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Never Forget

reflect-never-forget

On the 911 anniversary, my brother will spend the day in the nation’s capital.  He is part of a group sponsoring World War 2 veterans on an Honor Flight from Phoenix to Washington DC to see the war memorials.  What a great opportunity!  Not only is Honor Flight a tribute to the vets of the Greatest Generation who sacrificed to make the world a better place, but its also an inspirational, life changing experience for everybody involved. And the fact that this Honor Flight will be in the nation’s capital on the 911 anniversary makes it a once in a lifetime event.  I’ll be honest, I’m a little concerned about a family member being in potential harms way on the anniversary of one of our nation’s darkest moments.  I mean, if they’re gonna hit us again, this would be a good time.  Recent developments have made this years remembrance even more troubling but we must be vigilant. 

My brother is committed and that’s enough for me

Honor Flight Vets In Washington DC 091014

Our dad served in World War 2 and he would be proud.

As for the 911 anniversary, once again tomorrow morning I’ll do what I always do on that day—I will watch in disbelief the replay of the news coverage of that terrible day.  And I will hang my head and pray.

WeWillNeverForget
In 2001 I saw the events unfold as they happened with my older son as he prepared for classes at Conway Middle School.  Again this year I will share my thoughts with my younger son as we watch and look back on where we were when those towers came down.
Those awful memories will be forever imbedded in America’s psyche.  It reminds us of the fragility of humanity, of how the world is more intertwined and more complicated than ever. It speaks volumes about how critical it is for all of us to communicate with each other, to understand each other and to look past all the propaganda and misguided agendas.  We need the courage to seek the real truth—not the clouded vision of political and religious rhetoric.
It’s important not to dwell on the past, but look to the future.  What can we do, in memory of those who gave their lives, to move forward?  Better yet, what can we do to Pay It Forward?
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, we came together as a country to show that we are there for each other.  Service can be a healing experience, and it’s an honor that so many Americans are dedicating this day through service with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the USO, the Red Cross, Pledge4Patriots and many more. Through volunteering, we can make a difference in the lives of families and transform communities, not just on the National Day of Service and Remembrance but every day.
So my friends, what can you do today to Pay It Forward?  There is so much good work we can do so in the famous words of Flight 93 hijack victim, Todd Beamer, “LET’S ROLL”!!!
And God bless the United States of America!!!!!
 9-11+memorial+1 911-memorial-03-537x359
Want to volunteer? 
Get more info about Honor Flight at: http://honorflight.org/
Find out about Pledge4Patriots at: http://Pledge4Patriots.org

Keep An Open Mind, There Is Always Another Way To Look At Things

Open Mind Color

It has been awhile since I’ve posted due to all the usual suspects—my real job, my volunteer work, a much needed garage sale, a bunch of family and friends birthdays—blah, blah, blah.  But a buddy of mine ran across this little ditty and he shared it with me and so I’m passing it on to you.  The beauty of this is its simplicity.  It takes a commonly held belief and turns it around so you see the other side of the story—you see things from another angle.  And maybe you change your mind or maybe you come away with a different mind set.

I would think this concept can be applied in many other situations—but only if you keep an open mind!!

Enjoy.

Open Mind-pi openmind

A mechanic was removing a cylinder-head from a Harley motorcycle when he spotted a well-known cardiologist in his shop.
The cardiologist was there waiting for the
service manager to come and take a look at his bike when the
mechanic shouted across the Garage, ‘Hey Doc,
want to take a look at this?’ The cardiologist, a bit
surprised, walked over to where the mechanic was working on
the motorcycle.

The mechanic then asked, “So Doc, look at this engine. I open
its heart, take the valves out, repair any damage, and then put them
back in, and when I finish, it works just like new.
So how come I make $39,675 a year and you get the
really big bucks ($1,695,759) when you and I are doing basically
the same work?”

The cardiologist paused, smiled and leaned over, then whispered to the mechanic,

“Try doing it with the engine running.”

 

Open Mind Carl Sagan(Thanks to my pal, Hector Segui for this bit of brilliance)

 

http://www.mickdolansez.wordpress.com

Tinker Field Lives On…For Now

Tinker Field Lives On…For Now.

Tinker Field Lives On…For Now

Why is it that governments on all levels seem to think

that they don’t need to be transparent?  Is it a sense of

entitlement? Do they believe that they know better

what’s best for the people, rather than asking the

public first?  Parts of Tinker Field date back to 1914!!

I think that deserves way more than a plaque.

(Thanks to my fellow Orlando blogger Mike Cantone

whose blog is called, I Like Mike, for providing insight)

Check out his blog at:

 

http://www.ilikemike.me

 

STF 1Tinker Field, the most historic of all the Orlando Venues, survived another attempt by Mayor Buddy Dyer and the Community Venues to destroy and redevelop the site. Mayor Dyer soon saw the writing on the wall. Dyer knew he was losing and would not have the votes when he was forced to pull the item from the agenda and move on.

The major rejection of Mayor Dyer’s plans is another setback against his agenda. Commissioners railed against the proposal to build a memorial for Tinker Field as an astroturf monstrosity. It was a heated meeting mixed with some drama between Commissioners and the Mayor.

Commissioner Patty Sheehan and Commissioner Sam Ings were very forceful throughout the morning workshop. Sheehan blasted the process by the Mayor and Community Venues, which isn’t the first time she has raised concerns about the “tyrannical” process.  Sheehan repeated she was “deeply distressed” about the morning presentation and called it “ridiculous.” Sheehan was combative about the interpretation of the Municipal Planning Board minutes, and she was concerned there was no member of the Historic Preservation Board included in the presentation. Sheehan called the proposed memorial a “weird baseball astroturf thing in the corner.”

“It’s a process I feel has been very much influenced inappropriately,” she said.

Commissioner Ings declared “malfeasance” on behalf of the City and Venues department, saying “for the past 15 years we have done nothing to improve Tinker Field.” Public records confirm Mayor Dyer’s administration is responsible for the deterioration of the historic site, validating Ings’ malfeasance claims. Ings went on saying the City is “totally neglecting our history” under the Venues’ proposal.

“What’s been presented to us by the City and the Venues department clearly states ‘we don’t care what the people say. We don’t care what the people have to say,’” Commissioner Ings said. “We’re only kidding ourselves, and obviously the Venues department has put up this dog and pony show to show we need to tear down the stadium and the grandstands. And I think it’s wrong.”

Commissioner Ings also questioned the City, “what is the problem in investing $10 million in the black community?” to applause from the chambers. Ings like Sheehan championed the Historic Preservation Board and forcefully stated their support of Tinker Field on the record.

It became clear that Commissioners Sheehan, Ings, Regina Hill and Tony Ortiz were ready to vote to save Tinker Field. Commissioner Hill also hopes to gather more public input.

Commissioner Robert Stuart, who earlier advocated to pave Tinker Field for a VIP parking lot for the Citrus Bowl, asked if the Venues will destroy Tinker Field or the grandstands if no decision was made by the City Council. Mayor Dyer responded that no action will be taken on Tinker Field until a City Council vote. See Dyer’s statement here. Commissioner Stuart stated he preferred to defer any action until a later time.

So now, the decision on the demolition of Tinker Field and the grandstands is delayed once again.

 

I Like Mike, http://www.ilikemike.me

Mick Dolan Sez http://www.mickdolansez.wordpress.com

 

The Dumbing Down Of Society

People say the dumbest things.  Idiocy is everywhere.  But just when you think you’ve heard it all…..click on the link below and please feel free to add a few of your own!

 

When You Feel Stupid, Just Read These Juicy Quotes Of Intelligence.

 

 

Reblogged from http://www.realeyezlife.wordpress.com

 

And be sure to check out http://www.mickdolansez.wordpress.com

Do you really know if it’s a person your talking to right now?!

Do you really know if it’s a person your talking to right now?! 

61.5% of internet traffic is generated by automated programs called bots, and to me that’s pretty scary. Drones, bots…I dunno, maybe it’s that I keep thinking back to the Terminator movies where we let the machines take over, but who’s going to watch over this? Government?  The private sector? What kind of watchdogs do we have in place? 

Somebody has to get a handle on this before Arnold tells us, “Come with me if you want to live”.

 

Life:Connected | 9 June 2014

(Getty Images)

Intelligent machines that can pass for humans have long been dreamed of, but as Chris Baraniuk argues, they’re already among us.

Sometimes it’s the promise of sex that fools you. Sometimes it’s because they seem wise, friendly or just funny. The bots don’t really care how they trick you – their only objective is to make you think they’re human. In fact, if you use social media or spend any time online, it’s quite possible you’ve already been a victim.

This week, a controversial claim was made that a ‘chatbot’ passed the Turing test at an event at the Royal Society in London. During a series of text-based conversations, a computer program named Eugene Goostman persuaded judges it was a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy, thus passing a benchmark for artificial intelligence proposed years ago by the computer scientist Alan Turing.

So does this announcement mark the era of human-like AI, as has been claimed? Not really. Turing’s test stopped being important for AI research years ago, and many scientists see the contests as flawed because they can be won with trickery – such as pretending to be a non-native English speaker.

However, what chatbots are fully capable of in everyday life is far more interesting. We’re already surrounded by bots capable of tricking us into thinking they are real people, and they don’t enter competitions. Some are sophisticated enough to infiltrate social networks and perhaps even influence public opinion.

There are certainly plenty of them out there. Although most people think of the web as a place primarily frequented by humans, the reality turns out to be quite different. A recent report found that 61.5% of internet traffic is generated by automated programs called bots.

Honey trap

The bots most likely to fool us employ colourful trickery, explains Richard Wallace of Pandorabots, which makes chatbots for customer service and other uses. Wallace is the creator of a bot called Alice, which on three occasions has won the Loebner Prize – a Turing-like contest in which chatbots vie to convince judges that they are human.

“The people who are the most skilful authors of these bots are not people who are computer programmers, they are people who work in a creative field,” says Wallace. “That’s really the key to creating a believable chatbot – writing responses which are believable, entertaining and engaging.”

Scammers are well aware of this phenomenon. Security research firm Cloudmark has documented the rise of a flirtatious bot called “TextGirlie”. After obtaining a victim’s name and telephone number from their social media profile, TextGirlie would send the victim a personalised message asking them to continue the conversation in an online chatroom. A few coquettish exchanges later and the victim would be asked to click on a link to an adult dating or web cam site.

Cloudmark estimates that as many as 15 million initial TextGirlie text messages could have been sent to mobile phones and they confirm that the scam operated for several months. According to Andrew Conway, a research analyst at the firm, this is a good indication that the attack was in some measure successful.

Automated deceit

People are more likely to be fooled by a bot in a situation where they’d expect odd behaviour or broken English. Back in 1971, for example, psychiatrist Kenneth Colby was able to convince a few fellow practitioners that they were talking to a patient via a computer terminal. In fact, Colby had simply set up sessions with a program that simulated the speech of a paranoid schizophrenic.

And more recently, in 2006, psychologist Robert Epstein was fooled by a cleverly programmed computer which wore the guise of a Russian woman who said she was falling in love with him. Lately, bots have been turning up on online dating networks in droves, potentially ensnaring more hapless singletons in a web of automated deceit.

Sometimes, bots can even trick the web-savvy. Birdie Jaworski knows what it feels like. Jaworski is a seasoned contributor to Reddit and fan of the digital currency called dogecoin, a playful alternative to Bitcoin. On the Reddit forum for dogecoin aficionados, a user called “wise_shibe” emerged recently, posting witty remarks in the style of ancient proverbs. “He would reply to you with a fortune cookie style response,” remembers Jaworski. “It would sound like something Confucius might say.”

These comments even started making wise_shibe money, since the forum allows users to send small digital currency ‘tips’ to each other if they like a comment that’s been made. The wise_shibe rejoinders were popular, so were showered with tips. But things soon started to look suspicious: the account was active at all hours and eventually started repeating itself. When wise_shibe was unmasked as a bot, the revelation divided members of the forum. Some were incensed, while others said they didn’t mind. Jaworski was amused, but also felt cheated. “All of sudden you realise this little robot is collecting all of these tips,” she says.

Phantom tweeters

If a bot’s presence and interactions appear natural enough, it seems to be the case that we are unlikely to even question its legitimacy – we simply assume from the outset that it’s human. For Fabricio Benevenuto, this phenomenon has become the subject of serious research. Recently he and three other academics published a paper which explains just how easy it is to infiltrate Twitter with socialbots so long as they look and act like real Twitter users.

Benevenuto and his colleagues created 120 bot accounts, making sure each one had a convincing profile complete with picture and attributes such as gender. After a month, they found that almost 70% of the bots were left untouched by Twitter’s bot detection mechanisms. What’s more, the bots were pre-programmed to interact with other users and quickly attracted a healthy band of followers, 4,999 in total.

The implications of this are not trivial. “If socialbots could be created in large numbers, they can potentially be used to bias public opinion, for example, by writing large amounts of fake messages and dishonestly improve or damage the public perception about a topic,” the paper notes.

It’s a problem known as ‘astroturfing’, in which a seemingly authentic swell of grass-root opinion is in fact manufactured by a battalion of opinionated bots. The potential for astroturfing to influence elections has already raised concerns, with a Reuters op-ed in January calling for a ban on candidates’ use of bots in the run-up to polls.

‘More sophisticated’

The ramifications of astroturfing are in fact so serious that the US Department of Defense has jointly funded research into software which can determine whether a Twitter account is run by a bot. The application, called BotOrNot, is available publicly online and provides a predictive analysis based on account activity and tweet semantics which suggest whether the account operator is likely to be a human or a bot.

But Emilio Ferrara, a lead researcher on the project, admits that the system may already be outdated. Trained on Twitter data which is now three years old, it’s possible that today’s best bots could still evade detection.

“Now bots are more sophisticated,” he says. “They are better at disguising their identity and looking more like humans. Therefore the task becomes harder and harder – we don’t even know the accuracy of the system in detecting the most recent and most advanced bots out there.”

And so the rise of bots only looks set to continue – with or without Turing test approval. For Fritz Kunze of Pandorabots, the hope is that people will get better at questioning innocent-looking users who contact them online so that they’re not so easily duped. But he is also acutely aware of how hard a task that will be in the near future.

“It’s going to be a big shock to most people,” he says. “And these bots are going to be really, really good – they’re going to be good at fooling people.”

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140609-how-online-bots-are-tricking-you

If you would like to comment on this article or anything else you have seen on Future, head over to our Facebook or Google+ page, or message us on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Fear and Loathing in Manila – How I Outsourced Mother’s Day

This Is Your Brain On Outsourcing

(Reposted from http://centerlefty.wordpress.com)

I tried to order flowers this afternoon from 1-800-FLOWERS for Mother’s Day.  It was kind of complicated though because Mom’s staying in a physical rehab facility which may not accept UPS deliveries.  So I called customer service and immediately recognized by the twangy English accent on the other end that I’d been routed to the Philippines — which has recently surpassed India as the number one outsourced call center in the world.

Now I have nothing against Filipino customer service, which is generally polite, full of cheer, and knowledgeable.  However, in this case, since my order was so uncertain (800 Flowers doesn’t deliver to hospitals, but Mom’s not technically staying in a hospital, she’s staying in a healthcare facility, etc, etc, etc.) I really, really needed to speak to an American so we could drill down and discuss an American situation filled with American factors and nuances, like rush hour New York City deliveries, UPS policy on drop offs to certain buildings, hospital and rehab center rules on accepting deliveries from florists versus UPS or FEDEX, whether nurses typically take the time to un-box and arrange flowers etc., etc., etc . . .

I’m sorry. The brightest, most brilliant, Einsteinesque Filipino, or Indian, or Chinese person in the world simply could not have adequately addressed my issue, not because Americans are particularly smart, but because these agents don’t have the proper context or prior knowledge to deal with this particular AMERICAN situation.  To make matters worse, my customer service agent had a very harsh accent, and I had to expend considerable effort to make out what she was saying.  I mean she was reeeally sweet, but the conversation was painfully awkward, and I had to fight reeeally hard not to get too frustrated.

But, I did NOT ask to be transferred because I couldn’t understand her English.  That’s a no-no in today’s cold blooded, outsourced corporatist world, and she could easily be fired for not mastering her Master’s language (the Philippines is a former US colony , and we killed over 200 thousand of them in the Spanish American War.  Why isn’t that taught in school?  Hmmmm … )  Anyway, 1-800-Flowers wouldn’t fire her if I complained.  Their third tier sub contractor, of a sub contractor, of a sub contractor would, and I wasn’t about to put a hard working mother on the street.

So I politely asked to be transferred to a higher up, and while I waited on hold, I was treated to a soothing, totally professional American voice-over specialist blowing sunshine up my ass for five minutes about how happy mom would be if I bought certain arrangements, or threw in some extra chocolates for Mother’s Day – but I’m not allowed to speak to an American about a tricky American delivery in an American city from an American company.  Okay.

So I hung up.  When I redialed and asked to be transferred to an American agent, I got a floor manager who told me there was no way to do that, even after I asked if he ever communicated with ANYONE in the United States, and if so, to transfer me to THAT number.  Apparently, he doesn’t and so couldn’t.

My next move was to call the only non-800 number on 1-800-FLOWERS’ website, which was listed as “Media Inquiries” and had a Long Island area code.  A pleasant sounding AMERICAN woman picked up immediately, and after I threatened to go to the press with my story, she promptly gave me a number for – are you ready folks?  VIP CUSTOMER SERVICE!!

Wow.  There’s a secret hotline for 1%ers, while us 99% bottom feeders get to listen to garbled English on the other end of the world.  But still, it was sort of cool.  I guess I’m a VIP now.   So I dial the number and . . .  low and behold!  A total pro answers, who not only knows EVERYTHING, but is also AN AMERICAN, probably making ten times what the poor girl working the night shift in Manila is coining, but ten thousand times less than the CEO of 1-800 FLOWERS.  Nice . . .

Long story short, this guy totally solves my problem in about ten minutes, and I can finally, after a f&%*ing hour in never-never land, make my purchase in confidence.

Moral of the Story

My little anecdote not only reinforces that we live in a two tiered society where the 1% rules, it also illustrates how sad it is that we continue to outsource good paying, decent jobs overseas when the unemployment rate in some states is still around 10%.  I mean WTF man?!

And of course, this little tale also speaks to how addicted to cheapness Americans are.  I’m guilty too folks.  I lost an hour of my life today trying to lock in a great price on fifty lilies in a vase – but at what cost?  How about precious time, an outsourced job, and one more florist out of business.

Happy Mother’s Day…

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