quote-unquote privacy

from the blog entry describing google’s new browser, ‘chrome:’

Chrome has a privacy mode; Google says you can create an ‘incognito’ window ‘and nothing that occurs in that window is ever logged on your computer.’ The latest version of Internet Explorer calls this InPrivate. Google’s use-case for when you might want to use the “incognito” feature is e.g. to keep a surprise gift a secret. As far as Microsoft’s InPrivate mode is concerned, people also speculated it was a ‘porn mode.’

i don’t have anything earthshaking to say about this. but please note the following:

1. it’s in the nature of the internet to allow people to gratify their desires, whether beneficial or harmful, instantly. i’m talking specifically about pornography here — there’s no vetting period for pornography on the internet, no cooling down period built into the process of seeking, finding and consuming pornography.

2. because of this, pornography is the silent king of the internet. people go there for it.

3. so, web browsers — or let me break it down: the software(s) you use to get to the web — have a strong incentive to grease the wheel a little for pornographers.

4. but, societal norms are still such that you can’t just come out and *say* you’re greasing the wheels for pornographers.

5. so, the browser industry (you know, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari) has come up with ‘privacy mode,’ which basically means automatic-tracks-covering-up mode. you can go where you want on the web and no record of your activities will be kept by the browser.

6. so now but note the way that Google advertises its privacy mode. The only explicit function they suggest is ‘keeping a gift private.’ But they still find a way to let you know that — wink wink — *other* browsers have suggested that you might possibly just maybe also use this feature to indulge yourself a tiny little bit in… pornography.

7. also, because Google is a search company, primarily, note that the language explicitly connects the ‘pornography’ utility of this feature with Internet Explorer, not with Chrome, so that searching for ‘porn mode’ won’t automatically implicate Chrome, even though they’ve let you know that Chrome is okay with your using their privacy mode for pornography, in a roundabout way.

8. this having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too approach to correlating privacy mode and pornography by the browser makers frustrates me to no end.

9. I should point out that Firefox hasn’t incorporated a privacy mode into the browser, but they don’t have to — there’s a popular extension that does it for them. To disable this feature in Safari, you have to actually monkey with the browser code itself, which no regular user is going to (be able to) do.

10. (and this is most important) You don’t have to get everything you want. You don’t have to. You don’t have to have everything you want. You don’t have to look at pornography on the internet, even if you want to. You don’t have to do it. Even if the browsers make it easy for you. It’s possible not to get everything you want and still be okay. You don’t have to get everything you want. Other people want you to try to get everything you want, but you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to have everything you want.

The rich man who can afford bread but does not teach his child how to choose it over candy is not a good father

“Marathe’s chair squeaked slightly as his weight shifted. ‘Always with you this freedom! For your walled-up country, always to shout Freedom! Freedom! as if it were obvious to all people what it wants to mean, this word. But look: it is not so simple as that. Your freedom is the freedom-from: no one tells your precious individual U.S.A. selves what they must do. It is this meaning only, this freedom from constraint and forced duress… But what of the freedom-to? Not just free-from. Not all compulsion comes from without. You pretend you do not see this. What of freedom-to. How for the person to freely choose? How to choose any but a child’s greedy choices if there is no loving-filled father to guide, inform, teach the person how to choose? How is there freedom to choose if one does not learn how to choose?”

Wallace, David Foster. Infinite Jest. NY: Little, Brown and Co. 1996. p. 320.


Chris Williams asks (via) “What is with these people on Twitter who follow thousands upon thousands of other Twitter members? I don’t get it. Why? WHY?!”

i’ve been asking myself the same thing, and i think the answer is: marketing. if they follow you, you may just knee-jerk click ‘follow this user’ and follow them right back. and then they’ve essentially got free push marketing for whatever they want.

i’ve seen two possible scenarios. one is the blatant entrepreneur who’s pushing a product or idea, or wants to route traffic to some other website (in his profile). these are easy to identify.

the other is a little harder to figure out. some of these twitterers look like their tweets are robot-generated from random text, or from random snippets taken from the internet with some rudimentary ai applied to keep them looking legit, or — and this strikes me as most likely — from other twitter feeds (hence the inclusion of @respond tweets to add authenticity). then they’re using bots to find and follow as many twitterers as possible. i think the idea may be that they can then sell their feed to marketers looking to blast a 140-character message. Pay $.07, i’ll drop your message as a tweet on my account, and you’ve effectively reached 200,000 net-savvy consumers without having to bypass spam filters.

so you’re seeing phase one of the great twitter spamwave. the key is: don’t follow them. i block any follower i don’t know, or can’t figure out how they reasonably picked up my twitter account. sorry oozzl. way to bust twitter.


Clancyshere is the actual copy from the back of aldi’s ‘clancy’s corn chips’:

one sunny day before lunch, old mister clancy was looking out the window enjoying the view of acre after acre of golden corn. suddenly, he had an idea. why not use the corn to make a delicious snack he could enjoy alone or with his favorite sandwich or soup? he rushed over to share his idea with the farmer next door, who agreed it was a brilliant plan. and the crispy snack known as clancy’s corn chips were born. clancy’s. the crunchiest, crispiest golden corn chips in town.

i find it hard to believe clancy didn’t think “why not sell this corn harvest at market price and buy a new blade for the combine harvester.” no, clancy blew his entire year’s crop on crispy snacks (which he could enjoy alone or with his favorite sandwich and soup) for his own personal larder. and his neighbor, who must not have been much of a farmer either, “agreed it was a brilliant plan.” or maybe he just wanted to see clancy’s farm go under so he could annex it in the tax sale. and why rush to the neighbor in the first place? plus, a sunny day near the end of the crop cycle, a working farmer has nothing better to do than gaze lovingly out the window at the corn?

plus, why does aldi, which is its own distribution channel, need to put any extra effort into branding their corn chips in the first place? they’re not selling them against competitors: if you’re shopping at aldi’s, it’s because you’re price conscious, not brand conscious.

my final, expert opinion: this branding effort is an utter failure.

My daughter is *so* retarded

Photo by Amy at amykimballphotography.com

Actually, my daughter *is* retarded, in the actual sense of the word. But that’s not what it sounds like I said, is it? Be honest. Culturally, we hear the above sentence as a degradation, as if I were saying something negative about my daughter.

Let’s face it: retarded no longer means developmentally delayed. Its meaning has been leached out by decades of schoolkid use as a playground put-down. And now the schoolkids have all grown up into hip 30-somethings, and ‘retarded’ is an arch stab at anyone we feel is beneath us — socially, culturally, mentally. You actually gain a certain nonchalant hipness with each use.

So then, think about what you’re actually saying when you use the word ‘retarded’ in this new context. That to be less intelligent is to be of less worth. Or more specifically, to be like the developmentally delayed is to be inherently degraded.

Which, if you know my daughter, should give you pause.

If ‘retarded’ just ‘slips out’ in your conversation, it’s because you haven’t done the work to excise it from your vocabulary. You *do* have control over what you say. If you mindlessly refer to people and things as retarded when they’re not, it’s because you’ve got a lazy mind.

Stop being lazy. Start being intellectually honest. If you want to degrade someone or something, use more exacting language. Stop referring to other people as if you thought my daughter was worthless.

Unless you *do* think that my daughter is worthless because she’s retarded. Do you?


Update: I want to respond publicly to some of the comments to this post.

1. it’s tough and embarrassing to get called out on this, because it usually slips out on automatic. but don’t avoid ‘retarded’ because you think z or i might hear you. avoid it because it’s wrong to degrade anyone by comparing them to the congenital qualities of another people group.

2. i’m *not* railing against the fluidity of language, which i totally understand. i’m not talking about preserving the meaning of the word ‘retarded.’ i’m talking, at the base level, about a kind of racism.

we aren’t using some sort of entirely new construct when we use this new meaning of ‘retarded.’ we’re explicitly referring to a negative stereotype of the mentally retarded and applying it to the object of our derision as a means of devaluing him or her (the object). and the mentally retarded aren’t deserving of stereotypical derision, in the same way that you aren’t deserving of derision because of the shade of your skin, the severity of your disease, the sound of your voice or the size of your head.

i wouldn’t call that ‘fluidity of language,’ i’d call it being mean. and being mean because you didn’t think about it is in some ways worse than being mean on purpose.

having said that, i agree that this kind of pervasive problem needs grace, the kind of grace that’s held in tension with truth. truth starts with a hard look at what’s really going on, which is kind of what i’m forcing here. but grace covers all. i don’t condemn anyone– no, sometimes i *do* condemn people for this, and get really angry, but then in truth i condemn myself too. and so really, we all need grace to get out of this kind of ingrained habitual bigotry. you. me. let’s get started.