What The In Crowd Knows

A tale as old as time:

Dominant liberal culture is, if nothing else, fiercely rule-abiding: they get very upset when they see anyone defying decrees from authorities, even if the rule-breaker is the official who promulgated the directives for everyone else. 

While I appreciate the willingness of Glenn Greenwald, a man of the Left, to call out the hypocrisy of our Ruling Class, this observation isn’t quite right, actually. Dominant liberal culture is all about rule promulgation, not necessarily personally abiding by rules. As time goes on, the pretense fades, and why wouldn’t it? Nothing ever happens to the Ruling Class.

Dobie Gray, a more perceptive social critic than our man Greenwald, was all over this way back in ’65:

I’m in with the in crowd
I go where the in crowd goes
I’m in with the in crowd
And I know what the in crowd knows
Any time of the year, don’t you hear?
Dressin’ fine, makin’ time
We breeze up and down the street
We get respect from the people we meet
They make way day or night
They know the in crowd is out of sight

Back in ’65, the term “out of sight” roughly meant cool, fashionable, au courant, like that. Some 56 years later, out of sight has a more conventional meaning: in the shadows, behind the curtain, holed up in nondescript office buildings in and around the Beltway. Our in crowd is an industrious lot, and they keep coming up with more rules at all times, whether our Congresscritters weigh in or not.

Any time of the year, don’t you hear? Mocking fools, making rules

But many of our fellow citizens don’t hear, nor are they listening. Instead, we all hear our animatronic Leader of the Free World as he is sent out to joust with the Teleprompter.

We make every minute count
Our share is always the biggest amount
Other guys imitate us
But the original’s still the greatest

Just ask them. If you can identify them.




The Matrix: Natural Selection Meets Text Messaging

A fifteen-year-old girl is texting while walking along a sidewalk with a friend and falls into an open manhole that workers were just about to cone off (allegedly).

She’s okay. Her parents want to sue. But who is really at fault here?

Now the important questions here are:

  1. How did both people miss an open manhole directly in their path?
  2. Did the text “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Ooof! OMG! Mother.” make it to the other party?”
  3. Would cordoning off a manhole with “Men Working” signs and orange cones have stopped an iPhone-thumbing teen any way?
  4. Why are street-level utility portals called manholes? Why not personholes?

These are questions for all mankind.

Watch the video and discuss.

In related news: Oprah Spares Two Entire Families from Falling Down a Personhole

The Matrix: It’s not Paranoia

…when they really are out to get you.

keeping tabs on every Web site they visit, every keystroke they tap, every instant message they send–even the contents of the messages on their personal Hotmail or Gmail accounts.

Besides financial fraud, companies find less insidious but still costly forms of abuse such as employees spending long, production-sapping stretches on Facebook or YouTube.

To help avoid cases of worker fraud, companies are increasingly using monitoring and tracking software. “Employee fraud definitely increases in economic hard times,” says Frank McKenna, co-founder and chief fraud strategist of BasePoint Analytics, a firm that offers fraud consulting and software for banks, mortgage lenders, and credit-card companies.

Consider yourself warned.

Obama Won’t Leave The Matrix

Obama won’t give up his Blackberry!

This is news?

Why should he? He’s the Chief Executive. He’s the boss.

I’m all for Obanana keeping his smart phone.

He’s not just the first African American President. He’s the first President that won’t look stupid thumbing his old racketeering pals a message.

“Dude. Like this is so cool. Did you guys see my new ride?”

He needs to be kept abreast when he’s sunning his washboard abs.

“I want to be able to have voices, other than the people who are immediately working for me, be able to reach out and send me a message about what’s happening in America.”

For example, soon-to-be disappointed voices like Peggy Joseph.

Security issues.

“I think we’re going to be able to hang on to one of these. My working assumption, and this is not new, is that anything I write on an email could end up being on CNN,” he said.

Oops. What the President-Elect meant to say was:

“Anything that CNN writes for me to say…”

National Security?

“So I make sure to think before I press ‘send’,” he said.

Let’s hope as President he thinks before he presses any buttons.

Obama’s Blackberry can take the place of his teleprompter when he’s on the fly.

“If I’m doing something stupid, somebody (in Jail-JR) in Chicago can send me an e-mail and say, ‘What are you doing?’

That might happen a lot.

The Matrix: Collective Intelligence

We text, email, phone and make purchases in an ever inter-connected world. As our point of accessing the internet has shifted from stationary PC’s to smaller and more mobile devices, The Matrix is matching what we are looking for with where we are at the time and rending the data in the new world of Collective Intelligence, the term now emerging to describe the data trail we all leave behind, knowingly, willingly, or not.

Propelled by new technologies and the Internet’s steady incursion into every nook and cranny of life, collective intelligence offers powerful capabilities, from improving the efficiency of advertising to giving community groups new ways to organize.

…and the result? A plebe in the White House, but I digress.

Wireless and internet technologies afford consumers and businesses unprecedented freedom and productivity in the age of the Matrix. What are the consequences? Is it a fair trade?

But even its practitioners acknowledge that, if misused, collective intelligence tools could create an Orwellian future on a level Big Brother could only dream of.

Collective intelligence could make it possible for insurance companies, for example, to use behavioral data to covertly identify people suffering from a particular disease and deny them insurance coverage. Similarly, the government or law enforcement agencies could identify members of a protest group by tracking social networks revealed by the new technology. “There are so many uses for this technology — from marketing to war fighting — that I can’t imagine it not pervading our lives in just the next few years,” says Steve Steinberg, a computer scientist who works for an investment firm in New York.

Alas, I know of few that would give up their Blackberry, the aforementioned President-Elect counted among them.

In the balance, the benefits will hopefully outweigh the perils. Some will be more obvious than others.

Assisting policymakers…

a few weeks ago, Google deployed an early-warning service for spotting flu trends, based on search queries for flu-related symptoms.

Day traders…

It could see, for example, that people who worked in the city’s financial district would tend to go to work early when the market was booming, but later when it was down.

It also noticed that middle-income people — as determined by ZIP code data — tended to order cabs more often just before market downturns.

…and bar hoppers.

The consumer application, Citysense, identifies entertainment hot spots in a city. It connects information from Yelp and Google about nightclubs and music clubs with data generated by tracking locations of anonymous cellphone users.

Moving forward into the past?

“For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,” Dr. Malone said. “In some sense we’re becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.”

Like it or not, with the advent of an ever-growing array of sensory technologies, it will become difficult if not impossible to avoid the grasp of The Matrix.

The Matrix Is On Line Two

Last week in the process of renewing a business credit line, my bank checked my credit as a matter of course.

The next day, “Jeff” with “American Equity” or something along those lines left me a message. He was “verifying” a recent transaction and was calling “…to assure me that the terms of my loan were the best options available to me or to make sure that I was offered the best terms available in the marketplace”….or some other malarkey.

It was pretty convincing. It sounded like someone calling on behalf of my bank. It would have to be right? My bank wouldn’t inform any other entities of my business dealings with them…right?

So I called “Jeff” back. He was a bit surprised by my accusatory tone once he informed me that he had nothing to do with my bank and where he got the information.

It turns out Jeff’s company, which has absolutely nothing to do with my bank, subscribes to a service that alerts them to credit checks of highly qualified borrowers. Within 24 hours. Name, phone number and amount borrowed are all provided for a fee.Who provides this data you ask? Is it a form of identity theft?

It turns out Experian, one of the “Big Three” credit bureaus, provides this data to other lenders when you apply for credit. Apparently, they don’t have to inform you, and if I hadn’t received “Jeff’s” cold call, I would never have known that my name, phone number, credit score and transaction information are available to anyone willing to pay a fee for it.

Cross-Sell Triggers (sm)

Daily triggering tool for expanding customer relationships.

Cross-Sell TriggersSM, an event-based triggering tool, empowers you to deliver daily cross-sell and up-sell offers based on customer-initiated inquiries for new credit occurring within the last 24 hours.

Retain your most profitable customers

Cross-Sell Triggers allows you to respond immediately to retain customers who inquire about credit elsewhere.

Build loyalty and expand customer relationships

Respond to changing customer needs by making the right offer at the right time, thereby increasing your product-to-customer ratio.

That’s nice. I’d actually prefer a little privacy when I shop for credit.


I haven’t verified this yet but apparently you can call Experian and opt out. Gee, thanks for the consideration. Thanks for taking up my time to call you, presumably wait on hold, and take back my rights to privacy.


I guess I always considered the credit bureaus to be in the business of tracking and evaluating potential credit consumers. I also assumed that my credit information was not accessible without my consent.

Wrong on both counts.

Word to the wise.

The Matrix: In your back seat.

Sure enough. As predicted, black boxes in cars will be required in all motor vehicles by 2012.

The device can be used by the manufacturer to determine if the car was abused in the case of warranty issues (fair enough) but can also be used by attorneys or law enforcement to gather data that “can and will be used against you in a court of law” (no thanks).

A Florida man named Scott Weires (who is an attorney incidentally – JR) has canceled the order for his long-awaited Nissan GT-R. Why? It’s not that he was disappointed in the car’s performance credentials, far from it. The problem is that the GT-R is equipped with a ‘black box’, similar in theory to the kind found on airplanes to help determine what went wrong in case of an accident or breakdown. By the end of 2012, car buyers won’t have a choice as to whether their new car is equipped with a ‘black box,’ or Electronic Data Recorder — they will be federally mandated to carry one.

Florida man cancels Nissan GT-R order due to ‘black box’ 

That’s at least one consumer voting with his checkbook. No word yet on whether the devices will be defeatable.

I want my Matrix

…and I want it for free. 

Dear Starbucks, 

Screw you. 

Caribou, Bruegger’s, Dunn Brothers and a host of ma/pa coffee shops and restaurants give me WIFI access to the Matrix for free. I got it this morning while waiting for my oil change at Walser.

If I buy an Americano for three dollars plus, I expect you to throw in a few Megabits. 

I’ll not access your Web, if it’s not for free. 

No!  – No, Thank You to thee 

I need this great wonder invented by Gore 

But make me pay, and I’m out the door 

I do enjoy your extra burnt Espresso, 

But when I am surfing, you’ll not get my American Expresso. 



PS Say “Hi” to Howard 

What is the Matrix?

The Matrix has Found You

I wrote about location-centric devices in the car a few months back and how you may some day be driving along and up pops a banner ad of sorts on your navigation screen. Or who knows, maybe the ads on your radio will be customized based on the businesses you are currently driving by.

The technology already exists. The Matrix will soon know where you are. And maybe whether you like it or not.

Customized advertising may be the least intrusive application of location technology.

There are already black boxes in passenger vehicles that gather data on throttle position, speed, steering angle, brake application and other data that can and have been subpoenad by insurance companies and in court.

Its not a stretch to think that these boxes will soon gather, store and maybe even report location data without your knowledge.

In the mean time, Yahoo would like to make use of it now, and at least for now, will ask for your permission.

Yahoo knows where you are

On Tuesday at Yahoo’s San Francisco-based skunk works – known as the Brickhouse – the embattled Internet company unveiled a new location services platform dubbed Fire Eagle.

Location is one of those things that has huge potential for adding a layer of context to all kinds of services on the Web.  Geo-tagging – the practice of adding geographic information to Web sites, photos and videos – is gathering steam across all sorts of Internet-based properties, from restaurant review sites to social networks and house hunting services. What has been missing, however, is an easy way to insert yourself into that growing stream of geographic information.

In essence, that is what Fire Eagle does. You either tell Fire Eagle where you are, or give permission for some device to do it on your behalf – say your mobile phone –  and Fire Eagle broadcasts your location information to the services that you have approved.

Which all sounds cool, and there may be some constructive, relevant use of this technology for consumers – as long as they retain the right to turn it on and off. I have Google Maps on my Treo, but at least for now, you have to tell it where you are. Equipping it to automatically know where you are would be useful.

“Where’s the nearest Caribou?”

So imagine that all your friends on Facebook now get feeds on your location, by city, neighborhood or even street address. If you are driving through a neighborhood house hunting, you could get updates on homes on the market, past sale prices and upcoming open houses. Hungry for Italian? The closest places for a decent plate of pasta come streaming to your phone. Note that you can do much of this today with individual services, but you have to tell each of them where you are. With Fire Eagle, you give your location once, and all kinds of services can access it (again, only with your permission).

If advertisers know where you are, they can entice you with deals/coupons/menus on the spot.

Apple is in on it as well. No surpise there.

Yahoo will face competition from the likes of Apple (AAPL), which has made scores of location-based services available as downloads for the iPhone, and Google (GOOG), whose Android mobile phone platform is expected to do the same for a range of mobile devices.

“No Elizabeth, I’m not at Rielle’s place again. I promise.”

In every case, whether it’s a social network or an advertiser, a person’s location will only be made available to those services that individuals approve. And if you don’t want anyone to know where you are – illicit affair, job interview – you have the option of hiding your location for a period of time you determine, or even lying.

“We think it’s a good idea that users can lie about where they are,” says Tom Coates, head of product at Yahoo’s Brickhouse. “Like I don’t always tell my mother where I am.”

Repeat after me:

You can’t get away from the Matrix. The Matrix always knows where you are. You need the Matrix.

Surviving The Matrix

The Core of The Matrix is the wireless smart phone. A device as reviled as it is praised. It has brought freedom to our lifestyles while at the same time been the subject of “Hang Up and Drive” bumper stickers.

I installed Facebook on mine today. I’ve never been more connected with more people in more places, from Cedar Rapids to San Francisco; South Minneapolis; Switzerland to Italy.

Save the distraction these devices surely cause to drivers (and apparently walkers alike), the health risk these devices pose whilst pressed to one’s cranium for sometimes hours at a time is not yet clear.

Numerous studies have been conducted, the lion’s share by the wireless industry itself, lending the “all clear” declaration dubious merit at best.

Why Cell-Phone Health Concerns Persist 

If putting Garfield in the microwave causes the critter mortal harm (anecdotally speaking of course), it stands to reason, even allowing for the difference in frequency and power, that a cellular telephone likely has some effect on the brain – certainly the side of your head.

Whether that effect is a slight rise in temperature akin to the hysteria-inducing magnitude cited in the Man-Made Global Warming/Cooling/Change movement or tumors the size of golf balls has yet to be conclusively determined. Cell phones have enjoyed societal saturation for about ten years. Brain tumors reportedly have a gestation period that is more often than not at least that.

As for me my approach is as my approach to God and Nutritional Supplements.

I believe in God and Vitamins because I’d rather be wrong and have had faith all the while than the other way around when I’ve written my last blog post.

So I use a headset and forward my cell phone to my desk phone as much as possible. I don’t give my kids cell phones. I use the Bluetooth system in my car and I don’t care if you can’t hear me as well.

I moderate the pressing of the flesh with my Treo 755p.

What say you?

The Matrix Strikes Back

Is e-mail ruining your life? Delete … now

According to a report to be published in October by the New York-based research company Basex, unnecessary interruptions such as spam, other unnecessary e-mail and instant-messages take up 28 percent of the average knowledge worker’s day.

So if I spend another 28 percent of my day in the bathroom and another 40 percent blogging…wow! That’s like 106% of my day spent…(I’ll resist finishing that sentence).

Behind the e-mail backlash is a growing perception that — despite its convenience and everything positive it has brought to work and social situations — it is a monster that’s threatening to ruin our lives.

“It chases you,” said Natalie Firstenberg, a Los Angeles therapist who said the subject of e-mail is a frequent subject with her clients. “There are no business hours.”

Methinks her clients needed therapy before they got a smart phone (a misnomer if ever there was one). My friend Smithers has a more colorful moniker for these devices.

As legions of “knowledge workers” vacation this summer, the question of whether to take along the BlackBerry is more complicated than ever. Do, and the vacation might not be such a vacation after all. Don’t, and you’re likely to return to an in-box that takes hours to clear or, worse, the dreaded “your mailbox has exceeded its limits” message.

We covered this here and here

The Matrix can be our friend. Or our enemy. It’s only as smart or as menacing as we allow it to be.

Well…unless your boss hands you a crackberry on the company account and says “Don’t leave home without it.”

Then you’re pretty much screwed.

And some people (or their parents) are just plain stoopid unfortunate.

The nation’s youngsters will soon be headed back to school and making new friends in new classes, as well as catching up with old buddies – activities that these days typically spark a flurry of text-messaging, especially among teens and young adults. But the nation’s emergency physicians say they are seeing a dangerous trend that can go hand-in-hand with texting: a rise in injuries and deaths related to sending text messages at inappropriate times, such as while walking, driving, biking or rollerblading.

“In March, [we] were driving and saw a  woman in her twenties step off the curb and get struck square by a pickup truck,” said Dr. Matthew Lewin, MD, PhD, an emergency physician at University of California San Francisco Hospital in San Francisco. “She was unconscious and it appeared she’d suffered a massive brain injury. You could tell she saw the truck at the last moment because her cell phone was dropped right where she was struck just off the curb, and she was thrown about 20 or 30 feet.. It was horrifying. The truck stopped. The driver was devastated. I was amazed to hear she survived all the way to trauma center but died [in] the ER.”

So unless your boss superglues a Blackberry to your wrist, it behooves the wireless warrior to keep your wits about you and condition your fellow thumbinistas. Yesterday on a bike ride I received two phone calls from a client who didn’t leave a message then proceeded to text me:

“JR call me back ASAP. I have to talk to you.”

So I stopped what I was doing, which was biking (Yes, I pulled over), thinking maybe he had had a death in the family or something (I do insurance planning too) and called him only to find out he wanted me to confirm some rumor about one of my colleagues.


I told him that since he had texted me I thought his call was urgent and if it’s okay with him, could we please carry on this conversation later (or not at all).

I used to tell my clients that I return all phone calls within twenty four hours but if you email me “it’s like you sent me a letter – give me a couple days.”

That doesn’t really work any more. In fact, many of my clients see email as more urgent than a phone call, probably because they really don’t use the phone any more. The upside of this is that I in turn can get a lot more done and can communicate a lot more efficiently using email.

Expectations do have to be managed and in a service business such as mine, that must be done in a cordial but firm manner.

It cuts both ways. There’s no such thing as “email tag”, which is a good thing.

So for now, as long as I am able (though I rarely do) to disconnect, I am Master of My Domain on The Matrix; not the other way around.

Leaving The Matrix

I like to keep an open mind to other cultures, viewpoints and philosophies and recently listened to Pema Chödrön’s 3-CD set Getting Unstuckduring my recent road trip to Milwaukee. It was recommended by a favorite client of mine.

Pema Chödrön (formerly known as Deirdre Blomfield-Brown) is an ordained Buddhist nun in the Tibetan vajrayana tradition, and a teacher in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. The goal of her work is the ability to apply Buddhist teachings in everyday life.

I hate to boil the whole of Buddhism down to one principle, but my experience is limited to this CD set and the gist of the application of Buddhist teachings in everyday life is quite similar to a quote I cited in my last post at Roosh Five:

It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad, but rather regret over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

That is to say, my takeaway was learning to be “present” as Pema Chödrön puts it, and I thought the audio CD and another recent experience was relevant to the discussion in my previous “Matrix” post.

Now, watch as I turn this whole concept into a justification for the rental of a motorhead boy toy.

Friday, two colleagues and I rented Harleys (mine was actually a 1300cc Yamaha V-Star if you must know) and rode from downtown Minneapolis, headed East, and toured both sides of the Minnesota/Wisconsin border, Wisconsin side down to Pepin and back up the Minnesota side. Our tour terminated in Stillwater where we joined the festivities of Lumberjack Days, already in progress.

We put on a few hundred miles, stopping for whatever reason we saw fit; a beer, a view, or a funnel cloud (we think) over lake Pepin in Lake City.

The essence of riding a motorcycle is the freedom you feel. The disconnection. It’s not just the warm wind buffeting your face, the soundtrack of the big-cans and pipes, the copious torque available at the flick of a wrist or the 360-degree unimpeded view. It’s the fact that done right, a bike ride is on no one’s schedule but your own. One caveat: in the interest of self-preservation, your constant attention to the now is required. Hence, motorcycling requires you to be “present”; or else.

We had no radios, no CB’s, and our Swiss Army Personal Digital Assistants, with their chirps, buzzes and warbles fell on deaf ears buried in the depths of our saddle bags.

I observed one of my colleagues light a cigarette at a red light and smoke it behind the windscreen at highway speeds, but I have never once seen anyone talking on a cell phone or reading a newspaper or texting on a motorcycle. It’s against the laws of nature, I’m sure of it.

As such, we would go as much as a couple hours at a time without connection to the modern world, the fact that we were riding fuel-injected hogs with trip computers and electronic ignition, notwithstanding. Completely incommunicado.

In fact, we rarely even spoke to each other. It was us, the road, the sun and the aural interplay of the throaty rumble and crack of our pipes as we rode in staggered formation through the winding two-lane highways along the river and it’s bluffs that make Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota some of the most popular and scenic territory for bikers.

Calls went unanswered. Text messages failed to generate urgency. Emails stacked themselves neatly. Severe weather warnings went unheard. The stock market did what it does; just without us on this day.

And it was good.

The Matrix

The other day I was thinking about the ever-increasing forms of information and mental stimulation we are subjected to in the course of a day in America.

I wonder if the modern human species has lost its ability to truly relax and do nothing; and in doing so, can the species achieve a state of mental pause?

I would submit that in order to relax, by definition, we have to shut out all external inputs and information sources:

Text Messaging
The Web
Satelite Radio
Amber Alerts
Cell Phone

As unlikely as it is for someone to choose to do so, it is of course physically possible but that really isn’t the question is it? Can we stop thinking about what we are missing if we are not connected? If so, how long does it take the brain to adjust?

Has anyone gone on a vacation recently and actually disconnected completely? Did it work? Was it worth it?

Can we ever break free of The Matrix?