Nov 072016
 

I’m increasingly of the opinion that the modern media (television and the Internet) is largely to blame for the sorry state of politics in America today.

Politicians are judged more on how they look than ever, as well as how they carry themselves on TV. Intellect and brilliant policy ideas get lost. Great minds and bold plans are drowned in a sea of rapid-fire snippets and punditry masquerading as news.

The modern media reduces political speeches to sound bites. In the past, entire speeches were published in newspapers and people typically read them, or at least good portions of them, instead of reading just the tiny snippets selected largely for their impact on TV.

This sets up a scenario where people are almost guaranteed a biased view of candidates. Everything you learn about a politician is based upon sound bites selected to have the most impact on the audience of the show or network you choose to watch, so they are almost guaranteed to be selected to skew your view of the politician based on the leanings of your preferred channel’s typical audience.

Fox News chooses sound bites to make liberal candidates sound bad and conservatives sound good (to their audience, which leans conservative) and CNN does the opposite. Since they don’t give you the whole speech, your entire opinion is based on intentionally misleading information.

Since almost nobody, except the few people who really dive in, ever hears or reads the full speech or policy statement or proposal, the entire electorate makes decisions based on biased, skewed information they’ve gotten from these intentionally leading sources on TV.

In the past, yes, newspapers had bias and their politically likeminded audiences, but the statements and speeches and treatises were published in full, so even with the punditry alongside it, readers still got the whole story and could judge for themselves.

Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, leaders in history. But I doubt he would have been elected if today’s media existed in his time. He wouldn’t look good on TV. His magnificent speeches, then published in their entirety in the papers, would be broken into sound bites and hammered by pundits trying to score with their audiences, and he would lose.

His kindness and goodness and keen intellect would be lost in the muck of TV news.

I’ve seen newspapers from the days following November 19, 1863 in which the Gettysburg Address is published in full alongside an article—almost a review—dissecting the speech. Most of them slammed it as being meaningless or second-rate. But it was there for voters to read, and it made an impact. Today, its words are famous and that speech is considered one of the greatest in history.

It’s now known that Lincoln was suffering from the early stage of smallpox when he gave the speech. He looked pale and unwell even as he clearly spoke his brilliant words. How would that have played on TV, broken into snippets with the liberal media and the pro-slavery media both picking and choosing sound bites and commenting on how he doesn’t look fit to be president?

Instead, Lincoln was reelected a year later, in part because of speeches such as this. The people saw his address for what it was and what it was meant to be, despite the pundits.

We’ve lost that. We take in what we want to see; what silly or stupid or semi-profound tidbits our friends retweet or share on Facebook, and what the pundits we listen to want us to hear, then we vote based on that partial (meaning both incomplete and biased) information.
We live in a TL;DR world, and it’s killing our ability to have an informed electorate.

 Posted by at 8:05 AM
Nov 072016
 

I’m increasingly of the opinion that the modern media (television and the Internet) is largely to blame for the sorry state of politics in America today.

Politicians are judged more on how they look than ever, as well as how they carry themselves on TV. Intellect and brilliant policy ideas get lost. Great minds and bold plans are drowned in a sea of rapid-fire snippets and punditry masquerading as news.

The modern media reduces political speeches to sound bites. In the past, entire speeches were published in newspapers and people typically read them, or at least good portions of them, instead of reading just the tiny snippets selected largely for their impact on TV.

This sets up a scenario where people are almost guaranteed a biased view of candidates. Everything you learn about a politician is based upon sound bites selected to have the most impact on the audience of the show or network you choose to watch, so they are almost guaranteed to be selected to skew your view of the politician based on the leanings of your preferred channel’s typical audience.

Fox News chooses sound bites to make liberal candidates sound bad and conservatives sound good (to their audience, which leans conservative) and CNN does the opposite. Since they don’t give you the whole speech, your entire opinion is based on intentionally misleading information.

Since almost nobody, except the few people who really dive in, ever hears or reads the full speech or policy statement or proposal, the entire electorate makes decisions based on biased, skewed information they’ve gotten from these intentionally leading sources on TV.

In the past, yes, newspapers had bias and their politically likeminded audiences, but the statements and speeches and treatises were published in full, so even with the punditry alongside it, readers still got the whole story and could judge for themselves.

Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, leaders in history. But I doubt he would have been elected if today’s media existed in his time. He wouldn’t look good on TV. His magnificent speeches, then published in their entirety in the papers, would be broken into sound bites and hammered by pundits trying to score with their audiences, and he would lose.

His kindness and goodness and keen intellect would be lost in the muck of TV news.

I’ve seen newspapers from the days following November 19, 1863 in which the Gettysburg Address is published in full alongside an article—almost a review—dissecting the speech. Most of them slammed it as being meaningless or second-rate. But it was there for voters to read, and it made an impact. Today, its words are famous and that speech is considered one of the greatest in history.

It’s now known that Lincoln was suffering from the early stage of smallpox when he gave the speech. He looked pale and unwell even as he clearly spoke his brilliant words. How would that have played on TV, broken into snippets with the liberal media and the pro-slavery media both picking and choosing sound bites and commenting on how he doesn’t look fit to be president?

Instead, Lincoln was reelected a year later, in part because of speeches such as this. The people saw his address for what it was and what it was meant to be, despite the pundits.

We’ve lost that. We take in what we want to see; what silly or stupid or semi-profound tidbits our friends retweet or share on Facebook, and what the pundits we listen to want us to hear, then we vote based on that partial (meaning both incomplete and biased) information.
We live in a TL;DR world, and it’s killing our ability to have an informed electorate.

 Posted by at 8:02 AM
Oct 252016
 

I finally figured out a way to describe my current pain situation that should be familiar to most people. If you’ve ever had one of those serious leg cramps where you have to forcibly straighten your leg until the muscles relax and let go, or a Charley horse, then you should be familiar with that dull, throbbing, lingering ache that doesn’t go away for a long time after the initial cramp. It’s unpleasant at best, and downright painful at worst. Not nearly as bad as that first blast of agonizing pain, but still not something you enjoy.

Now imagine that you live every day, every hour, every minute feeling as if you’ve had a powerful cramp in every single muscle in your body. Usually not that initial blast of cramping pain (although that hits now and then, too), but that lingering sensation of tight, twitchy, burning unhappiness that fades gradually. Except that in my case, it doesn’t keep fading. Eventually it turns around and gets worse again. Sometimes it almost, almost goes away, but then it returns.

Right now, as I write this, I feel the best I’ve felt all day. My chest doesn’t hurt much, for the first time today. Until about 20 minutes ago, my entire body felt like it was being crushed and toyed with by King Kong. Mashed around, twisted and pulled and torn at both inside and out.

The rest of me, though, still feels pretty lousy. Twisting, tearing feelings in all my leg muscles and most of my arm muscles. It’s even less fun than it sounds, because it just keeps going and going. Day after day after day. I’m so tired of it. So very tired of it.

I did my best to work today. Maybe it was a mistake to try. I did get stuff done. I was able to participate, at least to a decent extent, in several meetings, and I did manage to resolve some documentation issues and have a couple of important message exchanges. I proofread a document for someone. I got sample code for the media docs for Firefox 51 nearly finished. It’s working; just needs final polish before I post it.

It’s just so frustrating that I have no way to predict when surges of being able to work will come. I just know today was not a good day for that. I want so badly to be able to crank out massive amounts of docs that people look at and go “This stuff is amazing! And he did it how fast?” again. So badly. I will keep trying to get there.

There’s a lot going on that’s been keeping me on my toes, medically-speaking. I need surgery to repair some leaks in my circulatory system in my legs, but there will be a few months of jumping through hoops to make insurance happy first. I am working toward getting a promising treatment for my nerve damage, but it will take time to get that off the ground. I don’t know how much time, yet. And then I just found out yesterday that there’s new damage in my neck and I will likely need another spinal surgery to correct it before another nerve root is permanently damaged. In the meantime, at least, the spine issue isn’t adding to my pain. It just worries the neurologists.

As part of my treatment program, which involves a lot of doctors and tests and therapies and medications, I see a therapist. Usually our conversations are reasonably light. She says that it’s amazing that through all of this, I manage to keep a reasonably good sense of humor and I tell her that whining about my problems on my blog and on Facebook and Twitter helps a lot. It kind of does, too. She only just recently saw me hit by a major pain incident in person for the first time. I think it was rather informative for her. She has a better understanding of what I’m dealing with now.

Anyway, time to stop whining about my problems and try to do something useful again. If you made it to this sentence, you’re a rock star and you deserve 10 bonus points! Congratulations!

 Posted by at 10:43 PM
Oct 192016
 

One of the most underappreciated features of Firefox’s URL bar and its bookmark system is its support for custom keyword searches. These let you create special bookmarks that type a keyword followed by other text, and have that text inserted into a URL identified uniquely by the keyword, then that URL gets loaded. This lets you type, for example, “quote aapl” to get a stock quote on Apple Inc.

You can check out the article I linked to previously (and here, as well, for good measure) for details on how to actually create and use keyword searches. I’m not going to go into details on that here. What I am going to do is share a few keyword searches I’ve configured that I find incredibly useful as a programmer and as a writer on MDN.

For web development

Here are the search keywords I use the most as a web developer.

Keyword Description URL
if Opens an API reference page on MDN given an interface name. https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/%s
elem Opens an HTML element’s reference page on MDN. https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/HTML/Element/%s
css Opens a CSS reference page on MDN. https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/CSS/%s
fx Opens the release notes for a given version of Firefox, given its version number. https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/Firefox/Releases/%s
mdn Searches MDN for the given term(s) using the default filters, which generally limit the search to include only pages most useful to Web developers. https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/search?q=%s
mdnall Searches MDN for the given term(s) with no filters in place. https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/search?q=%s&none=none

For documentation work

When I’m writing docs, I actually use the above keywords a lot, too. But I have a few more that I get a lot of use out of, too.

Keyword Description URL
bug Opens the specified bug in Mozilla’s Bugzilla instance, given a bug number. https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=%s
bs Searches Bugzilla for the specified term(s). https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/buglist.cgi?quicksearch=%s
dxr Searches the Mozilla source code on DXR for the given term(s). https://dxr.mozilla.org/mozilla-central/search?q=%s
file Looks for files whose name contains the specified text in the Mozilla source tree on DXR. https://dxr.mozilla.org/mozilla-central/search?q=path%3A%s
ident Looks for definitions of the specified identifier (such as a method or class name) in the Mozilla code on DXR. https://dxr.mozilla.org/mozilla-central/search?q=id%3A%s
func Searches for the definition of function(s)/method(s) with the specified name, using DXR. https://dxr.mozilla.org/mozilla-central/search?q=function%3A%s
t Opens the specified MDN KumaScript macro page, given the template/macro name. https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Template:%s
wikimo Searches wiki.mozilla.org for the specified term(s). https://wiki.mozilla.org/index.php?search=%s

Obviously, DXR is a font of fantastic information, and I suggest click the “Operators” button at the right end of the search bar there to see a list of the available filters; building search keywords for many of these filters can make your life vastly easier, depending on your specific needs and work habits!

 Posted by at 5:33 PM