Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Web Secret 573: Streaming down the hill

I don't remember when I started streaming TV shows, mini series and movies. I was most definitely NOT an early adopter. Didn't quite get it.

The chief television critic of the New York Times reported that most of her friends pitied her when he took that position in 2004. "TV," they scoffed, "how are you going to stand watching all that trash?" Ten years later, is colleagues envy her, and movies are the trash - endless reiterations of the same 3 plot lines or yet another superhero offering. (PS the critic in question, Alessandra Stanley, was a prep school classmate of mine.)

As I write this, I literally can't remember the last time I went to the movies. It was many months ago and I paid extra to sit in a comfortable reclining seat, drink a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc and eat farm to table fare.

Wait - I can do that at home - anytime I want. I have a large 4K TV, which may be small compared to an IMAX screen, but I don't have to deal with cinematic deplorables. By which I mean children jumping around, teenagers texting non-stop, and demented senior citizens loudly asking questions because they can't follow the plot. I have wine in my fridge, and any food in the world can be ordered on my "GrubHub" app.

One thing that I started noticing recently is how many streaming apps I have loaded on my smartphone and tablet:

Netflix - Love Death and Robots
Hulu - The First
PBS Video - Victoria
CBS All Access - The Twilight Zone
HBO GO - Game of Thrones
FXNOW - Fosse/Verdon
NBC - Good Girls
Bravo - Project Runway
YouTube - Origin

I am sure I'm forgetting a couple. I am feeding an addiction for science-fiction, fantasy, historical drama and documentaries. Many, many, documentaries.

I am never going to watch it all.

I have to schedule "Reading a book" lunches - because otherwise...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Web Secret 572: 44 pages

Do you remember reading "Highlights for Kids"?

Maybe in your dentist's or pediatrician's office?

Would you think it still existed in 2019?

Would you think it's still relevant in our digital world?

Would you think it is one of the most ethical companies in America?

Would you think it is run by 4 generations of the same family?

Well, I didn't know any of the above.

Until I watched a warm blanket of a documentary, "44 pages."

You should too.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Web Secret 571: The Kindness Diaries

Years ago, I found myself stranded in a remote Andean village for a number of days. There was no running water, no electricity and the villagers tilled the soil using Medieval tools.

One of the families in the village offered me food and lodging while I waited for the bus to come. By Western standards, these people were poor, yet I was amazed at their happiness and serenity.

I find myself thinking back to that experience as I watched "The Kindness Diaries", a wonderful documentary series on Netflix.

The series follows the journey of host Leon Logothetis as he travels the world with no money, choosing to rely entirely on the kindness of strangers for food, lodging and gasoline to fuel his motorcycle.

When Leon and his crew meet someone who touches their hearts, they reward them with a gift.

Every episode, I too am touched, and I cry.

Things I've learned from watching this program:
  1. The poorest people are usually the most generous. I don't know if this is because they have more empathy, or they have less to lose by gambling on helping a total stranger.
  2. True contentment is not linked to material wealth.
  3. I want to visit Bhutan. The government of Bhutan is guided by the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. I will say no more.
  4. Kindness can be found anywhere. You just have to ask.
True chicken soup for the soul.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Web Secret 570: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

The Internet taketh away.

But sometimes it giveth big time.

Take NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts, "Intimate video performances, recorded live at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen." Since 2008, a Who's Who of musicians and bands have performed them, from Adele to Chance The Rapper, from T-Pain to Yo-Yo Ma.

In 2015, the Tiny Desk people decide to launch a contest to find undiscovered talent. Contestants must submit a video showing them performing a song they have written while seated at a desk. Winners perform a Tiny Desk Concert.

In 2016, there were 6,000 entries and six judges unanimously selected Gaelynn Lea as the winner.

Yesterday, I accidentally came across her Tiny Desk Concert - I had never heard of her:


Within 10 seconds of clicking the link, I feel like I noticed 6 things simultaneously:

1. she is a little person
2. her limbs are askew
3. she plays the violin like a cello
4. her playing is amazing
5. her voice is amazing
6. the song she wrote, (Someday we'll linger in the sun,) is amazing.
7. I had never heard anything like it.

Food for the soul.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Web Secret 569: Friendship has been digitized

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, author Stephen T. Asma, a professor of philosophy, wonders whether the "pre-internet, face-to-face experience of friendship that I knew growing up will be lost to our post-internet children."

He goes on to note:

"Each year, more and more of our lives take place in the digital space. The average teenager spends up to nine hours a day online."

"The loss of intimacy, however, does not seem to be a concern among the young people actually growing up online; they report feeling socially supported by large networks of online “friends” whom they rarely or never see face-to-face."

"But do these young people even know what they are missing? And does it matter?"

"According to a new survey, 86 percent of American and British citizens believe that “increased use of technology” is contributing to social isolation."

"Deep friendship...is when you care for your friend for her sake, not for any benefit you can accrue from the relation. This is selfless friendship. You can have only a couple of these friends because they require a lot of time, work and effort, and a general blending or intertwining of two lives. You have to clock time with these people, and you must make sacrifices for each other."

"The kind of presence required for deep friendship does not seem cultivated in many online interactions. Presence in friendship requires “being with” and “doing for” (sacrifice). The forms of “being with” and “doing for” on social networking sites (or even in interactive gaming) seem trivial because the stakes are very low."

"When I asked my undergraduate students whether they had people in their lives who would bring them soup when they’re sick, they laughed ... and said they’d just order soup from GrubHub..."

Asma muses, "...digital life produces false friendships (because they are relatively disembodied). In other words, young people do not know that they lack real friends.."

He concludes, "Our worries about online life are inevitable, I suppose. We’ve never seen anything quite like it in the social world before."

It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Web Secret 568: Human contact is a luxury

In an important New York Times article "Human Contact Is Now a Luxury Good", author Nellie Bowles argues that while screens used to be for the elite, that is no longer the caase:
"The rich do not live like this. The rich have grown afraid of screens. They want their children to play with blocks, and tech-free private schools are booming. Humans are more expensive, and rich people are willing and able to pay for them. Conspicuous human interaction — living without a phone for a day, quitting social networks and not answering email — has become a status symbol.

All of this has led to a curious new reality: Human contact is becoming a luxury good.

As more screens appear in the lives of the poor, screens are disappearing from the lives of the rich. The richer you are, the more you spend to be offscreen."
Later, she notes:
"So as wealthy kids are growing up with less screen time, poor kids are growing up with more. How comfortable someone is with human engagement could become a new class marker."
Our elderly will be cared for by avatars and robots.

An article in Vox pointed out that already
"The rapid influx of advanced technology is changing the practice of medicine... Nowhere is this more apparent than a story where a physician told a fatally ill man in a Fremont, California, hospital that he was dying via video chat on a screen attached to a robot.

The patient...was sitting in his hospital room when a “telepresence robot” — or a mobile robot with a video screen that live-streams a physician in another location — rolled in and informed him that there was nothing that could be done to treat him. Quintana, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was with his granddaughter and a nurse when he was told his options for managing pain at the end of his life. The granddaughter, shocked at this bombshell dropped from a disembodied robot, filmed part of the encounter, which subsequently went viral online."
I don't know what else to say.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Web Secret 567: How to become web dead 2.0

Over 10 years ago, I wrote a blog post "How to Become Web Dead" - about erasing oneself from the Internet in case of overexposure.

in 2019, this has become many orders of magnitude more important and more difficult. I especially recommend clinicians think about locking down their social media against curious clients. Recently, the New York Time published an article "How a Bitcoin Evangelist Made Himself Vanish, in 15 (Not So Easy) Steps" with some up-to-date ideas on how to virtually disappear.

1. Create an LLC. People end up in databases when they fill out forms to buy property, register for credit cards or complete run-of-the-mill transactions. Create an LLC in a state that does not require the corporation to record the name of its owner.

2. Turn off all geolocation services on your smartphone

3. Create a V.P.N. for home internet use. In order to shield your internet address and your location, he turned his home internet router into a virtual private network, or V.P.N., that made all his internet traffic appear to come from different internet addresses in different places. I showed you how to do this in a previous post "Individual cybersecurity when traveling."

My additional suggestion:

4. Lock down all of your social media accounts. Better yet - consider deleting all your social media accounts and open new ones that you only share with your very closest family and friends.

5. Reread "How to Become Web Dead" - turns out most of that advice is still worthwhile.

Step lightly.