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Journal Journal: Rhode Island's "Kingdoms of Amular" 5

There's some ugly drama surrounding the collapse of 38 Studios. That has caused baseball's Curt Schilling to walk away from video games and publicly state that it will end up costing him his fortune. Everyone is in a very bad position right now. 38 Studio's top creditor is the state of Rhode Island. Aside from some stranger assets, there is a partially finished MMO called Project Copernicus as well as the source code and artwork for Kingdoms of Amular. So why doesn't Rhode Island seize this source code and artwork? They could auction it or, better yet, give it to the people who paid for it.

Now we all know this isn't going to happen. The source code will be shelved and it is unlikely it ever contribute to society ever again. The people who coded it have been fired and have moved on to the next thing in their lives while the bankruptcy proceedings play out in the news. But if I fail to repay a loan on a car, repossession services come to take the car. If a studio gets $75 million from a state to make a video game, where are the state's repo men to reclaim the video game?

The current situation is unavoidably bad for everyone involved. Schilling is blaming the governor, developers are moving for the second time in two years, gamers are missing out on the sequel to Amular and money is missing everywhere. But most notably each resident of Rhode Island has paid $75 to the video game industry and will likely never see it returned to their pockets. A coworker who thoroughly enjoys the game said that it's RI's fault for investing in such a fickle and risky industry. Maybe he's right? But the game is reasonably entertaining.

So what could a state do with source code and artwork? The obvious thought would be to auction it off and recoup losses. But what company wants to buy up those assets for more than a pittance compared to the loan? The game didn't sell as well as they thought it would, your developers would have to learn thousands of lines of new code, the artists that could expand the art in the same style are thrown to the wind and there's already a polished title out there. To me, the obvious solution would be to instead package Amular and Copernicus (at least the PC versions) as learning software for high schools and universities in RI. Art students could work on reskinning it, developers could work on just getting it built and Rhode Island would at least be able to show its residents something for which they had paid.

Furthermore if RI really wanted to recoup its losses, they could likely make several million back with a Kickstarter project to open source everything from 38 Studios. The only people who might not like this idea are those in the games industry who claim the MMO and RPG markets are already thoroughly saturated. Perhaps the current publisher and those with distribution contracts of Amular would object. But those executives have already taken the citizens of RI and Curt Schilling for a ride so why should RI care? The only downside would be a massive influx of Amular clones on the PSN, XBLA and PC fronts. But this is an opportunity for gamers, Rhode Islanders and open source in general to expand and set precedence that when a company folds all that hard work and late nights with Mountain Dew and pizza should not be wasted and shelved.

You can tell me that this will never happen -- not with Amular, Copernicus or any of the thousands of titles from failed development studios -- because you're right. It hasn't ever happened and it most likely will not. But Rhode Islanders paid for these titles and the repo men should arrive and bring that back for Rhode Island to decide what to do with it. At least those that have paid for it should be able to decide if what their hard earned money paid for should sit collecting dust or live in immortality.

Journal Journal: Phygg: Reader Voted Prepublication Academic Papers

There's a new site called Phygg.com that is a cross between the arxiv physics feed and Digg.com in that you can read papers up for prepublication and then vote them up or down. I think this poses an interesting new step in peer review and academic journals in that it gives the public a chance to participate in reading and voting on papers. From there, the journals can separate the wheat from the chaff. While it's not exactly innovative (digg + arxiv = phygg), it'll be interesting to see if people take to it and how good the general public will be at reading lengthy physics papers. MIT's Tech Review has a short blog on the launching.


Journal Journal: Arcade Fire's HTML5 Experience

There's a neat site for Google Chrome users that shows how artists will be able to liberate themselves from Flash and use HTML5 when the standard is finalized and browser independent (if ever that happens). If you're bored and have five minutes and have speakers/headphones, I hope your childhood address shows enough up on here to make it worth your while. My parent's farmhouse had nothing but my hometown had a couple images that brought me back.

Of course prior to this we would have to use flash to enjoy the Aracade Fire's sites.

Hope someone else enjoys this as much as I do.
User Journal

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Journal Journal: Futurama is Back!

Tonight on Comedy Central, the first two episodes of the sixth season of Futurama were shown. It's been highly anticipated on Slashdot and as a fan I was satisfied with the return to television. I really liked the first episode and found the second episode mediocre.

*Spoiler Alert*

The first episode, Rebirth, had a lot of elements that Futurama episodes of yore contained that made me love it: social commentary, extrapolation of current technology into future technology, apparent deaths, sci-fi twists and a bit of character development. The trivial elements are certainly present like Fry's homeresque stupidity and cheap jokes but that's not something that distinguishes Futurama from other comedies. I think that the professor's quirky inventions and old age behavior remain strong in this series and for some reason never loses its humor with me. The professor can (and often does) invent anything that is necessary for the plot as well as sending the crew anywhere in the universe to deliver a package. Rebirth has a lot of those classic elements when the professor plays god with bringing the crew back to life as well as going to the cyclophage habitat planet to sacrifice Leela. If this sort of predictable formula annoys your or bores you, Futurama probably got old a while ago but for me the high quality of animation, music and voice acting really make willing to belly up for every contrived new world that is conjured. Rebirth also addresses Fry and Leela's loneliness and isolation but has a cheap cop out (the ones in love turn out to be robots) at the end to avoid any permanent character development at the end.

Episode Two, In-a-Gadda-Da-Leela, was less satisfactory for me because it dealt with an old card: Leela engaging in coitus with the Zapper (and his insecurities). While some parts made me smile, it just wasn't as funny or memorable as the older episodes. Some parts had their moments (Obi Wan Kenobi GPS with a different voice saying the wild cards was a favorite) but the overall story and plot didn't really pass muster for me. I enjoyed the cheesy black and white "The Transcredible Exploits of Zap Brannigan" (reminded me of many MST3K episodes) and of course you have to love Zap heavy episodes with his ill formed sentences and logic. But aside from that, we get a cookie cutter invention from the professor and nothing too impressive with the explanation and resolution of the V-Giny death sphere. I think a lot more could have been done with that.

All in all, not bad. I was hoping for more secondary characters that I've loved from the first four episodes like Roberto or Scruffy. These secondary recurring characters have always been a favorite of mine and a strength of the show. I guess I can't expect them to put one in every episode but I was disappointed there weren't a whole lot from the movies and none from these two episodes. Definitely worth my time to watch and for those of you outside the United States, you can find torrents out there online by searching for Futurama S06E01 and S06E02. I hope they make it all the way through this sixth season and I also hope Comedy Central ponies up for a lot more after that. If there's one show with usable potential, it's Futurama and its endless possibilities. I mean with the amount of money being dumped on other crappy shows, you'd think a fraction of that could be afforded for a show with a highly devoted following. Then again Firefly is long gone.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Slashdot and the Social Sciences 1

Argh. I know that if you are reading this, you are probably some kind of scientist or engineer, if not by trade then at least in mindset.

You are probably not a social scientist. I am. There are not many of us on Slashdot. So please, take a moment and let me explain a bit about our work to you:

It's true, correlation does not imply causation. However, not every SS study is a correlative study. There actually are ways to measure causation. Even ones that don't require a perfectly randomized full experiment, which is very hard to do when dealing with human subjects and nearly impossible to do if you're trying to find out how things work in the real world rather than how they work within a particular laboratory setup. There are many methodological and statistical techniques for piecing apart the likelihood of a correlation pointing to causation.

In addition to that, plenty of studies that do not measure causation don't claim to be. Now, the press release put out by their university might. The random blogger who posted about it might. But that doesn't mean that the authors actually claimed to find causation with methodologies that can only find correlation. Generally, that kind of thing gets mentioned in the peer review process.

So please, the next time you see a psychology/behavioral/education/other social science study on Slashdot, do not automatically cry "Correlation does not imply causation!!" without even reading the paper or understanding their methodologies or what they actually did or did not claim. And REALLY do not use this as your entire justification for declaring the study completely illegitimate. You just sound like a creationist who has wandered into a discussion of evolution and yelled "But what about entropy???"


Journal Journal: Google's Exit Announcement as Covered in China's News

When it comes to understanding what the Communist Party of China is thinking, it seems one of the few inputs we have is two of China's state run news sites (their English mouthpieces): China Daily and (the official press agency of the PRC) Xinhua. What follows is a brief news analysis of articles from these two sites over the past two days (note I do not speak Chinese and am therefore only digesting news from China in English).

From an article on the fourteenth Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, is quoted as saying:

"China's Internet is open," said Jiang. "China has tried creating a favorable environment for Internet," said Jiang while responding to a question on Google's possible retreat.

"China welcomes international Internet companies to conduct business within the country according to law," she said. "China's law prohibits cyber crimes including hacker attacks."

And also on that day, they seemed to write off the hacker attacks on Google as a global problem while quoting an unnamed 'senior Chinese information official' (later given only as 'Wang') as saying:

"China's Internet is open to the world.... China is a victim of and firmly opposes cyber attacks," he said, noting the number of overseas cyber attacks on Chinese mainland websites in 2008 had increased by 148 percent over the previous year.

This last article is quite interesting in that it shifts the attention back to pornography and illicit materials, blaming those squarely on other countries. It is assumed this is to reinforce their stated right to enforce censorship on Google. And even placing the onus on other countries to:

"take active and effective measures to strengthen management of the Internet and make sure their problems do not affect other countries' cyber order."

Of course, the China Daily article ends with verbage like 'providing a favorable environment for the healthy development of minors' and calls on the government to 'ensure that information flow on the Internet is smooth and timely, and secure and orderly.'

Now, on to today, the fifteenth of January. It seems the goal here is to deflate the impact that Google's exit would have. China Daily has a story of none other than Steve Ballmer's compliance saying:

"I don't understand how that helps anything. I don't understand how that helps us and I don't understand how that helps China," Ballmer said.

Earlier on Thursday, Ballmer told CNBC Microsoft had no plans to exit China: "We've been quite clear, we're going to operate in China, we're going to abide by the law."

Really, this article is a consolidation of American news reports on Microsoft's plans in China. A clear sign that Microsoft is willing to play ball, why can't Google?

Then later, the Ministry of Commerce attempts to take the wind out of Google's sails by saying that not only have they not heard anything from Google yet but:

"Foreign investors should have confidence in China's market as China has the world's biggest Internet population," said Yao. "Any decision by Google to withdraw from China will not affect Sino-U.S. trade relations."

China Daily also appears to call Google's bluff and curiously offers new quotes from the prior day's briefing with Jian Yu:

"Relevant measures taken by the Chinese government are consistent with international conventions."

China Daily paraphrases experts as saying that the 'government will by no means compromise.' Another news article shows no support from the twenty other victims of the attack (aside from Yahoo, who hasn't been mentioned until now) that Google reported and they wrap that up with concerns that an exit from China will hurt Google's stock.

The best part might be the sour grapes editorial from a reader that claims 'Google.cn simply cannot compete with its main domestic rival, Baidu.com' which is completely true in search. But overlooks the previous day's comments from users as saying they were concerned about their Google mail, their access to Google Maps, Google docs and the slough of other services Google provides aside from search.

All of this sounds like a pretty firm "We're shocked you would consider this and don't understand why you are making such a mistake. We will continue to censor to protect our citizens and will not budge an inch for you. Ball's in your court." Well? Will Google act, stall or fold?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Aussie Scientologists Strike Back

Like a lot of countries, Australia doesn't quite know what to make of Scientologists. Okay, some Aussies just can't stand 'em. Australia's Daily Telegraph sends about an effort called Youth for Human Rights, a thinly veiled Scientologist front launched to teach kids about human rights. So, if L. Ron Hubbard (scifi author and founder of the Church of Scientology) made your list of Human Rights leaders, where would you put him? This "informative" resource puts him ahead of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. I little bit of legwork casts more evidence of Youth for Human Rights real motives. With a whois turning up registration at 1332 L Ron Hubbard Way. Are you familiar with that address? Xenu-Directory is. So what's the problem? Well, these videos and booklets are being distributed and aimed at Year 6 students and there's absolutely no indication in the material that this is linked to the Church of Scientology. In fact, a warning has gone out to not use any of these materials inside the classroom. Perhaps Australia's inquiry by Senator Xenu ... I mean Xenophon into the CoS is long overdue and it's time everyone look more closely at their international efforts.


Journal Journal: The Music Service Oddity that is BlueBeat.com 2

Back in 2007, Slashdot covered a story about Media Rights Technology suing everyone for not implementing DRM. Ha ha, weird right? Okay, fast forward to today and it looks like BlueBeat.com (owned by MRT) is under a lot of fire for selling Beatles tunes and I'll bet EMI is having a field day with that. Most interesting about that is that "The ID3 tags of the Beatles songs sold on BlueBeat.com list âoe2009 BlueBeat.comâ as the copyright holder." Okay, that's another topic entirely.

My question is simple though ... what is going on with BlueBeat.com? BlueBeat offers a large selection of MP3s for 25 cents (only 160 kbps though) and you can stream entire albums as many times as you want on their site. So I began my investigative googling looking for MRT to be owned by someone in Germany or Russia and to be completely illegal in the US. But it seems to be a legit operation out of Santa Cruz, CA. So what gives? I mean, BlueBeat has the same crazy terms of service that iTunes does which they can change at anytime but there are so many things wrong with this picture:
  1. A music service undercutting everyone else by 75%.
  2. A DRM-less product from a company that initially sued everyone for not using DRM -- a company called Media Rights Technology!
  3. You can stream whatever you want from the site, whole albums or songs!
  4. The company doing this is in the United States of America. Where individuals are fined to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for sharing songs. What then, does BlueBeat imagine will happen to them legally?

So what am I missing here? Has MRT lost it? Is this a marketing tactic where they receive a DMCA take down, adhere to it and send e-mails to users asking them to delete their MP3s as their ToS says they can do? And from there just keep hosting songs that labels are too lazy to DMCA away? Something stinks but if you bought 100 songs for 25 dollars from BlueBeat and then kept using them, who would be breaking the law? You or BlueBeat?


Journal Journal: The Patent Lawsuit Explosion in Eastern Texas

We've discussed Eastern District of Texas court in more than a few stories about patent cases. To illustrate what kind of problem we're talking about here, a local Legal Journal has given us last week's review of cases filed in regards to patents in Eastern District of Texas.

They include:
  • Aircraft Technical Publishers vs. Avantext Inc. et al which entails 'the reproduction of computer-based information and data concerning the airworthiness requirements and other directives relating to non-commercial aircraft.'
  • Realtime Data LLC dba IXO vs. Morgan Stanley et al which entails 'the rights to four U.S. patents relating to data compression.' (6,624,761, 7,161, 506, 7,400,274, 7,417,568)
  • SFA Systems LLC vs. 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. et al which entails an Integrated Computerized Sales Force Automation System. And how do you infringe on that? 'By making and using supply chain methods, sales methods, sales systems, marketing methods, marketing systems and inventory systems.' SFA claims, "As a result of the above Defendants' infringement of the '525 Patent, SFA has suffered monetary damages ... in an amount not yet determined, and will continue to suffer such monetary damages in the future unless Defendants' infringing activities are permanently enjoined by this court," the complaint states."

Three cases every week should clog up the system. One has to wonder at the number of case titles ending with "et al" and also in relationship to software patents. A patent system that allows patents for data compression combined with Eastern District of Texas Court might be what we need for this powder keg to ignite and the power drunken sot that is the USPTO admit it has a problem.


Journal Journal: Chronicles of GoDaddy: How not to run an ISP 16

This is a review of the GoDaddy.com ISP. For a brief period of time, I used them for both my SSL certificate provider and my hosting provider. That lasted about a week. This review chronicles my experience with GoDaddy so that others can avoid the same fate.

It's hard to know where to begin when criticizing my experience with GoDaddy. It all started with a GoDaddy SSL certificate that was expiring in mid-August. Things started going wrong when GoDaddy sent me the expiration notice in mid-June. I immediately went to their website to renew. When I got there, I got a message that said I couldn't renew it for three days. I wrote them to complain and their reply basically said, "Yes, you can't renew before a certain date." Three days later, on the day it said I should be able to renew it, it still said I couldn't renew it.

A couple of weeks later, I went back to renew. I submitted a renewal for 9 years and paid for it (almost $270). I thought it was odd that they still hadn't sent out the cert, but I figured it would happen on the billing date for the account.

In the meantime, I decided to try to speed up my website by moving large graphics to shared hosting. Since I had a GoDaddy account already, I added hosting to it. Thankfully, I only paid for two months. While uploading content to the server, I started having weird problems almost immediately, finding that the server would just suddenly block my IP (including pings) for several minutes at a time. I theorized that they were limiting the number of reconnects per minute, so I spread the load out across several IPs and finished my uploading. I did all this over the holiday weekend to minimize impact.

Well, once I had the content on the server, I switched my home server to point to the images on that server. The next night, I tried to view a page full of thumbnail images and it stalled for a very long time. The problem went away after a couple of minutes, so I ignored it. When it happened again the next night, I started becoming concerned. When it happened on the fourth night, I started running a script that requested a tiny 15K image once a minute so that I could characterize the problem.

I contacted GoDaddy at this point, and they blamed my connection. I then reproduced the problem from work (where they have multiple OC-3 connections). I contacted them again. They continued to just say "We can't reproduce this" and actually had the nerve to suggest that I call them when I have the problem. How do you call somebody about a problem that only lasts 2-3 minutes from the start of the hang to the end? That's like telling somebody, "When you see a shooting star, text me so I can look up." Yikes!

Then, it got better. GoDaddy contacted me and said that they couldn't issue my SSL certificate because they now issue them for a maximum of 5 years---this in spite of the fact that their website was perfectly willing to sell me a 9-year certificate. So they started the process of issuing a refund.

A few hours later, they denied the refund. At this point, I wrote them back, chewed them out massively, listing in detail the litany of problems I had experienced with their service, carbon copied the president of GoDaddy, and basically threatened legal action if they didn't fix this mess. They restarted processing of the refund, but continued to refuse to honor the terms of our contract.

Their servers are still performing inadequately, so I plan to drop their service entirely as soon as I figure out where to migrate the files. And my SSL cert no longer comes from GoDaddy. I didn't even wait for my existing cert to expire; I don't want GoDaddy to get the free advertising. It also helps that my new SSL cert provider is free as in beer. I figure it's worth the hassle of renewing the cert annually to save $30 a year.

The bottom line is that I was going to spend about $114/year in hosting and SSL with GoDaddy, but because of their completely inept customer support, I'm now going to spend exactly $0 with them, and I will be spending a fair amount of time over the next few weeks posting detailed, harsh, negative reviews of their hosting service on every site I can find, from FaceBook to Web Hosting Geeks....

If I did my job as well as their customer service reps did their jobs, I would have lost my job after the first day. How, precisely, do these clowns stay in business? And how have they not had their credit card merchant account revoked?


P.S. Does anyone know of a web hosting provider that allows SSH, is reasonably reliable, and doesn't claim the rights to produce derivative works based on anything you upload?


Journal Journal: The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem 1

Stanislaw Lem was arguably the greatest non-English science fiction writer before his death three years ago and left behind many science fiction novels with messages of satire and intrigue. The Futurological Congress is no different. The book has several motifs throughout it but I found the most prominent to be that we are living in an increasingly medicated society whereby the future may be wonderfully dystopian--in that the horrors of our existence are simply hidden by drugs on top of drugs on top of drugs. With a movie due out shortly by director Ari Folman, it seems like a good time to revisit this often overlooked short classic sci-fi work.

Our hero and narator, Ijon Tichy should be a familiar name to Lem fans or anyone familiar with Lem's Space Diaries in either English or Polish. Tichy acts as a mechanism of sanity in many of Lem's novels just trying to figure out what the devil is up with a messed up planet he lands on or a particular device/person. By this manner, Lem allows himself much discovery on the reader's behalf and by these means can relay the current state of events to the reader without jarringly interrupting the natural flow of things too much. Through this novel's course of Tichy's discoveries, I was suspended from being disturbed by spoon fed explanations most of the time but the word play that occurred in this particular story got to be a bit much and tedious for a sub-150-page paperback hence a missing point in its score.

Tichy is now a member of the Futurological Association and is invited to attend the Eighth Futurological Congress in Nounas, Costa Rica. From the get go, Lem is full of satire with the immediate lampooning of such self-appointed associations (and maybe even academia) by pointing out that there are two kinds of individuals in these associations: the ones that attend every single meeting/conference and those that don't leave their offices period.

One of the themes throughout the book is a borderline anti-American sentiment about the development of munitions and bombs. I'm familiar with Lem's ability to criticize both sides of the Cold War in a single paragraph although The Futurological Congress seems to focus more heavily on American military and pharmaceutical faults. Lem must have been well aware of kidnappings in Latin America when he wrote this book because that's one aspect he got right about the future of that area. Due to heavy activist presence in Costa Rica trying to capture and ransom Americans, a military attache is accompanying the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica to speak at the congress but in the middle of his speech an unfortunate delegate from India reaches into his breast pocket to grab a handkerchief to wipe his nose. This delegate standing next to Tichy is immediately dispensed with by the bodyguards of the ambassador and, thanks to 'humanitarian ballistics,' Tichy only gets a spattering of blood on him instead of the bullet passing through the target and injuring more people.

Some background on Lem may help you understand this satire. He was born a Catholic Pole with Jewish ancestry and seemed to run the gauntlet of oppression. He survived World War II with fake papers as a mechanic/welder and due to his "bourgeois origin" could not study at the Polytechnic during Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland after the end of the war. He became an Atheist stating, "for moral reasons ... the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created ... intentionally." Knowing this, his satire and bitter critique of all things may not surprise you. On his way to the conference--aside from meeting an orgy of liberated publishers--he encounters an 'anti-papist' who is a Catholic on his way to kill the Pope with a gun of a massive caliber. The anti-papist's surprising motive is none other than The Holy Bible where Abraham is ordered to kill his son Isaac by God. Except that the anti-papist would be killing a father, the most holiest father. And this would be a great personal sacrifice and the "utmost of martyrdom" as the anti-papist "would suffer terrible torment and his soul eternal damnation." Again, Lem predicts today's world, we have no limit of people eager to misinterpret scriptures of any religion.

Back to the conference--since there's 168 attendees from 64 different countries, each person gets four minutes to present their paper. And everyone is only really interested in their own work and telling everyone else about it in a bit of a narcissistic way. This leads the first member to spend his four minutes thusly:

Stan Hazelton from the U.S. Delegation immediately threw the hall into a frenzy by emphatically repeating: 4, 6, 11, and therefore 22; 5, 9 hence 22; 3, 7, 2, 11, from which it followed that 22 and only 22!! Someone jumped up, saying yes but 5, and what about 6, 18, or 4 for that matter; Hazelton countered this objection with the crushing retort that, either way, 22. I turned to the number key in his paper and discovered that 22 meant the end of the world.

The Futurologists in this novel are probably best described as each one being a less optimistic Ray Kurzweil in that they all seem to be spouting their own version of obstacles humanity is soon to face and consequently their ideas to remedy it. For instance the second delegate from Japan unveils a 10,000:1 model of a housing complex some 800 stories tall with self sustaining everything and mobile in the ocean! It's the future! In fact, everything is recycled! Even the food is recycled waste and excrement from the people. The sausage left out in the hall is actually reconstituted human waste (at which point everyone in the audience stops eating and shuffles the food underneath their seats). This sets the tone for a few of the minor themes of the novel and gives you an idea of how Lem takes subtle jabs at everyone. For example another United States delegate takes the floor to talk about population problems that are rapidly developing. He outlines seven solutions: "mass media and mass arrests, compulsory celibacy, full-sale deeroticization, onanization, sodomization, and for repeated offenders--castration." The book makes other references to population control and one character notes that continuing trends of population would eventually result in human beings exploding outward at the speed of light. Nature is addressed in an equally hilarious means as later in the book all animals have been extinct and replaced with what appear to be better controlled robots.

While in his room, Tichy makes the mistake of drinking the water and discovers that the water is spiked with a powerful hallucinogenic drug. He assumes it's the work of the revolutionaries and decides not to tell anyone but as the violence outside escalates and he mentions it to a fellow futurologist, he discovers that it is the rise of chryptochemocracy! With the hotel's staff, he quickly equips a gas mask as it becomes clear that chemical warfare is afoot ... of a psychedelic nature. Planes are called in equiped with LTN bombs. LTN stands for "Love Thy Neighbor" which is pretty indicative of today's munitions and their goals with surgical strikes. Hilariously enough, the very hotel in which the congress is convening is immediately bombed by mistake.

After pages of chemical warfare that affect the crowd's temperament and counter chemicals that affect the crowd's temperament, Tichy and a friend find oxygen tanks and masks and descend to the sewers where the hotel staff is relaxing comfortably with their own oxygen tanks and masks.

Unfortunately, Tichy and his companion do not have enough oxygen to last the night and therefore must take shifts suffering hallucinations. What follows from this point is a series of hallucinations that Tichy has ending in him coming to in the sewer. Tichy has several of these bizarre hallucinations ending in him being shot by revolutionaries in the sewer. He comes to certain that he is still hallucinating and refuses to believe anyone he is not. As a result, they freeze him until they can find a cure for his mental illness and he is unthawed many years later in a reality where 'psychemicals' keep everyone happy. This overmedicated society disgusts and frightens Tichy at times. It has gotten so bad that a company now exists where you can order a psychem that allows you the satisfaction of doing evil upon another person. Murder's no longer a problem, you just get reanimated. The worst possible offense is using psychems on an individual without their consent.

Tichy attempts to adapt and I couldn't help but be reminded of Fry in Futurama with similar humor employed nearly thirty years before it. As Tichy reconnects with his futurologist friend (people stopped dying as technology caught up a la Kurzweil), he discovers something unsettling about the drugs everyone is taking. He discovers that there's mascons that act as blockers to your senses and replace it with a superficial reality. And we start to understand why everything is so mysteriously idyllic while at the same times animals have been extinct for many years and the planet is at an overburdening 26 billion people. Tichy's friend hands him two vials that will unblock the layers of mascons. You see, the 'architects' of this current psychem reality have patched and repatched side effects of psychems and mascons with more psychems and mascons in the air and water supply! I'll leave The Matrix-like vials and harsh transition from utopia to dystopia for people interested in reading the book.

This book was a joy to read and although the very end is a bit dissatisfying to me, the satire and pessimism inherent to Lem's writings have influenced me and continue to influence me heavily. I like to think that Lem borrowed from sci-fi writers like Philip K. Dick and that other science fiction authors like Douglas Adams have borrowed from Lem despite the language barrier and difference in culture. While Lem may not be the icon that Lovecraft, Clarke and Asimov have become, I certainly hope that people recognize his large corpus of works for more than just Solaris as I've enjoyed many novels by him. Lem offers a rare dark comedy in science fiction with The Futurological Congress.

You can pick up the English version of The Futurological Congress at Amazon . And catch the Ari Folman movie where the present day will be live action while the unfathomable future will be animated to adapt to the stark impossibilities the book portrays.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fan Mail from sstephenson@ecinstall.com 6

Sometimes I get fan mail and sometimes I get really awesome hate mail. Today, a man by the name of Steve Stephenson (also sent from blappo@gmail.com) at www.ecinstall.com decided to send me three pieces of mail despite my lack of response:

Subject: Why must you lie on Slashdot? Or is it that you're stupid?
So, the question is, are you just a REALLY bad reader, or are you that guy who has to lie because intelligent discourse is beyond his intellectual capability?

Subject: God, why are you such a lying piece of shit?
"Excuse me, how did we go from sarcasm and suing: (1) get another job, (2) sue people, or (3) invent some magic spell?" WE didn't, YOU did. WE understood what he meant from the start and didn't have to resort to straw men and lies like you have

Subject: God, you've PROVEN you don't read what you're responding to

"First, O'Reilly isn't really my publisher"


How fucking stupid are you?

Yeah, I was wrong, I would like to send my apologies to Steve Stephenson who is employed at ecinstall.com and can be reached at sstephenson@ecinstall.com.

I was confused with his publisher, I am completely straightened out thanks to your extreme language. You, truly, you sir are the epitome of "intelligent discourse" as yo put it. Never have I matched wits with someone so intelligent. I only wish more people like you would send me mail so I could finally decide to stop visiting Slashdot when I am bored.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Slashdot Ads Hit an All Time Low 1

It amazes me that Slashdot would allow an ad like this one to run on the front page of Slashdot. You know you're a credible news source when right below your headlines is "Barack the Magic Negro (Offensive?)"

Guess those trolls are willing to pay top dollar to get through to the Slashdot crowd these days. I guess if it pays the bills it's ok.

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