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Happy Easter!

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him.  Now I have told you.”  Matthew 28:5-7

Jesus’s took our place on the cross and died for all of our sins. His resurrection from the dead proved his power over sin, death and the devil. There’s nothing we can do to earn heaven. It’s a free gift available to everyone who believes. Want more?

Manipulating Your Emotions

It goes without saying that there’s a lot of anger and vitriol online. Sometimes it feels like the whole Internet has turned into a 24/7 screaming cable news channels. What gives? Are we really all that angry all the time?

Take an individual who’s really worked up and show them that there are thousands or millions of other people who feel the same way. Instead of just keeping it to themselves and moving on with their life, no they feel like they have a tribe and they’re much more likely to take action or join in the yelling.

Now take someone who is just trying to make ends meet. Give them a platform like YouTube or a blogging/news site where they get paid for views. What kinds of content do you think is going to get the most views? The controversial stuff! These sites end up getting flooded with all kinds of messages solely intended to ignite your emotions and make sure anyone in your internet reach sees them too. The author is using your anger to make money. We can get mad at them all we want, but they’re not really breaking any rules, and if it wasn’t effective, they wouldn’t do it.

It’s incredibly difficult to do anything to block this kind of content. It used to be that pictures were as far as you could go to make fakes but now we’re seeing full videos of people making speeches that they never made. Even if you’re on the lookout for fakes, they can be hard to spot.

On top of that, anytime a site tries to block this kind of content, there’s inevitably going to be false positives. Does site X hates viewpoint Y because it took down a legitimate video? What if they have more accidents on one side than the other? Is it because the site has a political agenda? Probably not. The simpler answer is that the people trying to make a buck on the videos have figured out that they make more by angering one side of the topic than the other.

Obviously we can’t just roll over and give up. There’s a group called Media Wise that is working to train kids (and adults) how to be smart consumers of media. They teach you to withhold your belief of any story until you’ve confidently answered three questions:

  1. Who is behind the information?
  2. What’s the evidence?
  3. What do other sources say?

The questions seem to simple but how often do we ignore them and jump to being angry?

Some talks I listened to at Strata delved into this and Destin from Smarter Every Day has been diving into this as well. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic so you can help protect yourself from being part of the problem, here are some recommended pieces of media to consume:

  • No Dumb Questions and in episode 55
  • Destin met with the Media Wise group in a recent video and walked through two examples of asking those three questions about real news stories.
  • I haven’t watched it yet, but I suspect that the first video in Destin’s new three part series is going to be a good dive into the complexities of this problem.

This problem isn’t going to go away. Change starts at home. Train yourself to be heavily skeptical of everything you read. If you have kids at home, these skills are some of the most important things you can teach them.

Strata 2019 San Francisco

My company was nice enough to send me down to San Francisco last week to attend the Strata Data Conference. If there’s a bigger conference in my field of data engineering/science/analysis, I don’t know what it is.

I attended a big data conference four years ago, but going to Strata was a huge step up both in terms of the quality of the event planning and in the quality of the talks. I came away with a stronger vision about things I want our team at work to accomplish and how we can make a bigger effect on our business group.

I skipped all the social events surrounding the conference, but I filled both days wither every talk I could cram into my schedule. A couple were total duds, but there were a lot of great ones from Netflix, Lyft, Uber, Intuit and others.

Aside from the conference itself, it was strange to be traveling alone. I did spend one evening in a movie theater watching Captain Marvel, but otherwise I mostly hung out in my room. I felt guilty about temporarily forcing Tyla into single parent mode and leaving my team at work short-handed, so I spent a lot of my free time working on the laptop and trying to make good use of my time.

My hotel was right next to Moscone West where the conference was held and that was fantastic. I was able to get from my room to a talk in about 5 minutes. That let me hustle back to the room even when we had ~45 minute breaks to get away from the crowds and recharge a bit. It’s surprising how tiring it is to sit on your rear end and listen to talks all day. I felt like my brain was very full!

It was a great trip, and while it’s not something that I need to do every year, I hope I can go back in 3-4 years. Thank you Tyla for holding down the fort while I took this trip!

Unplugging From Facebook

Yesterday somebody asked if I’m still using Facebook. “Oh yeah, I guess I haven’t posted anything there in a while.” The truth is, I’ve almost completely weaned myself off of Facebook.

I already knew that I was wasting a lot of time each day checking Facebook, but the last presidential election turned my stomach enough to make me want to start taking more drastic measures to break my habit. (Remember the last time YOU changed your opinion because somebody disagreed with you on Facebook? No? Why do you think it will work the other way around?) I started by installing the F.B. Purity plugin for Chrome. It let me configure exactly which parts of the interface I want to hide and even lets me hide posts with specific words. Here’s what my word block list looks like “Trump, Hillary, Clinton, Greenpeace, Wildtree, Isagenix”.

That cleaned things up a lot, but it didn’t do much to break my habit and I found myself trusting Facebook less and less. It was time to get more extreme so I deleted almost everything I’ve ever posted to Facebook. That turns out to be really difficult if you’re not willing to delete your account, but another Chrome plugin, Social Book Post Manager, automates the process a bit. It’s not perfect but it’s way faster than clicking by hand.

Next, I started unfollowing people. A lot of people. EVERYONE. You know how to break the Facebook habit? Make it so that every time you go to the site, there is literally nothing new. Even then it took me a shocking amount of time to stop going there out of habit. It was ridiculous and eye opening.

The nice thing about this solution is that I can still choose to spend some time browsing updates from specific people, but I’ve removed the mindless browsing half a dozen times a day. For now I still cross post some of my Instagram photos to Facebook but even that is dying off. Instagram seems like a lot happier environment, but it will probably devolve into the same cesspool that Twitter and Facebook have become. (And yes, I know that Instagram is owned by Facebook.)

I’m not here to preach that this is right for everyone, but if you’re looking for a way out, it IS possible. And if you’re just wondering why I’m not commenting or liking (or maybe even posting at all), now you know why.

Washington Ornaments

Evergreen Lutheran High School in Tacoma has a fundraiser auction every year. Every year I think about making something and then fail to do so. This year I made it under the deadline by about two hours.

I only had five days to whip something up so I decided to completely steal an idea from Nick at 6_8woodworks, and make some ornaments out of laminated scraps. Thankfully I had enough interesting pieces of the right sizes to make a few at the same time.

Since I have that shiny new CNC sitting there, I whipped up a drawing and was able to cut out 3 identical ornaments relatively easily. The only real trick was making the cut into Puget Sound wide enough for my 1/8″ bit to get in there. As I cut each one, I rotated my stock piece to get a slightly different pattern on each one. I finished them off with a bunch of sanding, boiled linseed oil, and some twine through a hole to hold it onto a Christmas tree.

I don’t expect these to raise a huge amount of money but it will be fun to see other people put a price tag on my woodworking. I almost exclusively make things for myself or as gifts so there’s no real price tag involved.