MISSING: Luke Roman, Houston area (cash reward)

Your help is requested with information on the whereabouts and/or leading to the safe return of Luke Roman, particularly if you are in the greater Houston or San Antonio areas.

Luke’s last known location was in the 500 block of Sul Ross Street (near Garrott Street) on September 16th. He is 24 years of age. Unfortunately, we don’t know what Luke was last wearing at the time of his disappearance. Luke has a distinctive missing front tooth (see photos). Luke was brought to Houston for mental health treatment; this treatment was not court ordered. Luke does not know his way around the city (Houston) and did not have ID, credit cards, or his own cell phone at the time he went missing. He has family connections in Boerne (San Antonio area) and, though it is unlikely, he could have tried to make his way back there.

At the bottom of this post is the best picture we have of Luke.

If you have any information regarding his whereabouts, please call or text 432-213-2697. There is a cash reward being offered.

Yet another tragic loss of lives at a school

I realize it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I am still keeping up with current events and I am most acutely aware of the school shooting at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde. It was the deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, back in 2012 . This time, the perpetrator was an 18-year old male. This was the 337th school shooting since 1999, the 140th with at least one fatality, the 48th with multiple fatalities, the 21st to happen in the state of Texas (!), and the seventh where more than 10 lives were lost.

I’m honestly sick of reading about children dying for no good reason. I honestly feel for these kids that have to have active shooter drills the same way we had fire drills when I was in school. That this is actually a situation that happens often enough the kids need to practice for it is grossly unacceptable and a sign of our egregious and inexcusable failure as a society.

I remember when the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting first happened, and people were saying it was “too soon” after the shooting to talk about the problem. As often as these school shootings have been happening over the last two decades plus, that’s no longer an acceptable reason. It’s almost always going to be “too soon” because there are simply too many.

And then there is the worn-out “thoughts and prayers” that come from our elected officials–particularly Republicans–after each one of these tragic and preventable disasters. I’m absolutely sick and tired of hearing “thoughts and prayers” when we need to fix this by taking real, meaningful action. It’s a valid question why our laws allow gun dealers to sell weapons like the AR-15 here in the United States. But beyond this, why the hell is an 18-year-old able to buy one? What possible utilitarian function does an AR-15 have (to law abiding citizens, anyway)? This thing isn’t a hunting rifle; the designers of this weapon made it for one thing: killing people, and killing a lot of them. For a decade, 1994 to 2004, Federal law prohibited the manufacture and import of these and other so-called assault weapons. Not surprisingly, after the ban expired, the next few years saw a huge jump in the number of school shootings. This is either one hell of a coincidence, or strong evidence that the assault weapons ban was a step in the right direction. I’m more inclined to believe it is the latter.

I’m not saying we need to get rid of all of our guns here in the United States. There are valid utilitarian and legal purposes for firearm ownership (hunting and self-defense). But I’m sick and tired of reading about innocent schoolchildren becoming mass murder victims, and I know I am not the only one by far. By any reasonable standards of decency and acceptability, the current situation is outrageous and unacceptable. We have long since moved past any point where “thoughts and prayers” made sense.

We need to take action to keep violent, terrorist acts like this from happening again, particularly on school campuses. And we need to do it now. (Yes, I said “terorrist”. This, like every school shooting before it, was domestic terrorism.)

Remember: Action. Not thoughts and prayers. Action.

Shameful and blatantly unethical conduct in golf

There have been many times as we’ve had issues with gambling in professional sports. Perhaps the most famous was Pete Rose‘s lifetime ban from baseball, for betting on games while a player-manager. Also well known is Tim Donaghy who was convicted of federal crimes (in addition to losing his job as an NBA official) for wagering on games he officiated and thusly manipulating the outcome.

But I never thought I’d hear of a TV announcer placing wagers with a PGA tour golfer. Unfortunately, a recent article on awfulannouncing.com contained exactly this bombshell for serious fans of the game of golf. It centers around this quote from CBS golf announcer Gary McCord:

When I was in the TV tower, every time Phil got to my hole, Bones [Phil Mickleson’s caddie] would look up at me and I would flash the odds. If Phil had a 15-footer, I’d flash three fingers, which meant the odds were 3-1. If he was 60 feet, I’d give him 2-1 on a two-putt. Bones would go down and whisper in his ear and Phil would look up at me and shake his head, yes or no.

I can’t tell you how many wadded-up twenties I threw out of the tower, until the Tour found out about it and I got word through CBS I was no longer allowed to gamble with Phil while up in the tower.

Honestly, I’m surprised all that became of this was a “cut that [bleep] out” from CBS to Mr. McCord, and probably the same to Mr. Mickleson from the PGA. The amount of the wager doesn’t matter here; Mr. McCord makes reference to “wadded-up twenties” which would indicate perhaps the base value of the bet was $20, admittedly a rather small sum for a professional golfer.

Whether or not this is allowed under PGA and USGA rules, it’s still ethically and morally putrid at an event prominent enough to be shown on television. It’s things like this that blacken the image of the game of golf. As it is, golf is already widely known to be one of the more expensive sports. In addition, among other things, golf is known to have many players with a penchant for swearing (not that it’s the only such sport or game, mind you). I observed a framed cartoon on one clubhouse wall featuring a diplomat: “On recent trip to the U.S. observed honorable Americans on place called golf course playing game called ‘ah shit!'” As humorous as some may find it, this anecdote highlights the fact that profane outbursts do not help advance the sport of golf­—or for that matter, just about any sport or game.

Entire Twitterverse permeated with odious Musk-y odor, film at 11

As reported by NBC News among many others, the infamous Elon Musk has finally reached a deal to acquire pioneering social media site Twitter. Ordinarily, when things like this happen, I would more or less comment from the sidelines on the ramifications of the deal.

This one’s different. This event has direct impact on the entire reason this blog even exists. As hard as it may be to believe now, this blog actually grew out of my presence on Twitter. By that, I mean that one of the reasons I started this blog was to have a place to post things that both needed more permanence, were less likely to be censored, and which could not be done justice on Twitter as it stood then. At the time (2008) Twitter had a 140 character limit per tweet. (This blog was originally under shawnkquinn.com, before I decided to separate it from my personal brand and evolve it into a different direction.)

Twitter folded the functionality of Twitpic and other image hosting services into its core functionality, as well as bumped the limit of 140 characters to 280 characters. The primary purpose of the original limit was to facilitate fitting tweets inside SMS messages. That’s no longer a concern and has not been for some time.

The issue of permanence and censorship, on the other hand, is another matter. The ownership of Twitter has been reasonable up until now. Note that for many years “social media” (as it is commonly called) was more or less “anything goes.” Of course that didn’t last. Today most social media sites have enacted a list of community standards (some more vigorously enforced than others).

The amount of outright crap on the Twitter platform (in fact, on “social media” in general) has gone up. The COVID-19 pandemic brought new opportunities for misinformation. I despise the deceptive terms “alternative news” and “alternative facts”; these are just really fancy euphemisms for what the rest of us call lies. (At least, in the sense these terms have been used by right-wingers since 2017.)

I get that, for example, there are people who were against the COVID-19 vaccine for whatever reasons. That doesn’t change the fact that widespread vaccination was our best shot (pun intended) of controlling the pandemic, and in the end that’s really what brought us to where we are now, where the pandemic is basically winding down and should be history by the end of this summer, just over two years later. (Finally!)

There is and always will be conflicting views in politics. I get that, and I’m not expecting that to change any time soon. What really does irk me, though,

As I understand it, the reason Mr Musk took over Twitter (including taking the company private) is because he does not like the way Twitter handled moderation. Now, in the recent past I’ve dealt with people who insist upon referring to censorship when any type of moderation (i.e. anything but 100% “hands off”) comes into play. The unfortunate reality is, complete lack of moderation is going to mean “raining crap” sooner or later.

At least as it stands now, Fediverse instances handle this rather well. Many instances filter out garbage such as racism, antisemitism, neo-Nazism, and other discriminatory filth. There’s also, for better or worse, a strong distaste for corporate involvement on the fediverse. It’s run by individuals, for individuals (though I am seeing the occasional commercial presence pop up now and then). The feel is completely different from what the fediverse people themselves refer to as “birdsite” (referencing Twitter’s logo/mascot) and similar names. Sponsored tweets interrupting the normal feed is now an integral part of the Twitter experience, so much so that it’s difficult to imagine the site didn’t have them at one time. Worse, secret algorithms influence whether or not one even gets to see a tweet. Paid promotion also factors in heavily as to whether or not one gets to see something.

It’s this latter thing (the pay-to-play that social media has become) that has perhaps bothered me the most. The whole draw of social media, in the beginning, was to be able to post and attract viewers/customers without having to spend money. That was circa 2008-2009. Now, sure, you can post for free, but rarely if ever is anyone going to see it unless they seek it out (and even then, often the algorithms do their best to hide items from non-paying posters).

Now, I didn’t realistically expect the free ride to last forever. Looking at it more holistically, there had to be less obnoxious ways of keeping the servers running and making a reasonable profit than what the current crop of “social media” sites has chosen. And I do use that term loosely. Given some of the way things have played out, it’s easy to make the case a more fitting term is “antisocial media.” (But that’s a whole ‘nother rabbit hole…)

I do look at the good side of it and realize the fediverse triggers a significant amount of my nostalgia for 2007 and earlier, even going back to my first forays onto the internet in the late 1990s. This was the point right before commercialization almost completely overran the original “spirit of the ‘net” as it was. (A shining example of this was when the original authors of the Internet Chess Server reacted to the new commercialization of the original as the Internet Chess Club by putting up a free-to-play alternative called the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS), which is still online today. Granted, even FICS has been slowly supplanted by Lichess, though there is still a sizeable crowd playing on the former.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I have made the decision to at least temporarily not post new content to Twitter, including automatic announcement of blog posts. I announced this on Twitter itself right after the offer from Mr. Musk was approved, along with my Fediverse/Mastodon account information. The bad news is, the instance I am on, octodon.social, is currently invite-only. The good news is, you can join other instances. There is a list at joinmastodon.org as well as a wizard-like instance locator at instances.social.

I may or may not revisit what becomes of Twitter. It depends on whether we wind up with a dumpster fire, and if so, how many alarms.

ADMIN: miscellaneous odds and ends

For those of you still reading:

Yes, I do have posts in the pipeline. A lot of things have been going on, and honestly there has been more to talk about over on my other blog about (primarily) my pinball and video game adventures. That’s not to say I’m ignoring this blog. However I must acknowledge it is rather difficult to really get in the mood to do justice to some of the current subjects sitting in the draft queue. I’m looking back at some old posts, and I would like to return to that kind of form as I’m proud of a lot of them.

Also, I have ditched Disqus (the commenting system) on this blog, as of a few minutes ago. It probably won’t matter much, as nobody commented here past the first few years. It’s questionable that I had a really good reason to bother with an external commenting system to begin with. (The truth is I saw it on another blog, and decided I needed to “keep up with the Joneses”.) I don’t have anything against Disqus or IntenseDebate. I just don’t think they are a good fit for this blog anymore, especially given the lack of use.

Should it be necessary at some point in the future, this will ease the transition off of WordPress. Now, this is not to say I’m in a big huge hurry to dump WordPress (I am most definitely not). However, I have noticed a clear trend in WordPress. There was WordPress in late 2008, the easy-to-setup, easy-to-use blogging platform that I installed for this blog, and this thing they call WordPress now  (early 2022). They are really two completely different software releases. If one installs WordPress today they get the Gutenberg editor (block editor) and have to go install a plugin for the Classic Editor.

On this blog (actually, on that one, too), I’ve been using the Classic Editor. The WordPress development team may or may not keep supporting and maintaining the Classic Editor after this year. It will be relatively easy to convert this blog to use another platform if needed. Elsewhere, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game…

Anyway, going forward it’s my goal to try to make at least two posts per month here. Ideally I’d like to find time for at least one post per week but that may be a stretch.