Multiple Responsibilities

Sachiko, as I’ve said before, is the junior member of our home security force. The Ooki Brothers, Watanuki and Yuki, concentrate on external security, alerting us to intruders in the back yard. Sachiko’s remit is internal.

She can often be found on the landing halfway up the stairs. The security station there gives her a clear view of the upstairs hallway…
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and the foyer downstairs.
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As the youngest member of the security team, she’s also been given responsibility for our digital security. Here, for example, you can see her watching over Maggie’s abandoned laptop. Sachiko will guard it against theft, accidental damage, or unauthorized posts about lesser species, especially dogs, squirrels, and raccoons.
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Note, by the way, the mouse carefully positioned in front of her. Mice are, of course, a prey species. Sachiko her secondary role as Gravity’s Little Helper just as seriously as her other security duties. She’s more than happy to defenstrate any rodents she finds in the vicinity of valuable electronics.

SAST 15

Some days a Short Attention Span Theater is the only option.

The West Coast Ragtime Festival is this weekend. Not much notice, I realize, but stuff happened. Nothing worthy of a story, unfortunately.

It looks like a good group of performers are on the schedule this year. There are several young players, and there are plenty of new faces among the adult performers I’m already familiar with.

The usual caveats about the unexpected apply, including the expected unexpected–this is California, Home of the Majestic PG&E Planned Power Outage and the Diabolical Unplanned Forest Fire–but I expect to be there all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday.

If you’re in the Sacramento area, drop by and say hello. Or, better yet, drop by and listen to some good music. Much more entertaining than hanging out with me*.

* Your Mileage May Vary, of course, but I feel obligated to exercise a little modesty, since the festival wasn’t organized to showcase my talents.

Moving on.

After some work-related delays and distractions and some purely writerly procrastination, I began work on the third draft of Demirep recently.

Yesterday, I reworked somewhere north of 5,000 words. I’ve always said that rewriting is faster and easier than writing* and Draft Three is the easiest one in my usual process. Even so, that’s a lot of words in one go, and it gives me hope that the book is on the right track.

* In some ways, it’s more fun, too. Finding the perfect word instead of the one that’s almost right is the good kind of challenge.

Draft Three is usually the one that goes to beta readers. That’s the real acid test for any book, of course: how does it resonate with people who weren’t involved in its conception? Will I be asking for beta readers? Probably. But not yet. This draft is still in the early stages, and I may yet decide it needs a major change of direction. Stay tuned.

Moving on again, this time to something that’s not all about me.

Perhaps you’ve heard that Apple just announced a line of 16 inch MacBook Pro notebooks.

The timing is odd. MacBook Pros are designed for a small group of professionals–tech, video, and other such industries that need big power on the go–not the general consumer market. There’s no real need to launch the line during the holiday season. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to hold off until next month and launch them alongside the new Mac Pro workstation? Let people spend their Christmas gift money on the consumer devices and then bring out the pro goodies. Aside from those people buying them in pallet loads for businesses, almost anyone buying any Pro product from Apple is going to be financing the purchase, so they don’t need that holiday cash in hand, right?

But then, I’m clearly not a marketing expert. I’m sure Apple has plenty of expertise in that area and neither wants nor needs my advice.

In any case, new MacBook Pros look like great machines. Apple’s usual premium pricing applies, but still, $2800 will buy you a lot of computer. If you’re considering getting one, though, make sure your budget includes a wheeled computer case. Four pounds doesn’t sound like much, but schlepping it around for ten hours a day (Apple claims a ten or eleven hour battery life; these machines aren’t designed for a nine-to-five workday) will put a serious dent in your shoulder.

And finally…

Speaking of those planned blackouts for fire prevention, we’ve been lucky so far.

I’m probably jinxing us by saying this, but the first three blackouts all missed us. In at least one case, it was only by a few blocks, but blackouts are not one of those situations like horseshoes and hand grenades where “close” counts.

There’s a movement afoot to force PG&E to bury all of its power lines. The reasoning is that underground lines don’t cause fires, so there’s no need to shut off the power during high winds. That may be true–as far as I can tell, we don’t have data showing complete protection–but it’s not a total fix for all of PG&E’s woes.

Case in point: while we’ve avoided the planned shutoffs, we had an unplanned outage a couple of weeks ago thanks to a blown high tension line. An underground line.

We’re now in Day Six of PG&E digging up our street and sidewalk to get access to the line and, based on a conversation with some of the workers, the job is going to stretch into December and include at least one planned outage.

Burying the lines may make them safer–though, since this is California, let’s not forget about earth movements, both slides and quakes–but it does make them harder to repair.

And there are secondary effects of outages. Ones that apply regardless of whether a protracted blackout is planned or unplanned. How many stories have we heard recently about fires and deaths caused by improperly maintained or incorrectly used emergency generators?

Before we spend decades and billions of dollars burying power lines, let’s spend a bit of time considering all the implications and hidden costs, financial and otherwise.

Jackpot!

We all have a level of risk we’re comfortable with.

I’m okay spending ten bucks a week on the microscopic chance of winning one of the lotteries operated and widely promoted by the government. You may feel the same, you may not.

I’m also fine with investing months of my life on the even smaller possibility of hitting it big as a writer*. I know some of you think that’s an insane gamble.

* To be clear, the goal is getting my books published so people can read them and making enough money that publishers will continue to buy them. Cracking the best-seller lists and making oodles of dough is what Corporate America calls a “stretch goal”.

The point is not that I’m crazy. The point is that there are some games I won’t play, but plenty of other people do.

Case in point: the ransomware game. Now there’s one with high odds.

Sure, you might go a lifetime online and never get infected. If you stick with well-known companies that don’t run ads on their websites, you’ve got a good chance. Mind you, you need to go directly to their sites, not look them up on your search engine of choice. And, really, does anybody stick with just two or three websites?

Okay, yes, there are search engines that don’t show ads. And entertaining websites that don’t show ads and never get hacked. You might get lucky.

But ransomware is on the rise. It’s the attacks on cities that’s getting most of the media attention, because that’s something new and different. Newsworthy, by definition. But attacks on individuals haven’t stopped, and–anecdotally–are becoming more common as well.

Which shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s a great moneymaker. As with spam, all you need is one success to cover the cost of thousands or even millions of attacks. And, also as with spam, you don’t just get one victim forking over the cash (or Bitcoin).

Your profit goes up even further if you don’t actually respond to anyone who pays up. Why maintain the infrastructure to send out decryption software and keys? It’s not like a brick and mortar company, whose victimscustomers have to be able to find them. You’re hunting down your own customersvictims and not giving them a choice about doing business with you.

So, yeah, the odds in the ransomware game suck.

Install anti-virus and anti-malware software from a reputable company. Even better if it includes a browser plugin that highlights links known to be unsafe. Make sure to keep it up to date. Install a pop-up blocker as well–many attacks are made via windows that pop-up behind your main window and do their work before you even realize they’re there.

And keep multiple backups of anything you can’t stand to lose. (I keep my writing in Dropbox which backs up continuously and keeps thirty days of history so if I had to, I could go back to an older, uninfected version of every chapter of every book. I also run an hourly backup from my main computer to a second computer in another room and a daily backup to a third machine in another state. It’s not a perfect system, but there’s that level of risk thing again.)

Back up, back up, back up. (Haven’t I said that recently?)

We all have our own comfort level with risk, but I don’t know anyone who wants to hit the ransomware jackpot enough to play the game.

Small Potatoes

Some things just don’t age well.

Take songs, for instance. Have you listened to the Beatles’ “Run For Your Life” lately? It starts out with “Well, I’d rather see you dead, little girl / Than to be with another man” and goes downhill from there. I don’t know how well it went over in ’65, but today? Not good at all. Nor is it the worst offender in the “relations between the sexes” category.

Remember “Go Away, Little Girl” (co-written by Carole King, yet!)? If the singer can’t resist her, why is it her responsibility to stay away from him? Is a restraining order appropriate about now?

By comparison, my current pet peeve in the “what was the writer thinking” sweepstakes is small potatoes, but still…

The radio woke me up this morning to “Deacon Blues,” which was, as some of you may remember, a hit for Steely Dan in the late seventies.

Mostly I take issue with the chorus.

“I’ll learn to work the saxophone”. Has anyone in the 173-year history of the instrument used this phrase? Nobody works a sax. They play it, just like any other musical instrument.

Yeah, okay, maybe it’s a regional thing. I’ll let it pass, because that’s not my major complaint about the song.

“Drink Scothc whisky all night long / And die behind the wheel.”

Did we really need a glorification of someone planning on committing suicide by driving drunk? Sure, you can read it other ways: the inevitability of a pathetic death, maybe.

But.

Perhaps it’s arrogance, but I think my interpretation is the likely one in modern ears.

I’m not boycotting my radio station, but I will change the channel or turn off the radio if that song comes on when I’m awake enough to reach the buttons.

Because there are already enough idiots on the road to give me nightmares. Weaving in and out of traffic at high speed, cutting across multiple lanes at the last second, and ignoring all traffic indicators. And that’s before they get on the highway and (probably) before they have a drink.

I know, I know. Not only have you all heard my griping already, but one outdated pop song isn’t going to make any real difference. It’s the attitude that chaps my ass. The song may have been written forty years ago, but the protagonist’s air of entitlement could have come out of today’s newspaper.

“Call me Deacon Blues”? Yeah, you can call yourself whatever you want, but “Call me Traffic Fatality In the Making” seems more appropriate. But I suppose that doesn’t scan. Too bad.

Still, there are signs of hope on the street.

Last night, the traffic lights were out at the foot of the freeway exit ramp we use. This is an ugly intersection: a major on- and off-ramp with dedicated carpool/HOV lanes meets a major commute arterial that connects I-80 and I-580.

In the normal course of things, the lights are all but ignored. Drivers don’t just stretch the yellow, they snap it in half and pee on the pieces in the cause of saving a couple of seconds.

Last night, with not a police officer in sight, everybody stopped at the intersection and politely took turns going through it. I’ve never seen traffic move through there so smoothly.

Nothing wrong with small potatoes.

Bailing Out

California has approved a change to state law which will do away with bail. Only if the law stands, of course. As might be expected, loud voices have been raised in opposition.

In brief, SB 10 will do away with bail, and require each county to set up its own system of risk assessment to determine which defendants could be released on their own recognizance, be required to submit to electronic monitoring, or held in “preventive detention”.

Naturally, bail bond businesses are objecting the loudest, but they’re hardly alone. The ACLU is opposed, as are a large number of law enforcement organizations.

The primary objection–outside of the bail bond industry, which would be largely destroyed if the law stands–is that it places too much control in the hands of judges. With local jurisdictions able to assign their own weights to whatever factors they consider relevant, and individual judges free to interpret the guidelines, critics of SB 10 fear that it may increase the number of people held in jail pending trial, rather than reduce it.

And certainly, there are any number of ways such a system could be gamed to disproportionately affect minorities and the poor.

The bill was initially proposed in 2016, and has been substantially modified since then. Many of the groups who disapprove of the version just signed by Governor Brown approved of earlier versions. Even the primary author, Senator Bob Hertzberg (Democrat, Van Nuys), seems less than enthralled with the final version. The Chron quotes him as saying that “Our path to a more just criminal justice system is not complete.”

Cynic that I am, I tend to read his comment as “Well, it was the best I could do. Maybe we can fix it later.” And pessimist that I am, I’m doubtful whether fixes will be a high priority.

“Release fast, fix later” may work for software. Maybe. The jury is still out on that. But it’s a bad approach to lawmaking.

Opponents are considering challenging the law in court, and have already started a petition drive to put the question in front of voters in 2020. (The law will take effect in October of 2019 unless blocked in the courts. Or, if the referendum qualifies for the ballot, the law would go on hold.)

One additional factor that I haven’t seen mentioned in the press: it seems likely that under SB 10, electronic monitoring would become more common for pre-trial defendants. However, the defendant is required to pay a fee for the equipment. Seven bucks a day (according to an article from 2016) doesn’t sound like much, but that adds up quickly. If a defendant can’t afford bail, how likely is he to be able to afford two hundred dollars a month?

I’m generally in favor of doing away with bail, but I have to side with the ACLU* on this law.

* While I have some sympathy for the bail bondsmen, I don’t have a lot of patience for the “This change will put me out of work” argument in general, and even less in this case, where the change is intended to save the jobs of many, many more people.

The potential for abuse is too great, the approach is flawed, and the “fix it later” attitude is offensive. Scrap SB 10 and start over.

More Paranoia

Well, despite Thursday’s post, I’m still here. Still pissed off, though, so I hope y’all will indulge me in another day of paranoia.

Possibly I’m only still here because I’m not a registered Democrat. As noted idiot Alex Jones of Info Wars informed the world yesterday, the Democrats are starting a civil war on Wednesday. So the Republicans may be a little too distracted to deal with a single independent shouting into the void.

I’m not sure what the problem is here. Wasn’t Jones one of the people calling for more civility from the left? Just can’t please some people, I suppose.

Yes, Jones really said/tweeted it. Called it “breaking news,” even.

Let’s get real, here. Nobody–and I mean nobody–can start a war on demand. Well, okay. Starting a war is no problem. A few cyberattacks, few grassy-knoll assassinations, and well-placed bombs, and Bob’s your uncle. But on a schedule precise to the day? Excuse me while I go laugh hysterically.

Yeah, the provocation can be scheduled, but until the other side strikes back, you don’t have a war. Remember, it takes two to tango, but only one to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Still, it was nice of Alex to give us a couple of days to get ready. I hear all the Democrat-owned supermarkets and big box stores are having special sales. If your local store isn’t offering two-for-one pricing on Kevlar and popcorn, you know the corporate higher-ups are Republicans.

Come to think of it, if he’s got credible evidence that “Democrats” are going to indulge in major provocation, shouldn’t he be reporting it to, say, an organization whose job is to stop terrorist plots? Oh, no wait, the official word from the right is that the FBI isn’t capable of finding the soles of their shoes, much less a threat to America.

Hmm. Speaking theoretically here–I’m a novelist, this is what I do–if I was trying to provoke a war, I’d make sure those crackers, bullets, and bombs were aimed at the institutions and people most capable of defending whoever or whatever I was rebelling against.

Do you suppose Alex is afraid Democrats don’t consider him important enough to attack and this announcement is his way of trying to raise his importance? “Oh, look, I blew the whistle on your plot. Better kill me before I blow the cover off your next operation!”

Got news for you, Alex. Very few Democrats consider you important enough to waste time or money on. If Info Wars or you personally suffer an attack Wednesday, it’s more likely to have been done by your own side as an excuse to take the next step in their plan. You’re not rich enough or highly placed enough to be making targeting decisions, so by definition, you’re expendable.

Seriously though, this kind of pronouncement is a can’t-lose for Alex and the alt-right lunatics he’s talking to. If anything happens on Independence Day, he can trumpet that he told us so. If nothing happens, his warning saved the day. And either way, it’s an excuse to crack down on somebody.

Maybe the media who laugh at Alex*. Or the ones who ignore him. Or the family of the girl who turned one of the decision-makers down when he asked her out in high school. Or anyone whose skin is darker than cornsilk, isn’t a particular brand of Christian, thinks health insurance is a good idea, or even (gasp) once voted Democrat.

* Yes, that means me, among others.

If the movers and shakers behind DT are ready to move into their endgame, all it would take is the sacrifice of one highly-visible pundit to give them an excuse for their own Kristallnacht. And all that sacrifice would take is a single well-prepared operative and a big pile of disinformation.

Why wait for Justice Kennedy to retire before kicking things off?

Okay, okay. Enough doomsaying and paranoid ramblings. I’ll have something cheerful for you in Thursday’s post–assuming, of course, that the civil war hasn’t started by then.

Ready, Aim…

Joel Stein’s LA Times piece on Nextdoor is worth reading.

Not that he’s saying anything new–Oakland residents have been fighting Nextdoor’s rather lax and inconsistent approach to policing content for years. But he does say it entertainingly.

Nextdoor, for those of you who haven’t heard of it or were smart enough not to join, is supposed to be the electronic town square. Think Facebook, but strictly limited by geographic neighborhoods. You can see posts in your own neighborhood* and in adjoining neighborhoods, but nothing else.

* There are a number of methods used to verify that you live where you say you do. Some are of rather questionable utility, but at least Nextdoor is making an effort.

In theory, it’s a combination local bulletin board, neighborhood watch, and community chatline. In practice, well, as Joel says

In the alternative reality that is Nextdoor, people are committing crimes I’ve never even thought of: casing, lurking, knocking on doors at 11:45 p.m., coating mailbox flaps with glue, “asking people for jumper cables but not actually having a car,” light bulb stealing, taking photos of homes, being an “unstable female” and “stashing a car in my private garage.”

And he’s right on the money.

Except that he missed a couple of items. Roughly half the posts on any given day are pet related. “My dog/cat/parrot is missing.” “Somebody’s using the public park to train attack dogs.” And, of course, “All of you better stop letting your dogs crap on my yard!”

And then there’s the inevitable response to any post, frequently from multiple people:

“Someone claiming to be from PG&E knocked on my door.” “That’s a scam. He was just trying to see if anyone was home. If he comes back, shoot him.”

“There’s a strange man walking along the sidewalk. He had a camera and was taking pictures.” “He’s casing houses to break into later. If he comes on your property, shoot him.”

“I’m sick and tired of cleaning dog droppings off my lawn.” “Next time you see a dog on your lawn, shoot it.”

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Yes, even the missing pet posts get responses like “Don’t expect to see Fluffy again, ’cause I’m gonna shoot her if she keeps messing with my chickens.”

Don’t even think about reading any thread related to gun control, unless you really enjoy repeated regurgitation of the NRA’s favorite talking points, wild exaggerations, and outright lies, all mixed with threats of violence against anyone who “comes to take my guns.”

I don’t know, maybe it’s just here. According to Nextdoor, there are 237 people signed up in my neighborhood, and I can see posts from 6,756 people in the adjoining areas. That’s a small enough group–given that more than 90% of people on any social network rarely post more than once or twice–that a few lunatics may be disproportionately represented. Anyone else, especially in larger neighborhoods, seeing the same thing?

Another Brilliant Notion

Before I get to today’s main topic, a little bit of housekeeping, loosely following Tuesday’s post.

I will be attending the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival again this year. There’s still time to make your own plans to attend. What better way is there to spend a weekend than listening to great music performed well? In addition to the music, there will be dancing; symposia on ragtime, it’s precursors, and successors; and tours of Sedalia.

And yes, there will be copies of TRTT for sale. I’m not currently planning on a formal signing–though I’m certainly open to the possibility–but I’ll be happy to sign your copy*. I recognize most of you have been resistant to the idea of distributing copies to friends and relatives, so how about an alternative plan? Get ’em for people you don’t know–the possibilities are endless:

  • Send one to Donald Trump. He won’t read it, but maybe dealing with thousands of copies will distract him from tweeting for a few minutes.
  • Slip one to the opposing pitcher before the next ballgame you go to. Who knows, it might distract him enough to give your team a chance.
  • Give them to Scott Pruitt. He needs something cheerful in his life right now. And if he gets enough copies, he can use them to build himself a privacy booth at least as good as the one he made with the sofa cushions when he was a kid.

I’ll be happy to sign any “Strangers and Enemies” copies too. And I’ll add a personal message of your choice!

* I’m still unsure how to sign ebooks. Suggestions welcome!

Admittedly, the weather in Missouri in June is a bit on the hot and muggy side, but for those of you east of the Rockies, it’ll be a nice change from the snow you’re still getting. And better June than September, right?

So I hope to see a few of you at the Liberty Center and around Sedalia between May 30 and June 2.

Commercial over, moving on.

By now many of you have probably heard that the amazingly ill-thought-out Amazon Key program is expanding. If you don’t want Amazon unlocking your house and putting your packages inside–and who would?–they’re now going to offer an alternative: they’ll unlock your car and put your package in the trunk.

Which is, at least by comparison with the original offering, not a bad idea.

Despite San Francisco’s well-publicized problem with smash-and-grab auto robberies, your chances of having your car broken into are probably no higher than of having your house robbed. Assuming, of course, that nobody is following Amazon delivery peons around their routes and texting car delivery locations to a confederate.

Anyway, the service will be offered in conjunction with GM and Volvo initially, and then expand to other makes later. Trunk delivery will also require a recent model with online connectivity, i.e. OnStar.

Which brings us to my major complaint about this iteration of Amazon Key: it’s a reminder that we don’t really own our cars anymore. Ownership should mean control, but a modern, connected car sacrifices control. The manufacturer–and potentially dealers, repair shops, police, and others–can unlock your car, disable features, and display advertisements at will.

Yes, I’m talking capability rather than practice, but policies can change. Once the hardware is in place to, for example, show ads on your navigation screen, you’re never more than one manufacturer-controlled software update from not being able to turn the ads off.

Or one bug–or hack–away from the car failing to recognize the remote relock signal.

That’s true whether you use Amazon Key or not, of course.

That Switch On Your Dashboard

Well, it’s been almost a month since I bitched about the impending End of Civilization As We Know It as brought about by drivers. That’s long enough that I hope you’ll indulge me in another rant along the same lines.

It’s not about the idiots who weave in and out at high speed. They’ve upped their game: it’s no longer enough of a thrill for them to zip across three lanes, missing four cars by no more than six inches, on rain-slick pavement. They’ve begun doing the same thing with the driver’s door open. Yes, really. Saw it myself a couple of days ago.

Nor is it about the lunatics who believe 35 is the minimum speed on residential streets, though Ghu knows there are plenty of those.

No, today’s complaint is about the people who’ve either forgotten or never learned the rules for using their high-beams. As best I can tell, based on this weekend’s random sampling, this group amounts to roughly 90% of the drivers on the road.

The rules aren’t difficult. There are only two.

  1. When approaching the top of a hill or coming around a blind curve, turn the high-beams off.
  2. When following another car–especially if you’re tailgating–turn the high-beams off.

That’s it.

They both boil down to the same bit of common sense: don’t blind a driver who might collide with you if they can’t see.

I don’t blame video games for violent behavior. But I’ve gotta admit it’s really tempting to blame them for stupid behavior.

People, there’s a reason why I haven’t hooked up my Atari 2600 in decades, and it’s not that I can’t find the cables. I sucked at “Night Driver“. Okay, yes, I made it through the other day’s unplanned real life version* unscathed. Doesn’t mean I enjoyed it, especially on the higher difficulty/no vision setting.

* Is Live Action Videogaming: Ancient (LAVA) a thing? If not, maybe it should be. If it gets a few of the idiots off the road and…uh…on the road, um…

Hang on, let me rethink this one.

Face It

Thousands–perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands–of people are deleting their Facebook accounts in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

And that’s great. I look forward with great anticipation to the day when the exodus reaches critical mass and I can delete my own account.

Keep in mind, I created my account when I started doing the writing thing. In today’s world of publishing, the best thing you can do for yourself as an author is to promote your books. And the best–the only–way to do that is to go where the people are.

It doesn’t do much good to do promotion on MySpace, LiveJournal, or any place else your potential readers aren’t. Today, that means Facebook. Yes, Twitter to a lesser extent. Much lesser.

At Facebook’s current rate of decline, I should be able to delete my account around the end of 2020. And that’s the best case scenario.

I’m assuming here that Facebook’s claimed two billion users statistic is grossly inflated. I’m also assuming that there are a million account deletions a day, which is, I suspect, also grossly inflated.

‘Cause, as Arwa Mahdawi said in The Guardian, “…there is not really a good replacement for Facebook.” She quotes Safiya Noble, a professor of information studies at USC: “For many people, Facebook is an important gateway to the internet. In fact, it is the only version of the internet that some know…”

And it’s true. Remember when millions of people thought AOL was the Internet? I think they’ve all moved to Facebook.

They’re not going to delete their accounts. Neither are the millions of people who say “You don’t have anything to be concerned about from surveillance if you haven’t done anything wrong.” Ditto for the people who still don’t regret voting for Trump and the ones who say “There are so many cameras watching you all the time anyway, what difference does it make if Facebook is watching too?”

Even if there’s a lot of overlap among those groups, that’s still hundreds of millions of accounts.

(Why isn’t the paranoid fringe–the people who literally wear aluminum foil hats to keep the government from controlling their minds–up in arms about Facebook? Is it only because they’re not “the government”? Or am I just not looking for their denunciations in the right places?)

Facebook isn’t going away any time soon. Not until the “new hot” comes along. If the new hot isn’t just Facebook under another name. Don’t forget that Instagram and WhatsApp are Facebook. They’re watching you the same way the parent company is, and if one of them captures the next generation of Internet users, it’ll be “The king is dead! Hail the new king, same as the old king!”

Unfortunately, stereotypes aside, those people who are staying on Facebook do read. And that means I need to keep my account open, touting my wares in their marketplace.

I’ve seen a number of people saying “If you can’t leave Facebook, at least cut down the amount of information you give them.” Which is good advice, but really tricky to do. Even if you follow all of the instructions for telling Facebook to forget what they already know, there are other things they track. You can tell them to forget what you’ve liked, but you can’t tell them to forget how long you looked at each article. (Yes, they do track that, according to credible reports. The assumption is that their algorithms give you more posts similar to ones you’ve spent a long time on.)

And then there are those apps. Those charming, wonderful apps.

I checked my settings to see how many apps I’d allowed to access my information. There were only eight, which puts me way down at the low end of the curve. It’s down to four now, two of which are necessary to have my blog posts show up on Facebook. And when I killed off two of the four, I got popups reminding me that removing their access to Facebook does not delete any data they’ve already gathered.

Should I be concerned that I didn’t get a warning about the other two?

But let’s assume a miracle. Say, half a billion accounts get closed. The FTC fines Facebook an obscene amount of money*. What happens next?

* They almost have to. How many of those 50,000,000 accounts compromised by CA belong to government officials. Officials who are now very worried about what CA–and thus whoever they’ve shared that data with, starting with the Trump family, the Russian government, and who knows who all else–has inferred about their non-governmental activities, health, sexual orientation, and so on. If the FTC doesn’t hammer Facebook, heads will roll, no matter who has control of Congress after the November elections.

Absolutely nothing. Facebook goes on. They make a show of contrition, talk up new controls they’ve put in place to keep anything of the sort from happening again*. And they keep marketing users’ personal information to anyone who might want to advertise.

* It will. We’ve seen every form of access-control ever invented hacked. The information exists, it’s valuable, therefor someone will steal it.

That’s their whole business model. They can’t change it. The only thing that might–and I emphasize “might”–kill Facebook would be for them to say, “You know, you’re right. It’s unethical for us to make money by selling your private information. We won’t do it any more. Oh, and effective immediately, Facebook will cost you $9.99 a month.”