Kindling a Romance

As we’re all aware, it’s ridiculously easy to plagiarize information. What I did not realize is how easy it is to plagiarize information and then turn a profit!

Apparently, the Kindle supports a thriving erotica section and one of the most popular authors, Sharazade, in a fit of jealous irritation, decided to investigate the leading contributor:

“I took a sentence from the description and put it in between quotes and dropped it into Google, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula came up.” Shar says. “It was word for word Dracula.”

Her reasons notwithstanding, she seems to have uncovered a nefarious scheme in which authors lift free erotica from websites and then sell it as their own on the Kindle marketplace.

I’m not sure why it would be necessary to plagiarize erotica, but I suppose laziness knows no bounds. I, however, am going to seriously consider breaking into this marketplace. Be on the lookout for my forthcoming title The Lust of the Lobsterman’s Wife.

Vinny’s Epilogue

Now my contract’s renegotiated,
And what monies I have are tripled,
Which is most fair: now, ‘tis true
I must be here confined by Steve,
Or sent to Seaside. Let me not,
Since I have my boyfriend got
And pardon’d the Instigator, dwell
In this Staten Island by your spell;
But release me from my moms
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle fist-pump of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my storyline fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Triple A’s to enforce, battles to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by smoosh,
Which pierces so that it allegedly assaults
A hippo named Mercy, but frees of fault.
As you from a zoo would pardon’d be,
Let me return with Paulie D.

Again, noted theater critic Brian Moylan provided the inspiration for this in his Friday recap of The Jersey Shore.

This Just In: Ron Paul is Racist

Seemingly unracist candidate Ron Paul is actually racist! Here’s the scoop: apparently, there were some newsletters that he issued some time ago, and those newsletters contained odd, racist, homophobic, and genuinely batshit crazy rantings (among pathetic sales pitches). But it would seem that the plot thickens, because according to Ron Paul, he didn’t even know what the newsletters said! And of course he can’t be racist if he didn’t know what the newsletters said!

Well, it turns out he did know what the newsletters said. So there you have it: Ron Paul is a racist. And also a terrible salesman.

UN Spoke: This Coke is No Joke; DHL’s System Clearly Broke

On Thursday, the package delivery wizards at DHL delivered 35 pounds of cocaine wrapped in what appeared to be a “diplomatic sack” (hold your jokes, please) to the United Nations. Apparently, though the package was not addressed to the UN, it featured a mark that looked like the UN symbol; thus, DHL decided to deliver it and let the bureaucrats sort it out:

“It is my understanding that because there was no addressee, the DHL just thought well that’s the U.N. symbol so we should ship it on to U.N. headquarters and let them figure out who it was supposed to go to,” Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, of the New York Police Department told the AFP.”

A UN spokesman assured CNN that the package of cocaine wasn’t meant for any members. Apparently diplomats still get their coke the old-fashioned way: from Russian strippers at underground nightclubs.

[NPR]

Boston is Retahded

Ah, Puritans…so much influence even after all these years. I have never been able to understand Boston’s relationship with alcohol; a large city where there’s no happy hour, the bars close at 2 am, and you can’t buy beer after 11 pm seems completely ridiculous. As a counterpoint, in Anchorage, Alaska, you can purchase liquor until 1 am, and the bars don’t close until 3 (during the week, no less). In fucking Alaska, for Christ’s sake! And Boston is still one of the drunkest cities in America. So clearly Boston’s fucked up blue laws are really working.

However, I did not realize how truly stupid this city can be until today. Apparently, despite a budget shortfall, the MBTA has succumbed to the pressure of a fucking high school anti-liquor youth coalition and decided that they’ll no longer advertise alcohol on the T. It will cost them $1.5 million in revenue.

Meanwhile, the MBTA is proposing a 35-43% fare increase, coupled with a reduction in service. While I realize that $1.5 million is a drop in the T’s debt-bucket, it seems like every little bit might help.

But yeah, MBTA, go ahead and take drinking and advertising advise from oxy-snorting douchebag millenial fucktwats. You suck anyway, so why bother changing?

Holy Jesus, Thomas Friedman is a Giant Asshole

There are two New York Times columnists that I’d love to slap. The first is obviously David Brooks, and the second is Thomas Friedman, mustached douche and crony of global capitalism. The other day, Friedman wrote a column that was far more than slap-worthy, and funnily enough joined Brooks in citing Davidson’s essay from the Atlantic. While both men make similar points about Davidson’s essay, only Friedman escalates into the “I wish I could stab him for writing this” territory. And that’s saying something, considering how much of an idiot Brooks can be.

Friedman’s essay, entitled “Average is Over,” covers familiar territory: globalization, competition, Chinese slaves, blah blah blah. It’s nothing new, really; Friedman found his dead horse and he continues to bludgeon it with inexplicable fervor. Essentially, Friedman argues, American workers of the future cannot afford to be “average,” as they could in the past. Completely ignoring the subjectivity of averages, Friedman points out that now the American worker competes with “above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius,” and thus every worker bee must “find their extra—their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment.” Aside from being condescending, this point is obvious, and moreover has always been true—competitive workers, regardless of their field, have always had to demonstrate an “extra” quality.

But that was only the beginning of the essay! Wait ‘til Friedman gets going! Positively slavering over the idea that waiters and waitresses might be among the future unemployed, Friedman goes on to describe technology that, unless you’re an asshole, sounds pretty Goddamn shitty. Basically, it’s an iPad that allows you to order food from your table and then ignore your dining companions. Most important, however, is the significant reduction in employee costs:

Each console goes for $100 per month. If a restaurant serves meals eight hours a day, seven days a week, it works out to 42 cents per hour per table — making the Presto cheaper than even the very cheapest waiter.

Hooray! Now I can displace a worker, order extra bacon without talking to a human being, and play Angry Birds while waiting for my food! Dinner conversation is usually boring anyway; I mean, how many different ways can a person describe their day?

By now, Friedman has already ensured a swift kick in the ass, delivered by me, should I ever meet him. But he’s not content to stop there, oh no! Friedman wishes to drive home the point that average is simply unacceptable. Do you know why? Because of the Chinese, that’s why!

What the iPad won’t do in an above average way a Chinese worker will. Consider this paragraph from Sunday’s terrific article in The Times by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher about why Apple does so much of its manufacturing in China: “Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly-line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the [Chinese] plant near midnight. A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. ‘The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,’ the executive said. ‘There’s no American plant that can match that.’ ”

Wow! Chinese workers sure are dedicated to their jobs! I bet they love cranking out iPad cases and breathing in aluminum dust and being set on fire occasionally. At least they get biscuits and tea! Friedman is basically marveling at the efficiency of slavery. In the interest of balance, here’s an excerpt from another excellent article that appeared in the Times on the topic of Apple’s manufacturing in China:

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.

Friedman’s probably right, though—it would be tough to get American workers to apply for manufacturing jobs with 12-hour shifts (sometimes doubled), no safety protections, and a salary that doesn’t exceed $22 per day.

Is there any way an iPad could replace Thomas Friedman? That’s an app I’d happily download.

I Say, Does that Cloak Come in Steampunk?

According to the Institute of Physics, scientists have for the first time “cloaked a three-dimensional object standing in free space:”

“Whilst previous studies have either been theoretical in nature or limited to the cloaking of two-dimensional objects, this study shows how ordinary objects can be cloaked in their natural environment in all directions and from all of an observer’s positions.

 

Published today, 26 January, in the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society’s New Journal of Physics, the researchers used a method known as “plasmonic cloaking” to hide an 18-centimetre cylindrical tube from microwaves.”

After this, the next logical step can only come from the delightful defier of linear fashion, J. Peterman: introducing the Victorian Invisibility Cloak:

Weekends in the country with friends and wine; a cabin by the lake. Gatsby didn’t have it this good, you think to yourself, and rightly so. But what’s this?  The Yalies have invaded the adjacent camp!  Their shenanigans shall not stand.

 

And now there’s a way to bane those bantering Bulldogs without being seen: The Victorian Invisibility Cloak. Simply don the cloak and doff your cap to plasmonic metamaterials (Old Doc Witherspoon would be proud). With authentic ivory buttons and the finest brocade available (this side of free space, or even Milan) you’ll look stylish as you raid the camp of those earsplitting Elihus. Not that they’ll notice!  But when was the last time a Yalie appreciated fashion, anyhow?

 

The Victorian Invisibility Cloak, one size (men and women). $1,499

What Does it Take to Change the Essence of a Park?

Apparently, Alaska lawmakers have proposed a federal takeover of Central Park in an effort to highlight the federal government’s prohibition on drilling for oil in ANWR. From the Anchorage Daily News:

Rep. Kyle Johansen, the lead sponsor of HJR31, says such a takeover would never happen. But he wanted an extreme example to make a point about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its being off limits to development.

In other news, logic just died.

Do Millenials Dream of Electric Slaves?

It’s difficult to predict the future of human/robot relations. Will we enslave them? Will they enslave us? Or will our relationship be a boring imitation of a Kubrickian dystopia? The first two are preferable to the last, but really, since all of those scenarios likely involve sex robots, it’s difficult to get upset.

Luckily for us, a recent study attempts to ascertain what children think about their relationships with artificial playmates. The results are predictably amusing and contradictory; for instance, these gentle young hominids enjoy the idea of robot friendships, but seem to also enjoy the idea of robotic serfdom:

“When I got to school this morning, my teacher surprised me by giving me a robot to help me with my schoolwork. We played football at recess with my friends. In class, he wrote for me and helped me to think. Leaving school he carried my bag and transformed into a bike. When we got home he prepared my snack and helped me do my homework. He created books for me to read, and we played with toy cars. He keeps my secrets. I can tell him anything, and he gives me advice.” –Boy, 10, France

I find myself wondering what sort of advice this robot provides. Kill all humans, perhaps? Another child relished the prospect of his new robotic parent, especially since his human parents seem like they suck:

“When I get home, my robot helps me with my homework. My mother and father [came in and said] no video games now, homework first, but when they saw that I was already finished and had done everything correctly, they were glad that I had made friends with the robot. It could do everything—play soccer, build Legos, read, do math, write, and all the movements a person can make. Since my parents really are always at work a lot, they can’t always help me or play with me or cook something. Now the robot helps them with that.” –Boy, 9, Germany

Yes, young Gerhardt’s parents were thrilled at the prospect that he would no longer bother them with his childish musings. And young Gerhardt was seemingly also thrilled at the prospect of a mechanical homework machine that would take on the boring tasks of learning, so that he could fulfill his daily Call of Duty requirements. Try as I might, I can’t really blame him–Call of Duty is pretty fun.

Another youngster, again French, who apparently studies wizardry, also enjoyed enslaving his robot for the purposes of homework:

“My group finished its work before class ended, so my teacher let us leave early with the robot. I am overcome with joy and I play with him. But my friends are jealous so I lend them him (but not always). We are happy that he is with us and we have a good time. He helps us with building problems, like building models. Or scientific and alchemical problems. He can fly, drive, run and walk, of course.” –Boy, 11, France

So, while it seems that these children enjoy the prospect of robotic friends, I detect sinister undertones, because they seem to also enjoy foisting their human responsibilities onto their circuited counterparts. What this means for the future is unclear, and I decline to make a prediction. I will make one comment, however: fuck these kids! I didn’t get any robots when I was little. We had Go-Bots, for Christ’s sake! Do you remember how shitty those were?

Wanted: Ranger or Bard—Must Have Own D20, Scratch Paper

Have you ever found yourself modeling the statistical probabilities of various THAC0 scenarios in a vain attempt to convince younger gamers that the stodgy “AD&D 2nd Edition” rules are better than the watered-down, Bieberified “4th Edition” rules?

Do you have dreams in which future presidential candidates are asked about their positions on unrestricted player ability scores?

Are you considering writing a thesis about the post-colonial objectification of Dark Elf maidens on the continent of Faerun?

Is your epic poem featuring Raistlin Majere almost complete?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, don your best chain mail (and girdle, probably), pick up your +2 mace, and get ready to assist the Wizards of the Coast in revising Dungeons & Dragons! No, they’re not real wizards.

Asking for player feedback is Dungeons & Dragons’s latest attempt at winning back disgruntled dungeon masters, players, and non-player characters (Drizzt Do’Urden couldn’t be reached for comment). According to the wizards at D&D (and Lisa Schuh, their director of publishing and licensing),

“This strategy centers on asking [players] what they’d like to see in a new version and giving everyday gaming groups the chance to test new rules. ‘We’re really lucky that we have such passionate fans,’ Ms. Schuh said, ‘and we anticipate they’ll roll up their sleeves and help us in this effort.’”

Ms. Schuh did not mention whether rolling up your sleeves would affect your armor class.

Do you hear the call? You will finally have a chance to put your efforts to actual purpose. Not that making that little shit from down the street cry about his weak DM’ing skills isn’t a worthwhile purpose—that kid sucks!

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