What’s most important about you?

What’s most important about you? I didn’t write “to” you. I wrote “about” you.

The distinction is important.

As the 21st century continues to unfold, the answer is becoming increasingly clearer.

The New Yorker explains.

Where the consultants of the nineteen-sixties and seventies obsessed over how to use television to beam ideal images of their clients into voters’ homes, today’s spinmasters hope that big data will allow them to manipulate voters’ deepest hopes and fears. “What’s the currency of the world now?” one of Greenberg’s partners asks Harding. “It’s not gold, it’s data. It’s the information.”

Remember that every time you think you are above being manipulated, used or otherwise a tool for a political group or cause. And the Atlantic urges us to remember something else as well.

The fact that Facebook seems unwilling to fully own up to its role [in the Cambridge Analytica] casts further suspicion on its motives and methods. And in the course of watching the horrific reports, the public may soon arrive at the realization that it is the weakness of our laws that has provided the basis for Facebook’s tremendous success.

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“Night Wolves” in Bosnia. Harmless or dangerous?

The answer to that question differs, depending upon to whom the question is addressed.

As Al Jazeera notes

Authorities are worried the Night Wolves are stoking anti-Western sentiment and pushing for a separatist movement among Serbs in the country.

Bosnian authorities declared the group a security threat and have banned entry for the Night Wolves’ leader Alexander “the Surgeon” Zaldostanov. …

Also called “Putin’s Angels” for their close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the group is expected to meet Night Wolves chapters in the region along with politicians, most notably Milorad Dodik, Republika Srpska’s president, who has threatened to hold a referendum on secession for years, in violation of the Dayton peace agreement that ended the 1990s Bosnian war.

It should surprise no one that Russian president Vladimir Putin would seek to stir the nationalism pot in the former Yugoslavia

We know he wants to expand Russia’s political and military influence, a plan that has the equally important goal of reducing NATO’s and democracy’s footprint in that region. Let’s be honest: If he seeks to undermine democracy in Western Europe, why wouldn’t he want to do the same in Eastern Europe?

So, are the “Night Wolves” dangerous? Come on, you know the answer.

Posted in Eastern Europe, propaganda | Leave a comment

A Pennsylvania university president is in deep trouble; his own words might doom him

Photo: Anthony Moretti 1July2017

The Chronicle of Higher Education has the details.

“Obviously it’s disappointing,” Sylvester said. “Look, I’m under no false illusion that this president was an incredible fan of working with the union, although he often suggested he was. I could see there was stress in being in this kind of environment, but some of the comments he’s made are things I’ve never seen before.”

Posted in academic administrations, colleges and universities, credibility, ethics, faculty, higher education | Leave a comment

An evening with the Overwatch League; Fusion vs Gladiators

My younger son loves Overwatch, and a few days ago he convinced me to watch tonight’s Overwatch League match between the Philadelphia Fusion and the Los Angeles Gladiators.

I most definitely entered a world as foreign to me as you could imagine.

The purple-clad Gladiators, five guys who looked to be a combined 100 years old, started the game with Hydration (that’s his character name) throwing a Ninja shuriken somewhere in the direction of the orange-clad Fusion players. It must have worked because my 14-year-old groaned.

As the battle (fight?) unfolded, the computer-generated characters went back and forth with guns and bombs in all directions. The announcers (yes, there are announcers) celebrated one character doing something well, whether he played offense or defense.

The Fusion’s defense was solid. The Gladiators won a point, but their overall success was limited. If the comparison to baseball is appropriate, the Gladiators scored one run in the top of the inning, offering the Fusion an excellent opportunity to win.

After perhaps 5:00, the equivalent of a time out took place; when the game resumed, it was the Fusion’s turn to be on offense. They did indeed win, with “transcendence” and strong “HP” pushing Philadelphia to a stronger result on offense. The scoreboard read PHI 2, LA 1, but the more important fact was that Philadelphia led the overall match, 1-0. If this were tennis, Philadelphia had won the first set.

The players then moved onto the second round, which my son described as “everyone on offense at the same time and trying to blast the other guys.” The computer-generated location of the game moved from somewhere in Japan to somewhere in Nepal.

All the players were guys, though my son tells me there are millions of girls around the world who play Overwatch. In fact, some of the characters the men play are women. (Tracer is a female, for example.) And if the Gladiators’ players looked to be a combined 100 years old, then the Fusion looked to be 120. In other words, this is a young adult’s game.

“Shields” and “blades” were important as the match unfolded. Los Angeles won the second map, 2-0, but the important part of the scoreboard read, 1-1.

The computer graphics are stunning, so good that they were overly stimulating at times. I thought at one point that my stomach would turn as one Gladiator stood atop a building raining bullet after bullet below. My son was having no such stomach issues; his emotions rose and fell as the Fusion’s success waxed and waned.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, Philadelphia is his favorite team. Why? “Closest to Pittsburgh,” he says. Makes sense to me.

The third map brought the players to Hollywood, with the goal now being gaining more terrain than the opponent. Almost immediately the Fusion’s sniper killed a Gladiator character (all killed characters do return to life as they do in so many computer games). Another Gladiator had a “stick” shortly afterward, and my son was sensing his Fusion were doing well. That momentum soon changed as he grumbled about a “triple kill and a quad kill,” as Hydration again was critical to his team’s success.

Once Philadelphia had its turn on offense, it needed to go 119 meters to win the map. (Los Angeles went 118.) The Fusion were winning the “widow battles,” and they were rapidly gaining terrain. One Fusion player had a “primal rage,” and that opened the door for the Fusion to win the round, 2-1, and to take the overall lead by the same score.

The final map had the players at Route 66. (I got to admit, the locations are rather cool, and they change with each match.) “Widow makers” again were supposed to be important, and that gave the Fusion a sense of optimism. The goal of this map appeared to be to reach specific checkpoints, and Carpe, the Fusion’s star “widow maker,” blew away some character with sufficient skill to make the audience’s “ohhh” easy to hear. (Yes, the matches are played live in front of an audience of game enthusiasts.) The Fusion defense prevented the Gladiators from doing anything; “Fragi” was a dominant as “Winston.”

Philadelphia took to offense with victory easily in sight. The Gladiators’ defense showed its mettle, and with less than 1:00, Philadelphia was not close to its goal. With mere seconds left, Philadelphia found the combination necessary.

It pressed ahead, won the map and the overall match.

As a rookie, I have no idea about strategy, no idea about tactics, and no idea why killing certain characters at certain times is critical. My son definitely does, and he says “we played very well, and Carpe was on fire the whole game.”

That’s good enough for me.

Posted in e-Sports | Leave a comment

An ode to Dr. Seuss…and the weather

This weather is great…

Why do you complain…

You don’t like my thinking?…

Let me explain.

The snow…

Let it fall…

For I think it brings…

Good tidings to you, to me…

And to all.

Oh, yes, I know…

The month, it is March…

Warmer weather, you want…

You act oh, so parched.

Oh, stop that right now…

Do cool your jets…

Brighter days are ahead…

With beautiful sunsets.

But today is today…

It’s the only one you will get…

Be bright, be smiley…

You’re alive…don’t forget.

Posted in humor | 1 Comment

A look at the suffering in Kashmir

Flag of India, Wikipedia

Flag of Pakistan; Wikipedia

The Diplomat isn’t taking sides in the long-running military dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. However, it is taking a look at the humanitarian crisis that continues to play out at one of the world’s hot spots.

When Zulekha was injured, both India and Pakistan blamed each other for violating the ceasefire that was agreed upon in 2003. An Indian defense spokesman said the attack was initiated from the Pakistani side and “appropriately retaliated by the Indian forces” – a statement that the defense spokesmen and army generals from both sides make every time escalation flares along the LoC. …

This year’s escalation along the LoC is the worst in recent memory. On March 5, Indian Minister of State for Defense Subhash Bhamre accused Pakistan of violating the ceasefire agreement as many as 351 times since January 1 of this year. He claimed that 209 violations took place in January and 142 violations were noted since February 21.


Posted in India, international news, international relations, military affairs, Pakistan | Leave a comment

Take note, America: Congress and Zuckerberg are saying and doing NOTHING about Cambridge Analytica

Leaders show up in times of crisis and do something meaningful. They make a public statement. They make clear that they and others will be held accountable for what went wrong. They demand answers.

They want to make right what is wrong.

We are into the third day of the Cambridge Analytica crisis, and Congress and Mark Zuckerberg are doing nothing about it.


A few members of Congress are suggesting Zuckerberg show up on Capitol Hill and explain what he knows, and what his company did (or didn’t do) to allow this breach of privacy. But otherwise, there has been no urgent and clear statement from Congress that Americans deserve answers. And the boy wonder who runs Facebook has been mute.

The British are doing something.

Perhaps they give a damn about this crisis in the same way that the U.S. Congress and Zuckerberg ought to. But that would require leadership.

Remind your political “leaders” about leadership. And urge Zuckerberg to gain an understanding of it.

Posted in 115th Congress, credibility, ethics, Facebook, leadership, Mark Zuckerberg | Leave a comment