Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Eye for an Eye

Four years ago Ameneh Bahrami was blinded after a man she had refused to marry poured sulfuric acid over her head. Now, an Iranian court has ruled that five drops of the acid be put in each of her attacker's eyes. Bahrami emotionally stated, "At an age where I should be putting on a wedding dress, I am asking for someone's eyes to be dripped with acid. I am doing that because I don't want this to happen to any other women." I understand her reaction, I understand the desire to show people that there are consequences for such horrible examples of social violence. But...

An eye for an eye? Really? Hammurabi's code was created in 1760 BC- hasn't the idea of justice evolved at all since then? Isn't part of the reason for a modern legal system to ameliorate individual desire for revenge? Retribution is not justice. Torture is not justice. The best thing that can be said about this (and it is a very good thing) is that the crime is being taken seriously by the courts. After all, this is a region where honor killings, disfugurements, stoning and myriad other forms of social violence go ignored, unreported and unprosecuted. I hope that other victims of such violence take courage from Ameneh's example and demand justice. But I also hope they remember that women's rights cannot be separated from human rights. One cannot be achieved at the expense of the other- that is a dangerous road that leads toward no rights at all.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Dose of (hilarious) Surreality

Presented without comment: an Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at President Bush.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Not-so-virgin Mary

If only everyone were so honest about their fetishization of religious icons. You know there are naughty young evangelicals who have illicit "Jesus 'saved' me" (winkwinknudgenudge) fantasies. WWJD, yknow? Too bad Playgirl is kaput- no Jesus in a centerfold for us. But, while I am absolutely not going to do the research, I'm willing to bet that the dark n scary crevasses of the internets have plenty to offer for that sort of kink. READ MORE! READ MORE!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's a fucking valuable thing!

Offered nothing but appreciation?!

Blago is so out there it sounds like he's aiming for an insanity defense. READ MORE! READ MORE!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Twenty Eight Years Ago Today

WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It) from Yoko Ono on Vimeo.


"Welcome to my hanging"

Just regular old Bushy unfortunate word choice or intentional (though weird) joke? I really hope its the former, cause I hate it when people I loathe display self-awareness. Takes all the fun out of mocking them.

Well, most of the fun.

Anyway, /cheer that Bush defiled my city for (hopefully) the last time. He joined us for the Army/Navy game (meh...at least it wasn't the Eagles) and then to the Union League to see the unveiling of the above portrait.

The Union League is like a trojan horse of Republicanism in the heart of our staunchly Democratic burg. It occupies a really beautiful building smack in the middle of our Avenue of the Arts and I'm pretty sure that no one who actually lives in Philadelphia ever enters it. Founded in 1862 to support the policies of Pres Lincoln, the club has now basically become a place for rich white men to fellate other rich white men that have been elected to public office. And such it was with Bush's visit!

Bush was added to the League's famous collection of presidential portraits. To the wonder of exactly no one, the collection includes only one democrat (Jackson) and all but two repubs (Harrison and Harding). Bush is the first since Hoover to be included on the wall 'o fame while still in office. He also recieved the League's "gold medal", which has been bestowed on only 37 people since 1862. Incidentally, Bush's Asshole Triumverate, Cheney, Rummy and Ridgey, have all received it too! Quelle suprise, no?

But really, Union League, who are you trying to fool? This ceremonial nonsense just reads as desperation from where I'm sitting. Showering honors on him as though he wasn't the worst pres EVER won't make his legacy any more impressive.


Now, I'm no fan of Jessica Alba...

But surely she deserves a ribcage. And most of her abdominal organs. You need them to drink alcohol, so oughtn't they be represented when shilling alcohol?

Or at the very, very least give her a competent photoshopper. Check out the left side of her waist- that is some awkward whittling. If you're going to hack people's bodies out of recognition, its best not to use the sixteen year old unpaid intern to wield the eraser tool. READ MORE! READ MORE!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

When Bad Economic Crises Happen to Good Con Artists

Hey, you heard? There's a global recession on. And let me tell you, the multi-million dollar world of multi-millionaire pretend artists hasn't escaped unscathed.

Blahblahblah auction house art revenues down blahblahblah. Duh. Old, obvious news. What tickles me is that McArtist with Cheese, Damien Hirst, is laying off the people that actually make his art!

Full Disclosure: I used to like Damien Hirst. Well, "like" is a strong word. Let's say intrigued by. I can honestly say that this is entirely due to the work that introduced me to him in the 90s: The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.

Say what you will about the guy, that makes for a pretty striking installation. Its a shark. In a box. And who doesn't love a gallery plaque that that says "Materials: tiger shark, steel, 5% formaldehyde solution." But unfortunately, after seeing the piece I looked into the artist and found he is the biggest fake since Jeff Koons.

Hirst is the Paris Hilton of the art world- all branding and publicity. He's got nothing to say about anything. But jeez, at least Paris actually appears on her own reality shows or whatever- Hirst doesn't even create his own art. He has a Warhol-style "factory" (he can't even be original in his fakery) and says that he employs people to make his art because "I can't be fucking arsed to do it." Blech. Plenty of artists have employed assistants through the ages, but come on. He could at least pay them a living wage. Or, yknow, not fire them the moment the economic going gets tough. I mean, every piece he makes goes for over a million dollars! And frankly, I think his whole strategy has been to appeal to the recession-proof type motherfuckers of the world so he can't be in that much trouble. But you need to have art in order to sell it. Who's going to produce for you now, buddy? I mean, really, if you really can't afford the grad-studenty pay scale of your assistants, what are you going to do instead? Offshore? I can see it now: rows of shoeless Chinese children gluing diamond after diamond on a procession of human skulls...

And what of the unemployed underlings? I think they should all band together and make a show of Hirstian knockoffs. Its the same hands making the same art(or close enough to the same...gotta avoid copyright infringement), so there's probably a market, especially if you highlight the pedigree. Hell, there's more of a market. Hirst priced himself out of a good chunk of the market long ago, and now his boat is getting even smaller. Not small enough for it to sink, but definitely small enough to let some other boats in on the action. And its not like he can really lower his prices without damaging his whole "aesthetic" (read: aspirational brand-image).

So get in there, underlings! Cut his legs out from under him. I want to see an Ikea full of pickled shark coffee tables.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hide Your Firstborns

Cause this is some End of Days shit, right here.

I'm freaked out by this sudden plethora of species undergoing a catastrophic population decline. I mean, we've had "endangered species" for decades, and there are plenty of animals and ecosystems we're driving into steady decline. Loss of habitat (generally and due to global warming), pollution, over-hunting/fishing...these have been in the works for a while. Yeah, its starting to catch up with us in a big way, but its still something we've been able to see coming.

But for the last couple years there has been an increasing trickle of news stories with headlines like "Mystery Deaths Spark Fears of _____ Extinction". The sudden, devastating spread of colony collapse disorder among honey bees is the most famous, but there also dramatic die-offs among amphibians, North American bats, oak trees and probably a bunch more that I haven't heard of. And probably even more that no one has heard of. This is scary to me. After all, the accelerating decline of, say, polar bears is sad and totally our fault, but it doesn't give you Ten Biblical Plagues images like this one:

With the trees its not a rush of plague death, but its equally spooky. It seems that oaks in many areas of America produced ZERO acorns this year. None. People talk about walking in the forests near their home and just feeling like something was wrong. They couldn't figure out what it was until they realized they didn't hear the familiar crunch of acorns underfoot or the the thwock of one hitting the ground. I have a feeling we're in for a lot more of these unsettling absences when we go out into the natural world.

And I don't get how cavalier some of the scientists in that article are. Its always "cyclical" or a "bad season"...until suddenly you're looking at population collapse. Here's a quote: "What's there to worry about? If you're a squirrel, its a big worry. But its no problem for the oak tree. They live a long time. They'll produce acorns when they're ready to." Setting aside the potential for thousands of starving squirrels mobbing family pets and small children, I would think that something as unusual as zero production would generate a little more concern from that guy, especially given the equally unheard-of problems occuring in the populations of other species. And especially especially given that there is starting to be a pretty strong consensus that we're in the midst of a sixth mass extinction event, with extinction rates thought to be higher than any previous extinction event, and estimates that as much as 50% of species will be gone by the end of the 21st century. Come on, dude, why you think oak trees are immune?

I also like how "EUREKA!" everyone gets when some research team can stick a name on whatever disease is cutting down a species. "Oh its Chytridiomycosis that's killing all the frogs. Phew, glad we figured that one out." Well, I don't know about you guys but I would be more concerned with why all these diseases and disorders are crawling out of the woodwork to decimate perfectly well-adapted animal populations. And I'd want to do more to predict which one of these diseases is going to develop a taste for h. sapiens, y'know?


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Farewell, Cruel World (Of Warcraft)- Part 2

Or, In Which I kind of Intellectualize Nonsense.

Here we go with ten reasons the time I spent on WOW was not a complete waste. This is a mammoth post, I'm warning you right now. Stay hydrated and don't be afraid to stop and rest.

1. Exposure to types of people you might not otherwise come in contact with.

One of the best things about Warcraft is that it exposes you to all different kinds of people. You first get to know them through playing the game together. Only if that works out well do you start to learn about their personal lives and beliefs. You already have a basis of mutual appreciation and cooperation before any points of ideological schism are revealed, so when they do come out, you both have an incentive to just let them go. Personal compatibility can trump even the most deeply held belief systems in this game. Not always, obviously. There are some angry, close-minded people here as everywhere who do not hesitate to personally attack anyone with an opposing belief. But I think they are a minority. It sounds crazy, but this game really does foster tolerance in many people.

My only Republican friends are in Warcraft. My only uber-religious friends are in Warcraft (including more than one pastor, for crying out loud). My only military friends are in Warcraft (its big for soldiers in Iraq). In my real life, I would have a really, really hard time getting past these things. Sometimes it still is hard- there have been some really tough moments for me where I couldn't help but lose respect for people I had been friends with. But on the whole this was a really positive experience. Its too easy dehumanize or radicalize the "other side" and any chance we get to see the real people behind an ideology is important.

2. Social Fucking Darwinism.

So you have this wide variety of people. Different backgrounds, different personalities, different levels of social development. But all these people have to work together towards common goals. That means if you're a tantrum-throwing 10 year old (or 30 year old), a racist epithet-spewing psycho, an inane babbler or a plain 'ol incompetent (these are the most common), no one is going to want to work with you. The world is small- reputations get around. If you can't find a group that wants to play with you, you're going to get frozen out of alot of the content. Yeah, the lowest common denominator-types will find each other eventually, but how effective are they gonna be at getting anything done? Think, for example, of a guild full of twelve year olds with ADHD. Yeah, not so much.

This means there is a pretty overt socialization process, which I think can be beneficial for some people. Here's a great example: Darco's son is fourteen. When he started playing, he was twelve and prone yelling nonsense in general and guild chat. He and his friends were particularly amused by spamming things like "kittens r cute!" over and over and over. Not relevant (to anything) and it mucks up people's chat windows. They got kicked out of their guild. Darco's son decided he wanted to actually play the game- we talked to him about appropriate "public" behavior and let him in our guild on probation. At the time I quit, he was one of our best players and most mature members. Unlike virtually all other areas of life, Warcraft is a chance for kids to interact with adults on an even footing. Some, like Darco's son, rise to the occasion and really accelerate some aspects of social development such as teamwork and conflict management.

3. If nothing else, Warcraft is an awesome microcosm for studying social interaction.

All of the servers/realms are isolated from each other, so you have multiple data pools with the same input stimuli (ie the game itself). The variables are the inhabitants of each server. It would be really interesting to study the evolution and norms of all of the different realms. Additionally, many servers are dominated by one or two nationalities (mostly determined by language and time zones) which adds an interesting real-life cultural comparison to the mix. I've done almost all my playing on one server, but I am guessing there would be alot of variation. Probably someone's doctoral dissertation has already covered all of this.

And there's political/governance parallels! Within a server, you can see not only equitable interactions (between players), but deomcracies and oligopolies (within most guilds), international relations (between guilds) and even authoritarianism (Blizzard). Yep, reps of Blizz are in the game and policing it. They are infallible, all-powerful and their weapon is exile, temporary or permanent. But sometimes, the little people rise up...

You see, like the Chinese Communist Party, Blizzard's primary concern is order and the smooth running of the system. But there is a glaring weak spot: server overload. The game just can't handle too many active toons in one place at one time. So when people want to make themselves heard, they protest until the server crashes. And then? Repression!

Here's a screenshot from a protest a few years ago:

People were upset about class inequality (I know, so commie!)- specifically, the plight of the warrior class. They organized in battlegrounds, the only method of cross-server communication, and decided to "meet" on a specific server by making new level 1 characters there. They got naked (attention grabbing, duh) and piled up in that Tiananmen Square of WOW, the Ironforge auction house. Blizzard moderators showed up and ordered the crowd to disperse, citing "disruption of game play."

Accounts were suspended left and right, hoses and tear gas and dogs oh my! But too late! All those naked toons brought down the whole server.

4. Ditto, economics.

Walking into Warcraft is like Econ 101 comes alive! Supply, demand, division of labor, ricardian trade models, speculation, inflation- its all here! WOW is an auction-based economy, allowing extreme price elasticity and quick adaptations to changes in supply and demand which makes it easy to track changes over time and cause-effect. Its simpler than the real world, but still involves real human choice and real utility.

And even more than the social/political aspect, the independence of servers makes for interesting economic study. Why is a given item more expensive on one server than another? Why does one server experience more inflation than another? A particularly industrious gamer with alot of time on their hands can explain price variations in one item. The economy is small enough that one person farming can singlehandedly hold down the price. For some people, manipulating the economy and making money is the best part of the game.

There is also a variation in base price levels, if the common whinging of "this server is so expeeeeeeensive! /cry" are any indication. Controlling for server population size, this means a) money is easier to get on some servers, b) servers value time differently (ie if a server has a strong raiding population, it might have lower prices because people devote less time to farming) and/or c) some social/psychological influence operating differently within the populations.

WOW currency, items and characters are also traded on the real life market (particularly through sites like ebay), which adds another dimension to the study and ascription of value.

5. Tee hee its like a secret language.

There is so much jargon in this game. Yeah, some of it derives from leetspeak and early programming and and anyone with a cell phone and a texting plan can understand it (acronyms galore), but alot of it is game-specific. I'm not even going to bother getting into it, but if you're interested check out this glossary.

There's also a plethora of inside jokes, some of which, to my great amusement, spill over into the mainstream.

Admittedly, I think it was a collegiate edition...but still.

There was also the famous episode of South Park, "Make Love, Not Warcraft". (click to watch)

6. Socializing in your pajamas.

Y'know, sometimes you just don't want to leave the house. Maybe work sucked, maybe its cold and rainy. Maybe you just ate like a pound of jellybeans and the thought of putting on pants is...insurmountable. What are you to do? Well, alot of people watch TV. While TV does create a shared cultural experience and some of it is actually good and thought-provoking, most is just nonsense and every bit as repetitive as WOW. Law & Order (or whatever iteration its on now), I am looking at you. But WOW keeps your brain a bit more engaged than the boob tube. You are performing tasks. Yes, some are pretty brainless, but many require real concentration and skill. And even when you're doing the most menial repetitive bullshit, you're still in contact with people.

7. This shit is like a job.

Darco and I started out as noobs sans guild, then we joined one as simple cogs in the machine, so to speak. But by the time I quit, we were co-guild masters of a guild with over 200 members. In normal jobs, most people are called "managers" if they have responsibility over a whopping three or so people. Moreover, all those people they are managing are there for the same reason, are paid to be there, and know what is expected of them. Not so in Warcraft, let me tell you.

Apart from bridging the different personalities, ages and backgrounds, people are looking for different things in the game. Some are casual- just looking for friendship and a fun game. Some are hardcore and play ALL THE TIME and want to get to the endgame content asap. Some are kind of insane about loot and gear upgrades. Some are just happy to progress through content. These differences in goals, obviously, lead to differences in opinion about the way a guild should be run. And EVERYONE has an opinion about how a guild should be run. Unsurprisingly, few are willing to step up to take responsibility or make changes happen. So we have to walk a seriously thankless tightrope between these camps and try to keep everyone happy.

Since I've been an officer, I've been a coach (for the incompetents), a babysitter, a psychologist (a surprising number of people look for advice and consolation about real life issues in the game), a battle strategist, a mediator, a lawyer, an Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Planned Parenthood counselor, a banker, a parole officer, a hiring officer etc etc etc. We have meetings (with agendas!) as officers and as a guild. We have votes. We plan and institute reforms. I made TWO websites. Seriously, its a job that took up more time than my actual job. I damn well feel like I should be able to put this on my resume. I could defend my role in the game as relevent leadership experience in any job interview. But I'm not going to cause, y'know, I would actually want to get the job.

8. Tangible rewards.

So that thing in my previous post about constant, incremental rewards? There's a reason that's effective: it feels pretty good. There's alot in life that we can't control, and rewards for a job well done (let alone for effort) can't be counted on. And hey, its better for someone who fears the uncertainty in their life to look for control in a game than in, say, trying to prevent two people of the same sex from marrying.

9. It's cheap.

Seriously, have you seen the price of movie tickets lately? Fuck that shit. And heaven help you if you want to go to the actual theater for opera/plays/ballet/symphony. If you're not a student, you might be looking at $100 a ticket. At $15 a month, Warcraft is cheaper than cable TV. Hell, I'm surprised I haven't seen an MMORPG-themed "recessionista" article in the NYT styles section yet. As an aside, NYT, I love you, but those pieces are laughably out of touch.

10. Real, honest-to-goodness FRIENDS.

Yeah, sappy, but the hardest part of quitting was saying goodbye to the friends I made in that game. I've got emails and cell #s, but the game was our primary basis for interaction. I doubt we'll stay in close touch and that's very sad.

Really though, you meet some great people in Warcraft. And for some people that spills over into lasting real life relationships- friendship, sexin', even marriage. And I think that's pretty cool.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Farewell, Cruel World (of Warcraft)- Part One

Or, In Which I Out Myself as a Huge Geek.

This is me, cyber-me. Or it was until today. I am now a RECOVERING huge geek, cause I'm taking this opportunity to escape.

But I played this game for upwards of two years, logging more game hours than I will ever admit to anyone save Darco. This is Darco, by the way:

Yes, I took that to display his boobs to full advantage. Yes, I made him take off his shirt. He's an animated lesbian elf avatar- what do you expect?

So how do I commemorate this colossal time suck? Well first, I have to make you understand how difficult it can be to leave this thing. In part two, I'll tell you why the colossal time suck was worth it!

In short, this post is about:


First off, why is Warcraft such a black hole of time usage? Why does WOW get sued when Trivial Pursuit is allowed to work its quiet mischief unmolested? The answer is simple: WOW is like the world's best-designed casino.

Ok, what are the primary elements of the casino trap?

1. NO WINDOWS. Obviously, most people have windows in their homes (internet/gaming cafes are another story). But staring at a computer screen has an uncanny ability to double as a constantly bright window, right in front of your face. Staring at it tends to eclipse the passing of the day in your actual window.

2. NO CLOCKS. Warcraft has a clock, but you have to roll over to see it. It also has a /played command which will tell you how long you've been playing on a certain character or account. But you have to, yknow, make the command.

3. MAZE-LIKE NAVIGATION. It takes frickin forever to get anywhere in WOW- between 5 and 20 minutes to travel from one area to another. But there are often intermediate stops (or you have to run the whole way), so you can't just get up and do something else for half an hour. Here is a quote from the designers on the subject: "...the reason for the potential delay in free-roaming is to allow the development team a chance to design and create exciting and interesting content which people will not simply fly over and ignore." And this, mind you, is regarding the use of the faster mounts (horses, birds, etc), not goddam instant teleportation or something. Anyway. Not only does travel time add up, it takes so long to get anywhere that you feel like you want to do as much in a given area before you quit as possible, just so you don't have to run there again.

4. SURROUNDED WITH EVIDENCE OF "WINNING." In a casino, its the sound of ringing slots. Whether they're actually tolling out victory or not is irrelevant- it
sounds like victory. In Warcraft, there are about 5,000 people per server, so you are always going to see people that are better or farther along than you. You are constantly aware of what is achievable.

5. IT IS NOT A PASSIVE EXPERIENCE. Gamblers are made to feel like they have influence over their performance. In WOW its easy to feel this way because, more than in a casino, it is true. If you put in (alot) of grinding time, you can get almost as well-geared as a top raider. Whether you can become a competent player this way is another matter- hence the term welfare epics.

6. SMALL REWARDS THAT COME OFTEN. You are always being rewarded for something, but it takes a while to get to big pay-offs. You feel like you are acomplishing something, while still being incentivized to continue.

7. SKIMPY CLOTHES: see Darco's toon above. And see that pic below on the right? Haha thats ARMOR! Metal bikinis are totally legit as protective clothing. Clearly.

Characters can strip down to their skivvies and dance. Human females do the macarena, but my character does something that I can only describe as Stripper Lite. Men in the game get weirdly...excited...when female avatars get naked and/or dance. Especially if they know they are played by actual women. There are people who earn in-game money by dancing naked in the big cities. Its just like Vegas!

8. FOOD AND DRINK COMES TO YOU so as not to interrupt your flow. In WOW, you're at home. Everything you need is about 30 sec away. Though Darco tells me that people are so excited about the recent expansion that people are literally (and I mean literally) staying at their computers for 24+ hours, leading to comments in general chat like this one: "I wish there was a toilet in my chair. I really have to pee, but I don't want to get up."

9. CONSTANT, RYTHMIC ACTION. Cards are dealt, bets are made, hands are revealed, wheels are spun and then it starts over. WOW has this irritating tendency towards quest chains- one leads to another leads to another. You just want to finish the line, so you keep going.

10. REPETITION AND A SHORT LEARNING CURVE (to be able to have fun, anyway). This is one of the major reasons I'm quitting. I just don't think Blizz has anything really new to throw at us. There is a limited number of quest types, and once you learn them you know exactly what you have to do to complete any given one. The prospect of the expansion pack sending my high-raid level characters back to questing and levelling...blegh, I can't stomach it. Raiding and PVP (player vs player, duh), which is what I have been doing pretty much exclusively for the last year and a half, has a more lasting appeal, but that is due to the human element (see Part Two) rather the game elements being dramatically different. To defeat a given boss requires coordination, teamwork and keeping 25 people focused. If you can do that, you can manage any game event within your gear level.

11. IT TAKES VIRTUALLY NO PHYSICAL ENERGY, so hypothetically you could keep playing as long as you can stay awake.

So much for reasons to quit, wrapped up in genuine (though grudging) admiration for the totally self-aware way Blizz sucks people in to their tar pit of a game. Next up, why I enjoyed it all the same.

But first, a quick (totally geeky, totally insider-y) cry about what they did to my class, cause you know its not ALL about how I could be doing something better with my time. In comic form!

(courtesy www.resto4life.com)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Violent Loophole Left Open by Smug Bastard

This week, Professional Asshole Antonin Scalia, decided that the "letter of the law" trumps a woman's right not to get murdered. Here's a delicious little exchange from the recent hearing of US vs Hayes (thanks to Jezebel for the quotes):

JUSTICE SCALIA: And this was misdemeanor assault and battery, wasn't it?


SCALIA: So it's not that serious an offense. That's why we call it a misdemeanor.

SAHARSKY: Well, I mean, certainly the offense is this particular case was serious. The charging document reflects that Respondent hit his wife all around the face until it swelled out, kicked her all around her body, kicked here in the ribs-

SCALIA: Then he should have been charged with a felony, but he wasn't. He was charged with a misdemeanor.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Wasn't the — wasn't the statute responding to just that problem, that domestic abuse tended to be charged as misdemeanors rather than felonies? And it was that fact that the Senator was responding to when he included misdemeanor. The whole purpose of this was to make a misdemeanor battery count for the statute's purpose.

I can appreciate his commitment (from a legal standpoint) to the explicit text of the law, but...

...this smug dismissal: "People are governed by the law that is passed, not by the law that Congress intended to pass" makes me grind my teeth. The statute they are referring to is a 1996 effort to close a loophole which allowed those convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge to retain their gun rights (hence Justice Ginsburg's argument). But unfortuntely, this law opened up a NEW loophole which meant that those charged with domestic violence now plead into misdemeanor assualt & battery "in the home," which Hayes, the state of Virginia, Scalia and thousands of other abusers argue does not fall under the 1996 statute. FUCK THAT SHIT. The intent of the law is crystal clear: domestic abusers should not have access to guns. That creates a time bomb of a situation that vastly increases the odds of domestic homicide.

Honestly, I'm seeing ulterior motives behind the arguments of Scalia et al. To me it looks suspiciously like things are being viewed through the lens of the Second Amendment, which is almost completely irrelevant- the case is based on the reading of the '96 statute. People are so paranoid over gun rights that the terror of infringing on them trumps a woman's right to a life without fear of...yknow, murder. More "women's health" from the right wing. I see derisive air quotes in almost every sentence Scalia utters.

Time to be thankful AGAIN for Obama's victory. I can't even imagine a McCain appointed Supreme Court.


-Of females killed with a firearm, almost two thirds were killed by their intimate partners.

-Access to firearms increases the risk of intimate partner homicide more than five times more
than in instances where there are no weapons, according to a recent study. In addition, abusers
who possess guns tend to inflict the most severe abuse on their partners.

-A study of women physically abused by current or former intimate partners found a five-fold
increased risk of the partner murdering the woman when the partner owned a gun.

-Domestic violence misdemeanor convictions and restraining orders were the second most
common reason for denials of handgun purchase applications between 1994 and 1998.

And one unisex reason this loophole needs to be closed:

-About 14% "of all police officer deaths occur during a response to domestic violence calls.

(statistics from www.endabuse.org)


A Fair Day at Fair Hill

Mountain biking! Gorgeous fall day! Well-maintained single-track! NO CRASHES! Heaven?

Let me say this: MD spends alot of money on their state parks and recreation areas...and I am totally down with that priority. These were the nicest trails I've been on (not that I've been on a whole lot, but hey). Lots of miles, lots of range in difficulty, nice climbs, fun descents (that I would bomb down if I weren't still a mtn bike wuss...as it is, I do more of a slinky). They were well-marked for the most part, except when it mattered unfortunately! We found ourselves with the sun setting, in the muck down by the river and dwindling hours before the ALL IMPORTANT birthday Eagle's game and nary a trail blaze to be seen. Don't ask me whose jersey that is. Its a child's large and Darco got it for $10.

Below are some more pictures. One of these days I'm going to bring my real camera to get some nicer riding shots. I'll make Darco ride back and forth in front of something picturesque and look like a Legitimate Mountain Biker. Or alternatively, a Mountain Biker Who Crashes Dynamically.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why European Cyclists Can Hold Their Line

I know ALOT of people who could stand to take a some lessons from this Dutch bike lane. A few flailing plunges into the drink and suddenly you start keeping a steady front wheel.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Eloquence on a Sad Issue

Olbermann responds to Prop 8 passage with poignance and heartfelt eloquence. There's nothing I can say that would add to this. Please watch, please tell other people to watch.


Monday, November 10, 2008


Researchers from Oxford University recently compiled a list of the top 10 most annoying phrases in the English language (as an aside, it always cracks me up that there are people getting paid to do things like this...it seems like something they should be doing in their nerdy spare time). Included were some that I very much agree with: "24/7", "I personally", "shouldn't of". They also mention, although it doesn't make the list, the common misuse of "literally" (when either "figuratively" or simple emphasis is meant) and "ironically" (when "coincidentally" is meant). To me, these ought to be #1 and #2. *shudder*

But there were also some head scratchers. I mean, come on Oxford researchers, whats wrong with the word "absolutely"? What did it ever do to you? Its just a word, and is neither overused (I think) nor used incorrectly. They also list "fairly unique" among the most annoying, I assume because they argue that "unique" is inherently superlative and cannot be modified. Well, I don't know what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say about this, because the idea of paying to subscribe to an online dictionary makes me laugh, but good ol American dictionary.com lists "not typical; unusual" as the fifth definition. "Fairly unique" is a perfectly acceptable usage as far as I'm concerned.

But the most inexcusable omition? "An historic," the single worst linguistic crime ever commited by the British. Hey Oxford- just because there are still some areas in Britain droppping Hs like Eliza Doolittle doesn't mean you shouldn't acknowledge the incorrect usage. Though, if this year's election cycle is any judge, its been pretty thoroughly exported to English-speaking poseurs everywhere (no, not posers- this requires a more evocative word). The amount of "an historic moment"s and "an historic candidate"s flying around in 08 made my brain liquify. Linguistically speaking, the blame really ought to be laid on French shoulders, since its their unsounded H that originally infected English, but come now- that was centuries ago. Other words have received their H-sound and accompanying indefinite article "a", and according to Google full 68% of webpages are using "a historic." So poseurs and cockney-types, its time to let "an historic" go.


Friday, November 7, 2008

DOS, Dysentary and Ducktales- Memories of Seriously Classic Educational Games

To celebrate my quarter century, I'm taking a look back at the educational ("educational") tools of my generation. And to start, OF COURSE, is:

1. OREGON TRAIL!!!!!!!

This game seems to have been a universal rite of passage for people in and around my generation. I'm not entirely sure what it was intended to teach, besides the fact that it totally sucked to be on the Oregon Trail, but it was FUN if kinda macabre. The river fordings, the broken arms, the cholera, the dysentary, the resource management...and those iconic graphics! For a DOS game of the 70s/80s it looks great.

But as we all know, what we really played it for was to kill animals:

Who didn't love hunting way, way more than you could carry back to your wagon? 10,000lbs of bison? Hell yes. So maybe this game does teach you something- as in the game, so in life. Overhunting is man's nature. Or something.

This game was made by the same creators as Oregon Trail, the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium, and is based on a real like in Oregon. Why these MN gamers were so interested in Oregon, I can't tell ya. I'm including this game mostly because until I started making this post, I thought it was a figment of my imagination. I had very clear memories of a game where you were a fish and when things came along (other fish, otters, birds, anglers) you either chose to eat it, ignore it or run away. That was the whole game. But anyway, I remembered it being very similar in structure to OT but although everyone and their mom had heard of and played the Trail, no one remembered being a fishy. And googling "trout game microsoft DOS" leads to naught. Even now that I know what its called, if you image search for this game there are like three pictures on all the interwebs. But at least now its existence is confirmed for me. Not crazy.


Basic arithmetic...numbers on space trash and junk food (?), shoot the sum. For some reason I just remember this really well.


Aw, eating the times tables! So cute!


I have SO MANY memories of this game. Once again, not terribly educational, but it was my first exposure to El Capitan, Carlsbad Caverns and the concept of the stockmarket. According to wikipedia, the idea was to get help Uncle Scrooge get more money than Flintheart Glomgold in 30 days...this was incindental. But I loved climbing up El Capitan as Huey, Dewey and/or Louie (mountain goats!) and shooting pictures in the nature reserve as Webigail (pink elephants!) and diving into the big ol pile of gold as Scrooge. There were two other levels that were linear and Mario-like- the cave and the jungle. What always bugged me was that if they fell in the water, you lost. They're ducks for crying out loud! They should be able to swim!

Of course, then as now, the best way to get money was the most boring: playing the stockmarket.

6. SUPER SOLVERS!!! Possibly the ones I remember best. My parents were big on this series.

MIDNIGHT RESCUE- It was first, it was my love, it was learnin' me some reading.

Confrontin' robots:

Takin' their picture:

Readin' stories, findin' clues:

And catchin' Morty Maxwell, the Master of Mischief, before he did something tricksy:

TREASURE MOUNTAIN- I can't remember for the life of me what this one was teaching you. I just remember gnomes and picking gold up off the ground. And something involving two round flowers?

OutNUMBERED- The good math one (fuck you, Operation Neptune). Basically like Midnight but with math.

ANCIENT EMPIRES- To me, this is the absolute apotheosis of educational gaming. From a book-learnin' perspective, it was a little ancient history and a little art history. It took you to Greece & Rome, Indochina, Egypt and the Near East. The idea was to collect pieces of a culturally relevant ancient artifact. And they really were artifacts! The Greek one was this Mycenaen mask, the Near Eastern one was the Ram in the Thicket, etc. I've seen a bunch of them (several are at that mecca of legitimized piracy, the British Museum) and I still get a little thrill of OMG that's that artifact from Ancient Empires! What utter hell I went through to get that thing!

Like a super easy version of your SAT, no? But it got harder...
But unlike the others, and unlike most educational games for children, its gaming elements were focused on logic, geometry and pattern recognition which, as anyone who has taken the SAT can tell you, are important skills to develop. This game was DIFFICULT- even my dad enjoyed it. And the music, my god! I distinctly remember (what I now know as) Tchaikovsky's Slavonic March and Brahm's Symphony No. 1 and there were probably several others equally distinctive and beautiful.

It's funny...I was never a big gamer either in my youth or now. Until a few years ago and the beginning of my not-so-secret shame (yeah, I know, I know), I probably hadn't played a video or computer game since I was about 12. But seeing these images from these games has a very, very strong nostalgic pull on me- you'd think I spent hours and hours in front of these things! Hell, in the case of super solvers (especially the math ones) it was usually a case of my dad MAKING me play them. But fond memories grow out of odd things, I guess.