Smoothing over rough edges with friends

The metamessage received may be, “She doesn’t think I know how to dress myself, take care of myself.”

Chris wants to know:

How do you smooth over rough edges with friends? Do you ignore it, broach the subject, etc.?

It depends on what the topic is. Next question.

OK. But it’s true. What’s the issue at stake? Sometimes, you just let it go, and sometimes you say something. If you say something, you need to use “I” sentences, such as “I am not comfortable when you run over Bernie Sanders supporters.”

Is it an online dispute over politics? Those are usually in the “let it go” category. You’re not going to convince them, and they surely aren’t going to change your mind. Unless they’re otherwise abusive – “How can you think like that, you skank?” – move on.

I will say that if it’s really bugging me, NOT saying something almost never works. The issue metastasizes into a much bigger deal.

I’ve been reading the book “I Only Say This Because I Love You: Talking to Your Parents, Partner, Sibs, and Kids When You’re All Adults” (2001) by Deborah Tannen, which I am enjoying, and it has applicability to non-family relationships. I’m only in the part where she lays out the problems; I trust there are solutions coming. She notes the fact that, in many conflicts, there’s the message and the metamessage.

A simple example would be when someone suggests that you do something differently, wear more fashionable clothes, e.g. The message the sender thinks she’s giving is “I’m a good friend/relative, just trying to be helpful.” The metamessage received may be, “She doesn’t think I know how to dress myself, take care of myself.” And when more than two parties are involved, in sharing secrets and creating alliances, it gets even trickier.

So I tend to tread lightly. Humans are tricky. Humans online are even complicated than humans face-to-face, when you can pick up nuance.

This usually works; I’m still friends with people I went out with. Sometimes it does not work. Interestingly, Facebook is useful in connecting, or reconnecting, with people whose friendships might otherwise have lapsed, so there’s that.

Have you ever written poetry? When? Did you ever show it to anyone?

I went out with a published poet in the late ’70s and early ’80s. So I would go to the workshops. I tried writing a few and shared them with the group, but fundamentally, I just didn’t get it, and that was fine; I have other skills.

What’s your favorite tradition at your church?

I suppose it’s the raised candles while singing the third verse of Silent Night in an otherwise darkened church on Christmas Eve.

Julian Assange and Edward Snowden

Edwatd Snowden seemed to be just a guy who believed that the Constitution of the United States was being violated by its very government.

Chris has thought about Julian Assange a lot more than I have:

What drove Julian Assange to start WikiLeaks? Do you think he’s a white, gray, or black hat? Has your opinion of Assange or Snowden changed at all due to the leaks and Russian involvement?

I’m going to assume Assange started Wikileaks for the reason he said he started it. From a recent Bloomberg story I can’t locate presently:

“A decade ago, when Assange founded WikiLeaks, it was a very different organization. As Raffi Khatchadourian reported in a 2010 New Yorker profile, Assange told potential collaborators in 2006, ‘Our primary targets are those highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia, and Central Eurasia, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the West who wish to reveal illegal or immoral behavior in their own governments and corporations.’ For a while, WikiLeaks followed this creed.”

The same story shows how the organization has gone off the rails, most recently proposing the tracking of verified Twitter users’ homes, families, and finances. Um, no thanks. That seems to be the Big Brother that Assange looked to take down initially.

When Agent Orange sided with Assange Over the CIA, that was disturbing on more than one level. Sarah Palin’s support further diminishes.

I thought, 10 years ago, that he was a white hat if you will, but certainly not now.

Whereas Edward Snowden I’ve seen differently. He was just a guy who believed that the Constitution of the United States was being violated by its very government. He believed that protection from unwanted and illegal government attention should be afforded to every citizen.

I wondered if I, in the same situation, might have been tempted to do the same, be a whistle-blower, to detail these conflicting, interrelated issues of national security, privacy, civil liberties, and Internet freedom. Librarians, after all, have been at the forefront of the fight for freedom, changing the way records are no longer kept in the wake of the so-called USA PATRIOT Act.

He changed the business model. “The NSA relied on Internet giants to do surveillance for them (surveillance being a major part of the Big Data business model), and pre-Snowden, there was no real downside to cooperating with illegal NSA spying requests — in some cases, spooks would shower your company with money if it went along with the gag. Post-Snowden, all surveillance cooperation should be presumed to be destined to be made public, and that’s changed the corporate calculus.”

I wish I had seen “Citizen Four,” Laura Poitras’ film about abuses of national security in post-9/11 America. “In June 2013, she and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her.”

I did watch that John Oliver interview of Snowden in 2015, in Russia. As a buddy of mine put it, “he was clear, clever, and careful in how he responded, even when he was adopting the joke angle. He earned a lot of my respect just in how he dealt with Oliver’s interjections and his goofy gimmick interview style.”

Did Edward Snowden sabotage the war on terrorism? Did he provide too much information to Russian intelligence? Or did he let the American public know about the illegal activities that the US Government was doing in their name and at their expense? Possibly all of the above.

Someone wrote recently that, if he were a real patriot, Snowden would come home, and like a Father Berrigan, face his accusers, and let the ACLU or others defend him. That’s a personal decision only he can make.

I find Julian Assange to be an arrogant twit, whereas Edward Snowden appears to be a bright guy, but way out of his depth.

The Internet domain of Colombia

Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s leftist president, seemed to bask in Assange’s bad-boy glow.

Chris asked in the previous round of Ask Roger Anything, albeit not until December:

Have you ever wondered why Assange is in the Ecuadorian embassy or all those fake news places are registered to Columbia? Don’t those seem like weirdly arbitrary choices?

Why Ecuador’s embassy?

Let’s take the Colombian connection first. The two-letter Internet domain for Colombia is .co, which looks a whole lot like .com or some new generic top-level domain. Go Daddy has put on the big push advertising these new domains, at least in the past.

Some countries restrict the use of their domain to registrants who are in, or are from, their country. Colombia does not. Thus, one gets sites such as or out there to try to fool the user, and often succeeding.

There are some interesting country code top-level domains that are more open:

.fm for the Federated States of Micronesia, an independent island nation located in the Pacific Ocean. “Except for reserved names like,, and others, any person in the world can register a .fm domain for a fee, much of the income from which goes to the government and people of the islands. The domain name is popular (and thus economically valuable) for FM radio stations and streaming audio websites

.io for British Indian Ocean Territory, treated as “a generic top-level domain (gTLD) because ‘users and webmasters frequently see [the domain] more generic than country-targeted.'”

.nu for the island state of Niue. “It was one of the first ccTLDs to be marketed to the Internet at large as an alternative to the gTLDs .com, .net, and .org… Commonly used by Danish, Dutch, and Swedish websites, because in those languages ‘nu’ means ‘now’.”

.tv for Tuvalu. “Except for reserved names like,, and others, any person may register second-level domains in TV. The domain name is popular, and thus economically valuable because it is an abbreviation of the word television.

.ws for Samoa. “The .ws domain is an abbreviation for ‘Western Samoa’, which was the nation’s official name in the 1970s when two-letter country codes were standardized. While there are no geographic restrictions on registration of most second-level .ws domains,,, and registration is restricted.

“The .ws country code has been marketed as a domain hack, with the .ws purportedly standing for ‘World Site’, Web Site or Web Service, providing a ‘global’ Internet presence to registrants, as it supports all internationalized domain names

In other words, Colombia is the country for the faux sites because of the stroke of fortune that the Internet domain for Colombia is .co, and because there is money to be made.

As for Assange, this Washington Post article from October 2016 explains it well:

Ecuador treated Julian Assange like a trophy in 2012 when it opened the doors of its London embassy to the WikiLeaks founder, sheltering him from extradition to Sweden over rape allegations and, possibly, to the United States.

Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s leftist president, seemed to bask in Assange’s bad-boy glow, which gave the small South American nation a big role in a global drama. Protecting the WikiLeaks editor also gave Correa a way to poke Washington in the eye and look like a champion for press freedom even as he cracked down on journalists back home.

Correa embraced Assange’s mother at the presidential palace in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, and championed the Australian “hacktivist” as an anti-imperialist comrade-in-arms.

Now he’s treating Assange like a bad tenant who won’t leave.

There may be other factors in play here that I’m not aware of, but I don’t think it’s some odd South American conspiracy.

George Takei

I really like a good Second Act story, and the George Takei narrative is that.

Chris is mixing it up! “It’s not really a traditional style ‘Ask Roger Anything’ question, but can you do a post on George Takei?”

To be honest, when you asked the question, I didn’t have all that much to say. Subsequently, there’s been a bit more.

Let me start with the original Star Trek (1966-1969). I was not a big fan, but my father was. I suspect it was because it had a strong black character in Uhuru (Nichelle Nichols), just as Mission: Impossible had with Greg Morris’ Barney.

I did watch the reruns enough so that when The Next Generation started, I was primed. I saw the first five Star Trek movies, featuring Takei’s Sulu (hated #5, was bored by #1, but liked the middle three).

I vaguely remember that George Takei was politically active. When he was running for office in Southern California, the Fairness Doctrine (1949-2011, R.I.P.) was invoked, precluded local stations from showing Star Trek in syndication during the campaigns, lest the program provide him with an unfair advantage.

I didn’t think much about Takei until he came out as gay in 2005. That was obviously quite liberating, as he became more visible in the public eye. And when he joined Facebook in 2011, his wit engendered millions of followers. He became a TV pitchman, usually working his catchphrase, “Oh, MY!” into each ad.

More importantly, he spoke out for gay rights, and for those Japanese-Americans who, like himself as a child, had been interred in camps in the United States during World War II. I guess I really like a good Second Act story, and the George Takei narrative is that.

I don’t follow him on social media, but he’s often reposted, so I get to see his wisdom, and I’ve even shared them, usually in the fortnightly roundups. Sometimes it’s humor, often in a science fiction vein. Frequently he is pointing out political injustice. He was, this election cycle, a nag to Bernie Sanders supporters who weren’t switching to Hillary Clinton, and I found THAT annoying.

Recently, it was announced the Sulu persona in the Star Trek reboot is gay in honor of George Takei. Interestingly, Takei found the news “really unfortunate” because it is twisting of “Gene [Roddenberry’s] creation, to which he put in so much thought.” It’s not surprising that he is so protective of the integrity of the character he brought to life.

Apparently some Star Trek fans have gotten all bent out of shape over the storyline news. The late Gene Roddenberry did promise to include gay people in Star Trek, but the studio put the kibosh on it. George Takei’s opposition is to Sulu’s character being gay but would have embraced a different, not so well established character having a same-gender relationship.

Undoubtedly, there are many Trek fans who are gay and want to know that they can be represented on the Enterprise, which I’m sure George Takei, more than most, understands.
Bob Fletcher Dies at 101; helped interred Japanese-Americans

Music and communication

I do have affection for Chester A. Arthur.

cher-dyingMore Ask Roger Anything questions from Chris:

How do you explain to your daughter how to vet sources?

It must be from an example. Just recently, my daughter said, of a tabloid cover in the supermarket, “Cher isn’t really dying, is she?” We watch a couple of news networks, plus Comedy Central, not every day, but often enough, so she can clearly see that shows often offer different emphases.

In your opinion, is Wikipedia a reliable source?

Depends on the topic, and the compiler. There’s an old cliche about a newspaper providing perfect information for topics I know nothing about, but less so for things with which I am familiar. I recently linked to the Wikipedia for the band Blotto, and I noticed that it NEVER mentioned the band members’ actual names. This was a failing.

Some posts are frozen in amber, perfectly accurate as of November 2013, e.g., but not so much today. Whereas other posts are updated regularly to reflect new music released or films made. Deaths are often, but not always, caught.

I specifically remember that back in 2004 or 2005, I corrected a mention that the next Presidential election would be in 2007, when, of course, it was 2008.

Still, when I’m doing research for a topic about which I know nothing, Wikipedia can be very useful, ESPECIALLY the links to the various footnotes.

What’s one area of scientific research that you think we should be funding more (other than medicine and climate change)?

Well, climate change is huge and would include the potential for everything from island nations flooding to the future loss of the maple syrup industry from the continental United States. Once you’ve eliminated climate change and medicine, what I think you have left is space exploration. It has very often answered many questions for answers here on earth, including those two topics.
What’s been the most surprising world change in your lifetime?

Communication, for good and for ill. You make friends on Facebook with people around the world, you have fights with total strangers on Facebook, often about really stupid stuff. You text your friends, while you ignore those physically around you.

I’ve been the guy reading the newspaper, maybe only a dozen years ago, and someone, as often as not, would comment on a story, or maybe just quietly read over my shoulder. Or I’d read over someone else’s shoulder. Those electronic devices don’t seem to open one up to one’s immediate environment, even as one can learn about the most recent terrorism in Turkey.

The Internet allows for more information, but also misinformation, disinformation, satire, lies. We can see Arab Spring or police misconduct, but also LOL cats and Stare-down Sammy, which got 34 million views on Facebook, and was shown on the CBS morning news; I thought it was a waste of air time.

There have been conspiracy theories for a long time, but they can propagate far more freely these days. Even objective facts will be disputed, and as a person dealing with, ideally, objective information, this can be both frustrating and exhausting. (See also my answer about Google.)

I’ve actually had this conversation about an article someone read. (I’m a librarian; a variation of this happens a LOT.)

Her: Is it true?
Me: Where did the information come from?
Her: Facebook!
Me: But what was the ORIGINAL SOURCE of the information?
Her: I TOLD you, Facebook!

Who is your favorite president and why?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was rich and rather pompous and arrogant. His ailment thought to be polio at the time, but now believed to be Guillain-Barre syndrome, humbled him, and made him a champion for those less well off. And he had a great partner in Eleanor, with whom he seemed to have achieved an understanding regarding his infidelity.

He was imperfect, the Japanese internment being chief among his failures. But he initiated a lot of useful programs, some of which are around today, such as Social Security and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

I do, though, have affection for Chester A. Arthur, a product of the spoils system who became a reformer for civil service.

Tom the Mayor queried:

What is your Favorite Beatles song?

The last time I made a list, it was 3. Help 2 Got To Get You Into My Life 1 Tomorrow Never Knows. Re: TNK, I recently saw Paul, Ringo, and Georges Harrison and Martin discuss its intricacies. But Help! is something I can sing with my daughter.

What is your Favorite Aretha Franklin Song?

The last time I made a list, it was 4. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone 3. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman 2. Sweet Bitter Love (1966). 1. Respect
Of course, Respect is a great cover. Since You’ve Been Gone has always been a favorite because it stifled deejays. But Sweet Bitter Love was in a quartet (or more) of songs that I played when romance went south.

What is your Favorite Joni Mitchell song?

The last time I made a list, it was 2. A Case of You 1. River. River reminds me of my late friend Donna George. But the poetry of A Case of You touches me too.

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