Everyone’s using that Russian FaceApp to see what they’d look like old and I’m just sitting here being old.

Me, circa April this year in an early morning selfie. Click to embiggen.

Have you seen all the people on Facebook posting selfies of themselves after they’ve run it through the FaceApp? It’s all the rage right now probably because the results tend to err on the very flattering side. If this app is to be believed, everyone is going to look amazing. Just a few more wrinkles and lots of grey hair. Personally, I don’t need to use that FaceApp to see what I would look like as an old person because I am already an old person.

True story: On the way into work this morning I could not for the life of me remember my age. I knew I was 50-something, but I wasn’t sure if I would be turning 52 or 53 next month on my birthday. I had to literally do the math in my head while driving at 70 MPH on the freeway because it was bugging me so much that I couldn’t recall if I am currently 51 or 52 years old. (For the record, I am currently 51 about to turn 52.) I almost went as far as to ask Google because they almost certainly know my age, but I did the math instead because I didn’t want to interrupt the song streaming on Pandora at the time. So, yeah, I’m old. Not super old. Not even eligible for senior discounts at most places yet, but old enough to have the bloodhounds at AARP on my ass about signing up. I’ve got another three years before I outlive my biological father who died at 55, but I doubt I’ll match my great grandmother who died at 99.

Speaking of that FaceApp, you might want to think twice before playing with it depending on how much you care about your image potentially being sent to Russia for a foreign company to do whatever they want with it. The folks at Slate have a good write up on how worried you should be about the app with responses from the company that makes it:

Privacy Matters and several news outlets (some in rather alarming termspointed out that when you use the app, you grant Wireless Lab a lot of rights. That includes a “perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content … without compensation to you.” That basically means FaceApp can do whatever it wants with your photos, according to New York Law School professor Ari Waldman. “You retain copyrights and photos that you upload, but you grant them the opportunity to pretty much do anything they want with the photos that are stored on their servers,” Waldman told me. And in many cases, it’s not just photos of the individual using the app—people upload images of their friends and families, too, meaning such a database of faces would be massive, and that same policy would apply regardless of who is in the photo. “It’s pretty broad, to say the least,” Waldman said.

Soure: How Worried Should You Be About FaceApp? — Slate


That’s a pretty permissive and vague terms and conditions, but to be fair to Wireless Lab, that’s true of a lot of apps because it covers their ass in case someone decides to sue for some stupid reason. Still, you should be aware that you are granting them these rights when you use the app. There was also a rumor going around that it wasn’t just uploading the picture you submitted to foreign servers, but grabbing your entire camera roll. Slate asked security expert Will Strafach to take a look at the app to see if that is true:

And, according to FaceApp’s creator Yaroslav Goncharov at Wireless Lab, that data doesn’t get sent to Russia at all unless you are in Russia:

Yaroslav Goncharov, FaceApp’s creator and Wireless Lab CEO, said in an emailed statement that no user data is transferred to Russia even though “the core R&D team is located” there, and he echoed that the entire camera roll is not tapped for upload. Forbes reported that FaceApp uses Amazon servers located in the U.S. and Australia. And, to be fair, FaceApp said it deletes most photos after 48 hours: “We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation.” But, again, all we have here is its word. When I asked Goncharov what Wireless Lab uses the photos for, he didn’t say. “Privacy policies and terms are drafted by lawyers and they always prefer to be on the safe side,” Goncharov wrote in an email. “We are planning to do some improvements here.” I directly asked if the company actively uses personal data for commercial purposes, and he didn’t respond.

So, in the end, it’s entirely possible that FaceApp is an innocuous bit of mindless fun and the folks at Wireless Lab aren’t keeping your data for very long or doing anything with it you wouldn’t want them to. However, the potential for abuse is still there in that terms of service agreement and if they changed their minds because, say, Russian intelligence needed a shit ton of pics to train a facial recognition system with, well, you’d given them the rights to do just that. Even then it’s arguable whether that would have any real impact on you in the long run outside of having helped the Russians to train an A.I., but it’s something you should consider before using the app.

Then again you should probably stop to consider these things with any app you’re thinking of using. Considering I’m all over both Google, Facebook, and this blog I doubt my using FaceApp could do much more damage to my privacy than I’ve already done to myself. I still won’t use it, though, because I already know what I’d look like when I’m old. Now, if it could remember my age for me…

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary.

In addition to being the day Christians think Jesus took a 3 day nap and then vamoosed back to Heaven, today is also our 18th wedding anniversary which, to me, is a much more significant occasion. No one is more surprised that I’ve been married for 18 years than I am.

Here we see the judge pointing out how my receding hairline will only get worse.

To say that I was apprehensive would be to put it mildly. Not long before Anne and I tied the knot, two of my good friends — people who seemed to have their shit together way better than I had and seemed to have happy marriages — got divorced. Their marriages ended around the five year mark and I worried that I, someone not known for having his shit together, would end up following a similar path.

My mother, Mary, with my sister-in-law, Deborah, and my niece and nephew, Jasmine and Dakota. In the background is the back of my brother, Wes, a bit of my dad, Jay, my mother-in-law, Kathy, and my sister, Cindy.

To be sure, there were some rocky points early on were it seemed like things would not hold, but somehow we managed to keep it together. True to the vows, we’ve had our share of in sickness and in health and richer and poorer. There were days that we had no idea what we should do so we did the best we could and hoped for the best. So far that seems to be working.

I swear I haven’t fallen asleep in this pic.

I have nothing deeply profound to offer on marriage other than to remember what it was that brought you two together in the first place and keep working at it. Some days she’s going to need to lean on you and on others you’re going to need to lean on her. I think that’s part of what marriage is all about. Finding your way though life with the help of your best friend. (Note, replace him/her with appropriate pronouns for non-hetero marriages.)

My daughter, Courtney, and my father-in-law, Aral.

It’s weird how it both does and doesn’t feel like it’s been 18 years. I love you, Anne, and I’m so happy we’ve had all this time together. I’m looking forward to many more years to come.

My social networking expands.

With the pending shutdown of Google+ and my growing concerns about Facebook, I’ve been looking around trying to decide if there’s any other social networks I should consider making use of. I already have a Twitter account, but that’s a different beast than G+ or FB in my mind. I did set up a MeWe account, but I’ve not touched it in forever because the lack of an API to make sharing stuff to it easy is a sticking point for me. You’re welcome to follow me there if you wish, but I can’t say I’ll be doing too much there. So the search continues.

I’ve been following the development of Diaspora project for awhile, but hadn’t signed up for it until today. The basic idea is that it’s trying to be similar to Facebook, but without all the data mining and advertising. I tend to think of it as the Open Source Facebook and, much like Linux, there’s a whole bunch of different “pods” that are setup and run by folks for different reasons, but they all talk to each other. The upshot being you have to choose which instance of Diaspora you want to create an account on, but once you do you can communicate with and share stuff to anyone on any of the other pods. Most importantly, you own your data and you have control over whom you share what with.

I finally signed on in part because Dave Hill of ***Dave Does The Blog did it and I wanna be like the cool kid. Plus he found a node that was specifically set up for folks who were previously G+ fans called Pluspora. If you’re using Diaspora, either on Pluspora or one of the other nodes, you can find my profile here.

I’m still figuring out how it all works and I can’t promise I’ll be any more active there than I am at MeWe until I get a handle on it, but the fact that there is a WordPress plugin that will allow me to crosspost new entries from here to my profile there at least points to an API that may make it more enjoyable to work with than the previously aforementioned MeWe. In other words, there’s a fairly decent chance I’ll be active. At least with crossposts from SEB, if nothing else. I’ve not set up the plugin yet, but will be looking into it.

Oh, I just find a bookmarklet on my Pluspora profile page to “Post to diaspora” that lets you easily share webpages on your profile. So I already like it better than MeWe.

I’m hoping this will help me refocus on blogging more regularly too as now what I write here will go to Twitter, Facebook, and Pluspora. I’m already starting to take things that would’ve been a quick share to Facebook (the previous entry) and seeing if I can’t turn them into short, but amusing blog posts. So all of this is just a long way of saying, “Hey! You can now find me on yet another social media platform!”

Random Shower Thought.

Just something that occurred to me while showering this morning.

SEB is now old enough to vote.

UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that my math skills suck. SEB is actually 17 years old, not 18. 2018-2001 = 17. That’s what I get for posting about it in 2019 and doing the math based on the current date instead of, you know, the actual date of the anniversary itself. Still, we’ve been around longer than a lot of other way more popular websites so that’s still something to gloat about even if I do need remedial basic math tutoring.

I missed my own Blogiversary. I started blogging on December 2nd, 2001 with a stupidly simple post that only said:

Well, it took awhile before I found a layout I was happy with, but I now have a home page up and running and some of the links even work. Seems like the part I have the hardest time with when making pages is the layout and coming up with some graphics that won’t cause visitor’s eyes to bleed the instant it comes into view. I’m still not certain what sections I plan to put into place, but the page as a whole will reflect my interests and opinions.

And that was it until January 10th, 2002, but it was a start. At the time I was creating pages by hand which is probably why there wasn’t much activity until we got into January when I got a script called Coranto set up to make updating a little easier to do. It was the crudest form of not-really-a-database system that updated flat HTML files to make the site. Then on February 3rd I made the move to the MovableType blogging platform and things really took off. For awhile there I was blogging quite a bit, but these days my output isn’t too dissimilar to what it was in those early days.

I had no idea what I was going to do with it back at the start and I assumed it was going to be a lot like many other endeavors I’ve undertaken over the years and only last a few months. Frankly, no one is more surprised that I’m sitting here 18 years later blathering away about whatever catches my attention. There were a couple points where it looked like I was going to have to shut it down either due to unemployment or just growing too big for the hosting services I was using at the time, but we squeaked through and a lot of you were with me during some pretty rough times.

Eighteen years is particularly amazing when you consider that Facebook didn’t exist until February 4, 2004 and YouTube wouldn’t arrive until February 14, 2005. Hell, MySpace wasn’t even a thing yet (August 1, 2003) and I beat Friendster by a year (March 22, 2002). You’ll forgive me for being somewhat impressed with myself.

I’m not as active as I was and my audience is not as big, but I’m still plugging away. Looking back and seeing the stuttering start I made at blogging makes me feel a little better at the similarly rough start to vlogging and streaming I’ve had. There’s a lot more involved in these new ventures which means it’ll take me longer to get into the swing of it and perhaps I’ll never manage to do as well at those things as I have at blogging, but that would be OK too. Much like when I started, I don’t know how much longer SEB will continue, but I’ve not run out of things to babble on about yet so if I had to guess then there’s probably still a ways to go.

Until then, a big thank you to those who have dropped by over the years to see what I had to say. You’ve made it all worthwhile and I am still amazed and humbled by it all.

Yaaaaay!

Happy New Year 2019!

We somehow managed to make it through yet another year and, boy, am I beyond happy that 2018 is over. Last year started off with me headed to the hospital in the wee hours of January 2nd where I’d spend 5 days while they figured out I had a disc extrusion that was pressing on my L5 nerve root. I really learned to appreciate morphine during this time.

Me in the hospital in one of the few positions I could be in that didn’t make me wish for thermonuclear war.

That was a shitty start to the year and, while it wasn’t the WORST year I’ve ever had, it didn’t improve a whole helluva lot in the coming months. Thankfully, I managed to complete my eighth full year of employment without issue making it the longest I’ve been at one job in a very long time. Alas, Anne was let go from her job in late spring and didn’t get back to work until just before Christmas about a week after her unemployment benefits ran out. She’s only had a few days or work total because of the holiday and this job doesn’t look like it’ll last more than a couple more weeks, but she will be returning to the data entry job she was let go from last spring for a couple of months worth of work so at least that’s something. Made for a very lean Christmas this year.

Holidays can be tough even for the best of us. Napping becomes a necessity.

Still, we have managed not to fall behind on mortgage payments meaning we have a very nice roof over our heads, food on the table, and cats who keep us on a regular schedule. I am optimistic that 2019 will be an improvement over 2018, though given the political climate right now I’m not sure I could articulate why. I didn’t do as much vlogging or streaming as I had originally planned to, but I’ve decided not to beat myself up too much about that. Instead, I will attempt to seize the moment whenever inspiration strikes rather than sit and endlessly agonize over how to do it.

I’m not much for New Year resolutions as I learned a long time ago that I will just end up disappointed, but I do intend to try and improve on the things I need to improve upon (diet, exercise, etc.) and continue to be awesome at the things I’m awesome at (mostly just being me). Here’s hoping 2019 is a better year for ALL of us.

The getting old thing sucks.

I understood from a young age that growing old wouldn’t be a picnic and I’ve met the various aches and pains I’ve developed over the years with, what I would like to believe, is a certain amount of grace and acceptance. What I’m not happy about, and what no one who ever bitched about getting old had ever mentioned to me, is how some of us (me) would develop weird little disfigurements as we age. 

Specifically, little bitty bumps. I noticed a few years back that I had a couple of little bumps on my forehead near my hairline. They didn’t hurt like a pimple and they weren’t hard like a wart. Just a couple of little bumps like tiny lunar landers had set down on my face. Well, you can’t be young and beautiful forever I suppose so I accepted the bumps as a the price of wisdom and moved on. It was only a couple so no big deal. Then today I just happened to notice that the number had grown. I now have a string of the damned things across my forehead down into my left eyebrow. What the fuck?

Crater face has arrived.
It’s like a scatterplot graph of Trump’s approval rating on my fucking forehead!
Click to embiggen, if you dare.

I didn’t sign up for this shit and I want to know who to write to in order to make a proper complaint. There’s eight of those little fuckers on my face now and I suspect they’re conspiring to increase their numbers as I sleep. I tried checking on WebMD to see if they had a name for them and now I think I might have forehead cancer. Don’t ever try to look up anything on WebMD, they always say it’s cancer. 

So I’m trying to spin this into a positive by telling myself it makes my forehead look all rugged and shit, but it doesn’t. It just looks like I’ve been practicing writing in braille on my face. Also, that little outcropping of hair at my widow’s peak is slowly losing the battle of existence and now you know why I shave my head regularly. 

Oh well. I suppose I’ll just have to live with it, but it would’ve been nice to get a warning that this was going to happen. 

A quick update.

Apologies for being away for so long — I just realized I didn’t get a single post up in February — but I am still alive and kicking. My recovery from the pinched nerve issue has been slow, but steady with my pain levels being mostly background noise these days. I had my second steroid injection into my spine on February 19th and it has helped considerably. I doubt I will need a third one.

Sitting in most chairs and on the toilet isn’t much of an issue anymore and I can bend over to pick up stuff from the floor without too much issue as long as I’m careful in how I do it. Putting my sock and shoe on my left foot is still a struggle, but I can do it on my own most days. I still have weakness in my left leg/foot/toes with numbness in the calf, big toe, and pinkies of my hands, but pain-wise I’m close to being back to normal. I can also sleep more than three or four hours at a time.

Now, of course, my hospital bills are rolling in and I’ve definitely hit the $4,000 deductible on my health insurance for the year. I fact, I somehow owe almost $4,500 to the hospital and various others involved in my treatment in spite of my deductible being $4K. I’m going to have to call Anthem and ask them how the fuck that’s possible. Thus stress over being in pain constantly has given way to stress over how to pay my hospital bill. Not sure how I’m going to do it, but I’ve been in spots like this before and have made it through.

Other than that, I’ve been working and sleeping a lot. I missed seeing the latest Star Wars movie in theaters and I’m more than a little bummed about that and I still haven’t seen Black Panther, but I hope to rectify that this coming weekend. Thanks to some help from my sister-in-law and her husband and my buddy Greg, we got the last of our boxes out of my mother-in-law’s basement. Now our basement is back to looking like this:

It really is amazing how much stuff we’ve accumulated over the years.

I’ve started digging through the boxes and a lot of them are full of books. So much so that I may need to buy a couple more bookcases if we decide to keep them all. We have to dig through all of this soon as we’re going to need the room to hold a going away party for my daughter, Courtney, who is packing up and moving to Phoenix, Arizona to take on a new job at her company that will be a big step up for her career.

Needless to say, plans to sit down and blog, vlog, and/or stream have not been working out for me lately. Not because I don’t have the time, but I’ve been lacking the motivation/inspiration. You hear all the time about how chronic pain is exhausting, but it’s another thing to actually experience it. Fortunately, I appear to be getting better and I’ve started actually exercising a bit (25 mins or so of walking a few times a week) in yet another attempt to improve my health and alleviate some of the issues I’m having. I’m hoping to buy a bicycle soon, but with the hospital bills coming in I’m not sure I can justify the cost.

So, I’m still here and I have every intention of getting back to posting more often. I can’t guarantee that I will, but, much like trying to get back into exercising, I’m going to try.

Happy New Year 2018!

Yes, I know I’m a bit late with this, but I have a good excuse. My new year started off poorly with the onset of excruciating pain in my left hip/leg after eating lunch at a local Olive Garden. It got worse on the ride home and attempts at sleeping it off did nothing to help. By 4:30 PM it was so bad that I couldn’t get into the car to go to an urgent care center. After deciding against calling for an ambulance I continued to try and rest, but the only position that didn’t cause immediate pain was laying on my belly, a position I never sleep in, or standing straight up, which is also not conducive to sleep. Still, I managed to doze off a couple of times and by 2:30 AM things had improved just enough for me to fold myself into Anne’s car for a trip to the ER at Saint Joseph’s Mercy hospital in Ann Arbor.

This is me in my hospital gown standing up in my room because it’s too painful to lay down.

I was admitted pretty quickly and had an IV stuck into my arm whereupon I was given healthy doses of morphine which helped in making my immediate situation bearable. Over the course of the next day and a I half I had a couple blood labs done, an x-ray session and, ultimately, an MRI. By Wednesday evening they had worked out what my issue was. Despite it being the location of all my pain and misery, my hip and joint were ruled out as having any issues other than some minor arthritis. However, upon looking at my spine they noticed a problem:

L4-L5: Moderate-large size central to left paracentral disc extrusion. Slight caudal migration. This results in compression left anterior/lateral thecal sac with moderate to severe narrowing of the left lateral canal. Encroachment on the expected left L5 nerve root. Mild left foramen stenosis. Right foramen patent.

Which is to say that I have a partial disc herniation that is pressing on the root of one of the major nerves in my leg resulting in, to put it more collequially, “sonofafuckingbitchthatfuckinghurts.”

The first time I was able to lay on my back in over 24 hours and only because I was very doped up on that sweet, sweet morphine. You can tell it’s only slightly dampening the pain in my expression.

Near as I can figure, this is the result of a fall on my stairs that I took nearly three weeks prior just as I started my annual end-of-the-year vacation. Stepping down the two steps from my kitchen to the landing in front of the side door of my house, we had a small rug there to collect debris on shoes as we came in and I slipped on it falling backwards and smacking my ass and right arm into the edge of the step. I thought I had only bruised my ass badly (and, indeed, there was some sign of that in the x-ray), but I thought I’d come closer to breaking my arm than my spine.

After much more waiting around, I finally got word from the neurological surgeon that was consulting on my case that they wanted to try giving me a lumbar epidural steroid injection Thursday morning and then they’d keep me around until Friday evening to see if it had any effect and if it didn’t reduce my pain by at least 50% then I’d be scheduled for spinal surgery on Saturday morning. Considering that I had already missed most of the first week I was supposed to be back at work and that surgery would mean four to six weeks of recovery time, I was seriously hoping that the epidural would work.

Fortunately, it did. This is me sitting up on the edge of the bed eating my breakfast Friday morning.

Mind you, I’m on a healthy dose of percocet in the picture above, but it was still more than I’d been able to do for three days. They kept me around into Saturday, but I was finally let go with a prescription for more percocet and ibuprofen (to reduce inflammation). After a weekend spent sleeping off and on, I went back to work on Monday.

I’m far from fully recovered, but I’m at a point where I’m able to stretch out how often I take my pain pills from the recommended 6 hours for the percocet and 8 hours for the ibuprofen to as much as 10 or 12 hours depending on if I’m sleeping through it. I’m able to sleep on my side again, but I can only manage sleeping (in any position) for at most 4 hours before I have to get up and walk around to get my leg to stop hurting enough to go back to sleep. The pain still manifests in my hip and the calf of my leg, the latter feeling like the muscle is just this side of going into a full charley horse. Additionally it causes numbness in the pinkies of both my hands and along up the edge of my arms. The medication keeps it down to an annoying roar, but I can definitely tell when the pills have worn off. Walking is a bit rough at times as all this also makes my left leg somewhat weak hence why I have my cane handy.

But, I am able for the most part to function. I’m on restrictions with regards to lifting heavy things and bending over too far, which makes putting on socks and shoes fun. I am also scheduled for another injection in February with the possibility of one or two more depending on how much progress I make in the coming weeks. It may be that I’ll end up having to have the surgery in the future anyway, but at least this offers some hope of avoiding that for the time being.

So, yeah, my new year is not off to a great start. I’m hoping this means things can only get better from here on out. I’m not looking forward to the bill for all of this and finding out how much of an additional pain in the ass my insurance company is going to be about this. They’re already refusing to pay for more than one week’s worth of percocet and only once a month at that leaving me to pay it out of pocket, but that’s a rant for another time. Here’s hoping your new year was pretty good or at least not as eventful as mine has been so far.

My first vlog.

I’ve been talking about trying to get into vlogging for awhile now, but I’ve allowed my trepidation to get the better of me and have kept putting it off until I had a better webcam and then a better mic and then a better Internet connection and so on. Fact is, I don’t know what I’m doing. Then again I didn’t know what I was doing when I started blogging 16 years ago and I’ve done alright with that.

So here it is. It’s short, doesn’t have anything particularly interesting to say, but it’s something and works well as a test of my setup if nothing else. Oh, there is a surprise camo by Jasper the cat:

As you can tell, I’m nervous and not well spoken. I’m assuming that’ll get better in time. I also made this via Google Hangouts because Windows 10’s built-in camera up won’t allow you to choose what mic to record from and I can’t seem to find anything better to use. I’m open to suggestions on what you’d like to see from me.