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JB Segal
Attended New York University
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JB Segal

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"If Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nomination, he will become the next George McGovern" - someone I know with a very strong background in Democratic politics.

Discuss?
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That's only true if you believe fivethirtyeight and polling data, and believe that there is not about to be some kind of political revolution.

Some people choose to see NH as a refutation of the data, even though the data predicted it.
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Does Google Hate Old People?

http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/001152.html

No. Google doesn't hate old people. I know Google well enough to be pretty damned sure about that.

Is Google "indifferent" to old people? Does Google simply not appreciate, or somehow devalue, the needs of older users?

Those are much tougher calls.

I've written a lot in the past about accessibility and user interfaces. And today I'm feeling pretty frustrated about these topics. So if some sort of noxious green fluid starts to bubble out from your screen, I apologize in advance.

What is old, anyway? Or we can use the currently more popular term "elderly" if you prefer -- six of one and half a dozen of another, really.

There are a bunch of references to "not wanting to get old" in the lyrics of famous rock stars who are now themselves of rather advanced ages. And we hear all the time that "50 is the new 30" or "70 is the new 50" or ... whatever.

The bottom line is that we either age or die.

And the popular view of "elderly" people sitting around staring at the walls -- and so rather easily ignored -- is increasingly a false one. More and more we find active users of computers and Internet services well into their 80s and 90s. In email and social media, many of them are clearly far more intelligent and coherent than large swaths of users a third their age.

That's not to say these older users don't have issues to deal with that younger persons don't. Vision and motor skill problems are common. So is the specter of memory loss (that actually begins by the time we reach age 20, then increases from that point onward for most of us).

Yet an irony is that computers and Internet services can serve as aids in all these areas. I've written in the past of mobile phones being saviors as we age, for example by providing an instantly available form of extended memory.

But we also are forced to acknowledge that most Internet services still only serve older persons' needs seemingly begrudgingly, failing to fully comprehend how changing demographics are pushing an ever larger proportion of their total users into that category -- both here in the U.S. and in many other countries.

So it's painful to see Google dropping the ball in some of these areas (and to be clear, while I have the most experience with the Google aspects of these problems, these are actually industry-wide issues, by no means restricted to Google).

This is difficult to put succinctly. Over time these concerns have intertwined and combined in ways increasingly cumbersome to tease apart with precision. But if you've every tried to provide computer/Internet technical support to an older friend or relative, you'll probably recognize this picture pretty quickly.

I'm no spring chicken myself. But I remotely provide tech support to a number of persons significantly older -- some in their 80s, and more than one well into their 90s.

And while I bitch about poor font contrast and wasted screen real estate, the technical problems of those older users are typically of a far more complex nature.

They have even more trouble with those fonts. They have motor skill issues making the use of common user interfaces difficult or in some cases impossible. Desktop interfaces that seem to be an afterthought of popular "mobile first" interface designs can be especially cumbersome for them. They can forget their passwords and be unable to follow recovery procedures successfully, often creating enormous frustration and even more complications when they try to solve the problems by themselves. The level of technical lingo thrown at them in many such instances -- that services seem to assume everyone just knows -- only frustrates them more. And so on.

But access to the Net is absolutely crucial for so many of these older users. It's not just accessing financial and utility sites that pretty much everyone now depends upon, it's staying active and in touch with friends and relatives and others, especially if they're not physically nearby and their own mobility is limited.

Keeping that connectivity going for these users can involve a number of compromises that we can all agree are not keeping with ideal or "pure" security practices, but are realistic necessities in some cases nonetheless.

So it's often a fact of life that elderly users will use their "trusted support" person as the custodian of their recovery and two-factor addresses, and of their primary login credentials as well.

And to those readers who scream, "No! You must never, ever share your login credentials with anyone!" -- I wish you luck supporting a 93-year-old user across the country without those credentials. Perhaps you're a god with such skills. I'm not.

Because I've written about this kind of stuff so frequently, you may by now be suspecting that a particular incident has fired me off today.

You'd be correct. I've been arguing publicly with a Google program manager and some others on a Chrome bug thread, regarding the lack of persistent connection capability for Chromebooks and Chromeboxes in the otherwise excellent Chrome Remote Desktop system -- a feature that the Windows version of CRD has long possessed.

Painfully, from my perspective the conversation has rapidly degenerated into my arguing against the notion that "it's better to flush some users down the toilet than violate principles of security purity."

I prefer to assume that the arrogance suggested by the "security purity" view is one based on ignorance and lack of experience with users in need, rather than any inherent hatred of the elderly.

In fact, getting back to the title of this posting, I'm sure hatred isn't in play.

But of course whether it's hatred or ignorance -- or something else entirely -- doesn't help these users.

The Chrome OS situation is particularly ironic for me, since these are older users whom I specifically urged to move to Chrome when their Windows systems were failing, while assuring them that Chrome would be a more convenient and stable experience for them.

Unfortunately, these apparently intentional limitations in the Chrome version of CRD -- vis-a-vis the Windows version -- have been a source of unending frustration for these users, as they often struggle to find, enable, and execute the Chrome version manually every time they need help from me, and then are understandably upset that they have to sit there and refresh the connection manually every 10 minutes to keep it going. They keep asking me why I told them to leave Windows and why I can't fix these access problems that are so confusing to them. It's personally embarrassing to me.

Here's arguably the saddest part of all. If I were the average user who didn't have a clue of how Google's internal culture works and of what great people Googlers are, it would be easy to just mumble something like, "What do you expect? All those big companies are the same, they just don't care."

But that isn't the Google I know, and so it's even more frustrating to me to see these unnecessary problems continuing to persist and fester in the Google ecosystem, when I know for a certainty that Google has the capability and resources to do so much better in these areas.

And that's the truth.

-- Lauren --
I have consulted to Google, but I am not currently doing so -- my opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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JB Segal

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Epic Theodore Roosevelt quote. The key is always liberty for the PEOPLE, not for predatory corporations

“There once was a time in history when the limitation of governmental power meant increasing liberty for the people.  In the present day the limitation of governmental power, of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.”
-Teddy Roosevelt September 14, 1912, San Francisco
https://notwhatyoumightthink.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/thinking-aloud-theodore-roosevelt-100-years-ago/

"I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it’s birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
-Thomas Jefferson November 12, 1816
https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Thomas_Jefferson

"The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power."
-Franklin D. Roosevelt April 29, 1938 
http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=15637

#Quotes   #AmericanHistory   #WeThePeople   #FeelTheBern  
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JB Segal

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Home from the (Tech Squares-originating) Fall Challenge Square Dance weekend. A great time as always.
Many thanks to +Brian Hanechak and +Ginda Fisher for making it happen. 
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So, from everything I'm reading, the newest +Google+ release is a hot mess.
(I don't have it yet.)

Facebook sucks and is openly evil (but still ubiquitous:/ )

What's the next worthwhile social network?

MeWe? Another run at Diaspora? A return to livejournal (which I still like more than the rest, except that the mobile client is meh, at best.)?

Sigh.

I want to plus Yonatan in every well thought out complaint post I'm seeing but I'm feeling like it's pointless. +Yonatan Zunger
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I wish lj would have a little more attention devoted to its non-russian users and interface. I don't think that's why it's faded, but it's tough to avoid noticing that there's a development discrepancy there. 
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JB Segal

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Has anyone seen any way to hook up both an external (data managing) accessory AND a battery to a lightning-connectored iPhone?

I want to have BOTH a mic (for example a Zoom iq6 or iq7 mic) AND a battery hooked up simultaneously...
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Let me guess - I may run into you tomorrow? :)
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JB Segal

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Email threading is a solved problem going back at least 18 years. Probably well beyond that and I was just hanging on to /bin/mail//Mail/mailx up to then. There is plenty of code out there that knows how to handle the appropriate headers. There is NO reason to only base your threading decisions on the Subject: header.)

As near as I can tell, there is no Mac mail app (beyond tbird, which has its own numerous issues) that threads mail correctly any more. (I don't remember if TCP/Connect II or Eudora dtrt or not)

What the fucking fuck, mail application developers?

(Requirement is: Exchange compatible, native connection (vs imap) VERY strongly preferred as it's better supported by my IT infrastructure folks. Preference: also supports gmail and imap well. Separate rant that still matters: wtf, Apple, why do you not support imap folder subscribe/unsubscribe??)

(Yes, mutt/alpine/emacs all still work. They're not what I'm looking for in this situation. I've never been an mh guy.)
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You're automatically out-neckbearded if you're pulling emacs on an OS X thread.

-cpt (needs no neckbeard)
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JB Segal

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Nearly every Tuesday for the past 13 years(!) I've been going square dancing at MIT. As a follow-on to that, I've been square dancing in multiple states, and at least 3 other countries.

I recommend it! BUT it's not something you can just wander in any time and pick up. It takes actual time to learn.

Tomorrow, Tech Squares starts the next time through the class - 13 weeks, Tuesdays, class starts at 8:15, the catch-up/reminder/refresher walk-through sessions start at 7:30 (and aren't required, but tend to be a really good idea), and you should be all done by 10:15.
(If you're coming tonight, show up by 8 to sign up.)

In the course of that 13 weeks you'll learn what the outside world claims should take a year or so to get through. (None of us agree that it should take that long. 13 weeks is fast, though. :)

We're almost always in the MIT Student Center, W20. This week we're on the 2nd floor, in Lobdell.

Come on out, locals! It's fun!
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Yep, lots of fun!
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I almost never post any fanfiction links, but... this one I LOVE. It's very short.
http://bonesbuckleup.tumblr.com/post/132379791877/i-will-give-you-anything-you-want-if-you-share
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Want to come over shortly and watch a Jacques Tati movie? (You all do - you may not know it yet.) I'd like to start in about an hour.
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Some stunning, and surprisingly easy-to-understand, insights from +Sam Wang.  This deserves to be widely shared so it can become widely understood.
The ­Supreme Court can limit gerrymandering with a judicious use of statistics.
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Of note: "zone of chance" as an argument is a fair pile of bunk.  Poor people tend to live near poor people.  Rich people tend to live near rich people.  There is at least some correlation with wealth levels to political leaning.   Zone is based on a random distribution.

There are proper ways to demonstrate gerrymandering skew, but that is not one.
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Shaun King asks a fair question about Donald Trump's plan to deport eleven million people over a two-year period. Answering it feels a bit like doing a sociopathic sort of "What If?," but sometimes it's good to see what's actually involved in a policy proposal.

If you want to deport all of these people, you'll have to do a few things:

(1) Figure out who you want to deport.
(2) Round them up.
(3) Transport them to wherever you're deporting them to.
(4) Dump them there and get them to stay.

The biggest things that probably aren't blindingly obvious are:

- Identifying people is harder than it sounds, since it's not like everyone has proof of citizenship tattooed on their arms. You'll have to put people in the field, and they'll have to have a lot of leeway to deal with ambiguous cases. Which is another way of saying they need the power to decree someone an outsider and deport them.

- Rounding people up is easier than it sounds, Ben Carson to the contrary. The police have more guns, and if you're already at the point where the local field commander is willing to say "this entire neighborhood is probably deportable," it turns out that rounding people up and/or shooting resisters isn't very challenging at all. Most people will stop shooting when you threaten to kill their families, and the ones that don't, well, you just kill them and their families.

- Transporting people is much harder than it sounds. 450,000 people per month is a lot; even with serious packing, you can only fit about 80 people into a standard boxcar or truck; a typical modern train might have 140 boxcars or so, which means it can only transport about 11,000 people, and loading them takes time. Unfortunately, people are somewhat scattered out, so if you want this to work, you'll need to use trucks and so on to deliver people to staging areas, where you can store them for a while until a train is ready. Fortunately, there's a lot of prior art on how to concentrate people in a small space while they're getting ready to be loaded on trains.

- Mass-deporting people to an area you don't control is harder than it seems, because the people who control that area are likely to object. You'd probably have to conquer and subjugate Mexico as a first step, and then set up receiving camps on the other end. Unloading areas would have to be fairly heavily armed and guarded, of course, to keep people from attacking you; the logistics are somewhat similar to the staging camps on the sending side, only you have to worry less about killing people.

- Running this is going to be really expensive, so you might consider finding ways for the project to help pay for itself. So long as you have people concentrated in one place, maybe have them do labor as well? They can pay for their own deportation!

So I suppose the good news is that we can answer Shaun's question fairly straightforwardly, because this has been done before and we do know what it looks like. We don't quite have the right expertise in the US, because none of our past mass-deportation efforts were quite at this scale per month; the transatlantic slave trade moved roughly this many people over three centuries, the Trail of Tears moved only about 16,500 people, and the internment of Japanese civilians during WWII only about 110,000. But outside the US, there's much more experience with it; probably the world's top expert on it was Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962), who ran a program very much like this which managed to move people at about this rate. 

Trump's team may be interested in checking him out; there's a tremendous amount written about his system, I'm sure it would be very helpful. And as I noted in a comment below, the design of this program really wasn't easy; they had to iterate through quite a lot of trial solutions before they could come up with a final one. You should always save work by studying prior art when you can.
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*ix sysadmin. For a long time now.
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I believe that G+'s rules about pseudonymity and anonymity were wrong-headed, potentially dangerous, culturally deaf, useless, and basically stupid.

http://infotrope.net/2011/08/04/google-plus-names-policy-explained/
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_plus_bans_creator_of_firefox_for_using_his.php
https://bentrem.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/sidebar-googles-plus-suspensions/

I'm also frustrated that they managed to have seemingly neutered a site that could've been So Much Better than FB.
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  • New York University
    CS, Audio Engineering, 1985 - 1989
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