Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 11:34 on 07-03-2014, James D
Any opinions on today's XKCD?

It's pretty bad. The "zing" hinges entirely on the specific way it's set up, and that setup is only really technically an assumption anyway. She could easily have just left out the "you know what happens" and started with "when you assume..." in which case the smug coolguy would've been left without his oh-so-clever response. It's kind of ironic because Munroe's making fun of a canned clever response, but he's using his patented canned cleverness to do so. That's my two cents, anyway.

I think it's the combination of intense mediocrity, occasional diversions into genuinely being infuriating/bad, and excessive prominence.

On top of that Munroe has developed this smug, I'm-so-clever tone, without actually being clever at all. His comics often try for pithy, short zingers, like he thinks he's a modern-day Oscar Wilde, but they just fall flat most of the time.
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at 11:07 on 07-03-2014, Arthur B
I think it's the combination of intense mediocrity, occasional diversions into genuinely being infuriating/bad, and excessive prominence.
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at 10:57 on 07-03-2014, Daniel F
*shrug* Not really?

I'm a little curious why Ferretbrainers seem to be so down on it. You could fill a very large pool with the world's mediocre webcomics. What makes XKCD so remarkable?
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at 10:48 on 07-03-2014, Tamara
Any opinions on today's XKCD?
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at 20:51 on 06-03-2014, Danielle
My lovely horse, you're a pony no more
Running around with a man on your back, like a train in the night...


I might never sleep again.
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at 22:00 on 05-03-2014, Robinson L
A lighthearted incident from the campus of Reed College (a uni here in the States) last month:

Giant snowball batters Reed dorm.

My favorite part of the whole thing is the comment by Frederic Bahnson at the end:

Am I really the first person to point out that the math majors' trajectory prediction probably started with the assumption that the snowball was a perfect sphere? That never works in the real world. At Old Reed, the physics majors would have been on hand to help with the application of all that math theory. That said, that's an impressive snowball.
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at 10:42 on 05-03-2014, Arthur B
It sounds like a really sad and awkward situation all round. This is the same person who, much earlier in the Kickstarter, caused another controversy by claiming to have faked depression in order to get artistic credibility and alleging that faking depression for credibility is actually quite common.

Friends of Campbell are making very, very worried sounds and aren't able to get in touch so it's very alarming, I find the tone of the latest update veers uncomfortably between "I am not coping well currently" and "I am making an inflammatory political statement and I refuse to even apologise for not honouring a commitment I entered into with you completely voluntarily".

(Incidentally, I note that the Kickstarter doesn't include money for postage and reading the titles of the backer-only updates it sounds to me like Campbell simply couldn't afford to post the books to people.)
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at 06:33 on 05-03-2014, Melanie
I enjoy how his "threat" is to destroy books that he already admitted he has no intention of shipping to people anyway.
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at 16:42 on 28-02-2014, Michal
Strangely, I am at this moment listening to a CBC radio program about what exactly "middle class" means.
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at 10:26 on 28-02-2014, Tamara
@Ash - it's ok. Everything is perfectly audible, certainly, not worse than just listening to regular MP3 player with serviceable headphones. I had one with a radio though, that was weird.The quality would change drastically whenever your head was in/out of the water.
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at 22:25 on 27-02-2014, Adrienne
@Ash: it's not from this year, it's from 2013. Rat-Catcher by Seanan McGuire is ONLY available in a print antho from Subterranean Press, which is out of print and the cheapest available copies are like $80-$100. (And it's available in the Hugo packet from 2013.)
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at 20:30 on 27-02-2014, Ash
I've been getting the 502 errors too.

@Tamara: How's the sound quality on the underwater MP3?
@Adrienne: Which novella? I looked around and Amazon has copies of all of them.
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at 17:46 on 27-02-2014, Arthur B
Rami is looking into the 502 error and the disappearing content. Anyone who has any technical insight or who notices any strange behaviour on the site might want to post it under "Ideas and Issues" over to the left there.
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at 17:27 on 27-02-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Yeah, my comment was eaten up as well. To abbreviate slightly, I guess this whole thing depends a lot on how people see the middle class and how they see these protesters. Of the protesters I have no real experience, and of the middle class, I see it more as a income thing, though I do understand people's disgust at the bourgeoisie mindset. But anyways the 99% thing, of course there are bigger problems in this world than middle class people complaining, but as I understand it, real wages in the US have stayed the same or stagnated for the majority of people since the seventies, while only the wealthiest have kept on accumulating it. Second, the middle class is constricting and the median income has dropped slightly and this constriction is causing more poverty(as it is measured in the US). While one might see that the constriction is only forcing privileged people to face the real world, this is not resulting in the poorest people getting more of their needs looked after, instead, the wealth is flowing to the top at an accelerated speed. This, I think is a bad thing, and will not help relieve poverty in the rest of the world.

The mechanism of this is interesting too. As the minimum income is not enough for people to make a living, those working these jobs are dependent on food stamps and other public help to make ends meet. At the same time the industries depending on minimum wage workers are making great profits, for example Walmart. So, in effect, the help for those who need it come from taxes, the taxes are mostly paid by the middle class and instead of helping those who need it to get forward, they are subsidizing those who own the companies.

So the 99% protesters might not be protesting just the right things and might be oblivious and privileged idiots, I still feel that they are still on the right side of the issue. In addition, the wealthiest in the US don't even have to pay taxes as much either, or such is my understanding. Warren Buffet has remarked that his tax rate is actually lower than his secretary's and I assume he knows what he is talking about.

On the UK politics, I of course do not know how it works, but if the situation truly is so that the politicians are doing things so that the wealthiest benefit the most or solely, then it might give reason to suspect that something is amiss. That perhaps those with greater degree of means and the associated power are able to influence politics though outer-parliamentary views, for example through control of the public opinion. The middle class is a large portion of the population and a big part of the electorate. And while the voters can always be blamed for how they vote, large masses of people are in some circumstances manipulated. And of course this might be even easier with the middle class, who are usually only shaken out of their complacency and apathy by fear against themselves or their property. But still, wealth does exchange into power at some rate, although social status and privilege are a significant part of it.

Generally, societies lacking a powerful middle class are not very thriving societies precisely for the reason that the few wealthy and powerful, which go hand in hand really are able to dominate the politics. This is the situation in Russia for example, which is further exacerbated by the brain leak going on, where young people seeking a better life are leaving to study and work abroad. And of course the middle class holds the doctors, engineers, scientists, educators, accountants, lawyers, dedicated bureaucrats and small to medium business owners, whose existence is a sign of a functioning society. So while I do understand this dislike of the petit bourgeoisie and their conservative narrowmindedness, when and if the imbalances in the world start to change, this will lead to more middle class people everywhere, which unfortunately, might be unavoidable. The nordic welfare states were born out of an alliance between the moderate right and the moderate left, so there's that at least. Aren't most people in Ferretbrain middle class though? At least by level of education?

Of course, I don't presume to know more about the US or the UK than you all living there, but living in a small fish in a big pond where the US is the giant fish, one usually tries to have some picture of what is going on.

On what I was trying to say with the differences between the rich and the rest, I have no real idea now. It's not like they're vampires or anything. Or perhaps they are? Anyways, perhaps the point was that most middle class people still get their income through working a job or selling their skills, even if it is paid better and most are dependent on public schools and public services for which they mostly are happy to pay taxes. At least here they are. Whereas rich people are able to to live a rarefied existence in separation from the rest, where they really can just live off the dividends to their existing capital. Of course many of them work hard, but still, if the wealth disparity is moving more into the hands of the view than surely it is bad news for the rest, unless oligarchy(even a greater than now) would somehow improve on things. Hmm... I don't think I abbreviated anything at all. Too bad this is so late into the discussion. It is an interesting one, though.
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at 16:10 on 27-02-2014, Adrienne
Yeah, I was getting a 502/Bad Gateway error for almost all of yesterday evening, myself.
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at 16:00 on 27-02-2014, Robinson L
... Sorry, I shouldn't whinge. Mostly I'm just finding it bizarre.
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at 15:30 on 27-02-2014, Robinson L
Okay, so not only did the server crash for me the other day, but it also ate my last comment, even though I was sure I'd seen it posted. Oh well, I don't think it said anything which desperately needed saying.

@Adrienne: I'm in Yellow Springs; looks like I'm practically on the other side of the state.

Do you still have my e-mail address?
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at 13:47 on 27-02-2014, Adrienne
Also, @RobinsonL, where in Ohio are you again? I'm vaguely considering driving to Kent tomorrow to see a concert. Yes, really.
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at 13:43 on 27-02-2014, Adrienne
Do any FerretBrainers have a copy of the 2013 Hugo Voter's Packet, by any chance? I am desperately hunting for a novella that's only available there (it was published in a print-only anthology that is no longer available.)
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at 05:13 on 24-02-2014, Tamara permalink
at 23:37 on 23-02-2014, Ash
@Adrienne: I might have been dead or in the Tomb Colonies when you tried since I've been having trouble keeping my menaces down lately. You don't have to send me anything, I managed to get every non-Fate companion and an acquaintance with the Scandal Princess, through a combination of grinding and luck. I might ask you for help in the future, though.

@Tamara: How do you manage to listen to podcasts while swimming?
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at 16:35 on 23-02-2014, Sister Magpie
I don't have anything to add to the 1% discussion - other than to agree with Dan. During the Occupy happening, I kept reading comments by POC, working class Americans going basically "What, now that you white middle class kids get a taste of what this society is like for the rest of us, NOW you suddenly want a revolution?"


While this reaction is understandable, does it really say anything against the "revolution?" Since the late 70s in the US, wages have stagnated and man costs have gone up. From what I've seen a lot of the focus actually has been on people who might call themselves middle class, but really probably aren't, like people making minimum wage. It's far more likely now that someone born into poverty will stay there, not because Bill Gates has too much money personally, but because government policies is designed to help him make as much as possible and has lost all interest in investing in the middle and lower classes.

Compared to many many people in the world a bank teller in the US has a pretty awesome life, but that's no reason the bank teller shouldn't prefer the far better economic system a bank teller would be living in in the 1960s. There's always a lot of talk about people not knowing how good they have it in discussions about this on US TV, for instance, and it's usually applied to people on the lowest ends of the economic scale.
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