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08 March 2020
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I've Arrived!

I've Been Censored By Google! Now I'm Somebody!

A few yesterdays ago I wrote a blogitem about a particular malady that has been circulating throughout the world since its importation from China. A week or so after that writing, I encountered an article about the subject in the Wall Street Journal (page 1, page 2), one of a neverending series of articles about "fake news" and how people with agendas or just the desire to be some combination of entertaining and destructive create goofy mock-facts and conspiracy theories and post them online.

I'm not exactly one of those people; if I do make up goofy facts, I inevitably ensconce them within the HTML <FICTION></FICTION> tag so as not to deceive less-than-skeptical millireaders. But other mock-fact-mongers are less meticulous. Below is an excerpt from the article mentioned above.

This says, in essence, that "Facebook and other technology giants..." "has tweaked search results...to direct users toward recognized and authoritative medical sources."

They neglected to use the HTML <CIRCUMLOCUTION>"tweaked search results"</CIRCUMLOCUTION> tag. In this case, the phrase means "censored."

Google routinely provides a link to this blog if your search term includes "RIKLBLOG" since it's a unique word. Adding a keyword or two brings you to the specific blogitem(s) that contains the keyword. For example, type "riklblog tesla" into Google and you'll find my blogitems discussing their Powerwalls and vehicles. Being of a suspicious nature, I immediately searched for "riklblog" along with various synonyms for our pandemic malady or even the city from which it sprang. Guess what?

Exactly! Even with those precise search terms, nothing. Not a single link to the blogitem! Google is deliberately pointing people away from that specific item in favor of more "authoritative" information. Of course the stated reason for censorship is always benign. Their goal is to get people good information. But censorship of any kind, especially the blunt misdirection that Google is using, is pernicious. Perhaps it's successful in dissipating conspiracy theories, but my blogitem, which you can only find by clicking "yesterday" three times, is potentially valuable. It may be wrong, as I'm careful to state, but if it's right, it's pretty significant.

I'm not interested in getting into a fight with Google. And I'm not interested, period, in Facebook. I'm surprised at the broad brush with which they've chosen to censor this single blogitem of mine along with many, many thousand of other people's discussions of the same subject. Their intentions are good but their implementation is flawed.

What is it With Statistics and Aircraft Carriers?

I just read a statistic in the New York Times in an article discussing deer and turkeys in Staten Island.

"Across the country, there are an estimated 30 million deer that eat the equivalent of 15 million metric tons of vegetation—greater than the combined weight of all the aircraft carriers in the Navy, according to Tom Rooney, a biological sciences professor at Wright State University in Ohio."

Sometimes you read a statistic and say to yourself "That can't be correct." Sometimes you read one and are in awe of the facts or numbers presented. Sometimes, and the statistic above is one case, you are in awe of the statistician who right, wrong, partisan, self-promoting, or just plain committing fraud, thought to write what he did. Even I, with somewhat whimsical disposition, didn't think of comparing deer food consumption in this way. (Although I did write "There are more atoms in the ordinary marshmallow than there are marshmallows in the Empire State Building." Spot the flaws in that?*)

I remember reading long ago another aircraft carrier statistic, something about how high one could be lifted by the energy output of a human heart over a lifetime. And of course there are statistics about aircraft carriers themselves. If the Ronald Reagan were stood on end, it would be as tall as.... No, not the Empire State Building, but something almost as tall. Maybe the Eiffel Tower? Whatever.

I'm thinking of creating a new Bonus Page with statistics that range from awesome to fraudulent, with a lot of whimsy thrown in. I'll try to decide whether to do that when I come across a worthy candidate entry.


* Should be easy! For one thing, there may not be any marshmallows in the Empire State Building, and if there are, they are uncountable for obvious reasons. Also, I think I may have stolen that from an issue of Mad Magazine in the 50s. Not sure. Finally, not to put too fine a point on it, there's no such thing as a marshmallow atom. If there were, my periodic table bingo would have an entry for marshmalium.


 
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