Not an expert
I don’t claim any particular expertise on the subject of these posts
Categories: Modern, Not an expert
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Not an expert

I don’t claim any particular expertise on the subject of these posts. Caveat lector …

Does DuckDuckGo Want To Search the Web?

A relief from ancient Egypt in Bologna

Search engines have been losing the battle against content farms for a decade or so. Around 1 March I noticed that DuckDuckGo was including random things that it thought were physically close to my IP address in search results, things like maps, business directories, or local news stories that did not have most or any of the keywords but were things people might often click on. That made me look more into what DuckDuckGo actually is these days.

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Warning: Facebook Privacy Settings

Many nerdy people use Facebook. Until recently, Facebook let you set the visibility of posts to “Friends” by default so only people whose friend request you had accepted could see them. This was very important for people who face stalking or harassment but wanted to keep in touch with people they knew through social media. Sometime in the past few months, Facebook changed that setting to “Friends (+)” which allows friends of friends. This roughly squares the potential audience of a post, and means that a stalker, harrasser, doxer, or identity thief just has to become Facebook friends with one of your friends to start seeing your posts! Almost anyone knows someone who accepts random Friend or Follow requests on corporate social media. If they mean “friends of friends of the people tagged” then tagging someone still doubles the number of people who can see a post. Stalkers, tabloid journalists, and other nuisances often follow their target’s contacts on social media in hopes of picking up information.

I’m not an expert on corporate social media, but the only way to limit post visibility seems to be to create a list of Friends and share with them. The option “just people whose Friend request I have accepted” seems to be gone. I can’t find any offline documentation of this change. If you use Facebook and are concerned about privacy, you should probably check your settings and think whether you want to change what you post (and especially who you tag, because tagging someone definitely makes a “Friends +” post visible to their friends). My approach to corporate social media focuses on harm reduction rather than expecting everyone to be a privacy geek. Screenshots are below the fold.

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2022 Year-Ender

a cleared section of concrete or asphalt with deep snow on either side. Something with cloven hooves has walked along the path and left prints in the blown snow
This path through the snow from the Salish Sea Blizzard of 2022 is not just for two-footed creatures!

The year 2022 is being escorted away by 200 soldiers and 70 horsemen and 200 ambidextrous soldiers so that the locals don’t do it an injury.[1] What on earth can I say about it?

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Academic Mastodon Lists and Groups

a manuscript illumination of a dragon confronting an elephant
Sjoerd Levelt https://scholar.social/@slevelt@hcommons.social thinks that the symbol of the clash between birdsite and Mastodon should be the clash between the elephant and the dragon in ancient philosophers and medieval bestiaries

In November 2022 many academics have created accounts on Mastodon, a federated microblogging service. Mastodon is decentralized like the old forums and mailing lists, but you can easily cross-post from one Mastodon server to another and search across servers with hashtags to find posts of common interest. Because each instance is moderated by members, it can set its own standard for acceptable behaviour rather than trying to get Germans and Americans to agree whether the Horst-Wesel-Lied is protected speech (although two of the biggest mastodon instances are barely moderated at all, so careful where you post! Mastodon is open-source software like WordPress or bulletin board software, so it gets used by people who say and do things you hate). Because its hard to find old Mastodon posts and I delete them after a few months anyways, here is a one-stop shop for the new instances, lists of accounts with a common theme, and groups I have found (Mastodon groups work like mailing lists, they take incoming messages and broadcast them to subscribers).

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Birdsite Was a Parade

Apparently twitter is in trouble (for readers in the future, twitter was a microblogging service especially popular from 2016 to 2022 with hundreds of millions of users, heavy representation among thinky talky Anglos and elected officials posting under their real names, where who people followed and clicked on and most of their posts were public; users were showed a feed of posts selected by a secret algorithm). Internet communities tend to be pompous about themselves, and pompous twitter users pronounce that it is a public square or a town square. I have another simile.

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Armies, Mobs, and Peoples

a group of men in green uniforms with a speaker in front looking at the camera with one hand in his pocket
The spokesman of a committee of conscripts (mobiks) in Svetly, Omsk, Russia (a town on the Trans-Siberian Railroad)

In my post we the people I pointed out that until the First World War, “the people” normally means free men who can act politically and militarily. It excluded women, children, the poor, and those who were denied political rights such as resident aliens and serfs. On 5 October the Russian media organization TASS showed a remarkable video:

Funds for payments to the mobilized are not enough, admitted authorities in the Omsk region. The authorities of the region agreed with the military registration and enlistment offices to give time to those mobilized to re-register the business (without specifying to whom), TASS reports. The authorities’ statement is related to the public appeal of the mobilized residents of the Omsk region, who complained about the lack of lump-sum payments.

https://nitter.ca/Sota_Vision/status/1577366830272106496#m

You can find a version of the soldier’s speech with English subtitles on YouTube (I do not know the channel which hosts it, so danger danger Will Robinson!)

If I understand correctly, this video shows a committee of soldiers demanding that the regional government honour its promises to pay their wives and children an allowance so they can eat. I might be wrong, or this video might be a fake, but this week I want to say the same thing I said in that post another way.

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How am I Following the Russo-Ukrainian War?

an oil painting of laughing, smoking, drunken Cossacks with muskets and sabres dictating a letter to a priest
Meme culture is not my culture but this week one seems appropriate. Repin’s oil painting “The Zaparozhye Cossacks Writing a Mocking Letter to the Turkish Sultan” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ilja_Jefimowitsch_Repin_-_Reply_of_the_Zaporozhian_Cossacks_-_Yorck.jpg

The war in Ukraine has changed since spring. I thought that some of my readers might be interested in the resources I am currently using to follow it. Since I don’t know Russian or Ukrainian, and since many people have agendas, sorting things out is tricky for me. People following the war like corporate social media with feeds, and on those sites quotes and images float around without attribution. People who like them imply that they hear all kinds of rumours. And because so much is at stake (the future of 200 million people, the energy supply to Europe and grain for the Mediterranean) many people slip into boosting their side rather than provide dispassionate analysis.

Now that Ukraine has much larger armies, and weapons to counter Russian artillery, I expect Ukraine to keep driving Russian forces back until at least spring 2023. The most likely things which could change the situation would be a complete collapse of Russian forces and Russian use of nuclear weapons (which would probably end very badly for Russia, but Putin keeps making stupid decisions and does not live in the same world we live in). Turning recruits into an army takes 3 to 12 months if you have systems for gathering, training, and arming them, and those trainers and vehicles are dead or destroyed in Ukraine. Putin is scared of mass popular movements like the original levée en masse. So until 2023, the main effect of Russian mobilization will be a lot of dead Dagestanis and Buriyats and a lot of rich landlords in Tbilisi and Istanbul.

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Why is LARPer an Insult?

a picture explaining "historical fencing is not LARPing or reenactment" with three pictures of the named activities crossed out in red
An incredible amount of stupidity in our culture came from Tumblr via Twitter to press releases, policies, and proposed laws. Tumblr post found in the early 2010s, captured in January 2018, source unknown.

Anglo culture in the early 21st century makes it hard to use good curses and insults. Our middle and high culture is strongly against insulting anyone for their parentage, body shape, disabilities, religion, private life, and other natural human things. But one of the insults which almost everyone feels comfortable throwing around is LARPer. If third-parties object, it is to dispute whether the object of the insult is really a LARPer, not to ask whether being a LARPer is a bad thing. Ten years ago when I was spending time with more types of geeks, I noticed that people whose hobbies have a lot in common with LARP, such as the historical fencers in black or the Society for Creative Anachronism, wanted you to know that LARP was totally different from what they do. People from socialists to the hard right agree that being a LARPer is bad. This week I would like to talk about what people object to, and some of the things which the insult misses.

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Whipple Shields and Radiators

A screenshot of the homepage of http://projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/ with digital art of a torchship against the background of a planet overlaid with equations

In fall 2021, Winchell ‘Nyrath’ Chung [Patreon] – [hellbirdsite] was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As of April 2022 it is in remission. His site Project Rho is one of the great Internet preservation projects: it collects material in various essays, books, and Internet posts and organizes it so it can be turned into something more digestable one day. In his case, that material is calculations and speculations about how high-powered spacecraft would work, especially in combat. This week I will talk about some of the things I learned from worldbuilding geeks which I did not learn from science fiction stories.

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