Damn the Man?

While I have been extremely saddened by the recent lack of Scrabs in my life (due to Scrabulous being taken down and Scrabble Beta being on constant breakdown mode), there is light at the end of the tunnel.  That’s right, the Agarwalla brothers are pointing and laughing at Hasbro right now for their frivolous lawsuit.

While I am a big fan of creative games that rely on individual choice, as well as people taking on The Man, I do have a few doubts about this particular incident.  Yes, I think Hasbro behave abominably in protecting their copyright, when a quieter, more diplomatic resolution probably would have gone over better with fans.  I mean, think of the new travel Scrabble version that was released at Starbucks in conjunction with the movie “Akela and the Bee’.  It was a cleverly-designed actually well-made version of the game.  It was sold and publicized in relation to a feature film, giving it credibility with the youngins.  Why couldn’t hasbro have come to a working situation like that which spread the profit around a little bit?

Still, companies do have a right to protection, too.  Since the board gaming industry is on the decline, I can understand people being desperate to keep control of their games.  And sometimes, the whole visual selling points work.  Skip-Bo is basically canasta with a few specially-designed cards, but those graphics sell.  But the question here is really about online gaming.  What we want, what we need, as customers is more about reliability and access.  If Hasbro ends up providing those, then they should be defended.  But only then.

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I just don’t understand…

Trends in ‘modern life’ seem to swing back and forth between thrift and extravagance.  Take, for instance, foam soap dispensers.  AS far as I am aware, the whole point of this type of dispenser is to save soap.  Whether or not the ‘saving’ is for reasons of cost or environment I’ve never understood.  Soap really doesn’t cost so much that we need to use 70% less of it.  And as far as environmental impact goes, I’m sure there’s some in the manufacture of liquid soap, but nothing really in comparison to, say, batteries or fluorescent bulbs (did you know how much mercury is in those things?  Toxic, man.  Waaaay toxic. )  So I remain confused about the need to save soap.

Even more confusing is where ‘technology’ and soap saving combine.  here I’m talking about the automatic soap dispenser.  Not only does it foam into your hand non-wastefully, it makes sure you don’t over-squirt through the use of…needless electricity.  I can understand this non-wasteful gesture when imposed on water, or even paper towels, which I would prefer not to waste.  But soap?  Really?  Soap, in particular in my office bathroom, when niether the water or the towels are ‘automatic’?  If we can non-wastefully turn the faucet on and off, somehow I think we would be able to manage with soap.  but that’s just me.

A sad end.

A body found off the coast of Brazil was recently identified as that of the flying-balloon-man priest, the Rev. Adelir Antonio de Carli.

While this ending was expected, with such a long time passing since the man was last heard from,  I still find it sad and slightly depressing.  So instead of lingering on that, I’d like to turn to something more positive, namely, what did we learn from these events?

There are several possible lessons.  Should we learn that balloon take-offs, even with careful preparation, are dangerous? Probably.  Should we refrain therefore from this and other ridiculous practices just due to potential danger?  I should hope not.  This man had a sense of joy, and a sense of responsibility.  I hope that those of us still living would be able to combine both as effectively.

SO awesome…

If anyone were to say to me, ‘the future is now’, I would look at him like a house centipede.  However, the crazy would be right – I have documented proof.  I don’t currently own a car, which has been a bit of trouble in the past.  But now, I’m glad of the wait.  Now by the time I have a) the $$$ and will/need to buy a car and b) my pilot’s license, these things will be actually affordable.  Ahh, just thinking about it gives me delicious weeblies all over!

Goodbye forever, my dear Scrabs.

It is a sad day in the life of one Stacey. A day of mourning, loss, and confusion. It’s ten times worse than the day Heath Ledger died (who was AWESOME in the new Batman). For what reason will I now malign my helplessly inept father? For what reason will I now exchange monosyllables (‘go’. ‘went’. ‘move.’) and made-up words with my co-workers? Will Facebook ever hold the same joy again? Where are my stats, my past games, my true accomplishments?

If you please, let’s have a moment of silence for this once vast empire.

Update: Scrabs still available online, but in-progress games from Facebook must be restarted.

Go deconstruct your own theory.

I was highly amused by this posting on some of the school board turmoil going on in Texas right now. Basically, a school board member who ‘opposes teaching science over creationism because “. . . science is always trying to find problems with stuff.”‘ is opposed in turn by the blogger, who says ‘Well, yes. That’s, um, that’s what it does, sir.’ He then bemoans his loss of hope for the species.

Fortunately for those who happen to subscribe to the theory of evolution, our relative analytic capabilities are mostly moot in the survival of the species. We can be dumber than day-glo tetras and swim in circles as long as our little lives last, obeying the rules of procreation and sustenance, and no matter how many times we ram into the clear walls of our tank, knocking ourselves silly, the species will survive.

Do I have problems with certain aspects of evolutionary theory? Of course I do. There are still kinks to be worked out as to the specifics of how we all got here. Normally I would say science will, in its analytical way, eventually work these kinks out. But this whole school board mess has made me a little unsure. Will intelligent scientists be so boxed into a corner that they forsake questioning and analysis? Are we going to be boxing our science teachers into a corner by forcing them to balance between science and religion? It remains to be seen.

And what about organized religion and related belief? As a Christian (yes, I believe in many things others don’t, including people and justice), I know that doubt and questioning are both parts of a strong faith. I know that organized religion has its scars, but I think there is still worth in these institutions. I think if your faith is not strong enough to tolerate new and opposing ideas, you’re doing something wrong. In particular, if you don’t have the ability to trust your children to make their own choices, there’s something wrong.

Finally, the ultimate understanding of what science should be is not a negative one. It’s not all about deconstructing or testing someone else’s ideas. It’s about having your own idea, trying to think about things in a new and revelatory light, and testing whether or not your own thoughts have validity and worth. And while these kinds of test can teach us something concrete about our world and ourselves and how to do things, religion can be used in a similar way. If we refuse to make the first intuitive leap of faith – whether in social responsibility, philosophy and faith, or scientific understanding – we are not fully using our gifts. That waste is the same, whether those gifts are given by God or a product of natural selection.

No More Poor

The Boston Globe recently published an article in which they interviewed Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank.  If you don’t know about this guy, you should – he’s basically the inventor of microcredit, an investment of small loans to the poorest of the poor with no collateral or other guarantees.  Best of all, the whole model came about as a specific solution to the lone sharking going on in a place he was working in Bangladesh.  Such loan sharking is common in certain areas of Asia – The Inheritance of Loss, among other books, describes it quite well.  But with Yunus’ model, microcredit has also blossomed in these same areas.

What is most interesting to me is Yunus’ idea that people don’t have to be poor.  There’s a fundamental principle here that without the restrictions of education, income, politics, and class, everyone would be able to provide for themselves.  I’m not sure I believe that.  Sure, there are facets of economics I don’t understand.  But I don’t understand scarcity.  It’s possible that there’s enough food available to feed everyone in the world currently, even with population on the rise.  Even if it’s possible to redistribute such basic necessities, ultimately the world will have to run very differently for people to regularly have what they need.  Perhaps Yunus’ model of capitalism is the way to start.

Monday mornings are weird.

Monday mornings are always a little disturbed.  No matter how early you go to bed the night before, Monday morning has a sledgehammer fist.  You only hope you’re able to duck in time.  And just like 87.5% of all statistics are made up on the spot, 52% of all dreams between Sunday and Monday are severely creeped out. Fortunately, there are a few clear markers you can use before leaving the house that will let you know if it’s worth it to even go to work, or if you should just crawl back into bed and pretend it’s still the weekend.

1) Your weekend injury is preventing you from getting to work on time.  Whether it’s the fact that the cut on your head is still throbbing or bleeding profusely (Corina) or that you can’t bear the thought of wearing shoes since your feet are still cut up so bad (myself), it’s a sure sign that the gods are against you.  Go back to bed.  Or, if you’re Corina, go to the hospital.

2) Your coffee/breakfast/morning sustenance is interrupted.  Whether you’re out of milk, ‘Mr. Coffee’s dead’, or all the Dunkin Donuts on your way to work have been taken over by terrorists, it’s not going to make for a pleasant day.  If you’re not getting your jump-start, you might as well go back to bed, because any work you attempt in the next 24-hour period is most likely going to be shoddy.  Increase everyone’s productivity with less time on the job.

3) The final check before leaving the house – all clothing is properly arranged over your body.  There’s nothing worse than realizing you’ve stepped outside (or further) only half-dressed.  If you get to the door and you’ve managed to mess up dressing yourself, there’s something seriously wrong.  In addition, at some point throughout the day, you’re going to embarrass yourself or your co-workers or both with your inability to maintain a normal human appearance.  Quit while you’re ahead.  Unfortunately I myself did not follow this simple rule, and did not realize my underwear was on inside-out until I arrived at work this morning.  Let’s hope this is the only faux-pas for the day.  Frankly, I’m not holding my breath.

My brain, your brain.

I barely remember the one college Calculus class I was required to take to complete my undergraduate degree.  I could say it’s because I wasn’t really interested in the class – it was only a requirement, not a passion.  I could say it was because i wasn’t applying myself, or because the lecturer who taught it was from Eastern Europe and i missed half of what he said in trying to puzzle out the first half of the words coming out of his mouth.  I could say it was because my first semester of college I barely slept and calc was just another place to rest my head for a few weary minutes.  But the truth is something far more far-reaching – I never saw math as a worthwhile skill.

I have a poet’s soul.  I can listen to a physics professor talk about the wonders of the universe or an inventor talk about his new Idea, or a designer talk about a current project and be totally enthralled.  But I am more enthralled with the words, the person, and the passion they show than the ideas behind them.  I do have my own curiosity and love of learning.  I do still have some interest in the less word-oriented aspects of life.  But to me they remain subject matter, rather than goals in and of themselves.

A part of this preference is probably due to old prejudices.  Language is a female sphere.  Hard sciences are male.  Despite the growing numbers of girl students doing just as well as boys in analytical subjects such as math, there remain underlying preferences that are not necessarily based on ‘natural’ tendencies.

There have always been questions as to whether or not boys are predispositioned or socially conditioned toward certain subject matter.  Obviously boys and girls are biologically different.  Most likely certain parts of our brains either start out different as well, or at least adapt differently due to slightly different bodily functions.  At the same time, there are countless ways in which that brain function is identical, or at least very similar, between a wide variety of individuals.  What then does it mean that most engineers are still men?  What does it mean that I consider myself a nerd, but still feel superior to the science nerd?

If there is a brain difference between girls and boys that makes one or the other less strong in certain sciences, that’s one thing.  There will always be outliers anyway.  But I would guess the difference is more ‘personal preference’ than actual skill.  And if so, are we as a society telling our sons and daughters to value very different skills and even modes of thinking?

Get the name right.

I may have a boring job that’s not tremendously important, but I do work in an office.  And despite how great my boss might be, and how much we can joke around, it’s still a professional environment.  As such, I expect the people who are communicating with me will act professionally.  In particular, any written communications including email should be carefully written.  All too often, this is nto the case, due to the informality of email as a medium.

In particular I’ve noticed other’s inability to type my name correctly.  True, my name has various common spellings, but that should not make any difference.  If you are responding to my email directly, you should be able to verify and re-type the name correctly.  If not, you should at least be able to copy and paste it into the reply.  Still, countless people mess it up.  There’s one ‘e’, people, and only one!  However, this slight spelling error doesn’t get to me like the range of errors perpetrated against me this morning.

Let’s use an example to illustrate.  Let’s say your name is Shawn Smyth.  It’s a pretty common name, with maybe a bit of unusual spelling, but still something most English speakers would be highly familar with.  So, someone writes an email to ‘dear Sean’.  Honest mistake, people make it all the time, even though your first name (spelled correctly) is embedded in your email address.  Fine, whatever, you ‘reply all’.

Then another person on the email list responds, mangling your last name into ‘Smith’.  Again, it’s an honest mistake, but really?  What can they mess up next (because you know, someone on this email list is going to make you want to hurt puppies soon)?

Next email: ‘Dear Stan Smith’.  Really?  That’s not even close.

C’mon people.  Get it together!

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