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Facebook’s Goal is to Monetize and Weaponize Your Data

If you search for the goal of Facebook, this is one result you will get, “Facebook is a business that has a purpose of creating revenue, enriching investors and providing jobs. Because it does not charge users for having Facebook pages, it needs to generate revenue from other sources. Facebook produces most of its revenue from advertising, including ads for both large and small advertisers.”

Let’s be honest here, Facebook has one objective, to enhance shareholder value. They do this by advertising and by monetizing and weaponizing your data. Their desire is your data, your pictures and your user content sold to the highest bidder.

Take for example the 2016 election run up. Cambridge Analytica received contracts from the Trump campaign and many other prominent Republicans for “microtargeting” which according to CA marketing materials where CA brags that “they were able to design and deploy messages tailored to these audiences according to their particular psychographic profiles.” Profiles developed from Facebook user data and supposedly Russian military intelligence.

Current national security advisor John Bolton’s SuperPAC paid for almost 1.2 million dollars of CA services from 2014 through 2016. Sources

The Trump campaign paid for almost 6 million dollars of CA services, Ted Cruz for president campaign paid 5.8 million dollars. At the tail end of the list of Republicans was Roy Blunt, famed child molester, who paid 12,000 for CA services. Data that originated from Facebook.

From a story just this Friday on CNET Facebook said a breach affecting 50 million users was discovered. The breach utilized the “view as” feature which allows people to see what their profiles look like to other people. Attackers exploited code associated with the feature that allowed them to steal “access tokens” that could be used to take over people’s accounts. The breach also impacted Instagram accounts as well.

My personal recommendation is to delete your Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp accounts after you utilize the download your data feature. Be advised that while your data will be deleted, your account with your friends remains deactivated until you decide (as they hope) that you can’t live without Facebook. Don’t do it.

Story Review: Unhappy Endings and Trainwreck by Michael James Calder

In writing Unhappy Endings, Mr. Calder has written a finely crafted work. He has a clear talent for dialogue and in this story we see this on display. Michael makes us feel the sounds of battle and consequently, the sounds of death. You are left wondering if the hill eventually does fall to the barbarians. I see this story as a preface to a larger work that focuses on that very battle.

Trainwreck is a different kind of story that centers on a young man who has known such great loss that he attempts to take his life in horrific fashion. Trainwreck is equally as well written with great dialogue. The last scene is his girlfriend trying to save his life. This could also be a preface to a larger scope of novel that focuses on his redemption and the journey he takes.

Michael James Calder is a unique and talented writer and I see great things for him. He is currently working on his first novel while attending university in the Uk. He is also working on another short story called Odyssey and the Dragon.

His website is here: https://michaelcalderwriter.com

Book Review: A Twisted Wisdom by Stephanie Colbert

This was an extremely difficult book to read. Not because it isn’t well written but because it’s a very personal book. It is indeed not about mental illness as Ms. Colbert states but I believe it’s about an extremely resilient woman who suffers through 21:years of hospitalizations, family tribulations and a struggle to find the right medications to help her. Ms. Colbert has crafted a testament to one amazing individual who never quits. By the time you get to the end, you are rooting for Susan. From personal experience, suicide is NOT a cowardly act but the result of brain chemistry. No more, no less. I am thankful Ms. Colbert worked so hard with this story. It needed to be told. I highly recommend A Twisted Wisdom. It is a well written masterpiece.

Stephanie Colbert is one talented writer. She is currently working on her latest novel to be released soon. Also from personal experience, Stephanie is an amazing short story artist. Visit her website HERE and she will send you a book free as thanks for visiting her site. She understands the generosity that is important for writers today. I encourage you to read everything she has written. She is simply amazing.

Short Story: 1970

The year was 1970 and it was a time of music, of new friends and a new California home. We moved from Columbia Heights Minnesota to Van Nuys California a year before. Fourth grade was a year of not fitting in and being that weird kid from Minnesota. I had just discovered the local record store.

The record store was on Vanowen Street and halfway from the house my parents rented to the junior high school I was to attend in 1971. As I entered the store, “After the Gold Rush” was playing by Neil Young. The smell of the store and the sound of the speakers is forever imprinted on my mind as the cherry incense that permeated the store. The front counter with the small manual cash register was next to the turntable. I remember the turntable had a glass cover and a serious weighted tone arm. Even the most gentle placing of the needle in the groove of the record made a deep thump noise. I can still remember the chorus “Don’t let it bring you down, It’s only castles burning. Find someone who is turning, And you will come around.”

I don’t remember my first album I bought from there but for years you could show me a record I had and I could recite for you exactly where and how much I had bought it for. Music had a great impact on my life. Sounds had a great impact on me. I was 80% deaf in both ears and so the hearing aids I wore had an important job; to help me hear Neil Young, Don McLean, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Simon and Garfunkel, John Lennon, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, The Who and later on, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

I remember the albums cost 3.99 each for a single album and maybe 2.99 if it had a hole in the cover. I never really knew why some albums had those holes only that they were cheaper because of it. Double albums cost a dollar more and like a big book, were coveted. Double albums such as “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison had 23 songs on the album!

Many of the albums for sale could be listened to on the store turntable but the record store girl was the only one allowed to touch it. It was understood that I needed the volume louder but she didn’t mind. I would browse the stores various other items; patches for your jeans such as peace signs and ecology signs (a variation on the peace sign except it was green,) rock and roll tour t shirts, and the items that I had no idea what they were in a glass case on velvet. Glass and wood things that looked like pipes and leather straps with feathers and a small silver clip on it. All I knew is it was cool.

The album that was currently playing was in a picture frame on the wall so you could tell what you were listening to. I always got great pleasure from knowing the album in the frame was my choice. Oftentimes I would spend the whole afternoon in the store and end up buying only one album. The record store girl never nagged me and usually knew what I wanted to listen to.

Because my hearing loss was in the high frequency range, the best sounds I could hear well were low bass sounds. One day I went into the store and she says I have a new album for you to listen to. The album was dark and had an old timey picture on the cover titled Deja Vu. She placed the record on the turntable and the needle jumped as she put it on the record. One of the prettiest songs I had ever heard played. “Four and twenty years ago, I came into this life.” I remember thinking, wow, the bass is excellent.

The bags that the record store girl put my new record in was a flat paper bag. I carried the bag home and closed the door to my bedroom. I had a new record! Opening the record was a delicate balance. I slit the end of the record album cover taking care to leave the shrink wrap in place. This would protect my purchase. I slid the record out with the edges of my fingers, taking care to not touch the grooves. Fingerprints sometimes caused the record to skip during a song. Then i carefully placed the new record on the turntable. My record player with the MM initials scratched into the cover was second hand from my parents but it had great bass. “Live At Leeds” starts out with “Young Man Blues.” The lyrics start with “Oh well a young man ain’t got nothing in the world these days.” The Who Live at Leeds and “Young Man Blues” was amazing and rebellious and all of a sudden I could hear a banging on the wall, “Turn that shit down!” My dad worked nights as a letter sorter at the Van Nuys US Post Office and needed his rest more than I needed The Who. 

In Honor of John McCain

With thanks to Meghan McCain, one of the most inspirational eulogies I have ever heard.

“My father gone. My father is gone and my sorrow is immense, but I know his life, and I know it was great because it was good. And as much as I hate to see him go, I do know how it ended. I know that on the afternoon of August 25th in front of Oak Creek in Arizona, surrounded by the family he loved so much, an old man shook off the scars of battle one last time and arose a new man to pilot one last flight up and up and up, busting clouds left and right, straight on through to the kingdom of heaven. And he slipped the earthly bonds, put out his hand, and touched the face of god.

I love you, dad.”

Book Review: The Mystic Arts of Erasing all Signs of Death by Charlie Huston

Sometimes you read a book and the author pulls you in to the story before you even realize you’ve been pulled in. This book is like that. With The Mystic Art of Erasing all Signs of Death, Charlie Huston has written a story about a Los Angeles slacker named Webster Fillmore Goodhue. Web has divorced parents that are deeply flawed but deeply care for Web. Web was a 5th grade teacher who witnessed a tragedy that shattered him. Web withdrew from teaching and now works as a gofer for a tattoo artist. One of the things I loved about Mr, Huston’s portrayal of Web is his sense of sarcasm that masks his entire being. It’s a false front that we on the outside can see is a facade for Web’s response to that tragedy.

Web takes a job working for a crime scene clean up crew and we meet more characters that deeply care for Web. People trying to restore Web.. Without a major spoiler reveal, I’ll just say that what started as a story about a shallow profane human being ends up as a restorative process to recover his humanity.

I highly recommend The Mystic Arts of Erasing all Signs of Death and encourage you to checkout Charlie Huston’s other works. He won an Edgar Award in 2006 for his book “Six Bad Things.” Stephen King thinks so highly of The Shotgun Rule that he wrote: “Anyone not acquainted with Charlie Huston’s blistering, unputdownable novels will want to tie their sneakers nice and tight before starting The Shotgun Rule, or they are apt to be blasted clean out of them.”

Scrivener vs Ulysses First Thoughts

I’ve been working with Scrivener for about a year now and one of its strengths is the ability set one flat file as your main file that contains all your research, characters, locations, and subplots. In addition, It was easy to setup automatic backup to my Dropbox account so that using it from any device, I would see the same content. My primary device is my iOS device but on occasion, I will be on my iPhone with ideas. The same goes for my windows notebook as well as my macOS vm both running Scrivener 3.

After reading that David Henson, the British writer of Spain and The Killing, completely did a 180 and instead of endorsing Scrivener, he now prefers Ulysses, I figured I’d better do some due diligence and try Ulysses.

One of the first things I noticed about Ulysses is that there is no Windows version, it offers a direct WordPress blogging feature (which Scrivener does not) and beyond the 14 day trial, available via subscription only for all devices at $4.50/month or $39/year. This contrasts with Scrivener which is $19.99 for the iOS version, $45 for the macOS version and $40 for the Windows version (there was a Linux version of Scrivener but that project was abandoned.) From an return on investment standpoint, a user of Scrivener on all the devices that I use will have paid $104.99 vs $39/year for iOS and macOS platforms. It would seem that you would get upgrades and be ahead of the game for almost three years if you went the Ulysses route. Scrivener has a very slow development cycle so the time from Scrivener 2 to the recent version 3 for macOS and the upcoming windows release (currently in beta) means you would actually be ahead of the game if you went the Scrivener route.

Both Scrivener and Ulysses offers Dropbox external sync but Ulysses also uses Apple’s own iCloud storage for sync services.

Personally I did not find Ulysses to be very intuitive. Setting up Dropbox worked well enough but it wasn’t readily apparent how to make sure automatic backup works. Scrivener specifically has a preferences dialog that sets the auto backup function (and complains if you use the same folder for backup as your main document repository.) Making iCloud work was supposed to be automatic but I wasn’t able to get it working yet between my iOS platforms and macOS vm.

Ulysses offers Markdown support and Scrivener also can import and export markdown using the Fletcher Penney multimarkdown syntax. Numerous bloggers use Scrivener for blogging and have published templates here. This site includes the steps for utilizing the Markdown language into WordPress.

Both programs offer a full screen mode that i personally use to great effect but I preferred the complexity of Scrivener should I want it vs. the simplicity of Ulysses.

Gary Gibson offers his reasoning for preferring Scrivener over Ulysses here. That review was before the iPad version of Scrivener but his conclusions are valid.

What Inspires Me

This is a story of an author and how his works have inspired me. John Sundman has written several novels including “Cheap Complex Devices” and “Acts of The Apostles” as well as “Biodigital” and “The Pains.” I first learned of John’s works with AOTA and never looked back. I read this book 17 times the first year I bought it and even jumped at a chance to own a draft copy of the book that John signed for me. As the years passed by and my kids were grown, I would continue to refer to AOTA during difficulties and tribulations. There is a reoccurring theme (in my mind mostly) of a main character liking the works of a certain guitar player’s band playing at the Royal Albert Hall. I don’t want to ruin even one iota of this ground breaking book for anyone. Suffice to say, I pretty much say this all the time. Really. 

Throughout the years I would hear from John either with a tweet or I would checkout his website HERE. John lives in Martha’s Vineyard and is a retired firefighter (I know, he’s an amazing human being) as well as a husband and father. His bio is the bio by which all bio’s would be judged (and found wanting.) You’d think that this successful author would be one of those guys whom you would see at comic cons surrounded by sycophants and no way would you ever get a word with. You’d be wrong. John is one of the nicest and caring individuals you’d ever meet and I have had the honor of trading emails every now and then. So if you are ever by chance at the Royal Albert Hall someday, turn it up. Thanks John.

You can get a copy of “Biodigital” here at: http://johnsundman.com/mail-list-sign-up/  for the price of a simple email subscribe to his newsletter. He is as unpretentious as they come.

Using Visio for Story Outlining

One thing that I’ve found helpful is using Microsoft’s flowcharting tool Visio for my outlining process. Because in a former lifetime, I was a senior manager for information technology for a large computer manufacturer, I did a lot of Visio flowcharting. So I got to thinking, how would Visio work for me in my story process? I did some research and noted that no one really has used Visio for this.

Ok, that pretty much decided it for me. So far, it’s been great as a tool along with Scrivener.

New Story Cartel

i’ve joined the Story Cartel and setup the initial website. I added jetpack Free as a plug-in. The first assignment for the Story Cartel was to select a web platform so that is done. I’ve used WordPress for years but never really as my main internet facing web presence. The second objective was picking a domain name. I had this one (https://mjmcshane.com) for a few years and it was currently just parked so I updated it with an A record to my hosting provider (https://webhostface.com) so I am good there too.

the last objective was to checkout a few authors websites and the quality of the authors backed by big companies kind of makes my offering feel pretty paltry.

Work on my book (untitled) continues with the main storyline and it’s time frame confusions still a work in process.

At this point in time, I use Scrivener on all my devices with pc and Mac being default platforms. Sometimes I use my iPhone or iPad for onsite research. Does anyone else use an awesome tool to help with their writing?