Seeing the XML Contents of a Word DOCX “File”

Ah, the file which is not one but is really a zipped directory of XML files and directories of XML files. In its defense, this isn’t uncommon for Mac applications — and I assume for other application-generated “files” on other operating systems as well. In case you have the bad luck of trying to understand what’s going on with a particular Word docx file, you can do the following in a terminal window:

cd path/to/your/file.docx
unzip file.docx -d file-content

A Small Appliances Departs

After many years of faithful service, I am saddened to announce that the Sweda Multi-Blend 2000 stick blender has finally bitten the dust. Given to me by my paternal grandmother, who had no use for it within her world of making magic emerge from cheap aluminum pots juggled on cheap gas stoves, the Sweda Multi-Blend 2000 did not have much use in my world save blending to smooth perfection the base of tomato ragus so that all possible traces of the originaly vegetality of the tomato were removed to my daughter’s satisfaction. The Sweda Multi-Blend 2000 is survived by my maternal grandmother’s Oster Kitchen Center who will take upon it the duties of blending (as well as food processing, meat grinding, batter mixing, bread kneading, ice chipping, and a host of other assortments I have never quite figured out and may actually be devices left over from the Inquisition for all I know). Thank you, Sweda Multi-Blend 2000, for staying with us so long. May you find rest in that great small appliance paradise that we hope awaits all such little good things.

Stevie Awards

The Stevie Awards are, according to their website, “the world’s premier business awards … created in 2002 to honor and generate public recognition of the achievements and positive contributions of organizations and working professionals worldwide.” I learned about them through a LinkedIn post about their storytelling webinar, which bills itself as:

Every business has a story, but effective business storytelling is a lot harder than it seems. Corporate storytelling has become the go-to approach for every marketer to get their brand noticed, and moreover, valued by current and potential customers.

Of course I am curious, but I also wonder where the boundary for an interest in narrative lies? There’s a good research project, perhaps a dissertation, lying there for someone to pursue: all the ways the business world uses stories, storytelling, and narrative. I once did a survey of how culture is used in the business literature, but that was a while ago.

It Gets Crowded in There

Nicole Perlroth has a book out, This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends, and Wired has published an excerpt focused on “The Untold History of America’s Zero-Day Market.” I LOLed at this:

The first thing spies do after breaking into a machine, Sabien told me, is listen in for other spies. If they found evidence that the infected machine was beaconing out to another command-and-control center, they would scrape whatever others were catching. It wasn’t abnormal, Sabien said, to find multiple spies listening in on the same machine—especially in the case of high-profile diplomats, arms dealers, or terror networks.

I think I imagined dozens of tiny spies inside the various pieces of the computer’s mother board, sneaking around, spying on each other, unaware (or indifferent) that they were themselves being spied upon. It’s like something out of a Pink Panther movie, like that scene in The Pink Panther Scene where the assassins, who are all trying to kill our beloved Inspector Clouseau, end up killing each other as he makes his way unwittingly through Oktoberfest: Youtube.

M1 Macbook Air and the CLI

Not all is right yet with the transition to the new ARM-architecture Macs. In particular, my MBA seems not to want to install numpy using pip. To get to that point, however, I did the following:

Set the shell to the preferred architecture:

arch -x86_64 /usr/local/bin/zsh

Set my preferred shell:

/bin/bash

It looks like the architecture is correct.

$ bash --version
GNU bash, version 3.2.57(1)-release (arm64-apple-darwin20)

I may try re-install MacPorts and then Python and PIP from scratch, in the hopes that 6 weeks after I first did the above, things have changed and are less wonky.

USB-C is a Mess

The graphic below is care of Adafruit and it reveals that we still have a long way to go when it comes to USB-C being the “one cable to rule them all.”

USB-C specifications laird out in a table

Trust the People Who Do the Work

I do occasionally read in the business press, like the Inc. article linked below but also Forbes, Fast Company, and _Bloomberg. As an academic who spent some time in the business world, I think the chance to think about things from different perspectives is important, and I am especially curious about the evolving culture of business(es) as the world around us changes. I was especially struck by Inc.‘s coverage of Siemens’ new remote work policy, which comes down to two things:

  1. Focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office.
  2. Trust and empower your employees.

This is based on Siemens assertion, to itself if no one else, that if you don’t trust your employees, then you are hiring the wrong people.

Article Link.

The Teenager’s Use of the Present Participle

Teenagers, or perhaps just my teenager, appear either not to have a grasp of what the present participle means or to have a far more expansive view of the present than I do. In our household, the teenager regularly proclaims “I am doing X” when she is patently not doing X nor even remotely in a position to start doing X. Thus, either the teenager does not understand what it means to “be in the process of” doing something OR, and here is where I think I may have made a breakthrough in my understanding, the teenager’s conception of time is fundamentally different from mine, and perhaps yours too, dear imbiber of Facebook posts. For her, the present in the present participle is an expanded horizon which clearly has concentric circles of “doingness” thus allowing her to be “doing X” even though she clearly not even considered it yet. This is the outer circle of “doingness”, the one in which the world, possibly a parental unit, has pushed an action into the awareness horizon, but it is so far away, the circle so distant, that any particular awareness is not yet triggered until the world, which may or may not be the parental unit speaking a bit more urgently now, has registered a second request — because what more can the world do but request? and it should be happy that you are even feeling receptive this fine day. This is a fuzzy boundary to be sure, one in which an action can be considered not to have actually have an existence yet since it is available to be negated by the simple rebuttal of “I didn’t hear you.” But whether the request if the first or the second, or perhaps is now made manifest by the parental unit suddenly appearing directly in your view, perhaps even blocking your way so that, no, you cannot continue to “vibe” to your current favorite song, the incipient action has perhaps moved more centrally in that it is now something you are considering and your consideration is, in fact, a form of doing. And, really, shouldn’t the peons, and by that you mean the parental units, be grateful for that? I mean, honestly, you’ve done quite a bit and you are exhausted by this processing of the request to “do X” and so maybe now is a good time to do something else…

Git and GitHub

Fateen Alam has compiled a terrific Notion page that provides overviews of version control, setting up and using git, and then using GitHub: Git and GitHub. (Notion is one of many new entrants into the note-taking app/system/omnibus category.)

Scott’s Cheap Flights

I subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights, mostly for aspirational reasons, but even if me and my family travel relatively rarely, the service has still saved us more than its cost of subscription in the past few years. A recent email included this reminder about optimizing your chances of finding a great deal:

Things that actually will help you get a better price: searching in the Goldilocks window (2-8 months for international flights and for 1-3 months for domestic), searching flexible dates, avoiding peak travel times, and acting fast when you find a great deal.

The link in the quotation is to a page on their website that has more details.

Gaming M/Disinformation

One of the things I had hoped to do in the next semester or so is to create a simulation of some kind that let students in my classes see for themselves how information cascades through various kinds of networks.

My idea was to build on top of some simulation/modeling scenarios I had found in order to model/simulate the way information moves into and out of various kinds of networks — and here I mean not only the kinds of networks we once considered to be social groups but also the two distinct networks that now occupy our lives: offline (aka oral, face-to-face) and online networks.

An /r/science subreddit thread collects up a number of games focused on disinformation, collected here for ready reference:

  • Harmony Square is based on “inoculation theory”: that exposing people to a weak “dose” of common techniques used to spread fake news allows them to better identify and disregard misinformation when they encounter it in future (University of Cambridge press release. More on the game can be found in this article in Misinformation Review. (MR is published by the Harvard Kennedy School.)
  • Headliner: NoviNews is an “adventure where you control the news and its impact on society, your friends and career. Different choices lead to unique combinations of endings.” Right now it’s part of Steam’s “Bundle of Consequences,” which includes four other titles where you play the grim reaper, Death & Taxes; a digital voyeur, Do Not Feed the Monkeys; someone interned in a relocation camp, Not Tonight; and a border control agent, Papers Please. (Let the dystopian games begin?!)
  • In Orwell: Keeping an Eye On You, “Big Brother has arrived – and it’s you. Investigate the lives of citizens to find those responsible for a series of terror attacks. Information from the internet, personal communications and private files are all accessible to you.”
  • NewsFeed Defenders is a clearly educational game that puts users in charge of a fictional social media site focused on news and information: “Your mission? Maintain the site, grow traffic, and watch out! You’ll also need to spot fake posts that try to sneak in through hidden ads, viral deception, and false reporting.”
  • In Bad News users “take on the role of fake news-monger. Drop all pretense of ethics and choose a path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate. But keep an eye on your ‘followers’ and ‘credibility’ meters. Your task is to get as many followers as you can while slowly building up fake credibility as a news site. But watch out: you lose if you tell obvious lies or disappoint your supporters!”
  • Go Viral appears to be the simplest of the lot, billing itself as “a 5-minute game that helps protect you against COVID-19 misinformation. You’ll learn about some of the most common strategies used to spread false and misleading information about the virus. Understanding these tricks allows you to resist them the next time you come across them online.” Interestingly, they link to an article in the Journal of Cognition: Good News about Bad News: Gamified Inoculation Boosts Confidence and Cognitive Immunity Against Fake News.
  • There is also The Westport Independent “a censorship simulator taking place in a post-war country, governed by the recently elected Loyalist Party.As the editor of one of the last independent newspapers in the country, your job is to remove and edit the content of your paper, affecting the people’s opinion of both the rebels and the Loyalist government.”

I plan on exploring these games/simulations over the holiday break, and I hope to post notes on their game play and how well they both achieve the goals they set for themselves and how well I think they capture the nature of information flows on- and offline.

Cognitive Biases

Your Bias Is compresses 24 cognitive biases into a very small user interface. The definitions are very brief, but it may be useful as a way to introduce people to the notion of cognitive bias. A PDF and a poster of the biases are also available as well as other materials.