Getting traction on retraction

Dear Ubisoft,

A couple weeks back, I said some unkind things to you. Several of my friends and readers took offense at my words, and I think I understand why. First, I want to apologize. My first few drafts were unreadably dull. So I tried to be funny. And in being funny, I became very rude. Not merely rude, but rude in a way that sneered at an open wound. That’s bad behavior on my part. I am truly sorry.

So let me try again.

As was pointed out to me- I don’t know the numbers on piracy. I do know that you call the PC Piracy rate “incredible”. I’ll assume that means the piracy rate for your is somewhere over 90%. But it might be 75%. Or even 50%. Either way, that’s enraging. I agree. Certainly 90% is about the same rate that I’m seeing reported from non DRMed games.

Does someone who put their (literal) sweat, (probably literal) tears and (hopefully metaphorical) blood into a creative work deserve to be compensated for that time, effort, and energy? In the vernacular of my youth: Doi.

I think this is the basic disconnect between media creators and media consumers. Creators- you!- are lashing out in justified fury in an attempt to get people to stop copying your stuff. Their best efforts to lock down the fruits of your labor are being laughed at by the people they most desperately want to stop. Adding insult to insult? The number of pirates who spend 10 minutes with a game and declare that it’s terrible and not worth spending time on.

This would be enough to enrage anyone.

The problem is that customers are being hurt by this rage. Not “consumers”- that category includes the pirates. Customers. The problem with “Digital Rights Management” is that it only protects your rights, as the publisher. It does not protect my rights as a customer. In fact, it often strips those rights away. First Sale doctrine? Gone. The ability to use a paid-for product when your server shuts down? Gone.

I’ve seen arguments that since we customers are merely “licencing” games rather than “buying” them, that we ought never have had those rights to begin with. That is not an argument I believe, nor one I think leads to positive sum outcomes. The merits don’t honestly matter- what matters is that the rights I had previously thought myself to enjoy I no longer enjoy. And I’m basically powerless to opt out of the agreement.

I say “basically” because I do have some power. I have the power to not buy products which treat me this way. It’s not really an option I enjoy exercising. I enjoyed the heck out of Anno 1404, and really wanted to grab Anno 2070 when it came along. But then I learned that in order to have access to the really nifty parts of the game- the things that really differentiated it from its predecessor- I’d have to be online. So, no sale from me.

I’d heard amazing things about Assassin’s Creed, and so when Assassin’s Creed 2 came along, I was very tempted. Then I learned that in order to play it, I’d have to be always online. Not simply “online check at the beginning of a play session”, but “drop connection for a few seconds and stop playing the game”. My Comcast connection is flaky. I can’t even watch _YouTube_ for more than a few minutes without it needing to buffer. The idea of putting my enjoyment of your game at the mercy of Comcast seemed like an exercise in frustration. So I decided not to become a customer of Ubisoft for that game.

I’m not talking about a boycott. Nor, I hasten to add, am I talking about pirating your games. I’m simply talking about taking my money and spending it on other things. Civilization 5 is great. Magicka. Oh hell: I’ve spent more time playing RUSE– one of yours!– than I care to think about. The DRM associated with those games is fairly lenient; I can even play those games when Comcast decides to take the day off.

We’re not entirely at an impasse. Like I said, you guys are putting out some great games. In fact, when you released Assassin’s Creed on Good Old Games, I snapped it up. It was DRM free, and came with the sorts of goodies that I normally associate with “special edition”.

That makes me incredibly glad. It makes me think that you saw through the rudeness of my initial post and decided to change the relationship on your end. Your advances will not be rebuffed. Keep treating me this way, and I’ll do more than give you a hug– I’ll give you cash.

I remain faithfully,
Punning Pundit.

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Sunday Morning Reading Material Second Sunday in April 2012- Easter Musings Edition


And now for something completely different.

For those humans who follow the Western Christian tradition, today is Easter Sunday. For people of that branch of that faith, today is the holiest day of the year. In that belief system, a deity (people of that belief system understand there to only be a single deity) caused a woman to conceive a child, and that child grew up to be offhandedly executed by the mightiest empire in the world. So far, all well and good. This next bit is where “faith” comes into it.

Today Western Christians (next week for the Eastern Christians) celebrate the resurrection of their deity. 3 days after his death, Jesus got up, stretched his legs, and announced that- having been a blood sacrifice for the sins of the human species- he was back.

Apparently God meant what he said to Abraham.

For those who have faith- as I do not- in the truth of this story the willingness to give one’s life to atone for the awfulness of the human species gives someone tremendous moral authority. What Jesus is believed to have said and done between resurrection and ascension basically amount to showing his face around town, and telling his followers to get to work.

What things did Jesus say he wanted people to do? What terrible sins required the blood of a god to atone for? Moral authority to do what? Even the moral teachings of a deity must be tested against an external reference, unless we want Cthulhu to have unfettered access to our uncritical brains.

And so it seems to be that we should examine a brief part of Jesus’ teachings. For extra fun, read that passage while replacing every use of “hypocrites”, with “douchebags”.

What I read is an extended meditation on the virtue of doing the right thing for it’s own sake, rather than for the sake of being seen to do the right thing. Someone who gives bread to the hungry in order to be seen doing so may make someone better off, but they have mentally recategorized another human being from “person” to “prop”. It is impossible to love a prop.

So: people are supposed to pray in private, and not for specific goodies. What should people pray for? The first part of the prayer Jesus gives his followers is a reminder that they are not supposed to ask their deity for things- and “things” in this case counts for actions and outcomes as well. “Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” So, you know. Christians technically can pray for a touchdown, or for a war to have a specific outcome. But if they do they’re contravening a direct command from their deity.

Interestingly, there is also an injunction against wanting forgiveness for infractions against that deity’s commands. “and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” As a child, this was always the scariest, most terrifying part of the prayer– Christians are asking god to create a direct, 1:1 correspondence between what they have done wrong and wrongs which others have done. The only way to make good- the only way to attain heaven- is to forgive other people. It is not good enough to simply the the “keeper” of one’s siblings. Everyone is now, in an ultimate moral sense, yourself.

If you only click one link:

The Slacktivist tells us about Holy Saturday, when God is dead, and everyone cares.

Tldr:


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Sunday Morning Reading Material First Sunday in April 2012- Only Kidding Edition

It’s Sunday morning. It’s time for some Reading Material!

The Occupy [City] movement was and is famously without a clear agenda. Much of this, I think, owes to the diffuse nature of the problem they’re trying to solve. American society has undergone a fundamental realignment in the relationship between Capitalists and Government. That previous sentence uses archaic language and isn’t really precise, so let me try again: The Occupy [City] movement exists to bring attention to- and protest against- the fact that the Republic is no longer Res Publica. This basic fact exists as a creeping, midnight suspicion in the minds of voters. It is not something that is generally spoken of in daylight hours. And yet here we are.

As an example of how America is no longer a Public Thing, I offer the existence of Zuccotti Park. Instead of taxing a company to create a park that would be owned and operated by the People of New York City, the City of New York mandated that a corporation would build and run a park. As a result of this, the First Amendment does not apply unless citizens ask the corporation to pretend that it does. Most malls- spaces that have replaced public marketplaces as centers of public consciousness- exist under these same strictures.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was a very bad governor. He rode to office on a promise to put a $5 billion hole in the yearly State budget, and fulfilled that promise within his first month in office. Most of his 2 terms were spent slashing services so that he could pay for fulfilling that promise. I shouldn’t be too upset with him, he seems to have entered politics as a joke that the rest of us didn’t get. The fact that his brand of crazy very bad ideas were considered not crazy enough moderate by half the major political parties in California tells us exactly where to lay the blame for the fiasco.

Despite everything, I really do have hope for the human species. We’re cooperative by nature, and actually are capable of learning from our mistakes.

Frustratingly, innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit. This leads to a secondary problem of guilty people continuing to be free to perpetrate their crimes. It is often difficult to prove innocence, but every now and then we manage to. What happens then involves people admitting they made a mistake. That is an extremely difficult thing to do.

In fact: U.S. Grant seems to have learned from his mistakes. It’s one thing to say “I was wrong”, but offering amends by changed behavior is incredibly difficult. That level of humility is the only path to justice.

This is simple technique for being a genius. I’m not sure it’s really as good as its authors claim. Breaking down problems into component parts is the way my brain works naturally. When I’ve finished doing that, I don’t usually see a whole bunch of simple solutions- I tend to see a giant pile of new problems. Granted, this might well be a function of my own rather dysfunctional personality.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the murder of Trayvon Martin. It’s a sad, terrible affair, and I can only hope that justice is swiftly brought to the guilty.

Want to know how Trayvon Martin was murdered? American society is still Otherizing black people. That’s right: in 2012, people are still willing to publicly proclaim that a character they had (wrongly) perceived as white is deserving of less sympathy when she’s (correctly) depicted as being a person of color. I do think the solution to this is rather simple: our machines of cultural creation need to start inserting more persons of color- African American, Latino, Indian, Native American, etc- into their works. Indeed, some studio should spend a year making the default assumption that every unspecified ethnicity from is a random (non-white) ethnic group. We’d end up with movies that looked more like America, at the very least.

Did you know that there’s a government agency that has the job of insuring your employer treats you fairly? The fact that this is a partisan issue should tell us all we need to know about America in the 21st century. The fact of it’s partisanship is a solid sign that the Occupy [City] protests are onto something.

I’m embarrassed that I had never thought beyond the advertising potential of data aggregation. Kevin Drum is right: it’s the potential non-advertising uses that ought to scare us. We should- sneakily and quickly- put limits onto what the government is allowed to access. And create criminal charges for those who would gain that information with intentions other than sales.

It only took six months of internal inquiry, but the FBI has finally agreed that, in the future “training would conform to constitutional principles”. Bravo! Perhaps students will even be spared the knowledge that they can “bend or suspend the law”. Or, perhaps we could just dismantle the whole apparatus of internal spying?

Good news everyone! Orwell’s Diary is back!!!

If you click only one link:

The President may be the most powerful person in the world, but s/he lacks the power to persuade any Americans of anything once we’ve made up our minds. All a president can do is energize the base of their own party.

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Digital Rights Math

The worst problems aren’t caused by getting the wrong answers. The worst problems are caused when the wrong question is asked. Ubisoft needs to stop asking “how can we decrease piracy”, and start asking “how can we derive maximum revenue from our products?”

I’m going to let them have a little formula:
We’re going to assume that a “unit” is a title, and for simplicity’s sake, we’ll pretend that title doesn’t have DLC.

1) We’ll start with the average revenue (to you, the rights-holding company) from each unit sold. Let’s call that “ChaChing!”. This number is simply what retailers kick back to you before any of your own costs are brought into consideration.

2) We’ll discover the average amount time players spend actually playing your game. The real number, not the marketing number on the back of the box. No one plays a game for “infinity”. We’ll call that “PlayTime(tm)”. The camelbacked capitalization lets me trademark that phrase.

3) Now we’ll find out how much the DRM solution costs for per minute of PlayTime(tm). Call that number “DirtyRottenPiracyRepellent”.

4a) Let’s next find out how many copies of your game were not bought because of the DRM. You didn’t know that people refused to buy some of your games because they didn’t like the way you treat them? Well. That explains a bit. So yes: that’s a thing. Some of us hate DRM so much that we won’t buy games we otherwise would. We’ll call this number the “OopsieDaisy” co(in)efficient.

4b) The OopsieDaisy coefficient can be estimated by seeing how many copies of a same-genera game with similar metacritic rating, but lacking your DRM solution, sold.

5a) Let’s figure out how many people who would otherwise have pirated the game decided to actually buy it instead. This number shall be called the “Jefferson” factor– named after US President Thomas Jefferson, a man who actually won a war against pirates.

5b) The Jefferson factor can be estimated by comparing the piracy rate of the game chosen in 4b to the piracy rate of your game. Simply subtract the percentage of pirated copies of their game from the percentage of pirated copies of your game. Warning: if the number ends up being negative (if your game has a higher piracy rate than theirs), you’ve already lost.

6) I think we’re ready to go! Take (Jefferson – OopsieDaisy) to find out how many extra copies we ended up selling. Call that number “Bonus”.

7) (PlayTime(tm) * DirtyRottenPiracyRepellent). Call this “TheRentIsTooDamnedHigh”. This is the cost of your DRM.

8) (Bonus * ChaChing!). This is the extra revenue that DRM brought us. We’ll call it “SecurePayCheck”

9) Now we (SecurePayCheck – TheRentIsTooDamnedHigh) and voila! We know how much it costs to bring in each additional sale.

10) Analysis. Obviously, I don’t have access to any of the numbers that would go into your calculations, but you- I hope- do! So let me ask: is the absolute value of Jefferson bigger than the absolute value of OopsieDaisy? If not, your DRM turned into a giant black hole. Is Jefferson bigger enough than OopsieDaisy that it offsets TheRentIsTooDamnedHigh? Was Jefferson actually a positive number? If it was a negative number, then your DRM actually managed to drive otherwise paying customers into the piracy ecosystem. Good luck fishing them out.

Notice what’s not included in this math: stopping piracy. Creating conditions under which people will not pirate your games is easy: either don’t release games, or release ones that are so bad people won’t invest their time. If piracy drops to zero, that doesn’t actually make your game a cent. The only reason that piracy hurts is when it takes would-be buyers and stops them from giving you money.

And Ubisoft digital boss Chris Early? Remember: “[it] Is [not] fair for [you[ to enjoy [my] content without [me] receiving some value for that”. So give me some value for this post. The rest of you can enjoy it without remuneration.

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Sunday Morning Reading Material Fourth Sunday in March 2012- Springtime Edition


Lol mathematicians!

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for cat sitting. Sundays are for lazy days in the rain. Sundays are for feeding the post-church crowd and hoping they leave enough money to help you pay your rent.

This week: Former American Vice President Dick Cheney finally received a heart. Pope Benedict the Sixteenth visited Mexico, causing many to wonder why the former Hitler Youth chose “the good” as his papal name. And also this week: NASA has found what may be liquid water on the Sol System’s hottest planet.

I’m having a hard time understanding why the Spiderman movies are being rebooted so soon after they launched. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with the series– indeed, they were huge sellers. Overthinking it argues that Spiderman exists to teach children humility, among other lessons. It’s a bit breathtaking, if true. Society has demanded that we create a character who’s entire point is to suffer for our amusement, and- when he reaches personal happiness- is reincarnated to repeat the cycle. Ladies and Gentlemen: the Amazing, Webslinging Sisyphus!

It’s a typical story: single Dad raises daughter, daughter begins to like comic books, and… daddy doesn’t know anything about comic books. So he educates himself about his daughter’s interests, so that he can help guide her on her path to autonomy. No real moral here. Just a heartwarming story.

Even if you’ve never seen Casablanca, you’ve seen it. The movie is so good that every line and shot has been parodied and reproduced to death. And yet… and yet the movie is still fantastic. Apparently the Marseilles scene wasn’t really acting…

I find myself surprised that Encyclopedia Britannica is ceasing its print operations. It’s not that I expect anyone to be getting more use out those set of books than from the average set of paperweights. Rather, in the very near future, printed books will be status markers of their own. I have a Kindle, I love my Kindle, but a visitor to my home does not see my thousand ebooks. Instead, they see my thousand real books and know something about me. In the future, the only physical books we buy will be the ones that we want to show off. An encyclopedia seems well suited for that.

Google is huge. They’re so important that they have to actively fight against their name turning into a generic verb. To not be linked to by Google, to not be included as one of their search results, is to basically not exist on the web– and therefore to be outside of human knowledge. Google is required by the laws of many nations to remove links to certain pages known to discuss certain topics. “For example, no hate speech,” Depending on how they define “hate speech”, this is probably ok. “no death threats”, I, for one, hope they get local authorities involved when death threats are uncovered. “no incitement to violence”, again: depends on the situation, but generally agreeable. The situation in the US is certainly different than that in Syria; I hope Google makes that distinction. “no copyright-infringing content”. Wait, what? In Google-world, hate speech, death threats, incitement to physical violence, and copyright infringement are equivalent problems?!

Each of the stories today has been about the ability of a cultural artifact to shape the lives of those who interact with it. Each of those artifacts has been inside the control of a corporate entity- an unperson which is legally barred from doing anything that does not lead to increased shareholder revenue. Google has said that they will remove any story from any source that might contain “copyright-infringing content”. Finding if your content has been delinked is difficult, and requires a site owner to be vigilant. certainly no corporate entity would abuse that.

Probably infringing content:

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Sunday Morning Supplemental Third Sunday in March 2012- It’s never about the cupcake Edition

It’s Sunday Morning and I’m running to work. I’ll leave you with these thoughts:

Several weeks ago, a teenaged boy was murdered. His murderer bragged about the crime and was not arrested. The boy was black. The murderer was white.

This was not a hate crime. The murderer- so far as I know- does not realize that he has a deep seated fear and hatred of African American people. Rather, the murderer lives in a society that makes routine comments about how different African American people are. How “they” are less moral, more violent, and more aggressive. In bed? Better.

America has laws which target African Americans more harshly than white people. American waiters and waitresses understand as a matter of routine principle that “black people don’t tip”- and therefore give shittier service than they do for anyone else.

Putting all of that together, it is difficult to escape the conclusion: George Zimmerman pulled the trigger on a boy who was trying to “get away with” walking home. But it was American society- it was you and me- who handed George the gun and let him play hero. What are we going to do about it? How are you going to break the centuries of bad thinking? How will you help America atone?

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Sunday Morning Reading Material Second Sunday in March 2012- Bamboo Turkey Edition


Bunnies and kitties. Je Suis l’internet!

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for dada. Sundays are for resting. Sundays are for healing. Sundays are for Dim Sum. Sundays are for punchlines.

This week: I decided to ignore the news and get to the links.

Is the world too depressing? have some kittens.

“But I get the sense Santorum is speaking nothing but his completely unfiltered thoughts. I know it’s weird to say this about a politician, but I sort of wish he were lying to my face at least a little.”

Did Dr. Sues really say this? I don’t know. But I do love what it is saying.

Who a person’s enemies are says a lot about them. Perhaps more importantly is the lines along which they choose to attack their enemies. The brilliance here is that Tolkien is willing to tell Germany that The Great War was merely bygones, and that the contemporary unpleasantness is utterly transient. But racism? That’s unacceptable.

Republican economic nostrums are very bad for America. When the government spends money, it is possible to get positive return on investment. By removing that spending, we shrink the economy. And, of course, we return to the War of All Against All.

By breaking 300 million people into millions of 5,000 person pools, it’s impossible for Americans to get really good group deals on healthcare. And so we wildly overspend. Imagine how much healthier our economy would be if consumers had (say) 25% of their healthcare bills in their own banks, rather than in the insurance company’s banks.

Health Insurance is based on the idea that one person may or may not have a car accident, but that thousands of random people are unlikely to all at once. Once individuals are able to start stacking the odds in their favor, health insurance will start going away. Which, obviously, is why we need to have it be provided by the government.

The health insurance reform signed by Obama was only the first step. It was a needed step, because over half of all bankruptcies in America are because of medical issues. It is deeply immoral to force someone to choose between their cancer treatment or their children’s home. But that’s the system we have in America.

Kevin Drum is wrong. The best Star Wars movie is Attack of the Clones.

Remember: the war against healthcare-provided birth control is a front in the war against birth control. And the war against birth control is a front in the war against enjoyable sex. If you’ve ever had– or want to have– enjoyable sex, let your congressperson know that they need to stand with the President, and against the birth control opt out.

I’m guessing that most teachers- and parents- have engaged in sex- many of them have done it on camera. So I’m not at all clear to see why it should be a dismissable- or noteworthy– offense.

This sort of thing is why many choose instead to go it alone.

It sounds like crazy conspiracy mongering to suggest that the President has taken the power to kill Americans on no higher say-so than his own authority. The only checks on this authority are the ones that he himself decided to impose on himself. This is America. 2012.

When Americans were broke, we drove less. Now that we’re making more money, we’re driving more. This is causing gas prices to go back up. Gas prices may suck, but the alternative would be to… raise taxes to pay for a system of mass transit that would actually be useful. No right-thinking American would dare go along with such a plan.

Banks Behaving Badly.

By now, everyone knows that video games aren’t bad for people- and that saying so is simply the older generation’s way of bemoaning their own age. But a growing body of evidence suggests that gaming might be good for people. So I guess I’ll just play some more StarCraft.

StarCraft, actually, a large and growing esport, with a huge following. I like it. It’s like Football without the risk of concussion.

In 2012, America has a black president, and so therefore racism is over. Well. Kinda. Instead, we live in a society which doesn’t intentionally or formally create barriers between “races”, but rather has many informal and social ways of Otherizing non-white people. And when one of the leading StarCraft 2 teams discovered that one of their coaches was using the N-word… they had a choice. The reasons they made the choice they did are enlightening.

Scientific progress goes boink (warning: some technical jargon. But awesome)

HE NEVER SAID HE WAS A FUCKING JELLY DOUGHNUT. And other myths.

And the cold war. Israel and Iran have been engaged in one for a very long time. Obama would like Israel to stop rattling its saber, and would like Iran to please stop working on nukes. Me? I just want us all to stop using oil.

Super bonus happy fun time video: the origin story of Keep Calm and Carry On. I wish we’d had this on 12 September 2001…

How awesome would it be if Iran and Israel only spoke to one another using this site?

As are we all, Luthor, as are we all:

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I’m ok, you’re ok, China is huge

China is big. Very big. To say that it has 1 billion people is to underestimate it’s true population by a value larger than the entire population of America. Not only is China a huge country, but its population has been immiserated for centuries. They’re finally digging their way out.

All of this means that America will not be Earth’s predominant nation for much longer. We Americans need to get used to this fact. We need to prepare for it, and shift our minds to encompass what it might mean to be #2, #3, or even #4. Our national identity needs to become far less wrapped up in being the best, and more about defining the good life.

What is the American dream? What is the American Identity? Is it really so important to have a huge standing Army (as distinct from a large and capable Navy?

China will eventually overtake America as the world’s preeminent nation; America will not necessarily become impoverished. The world is not zero sum. Much as the 20th century saw England falling from it’s perch into a comfortable lifestyle*. America can- must!- manage the same lofty descent.

Unless we can get China and India into a nuclear war. That would be good for America.

*I’d love to adjust these numbers by Gini Coefficient .

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Sunday Morning Reading Material First Sunday in March 2012- Older than Christ Edition


This is a real commercial. It is not a parody.

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for getting up way too soon after you’ve invited many of your closest friends for a Saturday evening, and going to work. Sundays are for being with family. Sundays are for catching up.

This week: hell claimed one of its own as the man who lied ACORN out of existence dropped dead of natural causes. This week: After a hotly contested primary campaign, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum split the Michigan delegates evenly. This week Microsoft showed consumers a beta of its next operating system. And this week Maryland became merry by allowing gay people to marry.

Also this week: Obama is a bad ass. Seriously: does the theme from Shaft get piped into every room he walks into?

Archie Comics is… weird. Instead of superheros, or whatever sort of bizarre dada the Japanese are into, it is instead a comic version of a PG highschool RomCom. The fact that such an inoffensive and banal comic is featuring a wedding between a returning soldier and his (male) partner probably marks a significant turning point in the march towards legalizing gay marriage. Gay marriage is now considered PG. Inoffensive. Banal. And naturally that scares the hell out of people who wish it were controversial.

Back in my Catholic school days, I was taught that sex ought to have consequences. The older I’ve gotten, the more I tend to agree. I think that sex ought to (at least) have the consequence of a rousing orgasm for all parties involved. Preferably, it would have the consequence of reinforcing an emotional bond between the parties involved. Sadly, there are a lot of killjoys running around (like my old Catholic school teachers) who think that sex ought to carry with it more negative risks, like pregnancy and disease. To create these consequences, these assholes fuddy duddies are doing their best to remove access to the things that make sex safe, legal, and plentiful: condoms, birth control pills, and abortions.

Some lawmakers are more accepting than others.

In America, it is possible to “steal education”, from public schools, for your child. This means that it is possible to buy education, from public schools, for your child. This means that in America, we do not have equality of opportunity. This means that the American dream has been betrayed.

So: you know how people are trying desperately to refinance their houses at lower rates, but banks won’t let them? Of course you do, it’s been all over the news: we have a responsible media that reports on important stories. So banks don’t want to let homeowners refinance their homes because they’ve already claimed earnings from future (expected) interest as money now. If people refinanced their homes, banks would take huge losses. Anyway. a huge bank owner is complaining about the 5 homeowners who managed to beat the odds by refinancing, but still got foreclosed on.

Why would a mega capitalist complain about not being able to screw everybody, all the time? new study suggests that the rich are simply bigger assholes than you or me.

Spacial voting theory is pretty straightforward. In a system such as ours, only 2 parties will ever exist for very long. When there are more than one conservative parties, they tend to split the vote and accidentally allow a liberal to get elected. Obviously liberals do the same thing: that’s how 2000 saw the election of President Bush. I think the reason we see this repeated non-strategic candidate-picking behavior is twofold. First: people get into an echo chamber and stop thinking about how far left/right they really are (compared to their politically apathetic neighbors). Second: people have a very hard time believing in spacial voting theory.

I do love cloud products. My Kindle, my Steam account, hell, even this blog. The cloud is compact. It removes a lot of clutter from my life. Unfortunately, you don’t own any of the content on the cloud. Possession is 9/10ths the law. This is another major reason why piracy continues to exist. Developers and consumers are often at odds about continuing services, and piracy is a method for retaining control of a product after a developer had abandoned it. I do wish Congress understood things from a consumer point of view. Perhaps these fights could be headed off.

For instance: you don’t own pictures once you’ve uploaded them to Facebook.

It is distressing that Americans look at Obama and see a black man, and then ask him for guarantees that he won’t serve the interests of just black men. And it is distressing that Americans looked at JFK and made him promise that he wouldn’t actually turn America over to the Catholic Pope. What’s terrifying, though, is that there’s a Republican candidate for president who listened to JFK’s speech about America not being a theocracy, and it “made me want to throw up”. So there you have it. 2012. American theocracy. The issue is distinctly drawn.

The older I get, the more I realize that “Politically Correct” means not being an asshole. The fact that the term (PC) is almost always used as a slur should tell us a lot. The fact that our culture has a set of norms for (eventually) shouting down assholes tells us that we’re growing as a society.

When you start paying attention to your own assholish behavior, it begins to get easier to to refrain from doing it. Kudos to Mr. Jacques.

Identity is weird. One of my sisters shares the same pair of biological parents as I do– but she considers herself “Italian” in a way that I just don’t. She will root for ITL over the USA during soccer matches– I think this is a bit crazy. I’m not a basketball fan. In fact, the Golden State Warriors are such a bad team that I’m actively repelled by the sport. Even so, I’ve heard of this Jeremy Lin dude. What’s awesome about him is the way he’s become a cipher, letting project from him whatever sort of stereotypes they wish to see. He isn’t those things, of course, he’s a human being. The fact that he’s an Asian-American human excelling in a sport which demands qualities that American society tells Asian-Americans they don’t possess is making Asian-Americans feel all kinds of good. Reading this article, I learned that Lin is from the Bay Area. This makes me feel all kinds of good. Because Bay Arean is how I ethnically identify.

If you only click one link:

It’s your relationship. Fight fair.

This week’s theme has been: My Birthday!!! Well. Perhaps that hasn’t been evident in the actual content of the post. But Oh yeah. I turn 34 on Monday.

Get off the internet, kids.

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Sunday Morning Reading Material Fourth Sunday in February 2012- Middle class livelihood Edition

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for loving the one you’re with. Sundays are for nerding out and watching video games on TV. Sundays are for working your Monday-Friday job. Sundays are for waiting patiently for the IRS to give you some money for a change. This week, a judge ruled that former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi

hid his corruption long enough that he wouldn’t have to face punishment for it. This week, Playstation released a new piece of hardware. This week the IMF told the world that the global economy is really not in the best of shape right now. And this week Iran begged the world to stop attacking them. The internet is fantastic. It has allowed more people access to more data than ever before seen in human history. A device that fits in my pocket can answer and factual question that humankind has discovered. Not everyone has access to the internet. Access requires a skill set that must be learned. And in this age of austerity, American society is removing the tools which can help people learn those skills. This is how austerity creates poverty. Because it needs saying, saying again, and repeating: Obama (and the Democratic party) saved the US economy. Had Republicans not enacted austerity measures, the economy would probably be doing even better by now. It has now been long enough since Loving Vs. Virginia that those first (legal) interracial couples can have great grand children. So naturally in Austin Texas, the police get called out when a white man is talking a walk with his black granddaughter. And naturally, in 2012, the police respond to every situation with overwhelming force. These two things together point out how American racism is upheld and reinforced by the society which would like very much to destroy it. It’s ugly, pernicious, and needs to change. The other day my dad was asking me how many readers I’d need in order to make money from this blog. Some quick math tells me that if I had a readership of 100,000 people, and could get $1 a year from about a third of them, I’d be doing ok. I don’t have nearly that level of readership, though I know some people do. One way to monetize readership is to sell ads. Another way is to sell Tshirts. A third is though pledge drives. I’m not sure how future-media will pay for itself. I’m fairly sure that this blog won’t ever get big enough to worry about it. It is certainly true that a bad attitude doesn’t help solve major problems. It is much more true that being able to buy a new pair of legs requires money. And since disabilities tend to be concentrated among the least-well off, society creates a circular problem– and then tells the disabled that it’s their own fault. Helen Keller recognized this. That’s why she spent her life working for the communist party. How the fuck do fashion designers have enough clout to tell Hollywood women they’re too fat?! Relatedly: how can fashion designers believe that Hollywood women are too fat, yet not be institutionalized as being too crazy to function in the real world? this is adorably terrifying. This winter, California weather has been frighteningly perfect. I mean that literally: I have been frightened at our lack of rain, lack of cold weather, lack of everything that our ecosystem depends on to reset itself. This summer will probably not be very pleasant at all. Global Climate Change. If Earth truly is becoming more like Venus, might it be worth the collapse of civilization in order to save our species? Or maybe we ought to let Iran build nukes- if they promise to stop exporting oil. Or maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe. Or maybe the sky will fall and save us all. My goal for 2012 is to become self sufficient once more. I’ve said before that January 2011 saw me at the very bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, looking up at everything. It’s a terrifying place to be. I think this terror helps answer C.S. Lewis’ question about debt: Debt undermines every part of the hierarchy. A person in debt literally cannot use their own resources to take care of all their needs, and thus must begin to decide which of the fundamental things they must give up on, or which of several needs they must cut back on. Sleep is weird. If we humans don’t get enough of it, we will literally go mad. Too much will leave us feeling sluggish and stupid. Is it possible that we modern people sleep wrong? It would make some evolutionary sense for us to have a two hour nighttime wake-period– the better to keep an eye out for predators. And perhaps that’s why hot-weather cultures are able to have siesta– they’re shifting their sleep from night to day. And perhaps it’s all BS. At the very least, read the first few paragraphs of this review of the game Oil Rush. I’m not really sure how game designers can create a game around 4th generation warfare, but it’s useful to have a conversation around it’s existence. I’ve never been sure why Reagan was neither tried for treason nor impeached. It would be awesome for Republicans to realize they’ve been making a huge mistake about him. The business model of Intellectual Property rental depends on artificial scarcity. IP owners are terrified about piracy because it creates extra product outside their control. The obvious solution would seem to be allowing consumers easy and free access to IP within a framework controlled by the IP owners. instead they’re making it difficult for consumers to become a customers. Side note to the previous: when you buy an Mp3, the music industry likes to pretend that you’re merely licensing it from them. When they pay royalties to the people who made that music, they pretend that they sold it to you. The music industry is full of lying scumbags. This is what happens when the side the has the money also controls the information. The author of the No Child Left in Ballsack Act is Yasmin Neal, a Democrat from Riverdale. Setting aside special parking spaces for people who have physical difficulty walking is one of those nice things that society does. Which is exactly why we must shame, condemn, and punish people who abuse that system. The sense of entitlement people have about “perfect” parking is sort of outrageous. This is just one of many social ills that would be solved with better mass transit. There is something awesome about watching a competition between people who have mastered their craft. Whether that’s football, cooking, or Street Fighter. Watch the one minute video, read the description, then watch it again. Price might be the single biggest barrier to entry for entertainment. I think this sort of thing will come to define the future of games, movies, and books. There are enough entry points to- and price points within- the ecosystem they’ve set up that it becomes up to the consumer if they’re willing to spend more. Since the product is well designed, the consumer never feels like they’ve been ripped off. If you click just one link: Tip your server. I love you, Hollywood style.

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