When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
Anything at all.
Have you thought of something yet?
It’s very risky to open any post this way, because I’m all in on the conceit that I know the answer to my question. Some reader, maybe two or three, came up with an answer immediately, but I suspect most people couldn’t think of a response beyond “paper or plastic.”
Despite the fact that we like to think of ourselves as open-minded and thoughtful, most of us would need a day or two to recall a change of view for something truly significant. That’s because we tend to reach conclusions very quickly and then spend the rest of our lives defending them.
“Hey,” you’re shouting at the screen, “I’m too busy to keep going back to revisit every decision I’ve ever made. I took the time to make the right decision already and I don’t need to do it again.”
Yep. Got it. Except, of course, that’s probably not true. Usually, we receive an opinion about a topic we know little about, assume that opinion is correct, and let confirmation bias handle the heavy lifting. Ten years later, we know we’re right and we’ve spent a decade reinforcing our defenses. Is it true? Was it true? Of course it is, because I have known this for a long, long time.
Over the years, I’ve changed my mind about the death penalty, government-sponsored health insurance, gay marriage and high-rise living. I’m still on the fence about term limits, ride shares, and that whole duck/rabbit thing. I’d like to think I’m more a deep thinker than a flip-flopper, but I might change my mind about that characterization at some future date.
So how about you? Where were you on your life’s journey when you locked in your views? Was it when you were 15 and envious of the kids with driver’s licenses or when you were 18 and graduating from Harvard? Was it when you took on your first mortgage, brought your newborn home, got your first promotion or suffered your first layoff?
Equally important, how did you decide? Did you handle it like a debate, gathering details pro and con, or did you adopt the views of an advocate who sounded smart and knew his facts? As with the start of this post, I am fairly confident I know the answers to these questions.
Look, we’re all human. Our first experience creates our frame and everything after that either reinforces our belief or gets dismissed as an exception. We all ascribe to viewpoints that we simply accepted without thought from sources we cannot trace, but we cling to them like they were handed down at Mt. Sinai.
Miles’s Law argues that, “Where you stand depends on where you sit,” so it should be normal for our stances to change along with our status in life. Times change, new information emerges, unintended consequences reveal themselves, and we gain new awareness…if we’re paying attention.
Our opinions don’t necessarily improve with age, or stand the test of time. Perhaps today would be a good day to pay a new visit to an old friend.
Of course, we might change our minds about this whole idea of changing our minds, but you won’t know about it unless you subscribe for our regular updates. Just click here to join more than 26 billion active subscribers (four people and 26 billion bots) at Dad Writes.
As it happens, I’ve never visited a porn site on the internet. I understand this makes me a moocher, because porn is the profit engine that built the worldwide web and I have been enjoying the free parts without chipping in my fair share. I am deeply sorry for letting the internet down and, most likely, forcing others to pick up the rest of the tab.
On the plus side, my lack of engagement in the world of online sex gives me a different perspective when certain emails pop up. No, I’m not referring to the emails from goddesses in faraway lands who want nothing more than to send me their photos and, um, watch Netflix with me.
Rather, it’s the notes that offer me my own career as a porn star by sharing my intimate online moments with an adoring and appreciative audience of friends, family and strangers alike. I get a few notes every week and they all read about the same: “Your password is __________. I hacked the website you were watching for porn and I recorded a really embarrassing selfie. Either you pay up or I will post the video for all to see.”
When I opened the first of these emails, the password looked like one I might have used several years ago, but it isn’t close to anything on my current list. I can only assume my friendly neighborhood sextortionists bought or stole some old login information from one of the many sites that insist I create a “secure” account in order to do business with them. Of course, they also insist they will protect my information with the greatest security system in the universe, although I get a steady stream of emails that give lie to that claim.
I do feel great sympathy for all the people who are scrambling to come up with the Bitcoin to pay off their new friends. Like the hospitals that must pay off hackers to unlock their critical patient data, victims of sextortion must rely on dishonorable people to behave honorably after the payment is made.
Good luck on that one.
Of course, it’s possible that all these emails are based on no hacks at all, but include enough info that they’ll apply to some percentage of the recipients on the list. If a bot sends out 2 million emails that indicate a password and a porn site, they’re bound to make a match with a few hundred recipients. It’s a very wide net, but at $1,500 or so per payoff, that’s a profitable venture.
And it’s important to recognize that the extortionists are fulfilling the core profit model of the internet, in which companies collect as much information as possible about their customers and then sell that information to other businesses. Nobody needs to pay Google for search because Google sells the searchers to its paying clients. Ditto for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and pretty much everyone outside of this blog. The services are free because you are the product.
Of course, paying for silence is not exactly the same as paying for titillation, but it’s one of the many ways the internet has transformed its users into the product being bought and sold. We can’t help but wonder how much better, saner, more civil and more efficient the internet would be today if everyone was paying their own freight. It’s probably too late now, but it might have been so much better.
In the meantime, caveat emptor. Viewers, too.
Dad Writes subscribers never have to worry about their passwords, because we don’t ask for any. That’s only one of the many ways we’re so much better than any internet porn site, so be sure to click here to receive our regular rants.
Writers across the nation will be phoning it in this month with “Year in Review” articles about the news from the past year that isn’t exactly new news now. Only one resource is brave enough to report the news that’s so new it hasn’t even happened…yet.
Yes, it’s time once again for the pro prognosticators at Dad Writes to shake up the Magic 8 Ball and peer into the year ahead. Join us on our slightly premature walk down soon-to-be memory lane as we share our exclusive vision of our future past, beginning with…
January 1: The year begins with confusion as January 1 falls on a Wednesday and nobody knows whether to take their bonus day on Tuesday or Thursday. A week later, the Centers for Disease Control will issue a national pandemic alert, responding to millions of people calling in sick with vague flu symptoms on Monday and/or Friday.
(Also) January 1: Recreational use of marijuana becomes legal in Illinois. Unsurprisingly, nobody notices the difference.
January 14: Donald Trump will issue a tweet that is criticized by Democrats and praised by Republicans. Remember, you heard it here first.
January 21: With an unassailable voting bloc in Parliament, Boris Johnson announces that Great Britain will leave the European Union as of 1973, demanding that the EU refund all fees and taxes paid by Brits over the past 47 years. The EU agrees to the terms, describing them as “a small price to pay to get rid of him already.”
January 26: In a shocking upset at the Grammy Awards, North Korean (Dear) Leader Kim Jong-un wins best album for, “Striving Relentlessly Without Food or Heat or Housing to Celebrate the Greatness of Our Dear Leader.” Randall Park accepts the award on Kim’s behalf.
January 27: Former We Work CEO Adam Neumann, who negotiated a $1 billion exit package as the company’s value dropped about 20 times that amount, forms a new company, We Park, to rent out single-car spaces in parking garages. Private equity investors value the idea at $1.7 trillion, but then they realize that all parking garages do this already. We Park’s valuation plummets and Neumann is sent packing with only $800 million in severance and a warning not to try that trick again.
February 2: Groundhog Day arrives scandalously as Punxsutawney Phil is exposed as a prairie dog with an underactive thyroid. Organizers declare themselves to be the true victims of the hoax and immediately appoint a blue-ribbon commission to go to Petco and buy a real groundhog for next year.
(Also) February 2: Outrage over the perfidious rodent subsides quickly as the nation is distracted by “The Big Game,” which is how we refer to the Super Bowl if we haven’t forked over $27 million to the NFL. The private equity geniuses behind We Work and We Park will buy Hard Rock Stadium in Miami with a revolutionary concept to rent “seats” to individual “fans” who only need the space for the duration of the “game.” Immediately, the stadium’s value soars to $950 billion, including $27 billion for Adam Neumann’s severance package.
February 3: Thousands of rural Americans wander aimlessly around high-school gyms and rec centers as they participate in the Iowa Caucuses. The first official voting of the 2020 presidential race reveals surprising choices that lead 237 Democratic candidates to jump back into the race only weeks after dropping their campaigns.
February 9: In a shocking upset at the Academy Awards, Kim Jong-un wins the Oscars for best writer, director, producer, actor, cinematography and key grip for his full-length feature, “Striving Relentlessly Without Food or Heat or Housing to Celebrate the Greatness of Our Dear Leader.” The Academy’s accounting firm swears they got it right this time, but they get canned anyway.
February 11: New Hampshire election officials celebrate the record turnout of 1.5 million voters for their primary, but the joy is short-lived as they realize there are only 1.4 million people in the state. Democrats blame the Russians while Republicans blame illegal aliens.
February 20: The Democratic Party holds it 83rd presidential debate. Of the 247 candidates on the podium, only 22 receive enough tweets to be slotted for the 84th debate later that same night.
March 1: All 742 Democratic candidates jockey to create the most-tweeted sound bite as the party hosts its 97th debate on Alcatraz Island. In a strategic initiative to reduce the field for future debates, only the top 300 competitors will be transported back to the mainland, while the rest are encouraged to swim.
March 2: Donald Trump will issue a tweet that is criticized on MSNBC and praised on Fox News. The controversy will be covered in depth on MSNBC and Fox News.
March 3: Super Tuesday arrives at last, with primaries and caucuses in states that represent 37% of the Electoral College. Surprisingly, no votes are recorded in Alaska, where Democrats blame Russian interference and Republicans note a lack of illegal aliens.
March 12: Amazon will announce a competition for its next warehouse, calling on localities to hand over 150% of their tax base and naming rights to the city. The company promises to create more than 10,000 jobs for “employees” named Alexa, plus three additional posts for oil-can operators.
March 21: The Federal Reserve announces a further lowering of interest rates as a means of stimulating the economy. Consumers respond by spending $2 trillion in five days on Amazon, gleeful that average credit card rates have plunged to 25.7%.
April 2: Brexit is delayed as the European Union lives up to its promise to refund all British taxes, but backdates the check to 1973. No bank will accept the check and all attempts to communicate with the EU result in “out of office” replies.
April 5: In yet another shocking upset, this time at the Country Music Awards, Kim Jong-un is recognized for his breakthrough album, “Driving a Pickup Truck while Striving Relentlessly Without Food or Heat or Housing to Celebrate the Greatness of Our Dear Leader.” Kanye West leaps to the stage to grab the award and demand it be given to a more traditional country singer, such as Lil Nas X.
April 10: The Commerce Department mails out its decennial census to every household in the United States. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Postal Service reports its first profit since 2010.
April 15: As the federal deficit heads toward $1 trillion for a second year in a row, the IRS adds a 22% surcharge to all tax payments. Following the lead of ticket brokers and entertainment venues, the agency will describe it as a “convenience fee” for people who want the “convenience” of not going to jail for failure to file their returns.
April 29: The Fed reduces interest rates yet again, enabling the world’s largest banks to borrow money at less than a half a percent. In a surprise move, the agency also announces that banks may now accept Beanie Babies as collateral.
May 3: We’re not going to reveal identities here, but let’s just say a certain someone will be outed for an inappropriate relationship with another certain someone and a ruckus will ensue. Stunningly, some very well-known people will be accused of looking the other way when they could have been more helpful.
May 10: Restaurateurs hail the return of Mother’s Day, our annual affirmation of how much we all love mom and how incapable we are of making our own damned dinner. During the meal, everyone in the family will tell mom what they want her to cook on Father’s Day.
May 13: As vaping loses favor across the country, hipsters announce they will now fixate on rotary phones and land lines. The fad dies quickly, though, as they are unable to use the phones while riding their electric scooters to work.
May 19: Donald Trump issues a tweet that is condemned by Rachel Maddow and praised by Sean Hannity. After a public outcry, he issues a second tweet that is praised by Sean Hannity and condemned by Rachel Maddow.
May 26: Amazon announces that the small town of Impact, Texas will be the home of its new warehouse facility, accepting an offer of 200% of the tax base and 30 human sacrifices. Immediately after the announcement, the Impact city council renames the town Alexa and files for bankruptcy.
June 2: Primaries in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota become unexpectedly critical as 2,732 more Democratic candidates enter the field. Despite the fact that states representing 95% of the Electoral College have already voted, three of the new candidates are considered front runners.
June 7: Setting a new record for flogging a joke to death…Kim Jong-un takes home the Tony Award for “Striving Relentlessly Without Food or Heat or Housing to Celebrate the Greatness of Our Dear Leader: The Musical.” Losing nominees protest the award, complaining that the show had no music and the actors were not allowed to leave North Korea to appear on stage.
June 10: An additional 429 people claim that they, too, were involved in an inappropriate relationship with the same person accused in May. We’re not mentioning names here, but you won’t really be surprised at who it is.
June 17: The Federal Reserve reduces interest rates to zero and orders that banks accept Fidget Spinners and plastic straws as collateral for loans. After protests from environmentalists, the agency agrees to accept only biodegradable straws.
June 22: Buffeted by volatile dietary trends, Celebrity chefs announce that they will no longer serve wheat, corn, barley or rice in their restaurants. Instead, dandelions and ragweed will reign as the new superfoods at A-list establishments.
July 6: As the latest “inappropriate relationship” scandal unfolds, 17 celebrities and the entire U.S. Senate are revealed to have had, um, uncomfortably close connections to the accused. Despite a flood of party photos and Instagram posts, all will deny that they ever met the person.
July 12: Donald Trump will issue a tweet that is praised by Rush Limbaugh and panned by Lawrence O’Donnell. O’Donnell will pan Limbaugh for praising the tweet and Limbaugh will mock O’Donnell for pretty much everything.
July 13: The Democratic Nominating Convention opens in Milwaukee, but organizers are confronted with a capacity issue as the total number of candidates is larger than the delegate count. After intense horse trading in patchouli-filled rooms, the party ultimately nominates four co-candidates on July 16 and schedules another 32 debates.
July 24: The Summer Olympics open in Tokyo with ceremonies honoring the nation’s most iconic national symbols: Pikachu and Hello Kitty. All members of Japan’s national teams will compete while wearing anime uniforms, leading to zero medals for the host nation.
July 26: Moms and dads try to double dip by insisting their kids celebrate Parents’ Day, but their progeny will boycott the pseudo-holiday. In retaliation, angry parents will remove 17 million kids from their cell-phone plans and Verizon stock will be delisted from the NYSE.
August 3: As hurricane season gets underway, the southern half of Florida is completely underwater. The state’s tourism bureau immediately launches a new campaign that promotes Miami with the slogan, “As Romantic as Venice…with Alligators!!”
August 11: Seeking to improve the quality of credit markets, The Federal Reserve announces tough new tightening of lending rules. Henceforth, banks may only accept Beanie Babies and Fidget Spinners as collateral if they are still in their original packaging. Ditto for the paper straws.
August 18: Student loan debt grows to $2 trillion as universities levy a retroactive “seating fee” for the time students spent sitting in lecture halls. Bursars credit We Work founder Adam Neumann for the concept.
August 22: Hipsters give up on rotary phones, declaring their new passion for 8-track tape players and stick shifts. Their euphoria is short-lived, though, as they realize none of them owns a car.
August 28: Initial data from the 2020 Census indicate that 98.9% of American households have indoor plumbing, up from 98.8% just ten years earlier. Republicans cite the change as evidence of the Trump economy, while Democrats claim it as a continuation of Obama policies.
September 1: Apple introduces the IPhone 27, with a built-in drone, that retails at $2,372. The company adds a time-saving feature that lets Siri insult people on the user’s behalf on social media.
September 9: Former We Work CEO Adam Neumann is back in the news as he creates a new enterprise to rent lodging spaces to people on a short-term basis. Critics note that this is what hotels do already, but Neumann says the new company will be completely different and much hipper. Private equity firms offer him $2 billion to go away.
September 19: Celebrity chefs across the nation close their doors after a flood of lawsuits from patrons with allergies to dandelions and ragweed. The chefs announce plans to shift their menus to a healthier mix of pollen and fungi.
September 20: In a surprising upset, Dancing with the Stars sweeps the top prizes at the annual Emmy Awards, winning in both the comedy and drama categories. Shares of Netflix stock drop 87% the following day.
September 27: Donald Trump will issue a tweet that is mocked on late-night television but praised by millions on Facebook. The controversy will rage for hours and exactly zero opinions will be changed in the process.
October 1: Forbes Magazine releases its annual ranking of the richest Americans, with We Work founder Adam Neumann ranked at 237 out of 400. Remarkably, he is the first person to earn a place on the list strictly on the basis of severance pay.
October 14: The Federal Reserve follows most of the rest of the world in adopting negative interest rates, essentially paying the world’s largest banks to borrow money from the federal government. In response, Citibank borrows $200 trillion from the Fed, closes all its offices, and reports record earnings.
October 20: The news cycle brings welcome relief for the person who was involved in that inappropriate relationship thing in May, as a new scandal targets an even better-known individual. Spoiler alert: It’s exactly who you think it is.
October 27: Amazon announces a new competition for its 34th headquarters, including a much-simplified process: Just send Jeff $20 billion and he’ll let you know how it works out.
October 31: The federal government closes fiscal 2020 with a record $1.7 trillion deficit as the 2017 tax cuts bring corporate tax receipts to a record low $27.50. In related news, the New York Stock Exchange closes its doors after the nation’s largest companies use their tax savings to buy back all of their outstanding shares.
November 1: Daylight Savings Time ends with mass confusion as people forget whether they are supposed to fall back or jump sideways or do the Macarena. As a result, millions awaken according to their body clocks and try to figure out what to do at 6 a.m. on a Sunday.
(Also) November 1: Usain Bolt thrills the crowd by finishing the New York City Marathon in just under seven minutes. The nation of Kenya files a formal challenge to the results.
November 3: Across the nation, Americans head to the polls in record numbers to select the next President, the entire House of Representatives, one third of the Senate and more than 3,000 state and local officials. At the end of the evening, all Americans will agree that the process was fair, there was no interference from Russia or illegal aliens, and our Republic is secure.
November 4: Peace reigns as the 2020 results are accepted with calm in every Middlesex village and farm. Of course, Middlesex is only one county near Boston, and the rest of the nation is on fire.
November 26: Grub Hub reports record web traffic as Americans opt to skip the “I-told-you-so” lectures at Thanksgiving dinner by just ordering their feasts delivered. By 3 p.m., the company’s servers have crashed and 27 million people choose to starve rather than talk to their relatives.
December 1: Web-based retailers report sharply conflicting data for Cyber Monday. While the number of individuals placing orders soars by 32%, the number of items purchased actually drops by two thirds. Customer surveys reveal that Americans have dumped relatives from their shopping lists in the wake of the election.
December 14: The Electoral College meets to certify the results of the presidential election, but cannot reach a conclusion as 14 states are embroiled in legal challenges. Most prominent are the seeming over count of 42 million votes in New Hampshire and zero votes recorded in Alaska, along with identical gaps of 57 votes in each of the other states.
December 18: In a stunning reversal from prior trends, The Federal Reserve Board increases its benchmark interest rate to 17 percent and insists that banks ask, “Mother, may I?” before borrowing funds.
December 22: In a stunning revelation, We Work founder Adam Neumann confesses that he is actually Alfred E. Neuman, longtime spokesmodel for now-defunct Mad Magazine. “It turns out that spoofing businesses pays much better than satirizing movies and TV shows,” Neumann/Neuman said in a statement. “As for my financial future, as they say, ‘What, me worry?’”
December 31: As the year comes to a close, Grub Hub servers stay up through another day of record demand, while Buzzfeed reports that the number one New Year’s resolution for adult Americans is “heavy drinking.”
And that’s the way it is, or will be, or will have been, as we look back on the year to come. Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to get a little bit choppy.
We also predict with huge confidence that people who fail to subscribe to Dad Writes will be regretting that choice bitterly at this time next year. If you don’t want to be a bitter regretter, you’ll subscribe to Dad Writes right now by clicking here.
So it turns out the funniest people in the world are software developers. Unfortunately, none of the rest of us gets to be in on the joke, and the punchline is always the same:
“And that idiot clicked ‘accept’ anyway.”
I know it’s true, because a sheriff’s deputy came to my place last week to repossess my nose. It turns out I failed to change my Instagram feed from freemium to premium within twelve months, as I agreed when I clicked on the user agreement. I lucked out, though, because another deputy showed up two minutes later with an identical warrant from Snap Chat, so I can keep my schnozz unsullied until they resolve their custody dispute in smell claims court.
As Jimmy Buffett would say, it’s my own damn fault. When I bought my first microcomputer software nearly 40 years ago, I read the software (CP/M!!) user agreement and marked the parts that I didn’t accept. Of course, the terms were non-negotiable and the computer wouldn’t work without the software, so I had to take the deal.
Since then, I’ve signed more than a thousand binding agreements with software companies, doctors, car rental agencies, and pretty much anyone else who shoves a 47-page disclaimer in my face. The language varies a bit, but the terms are depressingly similar:
I thought they were just kidding about that last part until the sheriff’s deputies showed up at the condo. I was wrong, and it’s only getting worse.
A few years ago, I walked into a shopping mall in Cape Town where they had a particularly onerous “user agreement” on the wall. Basically, it said the mall was blameless for anything and everything that could possibly happen inside the facility, whether accidental or intentional, and that I was agreeing to those terms simply by walking into the building. If the mall owner came by and cut off my head, it was just fine by me, and I acknowledged that by crossing their threshold.
“That would never fly in the States,” I thought, until I walked into a Chicago restaurant with a similar “user agreement” at the host stand.
Down the street from that restaurant, there’s a new spot where you can order your food at a kiosk instead of talking to a human being. There isn’t a user agreement, yet, but it’s only a matter of time before I’m agreeing that:
When I’m in a charitable mood, I want to forgive the coders for their insatiable need for absolution. It must be very difficult to spend your day on a computer, typing indecipherable crap that nobody will read and inserting inside jokes that nobody will comprehend. It’s a lot like blogging, but coders have cool pocket protectors.
Anyway, it’s the lawyers who produce the disclaimers, and they’re the ones responsible for churning out 5,000-word argle-bargle that could be condensed down to “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” If there’s any justice in the world, those lawyers will be the first to lose their noses, or other appendages, for violating Terms of Service.
On the upside, it’s likely to take years before the courts decide which company can repossess my nose and maybe the statute of limitations will expire—or I will—by then. In the meantime, I’m going to spend some extra time smelling the roses, just in case.
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I can never say goodbye to all that really important stuff I never look at, and the disappointment of Act Two, among other concepts that area cluttering up my mind this week.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.