Why do we accept fraud?

This post is the result of a convergence of four things. The first being the two hours I spent during Friday and Saturday reporting fraudulent Ebay listings. The second being a post by fellow blogger Chuck Miller mentioning how a satirical piece by someone else about a politician ended up getting that person’s post pulled (which sounds a lot like a free speech violation to me). Third was fellow blogger Jim Grey’s mentioning a similar on-line ‘debate’ over the issue of what is free speech or not in respect to a now infamous social media platform. And fourth would be my own recent suspension by Farcebook over their AI’s inability to comprehend context and thus thinking my statement of fact that the punishment for sedition is death is the same as threatening to kill someone. Good ol’ AI: lots of Artificial, not much Intelligence. Considering that people are infinitely smarter than computers and yet still not up to managing these tasks it’s more than a little stupid to put the machines in control, eh? Oh we can toss in fellow blogger Dan James’s accidental foray into the area of vision, perception, and psychology for added spice (although he didn’t mean to do this I’m sure).

Let’s start with the Ebay fraud. It was rather annoying, because the criminal involved dumped dozens of new listings of a certain camera I am interested in onto the site all at once. Having to wade through a sea of schlock to try and find any legitimate offers was not fun. How do I know they were fraudulent? Because no one suddenly has dozens of high-end cameras available which they are willing to offer at very low starting prices on short-term auctions. This is entirely outside the realm of probability. Plus I recognized some of the photos from earlier fraud listings. Oh and the idiot reused images, including between the three fake ‘seller’ names he was using. We’re talking Canon 5D, 6D, and 1D as well as full-frame Nikons and yes the Pentax 645 cameras were back again. So obvious it’s painful. I can’t imagine anyone falling for it, yet they must else why continue to perpetrate the scam? Like being threatened with arrest via pre-recorded telephone message (you must have gotten that call, haven’t you?)

Now how does this fraud work? I’m not sure. One way would be to drag the legitimate bidders up in price using sock-puppet accounts (all-too-common on Ebay) and then once the maximum has been determined and gone beyond simply offer the item “second chance” for the last legitimate bid price to all who participated and see who bites. I was recently subjected to this version and ignored it. But this presupposes the merchandise is real, and I doubt anyone has a hundred top-end digital cameras sitting around waiting to be sold cheaply.

More likely the bid is brought up and up and a sale is made. The seller collects the money, and buggers off. Fake accounts and all just disappear until they decide to risk discovery again and repeat the scam. This is one of the undoings of many scammers; they don’t know when to take the money and run, converting their ill-gotten gains into legitimate investments and living the easy life like any other politician would.

Really to police this Ebay would need three moderators per user to stay on top of the scams. That’s sort of how it is on the Internet, no? And not just with sales sites either. Facebook and Twitter are loaded with fake accounts and the scams aren’t always about business. Let’s face it, we’ve just come off four years of having a two-bit con artist masquerading as president of the United States (if you believe Donald Trump you seriously need psychiatric help, I’m not joking). And when the lies are proven they deny it even harder. Well he’s gone now and it’s time to get rid of the rest of them.

“Don’t lie” we tell our children. Then we give them stories about fictional beings and make up elaborate ruses to pretend they are real. Maybe if we explained what Santa Claus truly represents instead of insisting he’s an actual entity our kids would not be grounded in the idea that lies are not only acceptable, but preferable to the truth. Why else do we have so many people insisting on “alternative facts”? As a scientist it absolutely boggles my mind that reality has become optional and fantasy is an acceptable alternative. That’s the definition of insanity, people; refusing to accept demonstrable facts, holding on to delusions, and becoming violent when challenged. It’s bad enough seeing this in the drug addicts on the street (at least they have a chemically-induced excuse for their madness), it’s quite another kind of horror to see it in the people who are running your country. What’s their excuse? Perhaps we should remove the “win at any cost” attitude from our sports programs as well.

Finally about that bit that got me in trouble with Farcebook. How dare I suggest traitors should be executed in accordance with the law, eh? Isn’t that what they’d want, though? As they pretend to be about law and order; give them what they demand. In reality you’d be doing society a big favour. You can not educate crazy people, and these people are crazy. It’s a type of zealousness found in many cults and it leads to social destruction. We’ve just seen it try.

We know there are people out there who will grab a hold of any cause, no matter how noble, and corrupt it for their own purposes. Often this is no more than the thrill of the power they feel when they destroy something knowing they’ll get away with it because the blame will fall on everyone. They are anarchists, which is the worst (arguably the only) threat to society. The disbelievers of reality set themselves apart and proudly wear their anti-societal banner, proclaiming themselves to be the problem and being proud of it. What the hell kind of way is that to behave? Your mother taught you that, did she?

It’s amusing the number of them who think being asked to wear a mask to protect against spreading germs to others is some kind of infringement on their rights. They think this is a totalitarian society? Brother, if it were they would have just disappeared in the dark night never to be heard from again. Rather a lot different than a mere fine for being an idiot.

Not just the ones who violate the law in the extreme, but the ones who aver no law applies to them if they don’t happen to like it. They go on about “god-given” rights or “fundamental” freedoms. There’s no such thing. The only rights and freedoms anyone has are those granted by the society they live in, and they are always subject to change. If you don’t like the way the society is structured, there are legal means to change it. Attacking the legislature by force is not one of them. Nor is making up lies and insisting you won “by a landslide” an election you lost – sixty times over.

There are too many people in this world, there is no need to accommodate those who don’t want to be a part of it. There is no place in this world for popular-opinion based reality, nor the people who advocate such nonsense. So this old protester hippy leftover from a generation soon to be gone will take up his own mantle of anarchy profess that these are the very people that need to be permanently removed from among us. We need to execute them (Farcebook be damned).

And we need to teach our children better.

A cold and cruel world.

The Farcebook Farce

Gee, I haven’t ranted about Facebook for a long time. It had become quite irrelevant to tell the truth as the site is basically garbage and I haven’t been doing much of anything with it. So let’s back up and see how today is going.

After nearly killing myself yesterday by smashing up the ice on the driveway and then splitting more wood, I wake up today to:

1). Four inches of new snow;

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Today

2). No Internet connection;

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File image

3). Dead battery in Jojo;

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File Image

4). A moronic message from Farcebook saying I can not post or comment for 24 hours due to my offensive posting. What offensive posting? It seems they took exception to a nasty remark I made about them and their incompetent Artificial Intelligence post parsing. How dare I write in German! How dare I use Sarcasm! 

That whole thing started as a bunch of my friends and I were laughing at the fact that now that all the Farceboook employees have been sent home to die of COVID-19 in peace only their idiotic AI is employed to check up on what people write. You can’t complain about any violation of TOS as you get this dumb message:

FBMESS

But in the meantime their Anti-Intelligence algorithm is deleting posts about the forerunner of Jaguar cars because “SS” (Swallow Sidecars) is of course a Nazi term only. Someone noted Chevy Super Sport cars, which also use the initials, managed to get past but not the origins of Jag. It’s okay to be a Nazi as long as you’re an American Nazi?

The irony here being that when acting on an alleged offense to sensibility, specifically ‘promoting Nazism’, they in fact act like Nazis themselves. Hence I commented “Hail victory”, in German, and got banned because German is all Nazi all the time according to Farcebook’s AI. Can anyone not see the irony? It’s drowning in it! *Cue Alanis Morisette* (There’s an extra dimension to that which I won’t go into.)

Meanwhile actual Nazis on Facebook go about their daily abuses uninterrupted – because the AI can’t comprehend intent, only content. Words are not in themselves offensive; only how you use them can be.

In future I shall remember to insult Facebook only in English, so they can better understand what I think of them and their dilapidated failure of a social media web site. If FB dies of coronavirus I won’t cry any.

In the meantime I’m not having a good day. Fortunately I wasn’t planning on going anywhere anyway, except to get a new battery for Jojo and check the mail and … Look, it was going to be my one day out this week. Oh well, guess not.

 

My Photography – Part Three

Images

I was thinking about how to categorize the types of pictures I take, and realized that although some fall under distinct headings others cross the lines a bit. No matter; it gives me an opportunity for segue from one to another.

The majority of pictures I take to this day remain “grab shots”. They are not art, nor intended to be anything other that a quick “look at what I saw today” pic to share with my friends. Since most of my friends’ shared interests are old cars, there tends to be a lot of pictures of old cars. Some rusty and derelict, others roadworthy and running. Typically something like this:

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This was taken with my “goes with me” camera, the Kodak V1003. But sometimes when I’m out and about I find something a little more extraordinary and under circumstances that allow a bit more artistic effort, like this 1930s Chevy taken with the Kodak P850:

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The resolution on this is 2592 x 1944 (in the original) which makes it a little dicey for an enlarged print. Besides, my wife would not appreciate seeing this on the wall anywhere.

The second most prolific category of my pictures would probably be best described as “documentation”. I tend to document things I do like building buildings or harvesting firewood. Again these are not the most artistic of shots and are not meant to be. They perhaps could be, if I put more effort into it. So far I haven’t. An example here taken with the V1003:

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Sometimes what I document is one of my other hobbies, which usually amounts to “look at what I found” but also can yield results like this:

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(I modified a ‘dollar store’ toy car and photographed it on blue metallic paper reflecting the sky. A bit surreal, is it not?)

Where are we at? Category number three I think. That would be wildlife. Sometimes domestic, because we have two dogs and three cats and they do strange things. More often it’s real wildlife because we live out in the middle of nowhere and bears, deer, moose, et cetera wander through whenever they feel like it. This gives me more of a chance to produce some truly artistic images:

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Wait, that’s my cat Hannibal. He’s not wild. Let’s try again!

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Yes, eagles stop by too. Both taken with the Nikon P610; you can see why I like its long zoom capacity. I think this is one of my all-time best photos.

Another great one is this scenery shot, taken quite some time ago with the Kodak DX3900:

Eagle_Lake_Sunset_by_Kaleidopsyche

I regret that this sunset exists only in a low-resolution mode as the sky has never looked like that since, although there have been many beautiful sunsets on the lake.

Another low-res shot that I may one day redo with the P610, providing the building is still standing, is this one: the Church of Nowhere;

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The final category (yes, I’ve lost count) would be “abstract”. Sometimes I do real-world abstracts like this (P610 shot):

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And sometimes I go full-blown crazy like this one I call “Hunter S. Thompson”:

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Pretty far from a “grab shot”, as it entailed painting some small wooden cubes, placement of metallic paper, and some post-processing with a default distortion filter. I like doing really crazy things like this but I guess a lot of people don’t like looking at them. I would do more if I could, regardless of whether or not anyone wants me to.

When it comes to post-processing, I usually don’t. I know some photographers who use it extensively and to good results; it’s just not my style for the most part. If I do anything outside the camera it’s a little framing crop or some contrast tweaking to get results that look like what I remember seeing when I took the shot. Every once in a while I let loose, as in a certain ongoing series of pictures that go together as part of a story. Here’s one example on the extreme side from that series:

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Somewhat garish I’d say, and I’m the one who did it. A more effective ‘processed shot’ would be this one of ravens, which involved cropping to eliminate background clutter and enhance composition, and tonal change to give it the right ‘feel’:

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Well this entry has gone on for quite some length and probably should have had a warning about that at the top but … It is only a glimpse into what I have done. I hope to do more in the future, if circumstances allow. Not for any reason beyond my own amusement, you understand. And perhaps to compensate myself for the thousands of images lost in the Great Disaster of ’18. It was sad and surprising to see how many pictures had vanished. Not all masterpieces by far, but in some cases experimental and in all cases historically important to me. My future is certainly now shorter than my past, but it’s the only time frame any of us have to live in.

 

Shifting Sands of Time

Lately I’ve been spending a lot less time on Facebook, on purpose. It was a good idea when it began, but blunder after blunder in its operation and updating has turned it into a cringe-worthy mess of a social media website. Since I’m retired and not all that healthy, I do spend a lot of time on-line. Or at least with the computer fired up and the browser open, which isn’t exactly the same thing. So instead of the mind-numbing horror that is Farcebook I have been perusing WordPress more, and using it more.

At first I was seeking commiseration with my health problems among those with similar trouble. But I stumbled on a few interesting photography blogs and have since been wading waist-deep in them. I suppose this is psychologically beneficial in that it’s something positive to focus on (the fun of photography) rather than something negative (the health troubles). Although there is some negativity in that I don’t get to indulge in photography as much as I want either.

That being as it may, the over-all effect is good I think. I will write more about my own efforts with cameras, put up some samples to show I’m not just whistling Dixie, and try not to drown myself in the inevitable melancholy of my age vs. the younger generation. (Generally I’m pleased to find younger people interested in the subject and trying their hand at it, but sometimes the relevant facts of chronology hit me like a brick to the back of the head.)

I won’t be going full-bore photo here, as that is for those who pursue with passion and I’m just an old guy who still messes about with pictures for his own amusement rather than with any delusional aspirations of grandeur.

There’s probably no real point to this post (I have a tendency to lose the thread of what I’m talking about; a minor flaw of working on one’s seventh decade) other than to warn people of things to come. Anyway, it amuses me.

And now a word to our sponsors

Shut up.

Okay, that’s two words. And I’m about to add a lot more.

If we take it as a given that the purpose of advertising is to attract customers and get them to buy the product, is it not logical to assume that annoying customers is a bad thing to do? There are many ways to annoy customers; the content of the ad itself is chief among them. But the Internet has given us a much more powerful way to drive away business: the pop-up ad. It’s not limited to just the little block ads either. Perhaps a more accurate term would be the “in-your-face” ad.

When you click a link to read something on a page we want to read what we went looking for. We do not want to see the screen suddenly pirated by another display that insists … well, something. I don’t know exactly what it’s trying to do because there’s nothing that makes me click ‘X’ faster than some smart ass interrupting my endeavors.

It’s bad enough that news articles are accompanied by side bars with annoying attention-grabbing flashes and even automatic video (another horror story), but do you have to interrupt the text paragraph by paragraph with not only links to ‘related’ stories (better left to the end of the current reading) but also promotions for things which it is unlikely anyone will look at merely because you did stick it in the middle of the read. This is not the way to engage your audience: it is the way to drive them away.

“Uh-oh! Looks like you’ve got an ad blocker!” Well no kidding, idiots. That is because your ads are so damn annoying no one wants to see them. Really people do not mind advertisements if they are presented in an acceptable fashion. “HEY STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND BUY THIS CRAP NOW!” is not an acceptable fashion.

Facebook is the champion example of how not to do things, with their ‘sponsored posts’ shoved into your news feed. It’s spam, that’s all. Why do you think FB Purity is so successful? Because Facebook hasn’t got a clue as to how to avoid pissing people off. They seem to take perverse delight in it, and rework their script every so often to circumvent the latest efforts at stopping this nonsense. If their advertisers ever wake up to the fact half of Facebook users don’t exist and the other half don’t look at the ads that company is going to have a sudden problem in the income department. Frankly, they deserve to go bankrupt because they have so horribly and commercially bastardized what is basically a good idea (sort of like what happened to any holiday you care to mention.) And when it comes to FB’s claim of “targeted” advertising, have you ever seen an ad that actually interested you? Probably not, because their analysis algorithms seemed to have been created by elementary school children who can’t even get the hang of the concept of a single selection criterion, never mind the plural form. In fact the businesses are paying for “targeted” ads and getting generic random-hit probability instead. For this they pay a premium.

Some bright spots have even come up with a method of making auto-run videos that so far no browser setting or extension can prevent from happening. Not all of us have unlimited data to waste on your not-at-all-important message. And the rest of us don’t want to be interrupted in what we’re doing anyway. Seriously; put your videos where the sun does not shine upon them.

It didn’t used to be like this, of course. In the simpler, better days of the Internet ads came in fixed blocks like ‘banner ads’ that sat quietly at the top and/or bottom of the page until the viewer looked at them. The technology now allows people to be forced to look, whether they want to or not. Net result: one less potential customer for every intrusive ad displayed. The exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

I am reminded of an election for mayor in a town I used to live in a few years ago. The candidate who won was the person with the fewest campaign signs cluttering up the countryside.

Food for thought.

Cathartic Echo Chambers

Let’s us fool no one more than ourselves. Although we fool ourselves fairly completely sometimes.

If you do not rampantly promote your blog all over the Internet screaming louder than anyone else, the chances of anyone seeing it are minuscule. As in you have a better chance of winning the lottery at 14 million to one odds (as opposed to about 7 billion to one).

But if we set aside the absurd notion that we expect anyone to see what we write, much less care about it, we have to face up to why we really do it:

It’s therapy.

Sometimes daily you have to put whatever thoughts ramble around in your head down on paper, at least metaphorically, just as a way to deal with them. You can’t really tell anyone else, not even your therapist, because these are not ordered thoughts – until they are put down in hard copy form. After that, they don’t matter. It isn’t about the result, it’s about the process. There is a secret joy in knowing they won’t be seen, and a secret terror at the possibility they will be – so we still guard our thoughts and are less honest with ourselves than we should be. Or at least more selective about it. Sometimes the caution is a good thing, as truly expressing one’s self is often a good way to earn a ticket to the looney bin. Or at least the slammer.

I saw something good at random about twice on here, and I say more power too them. I even commented. Not for their sake or to encourage this mutual folly we indulge in, but for mine (selfish bastard that I am).

I saw something today and almost every day ‘encouraging’ people to write whole books. That is like suggesting we all be bigger fools than we are.

I won’t even attempt a full-scale novel now, for so many reasons. And while I’m being honest I’ll admit the newest of those is my own mental failing which keeps me from being able to assemble any lengthy coherent writing. It is increasingly difficult to form multiple paragraphs that belong together, never mind chapters.

See how that started to wander?

Never mind, you’re not reading this either. Anyway I’m going to try some new medication soon and see if that helps slow the deterioration. Because it’s got to the point where I’m not sure of events and facts in my own life, never mind fiction.

I shouldn’t have said that. I should not have said that.

Fakebookery

More about everyone’s least-favourite web site.

First up we have the laughable claim that they’re interested in protecting your privacy: Facebook Privacy

Since they’ve claimed this repeatedly and done basically Face-all about it (even under threat from various governments) there’s no reason to expect anything to happen this time. The article does indicate that FB wants to move away from being in the public eye, something that has got them into a lot of trouble, and concentrate on selling the content of your private conversations to whoever can afford the price.

Second we have this equally laughable claim that they’re going to do something about “vaccine misinformation”: Vaccine misinformation

Since they can’t even man-up enough to call it “lies” it is doubtful and real effort will be made to reduce the number of those lies. Remember that FB makes its money by pretending it has billions of members who can be individually targeted by very expensive ads which have a totally unproven effectiveness but hey, let’s pretend it’s 100%. Ever lying Page, every group of idiots, every hate-mongering user equates to money in the bank for FB so they have zero incentive to cut out any one of them. As it is now something only gets taken down based on the number of complaints (i.e. weighing the thumbs up against the thumbs down), not by analysis of content using a functioning human brain.

Facebook is crap. It always has been and it always will be. The true crime is that it has the potential to be something positive in society, but profit gets in the way every time.

Hell just throw some more useless ‘features’ at them and they’ll think it’s better, right Suckerborg? That’s all you ever do, you greedy useless waste of space.