Coping: Calm Before the Weekend

One of the more confusing holidays of the year is before us this morning:  Good Friday. 

Stock and bond markets are closed in the US, but elsewhere around the world, it’s a different deal since not everyone buys in to the Christian-Judeo view of things.  Still, this weekend’s  confluence of Easter happening in mid Passover has left folks confused.

On the federal side, the ultimate arbiter is the federal office of personnel management which has their list here.  Feds get 10-scheduled and some personal time, if I recall.  Comp time, if memory serves, too.

Most of American industry – in order to squeeze out more work has dropped to about six holidays – and in many cases, not even that.  Particularly in retail.

The Miami Herald run down over here demonstrates the complexity of navigating today:  Federal, state, and county offices are open, unless you are a lawyer, in which case the courts are closed  in Miami Dade.

In a way this makes sense; , lawyers needing more forgiveness, perhaps.

But they’re not a forgiving lot themselves; the post office is open today so bills (including ones from lawyers) will be delivered in a timely fashion. Is this a great country, or what?

Around the country, some libraries are closed on Easter, others open.

As far as I know, most of the Big Box stores will be open.  Parking meters?:  Another hit and miss area.  Most will take money, though.

All of which gets me down to Ure’s Holiday Planning Decree.  I figure that everyone in the country ought to have at least one three day weekend a month.  Two would be nicer.

Part of the growing sense of “us versus them” we have comes from inequality in things like holidays; it’s more than just money.  Time off and serious relaxification is way up the list.

Personally, I think we ought to have one three day weekend every month (12 holidays per year) and half a dozen “floaters” for a total of perhaps 18.

This way, if you’re one minority, you might take a day off early in the year, while another might opt to take off Cinco de Mayo.  Everyone’s happy.  Well, except the quadrilingual teachers who would have to work through all holidays.  But welcome to public service in the melting pot.

I’m only partly joking here:   At some point, I’m looking for a Hispanic holiday to be added out of political correctness….seriously! (or nearly so)  Perhaps Cesar Chavez Day?  Just as Dr. King fought against injustice against Blacks, did not Chavez lead and work against injustice toward Hispanics?  So how about a holiday?

The Black population of America is 12.6% or 38.9 million.  The Hispanic population of America (legal or otherwise) is up around 16.4% and 50.5 million.   I’m not sure if that counts the 11-20 million illegals, or not.  Where’s the holiday?

The reason  such “common sense” as my “six floaters” isn’t here yet is simple:  If Cesar Chavez Day appeared, then we’d doubtlessly see a  parade of other population subgroups and chaos would ensue. What about a National Taxpayer Day?  Hell, that seems only fair, right?

The only reasonable answer, therefore, is six “personal floaters” to solve the mess.  I figure it one day for each grandparent (since we’re all of varying pedigree and most have four grandparents, last time I checked, morning science headlines not withstanding) and a few more days for personal use.

Being deeply culturally conflicted, I could celebrate Denmark Constitution Day (June 5th, by the way).  Not that I care so much about Cinco de Hangover.  It’s just that since tequila is sort of the order of the day there, why not have a day of aquavit/akavit and snaps? 

Then (after the upcoming rebellion) I could observe Scottish Independence Day (whatever it turns out to be).  I’ll leave it to you to figure out what liquid would be celebrated on that day, although a nice peaty single malt 25-year old ought to be a good clue.  (No, that’s not a girl!)

We get onto thin ice on this holiday booze discussion quickly; there’s been so much marketing of holiday alcohol that it has caused a major health problem and one that spills over (so to speak) in ways that can destroy lives.

Yet, when I think about it, Christmas has always been associated with a tawny port in my mind, though some people think Crown or Black Velvet; New Years with champagne, of course.

All of which gets me around to the ponder of the morning:  What will all those financial industry people be drinking this weekend?  Nothing, I would hope.  The excesses in that world have done quite enough damage to the country already and it’s driving too many people to drink.

National Stock Broker (and lawyer) day – which today is, in a sense – might be more wisely timed for October 3rd this year.  That’s the Day of Atonement and, methinks, far more fitting for those in finance and law who manage the yoke.

Which gets me to Matthew 21:12 and a note to ponder on the lure of false profits.

I’m open to other thoughts, of course, but the more holidays, the merrier.  Besides, since everyone only works at 50% of capacity anyway, we could easily add a dozen more holidays and still hit the same GDP figures. Be a hell of a lot more time off…and we’d need more toys and that would rev up the economy.

See?  Doesn’t this make sense?  As a bonus:  There’d be a lot less fluff on social media – and who’s to say that would be a bad thing?  We’d be living the actual instead of living the virtual and that’s the point.

Web Surveillance

Reader Mark out in the Bay area wonders ”What’s wrong with data capturing for corporations?  Give me more…”


I don’t get all the fuss about your comment this morning…”the corporate customers of all these analytics (read: spying on your habits) ARE going to slice and dice your thinking based on your social and they will try to sell you things.”

Back before social media, computers and such there was the Nielsen ratings system. These people would send mailers to be filled out or in overnights, call random households on their land line and ask them what their TV viewing habits were that night or during a ratings period. And, people loved it. It was an honor to fill out that log and questionnaire Nielsen gave you. I remember when I was in High School, my mom filling one of those out. She took it seriously and would freak out if she forgot to put in a show she watched earlier that day. To tell you the truth…I filled one out in college and it was a big pain in the ass….but I did it anyway.

Now the purpose of those questionnaires wasn’t just for networks to pound their chest and say “We’re #1″…it was intended to put a price tag on commercial slot time…It was for corporations and their products that they sold…so that they could figure out the best time to tout their wares to the best possible target audience that was watching at that particular time. It was the best technology we had at the time to get a glimpse into peoples homes and habits….and we loved it.To my benefit, it kept all the annoying commercials I didn’t want to see from Betty Crocker on the shows I didn’t watch, and all the funny beer commercials running on the shows I did watch. Everyone was happy.

So, as far as I can tell, today’s data mining techniques via social media, Google analysis and such, are basically doing the same thing and unlike Nielsen…it isn’t a pain in the patoot. It is invisible and takes none of my time. So I am all for it. And just like the millions of TV commercials I have watched over the years, no matter how many e-mails, pop ups, or banner ads I see…I will buy those products when I am damn well ready.

Here’s the key difference:  Back in the old says of statistical sampling, all the corps got to know was that I watched XXX program (as in fill in the blank, not porn!) during time YY;YY to ZZ:ZZ.”   I’m willing to give them that.

imageOn the other hand, now, when you use the net, your computer sets all kinds of cookies.  In fact, being a HUGE fan of Maxa Cookie Manager (ad off on the right there somewhere) I can see the trail of snoops which a morning’s worth of research comes up with.  Just in the last 20-minutes my trail is impressive…

It’s one thing for a corp to be able to “suck out my cookies” (golly, that sounds rude, doesn’t it?) but the danger is that the clearing houses of personal web use (corporate as well as NSA and whoever) have no mechanism for figuring out what’s “danger” and what’s “inquiry” when you use the web.

So…let’s say old George hits a website looking for blood pressure information.  I put in a Google search for [blood pressure table.]  That sets a cookie on my computer.

imageHere’s what it looks like in the Cookie Manager details:

So what does Google get to know about me?  Well, Maxa has an online tool that gives you a quick look at what kind of information about you is “leaking” onto the web via the cookies.Information about Browser and System

We recognized you are using the browser Mozilla 11.0 ProductSub: Not Available<br />Engine: Gecko RV: 11.0 to view this site, and that you have chosen the language “en-US”.

Your computer’s OS: Windows NT 6.1 (Windows 7)
Javasscript is: Enabled
Your screen resolution is: 1536×864
The Do-Not-Track option of you browser is active.
Local date and time on your computer ?4?/?18?/?2014? ?6?:?26?:?05? ?AM
Time offset to GMT: 5 hours
Server’s time (GMT): Fri, 18 Apr 14 11:26:05 +0000

Geographical Information

IP Address LookupYou are accessing from the IP Address, which has the hostname to this, your location is near to the city of Palestine in TX/United States.

OK, THAT is not particularly damning, in and of itself.  But if I have logged into my Google account (which I do all the time) then my IP address can be associated with a specific username.  And a list of my searches….and that speaks to what I’m  thinking of doing next in my life.

And now that stops being general.  That information (“Hey, fatso Ure is looking up blood pressure meds”) can be used to sell me all kinds of products I am not interested in.

imageTo continue, look at how many outfits know my IP address (and if they buy my IP address/email correlation (it’s all about money, right?) then all these folks might know that I am interested in blood pressure;

imageIf I were a complete idiot, it wouldn’t matter.  And I wouldn’t think anything about the Lipitor (or whatever) heart-related meds start popping up in my surfing.  And, just in case it’s not all about blood pressure, even giving out my location in Texas allows the Washington Post site to make sure a see an ad for a local health-related facility… they read my cookies to target me. Makes sense from a business standing.

My blood pressure this morning is 119/76 pulse 62, thanks.

So that’s how the game works:  Over time, your cookies add up and information aggregators build a pretty good profile of you.  What foods, what health issues, how you spend, what insurance.,..OMG the list is endless.  Anything online.  Where you bank, where you broker…the list goes on and on and…

The more you surf, the more they know.  Couple that with other data (your age and such) and all that personal information about you which has leaked out via social network postings and pretty soon your whole life story is available to be read like a book.

Now…we come to one of those forks in the road:  It could be argued that an “innocent man has nothing to fear” and to a certain extent that may be truth.  But suppose, being an inquisitive type, you go look up The anarchist’s Cookbook or some other source material that could be used as a basis to theorize that you’re planning to take an excursion from your being a stand-up good citizen, leading real estate tycoon in the San Francisco area.

imageYep, that’s all contained in email headers, which is a different discussion for another morning, but we do see from reading his email header that Mark hasn’t been blacklisted for sending out spam. 

(Ever look up your friend’s IP addresses in email headers and Google them?  See what fun we have around here?)

How many people know that email headers have precise track-back information?  And those free email accounts from search providers (ever read their terms of service?) Wow…talk about carte blanche…

So it all comes down to the question of “How much to you want to be publicly known about you?”  While we’re both upstanding dudes, the computing horsepower to impose “thought crimes” is here and bigger than anything Orwell could have ever imagined.

And that’s where the looming possibility of a  Department of Pre-Crime (*from the movie Minority Report) stems from.  First it’s books…then looking up the wrong tax codes…and then? Here comes Kafka!

Well, enough for another week, off to take some paranoia meds.  JUST KIDDING!  (for now)

Ya’ll come back Monday, or subscribe to Peoplenomics and explore that site, as well…another fine report there tomorrow. 

Write when you get rich…