Link Blog: March 22, 2019

If it’s not absurd, it’s depressing… but this week, it’s probably both.

Privacy is becoming a luxury: what data leaks are like for the poor. Poorer people are less likely to have the time or money to fight back against data leaks, like the one from the Seattle Housing Authority last month, potentially making them bigger targets, since attackers know they’re more likely to get away with it.

Floriday’s war on drugs made chocolate and cheese illegal. This is what happens when policy is decided by people who know nothing about science.

The Government Is Using the Most Vulnerable People to Test Facial Recognition Software: NIST’s “Facial Recognition Verification Testing program depends on images of children who have been exploited for child pornography; U.S. visa applicants, especially those from Mexico; and people who have been arrested and are now deceased. Additional images are drawn from the Department of Homeland Security documentation of travelers boarding aircraft in the U.S. and individuals booked on suspicion of criminal activity.” Obviously, individuals probably never consented to the use of their likeness for this purpose.

The Companies Vying to Build the Border Wall Seem Shady as Hell: From 2018, but still relevant. The companies bidding on Trump’s border wall catastrophe have concerning pasts, from claiming to mentor minority-owned businesses (and not really doing it) to actual prison time.

California jury finds Monsanto’s Roundup caused a man’s cancer: this is the second civil suit where the company has been found at fault for not warning people of the risks.

Court Says VA Was Wrong in Denying Vietnam Veterans Benefits: in February, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the VA’s decision to deny disability benefits to Navy veterans who were sickened by Agent Orange exposure. The decision could affect 90,000 vets, as well as their children who may also have been sickened or disabled by AO exposure.

For Larger Customers, Eating Out Is Still a Daunting Experience: “For people who identify as large, plus-size or fat, dining out can be a social and physical minefield. Chairs with arms or impossibly small seats leave marks and bruises. Meals are spent in pain, or filled with worry that a flimsy chair might collapse.” A timely article about what it’s like to go out to eat as a larger person, and what’s happening to improve the experience.

MuckRock’s annual FOIA March Madness is here again: and there are stickers!

Link Blog: March 15, 2019

The Ides of March: a short but relevant history lesson about the Roman calendar.

Me and White Supremacy Workbook: Layla Saad turned her her viral Instagram challenge into an email format: “the Me And White Supremacy Workbook will lead you through a journey of personal reflection and deep shadow work. The purpose of this workbook is to educate people with white privilege as to their internalised racism, and facilitate personal and collective change to help dismantle the oppressive system of white supremacy.”

Observations on Burnout: A tech-leaning anatomy of burnout that applies to plenty of other industries, as well. This sarcastic/ironic line about what keeps people stuck in the rut that leads to burnout hits very close to home when it comes to my past experiences: “In short, the [worker] should never feel like their actions have any actual positive impact on the state of things but should have just enough hope that maybe the next time will be different.” And to be fair, I found some of the advice frustrating: it says to help recover from burnout, to address health issues that you’ve been ignoring. Which is reasonable advice, but it disregards the fact that many people burning out in the first place may have been doing so because they can’t afford or don’t have access to mental or physical healthcare.

The Western Erasure of African Tragedy: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed last week, killing all 152 souls on board. The accident was a tragedy, and the same kind of plane (a Boeing 737 Max 8) that crashed in Indonesia in October, but the Western media is (as usual) choosing to highlight the loss of non-African lives, or to question the safety of the airline itself. (Ethiopian Airlines is no less safe than any other airline.)

Inequity in consumption of goods and services adds to racial–ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure. A research article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States highlighting environmental racism. From the abstract: “We show that, in the United States, PM2.5 exposure is disproportionately caused by consumption of goods and services mainly by the non-Hispanic white majority, but disproportionately inhaled by black and Hispanic minorities. On average, non-Hispanic whites experience a “pollution advantage”: They experience ∼17% less air pollution exposure than is caused by their consumption. Blacks and Hispanics on average bear a“pollution burden” of 56% and 63% excess exposure, respectively, relative to the exposure caused by their consumption.”

IBM didn’t get permission from subjects before their photos were fed into its facial-recognition system: Sadly, but unsurprisingly, IBM used Flickr photos for its facial recognition research. Spoiler alert: plenty of other companies don’t either. The sad reality is that if photos of you have ever been online, they could’ve been archived into data sets for these purposes. The sadder reality is that even if you expressly do not consent or opt out (which is difficult, if not impossible, to do), we don’t really know if our wishes are being honored.

Hubble captured an image of galaxies colliding, 230 million light years away. The image is fascinating, but it’s also fascinating that, according to the article, the collision was “first spotted by astronomer William Herschel on June 11, 1784, who thought it was a single oddball galaxy with an exceptionally strange shape.”

60 Minutes covers the court case where a group of kids are suing the U.S. government to halt the use of fossil fuels. (Fair warning: the video auto-plays. A transcript is below the video.) The plaintiffs have amassed 50 years of evidence showing that government officials have known about the dangers of burning fossil fuels and its impact on climate change for over 50 years, as well as 50 years of evidence showing the government hasn’t done anything substantial to address it.

Indian tribe revives heirloom seeds for health and climate security. “The Dongria Kondhs, devotees of their mountain gods in the remote hills of eastern India, are custodians of dozens of vanishing seed varieties. With the region in an agrarian crisis due to recurrent droughts and erratic rainfall, the tribe is on a mission to return to its farming roots and resuscitate long-lost heirloom crops.”

Remove Google fonts from the most popular WP themes: the themes I have experience with are a bit too complex for the suggestions here, but this is an awesome place to start. For this site’s current theme (a heavily simplified GeneratePress), the Disable Google Fonts plugin did the trick.

Link blog: March 8, 2019

I never know whether to title this with a date or a summary.

New Moon, a dark theme for web development. Created by the talented and always-helpful Tania Rascia, this dark theme can be applied to your text editor (VS Code, Brackets, Sublime, or Atom), Chrome, and iTerm2. I’m red-green colorblind and I’ve enjoyed this theme more than other dark themes.

Is This the End of Recycling? After sending countless shipments of poorly-sorted trash to China, China has finally started refusing our garbage-disguised-as-recycling. While it’s nice for consumers to consume less so there’s less waste produced, the onus is really on corporations and manufacturers to produce more responsibly. It’s time to radically rethink our packaging and what we do with it when it’s empty.

The Romani Cultural and Arts Company is a Welsh nonprofit organization created by Romani people to encourage arts and community engagement in order to fight racism against the Romani people.

Sex Redefined: The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that. (2015, and forever relevant.) A woman got pregnant in her 40s and was surprised to learn through a routine test that she has both XX and XY chromosomes, proving that gender is not as black and white (or pink and blue) as the creators of “gender reveal parties” and bathroom legislation would like us to believe.

On Likability. “I think, perhaps, one reason — maybe the primary reason — that the world tries so hard to pressure us to be likable (and to punish us when we aren’t) is because they are afraid we will realize that if we don’t need anyone to like us we can be any way we want. We can tell any story. We can tell the truth.”

Daily Hugz is a sanctuary for homeless and abused animals, and offers a safe play space for the children of Palestine. This site is full of adorable photos, and you can support them financially or by ordering some of the most special olive oil money can buy.

greener pastures: a Lollipop update

After a year of great experiences, I have decided to leave the Lollipop team in order to pursue other endeavors. I look forward to watching from a distance and seeing what happens next for Lollipop. Thank you to Kemonine and all the contributors for the support and camaraderie. It’s been a pleasure. I look forward to seeing you around the ‘verse. -jmf

Link blog: Facebook’s exploited workers, open source seeds, and a blast from the past

The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America: SERIOUS CONTENT WARNING for this link: there’s descriptions of very violent real-life things. Please only click this link if you’re in a good place emotionally. Facebook’s underpaid moderator contractors are left with PTSD, death threats, and denial of reality (becoming flat earthers and holocaust deniers, among other things).

Open Source Seed Bank: “The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) is dedicated to maintaining fair and open access to plant genetic resources worldwide in order to ensure the availability of germplasm to farmers, gardeners, breeders, and communities of this and future generations.”

Computers in RVs: Check out this adorable blast from the past (1999!) about RVing as a computer user.

Taking a bit of a hiatus…

I’ve been lucky enough to find a great temporary position, and I’ll be focusing on that for awhile.

I’m still working with Lollipop Cloud, as well, and am excited to announce our new Open Collective for those wishing to support the project, and follow along for status updates. Lollipop is really gaining momentum!

I’m not going anywhere… just being quiet for a bit. 🙂

Links: privacy’s broader implications, colonization’s effect on the planet, and helping our houseless neighbors

Privacy is not just a personal matter: “The loss of our privacy is a loss for society and democracy. In a surveillance society, the impact of data collection is not just personal because collective privacy is lost too.”

America colonisation ‘cooled Earth’s climate’: “Colonisation of the Americas at the end of the 15th Century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate.”

A video about the importance of mutual aid to alleviate the housing crisis. Houselessness is a serious problem year-’round, but it’s especially deadly right now, in parts of the country where the cold has become downright dangerous. Reach out to your neighbors and local warming shelters and save a life.

Lollipop Cloud’s Works on Arm Sponsorship: “We are happy to announce we have been awarded a slot in the Works on Arm initiative. We never, in our wildest dreams, thought we would be accepted.”

Links: Raspberry Pi web services, the trouble with being inspiring, and the history of some important medicines

One of these days, I’m going to get myself on a schedule, and publish my links on a single day of the week.

First steps to running a web service on a Raspberry Pi: If you are interested in hosting your own Mastodon or Pleroma instance (or some other kind of more-involved web service), but haven’t a clue where to begin, this might help.

I am not here to inspire you. Sophia talks about the very serious problem of abled people finding disabled people inspiring.

Sir David Jack: an extraordinary drug discoverer and developer. David Jack’s goal as a pharmaceutical developer was to find “better medicines for the treatment of poorly-treated common diseases.” On a personal note, without David Jack’s invention of albuterol (brand name Ventolin), I would not be alive today. I think many of us can say the same, because Jack’s discoveries also include (but are not limited to) glucocorticosteroids for asthma treatment, ranitidine (Zantac) for gastric acid diseases, and ondansetron (Zofran) for severe nausea often associated with chemotherapy treatment.

Links: Amazon’s bizarre world of returns, sick-shaming at the office, more accessibility fail

Where Amazon Returns Go to Be Resold by Hustlers: “Every box is a core sample drilled through the digital crust of platform capitalism. On Amazon’s website, sophisticated sorting algorithms relentlessly rank and organize these products before they go out into the world, but once the goods return to the warehouse, they shake free of the database and become random objects thrown together into a box by fate. Most likely, never will this precise box of shit ever exist again in the world.”

You sneezed, go home: talking about “sick shamers,” who push people to go/stay home from work if they’re displaying cold symptoms. Sadly, the article doesn’t stress the lack of adequate sick time offered to most workers. Nor does it highlight how many chronically ill and immune-compromised people are in the workplace: staying home might literally save your coworkers’ lives.

Learn to do it yourself: a valid critique of the (lack of) concern for accessibility in open source.

Links: screen reader accessibility, lab notebooks, and brutalist WordPress

How to Design Website Layouts for Screen Readers: A great tutorial on making your web design more accessible.

Lab Notebooks and Software Development: As a former laboratory chemist, there’s a special place in my heart for a good lab notebook and thorough documentation. Sure enough, whenever I’ve tripped myself up in this process of learning to code, it’s almost always because I failed to document my work, resulting in duplicate or useless efforts. Since adopting more of a laboratory notebook style of learning and project tracking, I’ve been less stressed, and creating more useful, reliable code.

BrutalPress theme for WordPress: is finally functional enough to include in my link list.