Today, we eat a rich and decadent buffet of brainjunk — of useless tweets, of photos of people we don’t know, of articles that were written in ten minutes to stoke the content boiler. The dopamine cycle ensures that we keep on craving more content, the exact same dopamine cycle that makes a Happy Meal a happy meal. : Brainjunk and the Killing of the Internet Mind

This article makes the argument that we should pay for the content that serves our interests. (And by implication, tells the truth?) Free content isn’t worth what we’re not paying for it. It serves the interests of advertisers, not consumers. And because people won’t pay for quality, purveyors of quality content are crashing and burning, or deciding instead to generate the crap that people demand for free and advertisers will buy in bulk.

I agree, which is why I’ve been struggling to break the dopamine cycle and finding content that I’m willing to pay for. I’ve cut the TV cable in favor of services like Netflix and YouTube Red, where I can find what I want without commercials. And I subscribe to magazines*, even those that have a lot of free content online. It is essential to support what matters because The Big Cheese is trying to kill it.

I recommend The Nation, which I first found in College, back in the 1980s. It was already a formidable 120 years old back then. It’s published weekly and the Kindle subscription is $1.99/month.

I skim other political news once a week, because watching the nightly effluvium of MSNBC is like deliberately choosing the slow drip of Chinese water torture. You might approve of washing your face, but nobody thinks that’s a good method. Sure, it’s infinitely better than Faux Spews, which is water-boarding its braindead viewers with tanks of raw sewage. Still, no thanks for the nightly news from any direction. After all, we have lives and trumpism is somebody else’s problem, as I’ve said before.

Long story shorter, my friends, if you don’t prioritize your brain, somebody else will. Guard it vigorously.

*I also subscribe to print versions of
Poets & Writers, Poetry, and TIME. 


gift cards

WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve issued new rules on Tuesday to protect Americans from getting stung by unexpected fees or restrictions on gift cards.

Gift cards have grown in popularity — with more than 95 percent of Americans having received or purchased them, the Fed said.

And as usage has gone up, so too have complaints from people taken by surprise by fees that eat into the value of the cards as well restrictions on how long they'll be good for.

I just felt like sharing this, because you have to watch where you step out there.

hiding in plain sight

Well this is cool. Hanging out in Starbucks in Carp, drinking a mint tea (already over-coffeed for the day) and working online. It’s nice that they finally got around to taking care of their customers with a little Internet hook-up, but I still have to question their methods.

What Starbucks has done is to make another deal with a major telephone company for limited access to select customers, when they should have hooked up everyone for free. I had to put money on my Starbucks card, register it (and there’s the rub), then sign up for AT&T membership. That’s free enough, but still could have been better.

I have been in coffeehouses where the wifi was open to anyone in range, though you were expected to buy something of course. At others, I was given an access code with my purchase, and that was cool too. The advantage to these approaches was anonymity. I didn’t have to give anyone my name and address, as I did on the Starbucks site today.

So I wonder, when I logged on here at the store, was my exact location revealed to some database, accessible by the FBI, the NSA, CIA, or some other misbegotten, misanthropic progeny of the NKVD and the Spanish Inquisition? We are being watched, you know. Some of us are, and none of us is safe from it.

Thanks, Starbucks. And the tea is a little weak.

New Age

If someone had asked me whether we’re in the Industrial Age or the Information Age, I would have said we’ve been deep into information for a while now. Doc Searls points out that we have another leap to make.

I’ve long believed that the crossover from the Industrial Age to the Information Age will be marked by an awakening to the need by customers to control their own selves, rather than to remain subordinated to the controlling interests of companies. Same thing with citizens and governments.

the government is there to help

That title had to get your attention, right? Of course you don’t believe it, but here’s a helpful little tip:

Telephone numbers placed on the National Do Not Call Registry will remain on it permanently due to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, which became law in February 2008.

Read more about it at

I found this at, when I stopped by to update the registration for my phone.

from the "I’ll believe it when I see it" file…

As part of a plan to reinvigorate its brand, Starbucks will offer free wireless Internet access at more than 7,000 stores. This spring, customers who use Starbucks cards can get up to two hours per day of free Wi-Fi, while customers of AT&T Broadband and U-Verse services will have unlimited access in Starbucks stores. Others can purchase two hour increments for $3.99 – much cheaper than the existing T-Mobile service.

Future Tense commentator Dwight Silverman says this expansion of free Wi-Fi is good news for mobile workers, but bad news for independent coffee shops.

So reports John Gordon on American Public Media.

A few thoughts:

  • Very little, pretty late, to make me fall in love with Starbucks. They’ve been yanking their customers’ chains with their locked wi-fi for a long time, and it should be 100% free and unlimited to everyone who buys coffee.
  • Two hours a day is stingy; unless, like me, that’s more than enough time to have the old ample posterior parked in a coffeehouse.
  • $2 an hour is simply a rip-off. Is the dark liquid property of their product the only thing Starbucks has in common with Exxon Mobile? Apparently not.
  • It’s not bad news for independent coffeehouses which are able to do two things: make better coffee than Starbucks and provide totally free wi-fi. That should be very easy to do.