As some of you have noticed, I haven’t been posting much these last few weeks.
I’m well, thanks for asking. And no, I’m not in any imminent danger of giving up writing.
But, see, it’s now spring here in Alaska and there is much to do in the real world.
For those not aware, I’m doing some work for the military. When I took the job, I expected it to take about a year. That was eighteen months ago. Now it’s looking to be turning into a permanent gig. This does not fill me with any particular woe. They pay me well and I like the folks I’m working with, a lot, even if they are mostly Air Force types and therefore a bit too clean and polite. If they want me to stick around, I will. So, at the moment, during weekdays I’m mostly offline except for the occasional pithy comment on Twitter or Facebook or a longer bit from the netbook if I find the time at lunch – assuming I take lunch, which I usually don’t. Typically these days, I write blog posts in the evenings, which is why most of the articles on Stonekettle Station appear around midnight, Alaskan time. However, as I mentioned, it’s now spring here in the Alaskan Matsu, and there is much to do and little time to do it. The warm seasons are short and I don’t have a lot of time to do the normal homeowner things that involve painting and yardwork and the planting of green things and the shoveling of potting soil. I have things to do in the shop, far more projects than I have time for lately. And then there’s the whole having to spend time with the family thing. Given the choice of spending the day with my wife and kid in Talkeetna enjoying the first sunny day in about nine months or with you – well, let’s just say that I love you all dearly in your own special way, Internet People (except for the Texans, I can’t stand you pointy toed bastards, I just put up with you so you won’t cry and feel bad about yourselves. You’re welcome), but I’m going to Talkeetna. Also, you should know that I bought an awesome new pair of hiking boots at REI yesterday, and it’s very likely that I’ll be off in Hatchers Pass this weekend end breaking them in. If you’re good (and don’t cry and feel bad about yourselves), I’ll post some pictures.
And so, writing has taken a back seat while I enjoy things in the real world.
This will get worse next month, when the salmon start running in the Russian River. Prepare yourselves appropriately.
However, fear not, I haven’t given up blogging or on writing in general. But a while back I made a conscious decision not to post fluff on Stonekettle Station just so I had something to post every day – I reserve that for Twitter and Facebook. If you want to see the shiny acorns that fall off my brain every day or pictures of my lunch or a discussion of my cats’ robot litterbox (and really, how could you not be curious about such things?), friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Links are over there on the right.
A note about the science of phishing:
I got a couple of emails from some guy calling himself Abe Gong. Abe is supposedly from the University of Michigan and claims to be conducting a survey of bloggers. The general impression is that he’s a grad student involved in the kinds of weird obscure studies that grad students typically are – though he doesn’t actually say so. He says he’s seeking my opinion as a blogger about “issues and events in society today” and wanted me to take an electronic survey.
Um, yes, see here’s the thing, why would you need a survey for that? My opinion is clearly stated on my blog. In fact, that’s sort of the entire definition of blogging in the first place, isn’t it? Grad students aren’t the cleanest pipettes in the lab, but damn, man.
But the part that really got me was this: “Our goal is to assemble a clear picture of ideas, opinions, and demographics in the blogosphere.”
Good luck with that. Really.
I read three questions into the survey. The first two asked me to confirm that I was indeed Jim Wright and that I was indeed the owner and operator of Stonekettle Station. The third question wanted to know if I was a United States citizen, and asked the question in a fairly pointed and personal manner – and gave me no option to decline the question.
I had not answered any questions, and I stopped reading the survey at that point.
I went back and reviewed the emails and the little blurb at the top of the survey. Nowhere does Abe clearly describe the purpose of the study, nor does he provide any description of how the information will be used, who will have access to it, and how it will be stored, protected, and disseminated. And again, nowhere does Abe provide any type of credentials whatsoever, other than a supposed UofM email address.
The paltry information provided by Abe says that the information I give will be kept confidential … and yet the first three questions clearly seek to establish my identity and tie it to my website. The electronic survey is also hosted on a non-secure connection.
Call me crazy, but I pass on this opportunity to participate in science.
Honestly, I’m having a hard time believing that any dissertation advisor, let alone one from UofM, would sign off on any such silliness.
So I strongly suspected that this was something else. My first suspicion was that it is phishing scam or some other form of chicanery. It has all the hallmarks of a classic con, playing on the mark’s sense of self importance (which is, you know, sort of the defining characteristic of a blogger. Heh heh), minimal information the details of which the victim fills in for himself, and so on.
However, being a retired expert in Information Warfare and someone familiar with scientific studies in Psychology and Psychological Warfare and Information Operations, it occurred to me that If indeed Abe was conducting a valid study, I highly doubted that the vaguely stated purpose was the actual objective of the experiment – more likely Abe was looking to see who would give up their personal information – same scam as above, but for a more noble purpose.
Turns out I’m most likely wrong on both accounts.
A little searching around led me to Abe Gong’s webpage at the University of Michigan. He does appear to be an actual grad student in Political Science engaged in data-mining the blogosphere to support his doctoral dissertation. I’ve reviewed his LinkedIn page and I’ve read his dissertation abstract, it seems seriously short of actual details – but, hey, it’s PoliSci. So, it would appear that Mr. Gong is indeed a real person engaged in legitimate research (of course, it could still be an elaborate scam. Hey, I watch Leverage. They can do that, you know).
I suppose I should be flattered that somebody at the UofM thought Stonekettle Station interesting and influential enough that they asked me to participate in the study.
I’m still going to decline the opportunity.
Abe, as I said in my email response to you, you’re welcome to send me much more detailed information about your study and answer my questions. Perhaps I’ll reconsider.
I saw he’s been indicted on felony charges for allegedly using campaign funds to cover up the extra-marital affair he was having while his wife was dying of cancer. If you’re looking for a way to completely and totally screw yourself over, betray your family, destroy your life, and earn the disgust of pretty much everybody, you couldn’t find a better role model. At this point, since Dr Kevorkian went to the big garage full of car exhaust in the sky this morning, I think the only option Edwards has left is a descent into alcoholism and male prostitution outside the set of the next Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Frankly, I can’t muster much in the way of sympathy for this douchebag.
Sarah Palin and the Crazy Bus of Doom:
Paul Revere rode, whooping and shootin’ into the air, in defense of the 2nd Amendment. And what a patriot he was, that silversmith, defending a constitutional amendment that was neither in danger nor in existence in 1776. Seriously, this dopy bitch is so fucking stupid that even FoxNews is at a loss for words. Folks, unless and until this ignorant hateful bimbo formally declares her bid for the White House, or unless she drives the Giant Liberty Battle Tank Of Patriotic Freedom And American Values through the front windows of the Oval Office with little Trigger manning the forward .50cals and the paparazzi following along like hypnotized rats chasing that guy with the pennywhistle, let’s not give her any more coverage. OK?
Romney Declares for the White House:
Big surprise. Somebody go check the front grill of Palin’s Leviathan of Freedom and see if he’s still alive.
I’ve got a couple things I want to write about in detail, hopefully I’ll find the time this weekend.