Monday, October 24, 2016

Politics and Lies on Facebook, or Politics and Poker

If you’re getting your political news from Facebook, there’s a pretty good chance you’re being sold a lie.

Both sides do it, according to an analysis performed by Buzzfeed (I know, I know – should I be trusting an analysis from Buzzfeed? That’s a good question).

And, obviously, I’ve answered that question in my own head, as I’ll continue with this post looking at their analysis. Buzzfeed may be jokey and put-near worthless at times, but their news department has occasionally impressed me with their depth of reporting.

While the analysis discovered right-wing-oriented sites tend to publish more lies and half-truths than left-leaning sites, the left-leaning sites have a lot more fans reading and promoting the lies they tell than do those on the right. So the right-wing sites may lie more, but the left-wing sites get its lies spread to a wider audience.

And here I think it’s important to avoid shorthand. If you catch me using terms like “the left,” or “the right” in this post, slap me. Hard. Because Buzzfeed’s analysis looks only at left- and right-leaning sites, not the left or the right, with little letters or capital letters. This is not an indictment, in other words, of any political ideology, just a rather pointed look at certain left-wing and right-wing sites using Facebook to spread more partisanship and truthiness than actual truth.

It’s also a caution – and do we really need another, well, yes, we do – that you should not accept political news offered on Facebook at face value.

So nobody comes out of this particular pile of manure smelling all that great with the exception – you might want to get your smelling salts and fainting couches ready – the mainstream media, which vastly outperforms the left- and right-wing in purveying news that contains actual facts. But nobody on Facebook appears interested in sharing these verifiable, truthful, and fact-heavy stories.

Their analysis is here.

Highlights include:

  • “The more overtly partisan, misleading, or opinion-driven a post was, the more engagement the post would see, according to our data. Facebook, and the people using it, appears to reward the worst of tendencies of these pages.”
  •  Posts that had accompanying video or photos were much more likely to be read, engaged with, and shared. Mainstream news outlets tend to share mostly links, leading to lower engagement among Facebook users.
  •  The frequency with which mainstream news outlets produce information is detrimental to their engagement on Facebook, as their stories had little time to gain traction before other stories drew attention away from them.
  •  False stories posted on either left- or right-wing sites were shared far more often than were true stories posted on those sites.
  •  These sites are, by and large, news aggregators, not news originators or reporters.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

So Sorry, Schiaparelli

Europe appears to have lost another Mars lander.

There’s no glee in that statement. It’s disappointing to see space exploration arrive at failure. But after the probe’s parachute jettisoned early and its retro rockets fired for only three or four seconds rather than the programmed 30 seconds, the European Space Agency likely has lost its Schiaparelli lander on 19 October 2016.

This comes after the loss of Beagle 2 in 2003; that lander was recently discovered on the surface of Mars with its solar panels only partially deployed.

NASA's had its own bad luck on Mars, of course. In 1888, the Mars Climate Orbiter crashed into the planet rather than orbiting it because imperial measurements were used in its thruster controls rather than metric. Oopsie.

Also in 1999, the Mars Polar Lander crashed into the planet when its braking engine shut down too soon.

ESA’s approach to landing Schiaparelli was simple compared to that used by NASA’s Curiosity rover. If any landing were to fail, you’d expect it to be the ridiculously complex Curiosity landing. But that one succeeded.

It is interesting that Schiaparelli’s mission appears primarily to prove that Europe can land a craft on Mars, while the orbiter it was attached to looks for trace gases in the Martian atmosphere. It doesn’t appear their test was successful.

Martians must NOT want Santa Claus back.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Grammar Nazi: Circa

Today’s word question is: Should “circa” be used only for dates. And, more specifically, only for uncertainty around a certain date, rather than a date range?

Two questions, clearly.

First, a definition:

Aside: Of COURSE it’s a preposition. But I dare you to find that on anyone’s memorized list.
I ask the first question (Should circa be used only for dates) because I saw an indie author indicate the word count of his novella at “circa 7,200 words.” And while that SOUNDED odd, sounding odd doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.

So I turn to the Internet because I cannot be the only Grammar Nazi out there with this question.

Here’s what I’m finding:

In standard writing, use the English equivalent or write out the whole word.”

So, Mr. Indie could be right, and I could be right. Although the preferred usage is to drop it for English . . .

Here’s someone who falls into the “it sounds wrong” camp.

And there’s this, which says I’m right, in that circa is used only for dates:

Clearly, making an appeal to the Internet is going to be problematic.

On to the section question: A certain date uncertainty, or an uncertainty over a range of dates?

The “feels right” part of me wants to say if you offer a date range, you’re already expressing uncertainty, so the use of circa is redundant.

That’s what I get from these unnamed “linguists” (and on the Internet, you have to put things like that in quotes because who knows who these people are?) but even they’re not sure on everything.

It’s enough to make you feel like you drew the “You Will Doubt Yourself in Everything” card in “the game” from Gumball:

That reminds me. Watching Gumball is a LOT more fun than asking idiot questions on word use that we can’t possibly resolve without spending way too much time on them. So, until next time, here’s Grammar Nazi, signing off.

Monday, October 17, 2016

*Third* Well, I don't Know What to Call it . . .

I can't necessarily say Doleful Creatures got a rejection slip from Jolly Fish Press. Not when, a month after sending a synopsis and chapters, this happens:

I had high hopes. Oh well.

Fare thee well, Jolly Fish Press. And thanks for noticin' me.

Saturday, October 15, 2016



I keep saying, probably for the past two years now, that I'm going to have Doleful Creatures published by hook or crook or independently "by the end of the year."

I'm getting tired of saying that. And thinking that. And missing that goal.

So I have a new goal:

Write to the synopsis.

I have a synopsis to the novel that I think is pretty good. And when I read the novel, I note where it strays from that synopsis.

Now, I could not have the synopsis without the novel first. But now the novel needs the synopsis more than ever.

And there's a sense of urgency here. Not necessarily that I think the book will be published any time soon, but that another book, The Hermit of Iapetus, keeps knocking at my brain's back door. I have little bits of flotsam and jetsam for that book flowing in all the time, and I'm afraid if I don't do something with it, it's going to fade.

The latest bit came in a dream this week:

People end up on some planets spend time exploring finally spot a city, hesitate to go in but go, find no one there, but automated city where they can. Move in and just live. They see others there, but to them THEY are invisible we. They can see others, but they cannot be seen. So th we y live in the city together, buying things from Austin as Ted store once they figure out the city sense a them and gives them care f2f it f2f if working. They work and buy and buy and buy but never get to be seen. Y the others, finally one dad follows kids th err tough extremely messy and cluttered town rtf o discover they are plotting to leave because they`'re tired if working and buying but never being seen. By other people c.f. instantly bumping into them bed as use invisible. S as d knows will face hardship, but he decides to leave with son who is sick of it too and they leave d as my benign and go.

I typed that while I was half asleep, so there's some garbled information there. But this dream could be the dream the hermit has constantly before he leaves Earth, giving him the impulse he needs to leave.

He needs to see the Earth rising, not the moon.