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Archive for June, 2011

Change. Some of us are afraid of it, others are clambering for its embrace. I am in the middle, as I’m sure many others are. That is to say, I don’t particularly enjoy big changes, but they’re going to happen anyway. I acknowledge and welcome that process.

But, what if an expected change doesn’t occur? What if my frustration is built out upon this notion that things will get better and they don’t? What if what I feared would happen is exactly what happened? There is a big nervous buildup, and you hope like mad, but you know under your skin the truth: nothing will change. Even when I’m scared to death of it, sometimes I really want it; and the only time I want it is when it doesn’t happen.

Over the course of time, you expect changes. Even those of us who are averse to it expect changes in other people. Sometimes it’s a relief that they are still as we remember them, but other times we are disheartened because they seem as if they have not matured.

Which is not to say I want to change people. Everybody knows that’s impossible. But I always have wanted to have a positive influence on someone’s life, and that I’m not accomplishing. It honestly breaks my heart. I’m not trying to change a fundamental self; rather, I’m attempting to encourage them to be a more willing and open-minded person. I also want to understand them. I feel like we can reach a rapport if we could just ignore our sensitivities and make a genuine effort to understand one-another truly and deeply, instead of spouting off leftist and rightist bias. We’re people with opinions, not opinions with mouths. Yet it takes an incredibly strong effort to overcome beliefs so ingrained in us. To truly open our eyes we all have to swallow the medicine without sugar.

I want to show that you don’t have to be a jackass to a get a rise. You don’t have to be the comedian in the room to get attention. You don’t have to be so outlandish in everything you do in order to get what you want. You can accomplish things modestly and humbly, and in the long term feel much better about it. You can actively pursue an opinion without insult and slander and hatred.

That probably sounds like I’m a blowhard who just never has any fun. While I am, that’s not saying you can’t cut loose. I think fun and laughter are really all most of us have in the world. Trouble is best emotionally countered with humor; and there’s always trouble. But you don’t have to be so eccentric about it all the time. Fun is great and exciting and brings joy to the world, but there’s a line you cross between funny and arrogant and offensive. That line is very hard to draw.

I know nothing of the comedy career, so I’m not qualified to speak on it, but perhaps we can apply a bit of Poe’s Law here. Poe’s Law states that a strong parody of religious fundamentalism is impossible to distinguish from actual religious fundamentalism. Regardless of your feelings for this statement, I think “religion” can be substituted for “comedy”. Comedy is making fun of yourself and others, but it’s always good-natured. When you make light of your own triumphs instead of mistakes, it begins to cross that line.

In other words, doing something funny in front of an audience and then talking about it to the same audience is part of this line. They saw it. Cool people don’t look at explosions. Cool comedians don’t tell the same audience what they just did. Don’t talk about your successes in being funny. That’s meta-comedy. It can be hilarious, but it is delicately balanced. And oftentimes, it is hard to tell whether a comic is truly self-centered or parodying those who are.

So, why did I bring that up? What does comedy have to do with change? The answer lies in offensive, arrogant, personalities that should have learned more humility by this point. Comedy that is downright self-absorbed, and more than once genuinely offensive because their true personality matches what they say. They are not witty or parodying or making clever observations, but instead are full of themselves and seem reserved to reveal their own misgivings.

I say this all in the context of seeing some old friends yesterday. I was nervous because I hadn’t seen these people in a long time. I was nervous because I wanted them to be still accepting of me and yet changed a bit so that our relationships would be better and they might become more in-touch with who they are and who everybody else is. But by and large that did not happen. I was displeased, and pretty sad of heart, but I knew that this was exactly how it would be.

I won’t deny that I’ve changed, and for the worse. I’m jaded and full of mid-life harumph. Maybe they haven’t changed, but maybe I’ve changed too much for them to accept me. Maybe the only change at all has been in me. I would like to think I’ve matured and now see through some of the old charades, but I’m probably just a grumpy basement dweller. I don’t belong in their lives any more, and they saw it better and sooner than I did.

But, who am I to judge these people? I am not them. Maybe they see something I don’t. This might really be the life for them. And if it makes them happy (and nobody knows what makes someone happy other than the self), I shouldn’t complain.

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I finally understand Twitter

When I sit down to say something in a blank space with unlimited potential, I feel overwhelmed. What should be relaxing becomes enraging because I don’t know when I can stop talking. I keep finding more to add, more to change, more to say, just more of everything.

But I’m not a long-form writer. I can’t read long-form writing. Books are hard for me. I don’t keep a diary even though I want to. Twitter is both the ruin of the attention span and the future of it. When I have a space so small, I can reduce myself to my core ideas. That’s more powerful (at least for me) than you might think. Maybe it makes me feel like I can show off by spouting off witticisms as I’m wont to do; though part of it is that genuine desire to reach the point in myself where I can say exactly what I mean, to the point, without making things longer than they need to be. I can talk more often about more things, and as someone who tends to whine about first-world problems, it’s liberating.

I know, I’m years too late. I still won’t join, but I get why people do.

(I’ll just go back under my rock now)

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Update: A comment from Michael Johnston reports that it might be disabled by doing the following:

For what it’s worth, you can allegedly disable it by visiting http://fastesttube.kwizzu.com/#congratulations and clicking “Disable Adlesse Lite.” Appears to do the trick.

FastestTube, a Chrome extension to download YouTube videos, now uses a service called “Adlesse Lite” which is supposed to exchange ads with useful content and widgets, such as weather and Twitter feeds. But, Adlesse appears to be a statistics tracker itself. FastestTube is a fantastic extension (the best YouTube downloader yet), but this partnership has made me concerned and curious.

It has a login page at http://stat.adlesse.com/dashboard, and subpages for the different widgets. There is no mention of this page publicly visible. This could be for internal use by the company, but why is there a need to track?

Adlesse has little contact information (there is an e-mail form, but I like to have addresses and names), and is also “patent pending” which is not a good sign to me (no bearing on the extension, I’m just inherently suspicious of patents). They are very protective of their “algorithm”. They have a social media presence on Twitter, but their feed is empty.

The Adlesse extension, and the FastestTube extension with Adlesse Lite, insert custom HTML. The custom-injected HTML is on-par with other extensions that customize sites. This isn’t surprising, and is the desired behavior. The issue is that I have seen tracker images (one-pixel GIFs) inserted as well, which made me suspicious. Finding these is how I discovered the above tracking URL.

It could be that this tracking is to help retain the preferences set on the Personal settings page (which is online and not part of the extension — meaning it saves a cookie, probably). While this is an odd configuration, it would seem this was done because the service is cross-browser. Internet Explorer 9 doesn’t appear to have a way to edit extension options if the extension doesn’t provide a GUI element, so this is a way to address that.

The difference between Adlesse and Adlesse Lite appears to be that Lite is an all-inclusive installer, whereas the plain version is an extension (per-browser). One would tend to assume the opposite. The terms of service are only available if you install the executable version. Both appear to use a variation of “Wombat” – a JavaScript library. WombatBHO.dll for IE, and the Chrome extension links to Wombat with JavaScript inline. Wombat itself appears harmless. It is a strange find, but not the cause of concern.

From the privacy policy section of their EULA included with Adlesse Lite (emphasis mine):

6.1. Privacy Policy. You hereby expressly consent to Adlesse’s processing of your personal data (which may be collected by Adlesse or its distributors) according to Adlesse’s current privacy policy as of the date of the effectiveness hereof which is incorporated into this Agreement by reference. By entering into this Agreement, you agree that Adlesse may collect and retain information about you, including your name, email address and credit card information. Adlesse employs other companies and individuals to perform functions its behalf. Examples include fulfilling orders, delivering packages, sending postal mail and e-mail, removing repetitive information from customer lists, analyzing data, providing marketing assistance, processing credit card payments, and providing customer service. They have access to personal information needed to perform their functions, but may not use it for other purposes.

I do not know why this service would need any of this information. What does this company do? I wonder if this is boilerplate EULA or if this is specific to Adlesse. I do not know how they would obtain this information, either, unless it later becomes a service that is charged for, or they read cookies from other sites. How else is it that I can get the “Latest tweets from [my] friends” if there is no way to inform Adlesse of my details?

Curiously, none of these three extensions are on the official Chrome Webstore.

Also,

Adlesse publishes a privacy policy on its web site and may amend such policy from time to time in its sole discretion.

I have not found one, neither on the site of Adlesse nor of Adlesse Lite.
Both sites now have privacy policies (Adlesse and AdlesseLite), and Adlesse has an e-mail feedback address. Both privacy policies are currently thus:

This a temporary privacy policy. The complete and final version of our privacy policy is coming soon and will be available on this page. For now, we would like to inform you about some key points.
Adlesse uses a number of subsystems on our various sub-domains. For instance, stat.adlesse.com is a statistics system we use to gather important data that is used to optimize our operations. We assure you that all the hits on stat.adlesse.com are anonymous. Cookies are used there only to count the number of the unique users.
The subdomains lite.adlesse.com and dispatch.lite.adlesse.com are used for the internal system organization, we anonymously collect statistics of clicks on the elements of our widgets in order to make the widgets more convenient for you. Statistics is collected anonymously and can not be tracked to an individual user.
We respect and protect your privacy.

I appreciate their effort to disambiguate some misunderstandings on my part.

Should you not want these extensions, they seem gracefully easy to remove. When bundled with FastestTube, you can uninstall the extension or disable the Adlesse part of it by going to a site that has replacement content by Adlesse (such as a Google search page), clicking “AdlesseLite is on” and choosing your options from there. The installer version can be uninstalled. Removing per-browser BHOs/extensions might prove to be a bit more difficult but all modern browsers make this process pretty painless via some sort of extension manager interface.

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