Facebook surveillance PS (Post-Snowden)

Anyone ever downloaded their Facebook data? I did that a couple of days ago and the zip file was around 100 Megabytes.

I’ve skimmed through the data dump and there’s nothing surprising in my posts and whatnot. When I signed up for Facebook I was a grad student researching online communities so I was always reading about how Internet messages can come back to bite their users in the ass. One must always be careful what one puts out there for public consumption. There are entire folders in my data download that are empty thanks to me having gone data paranoid a full decade before most people did. I think I set Facebook to maximum privacy settings in 2007 and have kept it there ever since, plus I use ad blockers like crazy.

I was, however, reminded that Facebook was a lot bitchier about hiding messages and that there were a few from people that I didn’t see until years later (mostly people I met overseas while backpacking so I guess they thought I was being the bitchy one and ignoring them).

The part that had the most surprises was the section outlining which advertisers know about me (around 50 groups). Some of them I can figure out – the California Republican Party, for example, probably got my email from my conservative relatives in the US – but there are others that are just mysterious.

Why, for example, are there like 10 different Turkish musicians that have my info? It’s possible they learned about me through Spotify, but I don’t think I’ve ever listened to Turkish music on there, or ever. I guess I could email those people but I’m almost positive the individual musicians themselves don’t know what’s going on and it’s their marketing company that’s responsible. Plus I don’t really want to read machine translated PR speak. Anyway they’re wasting their time since my ad blocker means I get zero ads online.

I also requested a download of all my Google data, which comes to 9 Gigabytes. This is unsurprising considering how tightly I’m enmeshes in the Google data ecosystem. I think skimming through this will be a project of several evenings and weekends.

Goodbye world

Male Dragonborn glowering in an intimidating pose and decked in a fanciful horned helmet

God help me but I’ve started playing Skyrim.

I got 100% achievements after 400 hours played on Oblivion, though, so I think I’ve got the completist experience already covered as far as the Elder Scrolls series goes. I don’t really need to be the top baker, hooker, and air conditioner repairman in all the land (along with my day job of adventurer).

Things I will avoid: alchemy, blacksmithing, fugly people. This should cut down on the number of quests I’ll need to do. Here’s hoping.

Return to Baldur’s Gate

One of the Children of Bhaal from Baldur's Gate 2 (don't ask me which one, I haven't encountered her in my game yet but she's got a staff and a feathered headdress)

I’m finally playing Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal. I installed the BGT mod, which turns the entire Baldur’s Gate series into one really long game. Essentially I’ve been playing the same game off and on for eight or nine years now. The last time I touched this game was probably back in 2011 but here I am back in the saddle.

I’d forgotten how fun playing Baldur’s Gate 2 was. In my last session I used the Zapp Brannigan strategy to clear out the sewers under Saradush by sending out wave after wave of expendable minions to overwhelm my enemies. I believe I summoned some dire bears, a couple of skeletons, an efreet, two ogres, an earth elemental, a bunch of lesser earth elementals, a berserker warrior, a wyvern, an invisible stalker, two air elementals, a nishru, a hakeashar, and probably a few more creatures that I’m forgetting.

Meanwhile, my party of adventurers waited near the dungeon entrance for the screaming to die down. It’s a lot easier than going toe-to-toe with all those umber hulks and orcs and mages.

See you later, boy

This weekend I realized I’m too old to play Jet Set Radio. I thought it was fun when I had the Xbox version quite a number of years ago but I never finished it before I sold my 360.

That’s why I snapped up this game when it arrived on PS+, but I’d forgotten how much reflexes count in this game. I did the tutorial and was fumbling like a jackass trying to make my cool sk8er boi do his sick tricks. Finally I gave up and uninstalled the game. I think I could have gotten my old skills back but I don’t have the time to be practising and I don’t really want to finish the game that badly. Ah well.

By the way, this is the trailer for the HD re-release in 2012, not the original trailer from back when.

Ode on a Grecian Urn

I finally got 100% completion on Dragon’s Dogma. More importantly, I managed to get a shot of my character where she looks like Che Guevara.

The Arisen, looking off into destiny.

This needs to be on t-shirts and posters everywhere.

¿Dónde está el autor?

Según Barthes, el autor está muerte. But according to me, I’m alive and well and in Guatemala.
So what’s up? Well, I’m taking the opportunity to travel. I’ve already finished two weeks in Nicaragua and am now in Antigua, about to hike up an active volcano in two hours.
Nicaragua was interesting because it felt more like the Philippines than Costa Rica. It was definitely just as hot, I saw grass burned yellow by the sun. It was also poorer than Costa Rica, I saw trash on the side of the highway, and until that point I hadn’t realized that Costa Rica’s roads were missing that particular detail. Nicaragua also apparently receives more international development assistance, since I saw lots of signs about stuff being donated by Japan or Germany or some other country.
Anyway, I can’t seem to put myself into the right mindset for anthropological thinking, so I’ll just leave you all with this update on my whereabouts and bid you adieu for now.

Costa Rica: Some initial impressions

Okay, this was written a little while ago but I’m only now putting it up.  Enjoy:

Well, I’ve been in Costa Rica for a week, so I wanted to share my initial impressions.

First, it’s quite wet here. It’s the rainy season, which pretty much means that it will rain everyday until November or early December. But just because it rains everyday doesn’t mean it rains all day, and it’s gotten sunny quite a few times since I’ve been here. The first couple of days, it was so humid that I felt sticky all the time, but either I’ve gotten used to it or the wetness has eased off. Number 2 is less likely because one of the wettest days in the last month (or so I’m told) happened a couple of days ago, the tv news had lots of stories about floods and crap out in the countryside. In fact, there’s apparently now a state of national emergency.

By the way, the wettest day of the month also coincided with my second day of work. My boss picked me up on my first day on Monday, but I had to make my own way on the bus system the next day. I got off at the wrong stop in an entirely different neighbourhood then took the taxi to the landmark nearest to the office. See, addresses work differently here, houses and buildings don’t have numbers. When giving directions, people say, “Go 100 metres north from the park and 200 metres west, it’s the yellow house on the corner.” One block is taken to equal 100 metres, no one really cares if it actually is 100 000 centimetres. So they actually mean go 1 block north and 2 blocks west. It’s overcast a lot now so you end up having to keep asking which way is north.

That’s the surface stuff, but on to the serious bits.  On the topic of gender, it’s interesting to note that two of the guidebooks I’d read warned that travellers would be shocked at how much skin Costa Rican women showed.  All I can say is that the writers must have been Amish because I haven’t seen anything outrageous at all in terms of clothing.  None of the girls here in San Jose would look out of place in Los  Angeles.  The biggest difference I’ve noted between here and North America is that hiphop fashion is hardly present here for both girls and guys.

Anyway, I went wandering off the tourist path once and saw an amazingly scuzzy-looking woman, she had a beer belly, armpit hair, and a miniskirt and bare midriff.  Sure, it’s freaky, but I’m thinking back to some other scuzzy-looking women I’ve seen in Sudbury and I can’t say she looks that different.

Oh yes, prostitution is also legal here.  The prostitutes don’t have pimps because they don’t need them when they’re legal.  Apparently the tourist hooker industry is contained almost entirely in the Hotel Del Rey, which also has a casino inside.  I went inside to use the ATM once and saw lots of fat white guys and amazing looking women.  But apparently the locals have their own brothels they go to where the women aren’t as pricy.

Second, on the topic of race, I’ve noticed that most of the working class folk have darker skin while the richer set are very white.  You can’t assume that just because someone is blonde that they’re foreign because they could very well be a native Costa Rican (an upper-class one, to be specific).  It was really quite obvious when I went to the Canadian embassy (it was closed, apparently they punch out at 1 PM on Fridays, the jerks), which is located in Sabana Sur, one of the swankier districts here.  I wandered around and saw some big houses with SUVs in the driveway.  I also had some chocolate croissants at this one convenience store and watched some kids from something called the American High School hanging out in the parking lot.  A couple of them were blond as can be, though none were that Scandinavian blond that burns really easily in the sun.

Continuing in that vein, and to segue to the topic of language, I must confess that I find it easier to talk to upper-class Costa Ricans.  It’s just that I can understand their accents better because they’re more like the standard Spanish I studied.  It was only after having had trouble speaking with different clerks and taxi drivers did I realize that some of them must have been Nicaraguans who’d come over to do the 3D jobs (dirty, dangerous, and difficult) that are the lot of many immigrants the world over.  Anyway, they do stuff like omit the “s” at the end of words (“tremille”? Oh, “tres mille”, 3000).  Costa Rica is mostly inhabited by mestizos and criollos (i.e., they look mostly Spanish), but quite a few Nicaraguans are actually descended from the local Indians.   Which means that Nicaraguans tend to be darker-skinned than many Costa Ricans.

Also, today (note: on Oct. 8) there is a referendum on whether Costa Rica should sign on for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).  Anyway, the Si people seem to be mostly composed of the richer set, while the No people are more working class, with a couple of richer liberals here and there (I saw a guy in an SUV with a No sign in his windshield).  There have been convoys of Si vehicles tricked out in flags and Signs going up and down San Jose beeping their horns and drawing attention to themselves.  I did see a newspaper vendor shouting “vampiros” at them while they passed, though.

The building across from my hostel has one of the counting stations, there’s an armoured vehicle and tons of cops on the street.  Supposedly Costa Rica has no army, but I can’t really see the difference between these police officers and army pukes, they’ve even got army-looking uniforms and swagger around like soldiers.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to in Costa Rica so far.

My life is an article from The Onion

Heroic Computer Dies To Save World From Master’s Thesis

WALTHAM, MA—A courageous young notebook computer committed a fatal, self-inflicted execution error late Sunday night, selflessly giving its own life so that professors, academic advisors, classmates, and even future generations of college students would never have to read Jill Samoskevich’s 227-page master’s thesis, sources close to the Brandeis University English graduate student reported Monday.

For it so falls out that what we have we prize not the worth whiles we enjoy it, but being lack’d and lost, why, then we rack the value, then we find the virtue that possession would not show us while it was ours.  (Tatewaki Kuno, age 17) Continue reading “My life is an article from The Onion”

In case anyone was interested

Here is the abstract of the paper I will present at the CASCA/AES conference at the University of Toronto in twenty-three hours and seventeen minutes:

The World Wide Diasporic Web: Blogging and its Role in the Experience of Transnationalism Among Filipinos Online

Transnationalism is the condition of being socially present in more than one country, while transnational migrants are those people whose everyday lives simultaneously unfold across borders.  But what is the role of the Internet–that so-called borderless space–in the experience of transnationalism among diasporic people?  Specifically, how is transnationalism experienced by Filipinos in global diaspora in the context of the new medium of weblogs, also known as blogs?  And is there such a thing as a transnational imagined community of Filipino bloggers?

I’m in the first day (yay!) of the second session (boo!) in the last slot (double boo!) before lunch (where’s my gun?).  It’s possible I’ll collapse from protein deprivation before my turn comes up.  But seriously, I need protein so bad I occasionally get headaches if I don’t get some on schedule.  Maybe I should smuggle in a burger to eat in between sessions?  Or perhaps I can bring a tub of popcorn to eat while I listen to the other presenters.

And guess what, the Comaroffs are giving the plenary talk.  Utter coolness.  Maybe I should ask them to sign my chest?  I hope my friend brings his digital recorder, I’m so totally getting a copy from him.  I wonder if I can post the recording for download or if there’s too much legal whatsit to consider.  I’ll have to ask.

Where’s Waldo?

After more than a month of silence, I return to this blog which once I updated so religiously.   Why have I been gone for so long?  Well, I have several reasons.

The first is that I was working on my thesis.  I swear, it’s like a turd that refuses to come out.  I strain and strain, but it resists my valiant efforts.  I think I used to write effortlessly, but I wonder if I manufactured those memories out of the haze of nostalgia.

The second reason is that I was working on a paper that I’m going to present at the annual conference of the Canadian Anthropology Society/Société Canadienne d’Anthropologie (CASCA) in–damn, it’s only three days away.  Where did the time go?  Not to worry, the paper’s finished.  It uses data from my thesis research but it’s not just a distillation of that project, its focus is slightly different.  I’ve titled it “The World Wide Diasporic Web: Blogging and its Role in the Experience of Transnationalism Among Filipinos Online”.  It’s about my search for Benedict Anderson’s imagined community among Filipino bloggers, which would mean that community would have to be transnational.  It’s also about governmentality and the presence of the state online, though I never actually use the g-word.  Anyway, I’ll put up the paper after CASCA.  If I decide to bring my laptop, I may do some live conference blogging, though it’s possible I’ll be too busy anyway.  Man, last year’s conference was fun.

The third reason is that I’m applying to do an overseas development internship in the Philippines under the auspices of the Canadian International Development Agency.  I don’t plan to do anything but paid internships since I certainly can’t afford six or more months of no steady cash flow.  Anyway, I’ve been researching different organizations and reading some stuff about development (so far it’s just one book by Colin Leys, one of the big theorists on the subject–signed by him, I might add).  Applied and development anthropology have always been one of my interests and I’ve got a few ideas about how they might be accomplished in this context, but I still need direct experience in development efforts.  Not to worry, I’m also planning to read plenty of critique of development stuff and have skimmed James Ferguson’s The Anti-Development Machine before.  I admit, I also want to visit the Philippines again and have someone else pay for the plane ticket, but I honestly am interested in this other stuff.

And the final reason I haven’t been updating this blog is because my brother just bought Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  It’s a video game set in the early 1990s in a fictional city clearly meant to be Los Angeles.  Actually, it’s about the general West Coast experience and has analogues for San Francisco, San Diego, and Las Vegas, as well as ample representation of the hick towns just outside LA.  It’s really quite good, though I preferred the previous game set in Miami in the 1980s.  The music was certainly catchier, this one is mostly rap and hip hop.  It’s odd that there’s no grunge but I guess that’s too far north in Seattle.  I could quite easily analyze this game for the racial politics behind it–the main character is a black gangbanger from Compton (“Ganton”) who the player directs to commit multiple violent crimes and often to kill white police officers in LAPD uniforms; it takes place in the same period as the Rodney King beatings, the OJ Simpson trial, and the LA riots; and let’s not forget that most of the game’s players are white and middle class.  I could analyze all this but I almost always play the game to decompress and have managed to will away my higher faculties during playtime.  The more intensely I work, the more intensely I procrastinate, and there’s something somehow cathartic about killing cops over and over.  It sometimes feels like I’m just doing my thesis on the PS2, especially since there is an endless supply of cops and they just keep coming over and over until I eventually get killed by a SWAT team or someting.  I’ve yet to accomplish it, but if you make yourself enough of a menace the cops will call in the army to bring in their tanks, and since you can hijack almost any vehicle in the game (it’s called Grand Theft Auto, after all), then it’s sweet freaking rampage time pour moi.  I can’t wait until I get a tank.  Perhaps Zizek and Plato were right, there are only two kinds of people in the world, those who kill and torture and those who dream of doing so.

So that’s what I’ve been up to.  I’ve got several drafts of posts already lined up, so I’ll have a bunch of posts up soonish (I might wait until after CASCA to put them up).  Actually, one of them is titled “Why anthropologists are a bunch of wankers”, which I wrote when I was in the middle of my thesis-loathing period.  It’s actually got some serious analysis in there and I may still put it up sometime.  But, until next time, dear reader.