your car knows when you’ve been bad or good

As we’ve written previously on this degenerate blog, it’s in your interest to read most of what Geoffrey A. Fowler writes. Your smartphone has your DNA on file. Amazon knows what toothpaste you use. Google has a complete list of things you have nightmares about. Now your car is in on the game.

When I renewed my auto insurance policy Allstate tried to get shovey with me and do the driver monitoring program. Supposedly if you drive safely (I don’t) you get a discount on your insurance bill. The discount is probably like $5 a month. In exchange Allstate (and other auto insurance companies doing the same thing) probably go ahead and sell all your personal data for $15 a month. Naturally, I declined.

But all these auto insurance programs run via the app on your smartphone. In the future, it’s the car itself that will spy on you.

Fowler wanted to determine how much data and what kind of data a car was collecting. This (of course) was not an easy task:

But for the thousands you spend to buy a car, the data it produces doesn’t belong to you. My Chevy’s dashboard didn’t say what the car was recording. It wasn’t in the owner’s manual. There was no way to download it. To glimpse my car data, I had to hack my way in.

That’s right folks! The law is so loose and the Giant Octopus is so brazen that the only way Fowler could figure out what personal data was being pulled and sold was to hack the freaking car.

They also hacked another car computer they bought off the Internets:

For a broader view, Mason also extracted the data from a Chevrolet infotainment computer that I bought used on eBay for $375. It contained enough data to reconstruct the Upstate New York travels and relationships of a total stranger. We know he or she frequently called someone listed as “Sweetie,” whose photo we also have. We could see the exact Gulf station where they bought gas, the restaurant where they ate (called Taste China) and the unique identifiers for their Samsung Galaxy Note phones.

Maybe we should all just get it over with and let the Giant Octopus put the monitoring chip in our brains? It’d be quicker in the end.

The only other option is regression. Want a car that doesn’t spy on your without your knowledge? Buy a 1995 Ford. Want a fridge that doesn’t track what tasty food is contained therein? Buy one of those neato 1940’s fridges from the movies.

We’re doomed. We work for the Giant Octopus and most folks don’t even know it, or care.

Enjoy your day!

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a discovery process that is actually easier than attempting to read and understand a privacy policy

we briefly & shamelessly join the hater crowd: Ban Receipts! And Other Wise Ideas

There’s lots of problems in life: the train line broke down this morning, our planet’s attempts to harness fusion power have failed, we can’t use genetic engineering to make elves and dwarves real (and then pit them against each other in cage matches), and so on.

Plastic straws are a problem, according to some. We don’t agree.

But whatever. Hey you want to make the planet better? Ban paper receipts. Just look at this monstrosity the store printed out for me this morning:

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Damn thing is longer than a broadsword or [insert human, animal, or alien sexual reference of your choice here]. I only bought two items. The rest of this receipt is just garbage and offers that nobody reads. When you think about the hundreds-of-millions of transactions each day in America, that’s a lot of dead trees.

Receipts can be replaced by e-mails, or at least made available ONLY at the direct request of the purchaser. Or go super green, receipts will only be beamed information into one’s head as an abstract existential reality construct where the customer is constantly like, “Did I really buy that? Hmm. Well, did, did I, … hmm.”

Join our cause! Ban Receipts! Post on all social media. Personally and professionally demonize those who support paper receipts. Insult their intelligence, threaten their children’s lives, get their addresses! Hurry now, before paper receipts burn down the planet!

we present our axe throwing business plan

So the latest urban gentrified hipster recreational activity is axe throwing. And so, um, uh, … what? Essentially people go to what is in any sense a bar/club, only while you get pasted you throw axes at wooden boards. Although it seems not all venues permit alcohol while you throw, I think it depends on the jurisdiction’s laws.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the use of any kind of weapon and the proficiency that comes with it. Throughout most of human history, the ability to expertly wield (at a minimum) a small dagger was considered necessary to remain alive. Now we’re lucky if people can chop an onion. But I just don’t get why this is a thing?

First off, how is this even legal? In today’s bubble wrapped society this is one that somehow got past the government nanny filters. Is it like those infernal scooters where regulation just doesn’t address it? I suppose there’s no law that says you can’t run an axe club, but if you tried to open a throwing knives club I bet that’d be illegal. Or heavily regulated.

As a weapons example, the axes these clubs use most closely resembles the Francisca; the quintessential battlefield throwing axe first perfected by the Franks and later used to spread mayhem by other such warlike races such as the Vikings. It was essentially an attempt to break the deadlock that was the spear and shield wall warfare of the period. The age of the longbow and armored heavy cavalry came later, but for a few hundred years it was spears, shields, and axes; backed up by limited and essentially ineffective archery.

So if you’re throwing an axe at a club with your mates, this might be cool, but you don’t get the real experience. So we at TAP are here to help. We’ll open our own axe club. Let us know what you think. We always get lots of feedback to the posts on this degenerate blog.

Here are the guidelines:

– Intoxication is mandatory, as it likely was on most medieval battlefields; the customer may choose whatever beverage they desire, but before beginning, a BAC test will verify the customer is above the legal limit to operate a motor vehicle.

– Axe throwing will not be done individually, but in a group via the shield wall. The inexperience of the customer is irrelevant. Armor and shield will be used. Those who refuse or cannot wear armor or lift shield will be ejected from the venue without refund.

– Customers will submit to a short training rehearsal on shield wall tactics so as to experience abject suffering and shocking reality of being one minor cog in a mass of human meat meant for the medieval grinder. Training mistakes will be met with physical correction with a ferocity as determined by venue management and training staff.

– Actual axe throwing is conducted from the shield wall with environmental conditions necessary to fully simulate the medieval battlefield experience. Noise generators will produce human screaming and shouting at decibel levels prohibited for airport runway employees. The building’s heat will be at a level considered medically negligent to induce dehydration. Despite the level of intoxication, no substance fitting the proper definition of food will be offered to the customer. And so on.

– Axes will be thrown by the shield wall at wooden walls simulating an opposing shield wall. Customers will be ranked by the number of axe hits assessed by venue management as solid kills or crippling blows enough to have removed the target from the fight.

– Customers with the lowest scores would normally have become medieval battlefield casualties. To simulate this for the customer, before departing the venue they will receive a single bare-knuckled punch to the face via a former, jaded heavyweight boxer. Physical injury and its associated potential medical costs are the responsibility of the customer.

– Customers with the highest scores will receive free alcohol for the remainder of the evening, a refund of their fee (paid in gold coins), diligent (legal) attention and adoration from venue employees from the gender of the customer’s choice, ample roasted meats for consumption, and several musical templates which they can sing with their fellow high score patrons.

That is all. Please carry on. Enjoy your day!

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Japan – Niigata: when my camera was terrible

Today’s smartphone cameras have become so capable it’s hard to remember that carrying a camera was once a conscious choice. Once upon a time I had a camera in my pocket that was five times the size of a smartphone and it was complete garbage. Times have changed, have you noticed?

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On this blog, we are very, very slowly making our way through my past travels. Lots of Japan to go. Wanted to do a complete, worthwhile post on Niigata, but can’t. Nearly every one of my shots from that trip are absolute, grainy, garbage.

Most of that was me. I’m not the expert photographer I am now (cue laugh track including laughing by drunken hyenas). But also, at the time my camera was pathetic. I don’t even have it anymore, or remember what it was.

Here are the only shots worth posting. Enjoy. Who gardens better than the Japanese? Not me. Not you.

Uh, Niigata’s great. Go.

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the leaves have begun their mystical journey

I’m taking care of me Ma’s dog and I forgot how frantic and disorganized a multi-dog walk can be.  She wants to go one way, he another, and before I know it my plastic poo bags are out of my pocket and halfway across the courtyard.

I got them back later but in the meantime (of course) one of them was ready to go.  Seeing as how I was right near a trash can I tried to use a large fallen leaf as a plastic bag substitute.  Don’t ever try this.

Anyways, the leaves have begun their mystical journey.  All the colors, all the fun of Fall, which is by far my favorite season for a variety of reasons.  Soon, nothing but bare branches.

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Need to get out of this cubicle and on a hike.

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the spin cycle continues

I’ve probably been in that El Paso Walmart half a dozen times, but still: Kindly observe (again) another act of senseless evil by human scum(s).

Kindly observe (again) how said human scum(s) will now be given a platform by the shameless media to become famous and get their message out.

Kindly observe (again) how the political, business, entertainment, and/or educational elite express the same pointless platitudes without ever proposing any concrete solutions whatsoever thus ensuring its continuation for the next few decades at least.

Kindly observe (again) as the usual rhetorical bomb throwers use this event to justify whatever preconceived notions they have on religion, terrorism, guns, culture, and/or whatever and compete to see who can shout the loudest.

Kindly observe (again) as this spin cycle continues.

Kindly observe (again) that it will happen (again).

We recommend you do as I do, which is to not pay attention. For the average person on the street, it’s not even worth it anymore. You can’t change it, and you’ve got problems of your own to deal with each and every day as you live your life. This sort of thing is now as common as the changing of the seasons, and it’s not going to stop, so why bother expending your very valuable mental energy on it?

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Version #37 of 83 – Circa 2019

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Version #38 of 83 – Circa 2019

The National Gallery of Art – you’re not welcome

Sometimes the safest way to get through the day is to never get excited about anything. That way if things tank, you can just shrug and go get a beer. Instead, I got somewhat excited, things tanked, and it sort of robbed me of part of my brain for the rest of the day.

Those unfortunate to be long time readers of this blog will remember I occasionally go to galleries, dig Japan, and like weird art. I thought this was encapsulated in a visit to the National Gallery of Art which I walked to after being in DC for work.

They had a visiting exhibition on Japanese art and animals. What could go wrong?

The exhibit appeared to be underwhelming, and lacking structure, so I was having a hard time getting sucked in. But, this was because I spent the entire time looking over my shoulder to see whether a security guard was going to yell at me again.

I’ve probably been to a dozen galleries across the globe and never had to talk to a security guard, let alone interact negatively with one. It happened to me at The National Gallery of Art, four times, in less than an hour. Whether they were unhappy with the way I was carrying my backpack, or how close I was standing to an exhibit, or so on, they were in your face. They even got directly into the face of some poor old guy who was clearly hard of hearing.

Here is how a normal human interaction should work:

“Excuse me Sir, we would ask you stand back from the exhibit. You’re a bit too close. Thanks so much.”

This is how The National Gallery of Art thinks human interactions should work:

“HELLO!!!???”

I literally walked out. I said something unfortunate to the fourth guard, waved him off, and stormed out. I’ve never done this before. I was in the place for less than an hour. What a shame.

Turns out my experience is not rare. So now I’ll turn it over to some additional online reviews for folks who didn’t appreciate a Stasi like experience while looking at art, some of these are just heinous:

Lived in Paris where I had the very best art available. This is the best American art displayed I have seen by far. One complaint: I have a service dog and the staff who watch over the art in each of the rooms containing art were always anticipating my service dog was going to do something wrong (which never happens….ever) and they were anxious to catch it in the act. It was hard to relax and enjoy the art when someone is doing that to you in every room you enter over and over and over for hours.

Wow my son is 12 and I’ve raised him correctly, I dont need you following you telling me to not let him touch.

there are scumbag security officers working there. i was not warned in advance about closing time i didnt gave time to gather stuff. they got physically aggressive with me when it was closing at five pm. i am deaf and schizophrenic. i was trying to draw in peace in their galleries. i recommend to avoid the area. dangerous staff and guards. even the info desk lady scowled at me for being evidently deaf. avoid this hellhole.

The place is jammed with sweaty rude security guards that looked at me as if I had no business there and followed me around as if I was in a department store about to steal something. If I had blue eyes and blonde hair I’m certain I would have had a different experience. If you are of color go with someone or be prepared to be uncomfortable . I’m so disappointed because I love art and had planned to visit often but the security staff is extremely unprofessional and ruined the atmosphere for me to fully enjoy the art. Also no curator at any of the popular exhibits I visited. I expected more from the nations capital😶😢😒

How can you get kids interested in art if they are not welcome at all! I went to visit with my 3 kids (10, 7 and 5). We live in the area but I was waiting for the right time to go as I was hoping to get them interested in art at a young age. Unfortunately my experience was really bad. The museum is great as it hosts great works of art, however almost every person I interacted was either a snob (very common on people interested in art for some reason) or plain rude. As soon as we entered the very first room, my 7 year old got to about 2 feet from a painting pointing at something he liked. My wife quickly stopped him and started explaining that he needed to stay away from the art. Even though she stopped him in time and we clearly had the kids under control, a security guard came and started scolding my son. My son got really scared, sat on a sofa and started sobbing silently, since he wanted to cover his face he put his legs on the sofa to cover his face with his knees. The guard came to him again and told him he needed to take his shoes off the (very cheap and plastic) sofa. I told the guard he was overreacting since he was just a kid and then he started with his typical speech of “you cannot tell me how to do my work” and actually asked us to leave the room. We did not leave the museum but you can imagine the kids have no interest on ever going to that museum again, and neither do I. I have great respect for the Smithsonian as an institution and love all other museums, however I was deeply sadden with the experience. I really cannot imagine how art can be promoted to kids if they are not welcome at all.

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fuck this place