Sunday, November 30, 2014

96 X'ed

Some time ago, I linked to the website, a site that chronicles the moments when radio stations swap from one format to another. The first thing you'll notice if you poke around is that a lot of the same formats get used in a lot of markets, no thank you very much Clear Channel. (A fair amount of the time, stations will swap around this time of year, airing exclusively Christmas music to mask the change. A station will be one format going into the season and another format coming back out of it.)

But almost always, a station signing off will in fact become the birth of a new station at the same frequency. It's almost unheard-of for a radio station to actually straight-up go off the air, where one moment you hear music or talking and the next you hear only static.

But it has happened. shows one- and only one- instance of a straight shutdown, when Top 40 station 96X in Miami, call sign WMJX, shut down in 1981. The FCC had pulled its license. (This paper from Justin Levine of Indiana University shows only one other, KIKX in Tuscon, which staged a kidnapping of DJ Arthur Gropen in 1974, causing listeners to call the cops, causing the cops to call the station, causing the station to insist the kidnapping was real, causing the FCC to also yank their license in 1981. That shutdown is not in's database.) In 1975, 96X was borne out of a format change, or really I should say an ownership change. Bartell Broadcasting was out, handing off to Charter Broadcasting. Bartell, also doing top-40, had used the call sign WMYQ; Charter went through a couple others, plus a brief switch to disco, before returning to top-40. But in inheriting the station, Charter also inherited the station's legal troubles with the FCC.

WMYQ, you see, had done some very stupid morning-DJ things in the 70's, prior to the handoff to Charter, as I link you to a message from Stuart Elliott, the DJ tasked with pulling the plug. As Elliott explained back in 2005, there were two things the FCC mainly took into account, though the Indiana paper notes that they considered nine contests over a two-year period. The first of the big two was a prank, for which the FCC would eventually use KIKX as precedent to act, in which morning DJ Greg Austin was said to be broadcasting from out at sea and then 'disappeared', causing all manner of law enforcement to launch a huge search party to find him. The news anchor was instructed to keep the disappearance story going to promote a 'Find Greg Austin Contest'. He turned up in a Howard Johnson just down the road from the radio station.

Second was a contest in which the station claimed to be giving away "a warehouse full of 10 speed bicycles". The station would give out clues on the air saying where the bikes were hidden, you'd go find one, call the station, they'd give you a combination to unlock the bike, and if it unlocks it's yours. The thing the FCC honed in on was that here, 'a warehouse full' wound up being defined as 'a half dozen to a dozen'. Elliott didn't say the exact number, but it sure was not a warehouse. These days he'd be thinking more like a storage locker, which wasn't nearly as much of a thing in the early 80's, but in any case, 'warehouse' still means a certain rather large thing.

The Indiana University paper points out another contest from 1973 called 'Magnum One', in which listeners were led to believe they were winning part of a company with "valuable assets". It was actually a shell corporation. The FCC had already warned the station over this one.

An additional sample incident, which is unclear if the FCC noted in its hearings, was recalled in 2012 by B. Eric Rhoads. In 1975, the station was in a ratings war during sweeps with rival Y-100, and the instructions from programmer Jerry Clifton were, "We're neck-and-neck with Y100 and we can win this, but it's going to require extra creativity from you guys. Pull out all the stops. No holds barred. Just don't lose the license." Rhoads went on the air that night and claimed he'd been fired. The rest of the staff "reacted" to the firing. The next morning, Rhoads "broke in" to the studio and "took over" the station and said he'd play a novelty song called 'Eat A Fish' until he got his job back... which led to some very real cops showing up not long afterward, holding him at gunpoint, and dragging him off to a squad car outside. After some explanation to the cops, the mayor of Miami Beach forced the station GM, Carl Gomo, to issue one apology every half hour on the station for the next two weeks. (Y-100 beat 96X in sweeps that year.)

96X would spend a few years defending itself to the FCC, ultimately unsuccessfully. The decision was made final in January 1981, with the station having to be off the air by April. The change in ownership counted for nothing. Charter had taken over with full knowledge of what might end up happening, and knowing that Bartell getting out of Dodge while there was still a Dodge to get out of didn't do anything to change the equation. And given that the license was gone and extremely unlikely to be put back on appeal, they didn't see much point in prolonging the station's demise.

The shutdown can be heard here. Elliott was unable to hold it together as he hit the switch. The calmer-sounding message from station manager Bob Allen was prerecorded. The station would eventually come back on the air, but it wouldn't be until 1985. It's currently WPOW, a dance music station.

Going down like it did, 96X has acquired a tribute website, playing the kinds of music 96X used to play.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Adventures In Marketing

Let's say you're Malaysian Airlines. You're the subject of constant scrutiny and anger every day that the plane of yours that went down... somewhere or other... all the way back in March remains unfound, which is bogged down right now in squabbling over theories, and the odds are at worst pretty fair that it in fact never will be found. You have a second plane that was shot down by Russians mid-Ukranian invasion in July. That's more on the Russians than it is on you, but it still doesn't exactly look good. You are, at this moment, undoubtedly the least-trusted airline on the planet.

Let us also say you are part of Malaysian Airlines' marketing department. You are tasked with figuring out how in the world you are going to get people back on your airplanes that have been frightened into the arms of your competitors. It's getting to be the late stages of the year, and even if you're Muslim and don't observe Christmas, the close of the year is still a big marketing opportunity. Which of the following two things do you tweet?

A) "Want to go somewhere, but don't know where? Our Year-End Specials might just help!"
B) Literally anything other than A short of expressing admiration for the Unabomber.

Needless to say, the selection here was A. Shockingly, that didn't work too well. (The tweet was deleted some hours later. I do not suspect the person that sent it will be employed very much longer.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One Thing

I've made note here, a couple times, that a small town doesn't get too many opportunities to define itself to the world. A large metropolis, such as St. Louis or Los Angeles, gets in front of the world regularly, and has the opportunity to present many different sides of itself. One can look at Los Angeles and see primarily a celebrity playground, or a media center, or Disneyland, or beaches and surfing, or outrageous urban sprawl, or any of the local sports teams, or its ethnic diversity, or Skid Row, or a culinary mecca, or a parched desert with a city on top of it, or a multitude of other things. The world sees Los Angeles often, and so it sees more sides of Los Angeles.

A small town doesn't have that luxury. Small towns as a whole get in front of the world regularly. But there are a lot of small towns out there. A specific small town in particular, and even some medium-sized cities, may never get its face shown in front of the populace at large in any remotely significant way. Even if it does, it will almost certainly be known for one thing, and one thing only. That's it. One Thing. The town simply isn't large enough to have enough facets to it that people are likely to see more than one of them to any appreciable degree; it may have more, but one is far too likely to outshine the others.

Sometimes, that one thing is sports. Auburn, Alabama is only ever going to be known for the Auburn Tigers. Despite being the birthplace of James Fennimore Cooper, and despite his family being the town's namesake, Cooperstown, New York still has only One Thing, and that is being the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Green Bay, Wisconsin is home to over 100,000 people and has always been a major player in the paper mill industry, but paper is not Green Bay's One Thing. It's the Packers and everybody knows it.

Other times, it's a particular attraction in the town, a landmark. In my case, Watertown, we like to put the fact that we're home to astronaut Dan Brandenstein on the signs entering town, and we name our football team the Goslings over our history fattening up geese for foie gras, but those are not our One Thing. We're the home of the country's first kindergarten. That's our One Thing, and it's really a rather boring one. Neighboring Oconomowoc's One Thing is the unorthodox name of the town itself. Despite secondary reputations as a spring break destination and a fair number of sporting events revolving around the lake, Lake Havasu City, Arizona acquired its One Thing when London Bridge was relocated there, brick by brick, in 1968. Some towns that don't even think they have a One Thing at all try to force it by building a blatant roadside attraction, often the World's Largest something or other. A typical example is Hebron, Nebraska and the World's Largest Porch Swing.

And sometimes, it's historical. Nobody will ever know Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for anything except the Wright Brothers. Nobody will ever know Plymouth, Massachusetts for anything except the landing of the Pilgrims. Nobody will ever know Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for anything except the Civil War.

And this can be rather problematic for a city if its One Thing is an incident that gives the town a bad name. Again, it is hard for a small town to get everybody's attention, and if their one moment in the spotlight is for something bad, that's that. People will go away, remembering only the facet of town that brought them there, and the town will be forced to deal with their One Thing single-handedly dragging down their reputation even if they fix the problem that caused it, because no matter how much effort they put into rebranding themselves, it will probably fail as the nation will go right back to ignoring them after gawking at the One Thing.

Compton, California has gotten far safer since the days in the early 1990's when N.W.A, the Bloods, the Crips and involvement in the Rodney King riots gave Compton their One Thing. But despite working to improve matters ever since, Compton has failed to get the attention of the public at large for any of it. They still labor under their One Thing. And when you labor under your One Thing, it can be very, very difficult getting people or business to move in afterward. It can cost the town dearly going forward, until and unless they can convince the world that their One Thing no longer defines them.

Columbine, Colorado was charged with its One Thing later in the decade, when it became the victim of what would prove to be the most famous school shooting in America, even now, 15 years and far too many school shootings later. The word 'Columbine' has become a byword for school shootings, as school districts across the country, no matter who gets shot up in the meantime, still wonder how to prevent 'another Columbine'. The town's Wikipedia page doesn't even list anything else about it save for basic geography and demographics. Neighboring Littleton, whose previous One Thing was not much better- being the burial site of Alferd Packer, America's only convicted cannibal- found itself in the same shoes as Columbine when, finding that Columbine itself was (and still is) unincorporated, the media falsely reported Littleton, which was incorporated, as the location of the shooting instead.

Whatever it is you may say regarding the events or legitimacy thereof surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson- and I've said plenty myself- what is surely beyond dispute is that Ferguson, Missouri has, by now, been saddled with its One Thing. It is the town where Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, got acquitted, and riots broke out upon his grand jury acquittal. That is Ferguson's claim to fame, and unless Ferguson finds a way to get some other, bigger claim to fame, that is how it will always be remembered, and the town, blacks and whites alike, will simply have to live with that stigma. Ferguson will, eventually, leave America's eye for good, and it will be long before any of the larger issues surrounding the crisis even begin to be resolved. If they ever are. People will, more than they already had, think twice before moving to Ferguson. Businesses will think twice before opening locations in Ferguson, and those who saw their businesses burned down last night will surely think twice before deciding to rebuild, presuming they even have the ability to do so.

Ferguson may never get a chance to find itself a new One Thing. But if they do, let us hope it isn't something even worse.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Name The Ha Ha You Thought It Was Presidents

Trying to figure out if I'm able to make a new website in order to host the files for that soccer podcast because it looks like I may not be able to do that on Blogger. Looking around the place I've got here and the mess I've made of it any time I've tried to make any alterations to the default template whatsoever. Not liking my chances.

So since it's getting into breakfast hours in Europe right now, the Sporcle quiz I'm bringing out tonight might as well be for Europe. I do enough of these for the US; might as well indulge them.

Of course if you ARE American, the old name-the-Presidents list gets turned on its head a bit when all of a sudden it's a list of British Prime Ministers. Or, heck, Australia or Canada. Or India. So good luck with that.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A 10-Step Guide To Deer Season

Deer season in Wisconsin has started; it began Saturday the 22nd, and runs until the 30th. And as is tradition, Wisconsin empties itself into the forests as a result. I am not a hunter, not a gun person in any way, but if done responsibly, and the deer is fully utilized afterward and not just mounted on a wall or something, then you go right ahead.

So to all you hunters out there, let us be clear about the protocol:

*Live deer are your targets, as your hunting license indicates.
*Do not shoot another person instead.
*Especially if it's your daughter.
*And especially especially if it's a 5-day-old infant.
*Do not shoot yourself.
*Make sure the deer has not already been shot by another hunter.
*Do not shoot that other hunter.
*Do not shoot a hunting dog. It does not matter whether or not said dog belongs to you.
*Do not drive-by shoot a deer.
*Do not shoot a house.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What I Was Watching The Past Week

Desert Bus 8 has ended after 158 hours. They're still working out the exact amount to hang on the toteboard; they put in some stand-in donations to reflect people who'd bought something in an auction and whose money wasn't actually going to come in until sometime after the run, and now that the run is over, those stand-in donations are back out of the system, and meanwhile, some scattered postgame donations have been trickling in. But the final number is going to be somewhere north of $630,000. They figure $637,000 is where it'll end up.

What they do know, however, is that at one point in the last day, the winner of an auction for a stained-glass figure of the Desert Bus 8 logo immediately donated it back to be part of another lot, which worked basically as a raffle that you could enter by donating a target amount or exact multiple thereof (in this case $13.37). And then this happened.

And then that kept happening for like 20 minutes straight.

The night prior, there were other social functions going on at the venue in Victoria, BC's Fort Tectoria, and the group decided, hey, why not conga-line right into the other parties? As you do. It just so happened that in that other group of people was the British Columbia Minister of Technology, Andrew Wilkinson, as well as a member of the legislative assembly, Greg Kyllo (analog, state legislator in the US). They decided to crash Desert Bus right back. It probably wasn't the best decision to follow a tradition of showing newcomers the video 'Going To The Store'- a clip of a naked, genital-free inflatable doll being marionetted around town- as the chat room was insisting upon (and it didn't get a reaction), but the two were good enough sports about it that Kyllo, who runs a rental houseboat fleet, decided he would contribute a week vacation on one of said houseboats as an auction lot.

As the participants of Desert Bus will tell you themselves, that last clip stands as the all-time strangest moment in the history of the telethon. They didn't even really think Kyllo was serious until he started going into detail about the houseboat, which ended up going for $5,000 (which got Kyllo and Wilkinson to high-five each other, so you know they were happy with it). The thing is, it's not normally a thing that would seem weird. In most places, a houseboat vacation being auctioned off wouldn't raise any real eyebrows, at least, none that didn't want a houseboat vacation. It would just appear to be one more item up for bids along with the furniture and the vases and the grandfather clocks.

Desert Bus, though, deals in geek-culture items. Five hours after the houseboat auction, they put up a replica sword from the anime series Kill la Kill that was in the shape of half a pair of scissors. THAT was what the audience was expecting to fight each other over that night more than anything else (and it went to the representative from Twitch that happened to be in the room), and that came on the heels of a new record for largest-ever bid, $10,001 on rare Borderlands merchandise along with a visit to Dallas to meet creative director Mikey Neumann. Both, you'll note, went for more than the houseboat vacation.  Here's what the scissor sword auction looked like.

In the setting of Desert Bus, while it may be weird to see someone put on the costume head of a giant anglerfish, or perform Caramelldansen multiple times in a row, or espouse on the crafting potential of human entrails, it is quite expected that you will see things along those lines. And all of those things happened in Desert Bus 8. It is normal to be bizarre, and the unexpected part is simply what exact brand of insanity you will see at any given moment.

When you drop normal folks, in suits, from the government, into such a situation, now there's a fair amount of trouble trying to process it. Wait a minute. This isn't weird. This is a perfectly normal thing being done by perfectly normal people that also happen to be from the government. The closest thing to 'normal' is a guy who people feel comfortable asking to recite the periodic table, in order, with no misses allowed (but nonconsecutives allowed). And then watching him rack up 36 before bowing out. And then asking him to read 'Go The Fuck To Sleep' (but with the all-expletive-replacing word 'bus' substituted).

Weird is a relative thing. In the world of government, it is not expected to have a conga line from next door barge into your social function, and it is not expected to watch weird and slightly risque videos from the Internet. In the land of the weird, the Internet geek-culture telethon, it is similarly unexpected to see politicians acting like the elected officials they are. In the land of the weird, he who is normal stands out most of all.

But through that, despite the wide gulf in personal subcultures involved, they did all see eye-to-eye on the important thing: the kids in the children's hospitals- and domestic violence shelters, although that never came up during the meeting- that were counting on all of them to do their bit, whatever bit that happened to be. And they absolutely did.

Now if we can just get that kind of thing going a bit more often on the American side of the border.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Where Last Names Came From

Desert Bus monitoring has taken up a ton of my time, so I've been away from here for most of it. Sorry about that. But it should be wrapping tomorrow night (barring anything truly mind-poppingly insane concerning donations).

So while you wait (and hopefully donate)... I'll leave you in the capable hands of John Green, who in this video, that I won't embed because linking it leads you to other Mental Floss videos, explains the origins of 62 common last names. Because last names were not always a thing. You may hear in ancient times about people getting called, oh, say, 'Jesus of Nazareth'. That's how things got done back then a lot of the time: the first name followed by some sort of descriptor (Alexander the Great being another one). Actual last names started trickling in at different times in different regions, and they had to start coming from somewhere. As you'll see. Anglo-Saxon, for example, came about in what you'd probably call the mythical Knights Of The Round Table era, the 1300-1400's, and names from that region have a way of reflecting the culture of the time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Fishing Was This Big

You've used Google Earth, I assume. In using Google Earth, people have stumbled across some pretty odd things, things that had previously gone unnoticed. And people use it to monitor various situations around the world. You dump raw satellite photos of the whole entire planet on people, you're gonna see some things.

But you knew that. So let's lead into the story, which is Google partnering up with two environmental groups, Oceana and Skytruth, to initiate Global Fishing Watch. The one thing about Google Earth is that there's usually a lag from one update to the next in a given area. Global Fishing Watch is aiming to monitor commercial fishing spots in almost real time. The idea is to spot where illegal fishing is happening, and then be able to respond to it quickly. It's notoriously difficult to tell how much exactly the oceans are fixed out, but we know enough to be certain they're not doing so hot, and because a lot of people don't pay too much attention to the ocean beyond 'that empty space on the map between all the land parts', a lot of illegal fishing goes unchecked, thus exacerbating the problem. This is the problem they're trying to fix.

I'm unfortunately skeptical that it'll get even close to fixed, but any positive impact, you know?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How Does Car

So Desert Bus is underway, and they're off to a really nice start, and I'm concentrating on that at the moment (and yes, I have donated), so I'm going to give you something rather simple.

Or, well, not so simple. It's a car engine. HowStuffWorks has a little beginner's tutorial on what exactly is going on inside that giant block of metal and hot spinning stuffness. There's a pretty simple game here in which car parts are individually laid out and you have to label them.

And now I'm off to continue looking at a bus.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Americans Are Particularly Ignorant

Okay, so in trying to prep the soccer podcast, and with me not knowing how does audio, I've eventually determined that the simplest way for me to upload an audio file is to just host it here.

Apparently that isn't as simple as I thought it would be. There's no button for that up in the functions above the text box, and all the tutorials I've seen for how to put one on Blogger are at least a couple years old. And they may not be valid anymore, given that Blogger has altered its operation protocol since then and there are a lot of messages on the help forum asking why their previously-working audio files are no longer working. So it may in fact no longer be a service Blogger offers anymore, and I need to figure out what the hell to do about that.

So if anyone's reading this and knows what they're doing. I am such a weenie on this and this post title likely applies to me too. But, to business.

That having been said, one of the anguishes from the post-election analysis of the overall Republican gains- spurred by the lowest voter turnout since 1942, a pathetic 36.4% (compare to 61.6% that voted in 2008)- has been that the few people that did vote took a look at everything being put on various agendas, took the absolute most damaging stuff possible and said 'I want me some of that'. By choice. As a thing to actively sign up for. This would be done on the basis of not having any clue what is actually accurate about the country's affairs.

According to a survey by the British research form MORI conducted in August, that isn't exactly idle accusation. They polled 14 developed nations: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland, South Korea, Japan and Australia. They quizzed people from each of those nations about nine statistics as relevant to their country: the teenage pregnancy rate, the percentage of Muslims, the percentage of Christians, the percentage of their population made up of immigrants, the percentage that is age 65 or older, the voter turnout in the most recent general election, the unemployment rate, the life expectancy for a child born that year in their country, and the national murder rate. Questions to which the answer is not up for debate. There is a number, it is correct, and all the other numbers are not correct.

Pretty much everybody figured things were scarier- or 'scarier'- than they actually were. So, that's lesson #1. That established, the best thing you could say is that the United States did not do the worst. That is because they did the second-worst, behind Italy. Among other things- which you can see in the slideshow provided in the link above- Americans that were given the survey on average estimated the unemployment rate to be 32% (at the time, it was actually 6%). That was only the fourth-worst guess on that question. The Americans did do the worst in guessing the teenage pregnancy rate, figuring that 24% of teenagers give birth each year. (Correct answer: 3%.) The one place the US actually did particularly well was guessing the voter turnout in what at that point was the most recent election, 2012. We guessed 57% on average; it was 58% (58.2% specifically). But given that this was the second-lowest actual turnout of the group, that's cold comfort.

Which brings us to lesson #2: pay attention to what's actually going on or it is going to cost you dearly on Election Day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It Had To Be PBS Sooner Or Later

Continuing work on trying to cobble together a set of knowledge sufficient to get a podcast up online for the listenings. So I'm going to give you a video to watch.

When you hear about European penetration into the United States, usually you're hearing about the colonies, or the Oregon Trail, or the southwest. Maybe the odd bit of talk about Hawaii.  Up north, typically it's Lewis and Clark. My home state, though, Wisconsin, tends to escape all of this, as it wasn't anyone famous that got here first. It was a Frenchman named Jean Nicolet in 1634, who was up this way in one of the endless attempts to find the Northwest Passage.

For more, I hand you to, really it's a wonder I haven't used more of their stuff, PBS. Specifically, Wisconsin Public Television. Have fun whilst I wrestle with audios.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Detergent Pods Look Like Candy

Let me tell you about Mr. Yuk.

Dangerous things have often been marked by the symbol of a skull and crossbones. This, of course, includes poisonous substances, starting in the United States in 1829, when New York State required that all containers with poisonous substances in them be marked with something to indicate that fact. Skull and crossbones being the easy association, that's what was used, and things proceeded as such for years.

But in Pittsburgh, there was one big complicating factor: the Pittsburgh Pirates. Skulls and crossbones are also associated with pirates, and in the 1970's, they were more associated with the baseball team than with any sort of danger, as the team at the time displayed one on the logo itself and cemented it in everyone's mind with a World Series title in 1971. Which meant it wasn't a very good deterrent for Pittsburgh children anymore, some of whom proceeded to start drinking the funny-looking bottle with the pirate on the label.

Dr. Richard Moriarty of the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital put two and two together when confronted with a surge in visits from parents who would have been better off calling Poison Control. He decided that the skull and crossbones just wasn't working anymore, and that a new label should be put on things that, first, would actually get children's attention, and second, would get parents pointed in the right direction in case it didn't. After some focus testing quizzing kids on the type of logo and the color, a sickly-green face sticking its tongue out came out the winner, with one kid saying he looked yucky. The name stuck.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers made it to their first Super Bowl a few years later, guess who got themselves a Super Bowl commercial.

The point here is, if you don't want kids to eat something poisonous, don't make it look in any way attractive to kids. Don't make it look, oh, say, like a little handheld packet of neon blue and orange, like a detergent pod would look. The thing is, I knew as soon as I first saw detergent pods on retail shelves that kids were going to eventually figure it was candy, and what do you know, some 17,000 of them did in 2012 and 2013- 2012 being their year of introduction- resulting in some 700 hospital visits and the death of one 7-month-old infant in Kissimmee, Florida. The 17,000 number here relies on calls to Poison Control, so the true number is probably a tad higher as some parents went right to the doctor and skipped the call to Poison Control. All the kids were under six years old, about 2/3rds were at most two.

The kids likely don't know any better. Certainly the 7-month-old that died didn't. However, the people that buy them, and certainly the companies that make them, do. If it's a thing you're doing your laundry with, and it's not something you have a place to physically keep it away from the kids, it's probably worth investing in a Mr. Yuk sticker. Or maybe just using regular detergent, which seems to invite less-serious symptoms in kids than the pods should that be swallowed.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Are You A Woman Who's Been Harrassed On Twitter?

Well, first off, I'm very sorry about that. Second, it appears you may have something to fight back with. You would think that something like Twitter's harassment policy would be enough for that kind of thing, but it turns out not so much. Twitter has been derided as slow to respond to harassment complaints, and even when they take action, it's a pretty simple matter for the harasser to just make a new account and keep harassing.

So what Twitter is doing is working with a group called Women, Action and the Media, or WAM. (That acronym cannot have been a coincidence, for the record.) What's going to happen is, they'll be taking over monitoring of gender-based harassment to a degree. (And that gender, of course, is almost always going to be women being harassed by men.) What's being requested is that, if you find you've been harassed on Twitter due to your gender, you go here and fill out the form that you'll find on the other side of the link. WAM will then refer what they get off that form to Twitter, and monitor how well Twitter responds to the reports. WAM will be referring what they get ('escalating' is the word being used, because they do first have to filter out any non-legit complaints) to Twitter in no more than 24 hours, and they aim to be a lot faster on the draw than that.

This is Twitter's reporting form; you can see that WAM's is considerably more detailed. That's by design. The idea here is to track things that Twitter currently is not, so that after a trial run of using WAM's forms, they'll be able to see certain patterns in abuse that Twitter is unable to pick up right now, and in time, Twitter will be able to see them too so they can more effectively act.

This does raise the question, though, of why Twitter doesn't just host the WAM form itself and not make people go hunting for it. And it has been raised. The potential worry here is that the partnership with WAM amounts to little more than a gesture and won't actually lead to true change, and it's on Twitter to show they're serious about this.

Of course, the people who do the harassing could also help out by not being the kind of jagoffs who harass solely based on gender in the first place. But I suppose that's too much to ask of them, isn't it?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Desert Bus In One Week

It is one week until Desert Bus For Hope 8, which kicks off next Friday at 10 AM Pacific. With whatever amount of depressing and frightening and unnerving stuff you may have seen the past week or so, really, consider this a pick-me-up. I know I've mentioned it before, I probably have here, but seriously, Child's Play is a great cause to donate to. They supply children's hospitals and domestic violence shelters with toys and games so the children there can basically just get their minds off situations they may not be able to, and shouldn't have to, deal with.

Or if you want to hear them explain it...

The basic deal is, if you need a refresher or don't know, you donate money, and the more you donate, the longer the telethon runs. The first hour costs $1.00, and each additional hour costs 7% more than the previous hour (because it gets harder to keep going as the telethon wears on, and also they have to cut it off at some point). So the second hour would cost $1.07. So early on it's cheap to buy hours, but as things progress, eventually you're asking thousands of dollars to buy that next hour. Along the way they auction things off, hold what are essentially raffles, and being a comedy troupe that does a lot of improv, they'll take requests to do just about whatever a potential donor asks of them.

'Whatever', for the record, involves things like this, occurring at 4:30 in the morning.

Or this.

Or this. (Watch the donation ticker.)

Honestly, hope you'll show up for that.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Internal Programming Note

I think I may finally be making actual progress concerning that soccer podcast, yaaaaaaaaay! I was able to get a Skype conversation going with my co-host last night, he walked me through how to A, hear us both and B, have Audacity record us both, so that's straightened out. There's a bit of lag time between responses because we don't have QUITE the same equipment, but that shouldn't take too long to sort out, and once I manage to then handle the issues of uploading an audio file and hosting said audio file, we should be good to go.

So, fingers crossed that that might happen soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why Did You Not Vote?

So remember how I told you to go vote? Dammit all to hell, people.

I believe you have now seen and will soon experience the punishment for your apathy, and I strongly suggest you take that into consideration next time around, and by next time I mean every little piddling election that comes down the pike on down to school board elections. As a reminder, let us look at highways for a second:

The federal officials can allocate highway funds to your state.
The state officials can decide if the highway goes through your town.
The city officials can decide if the highway goes through your house.

Get me? Vote next time. And every time. Don't let this happen again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


It is Election Day 2014 today. As is my custom, on election days I provide no content other than an admonishment to vote. That isn't about to change today.

So go vote. If you haven't already done so like I have. I know that there's a decent chance you don't know how you're going to get heard in this one. I know there's a decent chance you don't think you'll get a 'win' out of this or that anything's going to be better or some other kind of apathetic garbage.

You may not get a win out of this election from your vote, sure. But not voting is a guaranteed way to lose. Get yourself to the polls. Move.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Daylight Savings Tonight

This is the 'fall back' one, meaning you set the clocks back an hour at 2 AM local. (In the US. It gets kind of weird trying to internationalize that statement.)

So why not spend the extra hour you have reading articles complaining about the extra hour you have? That sure seems like a wise use of the time.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

This Week In Space

So space has been particularly dangerous this week for us humans. Never mind my little jab last night at snagging an asteroid. Big-time ambitions like that are all well and good, and if we can actually pull them off, awesome. But this week has presented a harsh reminder that even the most basic aspects of going to space, simply traveling there, or existing there, have always and continue to be fraught with extreme danger.

Six seconds after launch on Tuesday, an unmanned Antares rocket blew up on the launchpad at Wallops Island, Virginia, intended to deliver supplies, as well as a group of assorted experiments, to the International Space Station. Nobody was injured there. However, three days later on Friday, a test flight in the Mojave Desert went awry, resulting in the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, killing one pilot and seriously wounding another (the names have not yet been released). SpaceShipTwo was a craft that was intended, when operational, to carry tourists- many of them celebrities- on 15-minute joyrides for $250,000 each. Roughly 700 people had already paid for the trip.

This is far from a rare occurrence. All of the little half-funny gags people make about a plane being a pressurized metal tube blasting through the skies by way of jet fuel? They are very much not jokes when you bring spacecraft into the discussion, and everything powering that plane that also applies to spacecraft is amplified to the point of lunacy. Nothing is easy; every stage of the journey can bring things to a sudden and catastrophic end. The problem is, though, because that is true, every time that catastrophe happens, calls inevitably arise to stop. To cut the funding. To abandon this space silliness and focus on problems on Earth. Sometimes that funding does get cut... leading to cut corners on the next mission in order to stay within a slashed budget... leading to another potential catastrophe.

I hope that doesn't happen. In the grand scheme of things, we haven't been in space that long. We're still in every sense of the word trying to figure out how to make space travel merely a thing that is unlikely to kill people that attempt it. The Age of Exploration saw this same thing with ships; often, crews attempting particularly long voyages, such as circumnavigations, weren't told by their captains that they would be doing such a thing until they were well into the actual trip, because if they had been told beforehand, it would have been nearly impossible to cobble a crew together. But if we were ever going to get to the point we are now, where nautical circumnavigations are less about if you'll come back alive than they are about how many extra pounds you'll be sporting when you do, those early, danger-laden trips into the unknown had to come first. Those lasted for hundreds of years before the danger went away.

Will it take hundreds of years for us to get there with space travel? Since Yuri Gagarin's inaugural flight, it's taken at least 53. This week has proven once again that the end to that wait is not yet in sight. Catastrophes will happen. Spacecrafts will be lost. Lives will be lost. But this planet isn't going to sustain us forever, even if we maintain it perfectly. Eventually, we have to go see what else is out there. And in order to get to the point where we can go see what's out there, we first have to make sure we can reliably get off this planet in the first place, and safely dock at our intended ports of call.

Nobody ever said space was easy.