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If there’s one thing I’ve come to expect from George Saunders, after enjoying his stories for years in the New Yorker, is that he’s consistently funny. It was in hopes of getting a concentrated dose of that consistent funniness that I picked this up from my favorite used book shop: BLMF Books & Salon in Seattle’s Pike Market.

Add to that my experience reading a broad range of fiction. I’m seldom disappointed. This was one of those times. My only notes, written on the digittante postcard I used as it’s bookmark, was thus:

“Biting satire of service economy America and dumb fuck-tards employed there. But the stories rarely evolved beyond the incredible invention Saunders put into their premise. I’m frankly amazed he could imagine so many joyless scenarios with so few punch-lines.”

If Saunders aim was to simply catalog miserable ideas of how working and living in America might be right now, mission accomplished.

But don’t expect to find this Saunders too much like the version the editors at the New Yorker publish.

I've been unhappy with recent changes in how large online services manage my data:

Facebook's new Timeline interface presents two problems: (1) it's too easy for folks to scan your entire history on the site, and (2) if you have a lot of content, like 2000+ items over 5 years, deleting or hiding individual items can be time consuming. Google's consolidation of it's Privacy Policy from 60 service-specific versions to 1, while seemingly a good thing, allows it to merge what all it might know about you into a single profile of web behavior. In addition, I can't recall every clicking on an online ad (I use Adblock Plus), and I'd rather not have my surfing activities tracked, anonymized, personalized, or otherwise stored. So to minimize the trail I leave, here's what I use:

  1. AdBlock - Blocks web ads in your browser. It's amazing how much easier reading sites is without ads!
  2. Use HTTPS - Forces a more secure connection to many sites, when available
  3. KB SSL Enforcer - Same as above, for a somewhat different set of sites
  4. IBA opt-Out by Google - Enables you to set your overall web-tracking opt-outs so ad networks can comply with your wishes
  5. Keep My Opt-Outs - Makes your opt-out selections (above) more persistent
  6. Facebook Disconnect - Disables Facebook Connect, so when you log out of Facebook, you're truly logged out, and not sending signals from the next site you visit back to Facebook

If you have an Android device, I also recommend Exfoliate, a nice little app that cleans your Facebook content for you. Just tell it what types of content, on your own profile and/or others, and how far back it should go, and then run it. When I accepted Facebook's forced switch to Timeline, I first used Exfoliate to scrub all content older than one month from my account. I re-run this every 30 days to ensure the only social content the site has from me is as ephemeral as the interactions I have there (i.e. nothing older than a month). It's worth the price.

Other steps I've taken over the years include setting my visibility on Facebook to only people I'm already connected to, disabling folks ability to tag me in photos or check me in at places, removing myself from site-wide search, and turning off any accounts, apps, or websites linked to Facebook that I no longer use.

Oh, and I also recently zotted everything from my Google+ account.

Hope that helps, and let me know what else you do to manage your privacy & security online.