amanda_lodden: (Default)
From shirt.woot.com, rather a long time ago.

This great nation exists because some people got sick of taking some other people's crap. From the Pilgrims to Columbus to those Vikings that may or may not have sailed here first, every non-Native American is on this soil because someone yelled out "No, screw YOU, PAL!" and got on a boat.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
From shirt.woot.com, rather a long time ago.

This great nation exists because some people got sick of taking some other people's crap. From the Pilgrims to Columbus to those Vikings that may or may not have sailed here first, every non-Native American is on this soil because someone yelled out "No, screw YOU, PAL!" and got on a boat.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Friday's note about assumptions was supposed to be a two-parter, but I got distracted by a massive backache and just didn't feel like writing anything at all (I still don't, but after a while I get bored with sitting around and whining).

An assumption is really just a conclusion we come to based on our prior experiences. We all do it, all the time. You have to, because there's no way you could process and research every piece of scant information that comes your way. Just imagine what it would take to drive to the grocery store-- you'd have to make well-informed decisions about every single car on the road, without proceeding until you know FOR CERTAIN what they're going to do. It's much easier to assume that the other cars do not want to pull into your driveway, that they'll continue going when they have the right of way, that they will stop at stop signs and red lights, and that they will signal if they intend to do something other than go straight.

Whoops. There's a problem in our assumptions right there, isn't there? How many times have you seen someone turn or merge without signaling? I'm guessing you've seen it a lot, a guess I make based on my own past experiences with people not signaling and with people complaining about people not signaling. So we make a complicated set of assumptions about people who are slowing down or who have moved into a right-turn-only lane, to cope with our past experiences teaching us that not everyone will continue to go forward.

Those past experiences don't even have to be our own. We tell our children stories about kids who were abducted by strangers, though we were never abducted ourselves. We read news stories and internalize them, subtly changing our behavior because of them. Have you ever had your house or car broken into? If you answered no: do you lock your doors anyway?

It's not a bad thing to learn from others. You can't possibly make every mistake there is to be made all by yourself, and some mistakes are fatal, so you'd have to choose only one of those mistakes to make. And then at the end of it, you'd still be dead. All in all, it's probably better to make some assumptions based on things that have happened to other people.

Let's turn our attention to a recent media debacle: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Gates is a Harvard professor who was arrested, either for breaking into his own home, for being obnoxious, or for being black, depending on who you ask. By now, you know how to use search engines[*] for yourself, and searching for "Henry Louis Gates Jr" will give you plenty of results. Plus, I don't really care about the facts of the case, as I plan to speculate wildly on it and then use my speculation to point out alternate possibilities and places where various people made assumptions that may or may not have been true. Thus, I'm only going to use the police report itself and my own opinions and speculations.

Should I point out one more time that these are my own speculations, about something I did not witness firsthand, or have I already said it enough to get the message that this is my wild guess, based on nothing but my own speculations, which are built on my own assumptions? Should I mention that I don't know a damned thing about Gates except what I've read on the web, and that I don't much care if my assumptions are right or wrong so much as I care whether or not I can make my point about assumptions?

Seriously. I don't want responses about Gates's case. I don't care.

Now then, about Gates.

He was arrested because someone called in a report of a possible break-in. Already, we're working on secondhand information, because the cop himself didn't see anything that made him suspicious of a break-in. Here's our first and second assumption: the cop had to assume that the caller really did see something. The caller had to assume that what she saw was suspicious.

Neither of these are bad things. By the accounts, what the witness saw was a man who took an inordinately long time fooling around with the door to a house, and then wedging his shoulder against the door as if to force entry. I know that if I saw the same thing, I'd call the police, and that if someone were to see a person doing that to my front door, I'd want them to call the police. I'd want the police to take them seriously, and to come out and investigate.

As it turns out, the witness's assumption was wrong. The man fooling with the lock and then pushing hard against the door was not breaking and entering, but was the homeowner having trouble with his key.

Incorrect assumptions CAN be sorted out civilly. The officer might have calmly asked to see Gate's ID. Gates might have calmly handed over his ID, and politely inquired why the officer wanted to see it. The officer might have calmly explained that a witness called in a report, and the police department is obligated to check the situation out when a witness calls in a report, even if the report is based on false assumptions. Gates might have tempered his annoyance over someone calling in a report with a realization that having to force your own door open does look a little suspicious.

That didn't happen. Exactly where it failed to happen is up for debate. According to the police report, Gates hit the roof as soon as the police officer identified himself. However, it's worth noting that the police report is written by the police officer, who has a vested interest in not writing reports that make him look like an asshole, and it was written after the incident was over rather than as it was happening, which means it is based in part on the officer's recollection of his behavior.

Based on what I know (from past experiences of my own, from past experiences of others, and from stories read/watched/forced down my throat-- never assume that fiction doesn't have a say in your opinions), police officers who are investigating a crime walk into the situation assuming that everyone is guilty. It's all well and good that we take an "innocent until proven guilty" stance, but that applies to punishment, not to suspicion. It's the police officer's job to figure out what's going on and whether anyone is committing a crime, and they can't do that if they walk in assuming everyone present is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Building on that assumption means that I assume that the police officer went in demanding to know who Gates was and what business he had in that house.

On the flip side, I assume that Gates wasn't having the best of days, based on the mere fact that he had to force his way into his own home. The door sticking might not be that big of a deal on the face of it, but I'm a homeowner, and I know that nearly every time I encounter something wrong with my house, my reaction is along the lines of "Damn it, another thing that needs to be fixed." I also know that my reaction gets stronger if it's something that has happened often, but intermittently (like a door sticking only on humid days)-- if it's not constant, it's got a lower chance of being fixed right away, so when it happens again it serves as a fresh reminder of YetAnotherThingThatMustBeDone(tm). So I can sympathize with Gates a little, snapping at a police officer who is accusing him of doing something wrong, when he's not actually doing anything wrong and is already having a bad day.

But here's the question: which one of them played the race card first? From the way this has escalated, it's easy to assume that the other followed suit at some point, but... was it as the police report claims, that Gates immediately assumed he was being targeted because of his race rather than his behavior? Or did the police officer react more strongly to the presence of a black man than he has in similar situations with white suspects? Has the police officer ever investigated a burglary before? Maybe he was recently taken off a desk job and was nervous over being a first-responder in a potentially hostile situation.

We don't know. We don't know if Gates has been targeted because of his race in the past (which would reinforce his assumptions that others will target him because of his race in the future). We don't know if the arresting officer is actually racist; there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he might not be.

We may not know, but that hasn't stopped bloggers from citing racism in Gates' arrest. It hasn't stopped Gates' colleagues from openly wondering if the same thing would have happened if Gates had been white. It hasn't stopped political officials from commenting on it, and it hasn't stopped bloggers from reacting to the comments from the political officials. It hasn't stopped friends of mine from condemning the arresting officer for arresting Gates for B&E-- even though what Gates was actually arrested for was disorderly conduct, after shouting at the police officer about how racist the officer was. Maybe Gates accused the officer unfairly. Maybe he didn't. Maybe Gates' accusations weren't meant for the officer at all, but rather for the witness. Could it have been that the witness was racist, and called in her report just because Gates was black?

What assumptions have you made about Gates, now that we're this far into the discussion? What assumptions have you made about me? What assumptions do you think I've made about Gates? What assumptions do you think I've made about you?

More importantly: what assumptions do you make, day in and day out, about the people you interact with? Do you assume that they're there to annoy and harass you, or do you assume that they're there to protect you? Do you assume they have your interests at heart, or do you assume that they care only for their own interests? No matter what you assume, you could be wrong.


* I'd have said "Google" here instead, but I know that a certain Microsoft employee could have pointed out that you could just as easily use "Bing". I don't really care one way or the other. I like Google, but I'm not going to push my opinion on others.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Friday's note about assumptions was supposed to be a two-parter, but I got distracted by a massive backache and just didn't feel like writing anything at all (I still don't, but after a while I get bored with sitting around and whining).

An assumption is really just a conclusion we come to based on our prior experiences. We all do it, all the time. You have to, because there's no way you could process and research every piece of scant information that comes your way. Just imagine what it would take to drive to the grocery store-- you'd have to make well-informed decisions about every single car on the road, without proceeding until you know FOR CERTAIN what they're going to do. It's much easier to assume that the other cars do not want to pull into your driveway, that they'll continue going when they have the right of way, that they will stop at stop signs and red lights, and that they will signal if they intend to do something other than go straight.

Whoops. There's a problem in our assumptions right there, isn't there? How many times have you seen someone turn or merge without signaling? I'm guessing you've seen it a lot, a guess I make based on my own past experiences with people not signaling and with people complaining about people not signaling. So we make a complicated set of assumptions about people who are slowing down or who have moved into a right-turn-only lane, to cope with our past experiences teaching us that not everyone will continue to go forward.

Those past experiences don't even have to be our own. We tell our children stories about kids who were abducted by strangers, though we were never abducted ourselves. We read news stories and internalize them, subtly changing our behavior because of them. Have you ever had your house or car broken into? If you answered no: do you lock your doors anyway?

It's not a bad thing to learn from others. You can't possibly make every mistake there is to be made all by yourself, and some mistakes are fatal, so you'd have to choose only one of those mistakes to make. And then at the end of it, you'd still be dead. All in all, it's probably better to make some assumptions based on things that have happened to other people.

Let's turn our attention to a recent media debacle: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Gates is a Harvard professor who was arrested, either for breaking into his own home, for being obnoxious, or for being black, depending on who you ask. By now, you know how to use search engines[*] for yourself, and searching for "Henry Louis Gates Jr" will give you plenty of results. Plus, I don't really care about the facts of the case, as I plan to speculate wildly on it and then use my speculation to point out alternate possibilities and places where various people made assumptions that may or may not have been true. Thus, I'm only going to use the police report itself and my own opinions and speculations.

Should I point out one more time that these are my own speculations, about something I did not witness firsthand, or have I already said it enough to get the message that this is my wild guess, based on nothing but my own speculations, which are built on my own assumptions? Should I mention that I don't know a damned thing about Gates except what I've read on the web, and that I don't much care if my assumptions are right or wrong so much as I care whether or not I can make my point about assumptions?

Seriously. I don't want responses about Gates's case. I don't care.

Now then, about Gates.

He was arrested because someone called in a report of a possible break-in. Already, we're working on secondhand information, because the cop himself didn't see anything that made him suspicious of a break-in. Here's our first and second assumption: the cop had to assume that the caller really did see something. The caller had to assume that what she saw was suspicious.

Neither of these are bad things. By the accounts, what the witness saw was a man who took an inordinately long time fooling around with the door to a house, and then wedging his shoulder against the door as if to force entry. I know that if I saw the same thing, I'd call the police, and that if someone were to see a person doing that to my front door, I'd want them to call the police. I'd want the police to take them seriously, and to come out and investigate.

As it turns out, the witness's assumption was wrong. The man fooling with the lock and then pushing hard against the door was not breaking and entering, but was the homeowner having trouble with his key.

Incorrect assumptions CAN be sorted out civilly. The officer might have calmly asked to see Gate's ID. Gates might have calmly handed over his ID, and politely inquired why the officer wanted to see it. The officer might have calmly explained that a witness called in a report, and the police department is obligated to check the situation out when a witness calls in a report, even if the report is based on false assumptions. Gates might have tempered his annoyance over someone calling in a report with a realization that having to force your own door open does look a little suspicious.

That didn't happen. Exactly where it failed to happen is up for debate. According to the police report, Gates hit the roof as soon as the police officer identified himself. However, it's worth noting that the police report is written by the police officer, who has a vested interest in not writing reports that make him look like an asshole, and it was written after the incident was over rather than as it was happening, which means it is based in part on the officer's recollection of his behavior.

Based on what I know (from past experiences of my own, from past experiences of others, and from stories read/watched/forced down my throat-- never assume that fiction doesn't have a say in your opinions), police officers who are investigating a crime walk into the situation assuming that everyone is guilty. It's all well and good that we take an "innocent until proven guilty" stance, but that applies to punishment, not to suspicion. It's the police officer's job to figure out what's going on and whether anyone is committing a crime, and they can't do that if they walk in assuming everyone present is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Building on that assumption means that I assume that the police officer went in demanding to know who Gates was and what business he had in that house.

On the flip side, I assume that Gates wasn't having the best of days, based on the mere fact that he had to force his way into his own home. The door sticking might not be that big of a deal on the face of it, but I'm a homeowner, and I know that nearly every time I encounter something wrong with my house, my reaction is along the lines of "Damn it, another thing that needs to be fixed." I also know that my reaction gets stronger if it's something that has happened often, but intermittently (like a door sticking only on humid days)-- if it's not constant, it's got a lower chance of being fixed right away, so when it happens again it serves as a fresh reminder of YetAnotherThingThatMustBeDone(tm). So I can sympathize with Gates a little, snapping at a police officer who is accusing him of doing something wrong, when he's not actually doing anything wrong and is already having a bad day.

But here's the question: which one of them played the race card first? From the way this has escalated, it's easy to assume that the other followed suit at some point, but... was it as the police report claims, that Gates immediately assumed he was being targeted because of his race rather than his behavior? Or did the police officer react more strongly to the presence of a black man than he has in similar situations with white suspects? Has the police officer ever investigated a burglary before? Maybe he was recently taken off a desk job and was nervous over being a first-responder in a potentially hostile situation.

We don't know. We don't know if Gates has been targeted because of his race in the past (which would reinforce his assumptions that others will target him because of his race in the future). We don't know if the arresting officer is actually racist; there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he might not be.

We may not know, but that hasn't stopped bloggers from citing racism in Gates' arrest. It hasn't stopped Gates' colleagues from openly wondering if the same thing would have happened if Gates had been white. It hasn't stopped political officials from commenting on it, and it hasn't stopped bloggers from reacting to the comments from the political officials. It hasn't stopped friends of mine from condemning the arresting officer for arresting Gates for B&E-- even though what Gates was actually arrested for was disorderly conduct, after shouting at the police officer about how racist the officer was. Maybe Gates accused the officer unfairly. Maybe he didn't. Maybe Gates' accusations weren't meant for the officer at all, but rather for the witness. Could it have been that the witness was racist, and called in her report just because Gates was black?

What assumptions have you made about Gates, now that we're this far into the discussion? What assumptions have you made about me? What assumptions do you think I've made about Gates? What assumptions do you think I've made about you?

More importantly: what assumptions do you make, day in and day out, about the people you interact with? Do you assume that they're there to annoy and harass you, or do you assume that they're there to protect you? Do you assume they have your interests at heart, or do you assume that they care only for their own interests? No matter what you assume, you could be wrong.


* I'd have said "Google" here instead, but I know that a certain Microsoft employee could have pointed out that you could just as easily use "Bing". I don't really care one way or the other. I like Google, but I'm not going to push my opinion on others.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
A friend of mine asked a few weeks ago "What's so bad about single-payer health care?" He asked for someone to give a rational argument against it. I'd very much like to help him out, because I firmly believe that the best answers come out of understanding both sides of an issue. The problem is, I'm pretty strongly in favor of universal health care (albeit, modified from the current single-payer system that we use for Medicare).

I note, however, that several people I know have taken one of those "Should we have universal health care" polls and voted no. Sadly, those polls don't include explanations of why or why not.

So, I'd like to ask a favor. Please tell me why you are against universal health care. You can also tell me why you're for it, if you'd like. I do plan to attempt to write something about the answers (ideally something balanced that includes arguments for both sides), but I promise:

* I will not debase or insult you for your views

* I will not name names.

In return, I ask:

* Send it privately. I'm not looking to open up a debate, at least not until I actually get my head wrapped around it. You can use email (alrobins at gmail dot com) or Facebook's Inbox/Send a Message system or call me up or whatever.

* Include reasons. "Obama's regime is fascist, down with the man!" is not a reason. You can invoke emotions, you can try to sell me on your way of thinking if you'd like, but at the end of the day what I'm going to consider are your underlying reasons.

* Try to include the same level of respect for my views that I promised for yours.

Many thanks in advance.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
A friend of mine asked a few weeks ago "What's so bad about single-payer health care?" He asked for someone to give a rational argument against it. I'd very much like to help him out, because I firmly believe that the best answers come out of understanding both sides of an issue. The problem is, I'm pretty strongly in favor of universal health care (albeit, modified from the current single-payer system that we use for Medicare).

I note, however, that several people I know have taken one of those "Should we have universal health care" polls and voted no. Sadly, those polls don't include explanations of why or why not.

So, I'd like to ask a favor. Please tell me why you are against universal health care. You can also tell me why you're for it, if you'd like. I do plan to attempt to write something about the answers (ideally something balanced that includes arguments for both sides), but I promise:

* I will not debase or insult you for your views

* I will not name names.

In return, I ask:

* Send it privately. I'm not looking to open up a debate, at least not until I actually get my head wrapped around it. You can use email (alrobins at gmail dot com) or Facebook's Inbox/Send a Message system or call me up or whatever.

* Include reasons. "Obama's regime is fascist, down with the man!" is not a reason. You can invoke emotions, you can try to sell me on your way of thinking if you'd like, but at the end of the day what I'm going to consider are your underlying reasons.

* Try to include the same level of respect for my views that I promised for yours.

Many thanks in advance.
amanda_lodden: (Hammer Time)
I bet you thought that entry about badges was a stand-alone one, didn't you?

In fact, I brought it up because it's a nice lead-in to the next thing I wanted to talk about. I feel obligated to warn potential readers that I have a stack of these sorts of posts queuing up, each one dependent upon a point made in the prior one. If you're going to run away, best to do it early and save yourself some rambling.

City of Heroes has badges. City of Heroes has a LOT of badges, in fact (688 at last count, not including the ones only available to villains). The problem is, some of those badges are for being logged in at the right time (notably, for each anniversary of the game's launch). It's physically impossible for me to ever get the first-anniversary badge, because I didn't start playing until a few months after that. My oldest character, and coincidentally my favorite, is a defender-- which makes it within the realm of possibility to get the healing badges, but very difficult to get a lot of the others. And for the sake of my sanity, I have made a firm rule that ONLY my main character will be going after badges. 688 is hard enough. 688 times roughly 12 characters is more than a lifetime.

So, I started looking for loopholes. John has an account on CoH as well, which he very rarely uses. To get those "kill a player-controlled villain" badges, I could either enter the player-vs-player areas with a character not terribly suited for PvP combat, controlled by a player not terribly suited for PvP combat (namely, me) and hope for the best... or I could create a villain on John's account, and then have it docilely stand around while my main character killed it with excruciating slowness.

Guess which I picked? I also have characters created for the express purpose of standing around getting hit while my main character heals them (usually left running overnight while I go to sleep), and for the express purpose of teaming with my main character and going off to run missions that she can't do solo.

I've done similar things with other games. I'm addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook, which has "collections". You can only play so much at a time... on one account. I started the second account not because of the collections but because the size of one's mafia makes a big difference in how long one survives in fights. The way most people get around it is to join groups of other Mafia Warsplayers, but adding people to your mafia requires adding them as a friend on FB, and I use FB to keep up with other, actual friends. So I started the second FB account with the intent of moving my Mafia Wars playing to that account, where I could add people as friends willy-nilly without having it affect my ability to keep up with people I care about. But then I discovered that two accounts playing means twice as much collecting! (You can gift items back and forth; if I had to worry about getting two sets of items I wouldn't bother). I ended up hacking into John's account and playing MW as him as well (seriously, sweetheart, better passwords are not your enemy). [This will become important in later posts, as one of the people John has as a FB friend is heavily involved in state politics, and often (by which I mean pretty much always) holds opinions opposite to my own. Saul's updates, and the comments from his supporters, scare me.]

Feel free to point and laugh at me, I'll wait. Feel free to arrange an intervention, I'll do my best to justify it. But here's the thing:

I'm not alone.

There is ALWAYS someone who looks at a system and finds ways around it. You know who they are:


It's the person who goes to the grocery store and stocks up on the "limit 2 per person" loss-leader items by purchasing up to the limit, taking that set out to the car, and then coming back to do it again with a different cashier.

It's the person who finagles disability payments out of a minor injury.

It's the person who obtains controlled substances by complaining of pain to multiple doctors.

It's the person who knows they've gone too far into debt to sustain their lifestyle, and opts to milk every dime they can out of their credit cards before declaring bankruptcy.

It's the major manufacturing company that bans writing down problems.


Wait, what's that last one?

My addiction to badges, achievements and virtual collectibles is laughable, in the grand scheme of things. But a friend of mine who works for that major manufacturing company told me of a new policy at work that has me downright frightened: since people can get hurt if there are flaws in their product, and hurt people can sue, there is to be no paper trail documenting ANY knowledge of flaws, suspected flaws, or potential problems. If you have a concern about a quality-control or engineering aspect, you are to go to your manager and tell them verbally. Putting it in writing is grounds for termination. (What your manager is supposed to do with it is unknown.)

So, the system that's in place to ensure culpability and responsibility is being gamed. "We're legally required to keep all documentation, including electronic documentation? Fine, then we'll make sure that there's nothing damning in the documentation. Then later, when we're sued, your auditors can pore over our documents all they like, but they won't find any evidence that we knew about the problem beforehand."

Every system is put into place for a reason. The difference in whether a loophole is benign or not is in whether you're subverting the intent behind putting the system into place. For badge-collecting in City of Heroes, the developers end up getting two subscription fees, so they don't really care. It's not a violation of their Terms of Service in the slightest. There is no downside to other players if I have more badges, nor does it make my character much more powerful (and thus unbalancing). For Mafia Wars, some of the limits are about resource management: each player takes a certain amount of bandwidth, a certain amount of CPU time, etc, and those resources cost the developers money that they don't recoup from the free game. You can increase your play-time by paying for "Godfather points", which I have done-- not out of desperation to play more but out of a desire to support a game that I enjoy. (And if I could pay for the collection items that I am missing, I would do so. Happily.) For the rest...

The question is always who you hurt with your actions, regardless of whether "the rules" allow for your actions or not.
amanda_lodden: (Hammer Time)
I bet you thought that entry about badges was a stand-alone one, didn't you?

In fact, I brought it up because it's a nice lead-in to the next thing I wanted to talk about. I feel obligated to warn potential readers that I have a stack of these sorts of posts queuing up, each one dependent upon a point made in the prior one. If you're going to run away, best to do it early and save yourself some rambling.

City of Heroes has badges. City of Heroes has a LOT of badges, in fact (688 at last count, not including the ones only available to villains). The problem is, some of those badges are for being logged in at the right time (notably, for each anniversary of the game's launch). It's physically impossible for me to ever get the first-anniversary badge, because I didn't start playing until a few months after that. My oldest character, and coincidentally my favorite, is a defender-- which makes it within the realm of possibility to get the healing badges, but very difficult to get a lot of the others. And for the sake of my sanity, I have made a firm rule that ONLY my main character will be going after badges. 688 is hard enough. 688 times roughly 12 characters is more than a lifetime.

So, I started looking for loopholes. John has an account on CoH as well, which he very rarely uses. To get those "kill a player-controlled villain" badges, I could either enter the player-vs-player areas with a character not terribly suited for PvP combat, controlled by a player not terribly suited for PvP combat (namely, me) and hope for the best... or I could create a villain on John's account, and then have it docilely stand around while my main character killed it with excruciating slowness.

Guess which I picked? I also have characters created for the express purpose of standing around getting hit while my main character heals them (usually left running overnight while I go to sleep), and for the express purpose of teaming with my main character and going off to run missions that she can't do solo.

I've done similar things with other games. I'm addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook, which has "collections". You can only play so much at a time... on one account. I started the second account not because of the collections but because the size of one's mafia makes a big difference in how long one survives in fights. The way most people get around it is to join groups of other Mafia Warsplayers, but adding people to your mafia requires adding them as a friend on FB, and I use FB to keep up with other, actual friends. So I started the second FB account with the intent of moving my Mafia Wars playing to that account, where I could add people as friends willy-nilly without having it affect my ability to keep up with people I care about. But then I discovered that two accounts playing means twice as much collecting! (You can gift items back and forth; if I had to worry about getting two sets of items I wouldn't bother). I ended up hacking into John's account and playing MW as him as well (seriously, sweetheart, better passwords are not your enemy). [This will become important in later posts, as one of the people John has as a FB friend is heavily involved in state politics, and often (by which I mean pretty much always) holds opinions opposite to my own. Saul's updates, and the comments from his supporters, scare me.]

Feel free to point and laugh at me, I'll wait. Feel free to arrange an intervention, I'll do my best to justify it. But here's the thing:

I'm not alone.

There is ALWAYS someone who looks at a system and finds ways around it. You know who they are:


It's the person who goes to the grocery store and stocks up on the "limit 2 per person" loss-leader items by purchasing up to the limit, taking that set out to the car, and then coming back to do it again with a different cashier.

It's the person who finagles disability payments out of a minor injury.

It's the person who obtains controlled substances by complaining of pain to multiple doctors.

It's the person who knows they've gone too far into debt to sustain their lifestyle, and opts to milk every dime they can out of their credit cards before declaring bankruptcy.

It's the major manufacturing company that bans writing down problems.


Wait, what's that last one?

My addiction to badges, achievements and virtual collectibles is laughable, in the grand scheme of things. But a friend of mine who works for that major manufacturing company told me of a new policy at work that has me downright frightened: since people can get hurt if there are flaws in their product, and hurt people can sue, there is to be no paper trail documenting ANY knowledge of flaws, suspected flaws, or potential problems. If you have a concern about a quality-control or engineering aspect, you are to go to your manager and tell them verbally. Putting it in writing is grounds for termination. (What your manager is supposed to do with it is unknown.)

So, the system that's in place to ensure culpability and responsibility is being gamed. "We're legally required to keep all documentation, including electronic documentation? Fine, then we'll make sure that there's nothing damning in the documentation. Then later, when we're sued, your auditors can pore over our documents all they like, but they won't find any evidence that we knew about the problem beforehand."

Every system is put into place for a reason. The difference in whether a loophole is benign or not is in whether you're subverting the intent behind putting the system into place. For badge-collecting in City of Heroes, the developers end up getting two subscription fees, so they don't really care. It's not a violation of their Terms of Service in the slightest. There is no downside to other players if I have more badges, nor does it make my character much more powerful (and thus unbalancing). For Mafia Wars, some of the limits are about resource management: each player takes a certain amount of bandwidth, a certain amount of CPU time, etc, and those resources cost the developers money that they don't recoup from the free game. You can increase your play-time by paying for "Godfather points", which I have done-- not out of desperation to play more but out of a desire to support a game that I enjoy. (And if I could pay for the collection items that I am missing, I would do so. Happily.) For the rest...

The question is always who you hurt with your actions, regardless of whether "the rules" allow for your actions or not.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
"I'm betting that you could find a large enough majority to vote down just about anything that's important to someone if you asked the right people for their opinions. I suspect that's why we don't ask people for their opinions about stuff that's not really any of their business. If we did we'd all be one religion, work the same job, have the same number of kids, maintain an ideal weight, drink very little or not at all, dress the same way and drive the same vehicle. Which is only fun until you're not the one who gets to decide." -- Chris Drummonds
amanda_lodden: (Default)
"I'm betting that you could find a large enough majority to vote down just about anything that's important to someone if you asked the right people for their opinions. I suspect that's why we don't ask people for their opinions about stuff that's not really any of their business. If we did we'd all be one religion, work the same job, have the same number of kids, maintain an ideal weight, drink very little or not at all, dress the same way and drive the same vehicle. Which is only fun until you're not the one who gets to decide." -- Chris Drummonds
amanda_lodden: (Default)
"If we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road," the president warned, promising to cut the yearly deficit in half by the end of his four-year term. "We cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences."

From Yahoo News
amanda_lodden: (Default)
"If we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road," the president warned, promising to cut the yearly deficit in half by the end of his four-year term. "We cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences."

From Yahoo News
amanda_lodden: (Default)
A got yet another "green living" tip in my email that included the idea that if you use less paper, there will be more trees.

This, my friends, is bullshit.

It gives us all a warm, fuzzy feeling to think that we're saving noble redwoods when we decline to use paper, and I'm definitely advocating the use of less paper-- but not for the trees.

Paper production is a business. Like any good business, it needs supplies. Supplying the business of paper production is in and of itself a business. Trees are grown for the express purpose of being cut down and turned into paper. In fact, very specific types of trees are grown, because the people growing them know what their customers (the paper manufacturers) want-- they don't care about how many nutrients the tree soaked up during its growth, or whether the foliage is beautiful in September. They want trees with soft fibers that mash down into pulp really well-- there's a reason that you can't go out and buy teak paper. Tree farmers plant trees that grow quickly and provide those easy-to-make-into-paper wood fibers.

So if we cut our demand for paper, those tree farmers will have trees left over, which can be considered "saving" them if you'd like. But tree farmers are in it for the money. Economically, it doesn't make sense for the farmer to spend time, energy and resources (all of which cost money) to grow trees that can't be sold. Unless they can find someone else to buy those trees, all the farmer is going to do is plant fewer trees the next year.

There ARE perfectly good reasons to reduce paper usage, but it has to do with the fuel used to transport the cut logs, the chemicals used to bleach the wood fibers, the dyes used to turn some of the paper a color other than white, and the fuel used to transport the paper to consumers. The trees could care less. So quit trying to sell me on saving the damned trees already.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
A got yet another "green living" tip in my email that included the idea that if you use less paper, there will be more trees.

This, my friends, is bullshit.

It gives us all a warm, fuzzy feeling to think that we're saving noble redwoods when we decline to use paper, and I'm definitely advocating the use of less paper-- but not for the trees.

Paper production is a business. Like any good business, it needs supplies. Supplying the business of paper production is in and of itself a business. Trees are grown for the express purpose of being cut down and turned into paper. In fact, very specific types of trees are grown, because the people growing them know what their customers (the paper manufacturers) want-- they don't care about how many nutrients the tree soaked up during its growth, or whether the foliage is beautiful in September. They want trees with soft fibers that mash down into pulp really well-- there's a reason that you can't go out and buy teak paper. Tree farmers plant trees that grow quickly and provide those easy-to-make-into-paper wood fibers.

So if we cut our demand for paper, those tree farmers will have trees left over, which can be considered "saving" them if you'd like. But tree farmers are in it for the money. Economically, it doesn't make sense for the farmer to spend time, energy and resources (all of which cost money) to grow trees that can't be sold. Unless they can find someone else to buy those trees, all the farmer is going to do is plant fewer trees the next year.

There ARE perfectly good reasons to reduce paper usage, but it has to do with the fuel used to transport the cut logs, the chemicals used to bleach the wood fibers, the dyes used to turn some of the paper a color other than white, and the fuel used to transport the paper to consumers. The trees could care less. So quit trying to sell me on saving the damned trees already.

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