Category Archives: Current Affairs

wil’s tuesday link-o-rama

As part of my continuing plot to convince you all to read my Propeller submissions, I present a few of my favorite stories from the last couple of days:

The dying art of the knuckleball

In the Red Sox clubhouse a few hours before the start of a drizzly, early-May game against the Rays, Tim Wakefield wraps his hand around a brand-new baseball and models his knuckleball grip. On television, Wakefield’s grip appears claw-like and uncomfortable, but up close, it looks effortless…

Okay, first of all, when did the Devil Rays become the Rays? Did it happen because some crazy fundies got all worked up? I’m laying 3:2 that they did.

My enthusiasm for baseball — actually, in all professional sports that aren’t hockey or soccer — has cratered in the last couple of years, but I still love to watch a knuckleballer confound a batter. It’s a dying art , like pitchers who can last more than 5 innings.

Librarian carrying “McCain=Bush” sign kicked out of McCain event

In McCain’s *open to the public* townhall meeting, a 61 year-old woman was cited for trespassing on orders from the McCain security detail for carrying a sign that read “McCain=Bush.” Carol Kreck received a ticket and her court date is set for July 23.

That the event this woman was removed from was a public event, and she didn’t do anything more disruptive than hold up a sign. “All I did was carry a sign that said McCain = Bush,” Kreck said. “And for everyone who voted for Bush, I don’t see why it’s offensive to say McCain = Bush.” Well, McCain is running for Bush’s third term.

Book review: It’s All Too Much

It’s All Too Much is a terrific book that inverts the typical approach to dealing with existential kipple. Rather than helping you find new places and novel ways to “organize” all your crap, author Peter Walsh encourages you to explore why you ever kept all that junk in the first place.

Some friends of ours have my dream house: it’s got beautiful hardwood floors, it’s uncluttered, and they can park both of their cars in their garage. My whole life, I’ve had a problem with holding onto things (real and imagined) so this book looked super interesting to me, not because I need it (I know that I just need to get rid of my shit) but because it tells me that I’m not the only one with this problem.

HOWTO: build anti-paparazzi sunglasses

Hackaday posts plans to build some simple but effective anti-paparazzi sunglasses. They work by mounting two small infrared lights on the front. The wearer is completely inconspicuous to the human eye, but cameras only see a big white blur where your face should be.

I had to deal with paparazzi in that “really fucks with your ability to live your life” way for about two months when I was a teenager. I quickly figured out that if I avoided certain places and certain people, I could also avoid the cameras. But this project is interesting to me because we live in a world where our fucktard leaders are increasingly shoving their faces into every aspect of our personal and private lives, so any effort to say NOT YOURS is pretty important to me.

Bacon mania!

Why are Americans so batty for bacon? It’s delicious, it’s decadent — and it’s also a fashion statement.

I’m a vegetarian, so bacon as food is irrelevant to me. However, bacon as a cultural phenomenon? That’s something else entirely. Something crispy and delicious!

The History of the Chaos Computer Club

With causes like ensuring secure voting machines, protecting privacy, defeating censorship and governmental obfuscation, and promoting hacker ethics, the CCC has become something of a hacktivist powerhouse. They hold an annual “Chaos Communications Congress” gathering and also a very cool hacker camp every four years.

If you’re intrigued by this article, I highly recommend reading The Hacker Crackdown, The Cuckoo’s Egg, and Cyberpunk (which has nothing to do with actual Cyberpunk).

Book Review: Dungeons and Desktops

Dungeons and Desktops chronicles the rise and fall of the Computer RPG industry, from Akalabeth to Zelda. While the bulk of the book is devoted to the genre’s ‘Golden Age’ in the late ’80s and early ’90s, author Matt Barton explores the entire history of CRPGs, from their origins in the mid ’70s to the very recent past.

I’ve written a lot of articles about video games, and my love of classic gaming is well known. But I don’t know if I’ve ever pointed out just how much I love computer RPGS. From the Infocom games of my childhood to early Mac games like Uninvited and DejaVu to Fallout 2 and Planescape: Torment, to Bioshock, the RPGS are my absolute favorites. This book seems really, really awesome. (And really, really expensive, unfortunately.)

i think the planet is trying to tell us something . . .

North Pole ice ‘may disappear by September’

Arctic sea ice is now retreating so quickly that scientists say there is now a 50-50 chance that it will have gone completely by September.

[...]

The Arctic is seen as an important indicator of the potentially catastrophic changes that scientists say will come as the planet warms.

Honeybee collapse claims record number of hives this year

A record 36 percent of U.S. commercial bee colonies have been lost to mysterious causes so far this year and worse may be yet to come, experts told a congressional panel Thursday.

The year’s bee colony losses are about twice the usual seen following a typical winter, scientists warn. Despite ambitious new research efforts, the causes remain a mystery.

Um. I like this planet. It’s really beautiful, and it’s currently the only one I can live on. Could we maybe work together as a species to stop shit like this from happening?

windows open and raining in

I came across some really interesting items while Propelling today, which I wanted to share, because I can:

Farmers Put 220 Acres Under Glass to Create Vast Artificial Environment

On the chilly Isle of Thanet in Kent, England, farmers are placing 220 acres of land under glass so they can grow vegetables all year round. The greenhouse, when completed, will house 1.3 million plants and increase the UK’s crop of green vegetables by 15%. Called Thanet Earth, the project will be a series of 7 connected grenhouses with a relatively small carbon footprint. And nothing grown inside Thanet Earth will ever touch soil.

This interests me a great deal because I’m considering some hydroponic gardening in addition to my regular gardening here, as we attempt to reduce our carbon footprint and become more self-sufficient. Climate change played an important part in the worldbuilding of the novella I’m working on, so I’ve spent a lot of time researching the future of agriculture; it’s interesting to me to see people experimenting with different techniques in the present.

A Professional Gambler’s Take on the Tim Donaghy Scandal

Haralabos Voulgaris leads a rare life.

He’s one of very few people — Voulgaris estimates there may be as few as four or five — who have achieved a high level of success betting full-time on the NBA.

And he does very well at it. “In the last eight years,” he explains, “the 2004-2005 season was the only year where I didn’t turn a nice profit, and I lost very small.”

His approach is intensively evidence-based. He has his own massive database that would be the envy of any stat geek. For instance: Given two line-ups of players on the floor, his database does, he says, a good job of predicting which players will guard each other. The database also tracks the tendencies of individual referees, and factors all that and much more into forecasts. Voulgaris also watches close to 1,000 games a year.

He designed the database as a tool to outwit oddsmakers, and it works for that.

But it’s also a fine-tuned machine for researching the claims and career of Tim Donaghy. And having used this database, and his contacts in the sports betting world, Voulgaris says that his confidence in the integrity of the NBA has been shaken, to the point that, despite his big income, he’s looking for ways to stop betting altogether.

“The league has made a big mistake,” he says.

I sort of knew Haralabos back in my poker-playing days, and really liked him because he was one of the first players who was really kind to me, even though he had no reason to be. I knew he bet on sports, but I had no idea he was as serious as he appears to be. His perspective on this whole scandal was fascinating to me, especially how his data and analysis support Donaghy’s claims. He says the NBA has done a great job of sweeping the whole thing under the rug. Unfortunately, I agree with him.

The Watchmen Motion Comic

Warner Bros. plans on releasing about a dozen 22 to 26 minute webisodes to help make the complex story of Watchmen easier for the uninitiated to digest. Recently, WatchmenComicMovie was shown a teaser trailer for these webisodes by an anonymous source. From what we saw these webisodes are going to be really well done.

The series of webisodes, which will be titled Watchmen: A Digital Graphic Novel, will be less like a slide show of original comic panels and more of the comic book “brought to life” with rudimentary animation techniques.

The teaser is simply a conglomeration of different scenes from the comic book given motion and set to dramatic orchestral music. In order to animate the comic, the production team has apparently dissected the elements from each panel that they wanted to move — such as a cloud or a character — and animated it in front of a restored or “filled in” background.

For example — they animated the iconic comic panel that shows The Comedian’s funeral from above to not only have falling rain and lightning, but wind that realistically blows the coats and clothing of the mourners surrounding the open grave. In another, Ozymandias sits in front of his monitor bank — each commercial and T.V. program on the screens in motion — scratching the back of his pet Bubastis’ head. For lack of a better way to describe the trailer, it’s like you’re watching an episode of Watchmen: The Animated Series.

DUDE! Even though living in a post-Phantom Menace world has made my default position on all these thing “apprehensively optimistic” I can’t wait to watch these. It seems like everyone involved in Watchmen truly gets it, so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep my hopes nice and low . . . they want to go up and up and up.

This last story isn’t my submission, but that’s just because my fellow scout Keith beat me to it:

The Prisoner remake: details emerge?

The Prisoner Appreciation Society (Six of One) is reporting that this classic, surreal sci-fi/adventure series is set to return for a six-episode miniseries run. The announcement coincides with The Prisoner’s 40th anniversary.

Reports have Jim Caviezel playing the heroic Number Six — actor with a penchant for playing long-suffering characters (Bobby Jones, Jesus). Sir Ian McKellen would play arch-nemesis Number Two, while cementing his status alongside Christopher Lee as the greatest nerd project actors of their generation. Between the two of them, they’d own Star Wars, James Bond, Lord of the Rings, Dracula, Frankenstein and X-Men).

The Prisoner is my all-time favorite TV show, ever. EVER! After watching marathon after marathon of The Prisoner, I grokked what makes people become Trekkies or Browncoats. It did more than entertain me, it inspired me. I know that’s weird to say about something that’s so Orwellian, but it’s true. The Prisoner spoke to me when I was a teenager. I bought the GURPS book, bought all the video tapes, and picked up every fan-made book and map of The Village I could find. I bought rub-on transfer letters in the Albertus font so I could make my own signs for my dressing room, and I painstakingly drew my own Number Six badge to wear on my jackets. I read and re-read the graphic Novel Shattered Visage fruitlessly looking for clues about . . . stuff. My first big external SCSI Mac II hard disk, which I think weighed in at a mighty 30 Megabytes, was named KAR120C. Again, living in a post-Phantom Menace world makes me a little nervous, and we’ve been talking about this remake almost as long as we were talking about a Watchmen movie, so I don’t even know if this is as reliable as it seems. Regardless, I’m hopeful that there’s someone out there who can treat it right. And a six episode mini-series would be freaking brilliant.

Okay, one last bonus link before I go: years ago, I did an episode of The Outer Limits called The Light Brigade. I was watching The Time Tunnel last night on Hulu, and saw that The Light Brigade is there, as well. It’s useless for non-US visitors (can you use a proxy to fool Hulu? I haven’t tried) but if you’re in the US and want to spend 44 minutes watching me . . . um . . . act, I guess is the word I’m looking for . . . now you can.

hillary clinton: the psycho ex-girlfriend of the democratic party

As many of you know, I’m an enthusiastic Barack Obama supporter. I have never been so excited or inspired by a candidate — or, really, any leader — in my life, and I view this election as an historical opportunity — maybe even a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — to not only save my country from the disaster wrought by Bush and Cheney, but fundamentally change how my government interacts with the rest of the world, and how it works for me and my fellow Americans.

Knowing all of that, I’m sure it will come as no surprise that over the last 10 weeks or so, I’ve gone from respecting to feeling sorry for to actively despising Hillary Clinton.

It’s over. She knows it’s over. It’s been over for almost three months, but she’s been moving the goalposts and cynically and cravenly pandering to voters in a way that’s not only insulting, but is embarrassing. John Cole frequently says that he can’t believe he ever supported Bush, and I can now join him in saying that I can’t believe I ever supported, defended and believed in the Clintons.

The thing about all of this is that, with a Clinton victory in the primary about as likely as jumping off the roof of your house and landing on the moon, it’s become clear that this whole thing isn’t about Democrats or beating McCain (who is inexplicably running for Bush’s third term) or saving our country from the catastrophic failure of the Bush years. No, it’s all about her. It’s about her ego. It’s about refusing to admit that she did her best, but voters (except those encouraged by Rush Limbaugh to cross party lines and fuck with our primary) have pretty clearly said "No thanks. You’re a good senator, but we want something different now."

It’s been crystal clear for weeks, yet she refuses to put party and country over personal ambition and drop out of the race, forcing Barack Obama to not only run against McCain and the Media, but also against her. It’s particularly galling, because she can only win if her campaign can force Democratic superdelegates (one of the worst creations in the history of politics) to tell millions of Democratic voters — many of them first time voters who, like me, finally feel truly inspired by someone — to go fuck themselves.

It’s driving me crazy, and I hope that someone sits her down with a calculator so she’ll make this primary that is just strengthening McCain — who, I feel obligated to point out again, is running for Bush’s third term. That would be George W. Bush, the most universally hated president in American history.

At times like these, when it would be easy to despair, I find comfort in humor, like this post I saw on Reddit this morning: Hillary Clinton: The Psycho Ex-Girlfriend of the Democratic Party.

It’s 2:31 AM. The Democratic Party is sleeping peacefully when it hears
its phone buzz on the night stand. It rolls over and sees "Hillary" on
the caller ID. It pauses briefly, considering pushing "END" and not
dealing with this shit tonight. The thought is appealing but the
Democratic Party knows that if it doesn’t take this call, another one
is only minutes away.

DEMS: …Hello?

Hillary: Hey baby.

DEMS: C’mon Hillary. Enough with this.

Hillary: Don’t you get it? You NEED me.

DEMS: No, I don’t. It was fun while it lasted but I’m with Barack now. I made my choice, it’s done.

Hillary: You can’t really mean that. How can you say that after all the good times we had?

DEMS: To be honest, I started hanging out with you because Bill’s pretty awesome.

Hillary: But I’m just like Bill!

DEMS: No, you’re not. Bill is charismatic, inspiring, and gets me really good weed.

Hillary: Fuck you. You’re elitist!

DEMS: I’m going back to sleep.

I hope that, after the crushing defeat in North Carolina and few thousand vote "victory" in Indiana, the undeclared superdelegates (again, the absolute worst idea in the history of politics) will respect the will of the people and commit to Obama, so we can all focus on introducing the real John McCain — not a Maverick, not a nice guy, not an honest guy, not a regular guy, not substantially different from George W. Bush in any meaningful way — to the American people.

And allow me to just head something off right now that’s already come up on Twitter: I’m not sexist. This isn’t sexist. That’s a stupid straw man, and if you try to make that claim, I will point and laugh at you.

Update: Here, let me try this one more time for the humorless and professional victims out there, who seem to have shown up in a flood today: Gender, race, sexual orientation, things that make us different that we don’t choose . . . they just don’t matter to me. At all. People are people and identity politics is stupid.

I found this post hilarious because it satirized the behavior of an ex-girlfriend/ex-boyfriend/ex-robot who just refuses to accept that it’s over. I’ve had a psycho ex-girlfriend. My friends who are women have had psycho ex-boyfriends. In all cases, the behavior has been exactly like the behavior satirized in the post I linked. Get it? Get it? I’m talking to you now, people without a sense of humor: It. Is. Not. About. The. Gender. It. Is. About. The. Behavior. The Behavior. The Behavior.

Everyone get it now? Am I spelling it out simply enough for you? Let’s all say it together. Use a puppet if it helps: It’s about the behavior. It is not about the gender.

That’s the whole point, that’s the humor, that’s what inspired me to link this post. If you’re unwilling or unable to understand this . . . well, anything I’d say now would waste even more of my time, so I’ll go back to pointing and laughing.

Final update:

Well, I’m just going to throw up my hands here. I’ve made it as abundantly clear as I possibly can that I don’t care about Clinton’s gender, and I don’t have a problem with women. What I *do* care about
is watching a woman I once respected degenerate into a Republicanesque Karl Rove monstrosity in a Quixotic effort to destroy a candidate I believe in. What I care about is beating John McCain in November so we can start to put our country back together.

If you want to boycott me, go nuts. As a life-long activist, I understand and totally support the concept of voting with your pocketbook and voting with your feet.

But stop telling me who I am and what I think and feel. I know what I was thinking when I wrote this, and it’s not what many of you have accused me of.

I’m not going to waste any more time on this, and I’m locking comments on this post. May I suggest that you take whatever energy you’d use to tell me what a terrible person I am and use it to put some good into the world instead.

Writing to your congresscritter and demanding an end to the war would probably be a good place to start.

I voted today

I cast my vote for Barack Obama in California’s primary this morning.

Here’s a major reason why I did:

“When I am this party’s nominee, my opponent will not be able to say
that I voted for the war in Iraq; or that I gave George Bush the
benefit of the doubt on Iran; or that I supported Bush-Cheney policies
of not talking to leaders that we don’t like. And he will not be able
to say that I wavered on something as fundamental as whether or not it
is ok for America to torture — because it is never ok… I will end the
war in Iraq… I will close Guantanamo. I will restore habeas corpus. I
will finish the fight against Al Qaeda. And I will lead the world to
combat the common threats of the 21st century: nuclear weapons and
terrorism; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. And I will
send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that
says, "You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is
now.”

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, (via John Scalzi,) put my feelings into words, so I’m going to borrow them, rather than struggle to come up with my own:

I’m for Obama knowing perfectly well that, as Bill
Clinton suggested, it’s a “roll of the dice”. A roll of the dice for
Democrats, for progressives, for those of us who’ve fought so hard
against the right-wing frames that Obama sometimes (sometimes craftily,
sometimes naively) deploys. Because I think a Hillary Clinton candidacy
will be another game of inches, yielding—at best—another four or eight
years of knifework in the dark. Because I think an Obama candidacy
might actually shake up the whole gameboard, energize good people,
create room and space for real change.

Because he seems to know
something extraordinarily important, something so frequently missing
from progressive politics in this country, in this time: how to hearten people. Because when I watch him speak, I see fearful people becoming brave.

We’ve been afraid for too long, and it’s cost us dearly. Karl Rove and George Bush and Dick Cheney will have many disastrous legacies, but one of the most despicable and enduring will be how they used fear to deeply and deliberately divide our country.

It’s going to be a huge challenge for our next president to heal this nation, and end the Culture of Fear that’s been created by the Bush Administration. I believe that Barack Obama is the best candidate to do that, and I was proud to vote for him today.

It felt so good to cast a vote that I was proud of, in support of
someone, instead of resigning myself to voting for the lesser of two
evils.

Thank you, Chris Dodd

When the Democrats — who I thought were the good (or at least the anti-Bush, and pro-Constitution) guys — took back Congress in the last election, I was overjoyed. I thought we’d see an end — finally — to the Bush administration’s recklessness and lawlessness that’s made me feel ashamed to be American. Of course, the Democratic leadership has been a pathetic, embarrassing, contemptible, miserable failure, and now we see that not only have they enabled Bush’s insanity, they’ve been willing participants, helping him and Dick Cheney feed our constitution into the shredder. Yesterday, for the first time in ages, I felt my faith in our government begin to return, and I have Chris Dodd to thank for it.

It’s been depressing to watch our Democratic congressmen — the very ones we all worked so hard to put into the majority — do nothing to slow Bush’s destruction of what it means to be American.

I still don’t understand why Harry Reid will honor Republican holds and do back flips to make Mr. 24% happy while he extends a hearty “F you” to Senate Democrats, the Democratic party, and now the vast majority of Americans who are begging congress to do something — to do anything — to stop this tyrannical lunatic before it’s too late to save our country.

It is outrageous that Senators Clinton, Obama and Biden are asking for our votes, but are unwilling to provide leadership now. If they won’t stand up for the principles we all hold dear when they’re trying to earn our votes, how can we expect them to do it once they’re in the White House? Leadership is doing the right thing when it’s risky and when it’s unpopular. (And how depressing is it that upholding your oath of office is risky and unpopular? How doubly depressing is it that the only people who think that — and the only people being listened to — are Joe Klein, the DLC consultants, and the rest of the pundit class?)

Well, as a complete idiot once said: Fool me once, can’t get fooled again.

John Edwards has inspired the hell out of me with his message of hope for America, but Chris Dodd has shown real leadership on one of the most serious issues we’ve faced lately with telco immunity. While the other Senators have talked a good game, Senator Dodd actually did something when his country needed him.

I wanted to share my letter to him here, in the hopes that somehow it will find its way into his hands.

Dear Senator Dodd,

I doubt you’ll get to see this personally, as you’re very busy campaigning and defending our constitution from, well, everyone in government, it seems.

I hope a staffer will convey my immense gratitude — not only as a Democrat but as an American — to you for respecting your oath of office, and standing up to defend the very values that have made America great.

I sent e-mails and I made phone calls yesterday, but you stood up on the floor of the Senate and did something no other Democratic candidate for president seems to be willing to do: you were a leader. You stood not only with the base of our party, but with the vast majority of Americans who want the recklessness of this lawless president brought to a halt.

Your real leadership has inspired me and many others I know who have lost faith in our government, but especially in the Democratic party.

Best of luck to you in the primaries, and thank you for restoring a little bit of my faith in America.

Sincerely,

Wil Wheaton

Pasadena, CA

Star Trek alumni support the WGA

“Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few . . . or the one.”

- Spock.

When I was a little kid, I loved this show you may have heard of called Star Trek. When I was a teenager, I worked on a show called Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was like Star Trek, but with jumpsuits and snazzier special effects.

They were both popular programs, inspiring and bringing joy to generations of viewers, while putting loads of cash into the pockets of Paramount and its shareholders.

Today, the WGA is having a Star Trek picket at Paramount to honor the people — like Harlan Ellison, John D. F. Black and Ron Moore — whose stories over the years made Star Trek such an important part of our culture, and inspired writers, actors, engineers, and others to reach out for the stars.

The picket is scheduled from 11-3 at Paramount’s Windsor gate. I’ll be there, and I hope you’ll all join me, at least in spirit, as we thank the people who made Star Trek possible, and fight for the rights of the next generation of writers.

Can media conglomerates afford to pay the writers?

As someone who hopes to be in the WGA one day, and as a current SAG member (and former member of the Board of Directors) I am in complete and total solidarity with the Writer’s Guild. It’s quite heartening to me, also,  to see that so many people refuse to be fooled by the lies that the six companies who control all of the media have been trying to spread.

The AMPTP has been successful (and helped by the news media they own) in spreading FUD about the things the writers are asking for. This post at United Hollywood puts some important numbers into perspective:

"But can the corporations really afford to pay you what you’re asking for?"

Let’s
set aside for the moment the issue of what the congloms say in their
press releases to us (which is basically "There’s no money! Ever! And
if there was, we spent it all on other projects that lost money so it’s
gone! Forever! We’re broke! We’re having to rent our yachts!") and focus on some hard numbers thoughtfully provided by Jonathan Handel on the Huffington Post yesterday.

He
writes an excellent (I think) and even-handed analysis that takes into
account the effect pattern bargaining will have in calculating real
numbers of what we’re asking for, and what it will cost the companies,
individually, to pay us.

It comes, by his calculation, to $125 million per conglomerate per year — if we got every single thing we’re asking for.

That, by the way, is less than the $140 million Disney spent to fire Michael Ovitz for 15 months of work.

Also, Carson Daly is still an epic douche.

Also, also:

And finally, a meager contribution from the actor half of me:

Speechless