Art School: Break Week 3 — The End

Summer is basically over. I have accomplished all but one of the tasks I set for myself in this time. Sadly, the one task I didn’t finish turns out to be complicated enough that I am still trying to figure out how to best tackle it. Kind of a problem, that. Still, it will get done one of these days, once I have an ah-ha! moment about how to best do it without using self levelling compound on the concrete floor of the basement. (Don’t ask. It’s a rental and actually levelling the floor is well outside the realm of possibility.)

School starts on Tuesday, this being the Labour Day long weekend. I’ll recheck the room numbers and class times today, so I am ready to go. The local news outlets are already running stories about how the Tuesday commute will suck, and reminding us to allow extra time. I haven’t done the commute from the current place anytime except this summer, so it is possible the buses and trains will be more crowded than I have seen them before. Time will tell.

The big news from this week is that I’ve decided I am done with both Facebook and Twitter. My accounts will be shut down a few days after this is published. I’m allowing a bit of time so people who find these posts via those services can ask to be added to my email notification list, but then the accounts will be deleted.

Some will ask my why. In truth I have threatened to leave FB before, but never done so. I have stopped using it for periods, and used it in “read-only” mode as well, but I haven’t managed to pull the plug. It’s time to do so. I have spent too much time there in the last couple of weeks, and with some reflection I have arrived at a couple of conclusions:

It’s not healthy. There’s a level of going back to the well all the time to see what is new, and what is going on. It’s something like an addiction, akin to the rat being fed cocaine and going back over and over just to get the hit. I don’t need to be doing that, and I recognize the behaviour in myself. I can’t speak for others, but I have decided it’s not good for me.

It’s actively bad for us all. Lately I have found myself noting inaccurate and misleading posts on both FB and Twitter that were from people with whom I tend to share a world view, not posts from that crazy uncle who believes he was abducted by aliens and now is a serious Trump supporter. I’m sure the people in question posted those things in good faith, but there is so much false stuff out there, and it adds up. And of course no one does any fact checking before posting anything these days.

I used to think the Internet would be a great leveller. That was the hope in the beginning: that more voices would be heard because anyone could publish on the web. No huge budget or large staff required. And that is true, but it also means that anyone can publish there. Anyone. Anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, climate change deniers, GMO scare mongers, racists, Nazis, and those that enable them. Social media is the cesspool in which culture wallows. You may think you only go there to see what your friends and family are up to, but the politics and falsehoods come through just the same.

Combine that with a grossly uneducated public that simply can’t (or won’t) tell truth from fiction, and the results are terrifying. I have serious concerns about the viability of democracy anymore, and not just in the US. Right wing extremists are on the rise all over, and dictators are thriving. Social media — which in theory could be a positive force — is also a huge cause of dissension and disengagement.

This had all been rattling around in my head for a long time, along with a rising discontent with what I was seeing, and then I came across this thread by a lawyer. A good lawyer. It’s not that long. Give it click and read it.

(Note: the original story that Popehat is responding to has been taken down. That only happened after he posted the story. Interesting, eh?)

As you can see, it’s in response to a feel good story, and it shows just how far wrong things have gone. The fact is that lightweight journalism doesn’t work. It gives us crap sources on the right and left, from Daily Kos and Mother Jones all the way to Fox News, Breitbart and InfoWars. Real journalism takes people, time, and money. It also requires effort and experience. Most importantly, it demands morals and ethics on the part of those pursuing it. Sadly, that naive belief that the Internet would be good for journalism was just that: naive. Good reporting is not something that any random blogger can do.

Yes, there are exceptions. There are people who report on things based on their own expertise in a field. Those sources can be fantastic, but they can also be awful. That UFO blogger is peddling untruths, either accidentally or deliberately. And those smaller, partisan websites? Their content is awful.

To make matters much worse, Americans (and plenty of others) aren’t able to tell the good from the bad, or truth from lies. I read the article that Popehat responds to some time back. It gave me some hope, but I should not have believed it. Even worse, it would have taken me substantial time to figure out what the problems were. The lawyer only knows them because of his personal experience with the individual involved. A real news outlet should have done some background checking on the people in the story before they published it. That didn’t happen and I got conned, as did a lot of other people.

Also this past week, I note in passing that Wil Wheaton gave up on Twitter and was then hounded off Mastodon. And I saw posts including fake images, false facts, and claims so convoluted it would require hours and hours to figure them out. Welcome to modern social media. I give up.

There is a role for experience and expertise. I can’t build an airplane, so I have to trust those that can to do it properly. I am not a doctor, so if I have a medical question I need to find one and ask. And not just someone claiming to be a doctor, a real doctor. If I want my country run well I need to vote for people who are qualified and competent, not publicity seeking crooks with a penchant for Russian mob bosses and lying to everyone, all the time. If we as a nation (or worse, as a species) do not trust experts, we’ll be in the dark ages again all too soon. Or extinct.

So I am shutting down my Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can follow me here if you want. Medium will let you setup an account and follow people on the site, so you get notified if they have new posts. Or you can use an RSS reader and subscribe to this feed. (I use Bazqux for that job, and I recommend it. It’s better than the old Google Reader, if you can believe it.) Or you can send me an email and ask to be added to my personal mailing list. I send out one email a week, pointing people to these posts.

If you like what I have to say, you’ll want to do one of those things. I know, writing those instructions here is kind of pointless — you’ve already found me, somehow — but maybe you tripped over this post accidentally, or perhaps you found an old link somewhere. Now you know how to get these updates if you want them in the future.

That’s all the personal news this time.


Immigration From the US to Canada After the 2016 Election

It turns out there was no huge wave of Americans moving to Canada after the election. There has been an increase, but it’s not a huge. I’m not really surprised by that. It’s hard to move between countries. It takes time and costs money. Plus you have to be able and willing to tear your existing life apart and start a new one somewhere else, somewhere you know almost nobody. It’s easy to talk about, but hard to do.

The article below discusses the numbers, but it doesn’t address changes in immigration patterns. For example, how many high tech workers that would have gone to the US are now coming to Canada? Many see the US as a less desirable location thanks to the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the top. I know people who made that choice, and I doubt they are alone in that decision. How badly is the US losing out thanks to the idiocy of those in charge and the xenophobic nature of the population? It will be interesting to see what the long term trends show someday.

A note about the article: the videos linked in it are old — from right after the election — and so sound a bit alarmist. They are, in fact, inaccurate in at least one point: the Canadian immigration system did crash after the 2016 US election, but not because of a flood of queries from US residents looking to flee to Canada. It seems no one is entirely clear on why it crashed when it did. There were several things going on at the time.

Art School Post Index

Because Medium didn’t get the ordering right when I imported posts from somewhere else, and I can’t figure out how to fix it.


Cruzer, showing how much he loves me

And eating my beard. No, really, he does that.

And In Conclusion…

I wish my dogs were this smart.

I think she has very nice teeth. (That’s an inside joke for a couple in California. You know who you are. And yes, there has been a Dr Who marathon going on for a long time now. Why do you ask?)



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Jeff Powell

Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.