Category: sage advice (Page 2 of 2)

Pacing Ourselves for the Long Haul

I’ve seen a few posts going around along these lines, and I want to pull them together here.

The first is How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind, Self-Care Lessons for the Resistance by Mirah Curzer.

This is not going to be an easy four years. We’re going to be subjected to constant gaslighting by the President and his administration. We’ll be dealing with a ferocious, multi-front attack on the entire progressive agenda, without exception, and a lot of it is going to succeed. We’re going to helplessly watch institutions we care about and depend upon destroyed. The Trump years are going to be emotionally exhausting and deeply traumatic for all of us, but particularly to those dedicated to protecting the vulnerable and preserving democracy.

Most of us are not ready to take on the mantle of the resistance. There are things we can do now to get ready, but if we don’t, the ranks of would-be activists and resisters are going to thin out very quickly.

She goes on to make four main points, summarized here (but as always, read her whole post):

  1. Don’t Get Used to Trump — Get Away From Him – So when it gets to be too much, it’s ok to unplug for a bit. Stop refreshing Twitter and reading the news. Stop feeling guilty when someone asks you if you’ve been following the latest story and you have to say no. Go a week or a day or even an hour without talking/reading/writing about the dumpster fire smoldering along in Washington. It will still be there when you get back, I promise.

  2. Focus Your Energy on One or Two Issues – You can’t show up to every march and donate to every cause. You can’t write treatises on every issue and argue with every Trump supporter on your Facebook page. If you want to be effective on anything, pick an issue or two that matter most to you and fight for them. Let the others go.

  3. Make Activism Fun – Don’t let anyone tell you that humor has no place in the movement, or that you aren’t allowed to be proud of your contribution, or that it’s unseemly to have fun while you’re doing serious work. That’s all bull, and it’s counterproductive to boot.

  4. Take Care of the Basics – It’s obvious and mundane, but this stuff is even more important when you’re living under the strain of an oppressive government. You need a strong foundation from which to fight, so take care of the basics [sleep, mental health, physical health, nutrition, friendship, me-time].

Next up: Andrew Sullivan’s post for New York Magazine: The Madness of King Donald. One of the main points of this article is the brazen lying that has already become commonplace from this Republican administration, and the toll that takes on us, individually and nationally.

One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all. The president of a free country may dominate the news cycle many days — but he is not omnipresent — and because we live under the rule of law, we can afford to turn the news off at times. A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene. In that sense, it seems to me, we already live in a country with markedly less freedom than we did a month ago.

This struck me as another good reason to follow some of Curzer’s unplug-for-self-care advice. We can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend there aren’t political problems to know about, worry about, and fight. But when we can, taking a break to “do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene” will recharge us, and remind us what we’re fighting for.

A key theme to remember is pacing ourselves, settling in for the long fight. Mark Popham wrote this pep talk Twitter thread after the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education (again, this is just an excerpt):

Hey! If you’re a Democrat in a red state and you’ve spent the last month screaming at your Senator about DeVos – thank you

With all of your calls and faxes and letters you might have thought your Senator was going to listen to obvious, obvious reason

And right now it feels like it didn’t do anything – that they were able to just tune you out, without fear of consequence

But let me absolutely ASSURE you – they heard you. They know you’re there.

And they’re absolutely scared shitless. They’re fucking terrified.

This is not some piddly letters-to-the-editor bullshit right here. You all have been absolutely inundating them!

They’ve been shutting down voicemail! They’ve been RUNNING FROM TOWN HALLS

They have never – NONE OF THEM – seen this level of engagement from the public. Ever.

And the only thing that is keeping them from pissing their khakis right now is the assumption that you will get discouraged and go away

They think that if they can just get through until the spring everyone will become dejected and give up and tune out.

If this is just the crazy spring of 2017, they can go back to gutting our nation like a fish. But if it’s the new normal…

If this is just American Political Life, 2017-???, then they’ve got a huge problem

All right, here’s the last thing to share here, and then I’m off to sit and watch Liverpool lose to Tottenham Hotspur for two guilt-free hours. I won’t give a source link to this, as it was a shared post on Facebook, and besides, I’m quoting the whole thing (cheers, Eric!):

Sometimes band or choir music requires a very long note. We are taught to mindfully stagger when we take a breath so the sound appears uninterrupted. Everyone gets to breathe, and the music stays strong and vibrant.

The administration’s onslaught of bad executive orders may be a strategy to cause “protest fatigue” – we will literally lose our will for sustained fight.

Take a breath. The rest of the chorus will sing. The rest of the band will play. Then rejoin so others can breathe. Together, we can sustain a long, beautiful song for a very, very long time.

You don’t have to do it all. BUT YOU MUST ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE SONG.

Bandcamp + ACLU = rockin’

I happened to tweet (err, microblog!) about Bandcamp just the other night. Thanks to their giving ~80-85% of the revenue to their artists, Bandcamp is the only digital music store that I feel as good about patronizing as I do about buying a band’s CD at their show.

And this Friday (Feb. 3), it gets even better: they’re donating 100% of their share of your purchase to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in opposition to last week’s Executive Order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States:

Contrary to the assertions of the current administration, the order will not make us safer (an opinion shared by the State Department and many members of Congress including prominent Republicans). Christian religious leaders have denounced both the ban, as well as the exception prioritizing Christian immigrants, as inhumane. It is an unequivocal moral wrong, a cynical attempt to sow division among the American people, and is in direct opposition to the principles of a country where the tenet of religious freedom is written directly into the Constitution. This is not who we are, and it is not what we believe in. We at Bandcamp oppose the ban wholeheartedly, and extend our support to those whose lives have been upended.

So that’s great: digital music sales and they support the ACLU for a day. But: what to buy?! I love both of these ideas so much, I’ve taken a few minutes to compile a list of some suggestions to show the breadth of the Bandcamp catalog. All of these have either been #musicMonday recommendations in the past year, or were on my Best of 2016 lists (or both). Bandcamp has also had a whole bunch of artists and labels add some or all of their cut from Friday’s sales to the donation; some of these are from that list. In no particular order:

As you can see, there’s a lot of good stuff there. Check it out, treat yourself and put a little $$ in to #resist at the same time. Win-win, rock on.

Unhappy Inauguration Day

This is it. January 20, 2017. I’m sitting in the waiting room of our dentist’s office, waiting while my son gets his twice-annual checkup. I’m more grateful than usual to have dental insurance through my employer, after hearing and reading stories this week of people who will lose their health coverage if the ACA (“Obamacare”) is repealed with no replacement. But I’m not grateful for the waiting room TV, with CNN showing live coverage of Inauguration Day. “OBAMA LEAVES OVAL OFFICE FOR LAST TIME”, and “TRUMPS DEPARTING CHURCH FOR WHITE HOUSE”, it’s making my stomach hurt.

But it’s not all grim despair, thanks to the Indivisible Guide and the growing resistance to this incoming nightmare regime. Their simple but powerful guide, available at indivisibleguide.com, lays out the basic tools and framework to organize in an effective way and fight to protect what Trump and his party of feckless grifters would rob us of.

Some stories of what has already been happening – and this all 1 hour, 23 minutes, and 50 seconds before the swearing-in ceremony (according to CNN’s countdown ticker) – from Bustle: To Actually Drain Donald Trump’s Swamp, You Should Go Local:

In the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Democrats have been left without control of any branch of the federal government. But in the face of this hopelessness, grassroots Democrats and progressives have launched “Indivisible Groups” all around the country to hold Congress, Trump, and his cabinet appointments accountable. These groups are small in size, but they’re creating national change, one cabinet appointment confirmation hearing at a time.

…Indivisible Oregon started as just six women gathered in a living room on New Year’s Day. It now has over 800 followers on Facebook. On Jan. 9, they called their senators, urging them to postpone consideration of Trump’s cabinet nominees until they had finished the ethics vetting process. Ultimately, they crashed Sen. Ron Wyden’s office’s voicemail.

The story has been similar in Austin. There are a number of Indivisible-based groups popping up here, thanks to the gerrymandering that split our city into six(!) different congressional districts, but the umbrella “Indivisible Austin” group started with a couple of guys getting together to commiserate about the election. With the Guide to, umm, guide them, they found themselves the nucleus of a movement. A movement that this past week sent fifty of us to the downtown office of Sen. John Cornyn, to relay our concerns about recklessly repealing the ACA with no replacement in place.

Having something to do, actual action that might have actual effects, especially if there are people all over the country getting involved, too, has been the best remedy imaginable for the despair I felt after the election. For all the half-joking talk of moving to Canada, or even just to a blue state, I’m more sure than ever that the right response to that insane election result is to stay and fight.

Yes, even in the red state of Texas. Especially here, as this Texas Observer post points out:

We are the largest state in America governed by a Trump-aligned regime. Trump’s government will have the support of the state Capitol as our leaders act to dismantle public education, destroy our social safety net and tear apart families.

There are many of us in Texas who will likely be their first targets. Our state is home to more refugees and undocumented immigrants than almost anywhere else in the nation. It’s for this very reason that Texans must take center stage in the Trump resistance.

…The progressive movement in Texas, more than ever before, can take the bold action necessary to inspire the residents of our cities to become a part of the Trump resistance. This is a movement moment. Fighting for expanded workers’ rights, immigrants’ rights and environmental protections may sound risky in the face of Abbott, Patrick and Trump. But our families will face greater, long-term risks if we do not expose the Republican Party for the discriminatory, misogynist, anti-democratic, anti-American institution it has become.

So on a dark day, when a clownishly unqualified con-man settles into the highest seat in the land, this is the clouds’ silver lining: I, and many others I’ve met in just the past month, are waking up and starting to fight for what’s important. I’ve called my members of Congress multiple times, I’ve visited the office of one of my Senators, and I’m going to the Women’s March in Austin tomorrow – I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have done any of that if we were ringing in President Clinton’s first term today.

If you’re similarly stressed, joining in on this kind of activism is better therapy than making jokes on Twitter (though those can be good, too). If you’re not sure where to start, the Indivisible Guide is great. They have a new tool on their site where you can look for an Indivisible group near you. Or follow the same techniques by yourself; that will help, too. Or subscribe to one of the regular action newsletters, like re:act or My Civic Workout. Start now, and keep it up the rest of the year, and the next year, and the year after. Pace yourself. Don’t try to do All The Things, it’s too much. It doesn’t have to be every day, it doesn’t have to consume you. But every little bit helps, and if enough of us keep working against this administration’s agenda, maybe we’ll get through the next four (not eight) years with minimal damage to our country.

Americans’ One Advantage

From a Yale history professor’s powerful guide to defending democracy under a Trump presidency:

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.

It’s not that long, and it’s great stuff. Read the whole thing.

Faith Has an Agenda

I followed a link to this post from Twitter, and found it to be really profound: After the Election: Wrestling the Angel of Fear. As usual, I recommend you read all of it, as I have a half-dozen times just today. I normally wouldn’t quote this much, but there’s a lot that’s good here. I hope(!) the author won’t mind.

To give up hope is not to accept things as they are. I am appalled by the president-elect and the renewed license for intimidation and violence that has shown itself since the election. But I also must accept that things are as they are. As I drove down the road years ago, screaming at [President Bush], I was having a moment of non-acceptance, propelled by fear that turned quickly to despair. I was insisting that George Bush be different from the man he had always shown himself to be, and I was furious to be living in a country that would make him president. And I responded as if personally betrayed, as if it wasn’t fair, an outrageous violation of some law by which such things are not supposed to happen.

It makes sense to feel overwhelmed in the face of [Trump’s win]. We are only human, after all, and we have not been prepared. Instead, we have, for generations, been encouraged to see ourselves as passive consumers rather than active citizens, our minds distracted and pacified and colonized to accept the status quo or to pin ourselves to the hope for something better.

We have been trained to be easily overwhelmed and immobilized, dis-couraged with little awareness of our responsibility or power.

We have been desensitized to the pain of others, and hypersensitized to our own, taught to see pain not as a message, a wake-up call, but as something noxious to be escaped, silenced, anaesthetized.

But we cannot afford to be overwhelmed or swallowed by despair. Like the parent of a desperately ill child, we don’t get to disappear into not knowing what to do. For a day or two, perhaps, but then we have to step in and give it up and reacquaint ourselves with the courage of faith.

At first I thought the usage “dis-couraged” was a typo, or misplaced hyphenation. But on subsequent readings I decided it was purposeful, with a meaning like, “removed courage”.

[It] occurs to me that being able to choose between hope and despair comes of the freedom to sit on the sidelines and watch from the relative safety of being white. And when things go badly and we sink into despair, hope comes riding to the rescue, promising to lift our hearts, that things will work out, somehow, someday, against the odds. Whether we do anything or not.

Hope is better suited to feeling than action, for it does not so much galvanize as soothe, a refuge from despair, that does not hold us to account.

Faith, on the other hand, comes of having to wrestle the angel of fear, whose power faith would harness into action. Faith is what turns a crowd of individuals into a march and then a movement. Where hope is passive and content, faith has an agenda and makes demands.

Ye Olde Musick

An article on The A.V. Club reports that for the first time ever, older albums outsold new ones last year. What’s interesting to me is the assumption that this is somehow a bad thing:

Just a decade ago, new releases were outselling old ones by 150 million albums a year. So what happened? Who or what is to blame for new music becoming an undesirable commodity? One culprit could be the so-called vinyl revival, which has heavily favored catalog titles like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, a 43-year-old album that nevertheless sold 50,000 copies in 2015. According to the article, younger music listeners who get into collecting vinyl are opting for older albums. And then there’s the possibility that people are more likely to stream new albums than purchase them. Regardless of the cause, it looks like nostalgia has a stranglehold on the music industry.

Who is to blame? New music is an undesirable commodity? Nostalgia has a stranglehold on the music industry??

Maybe this is trouble for the music industry, or new artists, or something we should wring our hands over, but as a music lover I just can’t see it that way. How I see it is that the more time passes, the more great music exists in the world, and that’s nothing but good news. This is why my annual best-of lists include anything new to me, and why my #musicMonday tweets are everything from new releases to oldie throwbacks.

Don’t get me wrong; I like new music, too. I’m not only a person who looks forward to Friday because it’s the day that new albums come out now, I still feel a little sad every Tuesday – the day new albums used to come out – that they changed it. I’ve pre-ordered three albums so far this year; new music is not an “undesirable commodity” to me.

But some old music is great, too. Not all of it, of course. Some of it was never good, and some is silly or kitschy or embarrassing or just doesn’t stand the test of time. But there’s a lot of music from a lot of years that’s really, really good. And thanks to the magic of continually-advancing time, there’s more and more every day! (Give or take.)

My advice: be on the lookout for “new” music that you like from any time: whether it’s oldies, classics, last year’s, or new releases. Getting into Pink Floyd, or Bowie, or The Eagles, doesn’t keep you from getting into Adele, or Shamir, or Savages.

Email & Egocentricity

From the New York Times: E-Mail Is Easy to Write (and to Misread).

Still, if we rely solely on e-mail at work, the absence of a channel for the brain’s emotional circuitry carries risks. In an article to be published next year in the Academy of Management Review, Kristin Byron, an assistant professor of management at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, finds that e-mail generally increases the likelihood of conflict and miscommunication.

One reason for this is that we tend to misinterpret positive e-mail messages as more neutral, and neutral ones as more negative, than the sender intended. Even jokes are rated as less funny by recipients than by senders.

We fail to realize this largely because of egocentricity, according to a 2005 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Sitting alone in a cubicle or basement writing e-mail, the sender internally “hears” emotional overtones, though none of these cues will be sensed by the recipient.

In case you didn’t notice the publication date, that article is from eight long years ago. Eight. The year the first iPhone came out, just to give you a benchmark for how far back in the mists of time we’re talking about here.

So, surely we rely on written electronic communication even more now than we did then: IMs, text messages, Slack, Twitter, Github issues, website comment threads, etc. Increased use of emoticons and emojis can help make our intended message and tone more clear – that’s why I don’t hesitate to use them, despite some people feeling that such things are somehow for teenagers – but working against better clarity is the tendency toward shorter, more abbreviated messages and responses.

The harsh truth of that article (you should read the whole thing) is at least as true today as it was in 2007: there is always – always – something lost in these written communications, and we would do well to remember that, whether we’re the writer, or the reader.

Google Minus

Via Marco.org, a great post by Mark Wunsch: The Great Google Goat Rodeo.

My serious problem with Google is that their products for users (the ones that collect information to inform advertising) are becoming confused, inarticulate, and increasingly malicious. Malicious in that Google is effectively transforming the World Wide Web itself into one of its products by controlling (through a natural monopoly) traversal and discovery (Google Search).

I don’t feel quite as strongly about Google as he does, but I do cast a wary eye at them, for most of the reasons in that post. And the explanation of Google’s behavior, that it boils down to “an organizational clusterfuck that is unable to decide what [way] it thinks is truly the best”, sounds dead-on.

He ends with this:

Angry about this? Here’s what to do. Switch to Firefox. Mozilla is a non-profit whose mission “is to promote openness, innovation & opportunity on the Web”, which seems pretty cool. Use DuckDuckGo as your primary search engine; they “believe in better search and real privacy at the same time”, which seems pretty cool. I’m probably not going to be doing either of those anytime soon. I’m too stuck in my ways.

As I was reading that, I was thinking, “yes! Firefox, DuckDuckGo, I use those!”, and then I got to his “aww, who am I kidding, I can’t quit you” letdown. Too bad. They’re both good, I recommend them both. But I also don’t use them exclusively, and that’s why I wanted to post this, to encourage y’all to try them, and other Google alternatives as well.

I use Firefox as my primary browser, despite ridicule from hipsters and small children, though that choice is more because I love slash-to-search, tab groups, and the “awesome bar” than because of any anti-Chrome bias. And DuckDuckGo is my default search engine (easily set that way in Firefox, natch (and not hard to set in Chrome either, tbh)). I scoff at Google+ (like everyone), and I purposefully log out of Google’s services when I’m done with them.

But I do use them: I have a gmail.com email address for home and work, plus Calendar, Drive, etc., etc. And when I’m doing web development, I use Chrome because the devtools are (currently) far superior. And it’s not uncommon for me to add a “!g” to the end of a DuckDuckGo search, which forwards the search to Google, especially when I’m looking for answers to specific technical questions. I also use “!m” to get Google Maps for all my map searches. And you can bet your ass I’ll get Google Fiber, coming to Austin next year, as soon as humanly possible.

Hmm, that sounds like a pretty mixed conclusion. But I suppose that’s appropriate. Like Wunsch, I don’t think Google is “evil”, but their power is tremendous, and growing, and that makes me nervous, and then they do stuff like this, dropping support for open interoperability standards. I’m not handing out tinfoil hats, but at least realize that there are alternatives out there, and some of them are great.

The Argument of the Growing Heap

Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project books and blog, despite the saccharine appearance and self-helpy feel, rarely fail to yield some useful or enlightening wisdom. For example, her recent post about what she calls the “One-Coin Argument“.

She starts from a long-remembered footnote to the 16th century writing of Erasmus, explaining “the argument of the growing heap”:

“If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin? What if you add another? Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.”

Which she goes on to put in perspective as follows:

I think the “argument of the growing heap” has stuck with me because it captures a paradox that I grapple with in my own life, and which is very significant to happiness: Often, when we consider our actions, it’s clear that any one instance of an action is almost meaningless, yet at the same time, a sum of those actions is very meaningful. Whether we focus on the single coin, or the growing heap, will shape our behavior.

Take going to the gym. You don’t feel like going to the gym, and you say to yourself, “What difference does one day make? It doesn’t matter if I skip today.”

True, any one visit to the gym is inconsequential, but the habit of going to the gym is invaluable. Does one visit to the gym make a person healthy? Ten visits? Eleven? Finally, you have to say that no one can be healthy unless one visit to the gym can make him or her so.

The Horror of Giant Corporations Making Good Stuff

I saw this recently on Buzzfeed: 19 Brands You Didn’t Know Were Owned By Giant Corporations. (Insert guilty acknowledgement of occasionally following links to Buzzfeed here.)

Pretty descriptive title there. It’s a simple page of product pictures, with the dark secret of their true corporate owners. Like this:

Odwalla products
Owned by: Coca-Cola

I’m not sure what the intent of this piece is. Well, the real intent is to get page-views and sell ads on Buzzfeed, of course. But as for the purported point, for my part, it made me initially feel like a sucker, a dupe, for using those products.

But once I thought about it a little more, I realized it’s actually fine, for the most part. In general, all things being equal, I would indeed rather support smaller, local, “mom & pop” kinds of companies rather than large corporations. Part of the reason for that is an expected correlation with higher quality, more well-crafted product. But these are known high-quality products, that happen to be made by a company owned by (usually bought up by) a large corporation.

Maybe Coca-Cola will start to cut corners on how Odwalla juices are made, or using cheaper ingredients. If and when they do, then complain about Odwalla. Until then, be glad that a giant company is investing in fresh, natural, healthful products, and that they’re being sold in a lot more places than the one hippie health-food store that a mom & pop juice company would be able to sell through.

Of course, if you come across tasty-looking juices that actually are made by a mom & pop juice company, by all means give them a shot. But absent such a choice, or even if you just prefer them, don’t feel bad buying Odwalla, Tom’s toothpaste, or any of these.* Be glad that you’re using your money to vote for quality goods.

* P.S. An exception to note, however, is beer (their examples are Blue Moon, made by MillerCoors, & Goose Island, made by Anheuser-Busch InBev). It’s a bit of a different category, in my opinion, because there are a lot more small, independent breweries around than there are small, independent toothpaste makers or pita chip companies. And their products are easier to find, even in regular old neighborhood grocery stores. However, the bottom line is the same. I won’t buy Blue Moon when there are more interesting options, but if I’m somewhere where the only other choices are Budweiser and Miller Light, then I’ll pick Blue Moon all day long.

P.P.S. That Buzzfeed page also includes Marmite, made by Unilever. I don’t really know what that is, except that it’s similar to Vegemite. I don’t know what that is, either, except that it’s the target of this hilarious, profane rant song by Amanda Palmer: Vegemite (The Black Death).

Who Gets To Be a Geek

This rant/beatdown by sci-fi author John Scalzi, Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be, is a couple of months old, but I just came across it. The beatdown itself is maybe a bit much, given the victim’s subsequent appearance in the (extremely long) comments section with claims of being misunderstood, feeling bad about it, being a big fan of Scalzi’s, etc. And Scalzi does destroy him; it’s Truly Epic.

But regardless of whether and how much of a smackdown was deserved or delivered, I thought the central points in praise of geekiness of all kinds were extremely well put. The following, on the difference between hipsters and geeks, is a great sample, but I recommend you read it all.

Many people believe geekdom is defined by a love of a thing, but I think — and my experience of geekdom bears on this thinking — that the true sign of a geek is a delight in sharing a thing. It’s the major difference between a geek and a hipster, you know: When a hipster sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “Oh, crap, now the wrong people like the thing I love.” When a geek sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.”

Busytown

I think I have a new hero.

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day. And if you call me up and ask whether I won’t maybe blow off work and check out the new American Wing at the Met or ogle girls in Central Park or just drink chilled pink minty cocktails all day long, I will say, what time?

The ‘Busy’ Trap, Tim Kreider on NYTimes.com (via Mike Industries)

(I also love the following line, even though I don’t recall seeing any cats or boa constrictors developing software. Come to think of it, I don’t remember any boa constrictors. Surely he wasn’t thinking of Lowly Worm?)

More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary.

New, more subtle, Twitter spammers

The @FCShirtsUnited Twitter account got an interesting new follower today. After a quick skim of the new follower’s recent tweets, I actually (embarrassingly) thought it was real. Later I got another new follower, who also looked real at first glance. But then I happened to notice one of their tweets that sounded oddly familiar, so I brought up the other new follower’s page. . . Sure enough. Spammers.

It’s a new (to me, at least) spammer scam. It’s more subtle than what I’ve usually seen, which is usually just an account with a crazy name that follows or mentions one of the accounts I run, possibly with a short phrase or a few random words, and then a link. Those are obviously spam, and I admit to a certain satisfaction in marking them as such in my Twitter app.

But this new style is more subtle, and seems aimed at a longer play. Before starting whatever spammy activity is surely planned, these accounts are being established more carefully. A single one of these accounts could almost be confused with a real (if annoying, repetitive, and kind of dumb) person. But two together clearly shows the pattern, including the intentional attempt to make them seem random, different, and more believable.

I give you: Exhibits A and B, “tomiko lykins” and “shaquita link”.
td, th { border-bottom: solid silver 1px; padding: 6px; vertical-align: top; }

tomiko lykins
tomiko lykins
shaquita link
shaquita link
My annoying sister has put something on my mac. Was that really necessary? #somad My cheeky brother has changed something on my mac. I wish I understood more about these things #somad
Feel great right now. Not sure what I consumed that has done this, but would like to feel it more often. 🙂 Feel tip-top today. Not sure what I imbibed that has done this, but would like to feel it more often. 🙂
How come when I put the Sky control down, I can never find it for ages.!! How is it when I lay the Sky control down, I can never find it again#wtf
Taking my friend to a speed dating later. Should be interesting, lol Taking my sister to a singles night later. Weirdly nervous for her, 🙂
etc. etc.

(They aren’t tweeted in that same order; I found the similar ones and matched them that way.)

So, anyway — if you’re followed by similar fake young British-y women, mark them as spam ASAP, before whatever diabolical plan they’re part of can come to fruition!

Hark, Vagrant Advice

Last thing: Because we’re both on the internet right now and these answers are for people who want to know about webcomics, well, someday you are going to run into some jerks who will tell you your comic sucks the worst forever or something. Even though we’re all grown ups and you know better, you’ll probably feel pretty down about it. Remember that usually they really are jerks because jeez, are we on the internet or are we on the internet? That’s where jerks live. You probably already know the weaknesses in your work because you are a Great Artist in the Making and we are all our own worst critics. Remember that on the internet you can go to a place that reviews Citizen Kane and underneath it someone will have written “this is the most overrated piece of shit on planet Earth.” Then remember that whoever said that doesn’t matter. So keep it up! And nuts to the haters, you’re the best.

FAQ/About page for “Hark, a vagrant”, Kate Beaton

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