Thursday, January 31, 2013

Interesting ways of making word salad (Post 1)

No, I'm actually not going to tell you what they are.  I'm going to see if I can get you to give me the input necessary to try some of them out.  A little at a time.

We'll start with some simple things.

This is the first line of Left Behind:
RAYFORD Steele's mind was on a woman he had never touched.

Put it into a part of speech parser and you get:
NNP NNP POS NN VBD IN DT NN PRP VBD RB VBN.

Now we can do traditional mad libs style things with this, but at a greater level:

[proper noun] [proper noun2]'s [noun] was on a [noun2] he had [adverb] [verb].

And have the first commenter give something for the first word in brackets, the second give one for the second, and so on, but for the those to create a nice word salad you're not supposed to know the sentence and I've given it to you, though I would like to see what happens if six people each chose their own thing so we made a complete sentence with a different person filling in the blank for each one.  So please, do that.

Start from the start and give a word.  If no one has given anything yet give a proper noun.  If one person has given a proper noun give a second proper noun.  If there are two proper nouns give a noun, if there's one noun give a different noun, if the nouns are done give an adverb, and if the adverb is done give a verb.  In six comments we can have our sentence.

But, like I said, this is just a first step.

So rewrite the sentence as you see fit in a way that makes sense.

For example, "Ford Prefect's satchel was on a boulder he had often seen."  As we move into the future, things will get more interesting.

Or, rewrite it changing more of the words, but keeping the parts of speech intact: "Mila Anderson's sword was in the overlord she had always hated."

So, commenters, I call on you, do these things.

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You can do them all in one post.  Which would look like this:

[single word]

[sentence one]

[sentence two]

And if the single word thing gets done and you wanted to do it but didn't get the chance, start over from the beginning.  In twelve posts* we could have two versions where each person contributed one word.

Go now, do this.

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* What are the odds of getting twelve comments on a post around here?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Caffeine, and scams I wish were real.

There is a question, I think, about whether or not something is still a scam if you know it's a scam.  I was wondering about that a while back because there was an astrology site with a fake psychic offering me something that, while bullshit, seemed like it might be interesting.  In the end I decided I was going to see if I could haggle down the price and if I could get it within a certain threshold, I'd buy the bullshit.  As it turned out, taking no action did the haggling for me and I got an emails saying the planets are blah-blahing and this is really important so I'm going to drop the vast majority off of my usual price and give it to you for [below my chosen threshhold].

So I bought the bullshit, I haven't had enough free time to see if it's entertaining enough to justify the price paid.

That's one kind of a scam.  "I can see your future," fine print at bottom, "Note that I can't actually see your future."

That's not the kind of scam I'm talking about.

A while back there was a site called, as I recall, moola.com.  It operated on a simple principle, that of exponential growth.  It seemed a sound business model to me.

The way it worked was this:
Join site, get a free penny on the site.
Play games (not really games of strategy, more games of chance) against other people at the site for a certain proportion of your money (up to you but has to be a power of two.)  If you run out of money you get another free penny.

Once you hit ten dollars you can, if you wish, get paid the ten dollars and get out, or you can keep going.

Before every game there's an ad you have no choice but to watch.  The ads pay for the free pennies.

So say you bet everything every time, and win every time (this is a stupid strategy, you'll only win 50% of the time the odds of winning 10 in a row are )
Win 1 game and you have .02
Win 2 games and you have .04

Win 3 games and you have .08
Win 4 games and you have .16

Win 5 games and you have .32
Win 6 games and you have .64

Win 7 games and you have 1.28
Win 8 games and you have 2.56

Win 9 games and you have 5.12
Win 10 games and you have 10.24
Now you can get a pay out.

Or, you can stay in, and get a pay out at any time after


Win 11 games and you have 20.48
Win 12 games and you have 40.96

Win 13 games and you have 81.92
Win 14 games and you have 163.84
Congratulations you've passed the $100 mark.

Win 15 games and you have 327.68
Win 16 games and you have 655.36
Win 17 games and you have 1,310.72
Congratulations, you've passed the $1,000 mark.

Win 18 games and you have 2621.44
Win 19 games and you have 5242.88
Win 20 games and you have 10485.76
Congratulations, you've passed the $10,000 mark.

27 games and you surpass a million dollars ($1,342,177.28)

But, of course, the odds of someone winning 27 games in a row are 1 in the exact same number, except the same as the number of pennies, not dollars.  (134,217,728)

And for someone to get very far you're going to have to grow your user base, which will mean more people watching ads, which means more money coming in to provide the complementary pennies.  It's going to take quite a while for anyone to get up to even the ten dollar threshold and until then you're just paying for the domain and the bandwidth.

So I don't see why it was a scam.  It didn't have to be as near as I could tell.

Switching toward games where skill mattered instead of the guaranteed 50-50 odds would make it more likely that someone could rise up the ranks faster (say you had people competitive Tetris and the best Tetris player in the world comes on) but they can only play at a given level if other people are there and willing to play the same game as them, so hopefully at higher levels people would know, "I suck at Tetris, I should not play this," and get a self sorting of difficulty level.

That could also make the games more fun and less rote.

But to reiterate, this is what has to happen for someone to get to the first ten dollar pay out:

The person would have to win at each level, beating someone who had also reached that level.  Beating the person would undo that level worth of progress for them.

Meaning that in order for someone to play and win the ten games necessary to get a pay out someone else had to play and win nine, the lose the tenth.  For both the winner and loser to get there someone else had to play eight and lose the ninth.

So on, so forth, there are, an equal number of games as there are pennies.  Almost.  The first penny was free, after all.  So to get there there are 1,023 games.  And I feel stupid for not realizing that until after I did the math to see how many games there are the hard way.

Each of those games has two players.  So the number we're looking at is 2046.  Now in addition to the ads that grace side bars and top bars and low bars and whatnot bars, to play a game you're forced to view unskippable video ads that are not unlike TV commercials.  Largely because they are TV commercials.  Just ported onto the internet.

I don't remember whether it was before or before and after, or before, after, and in the middle.  But that's the figure.  How many of those does it take to earn one penny?  That's the question.  I have no idea.  None at all, but it's easily scalable.  Have the showdowns be three rounds each commercial, round, commercial, round, commercial, round, commercial.  That's 8,184 in your face TV style commercial views which have to be worth more than the side bar top bar bottom bar ads that populate most of the internet.

That's the absolute minimum you have in those add views per ten dollar pay out.  The odds that you will ever have to pay out ten dollars on so few ad veiws? 1 in one thousand and twenty four (like I said, exponential growth.)

More likely the people who make it to the higher levels will do it not by relying on random chance which could wipe them out and set them back to square 1 at every stage but by accruing a certain amount and then dividing it so that each loss sets them back only so much*.  Which means that a good portion of the exchanges won't actually cost you anything but will get you your ad views.

Say person A and person B each have eight cents.  Neither one feels too keen on losing it all and going back to the start.  They know that if they put in everything there's a 50% chance they loose everything, a 50% chance they double their money, but if instead they do two rounds at four cents there is a 25% chance they lose everything, a 50% they neither lose nor win, and a 25% chance they make money.  Preferring a 25% chance of losing to a 50% chance they make bets at the 4 cent level.

Match one person A wins four cents from person B.  Match two person B wins four cents from person A.  Both end up where they started.  This happens 50% of the time such a division is made (of course there will be more than just two people in practice instead of theory.)  Neither of them is closer to winning anything, which means that neither of them has cost you anything (save bandwidth) but they have gotten you 2*N intrusive ad views for for each match they played (in this case two.)

So it seems like the business model should work without it being a scam, and yet it was a scam.

-

The other thing I recently came across was a penny auction site.  For those who don't know what a penny auction is, it's a brilliant spin on the auction idea, and is enough so that had I the start up capital I'd make such a site.

Penny auctions are pay to play auctions (you need to buy the right to bid) where each bid increases the going price by a fixed, and small, amount.  Usually a penny.  Hence the name.  So say you sell bids at a dollar a pop, and the item is an brand new iPad, something that retails for 500 dollars.

Say the iPad ends up selling for 12 dollars.  That's $1,200 worth of bids.  Enough to pay for the original iPad twice over and still have $200 left over.  And someone got a 12 dollar iPad.  Even if they used 100 bids to get it and they paid full price for them that's a brand new iPad for $112 which is a savings of $388.  Not a bad deal at all.  In fact, still assuming they used 100 full priced bids, the going price of iPad would have to reach $400 before they stopped saving money by getting it that way.

First off, it would never make it that far.  it would mean 40,000 bids placed overall and in that time days and nights would pass and at some point, even through random chance alone, at some point it has to stop.

Second, think of the money the pay to play place would get with all those bids.

Now, actually, it looks like the place I'm talking about charges slightly more than 50 cents a bid (how much more depends on how many you buy) and I've seen an iPad go for over $100.  Still a great deal for whoever won, but when you take into account all the non-winning bids as well that's 10,000 bids at a cost of something over 50 cents each which is equal to something over $5,000.  Or, in other words, more than ten times what it cost the company running the site to buy the iPad.

That's the kind of profits penny auction sites make.  And they produce a steady stream of, "Look at how many hundreds of dollars the winner saved," to give hope to people who haven't won.

This is money that people give away willingly, understanding how the game is played.  It's like the lottery, whether people realize it or not they're not paying for the chance to win so much as the hope that they'll win. Winning is just a happy accident that happens to some people.

The point here is that if you've got an active community of bidders, and the site I'm talking about did, you get your money with no need to trick or coerce anyone into anything.  Which is why it was disappointing they did just that.

To try to rope me in they gave 25 free bids, a common enough tactic.  And as it turned out such bids could only be used in the newbie area, which was a benefit because it meant I wasn't competing against as many people.

And, for a single penny, I won an eReader.  Then found out it was a 5.99 shipping.  Can't expect free shipping on a 1 penny ereader but I do find the time for mild pissed offnesss at the fact that the shipping costs weren't mentioned up front.  What if it had been 59.99 shipping?  Still...  Fine, not a single penny but a six dollar ereader, still a nice deal.  Then went to checkout and discovered that it wanted to know which bid package I'd be buying with my ereader, there were three to choose from and no option for none-of-the-above.  I don't remember this being in the find print.  I don't remember there being fine print.

I wanted the option for, "I've still got a bunch of my free bids left so I'll be buying none at the moment, thank you very much."  There wasn't.

So I had to think it over, finally decide that even with the holding hostage of the thing I'd already won unless I bought something I neither wanted nor needed it was still a good deal on the ereader.  Nothing like the 6 dollar ereader I thought I was getting, but a good deal none the less.  So now I'm left with a bunch of bids for a penny auction site.

But here's the thing: What.  The.  Fuck?  Did you not see the thing above where I pointed out that they made over five thousand dollars by selling something worth 500?  If memory serves it was high enough that if you subtract the 500 they had to pay for the iPad, assuming they paid retail and not wholesale, it was still over five thousand dollars in pure profits.

These are not people who need to be holding my damn ereader hostage to force me to buy bids, these are people who are making gobs of money legitimately so what's with the strong arm tactics?  What's with the sneaking a forced purchase in on the last page before you decide whether or not to pay after you've already gotten attached to the idea of getting the thing you won?  What's with the entire scamy aspect of it?

If you've got a working penny auction site, and they do, then you're making money by preying on people's hopes while being extremely inefficient middle men in a sale and doing it all legitimately and above board.  I respect that, I really do.  Whoever came up with the idea was brilliant and I hope they got rich before a bunch of other people jumped on the bandwagon.  To be able to say to people, "Give me your money for the right to bid on this thing which you almost certainly will not win," and have them willingly, happily even, fork over their money is downright amazing.

So a working penny auction site gives you the opportunity to be honest, legal, up front, extremely profitable, and also give a certain segment of your users (the winners) really good deals.  That's a nice place to be.

Why add the scammy aspects of, "Oh, here's a purchase we never mentioned before you need to make before we can give you that," "Oh, here's a heretofor unmentioned transaction fee," and the other bullshit they've stuck around the edges.

I point again to the more than five thousand dollars of pure profits made from a five hundred dollar investment.  And from what I've seen of the other auctions on the site, these results are typical.

So I wish they weren't ripping people, myself included (though as I said, still a good deal on the ereader) off because the theory behind it is, quite simply, brilliant.

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And where does the caffeine come in?  Well, I noticed one of the auctions, one of the few on something I might actually want, ended at 3 AM local time.  Well, 3 AMish.

Anyway, since this seemed to be a US based site that seemed like a time most people might be asleep and one might stand a chance of winning the auction** trouble was that if I took my sleeping meds (that compensates for the sleeplessness caused by my antidepressants) I wasn't sure if an alarm would be able to wake me at 3 AM.  So I didn't take them.  Which let me know that my antidepressants haven't stopped causing sleeplessness.***  I did get some sleep (after 3 AM and it turned out that enough people did the same thing that it was never going to end.  It's night now and the damn thing's still going) but I don't know how much and I do know it wasn't much.

Thus, this morning, to make my way through a day of classes, I stopped by a local supermarket and bought a soda.  I know that Fred Clark makes a strong argument in favor of taking caffeine in pills rather than drinks but I wasn't up for wandering around looking for the pills while mostly asleep, and I'm not a coffee person,  and I know that if one is going to go the soda route Mountain Dew is the usual choice for caffeination but as I recall I don't like the taste, and if one is going to go the cola route Pepsi is the soda one should take because it is loaded up with caffeine like nobody's business (except perhaps Mt. Dew) but I cannot abide the taste of that stuff so...


It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion. It is by the Coca-Cola that the thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning. It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion.

Spent the whole day walking around campus with a two liter of Coke attempting to use whatever amount of the drug it does have to keep me going.


Still don't know what I'm going to do with those damn bids I had to buy.  I could just ignore them but it seems like if I was forced to get them I should at least get something in return, which means that I should try to buy something.  At some point.  Maybe.

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* And each win gains them only so much, when the odds are 50-50 there's only so much you can do to make things better on yourself because the odds of improvement will always be equal to your odds of things getting worse on a given game.

The big change you can make is to make it so, by slowing down the chance of advance you slow down the chance of fall back, which means that the times you lose, and you will lose, set you back less far.  So instead of needing ten in a row to get a pay off you need some combination in which there are enough more wins than losses.  And since the upside is essentially unbounded, while the downside is capped at 1 (whenever you lose your last cent you get it back) that's not an unreasonable thing.

Not something to bet your future on, which is why it would be good if the games are fun or, failing that, addictive.

** Like a normal irl auction, as opposed to ebay, every fresh bid comes with extra time to see if anyone will top the high bid, in this case how it works is the auction will be timed a la ebay, but any bid in the last ten seconds will add ten seconds for other people to bid, so no auction sniping by waiting to the last second.

*** This is actually valuable information.  I don't want to be taking medication I don't need so for things where making a quick test is possible (i.e. those where you don't need stuff to slowly build up in/filter out of your system) the occasional test that one still needs a medication can be a good thing.




Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Check who the exhaust might hit before venting

I vent on this blog, and as I've said before one of the reasons that I feel it's safe to do so is that you, the reader, have an out.  You can stop reading, you can click away.  If you can't bear the problems that I dump on you then you don't have to.

This is often not the case in person.  If you and I were stuck in a house together for a few hours and all I did was talk about everything that was wrong you'd have no escape, you'd have no out.  Which means that it all gets dumped right on top of you.  Now, maybe that's not a problem.  Maybe it slides off of you like water off a duck (their feathers are oiled as a waterproofing method, it's actually kind of neat.)  But maybe it doesn't.

Now I've said before that I think my depression is pretty much dealt with.  But it is still the case that what gets dumped on me brings me down.  Pretty much regardless of what it is.  Things do not slide off of me, like a stickabur everything sticks to me.

I don't know if this is a lingering effect of the depression, or just part of who I am as a person.

So if you should, say, complain about the same thing twenty times around me that's going to bring me down twenty times, and no matter how high or low I started, after twenty drops I'm not going to be in the best state of mind.  If you pile on top of that other complaints about all things great and small it's going to bring me down a lot.

If, when I ask you to stop, you berate me and tell me how useless I have been compared to you...  That's not going to help.

I understand that venting is how people cope, and I understand that it's not meant to harm.  But the thing is, if you point the exhaust port at me and then start venting it's going to have the effect of an attack, the more the venting, the harsher the attack.

If I've explained this to you, oh, say, five thousand times and you still do it I might be left with the impression that however much you might like or love me, you really don't care about me much.  Because if you cared you'd, at the very least, remember all those times you hurt me in the past and not want to repeat it in the future.  Certainly not the present.

As is often stated, intent is not magic.  It does not matter what the intent is, if every time you throw a pile of negativity at me it hurts me then throwing pile after pile after pile of negativity at me with hardly space to breathe in between is going to hurt me a lot.  I have been bullied by people incapable of causing that much pain, and certainly not that much pain that quickly.  And some of them resorted to physical violence.

So, after the least abusive member of my family, the only one I wouldn't count as abusive, caused me a lot of pain and frustration this morning and then got pissed off at me when I asked her to stop, my message to the world at large is this:

There will be times in your life when you need to vent.  It is only natural.  When you do, check where the exhaust port is pointing.  If it's aimed at someone who will be harmed by your venting at them, don't vent at them.  Pick another direction, another time, another way, another anything.  The point of venting is to help you, not hurt someone else.  So make sure you're not going to hurt someone else.

Monday, January 28, 2013

[Insert post title here.]

[Insert where, if originally posted elsewhere, it was originally posted.  Probably one of the usual suspects.]
[Insert explanation here: I want a post rather than empty space but don't have time to make one.]

[Insert introductory paragraph(s) here.]

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[Insert body here.]

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[Insert link to appropriate index, if applicable, here.]

[Brilliant comments should follow this, but that's really not up to me.]

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My sister and I have differing ideas of the question of evil

Very long discussion which I was ready to be over with well before it was.

My sister doesn't think there's really evil people.  She feels like people get caught up in a system and it carries them along and the system leads them to do evil things.  And when people caught up in that system finally reach the "Oh my god, what have I done?" revelation their response is determined not by anything within themselves but rather on how they are approached.  If approached with, "Look at this evil thing you just did," they will respond by doubling down and being even more evil.  If approached with, "I really love you and I think you're great and understand all of the pressures that you were under so as a friend let me say that..." they will become good and fix things.

I do think that some of the systems in which we live tend to force people toward evil.  But I think there is also a question of what you do along the way, and more than that I think there's a question of what to do to fix it.

Consider BP (British Petroleum which is trying to brand itself as an American company because having "British" in your name in no way implies you might be from a different hemisphere than the Americas.)

First off the disaster didn't have to happen and those people didn't have to die.  But that was probably more about the system, there was a demand from on high to cut costs and someone down the line cut costs in the wrong places thinking, "What are the odds?" and then boom people are dead and the gulf of Mexico is on its way to becoming inflammable (which means the same thing as flammable it's just that the first term is in theory more correct and in practice places a lot more emphasis on the bursting into part of "this material could burst into flame").

Now at this point the people at the top know, "Something has gone very fucking wrong," and they are faced with a choice on what to do about it.  Generally speaking these choices can go two ways.  There are of course room for seemingly infinite variations, very few things can truly be reduced to a dichotomy.  But in general the options following, "Something has gone very fucking wrong," are "I need to fix this whatever it costs me," and, "I need to save face."

Now the problem of a giant fucking oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or elsewhere is not one that we don't know how to deal with.  We've had oil spills before and have an idea of how they work.  You stop the leak, you contain the spill to the best of your ability, you clean up the spill.  Oil is lighter than water so containment is a lot easier than it could be.  Imagine for a moment if it weren't.  If it could sink into the water rather than float to the surface or travel in plumes underwater.  Worst of all would be if it could mix with the water (say the way that salt does) because then containment wouldn't just be impossible, it would be unthinkable.

I don't think BP managed to get the oil to mix with the water, so credit to them there.  But they also didn't try to fix the problem, they tried to save face at the expense of making the problem worse and quite possibly impossible to contain.

Oil floats, and so when you're looking to clean up after an oil spill you've got a giant advantage, you know where the oil is.  It's on top of the water.  That's still a giant area to cover, but at least it's an area, not a volume.  And it allows for simple linear containment (containment that is usually much less than perfect, but a measure of containment at least) you just run a line around the perimeter.  Changing currents, random chance, chaos theory, and velociraptors might mean that there's more than one perimeter you need to run a line around (the oil might surface at multiple locations is what I'm saying), but the good thing about oil is that it floats, once you've got your line around it you don't have to worry about it dropping down a hundred feet swimming under the line, and coming up on the other side.

My guess is that the major worry would be something like wave action taking the oil over your line, but I'm sure those with expertise in handling oil spills know the biggest worries better than I do.  What I don't have to be an expert to know is that all containment plans for handling oil spills, clean up plans too, are predicated on one simple fact that even school children know: oil floats.

If the oil stops floating then all of the experience we as a species have accumulated in dealing with oil spills goes out the window and it's sort of a... how did one of my teacher put it in one of the things he inserts into his translations (and then takes out pre-publication) to make sure people are reading?  Oh yes.  It's sort of a, "Master, we're fucked," situation.

If you want to contain, if you want to clean up, if you want to fix the situation and make things right, you need to make sure that the oil floats.  Which isn't hard because that's what oil does.  Do absolutely nothing and the oil will float.

But the problem with floating oil is that it's measurable.  People can see the size of the slick.  You can get rigorous numbers on how much oil there is.

Now sunken oil going wherever it damn well pleases under the water dispersing itself through the Gulf of Mexico, there's no way in hell you can measure that.  There's no way anyone can ever definitively say how big the fuck up was.

So you've got BP, and you've got a choice.  We can try to contain and clean up, at the cost of letting everyone on earth know exactly how big we fucked up, or we can spray toxic chemicals that will cause the oil to sink below the water's surface and travel this way and that in ways that will be impossible to predict, track or contain but will prevent anyone from ever accurately saying how big we fucked up.

They chose the second.  And that, to me, is evil.  Not an evil system, evil people.  Faced with the unpleasant reality of, "Oh my God, what have I done?" they decided to make it worse because doing so would introduce enough doubt and uncertainty that no one would ever be able to objectively say how big they screwed up.

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BP isn't my preferred example though.  My preferred example is the banks.

We don't know most of the stories.  We only hear the ones that are lucky enough, for a given value of luck, to get national attention.  Those who can't pitch a fit big enough to get the news media involved don't get heard.  Even of those it would be naive to think that every story picked up makes it to the national or international stage.  A lot of people would be thinking, "Who cares about some mix up in rural [state I don't live in]," and more than that it's reached the point where the stories are probably not considered newsworthy anymore.

So the banks locked another person inside of her house for no reason.  So the banks foreclosed on another house that wasn't in default.  So the banks screwed over another person who made every payment and did everything right.  So the banks committed another round of systemic national fraud.  So the banks broke into another home they had no claim on, stole all of the stuff, sold what they could and destroyed the rest, and then treated the family whose lives they destroyed like shit.  So what?  This is what happens all the time.  Heard it, give me a story I haven't heard.

So people such as myself are only hearing a small portion of the stories.  Its not enough that the bank hired a group of people to break into a random house, steal everything inside, and vandalize it in the process.  We all know that story.  It only makes it far enough up the newsline for me to hear about it because the bank's excuse, the excuse that worked and prevented any criminal charges from being pressed for any of the following things that the bank admitted to doing:
1) Hiring local talent to break into the house.
2) Hiring local talent to rob the house.
3) Using the loot gotten from the house as a portion of the payment for the local talent because it's cheaper to pay them with stolen goods than with money.
4) Having the local talent vandalize the house.
5) Doing all of this across state lines which brings a host of federal laws into play.
6) Harassing the people they had just robbed
7) Doing all of this in such a way that it counts as conspiracy in addition to the other charges that could be laid against them
was this:
"Uh, we thought it was that house."
"There isn't any house there."
"Yeah, it burned down years ago."
"You thought this well maintained lived in house over here was that non-existent burned down house over there?"
"Exactly."
"Ok, that's good enough for me.  You're free to go."
"Thank you officer."

When a story like this, or any of the other stories of banks breaking into houses they have no claim to (owners never did any business with the bank, the bank definitely didn't hold a mortgage (in a lot of cases there was no mortgage because the house was paid in full)), comes out we know that those who run the bank know about it.  We know because it's bad press, because it has the potential to affect stock prices or public opinion, it might cause people to rethink doing business with them.  We know because the press reaches out to them for comment.

We also know because when a story like this doesn't come out, because it lacks the novelty of the bank locking an old woman inside of her house or, as in the case referenced above, claiming to believe that a burned down house had spontaneously regenerated itself, moved, and filled itself with stuff indicating that a family was living in it, all without affecting their claim to be the owner of it, they hear about that too.  Foreclosures are a major problem for banks right now, botched foreclosures more so.

They're a problem because properties are underwater, which means that they're worth less than the bank is owed (not that they've been the victim of flooding as you might expect from the term "underwater".)  So there is money that the bank claimed it would have, the money owed, that the bank cannot get if the borrower can't pay.  Because the plan was that if the borrower couldn't pay they'd take the house and make the money that way.  The house isn't worth enough to make the money that way.

There is nowhere for the money to come from.  The money doesn't exist.  It's fake money, but it's in their books as real.  That's a problem.

That's one of the reasons that they're reluctant to do any of the completely reasonable working with home owners everyone wants them to do.  If they do that then part of it is to admit that the fake money is... well... fake.  It'll save the money in the long run, but in the short run it's going to look like crap on their books.

Now if they foreclose it makes them look like an asshole, has a lot of problems because many of their documents are fraudulent and fraud is a felony (Real Genius taught me that), but it means that they can still pretend that they're going to make the fake money back when they sell the house.  It's only when the sale becomes final that they're forced to admit, "Yeah, that money was fake."  So, by foreclosing rather than working with the home owners they have to bring out their fraudulent documents, which is always a risk, but they get to put off the day when they have to say, "You know that money we said we had?  We don't have it."

Which means that foreclosure is a very big deal for them right now.  It's a source of risk, but it's also their means of saving face, and it's a PR nightmare on top of that because a lot of the people being foreclosed on now aren't people who bit off more than they could chew, they're people who got into trouble as a result of the recession these exact same banks started.

First the banks put their customers out of work, then they made them homeless.  This is not a winning narrative if you're trying to market yourself as a safe place to get loans and/or store your money.

So we know they're interested in foreclosure for a number of reasons, and any case of a botched foreclosure that so much as threatens to get national attention is going to be coming across their desk.  When one actually does make the news, when someone like you or I hears about it, there is no way the person in charge doesn't hear about it.  Well, there is one way.  If they're willfully negligent to the point that they don't even bother to make a show of going through the motions of pretending to do their job, they might not hear about it.  But in that case I think I do them a favor by calling them evil because if that were the case (I don't think it is) there needs to be a new word for the low they've sunk to.  The fates of nations depend on the decisions these people make, the livelihoods and in more cases than you'd like to consider very lives of ordinary people hang in the balance.  If in that situation they're so negligent as to not even pay lip service to doing their jobs... there are not words to describe.

So, we'll assume that they're not worse than we have words to describe and they do in fact hear the stories we hear.

This is the, "Oh my god, what have I done?" moment.

And it is in response to that moment that we learn whether people are evil or not.  Their actions leading to this point have been evil, you don't get an "Oh my god, what have I done?" moment by being good.  But they've been evil masked by a system that drives them towards certain things and perversely rewards bad while punishing good.  Due diligence takes time.  Robosigning (a pretty word for systemic fraud committed with the intent to commit theft using the fraudulently produced documents) is quick and easy.  They haven't come face to face with what the system has made them into.

And now they have.  It doesn't matter which story of them destroying the life of an innocent person for no reason other than it was more expedient to use a shotgun than a scalpel produces the, "Oh my god, what have I done?" moment.  Every CEO, every member of the board of directors, of any of the big banks remaining in America has had one of these moments.

They've had a moment when the system was stripped away, abstraction was cut through, and they've been forced to metaphorically look in the mirror as the literally look at the evil they have wrought.

And this is the test.

This is where you find out is this a good person who lost themselves in an evil system until they didn't realize what they were doing, or is this an evil person who thrived in that same system because they and it were morally aligned.

How do they respond.

Because this they cannot blame on the system, at least not honestly.  This is them.  This is their reaction.  Their character.  There ethos, the word from which ethics is derived.

They've had an unpleasant look at what they've become, what they've done, who they've hurt.  What do they do next?

If the person is good then they'll do everything in their power to make it right.  Driving on autopilot through a perverse system they may have done all kinds of evil, but with a stark crossroads presented to them they're not on autopilot anymore and they can, if they will it, accept the wrong that they have done and work to make it right.

So in the cases that I've been talking about that would involve a halt on all foreclosures until each and every one can be reviewed to make sure that they're not breaking into the wrong house, it would involve personally apologizing to the people wronged and doing what those people thought was necessary as compensation.  Not, "Your stuff was kind of shitty so we figure it had a dollar value of [lowball figure] so here have a check," but, "I know that nothing can replace what you've lost, but how much do you think it will cost to get to making your house into a home again?" and then paying it.  No haggling.

It would mean reviewing every stage of the process that led to this fuck-up.  It would mean sincerely admitting guilt, probably face to face, it would mean saying you're sorry and meaning it, it would mean doing everything in your power to make sure that nothing like this ever happened under your watch again.

And it would probably also mean cutting the crap with, "We'd rather foreclose than negotiate because it looks better on paper," and actually starting to work with the people you do have mortgages on to see if maybe you can find some mutually beneficial arrangement that, while it'll look bad on paper this quarter, will work out better for everyone in the long run.

It means doing all of this knowing it may very well cost you your job (though if you're one of these people you've probably got a golden parachute which says that they company has to pay you millions in order to fire you*.)

As far as I know, that has not happened.  I haven't even heard of a case where a bank sent out a letter typed by an intern simply reading "Sorry."

The other option is to take this moment of realization, this unmistakable proof that you have been being evil, and embrace it.  Try to blame the victims of your evil if you can.  If you can't, write a small check, say that you consider the matter closed, never say sorry, never admit fault, and never take steps to prevent it from happening again.

Write it off as a fluke, just like you did last time and the time before.  I'm sure it gets easier every time.  Even as the evidence that it's not a fluke mounts, the words come more easily from the practice of having said them again and again and again.

And if you take that option, you're an evil person.  Maybe the system made you that way, no one is born evil after all.  Maybe the system just helped you.  But whatever you tell yourself to convince yourself you're the good guy, you're not.  You're evil.

Because when you got the chance to stop, reflect, say, "This is wrong," and put a stop to it, you instead looked at the wrong thing and said, "The only problem here is that it made the paper and I have to interrupt my daily routine to deal with it."

You saw what you had become, the metaphorical filth of all of the evil deeds you committed in the name of expedience or the shareholders, or profit margins, or whatever pushed you toward doing them, and rather than make amends you embraced that image.  You looked in the mirror, saw evil staring back at you, and said, "I can live with that."  And that's what makes you an evil person.

Because when the pressure was lifted, when you had a moment of clarity and the opportunity to change, you didn't take it.  It wasn't a broken system pushing you along without realizing that what you were doing was wrong.  It was you.  All you.

-

My sister thinks these decision points are governed not by the people themselves but by the external stimuli if they're approached gently and with understanding, "I know you didn't realize that this is where things were headed, I understand the pressures that led to this happening, but now you can make it right," they will respond by choosing good.  If they're approached in anger, "You broke into my house and stole my stuff you fucker!" they'll choose evil.

I don't buy it.  Opposition can put people on the defensive, but decisions aren't made the second the problem comes up.

On the margins how people are approached may determine the outcome, but when not balanced on the edge of a knife between good and evil I don't think the manner of approach really matters.  First off, most of these people aren't approached by the ones they've harmed at all.  They learn about it through other channels and thus there is no way to vary how they're approached.

Second.  Let's consider the angry home owner putting the bank CEO on the defensive.  After the homeowner is dragged away by security and the CEO retires to his private office, what happens?

Well if you're a good person then however much you might want to lash out at this particular moment, you're eventually going to calm down and look at the facts of the case.  Why are you looking at the facts?  Because you're on the defensive and you want to prove that you didn't break into his house and steal his stuff.  (And his wife's stuff and his kids' stuff.)  At which point you're going to come face to face with incontrovertible evidence that you did do just that.  Which puts us right back where we started.  You did something very, very wrong, you just found out about it.  How do you respond?  Do you try to fix it or do you double down on wrongness.  The first is good, the second is evil.

If you're an evil person then maybe you don't care so much about the facts.  Betting you're not going to try to make things right.

So I'm not seeing the way the response is due to external forces on this side.

Let's look at the other one.

Person came up to you ever so politely, brought up the situation, and said that they understood the factors that led to it but understanding doesn't mean thinking a bad situation is good, so they'd like you to make it right.  You say you'll look into it and send them on their way.

First off there's a question of whether you'll look into it at all.  For the sake of argument lets say you do.

You've got two options, continue as you have been operating while trying to quietly push this under the rug, or try to fix things.  The second involves a lot more work for you and less profit for the company.  If you're evil I don't see you doing the second no matter how polite the person was, if you're good I see you doing just that even if the person wasn't as polite as they could have been.

-

I think that some people are, for whatever reason, evil.  I don't think that the big banks could operate the way they do without a callous disregard for the lives of ordinary people, and I don't think they could have that callous disregard without it being embodied in the people at the top.

I don't think that BP could have done what it did if they'd placed doing the right thing over saving face.

I also think that some people are good.  This is not me trying to argue that the human race is doomed.

The system, whether it's the bank, the need to please shareholders, the drive for profit at the expense of all else, capitalism itself, or whatever else can be blamed for a lot.  But at some point people reach a crossroads.  They have to make a choice.  They have to say, "Do I make this right, or do I act in my personal self interest regardless of right and wrong?"  That choice is theirs, not the system's.

When you reach that crossroad, when you make that choice, that's who you really are.  A good person, on realizing that they've been doing evil things, is going to want to put things right.  That's what makes them a good person.  And it's not going to matter much if the messenger is angry or soothing, provided that the facts of the message are right.

People, when getting defensive, will hold onto bad positions stronger, but that wears off.  And when it does they can let go, discarding the position like a rotten fish and saying, "What was I thinking?" or they can keep on holding on.

We can recognize that a bad system can make good people do bad things without them realizing they're doing bad things, pushing them in increments further and further in the direction of evil, while still recognizable that people are accountable for their actions.

A lot of people involved in the system aren't even doing anything wrong.  The driver of an oil truck isn't responsible for BP, the cashier at the bank isn't responsible for the bank breaking into and robbing people's houses.

Which is where the conversation actually started.  My sister and I agree on this.  The people most inconvenienced by protesters are usually those least involved in the evil actions being protested.  (Of course the point of the protest isn't to change the minds of the people being inconvenienced, it's to be noticed.  Because if you're noticed often enough then you become someone worth listening to.)

But to extend that lack of culpability all the way up to the point that it includes everyone in the company... No.  Just, no.

When a company is doing evil things it may start as some failure of the system that no one is really responsible for, but if it continues then at some point somewhere someone, someone way above the level of the truck driver and the bank teller, is going to have to decide: do we keep on doing this evil thing, or do we make it right?

A broken system doesn't excuse the actions of those who could have fixed things but didn't.

-

Here's an exchange from Firefly:
"Only when the job requires it."
"It's why you took the job."

Jubal tries to pull a Nuremberg defense but he's up against a mind reader so she knows that it's not just that he was just doing his job, it's that he chose the job because he wanted to do what the job entailed.  This reveals character, but it doesn't change the question of culpability.

If River hadn't had that comeback it wouldn't make Jubal a better person.  There is nothing particularly wrong about being a bounty hunter, but what we've seen of Early shows what River said earlier (I think it was earlier) "You're not right.  Not righteous."

He hurts people, physically and psychologically.  Taking out Book was probably just a smart move.  Two threats of rape and punching Inara, that was just evil.  As was not caring that he was delivering (trying to deliver) someone to be tortured.  It doesn't matter if he did these things because he thought the job required them or because he enjoyed them.  Either way, he's evil.

And that brings me to another thing.  Some people can't be excused by the pressures put on them by the system.  Taking the job might not necessarily make them evil, but the way they do it does.

I made the mistake of turning on the TV and watching the news after my sister left.  Certain types of flame retardants cause cancer, lowered IQs, other disabilities.  They are in our couches and chairs, but more than that they're in our baby supplies.

Flame retardant making is a very profitable business and who cares if some kids end up with their IQs in the toilet and cancer as a result?

So a group was formed for the stated purpose of furthering the business of chemical companies.  They don't say that except on their tax forms.  They say they're an organically created group of people in the fire related business who got together to try to make sure flame retardants were kept legal everywhere because they couldn't bear the though of people dying by fire.

Before I go any further this is important: The flame retardants in question don't work.  They do not retard flame.  If someone died in a fire in a chair without flame retardant they still would have died in that fire had the chair been full of the cancer causing IQ dropping flame retardant.  It doesn't do anything against fire.  It is a failed product.  Other than hurting people, the only thing it does is make a nice tidy profit for the company that makes them.  (Three companies actually.)

Whenever a state starts thinking that maybe they shouldn't have this cancer causing IQ dropping stuff all around everyone, especially babies, a doctor is sent.  He tells the heart breaking tale of a little girl he treated for more than a week, covered in burns, trying desperately to keep her alive until finally the injuries became too much and she died.  He then tries to convince whatever committee that he's testifying before that banning the cancer causing IQ dropping flame retardant would mean more children like her dying by fire so anyone who votes to ban the stuff is voting to burn children alive until such time as they are dead.

Moving stuff.  Except:
1) He never treated the girl in question.
2) It was determined that flame retardants wouldn't have saved her
3) The flame retardants he's testifying in favor of are the ones that, as previously noted, don't work.  So they definitely wouldn't have saved her.
4) He tailors the story to each committee, changing the "facts" here or there to try to illicit the maximum emotional impact.
5) Did I mention the fact that everything he says other than "A little girl died by fire" is a lie?

There's nothing inherently wrong about having a job going around the country testifying in defense of something.  And unlike Jubal we can't say whether he lies because the job requires it or he took the job because he likes lying.  But the fact is that this man lies for money so that parents will think their children are safer from fire when they emphatically are not but they are at higher risk for cancer and at higher risk for having their IQ drop and there's some fear that these problems, once caused, may be hereditary.

He lies to hurt children while providing no benefit in exchange so that his employers will not see a dent in their profits.

This man is evil.

You can't blame the system he finds himself in for this fact.  He's not unaware of what he's doing.  He knows he didn't treat the girl.  He knows the flame retardants don't work.  He knows that the investigation of the death of the girl he never treated showed that flame retardants wouldn't have helped.  And that wasn't qualified by saying, "the already known to be defective ones he's shilling," so apparently effective ones wouldn't have saved her either.  It's right there in the name "Flame Retardant" not "Fame Stopper" even ones that actually do work only slow things down, and there are plenty of situations where that simply isn't enough to save a life.  The baby girl whose story he's stolen and twisted to meet his own ends is one of those who wouldn't have been saved.  And he definitely knows he's lying because he changes the story to whatever he thinks will work best this time, no matter how many contradictions that introduces with past versions.

I don't know his life story.  I don't know whether he gradually became evil or he had a sudden change of heart, I don't know if outside pressure was involved.  But what I can say is that he would not be in the job he's in right now, and certainly not doing it the way that he's doing it, were he not evil.

Even in the presence of corrupt and corrupting systems, personal responsibility plays a role, there are good people, and bad people, and people who are a little of each, and people who are mostly neutral.  And in the end we can't let recognizing that the systems within which people find themselves push them to do less than moral things stop us from calling out evil when we see it.  Sometimes you should just say, "That jackass is evil."

So I said that I made the mistake of turning on the TV and watching the news.  There were parts of that story that should give me hope, like the fact that someone bothered to factcheck evil jackass' story about the dead little girl.  Sometimes it feels like we live in a post fact checking world.  But the thing is that the story made me angry, very angry, but there's nothing I can do.

Anger with a proper outlet can be a powerful force for good.  Anger can fuel change for the better.  But there's nothing I can do to stop the cancer causing IQ dropping flame retardants that don't actually retard flame.  So it just made me angry with no productive thing to do with that anger, and that's something that's never good.

-

* True story, assuming I haven't been lied to.  The CEO at the company my sister used to work for was running the company into the ground.  His every decision just accelerated the decline.  So he was let go.  But, because of his contract, the "Leave and never come back!" had to be accompanied by paying him more than 200 million dollars.  He got more than 200 million dollars for being fired.  Seems like it was worth it too, since here we are years later and the company is still in business.  But what kind of a perverse reward system is that?  I'd love to get fired if it'd get me a check for 200 million dollars.  Hire me now, I'll do everything wrong.

I bet my credit union would love it too since they'd be the ones who would get to hold on to the 200 million dollars for me.  I don't think they're exactly small, but an extra 200 million couldn't hurt.  And the more they have on hand the more loans they can make which means the more money they can make.

We're all thinking it, I'm just going to come out and say it

Hilary Clinton's glasses have been passed off as medical reasons due to lingering effects from her injury.  I call bullshit, I've seen those glasses before.

Hillary Clinton is clearly the Doctor.  No idea what happened to her accent, and I'm sorry the Doctor didn't get ginger hair in this regeneration either, but look at the glasses.  She's the Doctor.

Clearly this is the most reasonable explanation.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Random Bits of Twilight (circa yesterday)

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings here, and here, and here, and here, and here.  (All in the same thread.)]

For context, Edward has just used his super sexy powers on the hostess at a restaurant.  These powers have previously been established to be so strong that Bella cannot speak words with more than one syllable or hold a thought in her head when he uses them on her.  Also, recall, that Edward can read the minds of everyone other than Bella, thus knows exactly the effect his super sexy powers have on people such as the hostess.  Most of the lines in what follows are canonical Twilight.

Bella: You really shouldn’t do that to people. It’s hardly fair.
Edward: Do what?”
Bella: *rolls eyes* Use your vampiric powers of glamour and beauty to force them into hypersexualized states of wanting to go along with whatever you say. She's probably masturbating in a broom closet right now just so that she can deal with the next people without the pent up need for release you've created in her.
*Edward looks confused*
Bella: Oh, come on. You have to know the effect you have on people.
Edward: I dazzle people?
Bella: You know damn well you do you mind reading jackass.
(The above is probably apocryphal as I wasn't going to focus on the dazzling in that scene.)
But it is clearly Snarky-Bella, apocryphal or not.

-

Randal M:
Have we noted before that there's nothing in Vampire folklore about sparkling? There's all kinds of creatures out there that suck blood, and many of them move about by day, but none of them are noted for their sparkling beauty. 
On the other hand, we get these words: “Don’t be afraid,” he murmured,“Don’t be afraid,” he whispered again as he stepped closer,. "Don't be afraid" (technically, "Be not afraid"; same thing) is what Angels say when they manifest to a human.
Kristycat:
So... wait... are we... are we positing that Edward is actually an angel? A... a bloodsucking angel?? 
I... that... 
No. Just no. My brain is more ok with sparkling vampires, I think. 
And me:

Did you ever notice how in the Bible, whenever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an angel?
- Thomas Daggett, The Prophecy
Have you noticed that when angels appear to human beings they always start with, "Be not afraid"? Doesn't that mean that if they didn't say that people would be afraid? Doesn't that imply that they're very scary?
-Mikaela Martin, a student I went to high school with. Quote is approximate at best. It's been a while.
In the proper context, I think we can have Edward as an angel. Take all the bad bits, throw out the good, and angel fits him fine. Though I think the book would be better if he were a wheel within a wheel, made from fire, but that's just me. Anyone remember hydra Edward?
Then more me:

On the other hand...
On the other hand, we get these words: “Don’t be afraid,” he murmured,“Don’t be afraid,” he whispered again as he stepped closer,
Isn't that what slashers say when they approach with a large knife hidden behind their backs?

Still more me:

Edward: Be not afraid.
Bella: Believe me, I'd love to obey that but I seem to remember seeing a painting in a museum where Lucifer's wings were the exact same shade of red as yours.
Edward: Um... yeah. About that... see... there's a reason that I live with my adopted family instead of my biological one.
Bella: And there's also the fact that the angels who spent their time showing off their naked chests and abs to mortal women were not exactly in the good graces of god.
Edward: (Slightly angry) The book of Enoch was a long time ago. (More angry) Alright? *pause* (apologetic) Sorry. Sorry. Look, I'm just trying to say that I'm not... um... any more dangerous than anyone else. So, you know, if you weren't afraid of me pre-wings, this whole true form thing shouldn't be any more scary.
Bella: And if I was afraid of you pre-wings?
Edward: Be not more afraid? Maybe.

-

Changing tracks, Matt Redmond:
I think this might be onto something: http://scienceinmyfiction.com/... 
(ETA: This was suppose to be a reply to Kristycat's comment about angel vampires, but Disqus went all screwy.)
To which I responded:


So Edward is a precious special butterfly?
I'm not sure I buy this. It seems an insult to all butterflies.

And that was yesterday.

[Twilight Index]

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fractured Mirror: Post Two

You know, this was originally what I was supposed to post when I finished walking home sixish hours ago.  And crap there's a ham that needs to be put away before I go to bed.

Anyway, massive spoilers for Mirror's Edge, and first post on this concept is here.

So, as I've said, more beginning, and no reason for there not to be plot in that beginning.  Also some kind of conversation system, so that you can convince people not to do things they do in the standard story (like telling Merc to get out when it's obvious his position is compromised and completely unsafe), and generally interact with people on occasion.

I also think that it would be a good idea to have a way (probably pretty damned hard) to avert Pope's assassination just because that's such a vital part of the plot that seeing how things spin out in different directions without it should be very interesting.

But what I was thinking about on the walk home started with the scene in Mirror's Edge that started with Pope's assassination.

He's dead, you're talking to your sister, I think there should be a way to convince her to run with you because:
1) Why not?
2) It both restricts and expands what you can do.  A two person team would be able to get to places a single person couldn't, so new areas would open up to you, but at the same time Kate isn't a runner so she couldn't be counted on to do all the things that you do which would close off paths that would be open without her.
3) The plot spins off in a different direction and that's a big part of what this game would be about, the player makes a decision and it changes things.

But, carry on with the standard escape except make the enemies more realistic to the plot.  In the game they're all PK, who will tell you, "Halt or we will open fire," but in fact will open fire regardless.  In reality all available units were called in because the assassination of one of the four candidates for Mayor of what seems to be either a semi autonomous city or an outright city state (meaning it's more like the assassination of a presidential candidate) is the biggest crime that's happened in, like, ever.  And sudden valley girl accent aside no matter how PK tried to set things up there's no way there wouldn't be actual police included when all available units were called in.

So there should be CPF there.  In the game there isn't, but there should be.  And when it comes to the CPF, "Halt or we will open fire," should mean, "If you don halt we won't open fire."  Which means being captured, which means being interrogated.

And then there's all sorts of opportunities.  Faith could take the blame for Kate, it's what Kate's boss was willing to pull a gun on Faith to do.  If they arranged a deal, Kate gets the blame taken off in exchange for security lapses that allow Faith to escape then they could:
1) Clear the CPF, which was the entire reason for framing Kate.
2) Make PK look ineffectual since they're presumably the ones holding Kate and Faith.

Which would change the trend in the game of PK taking more and more power from the CPF using the scandal of Kate being the caught "assassin."

But it could also lead to Faith going to PK early, or Faith going to the Shard early.  The city is wired for surveillance, cameras everywhere, everything tapped into, all non-runner supplied non-face to face communication monitored.  There should be exonerating evidence, and the only way there wouldn't be is if the files were somehow deleted or they were refused to be released, both of which would send Faith to the Shard.

But rewind again.  Say that Faith gets away as she does in the game, but rather than going to Jackknife she tries to break her sister out.  Information later, free Kate now.  Now she's breaking into a holding cell at a jail/police station/PK facility.  Now this is changing things.  New mission, different focus (no way Faith should be taking this head on, should be stealth and sneak) different style, different outcomes, different plot.

Rewind again.  What if Faith is strengthening her association with Celeste, renewing their friendship since she got taken out of commission, telling her stories about how much Kate means to her and how she owes Kate for past mistakes, arguing the point on what constitutes living as opposed to surviving and gradually turning Cel to her side?

With the extended beginning and the interactive rather than prescripted conversations (well interactive prescripted conversations, I'm not advocating an AI conversation partner, just branches) there would be a lot of time to make Cel feel pretty damned attached to Faith and then if you follow the canon plotline to the Mall, maybe seeing a small army trying to kill Faith would flip her.

So much of the game is spent trying to find Pope's killer, what if she then gets Pope's killer on her side?  Coming to her rescue even.

Consider the original Pink Panther movie.  It really wasn't all that good and in truth the only one that mattered was Return of the Pink Panther, but think of the original.  Why wasn't Clouseau in any danger at the end when he was convicted of being the Phantom?  Because the Phantom would strike again.  And when he did it would prove that he couldn't be Clouseau because Clouseau would be in prison or jail at the time.

Knowing how Cel was dressed for the assassination Merc or Faith probably have contacts who could leak to the police that there was someone dressed like that there, even make the argument that that was the suspect who got away.

If Faith could sneak in and talk to Kate she could have Kate give a description that matched that.

Then all they need to do is leak a little bit about Icarus (Cel's assassin garb is pretty clearly a modified project Icarus suit) to trusted members of the police, that would make them suspect PK (which honestly they probably already do) and then set up a second assassination attempt.  There are, recall, two other challengers for Mayor left alive.

This would be even better if Faith could find an honest news crew to cover it.  Have it work the same way, A CPF Guard seems to be alone with the Mayoral candidate, Cel in full assassin gear knocks the guard out and then is about to shoot the Mayoral candidate with the guard's gun when... well probably the smart thing would be for the gun to be empty, but either way CPF guards jump out, honest news crew, if there is one, is filming it from neighboring building with a telephoto lens.

Cel makes her getaway using a prearranged path she worked out with Faith.

It's proof that the CPF is being framed, Kate goes free, Cel was so covered up she hasn't implicated herself, and if any details of project Icarus were released PK is implicated in the Pope assassination.

When the game ends the corrupt Mayor is still Mayor, but PK is on the way down, legitimate forces of Law and order are on the way up, and the corrupt Mayor is probably under investigation for his relationship to PK since there are signs all over the city with his name right next to their logo, not to mention the fact they (apparently) were trying to take out his competitors to secure the election.

Completely different end to the game, very different plot, flows from what's already there.

Or maybe...

Locate key junctures in the plot, see what other directions they could have gone in.  Focus on running.  Faith isn't a fighter.  If she goes to the Shard early maybe she should walk in the front door as if she were taking a tour and then quietly slip into the ventilation system/maintenance corridors on an upper level.

Run and hide should be a primary strategy, with stand and fight being a secondary option used as a last resort, but most of all, make it feel like Faith matters.  Her actions spiral out and change the world.

If she goes to Kate instead of Jackknife that changes things,  If she surrenders instead of runs that changes things.  If she flips Cel just by being a really good friend, that changes things.  If she tells Merc to leave, that changes things.  If she stays with Kate, that changes things.  If she does X instead of Y that changes things.

Apparently I won for most creative attempt to map the tripartite soul onto the Trinity.

I didn't even know there was a contest.

Anyway, if you want to see what I've been doing as a result of school that does not in any way count as schoolwork, here is said attempt:

-


I actually can defend the tripartite soul division I made, not a very good defense mind you, but I didn't think class was the place to do it since we were running low on time and getting fairly off topic.

The hoi polloi, the stomach, whatever is the part that actually makes things.  Grows the crops, fashions the swords, builds the houses, crafts the vases, so on, so forth.  (In the case of the stomach itself turns the raw material that is food into energy.)  They're the creators and consumers.  Thus if we're looking for the part of God they correspond to we're looking for the creator, and that's usually credited to the Father.

But if left unsupervised the hoi polloi can run amok, doing things like creating a global flood to wipe out nearly everything, or pulling a Book of Job, or using the mob justice of the ten plagues of Egypt (you hurt someone I care about so I'm going to hurt you because I'm bigger and meaner.  No, don't give in yet, harden your heart because I want to hurt you more.)

It needs to be restrained.

The part to do the restraining and overseeing is the guards.  Being God, external attack is out of the question so the guards' only job is policing the populous, which in this case means reigning in the wrath of the Father.  And in that role we see Jesus, specifically the compassion and forgiveness of Jesus.  Right down to the crucifixion if you buy the idea that it's a substitutionary sacrifice (don't hurt them, if you're going to hurt someone hurt me.)  It also embodies the virtue of courage because Jesus is the only part of God that stepped out to make itself vulnerable, becoming something as weak as a human being.  And as someone who has broken a couple arms in my time, let me assure you, human beings can be quite weak.

Jesus is emphatically not the one running the whole show as evidenced by the line "Why have you forsaken me?" and the fact that a lot of his wisdom is delivered as received from on high, not innate.  In that role we can place the Holy Ghost who is directing things as the philosopher king even after Jesus has returned to seclusion in Heaven and the Father has been restrained from more acts of consuming the world by water/fire/salt/ice/whatever.

Thus, defense, however shoddy, is made.

----

What you have to understand about the above is that it was a result of someone wondering how the tripartite soul (which is described writ large in Plato's Republic by mapping the human soul onto a city and the parts of the soul onto classes of people within that city) relates to the Christian idea of Trinity.

Once you get that, I think that the rest should be fairly easy to follow.  Not robust or convincing, but easy to follow.

Also it has been pointed out that OT God shows compassion and NT God shows wrath, so we can't just attribute the wrath of God and compassion of God as a change over time as the two do in fact coexist throughout.

Blogger is messing up my footnotes

Not exactly the most profound announcement, but there you have it.  I've fixed the once where I noticed that something went wrong, but a) I don't know if that fixing will stick and b) it's possible others went wrong without my knowledge.

So if you should find yourself clicking on a link to or from a footnote only to have something strange, unnecessary, or unhelpful happen instead of the expected, let me know and I'll see what I can do to fix it.

Band story, early middle I think

[Story first mentioned here, beginning here, fragment of the very late middle here.  You know, if I made notes, at some point I'm going to find my notes for this and find out what everyone was supposed to be called originally because these names I had to make up on the spot for the beginning and I don't think they're what I was originally thinking of.  In particular I think Jesse had a less gender neutral name and thus had two names, one male chosen by her parents, one female chosen by herself.]

[Jesse, Isa, Kaki, and Cassy are sitting together talking about music and instruments.  By which I mean Jesse is silently listening while the three band members talk.  Angela is elsewhere.]

Isa turned to Jesse, "And what about you?"

There was silence, all attention turned to Jesse and it made her uncomfortable, and threatened to bring up bad memories she fought to keep down.  She stammered, "I don't.. I mean I'm not... I've never..."

"What's your favorite instrument?" Cassy asked, her tone was non-threatening and encouraging.  That helped set Jesse at ease some.

"I don't know," Jesse said, "I just listen.  I'm not like you."

"Have you ever played one?" Isa asked.

Jesse said, "No."

"What, not even a recorder at school?" Kaki asked.

"No..." the trailing silence was filled with surprised looks, "Is that odd?" Jesse asked.

Cassy says, "Well to us, but apparently not for you."

Kaki asked, "Do any singing?"

"No," Jesse said.

"So in your entire life you've never produced music," Isa said in a way that seemed to fall somewhere in the gap between question and statement.

"That's right," Jesse said.  "I'm not like you guys-" none of the three would have had a problem with her saying that but Jesse corrected to, "girls-" then corrected to, "women-" then finally settled on, "musicians.  I don't play, I don't sing, I just listen."

"Well we can't have that," Isa said.  Kaki and Cassy looked at each other in knowing ways leaving Jesse with the impression that she was the only one who didn't know what was coming next.  "You have to play at least one instrument at least once in your life.  Pick an instrument.  I'll teach you.  If you don't like it you can never do it again, but try."

There was silence.

"Come on," Isa said, "just name an instrument."

Jesse looked around.  She looked at Cassy, seamstress for the band, and drummer.  Who played clarinet too.  Kaki, guitar, and an eclectic mix of things that appeared in one song only: saxophone, flute, trumpet, triangle, what else?  Isa, base and keyboard and god knew how many other things because where Kaki might play an instrument only used for a single song, Isa would play ones that only appeared in a single line.  And when not on stage spent some of her time playing things that never appeared in the band's music.

Jesse tried to think of the most obscure instrument in existence.  Something certain not to be around.

Finally she said, "Glass armonica."

"Sure thing," Isa said, then got up and walked away.

"Wait, you have one?" Kaki nodded.  "I didn't mean that.  I meant Harpsichord!" Jesse shouted in Isa's direction.  Then turned back to Kaki and Cassy.  "She doesn't have a Harpsichord, right?"

"Well, that depends," Kaki said.

"Do you mean she doesn't have one with her, or she doesn't have one at all?" Cassy asked.

Jesse simply responded with a stunned look on her face.

"It's why we'll never be rich," Cassy said.  "We buy things."

"As soon as money is had, money is spent," Kaki added.

Cassy said, "And Isa can spend like nobody's buisness because what she likes-"

"More than anything," Kaki added.

Cassy finished, "-is instruments."

There was a bit of a silence.

Then Kaki said, "A lot of the ones I play actually belong to her."

Isa returned with a long wooden box, put it in front of Jesse, then disappeared for a moment and came back with a bowl of water.

When the box was opened a series of horizontal nested glass bowls was revealed.

Isa started talking, "It's got an electric motor to keep it going at a steady pace, and some stuff so the sound can be amplified, but other than that it's just your bog standard glass armonica."

Jesse did nothing.  Isa turned on the motor and the bowls started to slowly spin.

Jesse did nothing.

"Come on, touch it, it doesn't bite."  Jesse did nothing.  "I'll prove it to you."  Isa put one of her own fingers in the water, then lay it on one of the rotating bowls.  A clear distinctive note sang out until she removed her finger. "See, no biting."

Jesse did nothing.

Isa sat down beside her.  "I'm not going to force you do it.  If you really want to never play an instrument in your life, ok.  Blasphemy, but that's ok.  But sometimes you need to try new things and... and seriously did you ever even thing you were going to this close to one of these?  All that I'm asking, and that's what I'm doing -asking, not demanding-, is that you give it a try."

Jesse slowly wet her fingers, and then placed one upon a spinning bowl.  A note sang out.  Isa smiled, then she placed another on a different bowl.  And again.  Like a child who knew nothing of music playing a piano an erratic tune was produced.

Isa asked, "Would you like me to teach you to play."

"I don't know," Jesse said.  "Maybe."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On hypocrisy

So I mentioned that I'm taking ASL, one of the reasons, beyond the obvious, is that for quite I while I keep feeling like I'm the only one around who doesn't already know it.  And of the people I know who know it almost all of them seem to be quite nice people.

The reason for the "almost" is a single person.

Not surprising that she is the only hearing person I have ever seen in my entire life to use knowledge of American Sign Language to pretend to be deaf in order to attempt to swing a situation to her advantage.  (The attempt was successful, and the ends were noble enough, but the means made you feel like you needed a bath.)

In the course of writing this post (after the R and before the D in "order" in the previous paragraph) someone asked me something and I asked them something in return, about this person and now have it confirmed that my experience is not new, it's just new to me, and the best solution anyone has found is to ignore her.

Anyway, some background before we get to the hypocrisy.

She and I have shared various classes for a while now, but starting last semester I noticed a distinct change in her attitude towards me.  It was quite negative.

The looks like you don't belong there, or don't deserve to speak, or are the monarch of putrescence (muck, filth, slime, rubbish), the tone of voice whenever she did deign to speak to me.  Jumping in the middle of a conversation I was having to block me out of it.  Answering questions that I asked other people in the rudest ways possible before the people I actually asked had a chance to speak.

When desks would be circled for group conversations in one class she'd consistently wait until the moving was basically done then move hers to block me out of the conversation, forcing me to move mine, and forcing me to move mine usually such that this time I had no choice but to move right next to hers.  At which point she would put her stuff in my personal space, too close to avoid, sometimes right on top my foot, and then loudly berate me for the horrible violation of touching her things without permission.

And she threw things at me.

These are not, on the whole, unusual tactics, but they are ones I haven't seen since high school or before.

About the only thing that she hasn't done is put her pencil in front of me and then accuse me of stealing it in front of an entire class.

And now we move to a week ago today.  Class in a conference room around a table.  Only one free seat at the main table.  Not next to her, fortunately, but next to the seat she has reserved for her things.  I don't disapprove of this, I do it myself when there is a seat free.  As I sit down do a similar thing (but not the same because only the kiddie table at the end of the main table is still left open, everything else has a person or, in one case, her things on it) and am immediately ordered by her in tones of, "How could you be so inconsiderate?" to move my things to the floor because someone else might be joining us.  I do, message is clear, if this supposed "someone else" does come they will not be allowed to sit at the main table because her things need their own chair, but the kiddie table must be left completely free on the off chance that they show up and are forced to sit there because she won't move her things from the chair she has put them in.

I have a bad cough that class.  I honestly can't tell you how she was acting during the class because most of my time was spent with my face in my elbow (they say cover your cough, but don't use your hands.)

At the end of the class I ask the teacher a question.  Before the teacher can answer she places her body between myself and the teacher* and tries to start a conversation.  I explain, as politely as I can manage to say such a thing, that I'm trying to talk to the teacher.  She responds with a strong and threatening, "And I'm trying to talk to you."

At this point I give up with politeness and go with the childishness that she seems to bring to all of our interactions and point out that I was trying first so she'll just have to wait.  She does back off a bit, not a lot but enough to regain line of sight between myself and the teacher, and the teacher asks me to repeat my question, then answers it.  All things considered, not a long wait for my fellow student.  Where if I'd let the teacher leave the room without giving me an answer I'd have to wait either two hours (if I chased her down after her next class which would risk me being late for a class of my own) or one full week for my answer.

And this is when we get to the hypocrisy, beyond the "I can put my stuff in the way of hypothetical people, but you can't put yours in their way," thing earlier.

She explained, in condescending and confrontational tones and phrases, that she had nothing against me, she just didn't like the way I interrupted the class.  Now it is worthwhile at this point to point out that, with one exception, the only classes we have ever shared run on interruptions.  Everyone does it because she and I have been in, I think, a grand total of one lecture class together.  (Which was before her distaste for me began) in fact, the teachers get upset (well... more dejected) if students aren't interjecting themselves into the conversation.  That's the major that she and I have chosen for ourselves.

Sometimes interruptions are to interject an alternate point of view, or a literary reference, or just to say, "I thought it was a genitive of separation."  Sometimes interruptions are to tell someone a vocab word they forgot so that they don't have to look it up.

So, according to her, interruptions are bad and I should not do them.  And in that situation she would like me just fine and not be an ass anymore.

Do I believe that that would be the case?  No.  But I did preform a test anyway.  This time in class I was silent wherever and whenever possible.

She vocally interpreted the class more than I ever have, and on the same exact topics for the same exact reasons.  She visually interrupted the class (remember, she knows sign language) a lot more, it's always distracting, slightly less so now that I know some of the things she's shouting out, at least I assume that's how one would describe signs as theatrical and unmissable as the ones she makes.  I estimate she made probably twice as many visual interruptions as vocal ones.  They lasted longer (the people she was signing to were largely ones sitting beside her, not the best angle for sign language especially since she seldom turned to face them, so they were almost always the last to see them) and distracted more (it's easier to tune out someone saying the same thing over and over than someone turning what should be ordinary sign language into an upper body dance routine.)

And that's where hypocrisy comes in.  Apparently me interrupting the class is bad and evil and wrong.  Her making interruptions for the same reasons, at the same times, and (for slightly less than a third of the time, which still managed to be more than I ever did) in the same way is good and right and proper.

I don't disagree with her interrupting the class to interject something here or there.  I think it smooths things along.  I disagree with the idea for her it's ok but not for me.

And for the record, if the hearing person next to you is trying to find the right word, that being "same", it would be better for the entire class if you leaned over to them and whispered, "Same," than if you signed the sign for "Same," in increasingly large and dramatic ways for several minutes until they finally looked up from their notes to see you while everyone else in the class had been forced to watch your completely unnecessary performance the whole time.

And that was one of the less annoying things because at least I knew what she was shouting.

-

* Because of the table and the position of those involved this literally requires her to be above me looking down.  It's actually a classic threat display for those who want to threaten someone sitting at a table.  She's standing; I'm sitting.  She has the high ground; I have the low.  She has mobility and her arms in positions of power; I'm boxed in by table and chair and my arms are in positions of writing.

You've probably seen this position, if not in real life then in a movie or TV show.

So, ASL

I have one of the worst memories in the world provided that we exclude all those people whose bad memories are the result of injury or illness.  It would therefore seem strange that I am taking three language classes this semester.  After all, for all of the other parts of language, a good deal rests purely upon memory. If you don't remember what the word means, if you don't remember what the ending means, if you don't remember then not much else matters.  Vocabulary is perhaps the biggest rote memorization task that there is.

Anyway, today in class I do believe it took me five tries, in a row, to spell my name.  My five letter name.  Part of that is that R is a hard letter for me, part of it is that I just forget letters, and surely there are other parts too.  What's even more annoying is that it is the most spelled name in class on account of the instructor having it too.

The temptation to do this:
Point at self
[sign: name]
[sign: same]
point at instructor
[sign: name]

Can be rather strong.

I'm not sure how this class will go for me.  It's impossible to take meaningful notes, classes should probably be videotaped so that those who are slow with this stuff (points at self) could go over it again later.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to prep for ancient Greek.