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User Journal

Journal Journal: Agorophobia 2

âoeSay, Ed! How was your trip? Lager?â
        âoeHi, John. Yeah, Iâ(TM)ll have a lager. The whole trip was lousy, a journey through hell all the way.â
        âoeDidn't you fly Green-Osbourne?â
        âoeWell, yeah.â
        The bartender swore; he was a wealthy man who owned the bar he was tending and quite a bit of Green-Osbourne Transportation Company stock as well. âoeWhat went wrong on the trip?â
        âoeThose stupid talking robots. God but I hate those things.â
        The bartender laughed. âoeEverybody does.â
        âoeWhy do you have them talking, then?â
        âoeAdvertising and engineering want to point out our superior technology, including AI.â
        âoeWell, it's too much A and not much I at all. Those things are really stupid.â
        John snickered. He hated talking robots, too, but had been voted down at board meetings. The tendbot he used when it got too busy for a single bartender to easily handle heâ(TM)d special ordered, with no voice, only screen printouts and beeps. Most people thought talking robots were creepy.
        âoeWell, look, Ed, they canâ(TM)t really think. Programmers just use humansâ(TM) built-in anthropomorphism and animism. It's a parlor trick, one of our engineers explained it to me once. So what did the stupid thing do?â
        âoeIt was dinner time, the first night of the trip. I'd bought a business class ticket and somehow wound up on a first class flight... Say, did you have something to do with that?â
        John just smiled. âoeGo on, Ed, what did the stupid robot do?â
        Ed gave John a funny look and continued. âoeWell, I'd never had pork before. I thought it must be extra tasty, considering how ridiculously expensive it is.â
        âoeWell, it's environmental regulations.â
        âoeSure, it's why Earth buys all its ores from space miners. Mining is pretty much illegal on Earth, because poisonous pollution from mining, farming, industry, and transportation nearly ruined the Earth's ability to sustain life a couple of centuries ago. It... Oh wow. Want to get rich, Ed?â
        âoeNot particularly, why?â
        âoeSomeone will. We should build hog domes and farm pigs in them, and sell the pork to Earthians. Iâ(TM)d do it but Iâ(TM)m way too busy, what with Green-Osbourne, the bar, the brewery, and the farm I grow beer ingredients in.â
        âoeWell, I'll talk to a few folks. It would help Marsâ(TM) economy. Fill me up, John,â he said, sliding his glass across the bar. âoeUh, what were we talking about?â
        âoePork and robots.â
        âoeYour trip.â
        âoeOh, yeah, pork. Why is it so expensive?â
        âoeLike I said, environmental regulations. They almost made Earth unlivable a couple hundred years ago. Pigs are just too nasty to ranch more than a dozen or so in any one place there.â
        âoeWell, Earth was damned filthy, thatâ(TM)s for sure. Almost as dirty as it was heavy. Anyway, porkâ(TM)s way too expensive for me. I wouldnâ(TM)t even be able to afford pork on Earth, let alone on Mars, so since I had a first class ticket and meals were covered, I wanted to try pork. So I told the servebot I wanted ham and beans.
        âoeThe stupid thing said there was no âHammond beanâ(TM) listed in its database. So I said âNo, you stupid junk pile, ham, and, beans.â(TM) It said âThe word hamand is not in my database.â(TM) stupid thing.â
        John grinned. âoeSo what did you do?â
        âoeWhat could I do? I ordered a barbecued pork steak. It was really good! But the damned robots annoyed me like that the whole trip. The very next morning I felt like a turkey cheese omelette so I ordered one. The stupid robot said âThere are no Turkish cheeses listed in the database.â(TM) So I said âA turkey omelette with cheese.â(TM) So it says âthere are no Turkish omelette dishes listed in the database.â(TM) Stupid computer.
        âoeSo I said âI want a cheese omelette with turkey meat. A turkey omelette has nothing to do with the country called Turkey...â(TM) Whatâ(TM)s so damned funny, John?â
        John was laughing uproariously. âoeExactly the same thing happened to Destiny when we first came here, only the computer was printing it out instead of talking. Let me guess, it said âParse error, please rephraseâ(TM).â
        âoeYep, exactly. So I said I wanted an omelette with turkey meat, and it goes âThere is no meat that has come from that country listed in the database.â(TM) dumb machine! So I says âTurkey the bird, damn it!â(TM) it said...â
        âoeIt said âParse error, please rephrase,â(TM) didnâ(TM)t it?â John interrupted.
        âoeSure did. So I asked what meats were available for omelettes. It said pork, chicken, duck, turkey, and beef. So I said âA cheese omelette with turkey meat.â(TM) the idiotic thing repeated âThere is no meat from that country.â(TM) Iâ(TM)ll tell you, John, that damned thing was really making me mad by then. I finally said âDamn it, computer, I want a cheese omelette with bird meat.â(TM) it said âPlease name the bird.â(TM) I told it turkey and finally got my breakfast.â
        âoeThereâ(TM)s a trick to it,â John said. âoeTell it you want a cheese and turkey omelette and it wonâ(TM)t give you any trouble. If you would have asked for navy beans and ham you would have gotten your ham and beans. Like I said, they donâ(TM)t really think.â
        âoeNo kidding. That must the dumbest computer I ever saw. Well, the tendbot in the commons may have been even more stupid. It didnâ(TM)t know what a Cardinal was.â
        John groaned. âoeEd, thatâ(TM)s strictly the Martian name for that drink. Everybody else calls them Bloody Marys.â
        âoeOh. Why do they call them that?â
        âoeBecause thatâ(TM)s what they were called for hundreds of years before anybody ever came here, before they had space travel, even. Before your ancestors ever left earth.â
        âoeSo why do we call then Cardinals then?â
        âoeFrank Harris was responsible for the name. He was a farmer who came here from Earth and started growing tomatoes, under the âCardinalâ(TM) brand.â
        âoeBut why cardinal?â
        âoeThereâ(TM)s a bright red Earthian bird called a cardinal, so he named the bright red tomatoes after the bird. Bartenders here had never had a Bloody Mary before, because nobody here had tomatoes before Hardy brought them. So when they thought they had invented a tomato drink, they named it after the brand of tomatoes.â
        âoeHow do you know all this stuff?â
        âoeMy wifeâ(TM)s a history buff. Sheâ(TM)s been getting me interested in it, too. So what happened after you got to Earth?â
        âoeOh, man, it was pure hell, painful torture and terror. You know I've only been off Mars a few times in my life, mostly to Ceres or an asteroid dome out in the belt. But Earth... oh man. It was nothing like I'd ever experienced before. Or even imagined, it was horrible!â
        âoeFirst was the weight! That was part of what was wrong with the trip, when the robot was arguing about the turkey cheese omelette it was already getting really heavy. By the time we reached Earth I couldnâ(TM)t walk at all and had to use an electric chair to get around. How do those people live like that?â
        âoeEd, you should have been working out for months before going to Earth, especially since youâ(TM)ve never had more than Mars gravity.â
        âoeWell, I did walk.â
        âoeWalkingâ(TM)s not nearly enough.â
        âoeNo kidding, I couldnâ(TM)t even stand up there. Had to have a robot help me in and out of bed. It was torture!
        âoeWhy didn't you use a walker?â
        âoeYou have to have gravity close to Earth's to learn how to use one.â
        âoeBill Holiday uses one, and he's from Ceres. All the asterites grew up in less gravity than you did and he goes to Earth all the time, it's part of his job.â
        âoeHe would have had to train to use it, those things weigh over a hundred kilos counting the power, and training takes longer than I was going to be on Earth.
        âoeThe horrible weight was bad enough, but it was horribly scary there as well.â
        John grinned. He was an immigrant, who was born in St. Louis and had settled on Mars in late middle age. He hadn't thought of how it must be for a native-born Martian or Asterite on Earth. âoePretty scary, huh? I mean, not having a protective dome.â
        âoeWell, I've been outside the dome plenty of times, but being outside without an environment suit...â He shivered visibly. âoeGive me a shot of Scotch.
        âoeIt was night when we got there, and they used what seemed like they use here on Mars to connect the ship to the terminal. On Mars it's so passengers don't have to wear environment suits, but I don't know why they do it on Earth. Probably so us spacers would feel at home.â
        âoeWell, not really,â John said. âoeIt gets hot and cold there, and it rains. It's so passengers don't have to have coats and umbrellas. They were doing it like that before the first spacer dome was built.â
        âoeYeah, I found out about rain and cold the night I got there, and heat the next day. In the entrance way to the terminal there was a flash in a window and a loud boom a second or two later. I thought there had been an explosion.â
        âoeYeah, and it was really loud! I almost jumped out of my skin. Anyway, we rented a car and I told it to take us to our hotel for check-in, and the first lightning flash scared the hell out of me. It looked like a crack in the sky and made me feel like all the air would escape, and then the thunder. I've never heard anything so loud!â
        âoeYou should hear a chemical rocket with a heavy load taking off!â
        âoeI have, down here on Mars, and it's nowhere near as loud as thunder.â
        John laughed. âoeEd, there's hardly any air outside the dome. Haven't you noticed how much quieter it is outside the dome?â
        âoeThere's nothing out there to make noise.â
        âoeWell, if there was it wouldn't be loud.â
        âoeI guess. Anyway, parking at the hotel was outside, but the car dropped us off under an awning before it parked itself. Lightning flashed again, and it really gave me the willies. Then it thundered, even louder than it had before. It was so loud you could feel the sound. It was really scary!â He finished his beer and slid his glass to the other side of the bar. âoeFill 'er up, John!â
        John poured another beer for Ed as Ed continued his traveling horror story. âoeMan, all that water pouring out of the sky. It was really strange, and even the water was scary and I donâ(TM)t know why. And it was cold. Must have been under twenty.â
        âoeIt gets well below zero some places.â
        âoeHow do they live like that?â he repeated. âoeI was all right as long as I was inside, except that first night when it stormed. I hated that storm! I sure am glad we donâ(TM)t have anything like that on Mars!
        âoeThere was a bar in the hotel, thankfully, so I didnâ(TM)t have to go out until the next morning. But the storm scared the hell out of me.â
        âoeSo how did your meeting go?â
        âoeWell, I had to take the car there, meaning I had to be outside. It was fine in the dark, like a room with no lights turned on, but walking outside without an environment suit when you could see the sky really freaked me out. I finally told myself it was just a big blue dome.â
        âoeDid it work?â
        âoeNot really. It was really hard rolling around out there in my electric chair, and it was really hot outside! I never sweated before, and I hate it.
        âoeBut worse than that was bugs. Some of them bite. Some of the bugs they called âbutterfliesâ(TM) the Earthians thought were pretty. I thought they were creepy and scary.
        âoeAnd barking dogs. I never saw a dog before, and John, those things are scary as hell, just downright terrifying. And there are a whole lot of them there.â
        âoeOkay, how did the meeting go?â
        âoeLousy. Between the weight and the storm I didnâ(TM)t sleep well. And the weight, the bugs, the dogs, the outside, the heat, the storm, all of it had me so rattled I couldnâ(TM)t think straight, and we didnâ(TM)t get the contract, DA2 did. At least it was a friendâ(TM)s dome.
        âoeGive me another shot, John. Man, but Iâ(TM)m glad to be back home here on Mars. Earth sucks. Now I know what people mean by âhell on Earthâ(TM). Earth is hell!â
        John grinned again. âoeSo... I take it youâ(TM)re not going back?â

User Journal

Journal Journal: Internet Dysphoria - if you don't have it, it's likely you know someone who does 5

Yesterday we read about how smartphones are contaminating family life. People are getting to the point where they feel anger or resentment towards the place the internet takes in so many people's lives, including their own. Here I propose both a formal diagnosis and criteria as a first step in helping those so affected.

Dysphoria is a psychiatric term for a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life.

Gender dysphoria is the psychiatric term for the distress a person experiences as a result of the sex and gender they were assigned at birth not being congruent with who they feel they are.

Which brings is to Internet Dysphoria

Sense of dissatisfaction, unease, or distress with life on the Internet, esp. when the person is finding that, no matter how much exposure they get, the feeling just gets worse.

Symptoms can include:

  1. anger and frustration with the sheer volume of misinformation, outright lies, and manipulation by others, especially for profit
  2. an overwhelming desire to throw their phone against the wall or punch out their keyboard or screen.
  3. reminiscing about the "good old days" when you could talk to people without their phones constantly interrupting
  4. feeling like they, just by their very presence, are somehow inhibiting others from devoting their entire attention to the internet - especially true when visiting someone or sitting down for a meal and everyone else is glued to their phones. See Internet Alienation Syndrome.

The most likely viable treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy to help the individual realize that they are engaging in distorted thinking when believing that the internet should be such a fixture in their daily life, and to see the internet for what it has become - an echo chamber / rage machine / manipulator par excellence for profit at the expense of the users long-term autonomy, independence, and privacy.

Short-term solutions may include

  1. getting a data plan with crappy limits;
  2. "forgetting" your phone in the car;
  3. buying a Samsung Note 7 or Apple iPhone with touch screen disease;
  4. making mealtime rules such as fist one to use their phone at the table does the dishes, and first one to use their phone at the restaurant pays the bill.

More research is needed on this socially and emotionally crippling problem. Feel free to send me research grants, donations, chocolate and pizza, etc.

Note: This disorder is closely related to, but distinct from, Programmer's Dysphoria, which manifests itself in a growing feeling that coding is no longer enjoyable, that many projects are vapid or even evil, and that affected programmers wish they had gone into a different career and just kept coding as a hobby activity.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Post election 12

Assuming we don't elect the fascist, both Democrats and Republicans are going to have to do some desperate soul searching this election.

Democrats are going to have to acknowledge that the race was, at one point, extremely close (at the time of writing, it isn't, but what's to say it won't again in the next three weeks.) They're going to have to recognize that this was, in large part, because whatever Clinton's professionalism and qualifications, and however unfair it might be that she's suffered a decades long smear campaign, even without the smears she was never a great candidate. She represents a centrism and a failure to push for substantive change that is anathema to a significant number of people in the US.

How bad is she? Trump's obvious fascism was not enough to make people vote for her. The entire election has just fallen because he's shown himself to be an unpresidential thug towards women. Not because he advocates violence against his opponents. Not because he has promised to abuse the power of the Presidency to punish and imprison political enemies and journalists. Not because he has promised to make it easier to punish those who criticize the rich and powerful. Not because he has scapegoated immigrants for the problems of Americans. Not because he has smeared as rapists, murderers, and terrorists, immigrants and members of minority religions. Not because he has enlisted and cultivated the support of foreign anti-American despots to his presidential campaign. And not because he's been blatant about it, proposing simplistic solutions to complex problems without details or fact based arguments to back them up.

No Presidential candidate in recent history has been so obviously opposed to the values America fought in WW-II to defend, and yet that candidate got close enough to the Democratic candidate to seriously threaten her chances of winning. The Democrats, by any reasonable measure, put up a terrible candidate.

Republicans are going to have to acknowledge that the experiment started in the early nineties (perhaps earlier) to discredit and illegitimatize Democratic Party Presidents has caused unbelievable damage to the country, and destroyed both parties in the process. From Rush Limbaugh's early beginnings as describing the Clinton Regime as an "occupation", to the scorched Earth treatment of the Obama Presidency by Republican legislators, the end result wasn't a stronger Republican party, but a party that lost control of itself enough to find itself under the control of the first Fascist major party presidential candidate in living memory.

That means Republicans will have to bite the bullet and work with Clinton if and when she gets into office. Both parties will need to find points of agreement, areas where ordinary people will benefit from action, from infrastructure to improvements in healthcare, That's not to suggest they should hide their differences, but the last eight years in particular have been completely ridiculous, with Republicans failing to support stimulus and infrastructure improvements they clearly have no problems with, simply because Obama might get credit.

If you want to get good, honest, respected people to stand for leadership of government, it's a good idea to make that government good, honest, and respected to begin with. It isn't.

Whether either side will do any of this is.... I'll be happy if they do, but it really requires both parties to understand what just happened, and to change direction. I'm not sure they can.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Mod points? I don't want fricking mod points! 7

I always feel obligated to use them. Just got rid of 5 yesterday, and today I have 15 more. With so much crap on the internet, including slashdot, it's like King Canute telling the tide to turn, or Sisyphus rolling that rock up the hill over and over.

I mean, what's the point. Nothing changes, because the internet is a vast echo chamber/rage machine/for-profit disinformation generator.

So instead, I'm going to talk about my dog Toby, who died a week ago after 13 years. At least that's grounded in reality (note: virtual reality is an oxymoron - get over it already). And it's something that people can perhaps relate to that is real and unhyped.

Toby was a good dog. He was dumped on me when I was asked to watch him for 10 days, and as a pup he got along well with my St. Bernard. At the end of the ten days, I called to ask when they were taking Toby back, and was told "He's yours now. I left his papers with you." Considering that Toby was chewing everything in sight, and would pee within a minute of my leaving, and poop within 5 (separation anxiety), I was a bit bemused. He was an ugly dog - his head didn't fit his body, all the parts were gangly and awkward. People would ask me what type of dog he was, and I'd tell them he was a fugly.

That changed as he grew up - people were still asking me what type of dog he was, but they were complimenting his good looks and his friendly character. The little kids in the neighborhood thought he was an over-grown world (he got big, just the way I like my dogs). Even dogs that tried to bite him, he would step back a pace and look at them as if to say "okay, NOW can we be friends?" Often it worked.

When I was told that I was going to eventually lose my sight, I trained him as a guide dog - without a harness. When my blood sugar went too low, and I couldn't tell what was happening but just wanted to get in my home, he pulled me past the entrance and to the next house (where we had never been). I woke up on the concrete porch, police, fire, ambulance, and doctor trying to figure out how to get to me because of the dogs (Bear #2, my second newfie, was there also), and I knew that there was no way I would have made it up 14 stairs if we had gone in. And that being indoors, nobody would have seen what happened.

I owed this dog big time. I also gave him a far better life than most dogs could hope for. We were good for each other, and in the end that's what counts.

This is the first time in decades that I haven't owned a big dog. What do I have left? Well, there's my neighbor's little shih-tzu mix who thinks he's mine (since he's been living here most of his life). Guess I'll get me some more of good old-time reality by taking him for a walk :-)

As for the internet? I'm not impressed.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Exhibit 4

(Non-borked version is at my web log. Slashdot, please fix your buggy code!)

        The entire universe was turned inside out and upside down and completely backwards today, and I must have been the only one to see it. It all started with an innocent looking email.

        I get a lot of emails like this one, except that the noteâ(TM)s subject line looked like a headline from the National Enquirer, or maybe The Onion. It read âoeArchaeologists Find Twenty Five Million Year Old iPhone.â Misaddressed, maybe? But it was a press release for an art exhibit.

        A few minutes after I set the mail aside is when it hit me; the fellow who sent the email had mentioned that heâ(TM)d seen my work before and knew Iâ(TM)d written about art and wanted me to see his exhibit. I had written a story, one story, ten years earlier, and the paper hadnâ(TM)t published it.

        I printed it out and went to see Frank, my boss.

        âoeWhatâ(TM)s up, Stan?â he asked.

        âoeI just got the strangest emailâ I said, handing him the printout. He read it.

        âoeSo whatâ(TM)s so weird, Stan? You must get these every day!â

        âoeWhatâ(TM)s weird is that yeah, Iâ(TM)m working on that story about the city museum, but I havenâ(TM)t even finished researching it and barely have an outline, and I only wrote one other art thing, and it was never published!â

        âoeHuh, that is weird. Why donâ(TM)t you go down and check the place out?â

        âoeYou know, Frank, I think I will. Maybe Iâ(TM)ll get a fun story out of it.â

        It was here in town, 568 Broadway, up in the eleventh floor. It was only about a fifteen minutes ride on the subway, and I rode the elevator up.

        It looked like an Apple store, only it was as weird as the email. For instance, it had strange iPhone accessories, like a case with a built-in hourglass. It was like an Apple store in some twisted alternate dimension.

        I had expected to see Evan Yee, the artist behind the installation, but nobody was there at all. Also weird. I took a few photos and left, disappointed that I had gotten no story out of it.

        I went to the elevator, and there was no elevator. Instead, there was a door leading outside, at street level. I wondered if I was going crazy, and remembered the time my mother said she had a âoesenior momentâ. Maybe I was just getting old, but I was only forty five.

        I reached for my phone as I walked outside, thinking that maybe Iâ(TM)d get some sort of inspiration from the pictures, but it was gone. Damn, that phone cost six hundred dollars! I was glad Iâ(TM)d noticed so soon, and turned around to go in â" and it was an Apple store. Between losing my phone and my disorientation when I left the exhibit, I hadnâ(TM)t noticed that there hadnâ(TM)t been anyone outside.

        By now I was sure I was going crazy. I went in anyway, and there was my phone, laying on one of the counters. I picked it up, looked around, and the place looked nothing like it had before Iâ(TM)d left, although it still looked like a weird, twisted, dystopian Apple store.

        I left again, and the street and sidewalk were bright green. I just stood there a minute, kind of dazed, I guess. By then I was pretty sure Iâ(TM)d gone stark raving mad. Maybe I was having a stroke? I reached in my pocket to call for an ambulance, and my phone was gone. I could have sworn Iâ(TM)d stuck it in my pocket.

        I went back in, and it wasnâ(TM)t an Apple store any more, just an empty room with my phone laying on the floor. I picked it up and tried to call 911, but there was no signal. I went outside again to get a signal; lots of buildings suck for phones, and it was now night; it had been morning when Iâ(TM)d gone in.

        And there were two moons. Everything else was normal, but there were two moons in the sky and there were no people.

        And my phone was missing again! Next phone I buy is going to be a cheap one. I went back inside, and it was an Apple store again, this time like any other Apple store. Again there was no one there, and again my phone was on the counter. And again, I could get no signal. I firmly gripped it in my fist and walked outside...

        And confronted a monster! A giant animal, really huge, bigger than an elephant with huge teeth and claws and feathers. I screamed and ran back inside... a cave.

        And Iâ(TM)d dropped my phone outside in my fright. Not that it seemed to work any more, anyway. Or that it mattered, since I had clearly gone insane.

        But I couldnâ(TM)t just sit in the cave. I waited a long time to make sure the monster was gone, then peeked outside. No monsters, and no phone. I went back in, I donâ(TM)t know why, and there was my phone laying on a large rock. I put it in my pocket, and noticed the cave had changed. It was huge before, now little more than an indentation in the rock face.

        I went back out, and it looked like New York in the early twentieth century, except there were no people. I hadnâ(TM)t seen a soul since Iâ(TM)d started this ordeal, except for the monster.

        And my phone was gone again. I turned around, and the Apple storeâ(TM)s sign read âoeBell Telephoneâ. I went inside and there was a bank of antique switchboards, all unmanned. My phone was laying on one.

        I put it back in my pocket and walked back out. I donâ(TM)t think Iâ(TM)ve ever been as worried and scared in my life, especially when Iâ(TM)d seen the huge, weird looking animal. This time the streets and signs of civilization were gone, and a group of wigwams was there where New York City had been before.

        I was shaking. I sat down on a log, put my face in my hands and cried like a baby. I felt like one, lost like no lost child had ever been lost before.

        Cried out, I sat and tried to think of a way out of the mess Iâ(TM)d somehow gotten myself into. The only thing I could think of was going back into the wigwam.

        There was a room filled with some very strange looking machinery, machinery Iâ(TM)d never seen before and had an idea that no one else had either. And there were people there this time! Two women, a blonde and a brunette, both wearing extremely strange looking clothing, intently poring over a complex-looking gizmo that looked like it was from some science fiction movie, and didnâ(TM)t notice my entry. I stood there speechless.

        âoeWe almost had him!â one of the women exclaimed. âoeIn the right dimension and we almost had him in the right time. It would have taken only one more minute. If heâ(TM)d just sat still a little longer!â

        âoeI canâ(TM)t find when he is now. This thing is being extra finicky today,â the other woman remarked.

        âoeExcuse me,â I said, âoeBut would someone please call 911? I think Iâ(TM)ve had a stroke or something.â

        They both whirled around at the same time. The blonde said âoeOh, no, heâ(TM)s now!â

        The brunette said âoeIt will be all right, sir. Please, take your phone and wait in the hallway until it rings. Thereâ(TM)s a comfortable chair out there.â

        âoeWhatâ(TM)s going on?â I asked.

        The blonde said âoeIâ(TM)m sorry, we canâ(TM)t say anything more without fouling things up even worse than they already are. Please, your world will be normal in a few minutes, just listen for your phone.â

        âoeUh, okay, I guess,â I said, and took my phone outside and sat down.

        Maybe fifteen minutes later I heard my ring tone, and it was coming from inside the office. I looked in my pocket and my phone was gone again.

        I wondered if someone at work could have spiked my coffee with some hallucinogen, but no... nobody at the office would have done such a thing. I sighed, wondering what strangeness I was going to see next, and went in.

        I was back at the art exhibit, and again, no one was there. I picked up the phone to answer it, but all that came out of it were some strange noises. I hung up, and I was getting a signal again! I called my boss.

        âoeWhere have you been?â Frank asked.

        âoeI got lost. I may have had a stroke or something, Iâ(TM)m going to the doctor to get checked out. Iâ(TM)ll call when Iâ(TM)m done to let you know.â

        âoeWell, I hope youâ(TM)re all right. Iâ(TM)ll talk to you later.â


        I walked hesitantly out into the hallway, and the chair and door to the outside the building were gone, with the elevators taking its place. I pushed the button, and when the car came I stepped in gingerly wondering what would happen when I got outside.

        Outside the building everything seemed normal again, with the throngs of people and noise of vehicular traffic. I hailed a cab and took the taxi to the hospital, where they took my vitals and did a brain scan and some psychological tests. The doctor said everything looked normal, but my blood pressure was a little high and I should make an appointment with my regular doctor.

        I took the subway back to the office. As I waited for the elevator, Doris, an editor, walked upâ"and she had red hair. Oh, no, I thought. âoeYour hair!â I said, scared again.

        âoeLike it?â she said. âoeI was tired of being a blonde so I dyed it last night.â

        I could have hugged her. We took the elevator up and I went to see Frank.

        âoeFrank, do you mind having someone else check out that exhibit? I donâ(TM)t think I could give them a fair revue.â

        Frank said I looked really pale and should go home, so I went home early. I couldnâ(TM)t get this weird day out of my mind, so I just wrote it down.

        Of course, Iâ(TM)m not putting this in the paper. Maybe Iâ(TM)ll send it to a science fiction magazine under an assumed name, because thereâ(TM)s no way anyone could believe it wasnâ(TM)t fiction.

        But Iâ(TM)m getting a new phone tomorrow.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Value of voting? Even in winner-take-all elections? 16

The continuation of this discussion: https://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=9707139&cid=53004045

I think that any winner-take-all system (including instant run-off) is going to destroy a party's ideology, because for every "normal" issue the voters are going to be distributed on a bell curve. Actually, it is possible to imagine 3D or higher issues, but that's not how it works in practice as the elements and dimensions are reduced to the minimum in search of clarity (or suitability for public debate?). Black-and-white binary issues are quite rare in the real world.

Assume that you start with two politicians discussing an issue. Then each of them is motivated to change his position towards the middle to capture the largest number of voters. If he crosses the middle, then he may start losing the small tail of voters "far behind" his new position, and that's where you seem to be. However, because you are in the small tail, it's still a winning election strategy, and you're more likely to be "neutralized" by some extremist on the other end who is equally offended by the politician who started on his side before moving to the center.

Today's so-called Republicans tried to "fix" the problem by moving the goalposts. That's more like rigging the game. They quit worrying about their actual beliefs that could be rationally justified and just started each discussion from the most extreme position on each issue. Essentially they were trying to redefine the bell curves more in their favor, but they have completely fallen off the cliff at this point. In other words, they started each discussion by lying about what they really believed, but instead just said whatever was most distant from their political opponents. The party of Honest Abe has been taken over by right wing extremists, anti-government fanatics, and various strains of haters. Not all of their voters, but definitely the entire leadership. GOP party-line discipline has become more extreme than within Lenin's Bolshevik Party.

At this point, the internal strain has become so severe that the so-called Republicans are alienating a key constituency, the people who always vote the same way. The evidence indicates that most people prefer to repeat their last vote rather than admit they were wrong. (That's the key to gerrymandering, by the way.) About 60% of the voters have been regarded as predetermined voters. Trump is actually flipping many of them because he focused so strongly on the extremists. Inertia notwithstanding, I am increasingly unable to see how any moderate person is still willing to call himself a Republican.

I think that coalitions help, though some of that is by venting off the extremists into their own parties. They still feel like they are represented even though the votes of their representatives are almost never decisive. However, perhaps the larger problem is with direct democracy itself. It doesn't scale, and I'm increasingly in favor of scalable hierarchical systems where your votes are actually more meaningful.

You may be familiar with the economists' analysis? It is so unlikely that your vote will matter that any other use of your time is better than voting. Economists are supposedly good at figuring out prices, but not so good at real values. I'd prefer a mathematical approach... How many times would you have to vote before one of your votes would turn out to be decisive? It's kind of like the birthday paradox. With two people, the chance that the 2nd person has a different birthday is 364/365, which is quite small, but as you add more people, you multiply 364/365 by 363/365 by 362/365 by... Around 30 people, you're almost sure to have a match, and you can use the same approach (but with more complicated math for multiple races in each election) to figure out when you would actually get to pick a winner.

Thank you for the provocation of my thoughts. Seems heavy enough to be worth porting to my journal...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Best simple SID to USB connection? 3

That may not be a good way to describe it but... I have a C64 I never use and I think I shall desolder its SID before consigning it to recycling since they are now officially hard to come by. What can I put it on that will let me use it efficiently?

User Journal

Journal Journal: What I think of you based on your politics 12

(0. You don't have the vote. Sit down, relax, and watch the fireworks I guess.)
1. You're voting for Trump because you agree with him or hate Clinton that much: You're probably a horrible person. You should definitely feel bad.
2. You're voting for Trump because you want to upend the establishment: I don't think you're very bright. Hey, I don't want to live in suburbia any more, but I'm not going to get out of it by committing a Federal felony and letting the FBI know. I'd rather bite my lip until an opportunity arises to move to somewhere better. There are worse things than "the establishment" (like a fascist government), just like there are worse things than "Suburbia".
3. You're voting for Clinton: Probably the best choice given the circumstances. Don't blame you.
4. You're voting for Johnson or Stein in a swing state: OK. Well, I respectfully disagree with your decision, I feel Trump really is that bad, but at least you're letting the politicians know you're not happy with them and what direction to go in.
5. You're voting for J or S in a solidly red or blue state: Cool.
6. You're not voting: what the f--- is wrong with you? Write yourself in if you have to, but vote.

Regardless of my feelings towards your decision, I love you all. I just think those of you who actively support Trump probably deserve a good kick in the sensitive places.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Another TV season, another Transparent freak show. 14

What is portrayed on that show is not how it is for many of us in real life. Putting a man in a dress and having him portray a transsexual is not really going to capture it, except for the unpassable. But of course, that's what makes good TV. The truth is boring.

Of course, it IS more accurate in portraying the intersection between transsexuals and the LGB community - but only for those who believe that the LGBT community is also their community. If you're not a gay/lesbian/bi transsexual, it's an alien portrayal except for a few freaks.

But don't you dare say so - it goes against the "agenda."

One of my neighbors called me over to watch it, and she knew I was trans. At one point, "Maura" is walking into a restaurant for a date. I couldn't help but say "What the heck? The walk, the posture, that just screams man in a dress." She said that she was thinking the same thing. Come on, put at least a minimal effort into it. What I see there is parody. The hollywood/gay community's view of transsexuals is so full of shit compared to most straight transsexual's lives outside the "community." Assholes.

User Journal

Journal Journal: WikiLeaks has Trump's tax returns! 25

Just joking. This is only a thought experiment. Had this been an actual emergency, you would have seen it on Twitter already. Notwithstanding...

What if WikiLeaks released the plausible, highly embarrassing, but possibly fake tax returns of Donald J Trump?

(1) Trump would still refuse to release his tax returns?

(2) Trump would release his tax returns and he would be helped by the resulting cloud of confusion.

(3) Trump would be hurt by the spotlight.

(4) Cowboy Neal already has the results of the audit!

Just a thought experiment, but remembering how they handled Dan Rather and how WikiLeaks works, I suspect Assange is already sitting on the Donald's tax returns...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ask Slashdot: What "rights" did Microsoft claim today? 1

What does the new MS Services Agreement and Privacy Statement REALLY mean?

Feels like ancient history, but do you remember "Where do you want to go today?" According to Wikipedia that was their second global campaign, so on the one hand, the beast knows we want freedom, but on the other hand is the EULA and "Services Agreement and Privacy Statement" and fiendish friends.

I am not a lawyer, so I have no idea what it means. I'm sure the old one wasn't perfect, but nothing is. I'm strongly suspicious the new one is more strongly in Microsoft's favor, but that's just speculation.

Googling for analysis comes up dry, but this is an obvious case of professional courtesy. There probably are some insightful websites out there, but if the google helps us find the Microsoft ones, then Microsoft will put more effort into making sure Bing returns the corresponding results about the google, eh?

Insights? Suggestions? Where are the (significant) changes and what do they really mean? How doth Microsoft profit? And of course...

Where do I want to get screwed today?

User Journal

Journal Journal: The lameness filter is broken (again) 13

Your comments "spectacularly brain-damaged suggestion" and "drug-fueled" are why I consider your post troll like.

The above quote rendered one of my comments unpostable...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Powell did not say who he was voting for 5

In reply to https://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=9654353&cid=52889219 the following comment took enough compositional effort that I want to keep a copy in so-called my journal.

Your comment has a false subject. ["Powell can't bring himself to vote for Hillary"] Powell has said he will not yet say who he is voting for.

Your body is also highly questionable. I remember watching at least one speech in which Powell endorsed then-Senator Obama, but I don't remember anything that approximated "enthusiastic supporter". Nor do I recall any of the marks of enthusiasm such as actively campaigning for Obama or speaking at the Democratic convention. According to my research just now, Powell only made his endorsement two weeks before the election in 2008.

One obvious lie and a highly questionable comment in such a short comment? Let me predict you are a Trump supporter, and in that case the only relevant question is "Who do you hate most?" Every Trump supporter I've met so far has been a deplorable hater, and I can only pity them. Maybe some of them can grow into less hate-filled people?

Powell is a realist. His assessment of Hillary was not particularly favorable, though I'm not sure how they compare with his personal assessment of Obama. However, it is clear that his personal assessment of Trump is extremely negative. He personally might well prefer the positions of Johnson on many issues, but he knows America has a winner-take-all system, so I predict that he will ultimately endorse Hillary or say nothing.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Yet more false equivalencies: Hillary Clinton is NOT Mitt Romney 46

False equivalencies: Hillary Clinton is NOT Mitt Romney

There are certainly some things to dislike about Hillary, but I actually think she was being refreshingly honest with the "basket of deplorables" comment. You sure can't tell from the worthless commentary of the worthless media, but it is important to understand the REAL differences.

Hillary was clear in stating that "deplorable" referred to racists and various other categories of bigots. That is, she was referring to people who hate other people, either for accidents of birth or for various acquired characteristics such as religious preference. She regarded it as deplorable that such people are eagerly supporting Trump, though I regard it as MORE deplorable that Trump welcomes their support. At this point, I am convinced the Donald is NOT faking it, and he really will do ANYTHING to become president, which includes accepting and even soliciting support from people who are deplorable or worse.

In contrast, Mitt's infamous 47% comment was really about HIS personal hatred towards roughly half of the entire population. He regarded those people as lazy bums who were never going to vote for a hard-working vulture capitalist. He was deploring their lack of HIS brand of greed, which is completely different from deploring their hatreds of other people.

I'm not sure where Romney got the exact value of 47%, but I can guess where Hillary got the "half", and even why she had to be fuzzy about it. The value depends on the exact question you ask. The question determines what kind of hatred you are measuring, and when such questions are put to Trump supporters the results range up to 70% picking the hate-filled response. Other questions elicit smaller percentages of "deplorable" responses, but "half" seems downright generous.

The latest poll shows about 40% of the voters supporting Trump, so the estimate of 20% of the voters as "deplorable" haters certainly is a lot of people. However, I think the standard of comparison here should be the percentages of voters who supported bad leaders in the past. Your political views probably don't matter as much as you think. If you deplore President Obama, then you think more than 50% of the voters made a terrible choice TWICE. If you adore Dubya, then you have to admit that more than 50% of the voters preferred Al Gore. (I'd even be curious if you have any rational and nonpartisan basis for attacking Obama, but I think I've seen all the criticisms and attacks by now, and many, perhaps most, of them qualify as deplorable.)

The original Republican Party led by Honest Abe was about constructive change (even though that led to an incredibly destructive war), and the GOP of Teddy and Ike was a party of gentlemen and their ladies. None of this applies to today's so-called Republicans led by Con Man Donald, the man of 3,500 suits, at least four major bankruptcies, and uncountable political bribes (but his tax returns would help count some of them).

User Journal

Journal Journal: Don't try to borrow money from rms 28

In response to https://yro.slashdot.org/story/16/09/04/0455250/richard-stallman-online-publishers-should-let-readers-pay-anonymously

I actually admire rms and regard him as a great man, but probably for smaller values of "great". In particular, he has little conception of money and his financial models have never demonstrated anything approaching viability or critical mass.

In years past I actually ran a few alternative financial models past him. He did ask an extremely perceptive question in one exchange. The question led me to a significant improvement in a financial model, but mostly he convinced me that he never has understood money, and probably never will. He wouldn't even be interested in whether or not he helped out, but he lives in a kind of money-free fantasy land, and I think his latest suggestion is just more evidence. Yes, he sees part of the problem, but his idea of anonymity as the solution is completely half-baked. If someone is motivated to donate, why would that motivation be affected by anonymity?

What the online media needs is a focus on SOLUTIONS. How many of us are sick and tired of reading about problems without solutions, and the media should earn a kind of tithe for helping to SOLVE the problems. The articles should be followed by links to some solution projects, and if enough readers (or viewers of a video) agree to support a project, then it would get funded, and the website would get a percentage for (1) publicizing the problem, (2) bringing donors to the solution project, and (3) evaluating the results and reporting them.

The details don't really matter to me, so in that sense I might be as bad as rms. You can call it an agent's fee if you prefer, though before that discussion with rms I mostly called it RACS (for Reverse Auction Charity Shares) and at some point afterwards I favored the idea of a charity share brokerage. DAUPR.

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