Day 168 – Cocktails for All!

It has been a while since there’s been a cocktail party at casa-de-Bronte, and although it’s a relatively modestly sized party for New Years’ Eve, it is hopefully a kick-start to slightly more frequent and larger gatherings through 2014.

All Stocked Up
All Stocked Up

Call it a trial balloon to check if the bar is sufficiently stocked.
To dust off the recipe books.
To enjoy together.

To that end, I already have some new years resolutions lined up:

  • Re-do the kitchen to be more crowd-friendly
  • Replace horrible carpet with wooden floors
  • Replace old lounge with something new
  • Paint, polish, de-clutter

I guess I should add this to my ever-growing projects list in the side-bar.

Day 167 – Identity

I am very ambivalent about places like Google+ and Facebook. I like the idea of a platform that makes it easy to share and connect with friends, but… there always are problems.

It relates to why European teens are allegedly abandoning Facebook in droves.

It relates to unease giving corporate entities access to personal information.

It relates to frequent annoyances and misguided features.

Trusting Business

To me personally, the corporate trust issue is less of a reason. Not because I actually trust Google and Facebook and Microsoft, but because the reality is that we all are already trusting a lot of large corporations anyway.

Do you have an Android phone? Well, then you are running Google’s OS and they are essentially in full control of your phone already, and everything you do with or through it. If Google decided to go evil, they’d have all our personal information and bank details.

Do you have an Apple phone? Same story, different company.

Additionally, we routinely trust the manufacturer of our phone hardware, the manufacturer of the major chips inside the phone, the network operator you are subscribing with, the company that installed the mobile phone towers in your area, the manufacturers of the hardware of these phone towers, and so on.

If any one of these links in the chain, wanted to maliciously intercept all your data, they can do so if they want it badly enough. And there is no way for us to tell whether they are or aren’t doing so.

My trust comes from any misdeeds of this nature sooner or later coming to light.

Annoyances and Mis-features

Every so often it seems the big social platforms betray their users in the most logical of ways. We’re playing on their services for free, and they will always keep looking for ways to increase the value of our interactions so that they can make money somewhere.

Facebook has a habit of making changes to the privacy settings. To make our content less private. Their revenue model drives from having people make connections and share with each other. And by that sharing show things about themselves Facebook can monetize. They do not want you to hide your information and keep private; they want you as public as possible.

Google is mostly motivated by search. Their moves try to increase the value of search and credibility. They don’t care as much about how we relate with each other and what we do exactly (for now), but they do want to know what information is reputable. Google wants to create “PageRank for People” so they can tell who knows what about what, and who is just full of shit.

Invariably these moves lead to outrage, but that always quiets down again in the end, because when it comes down to it we all just want to share with our friends and family, and there really are few other places to go with comparable features or commitment from our existing contacts.

The Social Circle Problem

What has been driving European teenagers off Facebook is kinda interesting. Teenagers like Facebook. Late to the party, parents start showing up on Facebook. Teenagers accept friend requests from parents (because they feel they have to?). Teenagers feel this invades their private friend-space. Teenagers flee.

The same problem exists with mixing other social circles… work and friends… friends and family… family and work… close friends… special interests.

What’s interesting is that the tool to resolve this problem comes included with Facebook: Lists. But they just aren’t as easy to use as they could be. I’m not sure whether this is a purposeful strategy, or a failure to see why this is an important aspect of a social platform into the future.

We all move in a multitude of circles. We all are many pieces of different identity that we do not necessarily want to mix with all our circles. That gaming habit might elicit ridicule at work. That party you’re throwing might not be for all your friends to know about. Those family photos might not be for anyone but family for a variety of reasons.

I think there’s room for a social network that gets privacy and dealing with our many interwoven identities right, but in the mean time…

My Solution

Setting up and properly using Facebook lists can make what already exists a lot more bearable.

My current strategy:

  1. Add all missing family members to the “Family” smart-list
  2. Add all co-workers to the company-named smart-list
  3. For anyone not on lists 1 or 2
    Add everyone you don’t really know to the “Restricted” list
    (you move them on to other lists later when you know them better)
  4. For anyone not on lists 1, 2 or 3
    Add anyone that you only want to see important posts from to “Acquaintances
  5. For anyone not on lists 2, 3 or 4
    Add anyone you are close to, to “Close Friends” so you see all their posts
  6. Create any other special-topic lists with appropriate names added to them

The people on the “Restricted” list will only see material that is already published publicly anyway, plus anything they are explicitly mentioned in. This is a good place to put new people who you’re hesitant about until you decide where they really belong.

Facebook considers everybody else a “Friend” and can see what you normally post and comment on your feed.

For those marked “Acquaintances” you will only see the most important posts so your timeline does not get cluttered up by people you only very vaguely know. Like that person you spoke to that one single time at that party.

For those marked “Close Friends” you will see everything they post. So keep this list to your real closest friends. Anyone not marked explicitly as “Acquaintances” or “Close Friends” will presumably sit on a level somewhat in between the two.

And when posting something new, by default the publishing setting is “visible to Friends”, but with these lists properly populated it becomes very easy to publish something only to “Family”, or “Close Friends”, or “Work” as appropriate for the occasion. For bonus points you can then go through the privacy settings and adjust these so that your address is only for family, and your mobile number only for close friends.

And those fleeing teenagers? They could easily create a “No-Adults-Allowed” list and then make this their default publishing target. As long as they post enough mundane stories to “Friends”, their parents would never be the wiser they aren’t seeing the good stuff.

Day 166 – Slightly Crispy

The holiday season definitely is a time to let out all the bad habits.

My scales aren’t as happy with me as they should be. Christmas has caused me to gain a kilo that I really didn’t want back. But it was completely worth it.

I am a little concerned over how much chocolate is still sitting around tempting me. On the one hand I just want to go and eat it all and have it be over. On the other, I’m challenging myself to spread out the eating to avoid the worst side-effects of a chocolate overdose. I’m really not sure if one approach or the other is particularly better.

Today, I added skin-abuse to the mix. I was in the sun. With my 50+ sunscreen on. And completely distracted from re-applying.

I’m a little red and crispy in places, but thankfully not too badly on the inside of elbows or backs of knees. Those are the worst. I’m telling myself I’ll be more careful through the rest of summer, but even I do not believe myself.

I will try though. Back to the health regimen.

Day 165 – Cards Against Humanity

Visited friends today for dinner/cocktails/games. And I specifically have to call out the game we played the longest. Apparently it’s hard to come by here in Australia, so we’ll have to hunt to acquire it.

It’s a purposely politically very incorrect game.

Every round, one player plays a situation card that has a blank on it, or invites suggestive answers. Then everybody else plays from their hand of responses, and the person that read out the situation picks the best response. Submitted of the response then wins the situation card, and you play till someone hits a certain number of points.

As an example that I posted pictorially earlier.

Situation: An international tribunal has found ___ guilty of ___.

Example responses submitted:

  • [the clitoris] guilty of [lockjaw]
  • [bees] guilty of [masturbation]
  • [science] guilty of [flying sex snakes]

Most of the responses available on the cards that come with the game are designed to be offensive regardless of the situation. Sometimes there is a clever option. But you always have to play to the person who will be judging the responses, because ultimately their taste decides who gets the point.

It was a lot of slightly guilty and off-colour fun.

Day 164 – Manga

My hair apparently has done a Manga impression all day. I knew it was a bit unruly, but I had no idea what it was up to today!

Look Ma, No Gel
Look Ma, No Gel

I can only assume a combination of showering at the gym without a comb, and walking out into a blustery day has resulted in this hairdo. I wonder if anybody out there noticed… I didn’t get any weird looks as such… I think?

Maybe this is its way of telling me to get a haircut.

Be Prepared!
Be Prepared!

I also re-stocked on sun supplies today. I’m ready to go out and enjoy Wet’n’Wild some more without risk of burning. Provided I keep well lubricated that is. Lasts 4 hours… means I have to re-apply up to 2-3 times. Let’s see how that goes.

Day 163 – Wetter-and-Wilder

Wet’n’Wild is a lot more fun when you’re allowed into the water.

Today I spent a chunk of my afternoon back at the park; and more successfully I might add. The weather forecast was a little pessimistic, but the temperature seemed nice enough this morning. And because I’m not limited in the number of my visits, I decided I might as well go have a look; worst-case scenario I just go back home and try again another day.

It turned out to be a beautiful day for being outside. Just the right amount of cloud to keep the sun bearable.

I ended up spending about 3-4 hours at the park, and time does fly. The crowds weren’t too bad either, which helped the lines. Possibly because everyone was recovering from Christmas, or because the weather deterred most people.

And they just extended the evening hours through January, so that every day is 10am-11pm, so I think I’ll get a lot of good use out of it on my holidays.

I wonder how many people I know with season passes…

XMAS Loot

All The Cats
All The Cats

A double-walled tea mug with All The Cats on it. I hope Obie and Amber do not take this as license to use it.

A Mix of Scrabble and Boggle (I think?)
A Mix of Scrabble and Boggle (I think?)

I’ve never played this before, but a cursory glance tells me this looks like a mix of Scrabble and Boggle. This will go into the Wednesdays rotation, although I know Ken will win already.

Personalised Chocolates
Personalised Chocolates

I’m glad to see that Lindt has realised my importance to this season and release special chocolates in my honour.

Books, two authors I know, one I do not
Books, two authors I know, one I do not

The latest Pratchett, the latest Reilly… the latest… I dunno this one. Much reading on my horizon. But I have some time off in January, so these’ll come in handy.

Ice Cubes that don't melt
Ice Cubes that don’t melt

Ice cubes, officially for Whiskey I think, but I’m sure I’ll find other non-sanctioned uses for them.

Sexy Sexy Underwear
Sexy Sexy Underwear

I wonder if my family is trying to make me homesick, but if so, it’s not working. I’m sure the ladies will love these(?!)

Chocolate Wine
Chocolate Wine

Chocolate wine sounds both delicious and a little scary. I’m afraid it might not be to my taste, but I want it to be so badly. I’ll have to set up the perfect tasting environment to avoid jinxing it.

Evil Maze
Evil Maze

Evil mazes all around… it’s a 3D roll-the-ball-around style puzzle, but with moving parts inside and narrow ledges. It’s Mission Impossible, where the lead character has no personality… so, exactly like Mission Impossible in every way.

Pictionary with Legos
Pictionary with Legos

This is another fun one for Wednesdays. Pictionary with Legos. You get a challenge, and then you have to build it with the Lego in the box, and everyone else guesses. A skill I need to master.

Chilli Sauces
Chilli Sauces

A dare in a bottle I think. 15/10 heat rating on the chilli sauce with a warning to never taste it directly. We all know how this is going to end, right?

Cool Sweater
Cool Sweater

And no Christmas could ever be complete without a sweater. A very cool sweater, which will have to wait a few more months for the right season to arrive here. Somehow my mum manages to buy me cool clothing that fits perfectly over a distance of 20,000km. She’s got magic powers, I’m sure.

Day 160 – Almost There

Countdown to XMAS – 25.5 hours left… 33.5 if I count sleeping.

The lead-up hasn’t been too bad this year. Shopping misery kept to a minimum. No leave in the lead-up to XMAS, which has worked out well too.

Last-minute gingerbread baking might not have been the best plan I ever had, but the result was worth it. Even if it made the regular ice-cream run a bit more of a stretch in turn.

I’m one batch of ice cream short of complete, so that’ll easily be done tomorrow.

And then I can rest.

Also, no gym for a few days on account of “closed”. Last class before XMAS was a punishing Kinesis class in which I managed to get carpet-burn on my knee, and not even the fun kind. But worth it… it feels good to be able to do nothing but sit for a little while I think.

Bring on the festivities!