“sT. aNNS” by Aaron Groen

“Aaron J. Groen is an artist specializing in astro and landscape photography. He was born and raised in South Dakota and spent his entire life exploring the beauty and wonder of the midwest. Traveling the back roads and gravels where most people do not travel. Constantly in search of that next spot to shoot that perfect moment in time. Aaron loves South Dakota’s amazing night skies and things that seem to be left behind by mankind. You can see much more of Aaron’s photography on his Flickr site.”

Hat tip to Margaret — tumblr junkie, art & photography lover, admirer of good coffee, two boxers dog owner, wife and mother.

Rise of the Robolawyers

From an excellent piece in The Atlantic by Jason Koebler:

In the past year, more than 10 major law firms have “hired” Ross, a robotic attorney powered in part by IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence, to perform legal research. Ross is designed to approximate the experience of working with a human lawyer: It can understand questions asked in normal English and provide specific, analytic answers.

Beyond helping prepare cases, AI could also predict how they’ll hold up in court. Lex Machina, a company owned by LexisNexis, offers what it calls “moneyball lawyering.” It applies natural-language processing to millions of court decisions to find trends that can be used to a law firm’s advantage. For instance, the software can determine which judges tend to favor plaintiffs, summarize the legal strategies of opposing lawyers based on their case histories, and determine the arguments most likely to convince specific judges. A Miami-based company called Premonition goes one step further and promises to predict the winner of a case before it even goes to court, based on statistical analyses of verdicts in similar cases.

A Silicon Valley startup called Legalist offers “commercial litigation financing,” meaning it will pay a lawsuit’s fees and expenses if its algorithm determines that you have a good chance of winning, in exchange for a portion of any judgment in your favor.

A company called Clause is creating “intelligent contracts” that can detect when a set of prearranged conditions are met (or broken). Though Clause deals primarily with industrial clients, other companies could soon bring the technology to consumers. For example, if you agree with your landlord to keep the temperature in your house between 68 and 72 degrees and you crank the thermostat to 74, an intelligent contract might automatically deduct a penalty from your bank account.

Mastodon

I’ve been hanging out in a new social media neighborhood for the last week or so. It’s called Mastodon and it’s sort of like Twitter that you made in your garage with a glue gun and some Gorilla tape. This article will explain it better than I can. Or this one.

I created my Twitter account on February 21, 2007 (account #786,471). When I stopped using Twitter last November I was following 176 people and 118 were following me (but I never saw any evidence of that). In those ten years I tweeted 11,565 times. Twitter was where I got most of my news.

But in 2016, nearly every single tweet, from every single user I followed, was politics. A solid fucking year of politics. And while I haven’t been back to my account, I assume that has not changed and will not for the foreseeable future. So I moved on. No idea if I’ll ever go back.

This Mastodon thing is fun and interesting but I’m not sure I can explain why. Where there’s one Twitter, owned and operated by a big corporation… there a thousand (?) Mastodon ‘instances.’ Maybe like 1,000 Twitters that can talk to each other?

I liked Twitter’s 140 character limit but Mastodon’s 500 character posts are growing on me. I’ve always leaned more toward writing something than throwing up one of the annoying goddamned animated GIFs (you an do that on Mastodon, too). There’s a bit of a Wild West feel for now but I suppose that will change.

I’m meeting new people and that’s a breath of fresh air. I’m reading the businesses don’t like it and that is a BIG plus for me. I do not like being “monetized.”

Mastodon is just confusing enough to keep your grandmother from showing up, another plus.

We are our junk

Is there anything more revealing of who we really are than the shit we leave by the curb for the spring trash pick-up?

Miss Martha Turner

In 2009 Joe Bankhead retired — at the age of 92 — from a 60 year career in and around radio. One of the first things he did was bang out a 20 page history of his time at KBOA in Kennett, Missouri. It’s a long read. A twenty-page core dump of Joe’s recollections. He apologizes a couple of times for his rambling, haphazard style but Joe wrote exactly the way he talked. (Lots of exclamation marks!)

I don’t think Joe really expected anyone to read 20 pages of memories (nor do I) but there’s some good stuff, especially for anyone interested in the early days of radio. So I’m going to share some of those stories here from time to time.

“I’ve got to tell you about Miss Martha Turner. Martha was a clean cut black lady from Hayti who purchased a 15-minute segment to be aired each Saturday morning. On her program she would sing an a cappella song and read all the cards and letters she would receive during the week. She’d arrive at the station three or four hours before her airtime and type out her dialogue (word for word) that she’d recite while on the air I kept a copy of Martha’s script on hand for years and I’m sorry I can’t provide it for you now. That it was unique and entertaining is a huge understatement. Miss Martha Turner deserves her spot in the history of KBOA. I don’t recall her ever trying to sell anything, or ask for donations from listeners. It appears she just wanted to be on the air and accommodate her fans by reading their letters.”

Joe died in 2011 and took with him a lifetime of great memories. I’m still amazed at his ability to recall so much detail at the age of 92. Joe’s son, Jim Bankhead, was kind enough to let me include Joe’s history on KBOA383.com (as a PDF). I transcribed the original and added a few links. It’s also searchable.

News is bad for you

“News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier.” That’s the main idea in an essay by Rolf Dobelli (The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions). I’ve had that feeling (in my gut) for a while now and stopped watching TV and cable news a fews months ago. Stopped listening to radio news as well. Gave up Twitter. All I can tell you is, I feel better.

Mr. Dobelli makes some interesting points. A few of my favorites:

News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking.

Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind.

Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business.

The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age.

The more “news factoids” you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand.

Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers.

Not sure what to make of the fact I found this on The Guardian website. A news organization.

When newsletters were printed and mailed

In 1988 if I wanted to communicate with the 60 radio stations affiliated with our news networks, I printed it and put it in an envelope and mailed it (USPS). Took as long as four days to reach some stations. No fax machines yet and email still years away.

This has such a Pony Express feel to me, here in 2017. The idea of a monthly, printed newsletter seems… quaint. But I recall almost every company and association doing a monthly (sometimes quarterly) newsletter. Somebody spent hours writing these things, often with multiple managers “signing off” before they went out.

When desktop publishing (and laser printers) came along, newsletters got ugly, fast. That was my opinion and I my philosophy was text-only; short paragraphs; one page, front and back. I read somewhere, “No more than an hour to write and a minute to read.” I think I knew, in my secret heart, that nobody read these things anyway. But I did them, every month for years. I kept most of them and they provide tiny snapshots of what was going one with our networks at the time.

Today we have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and maybe even a blog or two. But I’m seeing some Big Names moving back to newsletters. Easier to monetize? More likely to be read?