Moody's article at TechDirt

                      Click to read Glyn Moody’s article at TechDirt

                      This is an issue of our times. Governmental overreach, what Snowden calls ‘suspicionless surveillance’, makes us all ‘targets’. As he says, mass surveillance ‘violates our rights, risks our safety & threatens our way of life.’

                      - P

                      Read this: Did the NSA write John Key’s spy bill? — No Right Turn which highlights a wee mention of ‘faraway New Zealand’ in Snowden’s testimony … see page 3. Ooops.


                        What could be behind Apple’s unwillingness to pass the ‘Spy Lockout’ shareholder resolution?


                        click to read this at firedog

                        click to read this at firedog

                        Now, I hadn’t upgraded to OSX Mavericks, so the ‘GotoFail’ bug didn’t affect my desktop, but it appears that ‘error’ was a factor in my iPhone and iPad since iOS6 sometime.

                        The awful coincidence of Apple appearing (according to Edward Snowden’s ground-shaking disclosures) to have joined the NSA’s PRISM ‘direct access to user data’ programme about that time certainly shakes my confidence in the security of my data.

                        I read Apple’s recently-released explanation about just how wonderfully secure iMessages actually are (with diagrams! …and caveats) but, really, if something Apple does but can’t disclose gives the NSA ‘access’ to the data on my iPhone, what’s to stop them reading the message logs on my phone?

                        As gut-wrenching now as it was in June last year when we first saw it.

                        As gut-wrenching now as it was in June last year when we first saw it. (But notice ‘messages’ aren’t on the list.)

                        There’s some defensive commentary that Apple’s directors vetoed ‘Spy Lockout’ shareholder’s floor motion because they saw it as an attempt to drag Apple into ‘politics’. Well, so what? Apple’s call on the Arizona governor to strike down the anti-gay/religious-freedom (you choose) bill recently was politics, wasn’t it?

                        I’m troubled. Is that the ‘crisis of trust in US companies‘ that some talk about? Well, yes, I guess it is.

                        - P

                          What? A headache warning for Google Glass?

                          Google co-founder Sergey Brin wears Google Glass (pic: NY Daily News - click)

                          Google co-founder Sergey Brin wears Google Glass (pic: Daily News – click)

                          See this article Google Glass enthusiast: It’s not worth the headaches by C|net’s Chris Matyszczyk recording PR man Chris Barrett’s falling out of love with the Google Glass … in fact suggesting they should carry a health warning (!) …

                          I think there should be a warning that comes with Glass; that if you start to get a headache, you should limit your use. Not everybody who wears Glass will make the connection, especially people who are prone to headaches. I can’t imagine the effect Glass could have on migraine suffers or those with other neurological conditions.

                          Golly. And this, in the context of the still-not-really-clear-why-she-was-videoing-people-in-a-bar episode: Google Glass-wearing woman posts video of alleged S.F. bar attack (LA Times)


                          - P

                            Kinda funny


                            via TechCrunch (click)

                              Internet commenters as psychopaths (also applies to ‘blogsters’)

                              Troll-shadowFrom an article you may have already seen at Slate magazine by Chris Mooney:

                              Internet Trolls Really Are Horrible People — Narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic, and sadistic.

                              Last year, for instance, we learned that by hurling insults and inciting discord in online comment sections, so-called Internet trolls (who are frequently anonymous) have a polarizing effect on audiences, leading to politicization, rather than deeper understanding of scientific topics.
                              That’s bad, but it’s nothing compared with what a new psychology paper has to say about the personalities of trolls themselves. The research […] sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).
                              It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.

                              In my observation, people whose peak of personal expression and identity is based on social media ‘combat’ — like hate bloggers and comment trolls — will frequently be slanderers, liars, bullies and deceivers.

                              They can be fixated and egotistical, lacking normal human empathy, apparently delighting in abuse of their ‘enemies’, and seemingly relish hurting others. Their activities: abusing, mocking and denigrating (say) road accident victims or people on a different ‘side’ of political debate to themselves or their ‘tribe’ reveal their character. Continue reading →