Facebook, You Win

In March 2012 I left Facebook. Now I’m back.

In December 2012, I wrote about why I quit and what my thoughts about the decision were at the time. That post resonated with a number of people. I received emails strongly agreeing with main points, and it was even discussed for a few minutes on a popular podcast (54 minutes in).  I still agree with everything I wrote then, but I now have a bit more to add.

Quitting Facebook was always a bit of an experiment. I say that not because I planned to return after some amount of time, but because I was very interested in seeing the effects of the action on myself and others. For example, if I was wasn’t accessible via Facebook, would traffic via other channels increase? Would I discover better patterns of keeping in touch that were being ignored due to the convenience of Facebook? Most importantly, would I get to a point where choosing to not use Facebook would leave me feeling better than before?  The results: no, no, maybe.

It is no exaggeration when I say that communication with my “extended circle” (mainly family, a few friends) is through Facebook or not at all. I found that out right away. Writing emails might yield a response but was hardly a substitute for something intended to be a broadcast update of the, “Hey, look what our son did”, kind. This blog won’t be read by said people (though it continues to be, as always, an invaluable journal for me). And posts to Google+, Twitter, Instagram, etc.? I might as well save the pieces in /dev/null. The people I most want to share with are only going to be available on Facebook.

So, the communication lines are down, but maybe it’s not that bad, right? After 15+ months I can say it’s not that bad, but it’s not that good either. I’ve always been the solitary type and it hasn’t been particularly jarring to slowly lose track of what everyone else is doing. The problem becomes: what am I left with? For a few weeks the silence was refreshing, but I could have gotten that by simply not using Facebook for a while. Over the long term, an unhealthy apathy formed. Almost all of my family and friends are outside of my daily life, but they still exist! They want to know how I’m doing and I want to tell them. I care about their significant life events. I’ve realized—only after an extended period—that turning all that off to avoid some of the ill-effects of Facebook is a bad trade for me

To fix this, I’ve signed up for a shiny new Facebook account. (Having provided literally nothing more than my email address, it promptly identified and suggested I friend just about every person I’ve ever met. Privacy!)  I’ll probably be a little more judicious with my friending (or whatever it’s called now), but I’ll be a lot more quick to mute. I hope to regain some of the good of Facebook and less of the bad.

And I hope that’s all I have to say about Facebook.


“No Such Agency” Those were the days!

The NSA leak is the most interesting news I’ve seen in years.  We might as well be watching The Bourne saga play out in front of us.  And unlike almost all media sensations, this one is centered on a hugely important issue that can and must be decided by the public.

There are lots of polarizing issues the circulate through the news cycle, but frankly I tire of most of them. I know where I stand on guns, abortion, gay rights, etc… and these things will move and evolve over time, but they’ve been out in the open for a long time and usually boil down to what one person thinks others should be able to do. The NSA issue is different. This is me deciding what I think another third party should be able to do to you. Furthermore, the central party—the NSA—may well be the most secretive, mysterious department in the US government. Number of employees: Classified.   Annual Budget: Classified.  Fascinating stuff.

Probably the most intriguing/scary part of the story as I write this is the contents of the “other” slides in the 41-page presentation that was leaked by Edward Snowden. (The slides that would have graciously been declassified in 2036.)  We’ve only seen 7 pages so far.  He claims that he didn’t want to recklessly release information and put people in danger, yet two news organizations are refusing to run any more of the material (so far). On the other hand, the WikiLeaks people are champing at the bit to get at and release it. (see Wired article).  What’s in there???  Here are some wild guesses (of the more salacious variety):

  • Descriptions of much more than “metadata” being routinely collected in the US.
  • Statements divulging access that would be geopolitically destabilizing (e.g. the NSA has wired Putin’s office (or Merkel’s office!), or the Chinese military).
  • Anything dealing with markets, banking, currency, trade.
  • Finally, the most far out but potentially damaging one: the Internet company leaders who are denying any knowledge of the PRISM program… well, they’re telling the truth. The Feds are actually going after lower level employees and getting them to flip and provide the desired access.

I’m most certainly not a conspiracy nut and rarely think about this stuff, but when reputable news outlets have 30 pages of source material that are too hot to handle, my imagination starts to run wild.

After 9/11, there was a lot of talk about how we were more vulnerable since our human intelligence in the Middle East was weak. After the Iraq invasion, a lot was said about the WMD intelligence failure.  Everyone thought that better intelligence gathering and dissemination were a priority.  It was certainly a safe political position to take.  Who is going to get booed off the stump for demanding better intelligence about our potential enemies? And so we start to hear news reports that often would make mention of “chatter” and whether intelligence was “actionable”.  What did we think that chatter was?  I can image the NSA analysts reading the news now and saying: you wanted better foreign intelligence, you gave us billions of dollars, we got better intelligence and there hasn’t been an attack like 9/11 since.  But, um, a whole lot of domestic intelligence got necessarily swept up at the same time.

What will the political responses to this be?  To my conservative, small government, strong defense friend I ask: are you really up in arms at the prospect of government taking your large magazines, or telling you that you have to buy health insurance, but OK with them simultaneous spying on you?  Do you trust them to use all that information wisely, ethically? To my liberal friend who is crying that civil liberties such as privacy must trump all else I ask: if the NSA comes out an says, “Fine… but here is a list of attacks that have been thwarted thanks to this intelligence”. Will you tolerate an increase in successful attacks against the US? Will you tolerate possible military escalation?

As I said at the opening, this is a fascinating and important story. When the intelligence agencies of the US were formed, who could imagine the depth and breadth of connectedness that the world has achieved?  They’ve obviously used the technological advancements and behavior changes to their advantage.  People are handing them terabytes of information everything second.  It’s time for the US to really ask itself: given the way people live their lives today, what is an appropriate level of privacy?  This NSA leak story tees up that question.  I can only hope that the press really runs with it, really digs in, and that the American people don’t demand a return to the typical news fluff.  The conversation needs to take place.

Strawberry Picking at Green Bridge

It is Memorial Day Weekend,  we decided that it was a good time to introduce Ben to strawberry picking.  After all, strawberries are one of his favorite food.  Ben calls it “mo mo”.

Jim drove us to Jefferson, OR which is about 20 minutes away from our house.   To get to the strawberry patch we had to drive on dirt road with Jim’s little prius :-).  Nice ;-).

20130525_103957 20130525_104430 20130525_105515 20130525_112005 20130525_112011 20130525_112236

We had a good time picking and munching strawberries.  Ben has a knack on picking strawberries that are still green ;-).   He seems to be enjoying himself.  No complains from him the whole morning.

On the way home we stopped at Cafe 99 for lunch.  I had french dip sandwich and Jim had a patty melt.  They were both very tasty.


Paris Day 5


May 3rd, 2013

  • Walkabout to Bastille stop
  • Visited the Louvre
  • Pantheon
  • Fine lunch at Pirraudin close to Pantheon.  Excellent lunch of Beef stew with Red wine.  Jim tried beef tartare (ie. raw ground beef with spices)… he can tell you about it.20130503_13165120130503_133619
  • Dinner at Le Bar Huitres
  • Good seafood.  Pricey but good.

Paris Day 4

  • May 2nd, 2013
  • Started at Notre Dame Tower.  Got there at about 9am
  • Met another couple from Washington DC.  Waited on the line until the tower opens at 10am.
  • Climbed the 387 steps up to the top of the tower.  Beautiful view of the city. Close up look of gargoyles and statues on top of the steeple
  • Visited Saint Chappelle
  • Beautiful stain glass.  Ornate pews with carvings of animals.
  • Bus ride.  Bus 69. We got on from the Rivoli Bus stop. Crowded and hot!, No AC.  The main windows did not open.  Only the top row of small windows open.
  • Field trip kids got on the bus at another stop.  They were no older than 8 years old.
  • Elder gentlemen on the buss, he passed out and fell over.
  • His head bump the floor of the bus.  Did not get up.  I think he may have had a heart attack.   I yelled for the driver to stop and for an ambulance. (I think only the stop registered to the driver).
  • He stopped at the Louvre.   Called the medics.  I did not see the old man get up.   The driver was hopeless.  He did not even get the people out of the bus to get some air circulation into the buss.   No training on CPR.  Just simply was not very useful as far as I’ve observed.   I obviously cannot tell what he said since he spoke in French but just our observation… he did not seem to show urgency.
  • J and I decided we had enough for the afternoon.  Returned to the hotel.
  • Evening: Musse D Orsay.   Saw the paitings from Monet, Manet, Renoir
  • Late evening, had dinner at Kasmir Restaurant (yes non French, had a craving for rice).

Paris Day 3

  • May 1st, 2013
  • Labor Day in France
  • Plan to go to Louvre was postphoned to Friday.  Museums and stores are closed.  Most restaurant and churches are still open.
  • Visited Arch De Triomphe Etoile.
  • Beautiful
  • Round about that I will never want to have to drive in.
  • Walk from the Arch along Avenue Des Champs Elysees to the Louvre.
  • Detoured through Grand Palais.  Walked to Pont Alexander III
  • Noticed vans full of police parked alongside Avenue Winston Churchill.  Don’t know if there was going to be a parade or a riot.
  • Reached the Louvre, Massive, very impressive from the outside.
  • Loads of people at the park.

Paris Day 2

  • April 30th
  • Visit to Palace and Gardens of Versailles 1-IMG_5347-001
  • Fat Tire Bike Tour – fanstatic tour. Will recommend to others.
  • Tour Guide was from New Zealand :-).  His name was Costigen.  He wore a funky coloured cap so that we can see him among the masses.


  • Tour Guide – from NZ Constigen
  • Petit Trianon
  • Grand Trianon
  • Versailles Market – Pate, Sausignon, Emmantel Cheese,  Dried Strawberries, Cream Puff1-IMG_5300
  • Waited in line for > 2hours , it was a Tuesday.  Versailles is closed on Monday and the next day was May 1st Labor Day in France (ie. Versailles will be closed as well)
  • The palace was jammed pack with tourist.   Supper narrow corridors with thousand of people in at once.  Did not enjoy the palace visit.
  • The gardens was beautiful but it started raining.
  • Jim and I are still recovering from our cold
  • Jim had a bad back
  • A tree fell on an RER train,  the metro that we were suppose to leave Versailles town from is closed or delayed until 8pm.
  • Raining. walked from one RER to another.
  • Finally walked back to the RER station that we started from which was by the Starbucks (yes there is a starbucks) and McDonalds (and no we did not get any McDonalds).
  • Got back on another RER train,  stopped at Saint Lazare, change to Metro and got back to Mercure Hotel.


Indian Fare on Sunday Night

I found a couple of Indian curry recipes that I have been meaning to try.  I finally decided to give the Chana Masala recipe from http://www.cookingandme.com/2013/03/chana-masala-recipe-chole-masala-recipe.html and Chapati recipe from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/indian-chapati-bread/  a try.   I love chickpea curry and definitely had a taste for the leaner version of indian bread other than naan.

I think the recipes turned out pretty well.  Ben who is 18 months now, loved it too.  Both recipes only took 30 minutes to prepare together.

1-20130421_180934 1-20130421_180905