Blah-ck Friday

The incessant promotions for Black Friday leave me weary. I know it’s hardly novel to complain about rampant consumerism, but it’s just so relentless, with a big, odious emphasis (say that three times fast) on FOMO (fear of missing out).

I subscribe to a number of newsletters to keep up on occasional deals and to see if stuff I normally buy is on sale, and also to sometimes find interesting new things. Black Friday basically turns my inbox into BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY.

I now just automatically delete every newsletter until Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Black Week/Month/Year is over.

At least we have less than a month left of Christmas music being piped into every public space 24/7.

Achingly stupid

I am nearly convinced that after our current civilization crumbles away and is (maybe) rebuilt some time in the far future, those far future historians will look back at the unfettered commentary made on the internet by the “every person” and their ability to reach an audience of millions of like-minded people, will be cited as one of the key factors in our downfall.

Go to the CBC News website and find any story on politics, then read the comments and you will marvel at how achingly stupid, how willfully ignorant, how blindly loyal, how in love with their own malformed thoughts the general public is. People who know so little, yet are so confident in sharing their ignorance with as wide an audience as possible. People who fundamentally lack the understanding of how the world works. It’s a complex thing–there’s no way one person can know everything. And that’s okay. Educate yourself, make informed decisions, take the time to learn what you need to know.

But it feels like so few people do this. We live in an age that celebrates ignorance and stupidity, abetted by mass media that regularly turns away from thoughtful reporting in favor of not just the sensational–which has always been the case–but in perpetuating “both sides” nonsense and has helped to normalize the aberrant politics we endure, that give platforms without consequence to those who deny climate change, to anti-vaxxers, to people who still honestly seem to believe the world is flat, for the love of Pete.

It’s all depressing and it makes me angry in a low-level, simmering sort of way. It’s 2019 and the world should be better than this, but instead it feels like we are regressing. Maybe we are meant to be doomed and another species will take over when we’ve eradicated ourselves.

Bonus material: People who answer questions about products on sites like Amazon with “I don’t know.” WHY DO YOU DO THAT?

This rant brought to you by the flu.

Angry on glass: A SkyTrain station message by Author Unknown

A few days ago during The Rains I trod to the Sapperton SkyTrain station to begin my morning commute and I discovered this message finger-painted onto the glass near where I usually stand on the platform.

“fuck you ya you fuck head” – a possibly aggrieved passenger or urban poet

One might quibble about the lack of proper punctuation but the message is nonetheless unambiguous. What I find most intriguing is what would prompt someone to:

  1. Feel this angry while standing on the platform of a commuter train very early in the morning (before 6:30 a.m.)
  2. Be moved to transfer the anger into a message written via finger on a rain-slicked sheet of glass

This leads to other questions, such as:

  1. What did the person feel later, when they were presumably on the train. Remorse? Regret? Catharsis? Ongoing anger?
  2. Would I be able to pick this person out if I suddenly found myself on the car on which the angry scribe was riding?
  3. Has this person written similar messages before?
  4. Is this act usually a one-off or just one in a series?
  5. Is the person–almost certainly a guy (sorry, guys, you know we’re mostly jerks) an otherwise nice fellow, entirely reasonable, and just found himself in a foul mood due perhaps to an unexpected and unpleasant event?

I am slightly sad I will never know the answers to these questions, though I’m not sure what I would do with the answers, anyway. Maybe one day I’ll make the answers up and turn it into a story called “The Messenger.”

(Probably not, though.)

Black Friday now starts on Wednesday

It should come as no surprise in a world where Christmas ads start showing up in October (or September) that Black Friday, officially the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday (this year that would be Friday, November 24) now starts on Wednesday or just whenever. Every sale right now (and ads for such are overflowing at the moment) is either a Black Friday Already Sale or a Pre-Black Friday Sale. It is now and shall continue to be Black Friday. Which actually sounds a little ominous when you think about it.

I mean, I like sales. I want to buy that new fry pan that promises to never ever let food stick to it for real, and I’m glad that I’ll have a chance to get it at a really good price. But is it worth the relentless barrage of ads and yet another lengthening of the time frame in which we need to endure the things? I even had an obnoxious banner ad show up in the WordPress dashboard of this blog for one of the plugins I had installed.

Had, because I’ve since uninstalled it and sent the company behind it a brief note explaining how I don’t care for obnoxious banner ads on my WordPress dashboard. Perhaps they didn’t know. Now they do!

Anyway, I should try to focus on the positive rather than just carp and be negative, so let me conclude by saying that I’m really looking forward to getting that magic fry pan. If they haven’t sold out of it before I can get to the store.

Five inanimate objects that would be better presidents than Trump

In no particular order as I feel all would perform equally well at the task, while also being superior to the person who actually, regrettably, holds the title:

  • a bowling ball
  • a toilet plunger
  • a smooth, round rock
  • a 25 year old Twinkie
  • a piece of lint

This is actually a trick list because it could include every inanimate object in existence, including those from other dimensions.

I don’t know why I picked today to take a vague potshot at the worst modern U.S. president (and, I would argue, the least qualified president ever). Perhaps The Rains have made me cranky.

Pumpkin spice eggnog Valentine whatever

It’s that time of year again.

Not even halfway through September, with it still officially summer and me still dressed in shorts, Safeway begans selling eggnog.

Save On Foods had already started selling pumpkins before that, and every place that has a “pumpkin spice” drink like Tim Hortons and Starbucks rolled them out to officially start this year’s blurring together of all holidays.

It has happened slightly earlier this year compared to previous years, so retailers are still testing how far they can push this nonsense. I predict we’ll have August eggnog within a few years.

I kind of hate everything right now because of this.

Bah humbug, you might say.

(By the way, if this all sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote a similar rant last year, when eggnog appeared in October. How we have progressed!)

News*: Trump is still a boorish, vulgar idiot

This is the President of the United States. You know, the person more than 62 million people voted for. The bar for acceptable, respectable behavior by a president is now so low it is below ground. It will be generations before the presidency recovers from this thin-skinned, dull-witted infantile blowhard, if it ever recovers at all. I’m not sure it will.

And good job, too, to the Republicans who will stand by and say nothing–or even defend him–as they go about their work of dismantling the United States to better serve the rich few at the top.

I used to think this lazy, ignorant man might resign because the presidency is hard work. I never imagined he’d just not do the work (and what little he actually does is borderline incompetent most of the time. The rest of the time it’s just plain incompetent).

* haha, not really news

Good news: We are still here

It is difficult to summarize all the stupid, awful things Trump has done since taking office since there are so many stupid, awful things to catalog–and it’s barely been over four months since he was sworn in (I’ve been swearing the last four months, too).

The good news is that he still hasn’t blown up the world. Yet.

As of today, his Gallup disapproval rating is 53%. That’s actually below peak disapproval of 59%. Bafflingly, 41% approve. This number astonishes me. It means that, on average, four out of every ten Americans will tell you that they approve of the job Trump is doing.

This is the same Trump who has been a reckless, racist, blithering, embarrassing, narcissistic disaster of a president. He has bumbled more in four months than the worst presidents could manage over eight years. He makes dumb little kids seem smart.

What is wrong with America?

Still, the world hasn’t blown up yet.

April Fools’ Day is dumb and I agree with Elizabeth Lopatto

Today is April 1 and thus April Fools’ Day. Elizabeth Lopatto has a nice article on The Verge titled Everyone hates April Fools’ Day — so why does it endure?

It has some history on the origins of this dubious “holiday” but rightly focuses on how dumb and annoying it is. It’s basically a day to be a mean liar like Donald Trump or that guy who tells a joke that everyone politely laughs at in an obligatory way.

A lot of internet sites and companies that take part seem to be going through the motions now so maybe it is finally starting to die out. Blizzard is phoning it in through lazy fake patch notes, Google has recycled a Pac-Man gag in their maps. Here’s hoping the time and effort invested in these fitfully amusing stunts are put into something more useful, like providing hair brushes for cats.

Trump is a record-setting president

Record-setting at being unpopular, that is.

This Gallup poll shows Trump’s approval rating now stands at 36%. This is a little over 60 days into his term as president. You know, when the president is normally still popular, having just been elected.

Trump’s current 36% is two percentage points below Barack Obama’s low point of 38%, recorded in 2011 and 2014. Trump has also edged below Bill Clinton’s all-time low of 37%, recorded in the summer of 1993, his first year in office, as well as Gerald Ford’s 37% low point in January and March 1975. John F. Kennedy’s lowest approval rating was 56%; Dwight Eisenhower’s was 48%.

But good news! It can get worse, as these past presidents have demonstrated:

Presidents George W. Bush (lowest approval rating: 25%), George H.W. Bush (29%), Ronald Reagan (35%), Jimmy Carter (28%), Richard Nixon (24%), Lyndon Johnson (35%) and Harry Truman (22%) all had job approval ratings lower than 36% at least once during their administrations.

Mind you, these presidents actually had to do stuff to earn those low approval ratings. Trump is just naturally gifted.

The latest polling came after the Republicans pulled their American Health Care Act from a vote in the House. These are the same Republicans that railed against the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare as many called it) for seven years, vowing to repeal it and replace it with something better. Finally, with control of all three branches of government–the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Presidency–they couldn’t do it.

Trump blamed the Democrats for not voting for a terrible plan. The Tea Party (“Freedom caucus”) want to burn down the country and were opposed to the AHCA because it didn’t have enough burning. Enough of the few sane Republicans balked that they realized it was unlikely to pass, so it got pulled. Trump also blamed the Tea Party contingent. He did not blame his own foolish brinkmanship (demanding a vote on a Friday before they had enough votes). He figured he could boss his party around and found out he couldn’t.

Because he is an untalented idiot.

Because he has more ego than sense.

Because his father handed him a fortune and he only excels in spending it poorly and having businesses go bankrupt, showing all the savvy of a damp towel.

And yet I still come back to 62 million Americans voted for him. And the average Republican still loves him, even as his first two months has been a string of disasters and embarrassments.

Because, apparently, 62 million Americans really like having an untalented idiot in the White House. One of their own, perhaps.

Filtering for a better future

I subscribed to a Pinterest newsletter until it started regularly including content that I was not only not interested in, but found unwelcome. This happened despite specifically indicating what my interests were. Somehow I still ended up getting loads on “pinterests” featuring topless tattooed women on motorcycles. I mean, if you like that, great. But I don’t and Pinterest really, really thought I did.

I subscribed to a Medium daily digest and the first one I got was an unusually rich trove of interesting topics and info. This proved to be a fluke as it subsequent digests were nothing but self-referential articles about getting more people to read your posts on Medium mixed in with right-wing screeds or poorly-written and unoriginal stories. I’m perfectly fine with being unoriginal, provided the spin provided is interesting or well-constructed. Instead, I find articles where the rules of English have been tossed aside in favor of a weird quasi-informal tone that reads like something halfway between a Facebook post and a text message.

I unsubscribed to the Medium digest.

The Pocket digests still arrive every few days but I find I’m looking at the stories less, in part because some of the digests are thinly-disguised collections of links to support the inevitable “sponsored” story (which is really just an ad) and also because the political stories are almost uniformly depressing these days and much of the rest of the news is the same as well. It feels like hope has been crushed down in favor of the rich and stupid being allowed to shape our inevitably dismal future.

Mostly I wonder if it will ever be possible to filter this kind of stuff so it shows things I find genuinely interesting, while at the same time avoiding the creation of an echo chamber where I only get news or exposure to ideas I already accept. I keep at open mind and I’m always willing to listen (within reason). I imagine a world where I didn’t have a Facebook finger. The Facebook finger is represented by the ‘swipe down’ gesture used by my index finger as I go through the Facebook news feed, vainly hoping for something that isn’t a regurgitated meme, insipid “like and share of you agree” bit of inspiration or an allegedly cool thing/video someone (along with thousands of others) found.

But I don’t think it will ever be possible, at least not until the far future (if we as a species make it), so for now, the only way to filter is to do it manually and suffer the memes, the self-indulgent nonsense and the “you’ll find this interesting!” stuff that is actually the opposite of what you’re looking for.

Bleah. Time to read a book.

January 2017 list: A bad month for jogging and humanity

Here’s an incomplete list of things that sucked in January 2017:

  • snow on New Year’s Eve that added to existing snow and has persisted through the entire month on the trails where I run, making jogging possible only if I include slipping, falling and fracturing bones
  • the mailbox in the building got broken into (on a Sunday when there’s the least amount of mail to steal) and it’s been out of commission for real mail (they’re still delivering junk mail, yay) for a few weeks, with replacement locks that may not be installed until as late as mid-February
  • I only lost 1.7 pounds. Better than gaining but still a bit disappointing
  • everything Donald Trump did in his first 11 days in office. After only eight days he had a negative approval rating and has lived up to every sensible person’s worst fears. A thoroughly awful person and a terrible, awful president. Shame on everyone who cast a vote for this vile excuse for a man
  • there’s more but after Trump, meh