Trees versus Shrubs

This last weekend, we went took our kids out to dinner to celebrate the hubbinator’s birthday. It was over food truck tacos, raw fish sandwiches, and craft beer that our oldest told us about trees and shrubs.

Not the kind that you plant in the ground.

These terms refer to people. Trees are folks that like to branch out, to try new things and new experiences.

Shrubs are people that don’t expand far from their comfort zone. They eat the same things, and go to the same places. In other words, creatures of habit.

I think there’s a little of each in everyone. Certainly, when it comes to food, I am a tree. When it comes to looking at things from different points of view, I’m a tree. When it comes to learning, I am a tree.

But there are times when I’m happy to be a shrub. Like when there are lots of people involved or when fish is involved.

So here is to morphing between trees and shrubs.

Until next time.

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Friday’s Futurecast: Algorithms

My first introduction to algorithms via computers ruling the world was through Landru on the original Star Trek series (The Return of the Archons). In many ways, I preferred the Terminator movies. At least there was an enemy to shot, to fight. Landru was much more subversive, working quietly behind the scenes, eroding freedom and privacy, until nearly everyone was complicit in its rule.

It was the stuff of science fiction.

Still is. I’ve seen a book with the very name on my book feed just yesterday.

Except now, we see the signs of the algorithms becoming more science fact.

Google, Amazon, Yahoo, and facebook use algorithms. Anyone who searched online for a project, has seen the rise of the ads based on their search history. And then there’s the ever-so-helpful algorithm that finishes what you’re typing in the search bar. Time and again, I’ve heard programmers say they’re not sure how the algorithms work once they start learning in the ‘real’ world.

Of course, they’re not all bad. They can help match sellers and buyers by targeting those most interested in their products based on online activity.

But there’s a downside: In the 2016 elections in the US, ads featuring lynchings and other persecutions  of people of color were promoted on specifically targeted users to discourage certain people from voting (and yes, the polling numbers reflect that it worked).

It has also been documented that social media algorithms will show users ever more violent/extreme posts based viewing history. The more you like the posts, the more violent/extreme they become. In other words, you’re indoctrinated by millimeters until you’re sucked in and they clog your feed.

The algorithms control what you see.

And what you don’t.

People have reported silence on their feed relating to the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Apparently, the algorithms didn’t think the stories would receive enough likes so they weren’t shown anything. At all.

Sadly, we didn’t need an algorithm for this kind of censorship to happen. When coal miners went on strike in the 1920s and 1930s in Matewan, no newspapers reported the murders, violence, and abuse by the company, its enforcers, and the local police. The result was the Battle of Matewan (Matewan Massacre) the most of the country remained happily ignorant of.

Similar to what happened to the Americans protesting the Dakato Access pipeline.

But let’s face it. Most folks don’t want to be bothered. They want their coal just like folks today want their gas. As long as they don’t pay the price, the others are just standing in the way of progress.

So what happens when the algorithms impact bleeds into reality in other ways? Like the judicial system where some places use it. The supposedly impartial algorithm brought with it racial biases and sentenced citizens of color to harsher sentences.

But we don’t really care about criminals, do we? They’re bad people, right?

The real story lies in the average Jane. Jane whose father has a pacemaker and whose online activity has become more and more violent/extreme until the algorithm deems him a threat to society. Why not have the computer tap into his pacemaker’s software and deal with the problem. Jane’s dad dies peacefully in his sleep. Society doesn’t have to incur the costs of a trial and incarceration.

There could also be a malfunction in the computer integrating a car’s system. A car could speed up around a curve, the steering wheel aims beyond the guard rails of a road with a steep drop.

And with the gas heater on a timer, some poor enemy of the state could live in a house were the pilot light is extinguished while gas flows killing all occupants in one night (genetics might reveal a code similar to other criminals, saving future tax payers money).

Then one day, the computer decides that humanity is too prone to violence and extreme behavior. And we have to go.

And those are the stories I like to read. I just hope they’re out of the news because they’re still fiction and not because the algorithm doesn’t want me to know about them.

Until next time!



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Last Saturday, the hubbinator and I took the cans we’d collected for the last several months down to the recycling center. I remember the first time that we found the place. Hardly anyone used it and the lot was mostly empty.

This time I had to sneak in the back way and cram the truck in between dumpsters (and inadvertently blocked the trailer scale, too).

The place was packed.

And not just with vehicles. The homeless/near-homeless had shown up with the hand carts, bikes, boxes and bags, and  shopping carts to cash in.

One guy sorted plastic bottles from aluminum cans. Another piled bits of metal he’d collected. While a third compiled the pieces of wire into a pile sometimes pulling them out of his collection of fans and lights as he went.

And while we were only there with our cans, I heard the other day that about 98% of cars are recycled. Why can’t we achieve the same with our other consumer goods? We obviously have a self-motivated, self-employed workforce who is willing to step up. Just saying.

Until next time.

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Phoenix ComicFest, formerly Phoenix Comicon

I just wanted to give everyone a heads up.

I’ll be at Phoenix Comic Fest May 24-27th at the Phoenix Convention center. This year I’ll be signing with a bunch of writing friends Kayce Lassiter, Tina Swayzee McCright, Tia Dani and my usual partner in crime Vijaya Schartz.

We’ll be in the basement in the exhibitor’s hall at Artist Alley tables 402 and 404.

I hope to see you there.

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Which do you prefer?

I admit I have a bit of an HGTV addiction. I especially love the renovation and house hunting shows. Recently, I discovered the tiny house craze.

It started innocently enough with the hunt for a tiny house.

Then it branched out into a show where people build tiny houses. Some of them are very creative in terms of design and materials.

And some of them are really cheap.

But then the hubbinator asked a question: Why don’t they just buy an RV or 5th wheel? After all, that is what they’re building, and some of those trucks they buy to haul their tiny house are just as expensive.

I hate it when logic ruins everything.

Then again, those homes are a form of self-expression and art. So maybe it isn’t as simple as economics.

Until next time.

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You know it

I logged onto my Netflix account and there it was. All bright and shiny like it was made for me. Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell.

You know I watched it. I’ve watched and enjoyed all of the Tremors movies. Sure, the first was probably the best in the series, but they are all over-the-top fun.

Michael Gross as Burt Gummer, the prepper, and his son Travis (Jamie Kennedy) are happily dysfunctional.

I did think there should be more made of Burt’s illness and wish for more ABs (ass-blasters) but still there were Graboids aplenty and that’s a darn good way to spend the day.

Of course, we did nearly have to kick our son’s friend out of the house when he said he’d never heard of the movies. He did redeem himself by admitting he’d seen all four Sharknado movies. We had to tell him he’d missed one and there should be another soon.  He promised to catch up on the franchise then watch the Tremors soon. There will be a pop quiz the next time he comes over:D

Until next time.

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The Turnip Truck

Lately, my boss has been telling me things in case he gets hit by the turnip truck.

As a child of the ’80s, I flashback to the movie/book by Stephen King, picturing trucks deliberately targeting people and mowing them down.

Now, I know the saying about falling off the turnip truck (meaning naive) and having family in the midwest, I was aware of homicidal turnip trucks and/or drivers of said trucks, but when I looked it up, most entries referred to getting hit by a bus not a turnip truck.

So, I’m thinking this may be a regional take on the whole turnip truck mythology. Either way, since I eat turnips, I guess it’s only fair if they fight back:D

Until next time.

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