jamesq: (Dramatic)
So here are a few quotes from Titanic.  First, some exposition from Lewis Bodine, discussing what he's learned about Rose.

"Look, I've already done the background on this woman all the way back to the twenties, when she was working as an actress. An actress! There's your first clue, Sherlock! Her name was Rose Dawson back then. Then she marries this guy named Calvert, they move to Cedar Rapids and she punches out a couple of kids. Now Calvert's dead, and from what I hear Cedar Rapids is dead!"

Later, after Rose has told her story, she adds a bit of an epilogue.

"That's the last time I ever saw him. He married, of course. And inherited his millions. But the crash of '29 hit his interests hard, and he put a pistol in his mouth that year. Or so I read."

Rose was an actress - probably a film actress from the evidence in the movie (Hollywood-style glamour shots, discussions with Jack about nickelodeons, etc.) - at a time when Caledon Hockley was still alive.  What are the chances that Cal would have seen Rose in a movie?  And what would he have done when he saw her?  Had a flashback of recognition that he brushed off as a coincidence?

Here's my elevator pitch:  Cal realizes it really is Rose and tracks her down.  Rose realizes that the life she's crafted for herself is in danger due to the sudden reappearance of stalker-Cal, and she needs to do something about it.  Maybe he just wants the diamond back, maybe he wants to ruin her for some perceived slight. Along the way, she meets the second great love of her life.

Does Cal shoot himself? Does Rose shoot Cal and make it look like a suicide?  Does her future husband, Calvert, do it?  Any of these lead to a much darker ending than the original movie had.

Now this does contradict her story, but it should be noted that Rose is not a reliable narrator.  She has crafted a story for a specific audience and it includes things she would not have personally witnessed (albeit, mostly things that were well-known about Titanic); leaves out important details (That diamond you're looking for? It's in my cabin); and paints her in the most flattering light.

And if you look at Gloria Stuart's face during that scene where she says "or so I read", there's just enough of a slyness to her delivery that you can easily believe she's hiding something. I think she's hiding a whole nother movie.

jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Today is Pi(e) day - which we celebrate because March 14th can be represented as 3.14. Presumably we take a moment to reflect on the irrational perfection of pi at 1:59, because 3.14159~. Though I was sleeping at two in the morning, so that didn't happen.

March 14th is also noteworthy for being Potato Chip day, Learn About Butterflies day (aka Moth-er's Day), Science Education day (though I think that's every day), Legal Assistance day, Crowdfunding day, Organize Your Home Office day, and International Ask a Question day. Who came up with that last one?

Every year seems to bring a new reason to celebrate some random day because of the Internet. At first it was Talk Like a Pirate day (September 19th), then Kiss a Ginger day (January 12th). The Star Wars pair, May the Fourth (be with you) and Revenge of the Sixth (of May) have been added.

The latest seems to be Nintendo day, celebrated on Mar 10th, because Mar10 looks like Mario. This was the first year I've heard of it.

Sometimes they have really good causes, like Pink Shirt day (last Wednesday in February) to but a spotlight on the negative effects of bullying. Or International Women's day (March 8th), who's reason for being should be self evident. Or not, if you're the sort of person who hears that and immediately gets indignant and asks why there isn't an International Men's day. It's November 19th, BTW.

In addition to being π day, it's also Steak and a Blowjob day (because romantic dinner and flowers day was a month previous). That was all over the Internet a few years back, but now seems to have vanished. I suspect because that joke is funny once, then starts to seem a little desperate if you harp on it year after year. I may be guilty of that myself.

I wonder if the joke would have died on it's own, or if Pi day did it. I suspect it supplanted it precisely because S&BJ day has a limited audience. Anyone can celebrate Pi day, and more importantly, help the idea spread virally on the Internet. Your teenage son might joke about S&BJ day among his friends, but if he makes a public Facebook post about it, you're likely to have a word with him about inappropriate humour. And let's face it, it's a joke that appeals to our inner-teenage-boy, which makes promoting it troublesome. No such problem with pie. Everyone loves pie.

Mmmm, pie.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
[livejournal.com profile] garething asks, on FB, "What, in your view, is the job of government?"

I'm answering here because I think it would make a good post. And also because if I answer directly in Facebook, I'll need to type this out on my phone, but here I can use a proper typewriter, because reasons.

First, broadly, government is there to protect people's rights. This can include protection from enemies within (criminals) and without (invading armies). As I am fairly liberal, I also think it requires protection from actions that, while not criminal, are in everyone's best interests. Exploitation of the commons for example - environmental laws, and laws protecting individuals from corporations' predatory practices are two examples. This includes being mindful that government itself can be one of the biggest threats to people.

I differ from Libertarians, in that I acknowledge that there are threats to people other than government. I differ from Anarchists in that I think only government can protect people in the long term from a world of competing local warlords.

Beyond mere protection, I think it should also promote an increase in general happiness. "Happiness" here is a stand-in for lots of things. Generally, a population that is healthy, productive, and able to do their own thing with a minimum amount of stress and hassle. If people are starving, then government can improve happiness by making sure there is enough food. If people are oppressed, then government can increase their happiness by stopping oppression. If people are ignorant, educate them. If they're dying of preventable diseases, cure them.

Of course, the world has limited resources and death will come to us all, but in the meantime I think we have a duty to do what we can with what's available to us.

So, to summarize the what they should do, I think it's protect rights, then try to improve everyone's lot.

As for how, I'm all for a social democracy that keeps a firm hand on the forces that exploit people. So no religion in the public sphere. Criminals should be prosecuted. Corporations should have a firm hand controlling them (including corporate governing documents plainly stating what public good the corporation provides, and an expiration date). We should recognize oppressed people and work to remove that oppression.

And it should all be paid for by steeply progressive taxes. Given that we're rapidly moving towards an machine-automated society, we'll likely need a Universal Basic Income too, or some other tool that insures we don't have a permanent unemployed underclass (instead of a UBI, maybe a reduction in the hours worked per week). I think this is definitely doable for the simple reason that the world economy generates enough value for everyone now. That there are lots of desperate poor people out there is due to all that value going to tiny oligarchy.

Anyway, this is what I could come up with in ten minutes off the top of my head.
jamesq: (Archery)
Montengarde 12th Night 2017 was a good event. Overall, I enjoyed it. First, a quick GBU:

Good
  • Got a decent last-minute deal on a hotel room, which meant I had a bolt-hole I could use.
  • Hung out with some lovely ladies on Friday night.
  • Saw some nice presentations during afternoon court.
  • Wasn't terribly interested in either the rapier tournament (though I'm happy to hear S and J did well enough to get into the semi-finals, and that T had won) or the Meet-the-geese meeting (I've already met them all). Instead, I left the event for a few hours to go to the Woman's March.
  • Following the march, I hung out with [livejournal.com profile] thebrucie and [livejournal.com profile] conejita_diabla at a late lunch at The Guild.
  • Court was mostly good. Watching Kraig and Una step down, and Peter & Bronwyn, jointly (hereafter referred to as PBJ) step up was the highlight.
  • Cookies and conversation that evening were both well-received.
Bad
  • I've decided I simply cannot watch any part of court involving the OGGS. For my own mental health, I fucked off whenever they were called up. More on this below.
  • Had at least one person try to glad-hand me - which is a pet peeve. For reference, glad-handing is something I view as different in intent from merely shaking my hand. Though I acknowledge that they'll look the same to an outside observer. It's like art - hard to define, but I know it when I see it.
Ugly
  • No ugly! Yay!
Meh
  • Some SCA-exclusivity, but for this event, I was expecting it and it makes perfect sense. Still, the feelings are there, whether they're rational or not.
  • Remarkably low amount of snubbing this time around. Partially this was because I actually had some positive, non-snubbing interaction with some of the folks I expect it from, and partially because I simply didn't interact with other folks I expect it from. I may have to consider that I've over-estimated the issue. Confirmation bias with regards to nobody loves me everyone hates me; going out to the garden to eat worms is strong with anxiety and depression. Not currently depressed, but the mental ruts remain.
That I went to this event at all was mostly because I wanted to see PBJ step up. I'm finding that without an archery focus, it's harder to justify going. Mostly that half my friends are in the SCA is what's keeping me going.

Archery Drama

So why no archery? Well, In the immediate term, I wasn't interested in Friday night's archery social because we were having an event at a local hotel! What's the point of socializing there when we should have been socializing there. I mean, I'm happy they still had some archery for the event, even though it wasn't super official. But since I wasn't shooting, why would I socialize there when I could socialize here?

I'm not shooting for two reasons. First, I've been fighting a persistent repetitive stress injury in my right shoulder for awhile now, I want to give myself time to heal. Second, I burned a bridge, so archery practice has felt hostile. Is it actually hostile? eh, probably not. I can be civil.

Background: For several years, I've been kinda-sorta nursing a hope for becoming a member of the OGGS. And then for years, whenever the Geese would gather at court, I'd get my hopes up. And it was never me. Then, early on when I was kingdom champ, I had an encounter that convinced me I was never getting it. That really soured the whole idea in my mind. Later, when I saw others get it, that underlined the point further. While I'm happy that some of those people got it, it was still heartbreaking.

This all came to a head at the previous event, where I encountered the person who convinced me I wasn't getting it, and I told them, fine, don't give it to me. Some will call that burning-the-bridge. I prefer acknowledging-there-was-never-a-bridge.

So now, when the OGGS gets called up, I'm just going to avoid it. I hope those chosen make Avacal proud. I just can't bear to watch.

In a few months, I'll start shooting again. In the meantime, I need to figure out what to do with my Friday nights. Perhaps some Call of Cthulhu.

On People Leaving the SCA

First, I'm not leaving. Just resting and picking-and-chosing which events to go to.

But I did have a conversation with an acquaintance about this and she had observed that there are stages when people are likely to leave the SCA, and what stage you're at informs why you're likely to be leaving.

one event. You had a taste and it wasn't for you. Nothing wrong with that.

three-to-six events. You probably like the idea of the SCA, but for whatever reason, you didn't make any inroads into joining the community outside of events. Really, events are just the tip of the iceberg - so much more goes on below the surface.

two-to-three years. You feel you're not being acknowledged by the community. My acquaintance opined this was because you need to work for it. I would agree, but add that some people simply might not have the aptitude, or they've pissed the wrong people off. That I got through this stage is largely due to becoming Seneschal ten years ago.

seven-to-ten years. You've maxed out your award path, and recognize that you're never going to get that next step. That's kind of where I am now. At this point you need to either accept it, or possibly change your focus. That said, I know a handful of people who redoubled their efforts and grabbed that brass ring. They're rare though.

She also suggested that there was another age, past this, where you have no more worlds to conquer - you've succeeded in all your goals. However, people who are capable enough to do this, are rarely the same people to be satisfied with this.

As I said, I'm not leaving, but I need to think about what I'm going to do in the future. Will I just be a fringer? Will I redouble my efforts simply for the joy of it? Will I find something new to do in the SCA context?
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
The year is 365 days long, plus a little bit so that we get a 366th day every four years or so. 365 is very close to an actually useful number, 364. Wonderful number, 364. It's divisible by 4, 7 and 13. Which leads me to a pie-in-the-sky idea for calendar reform (it's not my idea, but I like it and want to explain it). We change the number of days in each month as follows:
  • January 31 (same)
  • February 30 (was 28/29)
  • March 30 (was 31)
  • April 31 (was 30)
  • May 30 (was 31)
  • June 30 (same)
  • July 31 (same)
  • August 30 (was 31)
  • September 30 (same)
  • October 31 (same)
  • November 30 (same)
  • December 30 (was 31)
Note that this means a pattern of 31/30/30 each quarter. It also only eliminates four birthdays that occur on the 31st of a month. 30/31/30 and 30/30/31 both eliminate five.

Each quarter is the same length, and that length is divisible by 7, which means they have exactly 13 weeks. Each quarter should start on a Sunday and end on a Saturday. The first month of every quarter will have a Friday 13th, but since I like Friday 13th, that's a point in it's favour for me.

My birthday would always occur on a Saturday. Yay me!

It's consistent and logical, and easy to teach. That last bit is great for me, since I never really figured out how many days each month had until I learned the knuckle/groove trick well into adulthood. Lord knows the rhyme they tried to teach me as a child didn't make any sense.

That leaves 1.25 days unaccounted for. I propose those dates be day-of-the-week-less. That is, they don't correspond to any day of the week. New Years Day would occur between December 30th and January 1st, making it a three-day weekend. Similarly, Leap Day would occur on the day between June 30th and July 1st. Each day would be on the Solstice - New Years Day because of the symbolism around the sun coming back, Leap Day on the longest day of the year because let's milk that holiday as much as we can.

Anyway, I know this would never happen short of me being named god-emperor of planet Earth. Just a bit of speculation. Plus, I'd probably have bigger things to accomplish if I were god-emperor.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I had an epiphany about school administrators and their faulty advice of "just ignore it" in reference to the relentless bullying I suffered in grade school. It came from two odd sources.

The first was an ongoing bullying of a friend's son in junior high school. This has resulted in actual arrests, and requests for transfer to another school, which was denied. Why would anyone deny that? It seems self evident to me that, if a kid is being bullied so bad that it's resulted in the bully being arrested, there's a real problem here.

(my own advice would be for the kid to respond with sufficient violence to put the bully into the hospital, preferably with injuries that will take a long time and therapy to treat. I recognize that this isn't the best advice, but it comes from my inner lizard, and it's one of the few topics I let my inner lizard express an opinion on. Also, this is a big part of why I will never have children. I am incapable of dealing with this sort of thing rationally)

The second source was a thread on Captain Awkward. One of the mods of the site wrote this:
What they teach in schools is “just ignore it.”
“Just ignore it” = “Just shut up about it.”
“Just shut up about it” = “Shady, irritating people getting away with no-good.”
I got Just Ignore It a lot. A lot! It was years before I could put my finger on why this was bad advice (Captain Awkward nails it though), but I always recognized that it was bad advice.

And now my epiphany: It's actually great advice.

Oh, not for me, and not for any other kid being bullied. It's great advice for school administrators. After all, if the kid isn't bitching to them, they don't have to do anything. Doesn't matter that they may be enduring abuse that will lead to a lifetime of mental problems. What a great idea for avoiding work and responsibility - and it makes the victim complicit in their own bullying.

Remember, to a teacher, all kids are temporary. If you can stall long enough, even the worst cases of bullying go away as the kids move to higher grades or graduate. It might take a whole term for bullying to become a problem. Then another year of stalling tactics like telling the kid to ignore it, or to tell the parents that there's nothing they can do. Year three (for a junior high, or high school kid), you can just say "well, they'll be going to a different school/graduating, and you don't want to disrupt them at this late point, and it'll all be over soon anyway, why make waves". Boom, problem resolves itself and you didn't have to do anything. It's a wonderfully banal sort of evil.

My actual advice? Don't let them get away with it. Fight. Escalate. Don't give up. Make them understand that you're not going away, and follow through. They're counting on you giving up.

And again, I am so glad I'm not a parent.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I sometimes wish there was some kind of class where young people are taught how to flirt/communicate desire/take a no or a yes positively. I'm not sure if sex ed is the right place for it, but I feel like it's something that the Scandinavian countries probably already do. Who knows.

What's prompting this is a reddit thread of guys who missed hints from gals who were interested in them. It's a little sad because I think that's a lot of missed happiness. In the Reddit thread, someone pointed out that this wouldn't be an issue if women weren't so coy about these things. And of course, they're coy for a damned good reason - being sexually forward carries significant risk. As the saying goes, when asking people out, men risk humiliation and rejection, women risk rape and murder. And of course, slut-shaming is still a thing.

Significantly, for all of life I have hung out among geeks and nerds - a fairly socially awkward bunch. It's not like the men were doing much pursuing either. Looking back on my days in Grey Mountain Holt, it was significant for the amount of relationships that were not happening. This was a group with a common interest that went from a club to basically being a primary social circle for many of the participants, with a roughly 50/50 split gender-wise, and everyone was in their late teens to early twenties. We should have been pairing off left, right, and centre. Relationships weren't nonexistent, but they were rare enough to be noted when they happened.

I certainly wasn't doing any asking. I generally went with the be funny, and hope I don't come off as obnoxious or creepy. Often I failed. Still, a few women expressed interest. Mostly, not women I was interested in. I had no idea how to pursue, what to do if I was pursued, or how to deflect unwanted pursuers in anything other than the most pathetic passive-agressive way. It was a cluster-fuck of suck.

Now most people manage to maneuver through this and learn what skills there are in late adolescence. Still, a lot of people don't, which is why I think it would be a useful topic to teach formally. There's some problems though, and I'm not sure how to address them.

First, the moot point that, if this course existed when I was younger, I would have avoided it, even if it would have done me a world of good. I avoided gym class throughout high school, mostly because there was a dance component and the thought of it left me a quivering anxious wreck. I eventually took a continuing education gyn course over summer so that I could graduate. I kept it secret from my parents. Hell, the idea of asking women out fills me with dread now, though I have worked up the courage to do it on rare occasions, never successfully.

Leaving aside my personal drama, the bigger issue is that such a course has the potential to be a shit show of patriarchy, slut-shaming, and misogyny. Would you trust your high school gym teacher to be able to teach this stuff without dropping into "Boys: get all the pussy you can or you're not a man. Girls: keep your filthy knees together"? Plus, being awkward in the course would be fodder for bullies.

Currently, there is such a hunger for this course, that Pick-up Artist (PUA) culture has begun providing it as a secondary reason for existing. Unfortunately, the few good ideas they have (hygiene, attractive presentation, make your desires known) is completely ruined by their awful philosophy (don't take no for an answer, pester women who are clearly not interested, lie, no such thing as date rape).

Maybe not having the course is a better idea? I like to think it's possible to come up with a decent lesson plan. I hope so, since trial and error isn't that great. Can't we do better than that?

I do know a person who teaches a lechery course in the SCA, which is basically a course in flirting. For a one hour class in how to be more gallant than goofus in an SCA setting, it's pretty good. I think that's as good a proof-of-concept for the idea as any. And as I said at the beginning, this sounds like the sort of thing that would be taught in Scandinavian schools.

I'm going to think on what I would have personally wanted out of such a course. That's a first step towards articulating how it work. Difficulty: That's going to be like trying to figure out what I think would make a good brain surgery class.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I'm about to tell you all something that will find hard to believe: People in rural Washington and Oregon don't speed. I know, I know, it seems impossible. And yet, over the entire time I drove there, I did the speed limit, and nobody passed me. The only people I passed were trucks (which have a lower speed limit in those states, unlike here in Canada). There was certainly ample opportunity - lots of multi-lane roads or passing lanes. And yet, no one was speeding. I didn't really see any until I got near Portland. There weren't even any in Spokane. This is different from rural Alberta where I would be be doing 10 over, and I would constantly be getting passed by F-150s doing 30 over.

And everyone seemed fine with it. There was no aggressive tail-gating, no one reving their engine as they passed to send a message. People just... drove the way they were supposed to and everyone got where they were going without any fuss.

The second I entered Canada? Someone blew past me like I was standing still.

I wonder what would cause that. I think it's two things. First, people have likely been trained to not speed, probably because of the cops. I imagine enforcement and penalties are stiffer in these states than they are in Alberta. The other reason? I think it's the trucks. The fact that they have to go slower than the other vehicles means that everyone is expecting to be slowed down all the time by trucks. They're mobile traffic calming devices and they're all over the place.

Anyway, I think I've turned into one of those old guys who doesn't give a fuck because I largely drove the speed limit (for a value that may have been +5kph) during the whole trip, including the Canadian parts. People didn't like it? They could fucking well pass me. I wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere because I was on vacation. And it was a lot less stressful.

I got into Vancouver and then had to do a bunch of cloak and dagger to get into my AirBnB suite. The suite was in a luxury condo building in the centre of downtown Vancouver. I had to get the key from a key locker service I didn't know existed, but was all over the place. And now that I've seen them, I recall seeing them all over the place in high density areas. Basically they're a key bank for you to pass your key onto a house guest, or a maid, or whatever - anyone you couldn't meet face to face.

I was under strict instructions to not discuss AirBnB with any of the building tenants, and especially not the building staff.

Now as an aside, there's a few types of AirBnB listings:
  1. People renting out a spare room. I rarely use these because I like my privacy.
  2. Mother-in-law suites. My go-to place on Victoria drive is one of these.
  3. People renting out their primary residence while they're on holiday. These are fun because the place is homey and lived in.
  4. People who are renting out places that they own solely to make money through AirBnB. Basically taking housing stock out of the market so that they can run a casual hotel.
This was the latter, and also the first time I've stayed at one of these that I rented myself (the place Allison rented in SF when we did Bay to Breakers was also like this).

So yeah, I've become part of Vancouver's rental problem. Now I don't think renting from AirBnB in general is a problem. Certainly the spare rooms, holiday rentals aren't - those rooms likely weren't being rented out anyway. The mother-in-law suites? Well, if you just bought a $1.5M house on a middle class income, renting that suite out for $100/night rather than $1500/month might make the difference in affording that mortgage.

But this place? This apartment condo in downtown Vancouver? It was exactly the type of suite that gets up people's asses and triggers class warfare. There is no question in my mind that this place existed solely as someone's one room hotel. From the generic art on the walls, to the basic Ikea cookware in the cupboards, and the fridge empty of even the most basic sauce. It was fitted out solely to be a hotel room. And because of that someone wasn't renting it.

just one little picture... )

Any yeah, I rented it. I don't know which kind of suite I'm getting into until I'm in it. I do feel kind of bad about it though.

I don't think banning AirBnB is the way forward. I have no problem applying the hotel tax to AirBnB suites, and I'll certainly pay the extra cost for that.

Still, the solution to Vancouver's housing problem lay elsewhere. If things cost less, people won't be renting out their extra property like a hotel. And I'd be happy to stay at a proper hotel, except they're rarely in the neighbourhoods that I want to stay in. And that's just odd. One of my lottery fantasies is to open up boutique hotels in Vancouver and Calgary in places where they would be awesome, but there's no hotels at all.

Why isn't there a hotel in the Commercial/Broadway area? It's the largest transit hub in the city outside of downtown? Seriously, there's two sides to the AirBnB equation - one is lots of people who think that renting out their property like a hotel is in their economic interest. The other side is all the people who want to stay in Vancouver and aren't necessarily interested in the cluster of hotels downtown or by the airport. 9000 properties is the estimate I read. Nine Thousand. That's a lot of hotel rooms that could be getting filled. That's a lot of hotel employees that could be working. That's the sign of a big need not getting filled properly, so it's getting filled in whatever way it can.

Anyway, I picked the room for one reason - I wanted to see the American/Disney entry into the Honda Celebration of Light, aka the Vancouver Fireworks thing. I knew it would be a good one, and I've always loved these fireworks. Calgary tries to do something similar, and I've been a few times. It's just not the same.

What I didn't want to do was try to walk (I was still under orders to not overdo it walking/hiking), and transit was a big ole nope - not with 110,000 people all trying to leave at the same time. So I did my level best to find a place in downtown. Only this is the busiest event of the year during the highest of the high season for rooms. The shitty hotel rooms were starting at $400/night, and I saw fees over $1400/night. So that meant an AirBnB. Even there, people were well aware of what the market was like and I've rarely seen AirBnB fees that high. And there were a lot of people trying to get them. I tried several before the one I got, and they either got "cancelled" (I suspect they were taken off the market to be rented even farther under the table for higher fees), of people simply would not rent to me because other people got there first. The place I stayed at - it was the fourth place I got in touch with, and about the seventh I tried at all.

And it was worth it. I watched the fireworks, which were awesome, then I went back to my suite, waited for the crowds to disperse a little, then found a late supper.



I might do it again next year (a friend might be at a conference during the relevant time frame, and it would be nice to play guide), but if I do, I'll be trying to get a deal way earlier than I did this year.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
So [livejournal.com profile] hislittlekitty saw the link to the previous entry and confessed she thought it would be an entirely different post. Namely one about Nintendo covering their rear-end legally against stupid people running into traffic or trespassing.

That made me think about the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine. Put simply, a land owner has a responsibility to prevent children from hurting themselves on their property. i.e. take efforts to cover swimming pools, prevent access to trampolines, make sure they're not playing in the derelict cars on the lawn, etc. You can't just put a sign up, because some kids can't read. Plus, there's plenty of kids who will see "dangerous, no trespassing" as a dare. You need to do something concrete.

Of course, the doctrine only applies to land-owners, and Nintendo doesn't own the land some kid is trespassing on. That seems pretty clear-cut. Now let's say your property is dangerous, but isn't particularly attractive in the sense the doctrine means. But then Nintendo's servers virtually add Pokémon to your property and someone gets hurt trying to catch it. As a land-owner who might not even play video games, you're completely unaware of the attractive nuisance that a third-party has imposed on you. If you get sued by the family of a kid who got killed on your property because they were hunting Pokémon, can you in turn sue Nintendo? After all, everything was fine until they stirred things up.

I had a look at the Terms of Use. It seems to mostly be concerned with protecting their intellectual property. There's basically nothing in there (to my quick scan) restricting age of users (in fact, it has a mechanism for allowing children to play), or obeying local community standards (the community standards they address is the game's virtual community). Even if they did have such a disclaimer, I'd argue it's the equivalent of a simple "no trespassing" sign - not sufficient to address the doctrine. To get around the doctrine, you have to make an effort, and that effort has to be reasonable. So what's a reasonable effort? My thoughts:

1) Train your users. Here's a quiz you need to pass before you play that shows you understand what trespassing and traffic mean. Adult users can skip the test.

2) Limit where the Pokémon are. Not within 100 meters of a freeway for example. I'm sure this is programmable. You can't hit everything, but prove to the courts that you've made an effort to at least get the low-lying fruit like airport tarmacs out of the way.

For all I know, Nintendo is doing all that. Here's hoping. Did Ingress (a game that is its sort-of predecessor, that Pokémon GO cribs from) do anything like this?

Remember, kids aren't stupid, their just kids - often times foolish and unwise, but still kids. I was a smart kid, but I still did dumb shit like ride my bike down Suicide Hill. I'd have probably done more if it weren't for fences. The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine is a good thing.

Go read this if you have questions about Pokémon GO.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I have a neighbour, Barrie, that I haven't seen for awhile. Or rather, I had a neighbour - tl;dr version: he passed away. I didn't know this, I just figured I hadn't seen him recently.

This came to light today because his wife was having a garage sale, and mentioned that his tools were big sellers this morning. She (and her Daughter-in-law) kept referring to him in the past tense, but also in a matter-of-fact way that you do if someone's just not around, as opposed to the tone you use for the recently deceased. It occurred to me that I should ask where he was, but part of me clamped down on that, lest I be bringing up a touchy subject. I just looked and it turns out he not only had died, but he'd died damn near three years ago. How do you not notice something like that? I worry that someone told me in the intervening time, and I didn't commit it to memory.

Anyway, we were only nodding acquaintances. And we were only that because I bought the house off of him (Barrie and Coralie own the other half of the duplex). But it got me thinking about my parents. It's been over ten years (Mom died in 2003, Dad in 2004) and I've long since stopped grieving. While you never have enough time with your loved ones, the simple fact is that they passed because their health was poor, and another ten years of increasingly poor health strikes me a cruel. I'm no longer even that sad about it, just resigned that death comes to us all.

I don't have much family to mourn me when the time comes. My sister has estranged herself, and my brother and I have never been that close. Again, just one of those things - our age difference now is nothing, but growing up it was significant. I'm in better health than either of them, so it's unlikely (barring an untimely death) that they'll be around to mourn me anyway. And I don't have a partner - I've long maintained that sucks, but if there's an upside, it's that I won't hurt them by leaving. No, when I go, it'll likely just be a few close friends who will remember me. Hopefully fondly, but a generation or two and even that will be gone. I'm not saying that's a bad thing - it simply is what it is. The vast bulk of humanity has had the same fate.

But don't mourn me just yet, I don't plan on dying for a good long time. I've got too much to do and see before then.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
A friend and I are wandering around the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo when the following exchange happens:

"There are some awfully nice looking women here."
"Yeah, I'm torn between admiring and trying not to be so male-gaze-y."
"Amen, brother."
Probably not the correct term when what we really meant was not being that creepy guy who just gawks at women, making them uncomfortable.

"You ever wish you'd never learned about privilege? It would make life so much simpler."
"Do you really wish that? It would mean you were a worse person, even if you felt better about yourself."
"No. I guess if I had to choose between felling-bad-but-being-better, and feeling-good-but-being-bad, I'll pick the former."
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Went to a party this weekend and a few simultaneous events occurred that helped crystallize some thought I've been having about confidence.

First, I was texting a woman I know and she told me that "confidence is sexy" (I was both relaxed due to drink, and happy when we were texting, and that came through). While that was going on, I overheard another conversation about how, at a recent event, the person had run into a supremely confident individual and used it as a teaching moment for some of the men she was with.

Basically, she was hanging out with a number of gentlemen with less than ideal romantic success. While doing that, a gentle dropped by who, while talking to her, turned on the charm. Afterward, she pointed out to the other men present what the gentle had done that was right. Mostly this came down to confidence in approaching and talking to women.

As an aside, it's not the first time I've heard of her doing this. I think if you could make a living teaching dating skills to the socially-stunted, she'd both love and be good at it. Best of all, it would be real advice and not pick-up artist bullshit.

Anyway, I did have one quibble, and that's conflating the cause with the effect. That confident gentle? He's an SCA knight, a Viscount, a body-builder, a father, and came damn close to being the first king of Avacal. I posit that he doesn't have to assume confidence - he's simply been very successful in achieving his goals, which imbues him with confidence. Telling people to "be more confident" assumes that what this gentle did, rather than him simply being a confident individual due to his accomplishments. He's confident because he's successful, rather than being successful by assuming confidence.

I'll cop to their being a feedback mechanism here, but I think the root is the successfulness, not the confidence. Certainly that's the way it's always been with me. When I accomplish something, I become more confident. The more weight I lose, the easier it gets, the more I think I look... OK. The more I exercise, the more I'm convinced that I can do more. And yes, if I'm actually getting attention from a woman, it's easier for me to approach other women (not that I'm interested in philandering - it's more that I can relax and be myself because I've got nothing to prove). One of the reasons I hate depression so much is because it often knocks me back to zero, and getting away from that state is initially a very steep climb. The farther I get away from it, the easier it gets, but it's so very hard to start.

I've seen this conflating of cause and effect in other places. Notably in forgiveness and closure after a hurt. So many people say "you need to forgive this person, so you can move on", but I think it's more the case that being able to move on is thing that allows one to forgive. It's like observing that the scab falls off a wound when you're healed and thinking that to heal you have to pull off the scab.

In the end, "be more confident" is one of those admonishments that I treat like "be taller" - not terribly concrete advice. Better advice is stuff like:

  • Don't be self-deprecating.
  • Engage in basic hygiene.
  • Dress to impress.
  • Don't second guess talking to people, just start asking questions.
(take my advice, I'm not using it)

These all have the advantage that they're all things one can do that are immediately observable. "Be more confident"? How? Does it involve concentrating really hard and sticking my tongue out to one side? "Engage in basic hygiene". OK, I've showered well, shaved, combed my hair nicely, and have just enough after shave to notice in a hug. Done.

For all I know, the rest of the conversation went exactly like that. I hope so.

BTW, in case you think I'm being too hard on her ad hoc students, it was only by the grace of the event steward that I wasn't in their number.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Uber, the ride-sharing platform that makes a lot of money for the organizers, and not much money for the drivers, is moving into Calgary.

I predict that we're going to have a long, cold war between the city and Uber. One where the city says "you can't be here without abiding by these rules", and Uber simply ignoring them since the fines will fall on the drivers (whom they don't care about). Attempts to fine Uber directly will result in long protracted legal battles that end when we settle out of court at a sufficiently small amount that Uber's profits aren't too badly dinged.

Throw some Uber execs in jail, they'll come around.

I'm certainly not against the concept of casual taxis. I'd like to see, at a minimum:

  • Drivers need their Alberta class 4 license.
  • They need to pass a background check. I've had this done and it's neither expensive nor onerous.
  • The cars need to pass a regular inspection.
  • They need to have sufficient insurance.
  • They can't go over a defined amount of hours per year, or they're no longer casual and need to get a taxi license. 200 hours of time available as a driver on the system (as opposed to time actually driving) seems like a good point to start the discussion.
Oh, and if any of these criteria aren't being met by the taxi companies, that's not a counter argument - it suggests something they're not doing that they should.

If this no longer makes Uber a viable option for making a living, the fault is not the regulations, it's that Uber is exploiting its drivers. Consider that.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Hackers exposed the user information from 37 million Ashely Madison/Established Men users. The former is the well-known cheat-on-your-spouse site, the latter, a site for rich men looking for young women. Both are pretty creepy.

I was briefly tempted to download the leaked data and see what I could find (searching for friends/relatives/coworkers basically) but changed my mind temporarily when I discovered the compressed data was almost 10GB in size. If I'm going to clobber my bandwidth, it's going to be for something worthwhile, like season 3 of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (I didn't download it - it fell off the back of a truck - honest).

My resolve became permanent when it occurred to me that this was like those leaked celebrity photos of Jennifer Lawrence et al. It was none of my business. If they want me, personally, to see their nude body, then they can let me know, or take a role involving nudity. And private pictures meant for someone else, just don't cut it.

Similarly, I have zero business looking at the Ashley Madison data. Why? Because it's a cheating website and I do not have a partner. If I were in a relationship where there was an expectation of monogamy, and I suspected my partner of cheating, then I have cause to look at that data - and even then, I should only look for them.

As Amanda Marcotte points out, cheating on your spouse does not violate the social contract, only a personal one.

There was a point where I found the whole Josh Duggar thing funny. It stopped being funny when I read this. A lot of people in less savory areas of the world (and let's be honest, here in the civilized west too) are now at severe risk, because of the hackers who stole this information. That risk goes beyond destroyed relationships and could include lost jobs, social ostracism, and death. You're a gay man in Saudi Arabia and you've been outed? Get the hell out of there if you can, is my advice. I can't imagine the religious police taking "it's none of your business" to heart. Religious Police is basically claiming the role of busybody and combining it with coercive violence. If you know anyone who makes the claim that that's a good thing, it's time to stop having anything to do with them.

One thing I've learned over the years is that lots of people cheat. While this may be a bad act, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are bad people - a distinction that took a long time to grok. Doesn't mean the victim needs to be sympathetic to them (I certainly wouldn't be, if I were the victim), but sometimes us innocent bystanders should be. Or if not forgiving, at least not willing to join in on the dog-pile. A simple "Yeah, maybe you should have split up before that, if things were so bad. Anyway, it's not my problem, so let's move on" should do, if it needs comment at all. In the end, what does going after a third-party cheater gain you? Nothing.

This whole situation is one in which there are no good guys, but we can unambiguously define a bad guy. Not Ashley Madison; though conceiving of, building, and maintaining such a project points to systemic sociopathy. Not the cheaters; while a lot of them are assholes, there's enough (like those gay, traveling, Saudis) that aren't that you should not indulge the dog-piling urge. It's the hackers. They tried to destroy a legal (if congenitally icky) company, thus imposing their questionable morals on others. In this I think they have little difference from the religious police. They're just gutless enough not to swing the truncheons themselves. Remember, they opted to release confidential information about random strangers to punish a company. And then they had the gall to claim it was Ashley Madison's fault that they had to release the data, as if they weren't independent moral actors. That like a bad trope that always makes me rage when I see it in fiction. "You forced me to shoot your wife when you didn't hand over your wallet. Her death is on you." No asshole, I think I can firmly put the blame on a murderous mugger. And bad a company as Ashely Madison is, and as bad as their policy to "delete" information was (not) implemented, I can definitely blame you guys for leaking it. Heads will literally roll over this. I hope someday you'll realize that you're to blame.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
My mind wanders; sometimes it hits upon fantastic ideas that would be great for an SF story or RPG. Then my brain starts imagining the outcome of those fantastic ideas. Then those outcomes spawn more mundane concerns. Here's an example:


  • What if all of our stuff just vanished, leaving us behind. Alien Space Bats fuck with us in a way similar to the Emberverse.
  • Ugh. A lot of people in airplanes and high buildings are going to fall to their death.
  • I wonder what the odds of that happening to me are?
  • my office is on the ground floor - if I fall, it will be into the pit where my building's basement is.
  • Wait... Does my building even have a basement? I imagine it does, but I've seen no evidence of that. There's no parking garage, no low windows, and no doors that lead down.
From post-apocalyptic scenario to wondering if my office has a basement... in seconds!
jamesq: (Consumer Whore)
This morning I got up bright and early to get my Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo tickets. I'd have slept through it had I not fortuitously spent some time with friends who work at CCE the night before - they warned me that the sale was this morning.

So about an hour before the sale I got all my ducks in a row. I had the CCE Eventbright page up, and I was logged into my account with them. I had my credit card handy - all I had to do was wait for the appropriate time and refresh the page.

Of course, several hundred other people were doing precisely the same thing.

10 AM roles around and I'm refreshing the page as fast as the browser will let me. One second after it lets me order two VIP tickets. Yay me.

I now have two two tickets reserved for the next 8 minutes while I fill out the form. The bottom of the form includes a drop-down box for the size of my tee-shirt. Apparently VIPs get tee-shirts. I select XL because I'm Shreck, and click OK to finish the transaction. The form complains because I've done something wrong. Not the best error message - basically, I've selected something for which there are no more, but it doesn't tell me which field it was. Well the only thing that could potentially "run out" are the shirts, so I go to make another selection. Now all of the shirt sizes are disabled, their are no possible selections to be made. And it's a required field - it will not go on without me making an impossible selection.

So know I'm in a panic - I don't want to refresh the page because I might lose the reservation. I go to the web page to complain only to discover that this is affecting lots of people.

Logically, a bunch of people were going to time out at precisely 10:08, so I started refreshing the first page right before then. It took about half a minute, but I got a new reservation. This time, the tee-shirts were all enabled. I proceeded and got my two tickets. A little panic, but everything turned out OK.

So what happened? Without looking at the code I can only guess, but this is what I do professionally.

The tee-shirts probably had some value associated with them, a "number of shirts available", and that number was low. As the first batch of people checked out, the shirts ran out. The next bunch of people grabbed shirts that weren't their size on the theory that they could simply correct it later. This cascaded until all the shirts were gone, leaving a bunch of people in the lurch.

The hack fix would be to go in and crank all those tee-shirt values past 550 (the number of VIP tickets available). 550 smalls, 550 mediums, etc. That way none of them could run out.

A better fix would be to not have a value associated with it at all - after all, these don't represent real shirts sitting in a warehouse somewhere that can run out. This is just to let the organizers know how many shirts of each size to make when the time comes. This is the sort of thing that basic debugging has a hard time finding. Sometimes when coding, you fail to see the big picture (i.e. don't use a counter when a string will do) As a professional computer programmer, I'm pretty forgiving of this sort of thing - it's a bug I could easily see myself writing. Hell, QA specialists might have a hard time finding that one. A good code editor might make the connection, but that's not a specialty that many companies hire.

CCE or Eventbright did manage to identify the problem and fix it in less than eight minutes. That impresses me. Good work under trying circumstances there. I've long maintained that it's impossible to be perfect, and the real test of an organization is how they deal with imperfection. CCE came through pretty good in my books.

Of course, they're going to get a new one ripped out of them on social media, because that's what fans do. It does suck for the people who had the promise of a ticket yanked away from them. Not everyone is going to figure out that more tickets would be available after 8 minutes.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Suppose all of the atoms in your body at one instant in time were tagged in some way. Call them "blue". Let's further say that all the other atoms around you were "red". As you go about your metabolic business, how long does it take for the red atoms to replace the blue ones? I imagine this differs depending on the tissue. Your teeth will likely remain pure blue for a long time. Your bones would similarly take a long time to turn red. But what about your organ tissue? Your blood? Your hair? Probably you'll never be made up of 100% red atoms, but how purplish would you be after a day or a month or a year?
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I've traveled a bit. Not as much as I'd like, but enough that I'm a seasoned traveler. Strangely, I haven't been to Edmonton very much, which is odd given it's basically Calgary's twin. So much so that I've poo-pooed the sometimes bitter rivalry between the two cities as Red-headed twins arguing over who has the more attractive pattern of freckles.

I think that sameness fuels a lot of the animosity, and it does so because of something akin to the Uncanny Valley. Because they are so similar, yet not identical, we focus on the differences. Our subconscious expectation of familiarity if constantly thwarted by small differences we encounter.

When I'm in another city, the differences are obvious. Vancouver, for example, is an older coastal city in an earthquake zone. The buildings are different, the plants are different, the weather is different, the layout is different, the people act and dress different. Hell, the whole place even smells different. When I'm there, I know I'm not in Calgary.

Edmonton is just like Calgary though. It's of a similar age, in a similar biome, with similar people. When I'm in Edmonton it seems so much like Calgary that I'm constantly surprised by little details; the colour of city buses, or the presence of different fast food franchises. It's also frustrating because I feel like I should be familiar with things when I'm clearly not.

In Vancouver, I know I'm someplace else, so I judge it on it's on merits. When I'm in Edmonton, it seems so much like Calgary that I judge it against Calgary, and not being Calgary, it can't measure up. And yes I'm aware of the corollary - an Edmontonian could make the exact same observation that Calgary is (to their mind) a flawed version of Edmonton.

Ultimately, this will go away as I spend more time there and I'm able to give Edmonton a proper analysis.

Just a Game

Feb. 9th, 2014 08:27 pm
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
So this is a thing:

Because Suggesting Something is Exactly Like Having Gangsters on Your Case

...And it got me to thinking, why is there such a vehement opposition to the idea that the SCA is a LARP?

Google defines Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) as "a type of interactive role-playing game in which the participants portray characters through physical action, often in costume and with props." On that criteria alone it should qualify.

Here's how the SCA defines itself: "The Society for Creative Anachronism is an international living history group with the aim of studying and recreating mainly Medieval European cultures and their histories before the 17th century."

One could argue that based on the studying/recreating (and educating) parts of the SCA it's not a LARP. I would say that it's not just a LARP. But LARPing is still a big big component. Probably it's biggest component since the only thing you have to do to participate is make an attempt at dressing up.

The real problem, I think, is that LARPing is considered kid stuff. LARPing is a game, and the stuff we do in the SCA is nothing so frivolous as a game. Except it totally is - a game that is, not the frivolous part. Before the torches and pitch forks come out, here are some other things that are just a game.

So something can be a game, and it can be more than just a game simply by the level of commitment to it. In my mind an SCA Knight and a black belt are of a kind with each other. We don't look at a professional boxer and say "it's just a game."

I look at the level of commitment - just among the people I know - and it's a little awe inspiring. In fact, it's often kept me from trying things because I can see how many year of effort to hone those skills are. Hell, someone I have a tough time contemplating the level of effort that sometimes goes into a single costume. I appreciate it - from far far away.

To my fellow SCAdians, who are lamenting the idea that the SCA is a LARP, I ask to please don't. Of course it's a LARP, and more than a LARP, and there's nothing wrong with that. And you know, it's kind of insulting to LARPers, who might have the same level of commitment to their geek as you do to yours.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I heard an interesting set of rumours on the Internet today. No cites, so take them with a grain of salt.

  1. Given that Alberta has had about twice the amount of snow (so far) that it normally gets, they're already starting to speculate about flooding. Note that it's not even spring yet.

  2. Climate change suggests that we're moving into a generation-long wet trend locally before moving into severe drought after I'm dead. This suggests that flooding may become a regular thing.

  3. Calgary spent all of it's post-flood efforts last year simply repairing the damage. We have a plan for handling future floods. Mostly this consists of moving the berms along the riverbanks out so that the effective flood plain has a much larger volume to absorb water into.

  4. The new flood plan is still entirely in the planning/approving stage and not in the implementation stage.
If we get hit with another spring flood approaching the magnitude of last year's, it will once again cause damage that we scramble to fix over the summer. Once winter hits, we can't really fix much of anything.

Are we in for several years of vicious circle, where we can't prevent future floods because we're spending so much effort repairing the previous floods? I hope not, but it means acting soon so that we can take advantage of any mild years in the next decade. We need to acknowledge that "lucky" (as in, if there are no floods in the next few years, we got lucky) is not the same as "normal" and prepare.

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