Thursday, July 30, 2015

Web Secret #373: ebates

Do you shop online?

Of course you do.

Would you like to get cash back for doing that?

It's not a myth - it's ebates.

The concept is simple - when you go to the store where you want to shop through its ebates link, you get cash back - a percentage of the money you spend. Earnings are paid out quarterly.

Ebates features over 1,800 online stores, from Macy's to Victoria's Secret, from Expedia to eBay and the list goes on and on.

Cash back can range from 2.5% to 6% - even more. Some stores specify the items that are eligible for cash back - eg Amazon was giving 3% for purchasing women's clothing. Other sites offer cash back on everything

Signing up takes seconds - then it's just a matter of remembering to check ebates whenever you want to buy online.

Smart shopper.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Web Secret #372: Episode recap

After the last episode of Mad Men was aired, I decided to compare notes with my Millenial children.

Turns out that they had a vastly different experience of that finale, entitled "Person To Person."

My daughter didn't realize that the Coke ad which ended the series was an actual, real ad. She thought it was created for the series.



None of my children knew what a person to person collect call was.

They could have used episode recap.

At some point during the past three years, as I have streamed more and more Golden Age of Television shows - from Mad Men, to Peaky Blinders to Black Mirror and more, I became concurrently aware that for each aired episode there were multiple posted episode recaps. These recaps are not mere summaries, and usually include sophisticated dissections of characters, plot, and context.

The fact is, many of my favorite shows are so complex, I need episode recap.

The characters in Peaky Blinders speak such thickly accented English, I miss entire paragraphs of dialogue. And how about "Game of Thrones"? Who can keep track of that plot?

In the Black Mirror series, there is an episode, "The Entire History of You," set in in the near future where most people have a 'grain' implanted behind their ear that records everything they do, see or hear. This allows memories to be played back either in front of the person's eyes or on a screen, a process known as a 're-do'.

It's episode recap for life.

Maybe not so far fetched...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Web Secret #371: Steal this book

You read it here first - since 2008, I have been warning you about rapid technological change and its effects.

Now the popular media, not just geeks and the intelligentsia, are beginning to talk about the impending developments in artificial intelligence and other scientific areas. An article in the New York Times "Style" section (no less?!) - which typically discusses the latest runway fashion and lipstick colors - asked: "Who is making sure that all of this innovation does not go drastically wrong?"

Well the Future of Life Institute for one, an organization that seeks to “mitigate existential risks facing humanity” from “human-level artificial intelligence.”

And there are others. The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit that tries to help humanity combat the “existential risks” of genetic engineering, nanotechnology and the so-called singularity, which refers to the hypothetical moment when artificial intelligence surpasses the human intellect.

Philosophers and scientists at Cambridge University formed the Center for Study of Existential Risk, with the goal to ensure “that our own species has a long-term future.”

And these are good things. Cutting edge.

But the world of U.S. mental health lags far, far behind. I lecture about social media and technology's impact on psychotherapy and employee assistance programs.

And what do people in the audience ask me? Whether or not to deliver services via video counseling!!!

People - that ship has sailed.

And while practitioners in the US remain frozen within the boundaries of their states, the rest of the world has moved on. We are no longer in a leadership position - we are lagging behind.

Some of you will remember sixties activist Abbie Hoffman who famously wrote "Steal This Book." It was all about shaking people out of their complacency, challenging the status quo, and thinking outside the box of convention.

Here is my 21st century version of that exhortation: provide video counseling!

Across state lines.

A whole lot of providers are doing it already. Have been doing it for years. Were doing it before the computer - providing counseling across state lines on the telephone. No one has been sued. Ever. Those archaic state licensing laws are going to be abolished, replaced by national licensure.

Why?

Because the Millenials and the generation behind them are going to demand, are already demanding:

1. video counseling
2. the ability to make appointments via text or by screaming into their Apple Watch
3. something you haven't even thought about yet because most clinicians are not future oriented.

It concerns me that the people who are putting together these think tanks about the future are not mental health professionals. I think we need to put our unique heads together and ponder the future of the field.

My 21 year old son believes that 20 years from now, human talk therapy will be obsolete. Most major mental illnesses will be biologically treatable. And the rest of our clients will be talking to highly skilled and responsive artificial intelligence entities who will be available to them 24/7.

Steal that book.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Web Secret #370: delete your Google history

Have you ever wondered what Google Search really knows about you?

I came across a terrific article that walks you through viewing and downloading your entire search history.

But as I was beginning to follow the bouncing ball to go through that process, I suddenly remembered how long I've been using Google, and how frequently I use Google Search. And I realized I didn't want to spend the rest of the week combing through my history, deleting unimportant links.

Frankly, I don't think it's Google's business to keep my history. Sure my history helps Google find what I'm looking for faster and gives me quicker access to pages I've visited before. But it is also tyrannical, and populates my pages with ads and sites it thinks I'm interested in. Well, I want to see what would turn up if Google didn't know me so well.

Long story short, I skipped over the beginning of the article and went directly to the simple instructions covering how to delete my entire history from Google’s servers:

1. Navigate to the Web and App Activity Page and click the gear icon in the top-right corner. (Note: you will be asked to login to Google if you haven't already done so.)

2. Select Remove Items and choose the beginning of time from the drop-down menu.

3. Click Remove. That’s it.

All of your search history will be deleted.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Web Secret #369: will life be worth living in 2000 AD?

I came across a fascinating little article from the July 22, 1961, Australian Weekend Magazine: "Will life be worth living in 2000 AD?" Complete with sexist, vintage advertising.

Really, it's a miracle that I aspired to do anything beyond vacuuming the house...

The article features scientific predictions about the year 2000 and beyond, digested for a popular audience.

Impressively, they mostly got it right. What they got wrong were rosy predictions about transportation.

We are not:
  • "...whisked around in monorail vehicles at 200 miles an hour and ...taking a fortnight's holiday in outer space."
  • "...travel[ing] at 1000 m.p.h. at a penny a mile. Hypersonic passenger planes, using solid fuels .., reach any part of the world in an hour."
  • "By the year 2020, five per cent of the world's population will have emigrated into space. Many will have visited the moon and beyond."
But look at what they got right:
  • "You'll have a home control room - an electronics center, where messages will be recorded when you're away from home. This will play back when you return, and also give you up-to-the minute world news, and transcribe your latest mail."
  • "You'll have wall-to-wall global TV ... TV-telephones and room-to-room TV."
  • "Mail and newspapers will be reproduced instantly anywhere in the world by facsimile."
  • "There will be machines doing the work of clerks, shorthand writers and translators. Machines will "talk" to each other."
  • "Our children will learn from TV, recorders and teaching machines."
I'm still waiting for this prediction to come true: "There will be no common colds, cancer ... mental illness."

And why don't we have this? "...clothing will be put away by remote control..."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Web Secret #368: private internet access

Are you a fan of British TV series like Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge, and the like?

Then you know that by the time you are watching the show in the US, it was already aired months earlier in the UK.

This pisses me off.

I have tried to subvert this by logging on to google.co.uk and sneaking onto the British ITV player.

Does not work. They know I come from the US. And I am refused access.

No more, thanks to privateinternetaccess.com.

Now to be honest, most people who subscribe to PIA do so out of concerns about Internet privacy and cybercrime. That has never been a sufficient incentive for me to shell out the $40 per year it takes to get the service.

Watching British telly at the same time as my friends from across the ocean? Sign me up.

But don't listen to me, watch the video.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Web Secret #367: the search for excellence

The Wizard of Oz is the best movie ever made.

The reasons for this belong in another post, probably another blog.

When I was a child, the Wizard of Oz was aired on television once a year. It was event television.

You and your family gathered around the single TV set your family owned, and someone wrapped some aluminum foil around the antennas in the vain hope of improving the grainy, staticky reception. Then you watched, transfixed, desperately trying to memorize every moment, every song, every line of dialogue. Because, poof! it would be gone - not to be seen again for another year.

Those days are long gone, along with nightly family dinners, and other such ephemera.

To make up for those losses, the gods of media gave us excellence.

Courtesy of the Internet. Anytime. At the click of the mouse.

In the 21st century, I can watch the Wizard of Oz whenever I want to. In fact I can watch it deconstructed into hundreds of HD clips, with better quality sound and visuals than I could have ever dreamed about in my youth. I won't even embed one in this post. You know those clips. I know them. We all know them.

The word in French for Internet user is "internaute." It literally means "astronaut exploring the Internet."

Accompany me, an internaute on an idiosyncratic expedition.

Arthur Rubinstein famously described the adagio from Schubert's String Quintet in C Major as "the entrance to heaven." I am not restricted to listening to a contemporary performance of this work. I can access any rendition ever publicly recorded. So for me, it's the 1941 performance by the legendary Budapest String Quartet, accompanied by Jascha Heifetz, arguable the greatest violinist who ever lived.

The adagio can be heard at minute 14.01. It is a sublime performance, made more poignant by the fact that it was recorded during one of the darkest periods of human history.

It is mine to experience. Anytime.

Sporting glory? I can watch Torville and Dean ice dancing to Ravel's "Bolero" on their way to the 1984 Olympic gold medal. To this day, it is widely considered to be the greatest ice dance ever performed.



Missed Laurence Olivier performing the lead in Shakespeare's Richard III on the stage of the Old Vic in 1946? No problem, catch him sneering his way through "Now is the winter of our discontent" in the 1955 movie:



You can find surprising pockets of perfectionism. In the UK, Magnus Macdonald machine tools impeccably crafted items out of Titanium. Pens, pill pots, and the like.

Excellence is not only the search for athletic, artistic, scientific and cultural achievement. It is also embodied by the human spirit.

When I feel like the world is going to hell in a hand basket, I watch the youth of the world dancing to Pharrell's Happy:



You too can become an "internaute" and launch your own expedition.

Anytime.