Browsing the archives for the Miscellaneous category

Child-Proofing the Internet

Miscellaneous, Politics

There’s been an interesting story developing over the past month at Digg. Apparently it all started with this Digg posting: My $2000 camcorder was stolen and I know who took it. Help get it back! The posting was made by a man named Phil who is claiming that his camcorder was stolen by a woman named Amanda, who was apparently his former roommate. Apparently, after Phil lost his camcorder he found it being sold on a couple of auction sites by users whose names mysteriously matched Amanda’s screen name(s).

The Good and the Bad: In a lot of ways I think what Phil did was the best course of action to him. I am really in favor of public shaming for thieves, cheats, and other sorts of scumbags. On the other hand, Phil decided to post up Amanda’s email address and home phone number with his post. The email address isn’t a big deal, but the phone number is. My attitude is basically, the Internet is Vegas: “What happens in Internet stays in Internet.” Taking things from the Internet to real life without mutual agreement is about as close as it comes to a cardinal sin of internet etiquette.

So a few days ago I saw this post: Warning! Felony for submitting a Digg story. As it turns out, the guy has apparently been charged with violating some podunk law in Michigan. A followup story was posted today on the website of some sensationalist local TV station: Man faces cyber-bullying felonies. You can’t make this stuff up.

Amanda Brunzell, 23, said she is living in fear because of the actions of a man.

It is not his threats that got him in trouble, but the fact that he got others to do the harassing and the high-tech way he accomplished it.

It is a case that shows the power of the Internet and tests the waters of a relatively new law.

The former roommate Phillip Hullquist, who lived with Brunzell while she was working in Texas, claimed she stole his video camera.

It was not until after Brunzell moved back to Michigan that the former roommate, named Phillip, claimed she stole the camcorder.

He was so upset he put a video on YouTube and a post on another site, inciting supporters to get his camera back. The response was massive cyber-bullying.

The man now faces two felonies and Brunzell is afraid to sleep. The World Wide Web has become her personal prison.

Hullquist splashed his claims online and riled up users to get his camera back. He gave out Brunzell’s home phone number and e-mail addresses.

She has received dozens of chat requests and hundreds of e-mails, some threatening her life.

Kentwood Chief of Police Richard Mattice and his detectives are investigating the case.

The World Wide Web has become her personal prison. Boo-Hoo! She got instant messaged by a few of the trolls over at Digg and then immediately a plan hatched in her head: Instead of instantly blocking them, and preventing further messages by blocking unknown users and sending mail from unknown people into her spambox, she’d decide to wreak vengeance on this guy, trying to ruin his life by going to the police and playing up the victimized woman angle. Even more absurdly, the Michigan police seem to be playing along with her, having charged the original poster with two felonies for merely posting the woman’s phone number and email address.

Let’s be clear, Phil was in clear violation of Article 1, Section 1 of the Internet Conventions Convention of .COM, but this manipulative hag took things beyond the next level by turning a simple situation of internet asshattery into a legal one that could lead to jail time for the guy. Michigan, too, is to blame, for having on books a completely asinine and unenforceable law which basically states, “If you do anything online that causes someone else to possibly behave in a way that could be construed as harassing, you can be held responsible for their actions.”

The thing that worries me with this whole story is the possibility that Amanda might win. I have very little interest in this spat, but I see a victory for Amanda in this case as a blow against the heart of the Internet. There is no way the Internet could exist if every thin-skinned, vengeful harridan could bring lawyers around and sue anyone who might be responsible when some internet troll makes a death threat. Grow a pair and realize that the rhetorical style of the whole damn Internet is inflated to extremes. Telling someone to go die is a casual hello. If one person can be held responsible for the actions of other people, why stop with Phil? Why not sue Kevin Rose and the rest of the people behind Digg for publishing Phil’s story with Amanda’s contact information? Heck, why not sue AOL for delivering the harassing messages to her, and every company running a wire between her and Phil? Go for the big fish, Amanda, Phil is small fries.

It’s not like Phil is some Charles Manson authoritarian pseudo-cult leader personality manipulating a bunch of drugged up women. Digg users may be drugged up, but the ones who were stupid enough to go about harassing Amanda were acting under their own free will. In the past I’ve had to deal with imbeciles who aren’t capable of making this sort of distinction, that Person A isn’t Person B and doesn’t send out mind control rays to Person B … Unfortunately, the lawmakers in Michigan seem to be the same sort of dolts.

In conclusion, both of these nitwits need to have their internet privileges permanently revoked. Amanda needs to die, and the state of Michigan needs to fall off the face of the earth.

No Boy Is An Island

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Culture, Miscellaneous, Politics

Except at Kilmer Middle School in Virginia.

All I can say is that I’m glad my kid isn’t attending this school. If he were, I’d be compelled to schedule a meeting with the Principal’s skull and a blunt object.

I can’t say I’m too surprised to find out that the Principal of this school is a woman. This sort of reductio ad absurdum policy is straight out of feminist modalities: Touching can be both good and bad, but using rationality and observation of reality to determine which is which is insufficient. Since we can never truly know whether a touch was good or bad, we must ban them all. This is not to say that a male principal couldn’t be just a empty-headed and nannyish so as to want a ridiculous policy like this, but I’d like to think that a man who’s so craven so as to think this would be a good idea would also be too spineless to actually try and implement such a policy.

This story found via Reddit. Although the Reddit comments are usually a cesspool of anti-Bush, anti-Religion, and whatever other banalities I can’t be bothered to dredge up in my memory right now, there are a few interesting tidbits here. Check out these comments:

Actually I attended Fairfax County schools (where Kilmer is located) and distinctly remember getting in trouble for sneezing during a school assembly in the 5th grade. I wish I were joking…

Oh yeah, I know exactly what you mean. In Northley Middle School, outside of Philadelphia, a kid would receive detention for sneezing during class presentations.

I distinctly recall learning that year how to suppress a sneeze.

It’s things like this that make me consider that the human mind is the enemy of reason.

Dot-Blog Domain


The other day I was tossing around ideas in my head and I was wondering why there isn’t a top-level domain of .blog? I mean, consider how many millions of blogs there are, and how many millions more there will be in another few years. Then look at some of the existing TLDs with far more esoteric purposes — .museum? .pro*? .travel? C’mon.

I’m not going to argue on principle that every endeavor that’s big or popular enough should have its own TLD, but I do think it might be a good idea in this case. We’ve got a whole subset of internet sites sharing nearly identical formats and modus operandi. Visiting a site called Chances are, it’s a blog. The intuitiveness and transparency is pretty appealing to me. Considering that we’ve already got Google trying to filter out blogs and blogspam from general searches, it’d certainly help with that endeavor.

Anyway, just an idea that I’m tossing out there. Remember, you heard it here first.

*An aside: How many gaming-related people and companies would love a .pro domain name, but can’t get one because it’s restricted to distinctly non-pro people? Disappointing!

The Ultimate Cipher-Cracker

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Obligatory Victimization Lamentations

Culture, Miscellaneous, Politics

I hardly watch any television, maybe about 5 hours a week, which is usually not a thing to note. It’s relevant, though, when I talk about a particularly obnoxious commercial I’ve run across rather frequently in the past few weeks.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the exact commercial on YouTube, but a similar commercial from the same advertising line can be seen below… I found a YouTube clip of the commercial and linked to it below.

At this point you probably recognize the commercial, but I’ll elaborate for those who don’t.

-“Chad” representing Alltel, is confronted by the “Nerds” and instructed to get into the back of the van.
-Rather than containing the ridiculous and stupid pinching segment, that segment is cut from the commercial.
-The next segment has “Chad” asking, “So what level Dungeon Master are you guys?”
-The “Nerds” reply, “Dungeon Masters don’t have levels!” and high five.

Like a good victimized minority, I object to the characterization of D&D players/ Tabletop role-players in such a negative fashion. It’s long past time to stop sitting down and accepting pop culture characterizations of role-playing game enthusiasts as ugly, unhygienic, socially inept people. It’s rather ridiculous that any major corporation will play into such a tired and inaccurate stereotype as part of an ad campaign. What’ll we see next, a “Trail of Tears” ad campaign with Native Americans who aren’t on Alltel’s cell phone network being forced to leave their homes for “coverage reservations”?

Not only should Alltel be ashamed for negatively stereotyping gamers this way, but let’s face it, their attempt to portray themselves (using the proxy of “Chad”) as “hip” and “cool” in the face of those other “D&D nerds” falls flat on its face. Regurgitating thirty year old stereotypes isn’t “hip,” it’s passe as hell. Get your advertising team off of the quaaludes and force them to come up with something relevant to the new millenium. Videogames are the biggest entertainment medium period. Over six million people play World of Warcraft alone. Guess what? If you’re playing tabletop games in this day and age it’s precisely because of the social element of being able to interact with people, face to face.

Time to grow up, Alltel. This isn’t high school anymore, where you can be part of some cool clique just by virtue of insulting other people’s hobbies. A group of people sitting around a table telling stories isn’t some sort of activity that deserves scorn, though nor does it deserve praise. It’s just one of many things people do to entertain themselves.

Henceforth, I call for all humans and demi-humans to boycott Alltel products until such a time as hostilities cease and reparations are made for this injustice.

Update: Here’s a thread on the Wizards of the Coast forums which talks about this Alltel commercial as well.
Update 2: I also found this reaction to the Alltel commercial on someone’s Livejournal. All I have to say is that I agree entirely.

Yikes – Update

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Miscellaneous, Personal

Wow, it’s been over a week since my last update? I’ve been kicking my tail with work all week and crossing my fingers that my home computer, which has tons of critical data on it, won’t die.

I’ve got a major backlog of posts that I haven’t gotten around to writing. Way too many Hordes battle reports with my army from over the past three weeks, amongst television, movies, gaming, and other things.

For the time being, since I’m spending pretty much all my waking hours working, I’ve been having a pretty good time listening to various podcasts. Shamus was on Fear the Boot two weeks ago and I’ve been having a good time listening to the guys on that ‘cast banter back and forth — humorous and thoughtful.

Along with that I’ve been listening to Fell Calls, a podcast about the Iron Kingdoms (which is the setting for Warmachine / Hordes tabletop wargames). Fell Calls really scratches my obsessive-compulsive desire to learn everything about the Iron Kingdoms due to my interest in Hordes.

And then there’s always the D&D Podcast with Mike Mearls and Dave Noonan. The latest one focuses on “Magic Items” or as it’s more colloquially known — loot.

Probably not going to have too much free time for the blog in the next few weeks, but hopefully that should mean situation normal, since I’m always pressed for time.

Internet Radio: Doomed?

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Miscellaneous, Technology

I listen to a lot of music. As much as I can, I listen to music while I’m working. I listen to music as I browse the web. I listen to music at the gym. All in all, I’m probably listening to music about half the time that I’m awake (which is rather scary, I suppose, but there it is).

Mostly I used to listen to my own collections of music, and while I still do that, it’s not always possible. In the absence of being able to listen to exactly what I want, when I want, I’ve taken to listening to internet radio a lot. For the most part I listen to one of the stations at Digitally Imported Radio, as I can get relaxing ambient music or various forms of electronica which are entertaining enough to listen to but not distracting.

One recent development that has me a bit concerned is Congress’ recent passing of a bill to raise royalties on internet broadcasters. Although I wouldn’t be traumatized if internet radio went under altogether, it would be kind of disappointing to me. I mean, it would really limit my exposure to new music, and it would limit my options in listening to music overall. Not to mention, at one time I was involved in running a small-scale internet radio station and I wouldn’t mind getting involved in that again at some point.

A breakdown of some numbers can be found here. Excerpts:

First of all, the rates webcasters pay are “per performance,” meaning any time ONE listener hears ONE song (or any portion of a song), that’s a “performance.” If ONE listener hears ten songs, that’s TEN performances. If 1000 listeners hear ten songs, that’s 10,000 performances.

Let’s imagine a webcaster with an AVERAGE audience of 10,000 listeners (obviously, listeners come and go, and no one listens 24 hours a day, but we’re talking about an average number… so sometimes there’ll be lots more than 10,000 folks listening, sometimes lots less… but for math’s sake, let’s deal with the AVERAGE audience). Our webcaster plays 16 songs every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to an audience that averages out to be 10,000 people.

$0.0008 X 10,000 listeners X 16 songs/hr. = $128. It’ll cost our imaginary webcaster $128 to play one hour of music for 10,000 people.
At the end of the day, that’s $3,072 ($128 X 24 hrs./day) — for just a single day! After a week goes by, it’s $21,504 ($3,072 X 7 days/wk.). And for all of 2006, this webcaster with a steady average audience of 10,000 listeners would owe $1,121,280!! (the $3,072 X 365 days/yr.)

I don’t really have any idea on how much money most of these internet radio stations make, but I can pretty much guarantee that they don’t make over a million dollars per stream. The tricky part is that even though this initiative is purely an RIAA-induced move (I’ll leave out motive speculation), the means through which it is done, the SoundExchange, is used by every label. So even though most, if not all, of the music played on the internet radio stations I listen to is non-RIAA, their initiative has punitive effects regardless of the label carrying the artist.

There’s a website listed here called to protest the new royalty rates. I’ll probably write a letter to my representative about it, though I’m debating whether the additional efficacy of an actual letter is worth the additional effort over an email.

Link Roundup: Pessimism Edition

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You may or may not have heard of the coming Beepocalypse. It sounds like something out of a cheesy Sci-Fi channel movie like “Mansquito,” but the threat to man’s crops should bee colonies collapse is real. The part of the story that’s interesting to me is that, according to the article, the cause of the so-called Colony Collapse Disorder amongst bees may be cell phones.

That kind of begs the question — If we learned today that the likely cause for CCD was definitely cell phones — What would happen?

My guess is nothing. No way are the Telecoms going to give up their lucrative cell phone business, and no way would people individually and voluntarily give up their cell-phones. It’d be kind of ironic if mankind were done in by the simple everyday selfishness and self-importance of not being willing to cut down on cell phone usage, rather than say, nuclear war or some monstrous plague or a killer asteroid.

A few years back I remember hearing the SAT had added a new writing segment to the test. As it turns out, my initial thoughts have proven mostly true, at least according to this article in InsideHigherEd: The three/five paragraph essay format is ridiculously stultifying for anyone with any amount of independent thought or writing skill, and teaching students to write to a formula results in formulaic writing. The subtextual agenda of schools that requested adding the Writing exam, to boost up scores of minorities, doesn’t seem to have come about either, so many colleges simply ignore it altogether.

This essay was linked in the story as an example of a “perfect” essay according to the rubric. Sadly, it seems more like it was written by a non-native English speaker than someone with a mastery of the language… And, even more sadly, if the comments on the InsideHigherEd article are any indication, it’s actually deserving of such a high score compared to other essays students manage to pump out.

This last story, about Joshua Bell playing violin in the subway, has been making the rounds of late. It’s a pretty fascinating story, although worth noting that all of the conditions of the experiment, though presented in a fashion so as to obtain a “neutral” reaction from the audience — Are actually stacking the deck against any sort of substantial reaction.

I guess the bit that gets to people about the story is the realization that, in the shoes of the people in that subway, they wouldn’t have done anything different. I can’t say I would either. Alas venustas? Well, perhaps.

Battle Report 1: Circle vs. Menoth

Miscellaneous, Personal

As my first game of Hordes I was playing against a friend of mine who is also a novice player, or at least one who hadn’t played Warmachine/Hordes in a very long time.

My army was this:

Circle Orboros
Kaya – 57pts
Argus x 2 – 108pts
Warpwolf x2 – 216pts
Total – 381pts

I’m a bit fuzzier on my opponent’s army, but I’ll make a rough approximation of what I remember it being:

Protectorate of Menoth
High Exemplar Kreoss
(1 Heavy Warjack), Crusader(?)
(3 Light Warjacks), Repenter, Revenger, Redeemer (?)
Total – 390pts

Now both of us, as I mentioned, were pretty new to the game, so to speak. I was constantly referring to the quickstart rules, and it took me awhile to get the hang of things.

We rolled off for initiative. I won initiative, so I would go first. We chose a random amount of terrain, two hills, and three forests, then deployed our forces.

In deployment I was a bit foolish as I split my army up into two “task forces.” The idea was to have one main group consisting of Kaya, a Warpwolf, and an Argus to engage the enemy. The spare Warpwolf and Argus would move up the other side of the board, attempting to move into a flanking position so that at an opportune time I could charge in with my additional heavy and wreak some havok.

While I think this sounds pretty reasonable, the fact of the matter is that I was deploying a good part of my army outside of Kaya’s control radius. I didn’t realize this at first, but that pretty much makes a lot of the power of a Warbeast (the ability to force them while within the Warlock’s control radius) wasted. On turn three and four I moved my second “task force” back into control range, but… Anyway.

Turn 1, Circle:
I force all of my warbeasts to run forward, Warpwolves warping for +2″ of speed. My forces move basically 14″ up the board. The enemy’s main force has clear LOS to my main task force, which is advancing on the right side of the board. However, I use Kaya’s “Cloak of Mists” spell on her and the other units in task force 1. Stealth prevents units from further than 5″ away from targetting the units. My secondary task force (WWolf2 & Argus2) attempts to gain a little bit of cover by sitting in the shadow of a forest on the left side of the board.

(Elided here are the rules-futzing which caused me to conclude that my beasts would all have to make threshhold checks on turn 1 because I hadn’t spent any of their fury. I had my Warpwolf in task force 2 frenzy and destroy the nearby Argus…)

Turn 1, Menoth:

Menoth, seeing my two-pronged approach, also splits his forces into two groups. One group consists of his Warcaster, his heavy warjack, and a light warjack; This group moved about three inches and took cover behind a nearby hill, obviously plotting to come out around the hill and charge my primary task force. His second group consists of two light warjacks, one of them with some sort of rocket launcher weapon. He moved these units about 3″ towards the left side of the board to present an obstacle to my secondary task force. One of the light warjacks had some sort of rocket launcher, which he attempted to target against my Warlock. However, since all of my task force was under Stealth he was unable to target them directly (since I believe the rocket launcher is an AoE he might’ve been able to do so anyway, but we didn’t realize this at the time). He fired a rocket at the Warp Wolf in my second task force and completely missed.

Turn 2, Circle:
At this point, having deployed at 12″ from the table edge and moved 14″ the previous turn, and Menoth having deployed 12″ from the table edge and moved an additional 3″, I was able to make a 9″ charge with my Warpwolf. I had him warp for +2 Strength and charged him headlong into the Menoth heavy warjack that was staring me down from the side of a nearby hill, a light warjack and his warcaster not far behind. The Circle is not one to mince words, and my designs were to control the battlefield by having complete control over any engagements — Letting myself get charged was not an option.

My Warpwolf charged in, the charge adding one fury token to his total pool. The first claw did some fairly significant damage, especially having been boosted from the charge. With his second claw attack I boosted the attack to make sure it hit, as the Warpwolf has another ability called “Throat-Ripper” that can trigger if he connects with both claw attacks. Both claws hit, and the Menoth heavy warjack was definitely feeling some pain. Then I followed up with Throat-Ripper, an attack that knocks down the enemy and does one point of damage to every system or aspect. This pretty much put the nail in the coffin of the Menoth heavy warjack, knocking it down and disabling three of its systems.

Kaya and my Argus moved up somewhat. My second task force found themselves outside of the control radius of Kaya, so I couldn’t force them. Rather than moving them into the open but within control range, I moved them into the nearby forest for cover. The battle was going my way on the other side of the board and they were doing well enough to draw off two enemy warjacks.

Turn 2, Menoth:

Menoth’s situation, though he didn’t know it yet, was grim. His caster was sitting a few inches away from his disabled heavy Warjack and the only thing that stood in the way of my Warpwolf charging his caster was a light Warjack. After virtually wiping out a heavy Warjack in one turn I was confident my Warpwolf could eat his light jack for dessert.

His caster used a spell on his light warjack, boosting it somewhat. He then used his feat, which knocked down every enemy unit in his command area (which included my Wolf, Kaya, and my Argust). His light warjack then charged my Warpwolf. The damage was significant, but as the Warpwolf’s body is constantly in flux, I could allocate the damage where I wished. My Warpwolf’s mind aspect was disabled and much of his body aspect, but I planned on having him regenerate the next turn to return him to full operating strength.

The other two Menoth light warjacks didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. Another rocket launcher shot flew past my Warpwolf in task force two, doing nothing.

Turn 3, Circle:

My Warpwolf regenerated a few points of damage, stood up, and then turned his attention to the upstart little warjack that dared to attack him. Two claw attacks and a throat-ripper later and the light warjack was a light pile of mechanical scrap. With the threats out of the way, I had my Argus and Kaya stand up and move forward. They were in perfect position to charge at the enemy Warcaster next turn.

Feeling the battle was mostly over at this point, and that there would be no way for me to screw it up, I moved my Wolf and Argus in task force two out in the open and more towards Kaya. I decided I may as well try to pile in on his Warcaster with everything I had. If his two light Warjacks got in the way, I figured I could scrap them too after seeing my Warpwolf do such a number on the other Menoth jacks.

Turn 3, Menoth:

Menoth’s warcaster used one of his remaining light warjacks as an arcnode to cast some sort of lighting spell that struck out at my Warpwolf in task force 2. It did some damage, but nothing crippling. The remaining two Menoth warjacks remained in position and didn’t attempt to move over to guard his warcaster. A rocket flew out towards my exposed task force 2, but did nothing.

Turn 4, Circle:

Kaya, my Warpwolf, and my Argus charged Kreoss. Menoth resigned the game.

Victory number 1. A pretty good start for starting out completely ignorant of the rules.