All posts by swurster

TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: SOCIAL MEDIA MODERATORS

SOCIAL MEDIA MODERATORS:  NOT AN EASY JOB

by John Rudy

Ever since the last presidential election, there has been considerable discussion about what limits should be placed on content made available through Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms.   Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and others have been castigated for not doing enough to delete inappropriate content.  Of course, the word “inappropriate” is not viewed identically by everyone.  And, of course, there is the fact that we do take pride in our right of free speech.  The murders in New Zealand a few months ago added another dimension to this discussion as the government insisted that all video of the murders be instantly deleted.

What has not been discussed is the role that thousands of lowly paid employees perform in order to help these social media platforms to monitor or self regulate the nature of their content.   This article helps us to better understand what these social media moderators must do on a daily basis.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/25/18229714/cognizant-facebook-content-moderator-interviews-trauma-working-conditions-arizona

As everyone knows, it is very easy to post material to any of the social media sites. https://www.internetlivestats.com/twitter-statistics/ says that there are over 500 million Twitter posts per day.  https://blog.microfocus.com/how-much-data-is-created-on-the-internet-each-day/ says that “more than 4 million hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every day, with users watching as many as 5.97 billion hours of those videos on a daily basis.”  In addition, 67,305,600 Instagram posts are uploaded each day.  And over 2 billion people, monthly, become active Facebook users.

It is impossible, at this point, for social media moderators to view all of that material for “inappropriate” content.

Just thought you’d want to know as you think about how this might be constrained.

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time technology expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide John with questions,  comments, or suggestions for future tech items to cover. 

 

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? MEASLES

MEASLES

by Bobbe Vernon

Last week, my 22-month old great-grandson Carter erupted in an itchy rash, head to toe.  He was miserable!  And I immediately thought about measles.   He had had his first measles shot, but two are required, and he is not yet old enough for the second shot.  And how would such a young child contract the disease these days anyway?

Unfortunately, today, more American children are contracting mumps, measles, and rubella than they have for decades.  And one reason seems to be  the misguided, incorrect belief of some parents that vaccinations can cause autism.

This episode reminded me of my own experiences with measles. When I was in the seventh grade, my younger brother Stevie came down with measles.  I caught it from him, and so did our mother, even though she had had measles as a child.   And despite being sick, she got out of bed to scrub the entire bathroom before our beloved pediatrician Dr. Green made that house call.  Even he couldn’t understand how she could have contracted the disease after having had it as a child.

A year later, Stevie contracted measles again.   Dr. Green said he wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen my brother’s first case with his own eyes.  At the time, I was in the eighth grade, and, as a serious student, I did not want to be quarantined with my brother.  So that I wouldn’t miss school, I stayed at my Aunt Clara’s house while Stevie was ill, but Dr. Green warned, in no uncertain terms, that, if I felt that I was getting sick, I was to go straight home instead of to my aunt’s house after school.  Yup, that happened!  Mommy, Stevie,  and I were the only people he had ever heard of who had measles more than once.   I still feel guilty that his son Dicky, who sat next to me in school, caught the measles from me…

At any rate, it turned out that my great grandson Carter did not have the measles after all, and he is back at his Montessori school, where he probably contracted his itchy virus in the first place.  We can now stop worrying that baby Tucker, who is one month old, will catch the measles from his big brother!

BOLLI Member (and long-time Scene-iors player) Bobbe Vernon

“18 months after my husband passed away, I heard about BOLLI and decided to try something new .  That was in 2008, and I have been taking classes and enjoying new friends at BOLLI ever since. In the past, I have been a dressmaker, a math teacher, and, since 1976, I have been with Mary Kay Cosmetics (driving my Mary Kay pink Buick!), still not ready to stop making people feel great about themselves.”

 

IN MY OPINION: HEADLINES

HEADLINES

by Eleanor Jaffe

During the months of preparation  for my five-week BOLLI course, “Crisis on our Border,” newspapers headlined stories of increasing inhumanity perpetrated by our government.  From attempts to ban Muslims and immigrants from “s-hole” countries to separating parents from their small children, denying asylum, and more, newspapers like The New York Times covered the calamitous news. And the news revealed that the leadership of this nation was without moral compass.

No more rapists and gang members and drug lords would be allowed to come to the U.S. to prey upon American citizens.  “It’s a national emergency!” President Trump declared before closing down the government so that his wall could be built.  “Let’s draw money from the Pentagon budget so that the wall can be built!  Let’s send troops to the border and shoot migrants if they attempt to cross!  Let’s close asylum posts!”  But, most of all, let’s dehumanize these dark-skinned people who, for the most part, don’t speak English.

Let’s rule out domestic violence as a reason for women and children to flee.  Let’s forget about the murders in the streets of Honduras and Guatemala, the rampant drug gang violence in Mexico, the drafting of young boys into gangs that roam with impunity, the forcing of young girls into prostitution.

For months, as I prepared, I clipped hundreds of newspaper articles that chronicled the heinous situation on our border.

How can we explain why so many Americans fell “hook, line, and sinker” for this hateful rhetoric and supposed “national emergency?”  How were they able to convince themselves that these human beings did not deserve humane treatment by our government?  The answer can’t be that they didn’t want to have their tax dollars spent on them.  After all, millions have gone to incarcerating asylum seekers and children in “for profit” private jails. Even more millions have been spent sending these people “back to where they came from” or to the first countries they trudged through outside their own.  Too many Americans seem to have forgotten the immigration stories their own grandparents told them.  That was then.  This is now.  We are “full up.”  There is no more room in the United States.

My class ended a few weeks ago, but, suddenly, so did the headlines.  The media shifted attention to impeachment, to the betrayal of the Kurds, and to other outrages.  Articles about the crisis on our border have vanished.  Why so fickle?  Many thousands still suffer. No solution has been found–or even suggested.  Do people need new titillations to satisfy their appetite for disasters?  If so, we have a president who will happily feed their ravenous maws.

BOLLI member and SGL Eleanor Jaffe

Eleanor also serves as leader of BOLLI’s “Make a Difference” Special Interest Group.  Watch “BOLLI Matters” as well as the Bulletin for announcements of the group’s meetings and activities.  All interested members are welcome to attend.

BELATED VETERANS DAY REMEMBRANCE: EULOGY

EULOGY

By Karen E. Wagner

I’ve seen people

fight wars,

die too young,

die in pain,

and worse,

live too long

while memories sustain

failed bodies.

 

My battles have been

fiercely fought

with blows hand-to-hand,

more to come,

in these few years ahead.

 

I read of heroes,

mold my life in kind,

think none match too closely,

pick highlights

to mimic.

Tend to scars

as battle wounds,

regard retreat

as survival,

bury the young

and pieces

of my soul with them

until I’ve given

it all away.

 

I think back

to what damaged

my faith

in man,

like a soldier shot

in battle, pushed again

to the front line,

with only a leg wound.

I remember briefly

those who expired,

collect

their shattered souls

before time

turns

them to compost.

 

I heave my burden

over life’s hurdles

reach the many shrines

to the fallen,

return

the shards of souls

to their proper remains.

When I finish my task my days

will be over,

I’ll leave my scar-ridden,

soulless body

beside the headstones

of heroes.

 

MAKE A DIFFERENCE SIG: CONSIDER THIS…

CONSIDER THIS…

By Rita Aberbach, Make a Difference SIG

Elie Wiesel said that “Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”

Almost every day, we read about the suffering of migrants and would-be asylum seekers on our border, in “camps” just inside Mexico, or on the U.S. side of the border. We hear of children being taken from their grieving parents and placed haphazardly around the U.S.  We also read about the undocumented here in Massachusetts and their fears of deportation.

Many organizations exist to assist would-be asylum seekers to find justice in the courts; others relieve suffering through donations. Following is a list of some of these organizations. Please consider including one or more of them among your charitable donations this year.

Organizations working with asylum seekers at our southern border:

A.C.L.U. – American Civil Liberties Union

Annunciation House

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center

Florence Project—-Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project

RAICES – Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services

Bend the Arc

Our Revolution

Church sponsored groups like Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Kids in Need of Defense

Asylum Seekers Advocacy Project

Act Blue — supports 8 organizations

Jen Hoffman’s “Citizens of Conscience” — what you can do….weekly suggestions, on-line

Organizations servicing worldwide refugees:

USA for UNHCR – U.N. Refugee Organization

International Rescue Committee

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)

Save the Children

Doctors Without Borders

Oxfam International

Organizations in Massachusetts:

American Civil Liberties Union, “Families Belong Together”

Beyond Bond and Legal Defense Fund (raises bond money and supports people in local ICE
 detention centers

New Sanctuary Movement — synagogues and churches (housing for undocumented immigrants in the area

La Communidad

MA Jobs with Justice

 

NOTE: Many thanks to Eleanor Jaffe who compiled this list for her class “Crisis on Our Borders.”

A SENIOR MOMENT FROM DONNA: GIVE US A BREAK

GIVE US A BREAK

by Donna Johns

Stuck in the house waiting for a repair, I sat down with a cup of coffee to watch Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress.  He was, as I expected, clear and to the point and very “lawyer-y.”  He kept flipping through that 400 page report to verify his answers.  And he looked a tiny bit annoyed. I’m sure he would have preferred to be fishing, or reading, or just about anything that did not involve being thanked for his service and attacked for his findings. They mercifully gave him (and me) a break after 90 minutes.

Returning to the television, the talking heads were analyzing his performance:

“He seems confused.”

“He keeps shuffling papers.”

“Is he ill?”

As I am wont to do when confronted with idiot talking heads, I began to yell at them. “Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out he’s hard of hearing! He’s not sick. He’s just 75. Give him a break!” I watched the second morning session, paying closer attention to the man. Sure enough, when asked a question, Mueller tilted his head to hear better. He probably has one good ear and one that is trashed. We see it at BOLLI all the time.

Shuffling papers?  He was very precise when he found the relevant portions of his report.  He just took his sweet time finding them. At his age, many of us can’t find our keys, eyeglasses, or the shopping list we wrote last night. I thought it was admirable that he actually found anything in those two massive binders.

That got me thinking of all the criticisms we face as we age. Our children are chronic offenders but it comes from just about everyone. Rather than shrugging off our little idiosyncrasies, there is a tendency to try to fix us, as if we were broken.  Nope, not broken…just different. Raise your hand if any of these ring a bell.

  • “I got stuck behind a Q-Tip driving 20 miles per hour. Why are they still on the road?”  Answer: How much damage can I do going 20 miles per hour? Also…need groceries.  Also, what’s your hurry?
  • ” Can’t you hear me? Why don’t you pay attention?” Answer: You mumble. And frankly, if you can’t speak up, why do I have to pay             attention?
  • ”Why are you taking so long to (fill in the blank)?” Answer:  After a lifetime of hurrying, I’m enjoying a more leisurely pace. Also, how            important is (fill in the blank) anyway?

Aging is a daily challenge, and most of us do it with dignity. Perhaps the young-uns need to appreciate our uniqueness and quit diagnosing our “shortcomings.” Move on…nothing to fix here!

BOLLI Matters feature writer Donna Johns

Donna is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater and BOLLI member. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.

MEMOIR FROM DENNIS: TWO SPECIAL FRIENDSHIPS

Two Special Friendships

 by Dennis Greene

My life is richer because of two women whose paths I was lucky enough to have crossed. They are both smart, strong and beautiful, and, like a lot of us, are currently dealing with the undeserved curveballs life throws our way.

Recently,  my friend Hunter lost the sight in one eye due to a sudden arterial occlusion or “eye stroke.”  She notified her legions of friends of the loss, informed us that the doctors said the damage was probably total and irreversible, and reminded us gamely that she still had one eye that was working fine.  Hunter is tough, well-grounded,  indominable.  Though we have never met and have only spoken on the phone once, I consider her one of my best friends.  I met Hunter through Judy.

Judy was my first girlfriend.  She was tall, pretty, smart, and a very nice person.  I met her in high school in 1960 when she was scooping ice cream at Gulf Hill Dairy.  We dated pretty regularly during my senior year,  but I am not sure how to characterize the relationship. At the time, I had nothing to compare it with, but it probably fell into the “semi-serious” category.  I do know that, when I went away to college, I expected to see her at Thanksgiving, but, shortly before the holiday, I received a “Dear John” letter.  Judy told me she had started dating Dave and we wouldn’t be seeing one another anymore.

Dave was one of the most popular guys in my class, one of the best all-around athletes in the school, my teammate on the basketball team, and a good guy. He was also tall, movie star handsome, and destined to become a Marine officer.  I was glad for Judy but a little sad for me. But, because of her, I had much more experience with the opposite sex than I had had a year earlier. And I was strangely proud to have received my first “Dear John” letter. It proved I was in the game.

Judy and Dave have been married more than half a century.

Twenty years later, my wife and I attended my 20th high school reunion.  As we stood in line to get our name tags, Judy and Dave walked in.  Eileen had heard me tell high school stories and was interested in meeting them.  As I made the introductions,  I realized, from Judy’s expression, that she had no idea who I was.  It was an awkward moment that Eileen seems to take some joy in mentioning, while noting that most women remember their prom dates.

Over the years following that reunion, I kept in touch with Dave and Judy, and when we discovered Facebook, Judy and I began playing Lexulous (a scrabble type game) on line.  At some point, she suggested that I might also like to play with her friend Hunter, a woman she had met through their mutual love of rescued Border collies. For a number of years, the three of us played lots of games.

Then, sadly, Dave began suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, and Judy stopped playing, devoting all of her time to caring for him.  She was a talented artist, but she gave up all her woodcarving and most of her photography activities. It made me think about how much caregivers have to forgo in order to care for a loved one. Such caregivers deserve much more appreciation than they often receive.

Hunter and I have continued to play online games for over eight years now.  According to the Lexulous site, we have played over 3,000 games. The site makes it easy for players to chat, and ,through that online interaction,  I have come to know quite a bit about Hunter.  She loves dogs and horses and always has several.  She has told me stories about her parents and her children, and she is outspoken about her political beliefs. In fact, she is outspoken and effusive about most everything.

Hunter was not as open and forthcoming at first, but, at some point, she expressed a very liberal opinion and mentioned that I probably would disagree with her.  As an educated, Jewish Democrat with atheist leanings, born in Newark, N. J.,  I wasn’t used to having anyone assume I was politically conservative. When I asked her why she thought I would disagree, she told me that she just assumed I was a conservative, religious Republican who belonged to a yacht club because I had been friends with Judy and Dave.  I told her she had me pegged wrong, and, since then, Hunter has been much more free-wheeling when it comes to expressing her opinions. Her recent Trump posts have been especially entertaining.  I never noted that these two friends were at such different ends of the political spectrum.

Hunter called me once for legal advice when a used truck she had purchased in Texas broke down about 150 miles from the dealer, but all of our other contact has been through Facebook. Recently, I told her that I had added her to my bucket list and planned to visit her in Florida. I am going to do that sometime soon.

When we look back on our lives, the things that shine are the friendships we have been lucky enough to share.  For me, Hunter and Judy are two that shine the brightest.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.  He has engaged in memoir writing since joining BOLLI.

OCTOBER LINES FROM LYDIA: A Memorable Dinner Date

A Totally Un-Memorable Dinner Date

by Lydia Bogar

Howling laughter from my tweenage daughters–one in the dining room window and the other peeking out from the shutters in the living room, scoping out my date, Tom. “Oh Mom, you’re gonna die!”

My friends Cheryl and Jay said that Tom, an engineer, worked with Jay in Foxboro and lived on “The Lake” in Webster.  Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.  (Yeah, that Lake. Even the New York Times has written about it.

Only child. Never married. No kids. Wicked smart. Very shy. Dour expression.

We spoke once on the phone before that Sunday night dinner date but did not get beyond directions to my house and what a nice guy Jay is.

I have no memory of the drive from my house to the dining room at the Marriott in downtown Worcester. Maybe fifteen minutes that I will never get back.

I do remember the table for two but not the conversation.  I have no memory of appetizer, entrée, or dessert.  Was there wine?  Oh God, I hope so.

Quiet ride back to my house. Walked me to the door. I shook his hand with the other hand on the door knob.

The tweens were waiting.

“What? Really, he seems like a nice guy–but boring.”

The howling started again.  “Mom, we could have told you that as soon as we saw his pocket protector!”

I didn’t tell them about the second pocket protector (for mechanical pencils) he had clipped to his shirt pocket.

Tom married a few years later, a diminutive Asian lady with a PhD in something. It was a society wedding by Worcester standards because of the family compound of homes on The Lake that he inherited when he turned 50.

Yes.  Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.

Block. Copy. Paste.

Sure, beats having to spell it.

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

 

CONGRATULATIONS! Margie Arons-Barron

MASSACHUSETTS BROADCASTERS HALL OF FAME
Margie Arons-Barron

At a luncheon earlier today, Margie Arons-Barron was one of nine outstanding broadcasters inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.   On the association’s website, this years’ inductees are described:

“Our class of 2019 represents some of the true treasures of broadcasting,” Hall of Fame President and former WBZ-TV News Director Peter Brown said. “This group of outstanding professionals has been recognized for their enduring commitment and deep dedication to their craft. Their body of work is a testament to their talents and their passions for bringing to their audiences the very best in news, information, and entertainment. They are the leaders who set forth the path that future generations will follow. Let us welcome them as they join more than 150 others who can proudly state they have been inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters of Fame.”

The long-time former Editorial Director at WCVB-TV, Channel 5, Boston’s ABC affiliate, Marjorie Arons-Barron has been an award-winning journalist for nearly three decades.  For 20 years, she produced and often hosted WCVB’s Five on Five, at one time the nation’s longest running, locally produced public affairs discussion program. Prior to working at Channel 5, she was an associate producer of PBS Television’s The Advocates, a national political affairs writer for The Boston Phoenix, a reporter for WGBH-TV’s Ten O’Clock News and political editor of The Newton Times.  Arons-Barron has won many awards, including three New England Emmy Awards and, for five consecutive years, the National Award for Excellence in Television Editorials from the National Broadcast Editorial Association.  She has also been honored by, among others, United Press International, Associated Press, the American Trial Lawyers Association, the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association, the Massachusetts National Guard, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the YWCA, and the Big Sisters Association of Greater Boston.

We are so proud to have Margie as a member of the BOLLI community–congratulations, friend!

 

 

MEMOIR FROM LARRY: THE DRAWER OF MISFIT TOYS

THE DRAWER OF MISFIT TOYS

By L. Schwirian

         In the mid 70’s to mid-80’s, when our sons were young, we typically traveled at least twice a year to visit both sets of grandparents–one set in Cleveland and the other set near Pittsburgh.  As the drive was nearly six hundred miles, we (mostly Caroline) had to invent things to do along the way so that the three of them wouldn’t do bodily harm to one another or rip the back seat to shreds.  We always brought plenty of books and a number of tapes, mostly Muppet songs, as we sped along the interstates of Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  I particularly remember all of us singing along with Kermit the Frog, Why are There So Many Songs about Rainbows? On more than one occasion, usually when we were at least a couple of hundred miles out, Caroline would wonder if she had turned the iron off.   After the second or third time, I started packing the iron in the trunk.

When we finally reached my parent’s home after twelve or more hours on the road (there were many pit stops along the way), all three sons would pile out of the car and head for “the drawer of misfit toys” in my mother’s kitchen. The drawer contained bits and pieces of old toys that had long since been lost or abandoned. There was a little ball with jacks, numerous marbles of various sizes and colors, a yoyo, a top, playing cards, toy soldiers, knights on plastic horses, a few Lincoln Logs (but not enough to build anything with), pieces of an erector set, a dart gun, a harmonica, commemorative coins, nuts and bolts, rubber bands, a mouth harp, as well as various and sundry other stuff.

But there were two things that seemed to be favorites. One was a hollow, woven cylindrical shaped object about six inches long and less than a half-inch in diameter with openings at both ends. One son would put his index finger in one end and ask his brother or cousin to put his or her finger in the other end. When he pulled back, the tube would stretch, reducing the diameter and trapping both fingers.

The most intriguing toy, however, was a large horseshoe magnet about five inches long, two inches wide, and about a quarter-inch thick.  It had not originally been a toy but must have been removed from some piece of machinery…it was a very strong magnet. There were also two small magnets in the form of black and white terrier dogs. The oldest son would get under the kitchen table with the big magnet while the other two sons would place the two little magnets on the tabletop; wherever the big magnet moved the little dogs would follow.  It was pure magic.

Many of these trips took place around the Christmas holiday which meant that there would be a tumultuous unwrapping of gifts on Christmas morning and an overabundance of new toys.  But as likely as not, after a couple days, all three sons would be back exploring the “drawer of misfit toys.”

BOLLI Matters feature writer and co-chair of the Writers Guild, Larry Schwirian

 Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and have led BOLLI courses on architecture.  Larry has been an active participant in and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.