Facebook’s unsatiable hunger for data

hungryfacebookSome of my friends tell me I’m too far fetched. Maybe they’re right. But when it comes to huge corporations, governments and the like, I’m afraid that no degree of suspiciousness is far fetched enough.

Because – you know – I was thinking: how do I disable this annoying automatic translation of my contacts’ posts in my Facebook newsfeed? I don’t want them to be translated. I’ll do it when I feel the need to.

So I went there – you know – to the Settings–>Language thing, and ooops! there was no straight setting for turning off translations altogether. Not at all. What?, thinks I. But then… of course not! It only took me one second to realize – because I’m so far fetched, you know – that such a setting would provide Facebook with too little information; way too little; and this in turn would result in such a small revenue for Mark Suckerberg and shareholders.

So, how do we collect sensibly more valuable data, so we can sell this to the best bidder, so Mark Suckerberg’s meagre wallet gets a little bit not so skinny, poor he? Easy!: let’s force users who don’t want automatic translations to tell us, instead:

a) which languages do they understand?

b) which languages do they want stories to be translated into?

c) which languages do they not want automatically translated?

Screenshot from 2017-08-22 08:35:09

This way we collect a lot more information, a lot more interesting!

And there are you are – if you want to disable translations, that is – losing precious minutes of your life to provide information which is – or should be – only your own private concern, on behalf of the wealth and power of a corporation. (And while I was at it, I decided to seize the chance and, losing a few extra seconds, contribute my ten cents to prevent Mark from monopolizing too much power.)

Now, do you still think I’m too far fetched? Maybe.

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Is Finnair violating EU legislation on tax refunds?

finnairlogocrossDespite its unjustified prestige (or did I just imagined it?), derived mainly–rather solely–from the country whose flagship airline they are–or were, Finnair actually belongs in the bottom grop of low-cost, cheap-it & cheat-it airlines that we find all over out there. It ain’t a tiny bit better than other much more discredited ones like Wizz, Ryan or Vueling, just to name a few. I’m now alluding to their illegal and abusive “50 € refund handling fee” applied to their customers whenever there is a refund to be made–if the ever make it.

In the first place, it’s not possible to contact Finnair’s Customer Service (CS) by e-mail. Their CS staff’s e-mail addresses are among the best kept secrets on the Internet. It took me a long while of web search to find this one: info@finnair.com, but it turns out it’s not working. Therefore, the customer who wants to claim a refund needs to either fill in and submit a web form (which will be answered from a no-reply address that doesn’t allow for any kind of follow-up discussion), or try to place place costly, ineffective and time-consuming phonecalls to Finnair’s CS phone numbers. Continue »

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Close encounters of the second kind

I liked him at first sight. He was a tall and somewhat ungraceful man of crude and unusual features–as if his face had been left unfinished by the sculptor–suggestive of a sound yet silent character. We had met at a restaurant; actually he was the cook; and though sparing in words, we had stroken up a slow yet heartfelt conversation out of don’t remember what. To judge for the short time we had the chance to talk, I gathered he was, above all, a decent human being, such a rare specimen.

He mustn’t have had much work at that time, because, once I finished my meal and paid the check, he told me to go out for a moment and continue our chat while he had a smoke. Right on the doorsteps to the street, for a brief moment I thought I’d lost sight of hime, as if he’d vanished into thin air; but no: a second later there he was, barely minding his cigarette, staring at the street’s damp grey cobblestones, wet by the recent rain, or looking at the unmistakable indigo of the northern sky above the neighbouring houses’ low roofs. Though we hardly spoke anything, I felt his as a close and pleasurable company; a company I could’ve enjoyed more had it not been for that noise, that fastidious and demanding noise that seemed to gush from within my head with growing strength…

It was the alarm clock. I opened my eyes to an unfamiliar hotel room, through whose window, covered by thick curtains, struggled to get in the fresh morning light. And in that passing slumber I suddenly felt sad for that man, that rare decent human being, whom I had left hanging without even saying goodbye. How ungrateful! That shouldn’t be! I didn’t want him to believe I was a frivolous person that had taken his friendship light-heartedly. So I turned off the clock and, taking shelter under the sheets, where dreams incubate, with all my strength I wished to come back to mine, even if only long enough to say farewell to him.

And I did! Theere he was, smoking his fag, still at the restaurant’s door. He seemed to have missed my momentaneous absence, or maybe he just discreetly pretended; perhaps he was waiting for me. I told him: “I’m sorry, but I have to go now; I couldn’t tell you why, you wouldn’t understand; I’m leaving forever, but I want you to know that I feel fortunate, and honoured, having met you. Goodbye now.” I had only a few seconds left. I held out my hand, and as he was shaking it, and as I was dissolving into nothingness, disappearing right in front of his eyes, he was smiling at me in silence, with an understanding gaze.

Back in my hotel’s room, when the cobwebs of slumber hadn’t yet fully let me loose, it dawned on me that perhaps he too, in that fleeting instant when I lost sight of him on our way to the street, that he too had awaken into his own real life for a second, and that he too had, like me, come back to the dream for bidding me farewell. Yes, for sure that’s what happened. And then all was clear to me.

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Actually the whole episode could’ve not been simpler, and if I had to put it down to some element more or less outside its direct players, I’d probably point to the mismatch between my eating habits and those of the Japanese: there, restaurants are rather for dining, and most of them–except maybe in the cities–only open after around five or six in the evening; but even the ones serving lunch close down usually for a long break shortly after noon–which is when I’m normally waking up from bed… or sort of; therefore, by the time I start getting hungry–say 3-4 p.m.–I can’t find where to go for a meal. That’s why that day I had to overcome my qualms regarding small bistros and get over the embarrassment of feeling like an ignorant alien among the other customers–who would no doutb be watchful of every move of mine–in order to get inside that particular hovel–the only one I found open–called by its small, dusty and neglected showcase, where there yawned–since years ago, I’d bet–the so common in Japan plastic replicas of four or five different dishes, labelled with their respective prices.

Right after getting in, I was welcomed (welcomed?) by the typical stale fag-ends/cold-smoke smell, which is one of the things I find most unpleasant in regular life–very specially when having meals–except perhaps for the typical lit fag smoke, which was also present in that place. This aversion of mine to tobacco truly hinders my enjoyment of many (otherwise) pleasant moments that life could–and indeed does bring me; most of all in Japan, where the smoking rate among the (male) population is rather high and where, funny enough, though it’s forbidden on the streets (!), turns out to be legal inside bars and restaurants, except for the few ones (normally more sophisticated and expensive) whose managers have willfully banned smoking. Hence the qualms I mentioned. And that’s a real pity, because it’s precisely in the more local bistros where one can–and usually does come across the more genuine experiences and people, leave aside the more affordable prices; but then you have to count on the smoke, which is twofold a problem for me, because on top of inhaling the foul air, later on I’ll have to hand wash the smelly garments in the hotel room’s sink, or send them to laundry–whichever way a chore.

As I was saying, right after opening the typical Japanese sliding door I saw myself in front of eight pairs of eyes that watched me with curiosity, two of which (eyes, I mean, not pairs) belonged to a short guy on white chef’s apron and hat; white and stained. He was the obliging owner, whom even before being addressed by me started already ousting the other customers from the two tables he would assign to me, telling them to move to the other side of the room, where there were only two more tables, so that I alone took half the restaurant whereas the six other clients took the remaining half. And he also told the cook, or the scullion, to clear and clean my tables. To his commands, the others moved away not only without a complain, but actually happy for having a foreigner among them and doing whatever they could to make him feel welcome. In that moment, I fancied thinking that had I asked them to extinguish their cigarettes, they would’ve done it immediately. But that would’ve not been fair. Continue »

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Water heart, ice heart

So there I was, back in my hometown, being paid a spontaneous tribute by my country folk for having returned from my endless journeys around the globe; a casual open-air meeting in the middle of the street, where I was welcomed by everybody in an atmosphere of brotherly harmony that I had not seen before; approached by all, shaking hands, people patting my back and uttering warm words of recognition or praise, same my friends or my acquaintances and even those who never liked me (a fair majority, I must say), they all wanted to talk to me and greet the prodigal son; though curiously, far from sounding hypocritical or phony, their signs of affection were real–I mean, as real as such an odd meeting could be. Among them, there were also a few friends I had made abroad, friends who couldn’t possibly be in Spain, who have not been there in their lives and who won’t likely ever visit my hometown, although in that moment those little details didn’t seem implausible to me: neither the presence of my foreign friends nor the sincere well meaning of my country folks.

And there I was too, simultaneously (mark, reader: simultaneously), sitting–so to say–at the director’s chair and directing the scene, exchanging opinions with an invisible assistant, making small changes and improvements we thought of on the go: that character a bit farther, that one yonder a bit closer, this here to say something different, the other to speak earlier; and with every touching up of the script it was me again, and at the same time, interpreting what was taking place for real (albeit it wasn’t really happening); not an actor in a shooting, not alike those movie stars who become directors for directing themselves (though obviously they can’t do both things at a time), but as a true demiurge of an episode in which I was truly involved: dreamer and dreamed within my own dream.

And while being there, in the middle of the street, among my old neighbours and my foreign friends, I was told a few times that because in the mornings I was like water and in the evenings I was like ice –as absurd and wrong-headed a metaphor as can there be, although I then took it as valid and even accounted for it as true–, they had decided to call my dream with the title Water heart, ice heart.

Of the unabridged argument of that story, a complete one which took place from beginning to end in my dream, the next morning I could only recall the title, because the director Me had urged my subconscious to remember for when I woked up. Water heart, ice heart; a beautiful, evocative and sonorous title that I offer for free to whomever reads this and has both the fantasy and the will to write something to which it can fit, since I, unfortunately, cannot.

Ah, how I envy that dreamer Me, capable of inventing touching stories that the awaken Me can’t even dream of!

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IX. Pueblos que sestean sobre el litoral

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VIII. La sorprendente duna de Pilat

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VII. Vasconia cántabra, marinera y turística

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