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It seems as if there isn’t a single method people will use to get at your personal information. If you haven’t already lost everything through government, credit card or Ashley Madison style hacks, they will try other means to get at you. Today I received a message that my details had been hacked from Ashley Madison, along with my credit card details, which gave me a few moments of amusement. A woman on Ashley Madison? I don’t think so.
And then I received this too:
Notice to Appear,
You have to appear in the Court on the September 08.
Please, do not forget to bring all the documents related to the case.
Note: If you do not come, the case will be heard in your absence.
The copy of Court Notice is attached to this email.
Clerk of Court.
There was a .zip file attached which I am supposed to assume contains the court papers and open. Naturally I didn’t bother. For one thing, I’m not going to be traveling to Brazil anytime soon, which was the originating country of the mail. I can’t imagine what I have to answer for in front of any court anyway, let alone a court which demands your presence by mail rather than by post.
I wonder what will come next. I’ve had the ‘is this you’ phishing scam, the Nigerian scam, the lottery winner, the hidden millions and so many others, but I am sure there are plenty more.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
If you’re worried about Face Recognition Software, take a look at a simple example which shows, such software has a very long way to go. These images are taken from my Flickr account in the new, and I hope still Beta, Camera Roll. They are automatically selected and pushed into categories, and I can find no way to correct these mistakes.
Screenshot Source: Viktoria Michaelis / Flickr
The first two are fine, music all the way, but I’m still fairly convinced that the third image is a camera, and I seem to remember shooting the photograph in Hannover. Although, perhaps, you can use it as an accordion?
Screenshot Source: Viktoria Michaelis / Flickr
Sport, well, yes. If it’s a sport art to dodge trains on railway lines, then I’ll accept it. And the only sort of sport I would like ro follow with this beautiful woman, captured during the Reunification celebrations in Bremen, would probably upset my girlfriend.
Screenshot Source: Viktoria Michaelis / Flickr
If a picture can paint a thousand words? Two doors and two cameras. Not, in my opinion, even close.
Maybe the recognition software Facebook claims to be developing will be better but, as we can see, there is still a very long way to go. I don’t think anyone needs to worry too much just yet.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
The title of this post is, as anyone can tell my glancing through the images which follow, completely wrong. The cameras are all new to me, but they are far from new. None of them are digital, none of them can be used as a telephone and you need fairly big pockets to store them in. Even so, as I gradually take over the collection of a good friend of mine and begin expanding it, they are new and bring, as do all new things, a certain amount of excitement with them. And they all come from flea markets, which has become one of my new (another one!) interests for both collecting things and taking my own photographs.
Photo Source: Viktoria Michaelis – Camera: Brownie Starlet
I’m not sure whether you can say I have a lot of luck when finding these antiques, or whether someone is ‘pulling me over the table’, as the Germans say. Perhaps I am still a little wet behind the ears, perhaps I am simply there at the right time, all depending on what prices you might expect to pay against what I pay and what you are looking for. I have a very simple idea at the moment: the camera isn’t on my shelves, let’s see if I can get it for a good price. And this seems to work, most of the time.
To a certain extent, I feel sorry for all those men who have been caught out by the Ashley Madison hacking affair. Sorry that their private lives have been revealed, that they now fear their secrets will come out into the open, that marriages or relationships have been destroyed. My feelings are tempered, as you can imagine, by the fact that anyone with half an ounce of commonsense should know, such a secret is never going to remain hidden for long. Eventually the sordid truth will come out, through an unfortunate word spoken at the wrong time, an appointment which cannot be explained, a comment from someone not in the know to the wrong person. That all the information has come out through a successful hacking attack is one of the hazards of the Internet everyone should be aware of: as soon as you send your information out, it can be found. If a credit card company or even the government of the United States can’t prevent unauthorized access to their databases, how can you expect anyone else to be capable of protecting your information?
To a certain extent I also feel sorry for those who honestly believe that any of these dating sites – no matter what they promise – are really above-board and clean in every single way.
Photo Source: Teakwood – Creative Commons
You pay your money and take your chances. Who, though, pays money to join a site where they are the first members, when it comes to matters of the heart? Why would anyone bother signing up for a dating or ‘bit-on-the-side’ site if it is clear, from the number of members, that they stand no chance of hooking up anyway?
I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything, but I suspect that the bulk of dating and relationship sites begin with fake profiles. How long they last on the system is another matter entirely, but a start has to be made. The people seeking are predominantly men, I would imagine, which is why so many sites allow women to sign up for free – like a popular club which allows women in for nothing, but the men have to pay – and they want to have a good selection of fodder right from the get go. When I look at the figures given out by one ‘friendship’ site I’ve written about recently, this is blatantly obvious. The site tells men that there are over three thousand women registered on the platform in this small town just waiting to meet them, in a town of just under five thousand inhabitants. People should do the Math before pulling out their credit cards.
Added to which, and this something that men shouldn’t forget, women receive so many offers, whether they want them or not, that there is really no need for them to sign up for such a service. Most of the offers can be put down as sexual harassment with no chance of success, but any man attracted to a certain women can, with the right approach, achieve something. You don’t need the Internet for that, and you certainly don’t need a dating site.
The only question which men really need to raise in their minds is: why? Why bother signing up for a site in the first place, when your chances of success are so much higher in the real world?
- Viktoria Michaelis.
Have you seen those recommendations for people who you might know on Facebook? They’re mixed in with the adverts as a list of names with a small photograph and, sometimes, they are reasonably accurate. Based on those who you already know, the Facebook algorithm takes a small selection and encourages you to add more names to your Friends List. And that despite the fact that there is a limit to how many friends you are allowed and, more especially, a limit to the number of real life friends / acquaintances you have outside of the social network.
One face which cropped up a few times on several of the exceptionally rare occasions when I went to see if I could find something on Facebook, was this one. Perhaps he is familiar to a few of you? He is to me, but I would never call him a Friend, and never consider either adding him – or asking to be added since it is a mutual thing – or even following him.
Screenshot Source: Facebook
With only thirty-three million followers, I can understand why his name and image appear on my suggestions panel; clearly he is feeling a lack in attention from the craving masses, from those whose lives he has so influenced, whose social network he has expanded with that small idea all those years ago in Harvard.
Why should I want to follow him? Is there something in his private which could be of real interest to me? Something which might influence my life, mundane and ordinary as it is? I don’t think so.
Perhaps it is the fact that only thirty-three million follow him, out of so many who are claimed to be active on Facebook, so many who are registered. Why doesn’t everyone follow him? Why aren’t all of the registered users basking in the light of his status updates? More to the point: how can he have so many people following him, when there are limits to the number of friends for everyone else? Perhaps it isn’t the same thing, having followers and having friends. But if I did follow him, would some of the people he knows, those who have made it to his Friends List be suggested as possibilities for me, or for anyone else out there?
And, finally, did he pay for this promotion to those he does not know and who would not normally be picked out by the Facebook algorithm, or is the business rule of getting as much out of the service through hefty payments not applicable here?
- Viktoria Michaelis
The art of blogging, it is fair to say, has come of age. Although more younger people are just beginning to write their thoughts and lives for the Internet public to see, there are millions of older bloggers who have managed to overcome the first three months of cyberlife and continue to write. They have discovered that sharing, even if hardly anyone visits their site, is a relief from the stress and strain of everyday life, an outlet for their thoughts and opinions. With a weblog anything can be written and published, within reason.
Sadly I must add that caveat because of the censorious restrictions placed in some countries around the world. We read of bloggers who have been sentenced to jail terms for their thoughts, of those who have been publicly whipped or even killed. Freedom of opinion, when voiced in such a public domain as the Internet, is not a Right everyone enjoys. There will always be someone who disagrees with what has been written, for whatever reason, and some of these people, these officials, have the power to disrupt, to stifle, to destroy.
We also see, over the last few days especially, how the public domain Internet can be exploited. Live pictures of a murder in Virginia, USA come to mind immediately, but also the disinformation fed to a willing, gullible public by governments, by lobbyists, by ministries around the world. We see two sides to every story, sometimes more, and have to decide for ourselves what is real, what is imagined, what makes a difference to us and our world. We see verbal and pictorial abuse, devastation, plight, sorry and hatred. We live, in the manner of an outsider, the lives of those who write, who send their thoughts, their experiences out into the world of the Internet for all to see.
Photo Source: Clint Lalonde – Creative Commons
Blogging is alive and well, in a way, it is the people behind the blogs we should look at. What we read in the news media is, of course, very selective, designed to sell rather than to inform. We do receive the information we are looking for, or which is being fed to us, but not necessarily that which brings us a balanced and fair view. Politics plays as much a part in the media as it does in political life. Weblogs, in a similar fashion, can also be biased; we all wish to show the best side of ourselves, tell the best stories, present the most rounded opinion. We are not so much presenting ourselves as presenting what we wish to be, how we wish to be seen. We create an alter ego of ourselves, of our lives, which is filled with excitement, with interests, with character and personality. In theory.
I blog, therefore… But are we? It would be impossible to present a complete picture of our lives, of our feelings, of everything that goes to make us what we are. No one is capable of writing about themselves in such a manner that anyone reading the words, viewing the images, can leave with a whole picture, a definitive understanding. Perhaps we just blog to show that we are here, and hope that what we write, what we publish, will remain after we have gone. Perhaps we write in the hope of gaining contact with others of a similar opinion, similar circumstances and interests. Perhaps, in some cases, we write because we are lonely and have no other way of communicating our feelings, fears, emotions.
The Internet, when it comes to blogs, captures absolutely everything in life in one way or another. Put everything together, without taking sides, and it is possible to gain a deep and meaningful idea of modern society across all of its levels. This last is the reason why blogging is so successful, why it will survive. We, as we write, as we publish, contribute something to society that has never been there before: social history in a manner which, only ten years ago, was unthinkable. No matter the trials and tribulations, no matter the risks, the hatred and vitriol, the Internet, on a personal level, is alive and showing all of its faults, all of its good points and helping us, from afar, to understand. This is our contribution, this is why we write in the end.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
If you need a license to fly an airplane, why not also a license to fly a drone? The need for some sort of registration of drones in the United states and, perhaps over the coming years, in Europe, makes some form of sense. It will not stop people from building their own and flying them illegally, but what cannot be done illegally when opportunity arises?
There is, however, something that I would much rather see happen, and it is based entirely on my experiences driving – and being driven – around Germany over the last few years. Training and a license for people who ride bicycles.
Screenshot Source: Slate / Twitter
In Germany most people gain their first experiences of riding with their parents, as elsewhere I have no doubt, and the right way to handle road traffic in Kindergarten. There are special courses for Kindergarten and primary school children offered by the police and various national bicycle associations, but only at a very young age. By the time most children advance into the teenage years, and beyond, they have forgotten all the rules and good practices they were taught.
Yet, despite the lack of any real, formal training, anyone can ride a bicycle on almost any road. The fact that they have to abide by the rules of the road, watch out for pedestrians and other vehicles, seems to be lost somewhere along the route. Bicycles, it seems, have a set of rules all of their own, and the riders are not only invincible, but always in the right. They ride along the wrong side of the road, cross without looking, drive through the night without lights on and are generally more than just a simple nuisance to everyone else. They are a positive and constant danger.
Still, no license is required, no registration, no formal training. The accident statistics are not as high as other vehicular accidents, but the injuries often far more severe. Not just people being run over, or flying across the bonnet of a car because they cut in front without looking or signaling, but also for those forced to brake suddenly, to swerve out of the way and so on.
And, of course, licensing bicycles, forcing their riders to have formal training would bring a good income for the tax office…
- Viktoria Michaelis.
To follow the political news in the USA, especially when it comes to the various election campaigns already being waged, and gain a fair and balanced idea of what is happening, you’d need to watch all of the news channels twenty-four hours a day and read both the serious press and, sadly, the gutter-press too. An impossible task, no matter how good a person is.
There is no balanced reporting and there are no accurate polls. The press is biased, not necessarily through their own fault, by editorial guidelines as much as by the slant each individual reporter has on their story, following their own political beliefs and experiences. The only thing it is safe and sensible to follow is what the candidates themselves have to say, and then to form a personal opinion. This involves fact checking as much as anything, even here we cannot rely on any one source, no matter how convincing a statement, a policy paper, a manifesto may appear to be on the surface.
Photo Source: Dennis Goedegebuure – Creative Commons
There are some headlines, however, which catch our attention whether we wish them to or not. One of them – amongst many – is the demand / promise by Donald Trump to export all undocumented, all illegal immigrants from the United States back to Mexico, or wherever they came from. A glance towards Europe and the massive problems being caused by the influx of refugees from the Balkan countries, from Syria and elsewhere will show how difficult it is to stem the flow of those trying to find a better life, trying to flee from war, murder and the atrocities carried out by despotic regimes, by terrorism, racial and religious persecution.
The fact that the United States cannot afford to deport all the illegal immigrants should be clear to all: many industries rely on their undocumented, migrant workers to survive. It is, though, much more than that. The United States was born on the backs of immigrants, grew strong through their labor, and all of them were undocumented initially, all of them were illegal.
The idea of deporting eleven million – according to some figures – illegals out of the United States should, however, bring back other memories. We’ve seen it before, and within living memory. Deportation to other countries, into war zones and, above all, into camps designed to eradicate the ‘problem’, was a major part of Germany’s strategy during the late Thirties and into the Forties, and millions of people, whether they were involved or not, whether they were alive at the time or not, have sworn that such an event should never happen again.
The Holocaust memorial in Miami should remind our politicians and voters never to go this way again.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
In one of the last interviews the philosopher Richard Dworkin (1913 – 2013) gave, he was asked what is wrong with a person spending their entire life collecting matchboxes. His answer was that such a hobby is not a real challenge, it is trivial, the result is only a collection of matchboxes. He goes on to say, at the end of the interview, that the matchbox collector may well have gained a good deal of pleasure from his hobby but, at the end of his life, no matter how long it may be, all he has to show is a collection of matchboxes; he has no children; he has not contributed to science and he has seen nothing worthwhile during his life.
With this Dworkin has condemned countless hobbies to the realm of uselessness. He has effectively placed the value of a person’s life at the lowest end of the scale – for those who follow any form of activity – claiming that they have made no contribution to the world or their own lives, aside from having some personal pleasure in amassing their collection. What he fails to take into consideration, though, is the individual and, to a certain extent, society.
We live in a world which is constantly changing, where what was has quickly been replaced by something new, something better. What was disappears into the mists of time, often with scarcely a memory of its existence being left to show that it once, no matter how long ago, commanded a place in our lives. And here it makes no difference whether we consider matchboxes or any of the other artifacts which may well have been a common sight, a normal part of former lives. It would be just as easy to write off those who collect old photographs, books, maps and other artifacts from the present which, with these constant changes to our world, are quickly outdated, replaced, moribund. There is always something better, he seems to be saying, so we should leave the trivial behind us and concentrate on other things.
Photo Source: Simon Steiner – Creative Commons
What, amongst all these trivial, everyday things, can we raise to the ranks of the worthwhile? What should we be doing with our lives that leaves something of ourselves, as well as helping the furtherance of society, behind when we finally draw our last breath? The idea of several billion people all trying to leave something worthwhile behind them, something which will make their name stand out forever, something which will improve the lives of all others, defies reality. If every single person becomes a philosopher and spends their days contemplating the meaning of life, is there any real meaning to their lives?
For the matchbox collector, on the other hand, there is meaning. The challenge of finding and preserving rare examples, of presenting them to the public or, as many do, having them there as a personal pleasure. Such a hobby is, on a much smaller scale, the province of the great museums around the world: to collect, to show, to illustrate what was and what could be. Should we write off all the museums, the art collections, the libraries of rare books as being trivial, as being a sign of a wasted life? Or are they all, from the smallest upwards, a part of our lives, of our society in that they illustrate what was, show us the skills, the inventiveness, the creativity of our ancestors?
Richard Dworkin also says he would never condemn a person for spending their entire life collecting matchboxes; the person has managed to shape their own life as they wish and has a right to follow this hobby, whether it be rated as trivial by someone else or not. It is still, he claims, a major mistake, since there is so much this person could have done with their time on earth. He has no right, he admits, to interfere with this person’s life decision, with the direction they have chosen, with their interests.
Sadly the interviewer does not go further into the claim that the matchbox collector has no children and that he has not helped science or society in one form or another. What the collector has done is preserve something of our past, and he or she may well have traveled around the world, complete with a family, searching for the rarest examples to add to the collection.
As a philosopher, perhaps Richard Dworkin could have gone further into the idea of what an individual is, and what motivates them through life, rather than generalizing about their lives, condemning them, in effect, to a lifestyle only a very few follow. It is possible to follow a hobby in the greatest intensity and still have a family and friends, still see the world, and leave something behind which is of worth.
- Viktoria Michaelis.
If the weekend was hot and sunny in Germany, no matter where you are, you will get to see one thing Monday: stacks of beer crates, filled with empty bottles, being brought back to the shops. To be fair, not just beer, some soft drinks are also hidden in there, but the beer crates take up the bulk of what is brought back. Gone are the days of tossing the empty bottles out with the trash, everything has its worth today, and each one of these bottles is worth eight cents.
Glass is a recyclable product, which means that the government decided to put a deposit on all beer bottles a few years ago, along with some plastic bottles and metal cans. Not all of them, and certainly not everything that is made of glass or plastic, but a good selection. We now have a society which is not only used to separating one type of trash from another for the different trash cans which line the streets on collection days, but also one which collects bottles and cans for the money they bring back in.
Photo Source: Stefan – Creative Commons
And this extra value has brought a small industry with it. There are people who clear away empty bottles and cans from the streets – plastic bottles are with twenty-five cents each – and even go through the public trash cans sorting out what they can find, what is worth taking in to the local drinks store, to the supermarket to earn a living or, at the very least, a little pocket-money on the side.
Weekend and good weather, a good barbecue, and money back afterwards. Although I have come across some people who are so out of things that the money they could get back lies next to them in the street. Saturday morning, the early bus in to Bremen, and a few party-goers, complete with drinks, climbed in to the bus to go home, at eight in the morning. Another sign that the weather was good, the barbecue tasty, and the music enough to keep their attention through the night.
Love & Kisses, Viki.