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Edward Morbius
Attends Krell Independent Study



Edward Morbius

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Google secretly installs mic-enabling spyware / surveillance on all systems with Chrome or Chromium browsers

What the actual fuck?

Chromium, the open-source version of Google Chrome, had abused its position as trusted upstream to insert lines of source code that bypassed this audit-then-build process, and which downloaded and installed a black box of unverifiable executable code directly onto computers, essentially rendering them compromised. We don’t know and can’t know what this black box does. But we see reports that the microphone has been activated, and that Chromium considers audio capture permitted.

I've confirmed this is present and installed on my own Debian system and that my system mic (typically disabled / zeroed via software) was enabled. I may need to physically cut the circuit.

I also see a need to start firewalling off Google IP and network space.


I've been meaning to nuke Chrome for a while (fucking Stylebot's the monkey on my back). If I can eliminate all Google software from my Debian repos that's not too much.

Correcting one error in the article: Debian don't audit every line of code. There's too much, and the security team's too small. But Debian do have a policy and constitution, and key among the elements of that is that user rights come first.

Also: anyone with tips on physically disabling Thinkpad T520 mics, I'd appreciate the info.

+Yonatan Zunger +Andreas Schou +Lea Kissner +Larry Page +Sergey Brin +Eric Schmidt +Bradley Horowitz +Peter Kasting 

+Steve Faktor +Stephen Shankland +Dan Gillmor +Danny O'Brien +Danny Sullivan +Tess Vigeland 
Google Chrome listening in to your room shows the importance of privacy defense-in-depth. New column on Privacy News.

Yesterday, news broke that Google has been stealth downloading audio listeners onto every computer that runs Chrome, and transmits audio data back to Google. Effectively, this means that Google had taken itself the right to listen to every conversation in every room that runs Chrome somewhere, without any kind of consent from the people eavesdropped on. In official statements, Google shrugged off the practice with what amounts to “we can do that”.

It looked like just another bug report. "When I start Chromium, it downloads something." Followed by strange status information that notably included the lines "Microphone: Yes" and "Audio Capture Allowed: Yes".

Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that – according to itself – had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room.

This episode highlights the need for hard, not soft, switches to all devices – webcams, microphones – that can be used for surveillance. A software on/off switch for a webcam is no longer enough, a hard shield in front of the lens is required. A software on/off switch for a microphone is no longer enough, a physical switch that breaks its electrical connection is required. That’s how you defend against this in depth.

Early last decade, privacy activists practically yelled and screamed that the NSA’s taps of various points of the Internet and telecom networks had the technical potential for enormous abuse against privacy. Everybody dismissed those points as basically tinfoilhattery – until the Snowden files came out, and it was revealed that precisely everybody involved had abused their technical capability for invasion of privacy as far as was possible.

Perhaps it would be wise to not repeat that exact mistake. Nobody, and I really mean nobody, is to be trusted with a technical capability to listen to every room in the world, with listening profiles customizable at the identified-individual level, on the mere basis of “trust us”.
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Followup: Google are apparently disabling Google Now on Chrome and elsewhere.

NB: one of the annoyances of my Samsung Tab A + Logitech keyboard, the <fn>-<alt> keypress toggles Google Now search, but is something I'm used to hitting for keyboard-based text selection. I enter this quite often without meaning to, and it's annoying. Every. Damned. Time.

Edward Morbius

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Contrast Rebellion: PeerLyst Edition

+Violet Blue​​, a journalist I respect and admire, just posted an item on a new gig. Interested, I popped open the site. And instantly screamed. +Limor Elbaz​​'s article is extremely unpleasant to read.

As I've been saying for some time, Web design isn't the solution, Web design is the problem. +Peerlyst Inc​​ is yet another prime example of this. The site is one that I'd close instantly. It's utterly unsuited to reading on a mobile platform (system of choice: Samsung Tab A 10" Android tablet).

1. The fonts are too fucking small.
2. The text color is a light grey.
3. The site disables Firefox's Reader Mode option.

There are other annoyances: I've come to all but universally loathe multi-column layouts (including on G+ for what it's worth).

The screenshots here show how PeerLyst appears under Firefox on my tablet, with a Reader Mode page (I picked LWN arbitrarily as it's a basic site and quick to load -- pretty much every site looks similarly under RM however) as a comparison. Note that font size and contrast are far higher on the latter.

PeerLyst fails utterly to respect both my Android and Firefox font preferences. The text here is a chore to read. And, to be honest, this is nothing special. I could point to any of thousands of other sites which are similarly Just Not Worth Reading.

I wish Violet and Elbaz the best. But fix the fucking page design. Or better, scrap it entirely and give a minimal, readable, site.

Meanwhile, go visit and learn something.
Brian Holt Hawthorne's profile photoSimons Mith's profile photoScott Montague's profile photo
I don't know Eddie, it looks okay to me...
I don't like black text, it feels harsh.
I will agree with you that the lack of zooming sucks.
Actually, I rarely like mobile formatting for any website. I prefer seeing the big picture then zooming in on a narrow column so the fonts are large enough.

I really dislike the mobile way of being locked out of zoom control and excessive white space, it is like the way I feel when using an apple product.

How is going to support itself? There is no room for ads. Salaries must come from somewhere... or you won't be able to trust any of the information because it will be fully of embedded ads/opinions.

Edward Morbius

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Riddle me this: Why does Google's own Chrome browser fail to show, and instead present a blank page?

Normally, I'd think that the browser manufacturer was engaged in, oh, I dunno, a monopoly control battle with the website. I suppose that's possible here....
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NB: content does appear for a moment. Then blanks.

Edward Morbius

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SVG is pretty slick, and even its animations can be tolerable. +David Dailey​ is a goddamned wizard

He hand tools most of his SVGs in a text editor. This one was Inkscaped (see Ello post for deets).
Google Plus still does not support uploading of SVG images. How old fashioned can it be?
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Edward Morbius

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What would gravity waves feel like?

I should make abundantly clear, I'm not a real doctor. Though I've take some physics (where I've taken it and what I did with it I won't discuss until after the statute of limitations has expired).

Discussing the whole gravity waves phenomenon, and their intensity (see earlier post) with +Yonatan Zunger​​​, I'm still trying to wrap my head around whether moving in spacetime, and moving of spacetime are the same. I'm thinking they're not, and think I've got a sense of how sufficiently intense gravity waves might manifest themselves.

We're used to wave phenomena in which particles move in space. That's what waves on water, or in a rope, or sound through air, or seismic wave through ground do. These all involve particles moving within space-time, to create harmonic motions we detect as waves. It's even, more or less, how light and electrical forces manifest -- they're other field effects, but still occurring within spacetime.

Gravity waves are waves of spacetime. It's not that you would be suddenly stretched out to a height of some thousands of kilometers in one dimension, and a few angstroms in the other, but that the space-time in which you exist would be distorted by that degree, then reversed, at a rate equal to the orbital period of the black holes (up to 250 Hz according to reports I've read).

We've got a name for distortions in space-time. They're gravitational fields. You're quite likely under the influence of one right now, and the effect of it, with an acceleration of 9.8 m/s, or 1g, is your weight against the Earth, or the chair or bed or hammock in which you're sitting. Astronauts on the ISS, you're my exception, though you're within a gravity field, you're free-falling through it.

So, a gravity wave, at any point in time, acts as a gravitational field on objects within it.

And it doesn't stretch those objects, at least not directly. Yes, if you're getting too close to a black hole (or to large massive bodies like planets get close to one another), they're pulled appart by tidal forces, but that's due to the difference in gravitational acceleration at opposite ends of the body.

But unlike most gravitational fields humans experience, which tend not to move terribly quickly with time, a gravitational wave is doing precisely that. Again, up to 250 times per second.

For what a reversing gravitational field would feel like, imagine yourself in, say, a rotating barrel. Rather than move the Earth around you, we're revolving you over the Earth, but you'd feel gravity's pull first in one direction, then the other. Plus rotational effects, which we're going to ignore.

Oh, and it's a huge field. I don't have the maths to say just how huge, but ... big.

So, you're parked 1 AU above a pair of colliding black holes, what you'll feel is a massive, millions-of-times-Earth, gravitational force ... that's reversing itself 250 times a second.

Something like being in an exceptionally large cosmic paint shaker.

It's not that the matter in your body would be stretched by that field, but it would be accelerated by it.

There would probably also be significant tidal effects. At 250 Hz, the wavelength of the gravitational waves is about 7.5 km. Assuming a linear variation of gravity across that distance (a simplification), and 1 million times Earth's gravity, you'd have 1g of tidal force over about every 7.5 mm of distance. For a tallish adult of 2m, you'd have something like 270g of tidal forces -- probably enough to tear your body apart, so no, you will not be having a good day.

But I think that's something like how gravity waves would actually be experienced. Not as you being stretched and flattened, but of spacetime being distorted, as if a huge massive object were moving about you quite rapidly.
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Thank you, +Edward Morbius and +Ryan Noble. It is always nice to have diverse points of view! ;)

Edward Morbius

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Signal bump -- Hebrew font support on Mac OS X

Any Mac-heads with useful advice, assist.

Comments to original.
I need to typeset some Hebrew for Seder-Masochism. I've installed Hebrew fonts on my Mac but I still can't copy and paste the Hebrew names for plagues and have them come out right. Everything comes out backwards, or as weird x'ed boxes. Yes it would be nice if I knew Hebrew but I only know how to copy and paste and it's just not working. Help?
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Edward Morbius

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Perusing late Friday press releases: shipping concern sees revenues halved

Total revenues were $1.6 million, compared to $3.1 million, largely due to a general economic slow-down in China and driven by additional competition within the industry, with established and new competitors offering rates that in many cases are much lower than the Company was willing to offer.

No particular interest in the company, simply looking through various press releases looking to see who's burying bad news on a Friday.

Edward Morbius

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You can only find things by not looking for them

Kenneth O. Stanley of the University of Central Florida stumbled into this finding -- while looking for something else, naturally -- that seems to hold compelling implications for any search through complex problem spaces. The talk (40 minutes with Q&A) details both the specifics of the experiments conducted, and their broader implications.

This reminds me very strongly of an item from Arthur Bloch's Murphy's Law and other reasons things go wrong:

Young's Law All great discoveries are made by mistake.
Corollary - The greater the funding, the longer it takes to make the mistake.

Stanley emphasises -- not only were the results found the product of not applying fitness criteria to selection (instead the search was for novelty), but intentionally searching for a given solution -- applying a fitness criterion -- decreased the effectiveness of the search.

For research, Stanley effectively advises going with novelty rather than consensus as a pre-selection metric, which has strong implications for activities including research funding and peer-review of literature.

Highly recommended.

+Joerg Fliege​ should enjoy this.
+Peter Strempel​ will almost certainly disagree with me (having first misunderstood me), but I'll pose this as a partial answer to an earlier question on allocating research expenses. The answer being: pick a budget quantity, allocate it based on novelty.
+Yonatan Zunger​ doesn't have to take this in any given direction but will probably be tickled by it.

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To disagree with you requires that your first say something that can be a source for agreement or disagreement.  I don’t see evidence of that here.

To double-check, I suffered through almost fifteen minutes of this confused young man as he tortuously contradicted himself, confused terminology, and skirted the fact that rediscovering one of the purposes of a broad liberal education is not as much of an insight as he seems to think it is.  

I submit to you that less techno-scientific reductionism, and a broader appreciation of all branches of knowledge has always been necessary for discovery, and has become mysterious only in recent decades, with too many people dismissing all but mathematical logics.  

In that sense this young man has made a breakthrough, even if it is only personal.  I suspect, though, that he will spend the rest of his career attempting to quantise what is essentially a quality.  Perhaps in the way you have begun for him, by looking for ‘laws’ to govern the product of interdisciplinary thought and serendipitous discovery.

I suppose it looks like a more rational undertaking to set out to prove or disprove a theory about artificial intelligence than it is for an English professor to do the same with a proposition about verse.

But I think the English professor will, at some stage, specify reasonable criteria that permit doubtful conclusions (Shakespeare was a woman/black/a collective).  The thing is, because it’s not a science, that’s fine, won’t ever get funding, and will have little direct impact on anyone, except, perhaps, an undergraduate who goes on to build an academic career by tracing a footnote in the Shakespeare research to the discovery that Shakespeare was paid by X for Y reason to write Z.  That will have made the original research worth the undirected effort.

For techno-scientific bureaucrats (like academic careerists in the sciences, as opposed to practicing scientists), however, research that doesn’t result in commercially viable, bright and shiny new toys is probably anathema, precisely because there is no funding for more workmanlike research without any Croesus promises.  And for their sake I hope this impressionable young man can sell his ‘epiphany’ to accountants and bankers equally devoid of the knowledge that homo sapiens has had his epiphany continually for thousands of years, though probably more often in the liberal arts than the sciences.

Edward Morbius

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Some subtle G+ Android App changes

1. When composing new posts, the destiation Circles / Collections selector is somewhat more intelligent. It still has the flaw of confusing categorisation (Collections) with Distribution (Circles). But it's ... a slight improvement.

2. The Bottom Black Bar of Doom options retain history. If you select, say, "Communities", you're placed in the most-recently-used category, not "Recommended" by default. I'd still prefer the ordering (left-right) were reversed. Or "Recommendations" were demoted to a dismissable item (the recommendations are uniformly irrelevant).

Possibly some other stuff, but, we're noticing.

Both of these are positive. Not huge, but positive.
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+John Poteet
pass the bottle John
it's gettin tooooooo hard

Edward Morbius

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Graphical Web conference: November, 2016
The Graphical Web 2016 Please share with others here at Ello and elsewhere (particularly with your European friends). It's the conference where the people who design the SVG, CSS, HTML5 and WebGL open standards get together with those who use explore such standards. #vectors #vectorart #ellovectors. Previous presenters have included Mike Bostock, Cameron Beccario, Joshua Davis (aka @praystation) and Ed Parsons, whose works can be seen at D3.js,...
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Edward Morbius

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Notice of latest G+ Android app release

I've added the following comments to Luke's post:

+Luke Wroblewski​​​ first: thanks for this release note. As others have said, these being a standard part of releases would be Very Much Appreciated. I've suggested following the notification model that the Reddit Enhancement Suite extension (for Reddit, natch) uses.

I've written at greater length on immediate response to this update previously, Danielle Buckley's been kind enough to respond with additional information. Unexpurgated.

I'd like to address the custom tabs browser-in-app thing.

First: yes, performance at opening Web links is an annoyance. There are several levels at which this is slow, and the result can be quite pronounced -- delays of tens of seconds, to upward of a minute, before tabs are fully populated in my preferred browser (Firefox). Offering a quick-view experience can be useful, though I think it's also rather a kludge.

A substantial amount of the problem is Google's own doing. The Android G+ app, best I can tell, adds two levels of URL redirection before forwarding to the actual target URL. That's two levels of host resolution, request, response, and redirection the browser must perform every time it opens a G+ URL. I have frequently found it faster to halt the load and manually edit the URL to just the target portion, than to allow the full cycle of redirects occur. And THAT is given Android text inputs (yes, with an external keyboard, but it's still clunky).

Look: this is an app. If you want to track what URLs I follow (and fuck you very much but you shouldn't), you can do that IN THE FUCKING APP. The double redirects strike me as entirely gratuitous.

Oh: and I've no option to bypass this by selecting an opening a URL in raw form because, along with text selection copy/paste, this isn't supported within the G+ app.

Again: you've created a large part of this problem yourselves. Fix those elements first.

Yes, the non-Google elements of this are also problematic. Firefox/Android performs very poorly after 100+ tabs are opened. Which is pretty much all the time for me. And I need to raise that with Firefox, and will. But there's a bit of this that Google might still address as well.

There are reasons why, even with its abysmal performance, I prefer Firefox to in-app or Chrome experiences. Two most specifically: ad block, and Reader Mode.

I cannot and will not tolerate annoying advertising. Which very much nearly all of it is. (Addressing business models and alternatives is a separate problem, I've explored that in depth, further links in my earlier post linked above.) I would rather have a slowly-loading page without ads than a quickly-loading one with ads. Pop-ups, interstitials, anything that moves, and I'll close the site immediately.

Reader Mode is the other killer app of Firefox. I'd prefer it were the default view, and would probably adopt a browser which stripped all CSS and applied a standard, fixed style in a heartbeat (I've given considerable thought to writing one myself). Web design isn't the solution, Web design is the problem. Odd, for a company such as Google which seems bent on eliminating options wherever possible, but virtually every design decision a Web author makes is one that is worse than the ones I prefer. Fonts. Colors. Margins. Line heights. Padding. Header formatting. Presentation of animated ... anything. Reader Mode gives me a highly consistent presentation of text-heavy content. It meets my expectations across a vast number of pages.

Curation. This (and better noise controls) have been at the top of my and many others' requests for G+ since the first public beta release. I'm starting to get used to they flying "fuck you" Google have responded to us with in pointedly ignoring this, but I don't have to like it. Moreover, the other reason I prefer using Firefox is because it gives better access to what limited curation features I've got on Android (really, it's so pathetically bad I wonder why I stick with the platform: size and battery life). Firefox doesn't have tags or categorised bookmarks (which is why I end up with 100s of open tabs as I try to catch up), but it does:

1. Have bookmarks. I can return to content, in theory, eventually.

2. Have a Reading List. I can flag stuff for future interest and return.

3. Kinda-sorta allows me to drop stuff onto Readability. Which has a simplified reading format (much like Reader Mode), utilises hNews HTML microformats, and has ... fucking boggle, desktop only ... tags that can be used, in theory, to organise content.

OK, so yes, I can "add" content to Readabity directly from G+ as well, but prefer reading it first, and in Reader Mode, before deciding it's a keeper.

Readability seems to have had some profound organisational difficulties of late. There's been zero development effort for the past 2-3 years, nor any activity on Facebook, Twitter, their website, or in response to email. There are competing products (Pocket, Instapaper) which might be preferable, though I've got to figure out how to move nearly 1800 curated articles from Readability to one of these other fucking silos (writing my own Simplified Presentation Browser seems a more viable alternative). I've suggested to Danielle that Google consider buying out what's left of the company directly and resurrecting the service (though I fear greatly you'd only utterly fuck it up or kill it, though it's already all-but-dead, so that's a fairly low risk).

Finally, on feature roll-outs:

Do not change default behavior on users. NEVER do this without warning / notifying the user of what you've done, AND OFFERING THEM THE OPTION OF REVERTING TO PRIOR BEHAVIOR.

Yes, there are obvious reasons why Google would preserve to cram all users onto Chrome (no ad-blocking, more ad impressions). I'm modestly OK with you doing that going forward for new users.

Pull a cunning stunt like this again, and I'll simply wipe my account. Google+ is modestly useful, but only very, very barely. Any and every behavior change you make risks alienating what little user base you've got.

Funny, but what with Real Names, the YouTube-G+ Anschluss, G+ Everywhere, and the rest of it, Google would have realised that already.

Your developers and internal product drivers appear to be your greatest liability. Keep them in check.

h/t +D. Luria​​​​.
G+ Android Update 7.2.0
Today we're starting to roll out our third Google+ Android app update of the year. This release has several bug fixes and three new features. Specifically:

* 29 bugs fixed
* 10 accessibility issues addressed
* Faster and safer browsing of Web sites (info below)
* Search history and autocomplete
* Tap on the bottom bar to scroll to the top of Collections, Communities, and Notifications

When you tap on a Web link on Google+ we now use Chrome custom tabs to pre-load Web sites, which makes viewing content much quicker. If you are signed in to a Web site in Chrome, you will also be signed in when you visit the same site in Google+. Other features like saved passwords, autofill, and Tap to Search are also available in custom tabs ( .

While there’s lots of great reasons to use Chrome custom tabs in Google+, we’ve given you a simple way to turn them off as well. Just un-check "Enable Custom Tabs” in the Google+ Settings menu.

As always more updates are on the way so please keep the ideas & issues coming by using our Send Feedback menu item. Thanks~
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Edward Morbius's profile photoMarla Caldwell's profile photoQítiān Dàshèng Sūn Wùkōng (Andrew Dalgleish)'s profile photoJ Stone's profile photo
If your in-app browser doesn't handle xkcd's alt-text, it is broken.

Edward Morbius

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Showing post counts and most recent post dates on Collections would be mildly useful

No. Scratch that. Couldn't get users in the habit of expecting useful UI/UX.

Ping +Danielle Buckley​
Edward's Collections
Technological Archaeologist
I'm strongly reconsidering participation in G+ following the YouTube Anschluss, November 2013.  Content subject to deletion at any time.

Comments privileges on my posts are limited.  Email me if you cannot comment and would like to be added.

Google have time and again violated several key principles:

Respect.  Of my time, my attention, my expressly stated desires, and most of all, my intelligence by repeating these and other insults time and again.

Trust. I will share very limited slices of me online.  Time and again Google reached for more, and time and again I had to push back.  This last violation (which, had I not already gone fully pseudonymous would have fully outed me as it did others) was one step too far.  I extend trust once, not twice.

Privacy.  This is the immediate concern here, and I've tried to create a walled space within which I can act.  I no longer feel safe to act there.

This incident again has made painfully clear that Google don't understand the fundamental nature of privacy, of social norms, and of spaces.  Of the desire for individuals to keep different aspects of their life and online activity, even within a single pseudonymous identity, separate.  Yes, there are some smart people at the Plex, but socially, you're collectively beyond retarded.  And I no longer care.

I'm actively looking for alternative platforms to use.  
For the time being I'm retaining the Gmail account associated with this ID ( though I'll be migrating that as well (and am accepting recommendations).  Correspondents are strongly encouraged to use my GPG key:  C210 9883 FFB4 3AC1 DEBF  9A2C AC6F 1E84 420A B7BD

I may be found:

As "dredmoribus" on Reddit:  

Primary content and engagement on "the dreddit", a/k/a Dr. Edward Morbius's lair of the Id.

On the subreddit   My primary publishing point for now.

Blogging on DreamWidth: (presently inactive)

All of which is subject to change, of course (though Reddit's likely to be a good contact).

RSS/Atom feeds for the above are:
Feel free to drop those in your newsreader of choice.  It's a bit clunky, but notably less so than G+ itself is.

I do plan on leaving a tombstone account on G+ with forwarding information and last details, though I'll be removing most or all of my content eventually.

G+ was to an extent an experiment to see if I could participate on terms I was comfortable with in a large commercial social networking space.  The answer to that question has been found, and it is "no".

░░░░░███████ ]▄▄▄▄▄▄▄▄              Bob is building an army
   ▂▄▅█████████▅▄▃▂             ☻/  against Google Plus
Il███████████████████].      /▌    Copy and Paste this all over 
  ◥⊙▲⊙▲⊙▲⊙▲⊙▲⊙▲⊙◤..     / \    Youtube if you are with us!


I don't do IM / Google Chat / Hangouts.
They're horribly intrusive and annoying.

I've blocked them in the G+ UI.  I don't check them. 
I've disabled all access / invite privileges.  
I'm not ignoring you, I simply don't see you.

If you want to reach me directly, either send a private G+ post, or email me (
I may respond to one or the other of those.

I thought I had a comments moderation policy here.  Apparently I don't.  Apologies for the oversight.

 See my /r/dredmorbius subreddit policy for the general parameters.

In particular, if you're requested to provide references, or context for naked links (particularly multimedia Audio / Video), do so.

I don't mind opposing viewpoints.  Viewpoints must be substantiated on request.  Failure to substantiate, or engaging in disruptive tactics, is grounds for deletion and/or banning.

The arbitration policy for moderation disputes is:  Moderation battles are short and boring: the moderator wins.


"If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged."  
 - Cardinal Richelieu (a/k/a  Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac)

E pluribus unum


You can #Quack that:

Nature abhors a maximum.
 - William Ophuls

"Pseudonyms and anonymity are also an established part of many cultures -- for  good reason."
  - Alma Whitten, former Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering, Google

I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use.

Somewhere, there are two kids in a garage building a company whose motto will be "Don't be Google".
Bragging rights
I don't exist. I'm not here.
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