Greetings from Thanksgiving weekend from 53.5° north latitude. There was quite a bit of interesting news this week, some local but mainly news of global interest and impact.
The big news of the week was the Facebook outage. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were offline globally for six hours, completing removing millions of people from what they think of as the Internet. I was in an Uber on Monday afternoon and the radio station the driver was listening to was talking about the "forced social media vacation". I have a Facebook account that I never log into, had an Instagram account that I deleted, and have never used WhatsApp. There is no impact to me if Facebook applications are unavailable, however, that is clearly not the case for billions of people across the world, prompting calls for more competition in social media. There were concerns that Facebook was hacked, but a Facebook blog post blamed a botch update to a BGP router.
Beyond the outage, 60 Minutes broadcast an interview with a Facebook insider (whistleblower) the day before the outage.
The thrust of Frances Haugen's comments and her subsequent testimony to the US Congress is that the angrier and more divisive the content is that Facebook publishes and promotes, the more money Facebook makes. This is not new information, but this is the first time that the allegations are from an insider, and that are backed up by internal documentation and data and not allegations or assumptions from an outsider.
In addition, more information is surfacing about how harmful Facebook's Instagram is for teen girls in particular. The NY Times went so far this weekend to call it a "cesspool".
The combination of the whistleblower, the outage, and the revelations of how toxic the apps are made several media outlets, including CBC's Day 6 program, to call this a "very bad week for Facebook". But how bad, and for how long is the real question. If the impact to stock price is any indication, this is nothing to worry about. As shown below, the stock dropped from $330.05 to $329.22 in the past week.
In the last month, the stock has dropped for $378, so more of an appreciable decrease, but not much different than what the stock market has experienced in general.
Prediction: nothing changes, at least until 2024 and then only if the European Union or a US Democratic Senate and Congress force regulation onto Facebook.
One segment was finished in the cross-Canada virtual tour this week. I have now pushed past Dryden, Ontario. Much like many settlements in Canada, Dryden is named by a white male even though it was traditionally an Anishanaabe locations called Paawidigong ("the place of rapids" in Ojibwe). Dryden has population of 7700, and is served by the Dryden Regional Airport which has the IATA airport code of YHD. Oh yeah, and they have a big moose.
Here is the updated progress chart. With good weather and health, I can make it past Ignace this upcoming week.
The quest for a perfect cup of coffee continues. In the few weeks since I last posted about coffee, I have cleaned the screen and replaced the gasket on my espresso machine and have fixed how fine my coffee grinder will grind the beans. The difference has been very noticeable, with the espresso taking much longer to come out and the crema to be much more pronounced. This is making me rethink all the coffee I have made at home for the past several months.
The latest coffee is the Umbria Bizzarri blend. This Italian blend has been very enjoyable, but again that needs to be tempered against how many improvements I have made to my setup. Here are some action shots of the bag, richly colored beans, and the end result.
Four new beers this week, with three that were quite good.
Beer #816 was the Omnipollo MAZ Oat Pale Ale 5.6% Strong Ale. Omnipollo is a bit of a mystery. The can says it is brewed in Canada, but the company identifies as from Sweden. I assume Omnipollo has licensed their beer to someone in Canada to brew on their behalf. Whoever did produce this did a good job. This was super hazy, with low but lacy foam, and a drying taste like a grapefruit soda that has almost gone flat. There was no discernible aroma which I found weird, but overall this was good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #817 was an Edmonton beer, the Town Square Flower Child Elderflower Gose. I quite liked the tang added by the sea salt. It had a nice gose sour aroma but was not very sour tasting. The color was beautiful. Town Square has some good beers and is definitely worth seeking out when looking for something to try (3.75 / 5)
Next up was the miss for the week. Beer #818 was the High River Cruisin' West Coast IPA. This is my second beer from High River and so far I have not liked either. This did not seem like a West Coast IPA as it had more of a strong, boozy taste than you would expect from an IPA. (2.5 / 5)
Last up for Beer #819 was the Blackberry Black Berliner from Omen Brewing. A Berliner is typically a cloudy sour, but the massive amount of blackberry put into this made it a dark-purple-almost-black beer. This also had a nice creaminess from the lactobacillus that was included in the brewing. So a fruity, dark, sour, creamy beer. Great combination. (3.75 / 5)
Just one new word this week, coming from research around my younger daughter's pet frog.
(Edited 17Oct2021: added missing picture of new beers)
Oh, how nice it is when it starts to feel like the worst of winter is behind you. Riding home after work and it is still light outside, and we are closer to St. Patrick's Day than Christmas. Things are looking up, my friend.
A decent week all things considered. Early on is started with one of those mornings where your first thought is that it is Satur-, no way, Fri-, maybe Th, ugh, it's Tuesday. It got better from there though with successes at work and a fairly relaxing week. One book finished and another started, a great D&D session, a decent beer, and a decision to take a week off work. Moving right along, then.
Book #7 for 2020 was "The Information: a history, a theory, a flood" by James Gleick. Regardless of whatever Gleick writes in his lifetime, to me he will always be the guy that wrote "Chaos", which you'll see if you look up at Worldcat has about a gazillion different editions since the original in 1988. Chaos is probably the book that influenced me the most given how little I really understood of it. Maybe I should read it again to see if I can actually glean more out of it this time.
Information was really three books in one. The history section was a nice write-up of how language and then writing changed our brains, lives, and societies. There were stories societies from the very beginning of history - history of course only possible of course by language and writing - and of famous individuals up to the early years of the twentieth century - Newton, Leibniz, Russell, Babbage, Lovelace, Morse All giants in the own rights, some much more famous than others.
Theory was a paean to Claude Shannon, the intellectual giant who gave the world information theory, and with it, a new definition for information itself. He showed us, or at least tried to show us mere mortals, what entropy was and how it mattered. He foreshadowed electronic computation and distributed networks, and allowed for entire new branches of science like molecular biology to form. He should one of the most well-known scientists of the twentieth century, but he didn't build a bomb, make a billion dollars, or create a law or theory that was easy to state if not understand (because, seriously, how do you casually talk about logarithms?) In the end, one of the great minds was reduced and degraded by Alzheimer's. I wonder what Shannon would have thought about Alzheimer's and its effects on the entropy of the human brain.
Flood almost seemed an afterthought, something that was added because no publisher would print a history of "information" with the story of an obscure scientist responsible for a mind-numbing theoretical concept. As much as I liked this book, the last few chapters really feel flat for me. Maybe that was because the concepts were more prosaic - information overload, media saturation - or maybe it was because there was no brilliant hero to read about. Whatever the reason, the ending took away from an otherwise excellent read.
Just one new beer this week. This one was the Lost Mitten Blueberry Sour from Alley Kat. Once again, another really nice beer from Alley Kat. A good punch of sour, but not a lot of sweetness. Amazing blueberry aroma, but could have tasted fruitier. Aside from that minor complaint, this is a beer that I would definitely drink again. (3.75 / 5)
A bunch of new words this week. Most came from the History section of Shannon's book.
stelae (plural noun)