PJ Lifestyle

PJM Lifestyle

Making It Up As You Go Along: How To Fake a Roleplaying Campaign On Five Minutes Notice

Saturday, September 19th, 2015 - by Moe Lane

Sometimes, you need to slam it together fast.

If you’re a gamemaster (GM), you may have had this happen to you: for one reason or another, you’re about to start a game session, and you have not a clue about what your players are supposed to do during it. Maybe you forgot that you were running a session; maybe you’ve been tapped to run a game at a convention. Or maybe you’re just lazy.  Doesn’t matter; what matters is that you need to put together something quick. As in, now. And you don’t want your players to catch on, or at least care too much.

Fortunately, there are things that you can do about this. To the bullet points!

  • First, you must panic.  No, really, engaging in controlled panic is the absolutely first thing that you must do — unless you are one of those people who don’t need a certain amount of fight-or-flight hormones coursing through your biochemistry in order to wake your brain up fully. You just can’t indulge in it for long. It’s like using booze to calm down; a little actually works, but any more than that and you’re just asking for trouble.

  • Now that you’ve had your panic, the next step is to go out and steal something. Yes, steal. Are you getting money for running this gaming session? No? Then be shameless in your appropriation. Quick: what was the best game session that you’ve ever played in? No, don’t tell me, but answer the next question: did any of your players also play in that session? No? Then run the plot from that from memory. Heck, if any of them did play in that session then tip him or her the wink and let him or her take mild advantage of his or her foreknowledge.

  • If you can’t rip off somebody else’s campaign (or your own old campaign), rip off real life.  News of the weird (I still miss the print version of the Weekly World News) is usually best, but regular news works, too. One point, though: when improvising, skip the entire ‘ripped from the headlines’ part. Your players have probably read the headlines, too. They may not have read a local news story about a sewer tax dispute where you’ve changed all the politicians to wizards and added zombies to the sewers.

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3 Reasons Everyone Should Hate the Kentucky Marriage License Debacle

Friday, September 18th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard
Kim Davis, Nathan Davis

Photo: AP Images

I know that as a conservative-Christian-libertarian-leaning-Republican I’m supposed to pick a side in this Kim Davis controversy. These days, if you’re not 110% in one camp or the other, you’re a traitor and a sell-out. Nuance is for losers. Nevertheless, I’m deeply conflicted about the issue of the county clerk who was hauled off to jail for refusing to sign same sex marriage certificates, and I know I’m not the only one. Although I’ve heard from plenty of people about why one side or the other is wrong, I’m still not sure.

On the one hand, I agree with Davis on principle. As a Christian, I wouldn’t want my name on a form declaring the legitimacy of a union that is outside the bounds of the biblical definition of marriage. On the other hand, the Bible teaches that Christians are to obey the governing authorities unless they are commanded to do something that violates God’s commands. In between those two points is a gray area where there is room for Christians to come to different conclusions about whether putting one’s name on a marriage license would constitute an endorsement of the marriage. Even among individuals of other faith traditions (or no faith at all) there is disagreement on this issue; Americans from all walks of life are conflicted about it. And that is why everything about this ongoing conflict is terrible. Every. Last. Thing. Here are some of the top contenders for the things I hate the most about it:

Someone in the United States of America actually went to jail because she refused to put her name on a same sex marriage certificate.

I cannot wrap my mind around this. Weren’t we told just a few short years ago that same sex marriage wouldn’t affect those who didn’t agree with it? That it was all about more freedom for everyone and no one’s rights would be trampled in the process? Somehow, seemingly overnight, those benign-sounding overtures morphed into “Shut up, bigots, no one cares what you think anymore.” While it’s true that Kim Davis, a recent convert to Christianity, is not the standard-bearer anyone would have chosen to lead the battle for religious liberty, nevertheless, she was the first government official to run headlong into the new marriage laws. For better or worse, she’s the face of the conscientious objectors right now. Whatever you think of her personal story, the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion did not come with a morality clause, nor is there a non-hypocrisy requirement. And lest there is some confusion here, we don’t crowdsource religious beliefs (which are by nature deeply personal) to determine whether or not they are worthy of First Amendment protections.

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Dear Millennials: You Impress Me!

Friday, September 18th, 2015 - by Tricia Lott Williford



Millennials, you impress me.

Enough of this talk about today’s generation of college students, young professionals, and young marrieds being out of touch, over-medicated, over-sexed, highly-addicted, aimless, hopeless, and disconnected. I am completing some graduate research on how generations relate to one another–from the Traditionalists, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and finally, the Millennials, the generation with birth years ranging from around the 1980s to the early 2000s. 

I really have to say, I dig the Millennials.

You were born into a world of accessible options. Life is a cafeteria, and you may pick and choose as you wish, choosing your own authority and viewing your career as a place to serve. If this job doesn’t work out, you’re not at all afraid to leave and choose another one instead.

You were seemingly born with an understanding of technology, and it is central to your lives: you employ technology to stay globally connected, professionally and socially, at all times.

You Millennials are numerous, more affluent, better educated, and more ethnically diverse than any previous generation. You are trained to be doers and achievers, and you’re demonstrating a new focus on teamwork, achievement, and good conduct.

Believe it or not, Millennials are rule followers. You like clear direction, defined expectations, and the option to be creative within those parameters.

Some have said this generation is less religious, but the truth is, you’re no more secular than those who have gone before. While you may seem less committed to the church, you are simply redefining it. It’s not a place to be on Sunday; it’s a way of life. Millennials express commitment by serving different causes and types of organizations. Don’t mistake this for distraction: you are making your choices with great intention.

Disconnected? No way. Millennials are the most connected generation yet. You rival the Boomers in size, and the Boomers were the most influential generation of their day. They were a political force that made some major changes, and they did it all by word of mouth. (Woodstock wasn’t advertised on Facebook.) So, take the Boomers’ numbers and their passion, and add to it a global accessibility that keeps Millennials connected 24/7. A weak and distracted generation? Not hardly. You’re a force to be reckoned with!

Millennials are itching to lead. And while there is much to learn from the experience and wisdom of the X-ers and the Boomers, let no one look down on you because you are young, Millennials. You were made to lead.

Millennials, I dig you.

Lazy for a Living: Why Some Millennials Never Need to Work Again


Image via Shutterstock

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This Is What Happens When You Take 35 Viagra Pills at Once

Thursday, September 17th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

In sure defiance of warning labels, a British man named Daniel Medforth got drunk and took 35 Viagra pills in one sitting. He claimed the overdose was a joke, though it’s not clear on whom. His wife certainly wasn’t laughing, nor were the emergency medical staff she called upon.

Medforth was hospitalized and treated. He dealt with the expected effect of Viagra for five whole days. By some accounts, he was lucky to get away with embarrassment and inconvenience. Such overdoses can potentially cause brain hemorrhages, which may in turn lead to death.

Feminists Demand Women’s Viagra

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Evangelical Leaders Rebuke Trump’s Immigration Stance

Thursday, September 17th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Evangelical Christians largely reject Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s hardline rhetoric on immigration. That’s the claim from two evangelical leaders in a recent op-ed at The Christian Post.

Dan Darling serves as Vice President for Communications at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Matthew Soerens co-authored the book Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate. Together they claim that a plain reading of scripture calls their Christian brethren to turn from “the Darwinist rhetoric” employed by Trump and certain other Republican candidates. They write:

For Christians, no human being is a burden: each has been created with unique gifts to serve the common good. And every human soul has value to God, regardless of his or her utility to society. However, economists almost universally affirm that, on the whole, immigrants contribute significantly more to the economic wellbeing of the United States than they take out — though the economic benefits of immigration would be even greater if our laws were reformed, removing restrictions that prevent immigrants from fully thriving.

As people defined by our commitment to the authority of the Bible, Evangelical Christians cannot be reflexively anti-immigrant. After all, Jesus himself was a refugee who, with Mary and Joseph, fled the persecution of a tyrannical government to seek safety in Egypt. The people of Israel, millennia earlier, were mistreated as foreigners in Egypt, and God commanded them, after delivering them from their captivity, to remember that experience as immigrants and to welcome and protect those who came subsequently as immigrants into their land.

Darling and Soerens go on to express support for reforms which “both secure our borders and restore the rule of law by establishing a [pathway to] citizenship.”

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Is Cannabis the Best Treatment for Epilepsy?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 - by Theodore Dalrymple

cannabis 2

There are many ways of dividing humanity into two. One such way is to separate those who desire that everything should be explicable, preferably by a single grand overarching theory, and those who desire that a mystery should always remain. I suspect that believers in alternative medicine are predominantly of the latter disposition. They probably also derive a certain pleasure from defying and sometimes even triumphing over medical or other authority.

If I am right, extravagant belief in the therapeutic benefits of cannabis should decline as its claims are investigated with scientific rigour. If a chemical found in cannabis is prescribed in precisely the same manner as, say, antihypertensives, it will lose the mystique of its derivation. Like most drugs, it will merely be useful in some cases.

There’s an interesting review in the New England Journal of Medicine on the use of cannabis-derived substances in cases of epilepsy. Although new anticonvulsants have been developed in recent years, the proportion of epilepsy that remains untreatable has stayed more or less the same at 30 percent. The article contained an admirably clear exposition of the theoretical reasons why various chemicals found in cannabis (more than 500!) might work in cases of epilepsy.

The human brain has naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors, and there’s evidence of their disruption in some forms of epilepsy. Work in animals suggests that substances that block cannabinoid receptors lower the seizure threshold, which is a contributing factor for epilepsy. An epidemiological study conducted in New York has found that adults who smoked cannabis within the last 90 days were less likely to have an epileptic seizure than those who did not.

Anecdotal evidence dating from a surprisingly long way back also suggests a therapeutic effect of cannabis on the rate and severity of epileptic fits.

But none of the above proves the case for cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy. The history of therapeutics is littered with treatments that did not work in the end but were initially supported by exactly the same kind of evidence in their favor.

Few properly controlled trials have been performed: two were positive and two were negative. Among the difficulties of investigating the matter scientifically are the sheer number of chemical compounds to be tested, and also regulatory prohibitions. It’s important to remember that not all the substances found in cannabis have the kind of psychological effects that make it popular with aficionados.

Properly conducted double-blind trials are necessary because the placebo effect is strong, particularly in children. The authors sum up very succinctly the pitfalls of all other kinds of evidence adduced by enthusiasts (not only for cannabis, but for all treatment both orthodox and, especially, unorthodox):

The gap between patient beliefs and available scientific evidence highlights a set of factors that confound cannabinoid research and therapy, including the naturalistic fallacy (the belief that nature’s products are safe), the conversion of anecdotes and strong beliefs into facts, failure to appreciate the difference between research and treatment, and a desire to control one’s care, including access to therapies of perceived benefit.

Intriguingly, the authors quote one study that showed that parents of epileptic children who moved to Colorado so that their children could receive cannabinoid treatments reported more than twice as much benefit as the parents who already resided in the state (47 percent compared to 22). By itself, this does not prove very much, unless the children of the two groups were similarly afflicted in the first case – epilepsy not being a single condition with an identical degree of severity. Nevertheless, it is what I would have expected.

This Outrageous Story Shows Why Marijuana Must Be Legalized in All 50 States

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Google Exec Says No Google Car Anytime Soon

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
YouTube Preview Image

There is always-uber cool stuff at the annual Frankfurt auto show. But there is no Google car for sale. Philipp Justus, the managing director for Google’s central and eastern Europe operations, says don’t look for one anytime soon.

Google got some attention when it hired a real-life car executive to oversee its self-driving car project. But Justus declared in an interview at the auto show that that doesn’t mean the company will be building cars. Likely, it will partner with existing car makers.

That’s a distinction without a difference. As we enter the age of the Internet of Things, everything from toasters to town homes is going to come with an operating system. In many cases, we’ll be buying cyber-enabled stuff where the hardware and software are built by different companies.

That’s a big deal. The Internet of Things promises great possibilities with machines that plug us into the cyber universe.  But those devices will also raise all kinds of safety, security and privacy concerns.

So “systems integration,” the process that binds all the bits and pieces together, is going to be the most important part of making new things. We’ll want engineers, software designers, and manufacturers to pull all this stuff together in a way that delivers all the benefits and none of the downside of surfing cyberspace.

Good luck, Google.

Democrat Kills Driverless Car Because….

Driverless Cars Should Scare Insurance Industry

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Dislike Button Coming to Facebook

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

It’s happening! For years, humanity has engaged in online interactions via Facebook with one digital hand tied behind our back. If you liked a post, you could press the “like” button. However, if you disliked a post, you could only express your frustration as a comment. This obvious and unacceptable oversight will at long last be corrected. From CNBC:

The company’s co-founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg revealed the ongoing tests during a question and answer session on Tuesday.

“People have asked about the ‘dislike’ button for many years, and probably hundreds of people have asked about this, and today is a special day because today is the day that I actually get to say we are working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it,” he said.

But it won’t be a simple “dislike” function like that seen on YouTube or other sites. Zuckerberg says he doesn’t want Facebook to become a place where your personal moments are “downvoted.”

Instead, Zuckerberg said, the new feature will allow people to “express empathy” with their Facebook friends, explaining what many users of the social media platform already knew: “If you are sharing something that is sad…then it may not feel comfortable to ‘like’ that post.”

For instance, you might not feel comfortable “liking” a death announcement or bad news like a job loss. This new functionality will allow you to acknowledge such messages in a different way.

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Note to Bernie Sanders: The God of the Bible Is NOT a Socialist

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 - by Chris Queen


A Socialist goes to a conservative Christian college to make a speech. Sounds like the setup for a joke, doesn’t it? But in the 2016 presidential campaign, the most free-wheeling, anything-goes stump season of any in recent memory, we shouldn’t be the least bit surprised that it actually happened.

Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, who calls himself a socialist and is running for president as a Democrat, spoke at Liberty University (yep, that Liberty, the one founded by Jerry Falwell) on September 14. He received a warm welcome from the faculty, students, and visitors there, a far cry from the reception a conservative gets on a left-leaning campus.

I read the transcript of Sanders’ speech, and it’s actually not as terrible as one might think. He said some really good things; the problem, of course, lies in the remedy Sanders favors as opposed to how the majority of the student body at Liberty thinks.

I admire Sanders for his courage. He admits that:

…it is easy to go out and talk to people who agree with you. I was in Greensboro, North Carolina, just last night. All right. We had 9,000 people out. Mostly they agreed with me. Tonight, we’re going to be in Manassas, and have thousands out and they agree with me. That’s not hard to do. That’s what politicians by and large do.

We go out and we talk to people who agree with us.

But it is harder, but not less important, for us to try and communicate with those who do not agree with us on every issue.

And it is important to see where if possible, and I do believe it is possible, we can find common ground.

Can you imagine Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama going out and speaking at a place like Liberty? Heck, can you imagine Donald Trump speaking somewhere where there might be a danger of the majority of the audience disagreeing with him?

Sanders said some wonderful things in his speech, including lines that garnered applause. He lamented the fact that too few Americans are taking care of the poor and destitute. Some of his words even echo the calls that pastors are making to their congregations to help what Jesus called “the least of these” in Matthew 25.

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How to Create a Secure Password You’ll Actually Remember

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 - by Brian Boyer

secure password strength

Let’s face it, remembering passwords isn’t fun at all, especially when almost everything in our lives now requires one. While some people try to make it easier by using the same password everywhere, most skip the effort of creating a secure password, and that’s just like leaving your front door unlocked.

What Makes a Password Weak?
To learn how to create a strong password, we have to understand what makes a weak password. Passwords containing dictionary words or a line of characters across the keyboard, like “1234” or “qwerty,” are typically considered very weak and as a result, can be easily guessed.

Here are the top 10 most popular passwords in 2014 according to data security and research firm SplashData, all of which are not secure.

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345
  4. 12345678
  5. qwerty
  6. 123456789
  7. 1234
  8. baseball
  9. dragon
  10. football

Can you believe “123456” was the most popular password?!

Creating a Strong Password
A strong password should be at least eight characters long and contain not only both numbers and letters, but also special characters like !, #, $, and &. Be sure to use both uppercase and lowercase letters, and of course, a longer password is always better than a shorter one.

The reason for this complexity is not to fool a human trying to guess your password, but rather a computer. The most common password hacking technique is called “brute-force” — just like it sounds, it is unsophisticated. A program attempts to guess your password with 10,000 guesses per second, and some brute-force programs even advertise millions of guesses per second. Most of these attacks start with dictionary words, which is why you should avoid using them or any variations like “d1ct10nary!”

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Forget the Adultery, Check Out the Cyber-Practices on Ashley Madison

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
YouTube Preview Image

When a group of hackers called CynoSure Prime cracked over 11 million passwords for the dating web site for adulterers they made national news. Now as more information comes out about users of the Ashley Madison service one of the top conclusions is—most of them must be cyber-stupid.

The passwords chosen by many could be cracked by a kindergarten class. The #1 password used was “123456.” Number  two was the even lazier “12345.” Number three was the ever popular password “password.” Other clever combinations included “DEFAULT” and “AshleyMadison.”

Seriously people?

Maybe adulterers get what they deserve, but for the rest of Americans (who are equally guilty of stupid cyber-security practices) it is time to learn the meaning of the term “cyber hygiene.”

There are simple and practical steps that everyone can take which will significantly reduce the likelihood of getting hacked, identity theft, and other common malicious cyber activity.

One of the most basic steps is to not pick a password that any idiot can figure out.

There may be a day in the near future when passwords are passé. Until then—learn how to pick a strong password.

Unless you really don’t care who gets into your account.

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Where Do I Get My Robot Car?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
YouTube Preview Image

There is more going on at Google than a new logo.

Google just hired John Krafcik as chief executive of its self-driving car project.

Krafcik was president of Truecar.  He is also a former CEO of Hyundai Motors America.

The fact that Google is hiring a real car guy suggests that Silicon Valley is getting ready to make a move from science project to serious business.

But, before the auto industry starts making money from auto-cars, it has a long way to go to address public acceptance of new disruptive transportation technology.

Concerns over the safety and security are growing. Stories about everything from hacking into car computers to hijacking the whole auto are rampant.

The auto industry needs to get smarter about smart cars, if it expects to be putting robot autos on the showroom floor anytime soon.

The Automotive Security Research Board is an initiative by Intel to promote “best practices.”  The board put out a white paper making a number of recommendations.

Whether Intel has all the answers or is just doing marketing is debatable. What’s not up for debate is the need for the industry to up its game before it takes the great leap into the cyber future.

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Seventh Rocky Film Isn’t a Rocky Film, But Looks Damn Good

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

I remember when Rocky Balboa, the sixth and most recent film in the definitive boxing franchise, was first announced. On paper, it sounded like a cash grab or a vanity project. How could Sylvester Stallone come back to Rocky at age 60?

But he did. The sixth film was a return to form for the franchise which used Stallone’s age to its benefit. If you take a look at the cumulative critic ratings throughout the franchise, the perceived quality of the films dropped with each new installment until Rocky Balboa, which rated second only to the original.

The forthcoming seventh film in the franchise looks set to uphold that renewed standard. Stallone is now pushing 70, which precludes the possibility of him stepping once more into the ring. But that’s the film’s hook. It’s not really a Rocky film. It’s the start of what may become a new franchise focused on the son of Apollo Creed.

Creed stars Michael B. Jordan in the title role, training under the guidance of an elder Rocky who assumes the mentor role once held by Burgess Meredith’s Mickey. The relationship between the two appears to be the focus of the film. This doesn’t look like ’80s cheese. The Creed trailer evokes the ambiance of the 1976 classic from which it springs.

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Frivolous Lawsuits Violate Natural Justice

Monday, September 14th, 2015 - by Theodore Dalrymple


The purpose of research is to discover what was previously unknown. Research wouldn’t be necessary if we knew everything there was to know, but that will never be the case so research will always be a necessity, so long as knowledge remains preferable to ignorance. And while wisdom may be folly where ignorance is bliss, you can never know that to be true until after you’ve become wise.

Apparently, all of this is perfectly obvious except to certain trial lawyers, whose job it is to exploit the corrupt and corrupting tort system.

A recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine reports the outcome of a case in which three plaintiffs sought to sue the University of Alabama Institutional Review Board and the electronics firm Masimo. The case was brought on behalf of three infants, born premature, who were enrolled in a clinical trial concerning the best oxygen concentration to give such infants.

At the time of this trial, it was known that oxygen concentrations below 89 percent resulted in higher rates of death, while those above 95 percent resulted in higher rates of retinopathy, which causes permanent blindness. As a result, the recommended concentration was between 89 to 95 percent, but the actual optimal percentage was unknown. The trial sought to clarify matters by allocating premature infants randomly to concentrations between 89 and 91 percent, and also between 92 and 95 percent.

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Christians Were Never a Moral Majority

Monday, September 14th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

As one reads the Gospel according to Matthew, and encounter’s Christ’s warning in chapter 7 to avoid the wide gate leading to destruction, it becomes clear that genuine believers have always been a minority. Yet, in the political discourse, a perpetual effort continues among culture warriors to portray believers as a “silent” or “moral majority.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and author of Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, adapts a portion of that book in a recent commentary for The Christian Post. He argues, among other things, that Christians should not delude themselves into believing they are a majority in any culture. He writes:

One of the reasons I say that it is good for American Christianity to no longer think of itself as a “moral majority” is that such a mentality obscures the strangeness of the gospel. When a vision of Christian political engagement hinges on building a politically viable network of ideologically united voters, Christ and him crucified will tend to be a stumbling block, not a rallying point.

… Even some sectors of religious activism chafe at the honest accounting of apostolic Christianity as a minority viewpoint in Western culture. Minorities do not exert influence, they will contend, on the culture or the systems around it. The temptation is to pretend to be a majority, even if one is not.

But this is a profoundly Darwinian way of viewing the world, like a frightened animal puffing out its chest in order to seem larger and fiercer, in the hopes of scaring off predators. Such is not the way of Christ. The church of Jesus Christ is never a majority, in any fallen culture, even if we happen to outnumber every[one] else around us.

The impulse Moore highlights, to regard one’s cause as emblematic of a majority even when not, is not confined to Christianity. It’s fair to say everyone tends to think of themselves as “the silent majority.” However, Christian retain a unique reason to reject majority thinking. We’re explicitly told that we will be few, and that the world will be against us. Our hope lays not in some coming political revolution.

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Is Ad-Blocking Software Immoral?

Sunday, September 13th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

If you use software to block the display of ads on the internet, you have acted immorally. That’s the claim made by Arthur Zey, a project manager and engineer who has worked for Twitter and other technology companies.

Zey offered the claim in a Facebook post which germinated into a fascinating, highly intellectual, and surprisingly civil thread. He linked to this story from Geek.com reporting on Google’s efforts to “punish AdBlock users with unstoppable YouTube video ads.” Of the effort, Zey wrote:

Good for Google. YouTube doesn’t run on the warm, fuzzy feeling you get watching cats do silly things.

In a follow-up comment, he expounded:

… YouTube relies on that ad revenue to operate. I think [the use of ad blocking software] amounts to taking the unearned to watch YouTube videos in this fashion…

I am not a fan of the righteous indignation that many have expressed [in response to my claim]. Whether you are the customer or the product, whatever your exact contractual relationship may be with the provider, you are on YouTube (and similar sites) to gain a value. And you know that that value is financed by your watching of ads (or, at least, their being displayed on your computer while you’re off taking a piss or whatever). I think that to use an automated, technological means to circumvent “paying one’s fair share” is distasteful at best.

Several commenters, including yours truly, sought to understand Zey’s moral claim by asking how it applies to other circumstances. For instance, is it immoral to skip past commercials recorded on a DVR? Is it immoral to leave a movie theater during the trailers, or show up late in an effort to avoid them?

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Eventide H3000 Factory Plugin Harmonizer Review

Saturday, September 12th, 2015 - by Ed Driscoll

“It f***s with the fabric of time!”

When producer Tony Visconti explained the concept of the original Eventide Harmonizer on a conference call around the time of David Bowie’s Low in 1977 (the first of Bowie’s experimental albums produced in Berlin) that Visconti shared with Bowie and synth pioneer Brian Eno and was asked what it does, the above quote is the answer Visconti hilariously blurted out, often toned down as “messes with” for more family-friendly publications.

Eventide Harmonizers have been messing with the fabric of space and time ever since. Harmonized guitar solos, exotic percussion sounds, double-tracked vocals, echoes that rise and fall in pitch — over the decades, you’ve heard Harmonizers on countless hit records. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin kept one in his guitar rack in the later years of Led Zeppelin. The band’s soundman used another to allow Robert Plant to sing harmonies with himself during concerts. And on “Bonzo’s Montreux” on Coda, their posthumous last album in 1982, Page ran John Bonham’s drum kit through an Eventide Harmonizer to create a variety of tuned steel drum-like percussion sounds.

For decades after its commercial introduction in 1975, the Eventide Harmonizer was only available in rack-mounted form. With digital audio workstations largely supplanting analog recording by the end of the 1990s as the recording industry’s standard recording platform, Eventide introduced a Pro Tools-compatible plug-in version of their early Harmonizer over a decade ago. It took a while for Eventide to issue a version in the popular VST-plug-in format though, which is why I reviewed Audio Damage’s Discord clone for VST back in 2006 at Blogcritics.

Fortunately, Eventide finally released a VST-compatible version of their late-‘80s-era H3000 Harmonizer in 2012, and over the years, have added a number of new presets to it, some created by producers such as Alessandro Cortini, who has worked with Nine Inch Nails, Damian Taylor (Björk, The B-52s, Metallica), and Dave Darlington (George Benson and others).

Go Inside the Factory

So, what does the H3000 Factory sound like? It’s capable of a lush stereo chorus sound on patches such as Variable Width Pitch Shift, which is equally useful on guitars, synths, bass, and anything requiring fattening up. There are some cool auto-wah and filtering effects on patches such as Envelope Filter. The GUI has the classic “big knob” of the hardware Eventide Harmonizers, which allows for adding lots of motion and a human touch to filter and auto-wah patches. The knob and other settings on the H3000 can be animated via automation lanes.

The H3000 Factory can do much to take a routine guitar or keyboard track and add interest, particularly when “multing” the source track to multiple tracks, allowing for, say, a juicy chorus effect on the verse, a filter effect between vocal passages, and a dramatic descending “Kamikaze” delay on the break.

Eventide Harmonizers have long been favored by producers to thicken a lead vocal with patches such as the iconic “Dual H910s.” The H3000 Factory’s Traversing Beyond patch can add an atmospheric “outer space” special effect to voices, and there are plenty of filters built in to produce simulated telephone, transistor radio and other lo-fi effects.

The H3000 Factory is also a fun sound effects generator, capable of producing synthesized helicopter, wind, laser beams, UFO, and police siren effects. And some of its more extreme 460+ default patches can radically transform a synth or drum track beyond recognition.

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On the Dreaded Retcon

Saturday, September 12th, 2015 - by Moe Lane


So your Friday night game session hasn’t gone well for your players. Which is to say, they’re all dead or worse — and yes, there is such a thing as ‘worse’ than dead, in a roleplaying game session. For example: the party may have just utterly made it impossible to continue on with the roleplaying game campaign that both you and your players have spent the last six months investing your emotional energy in. Maybe the dice didn’t love the party. Maybe they missed a key clue. Heck, maybe your players were absolutely begging to have rocks fall and everyone die. Whatever the reason, they’re not happy, and you’re kind of not happy, and you’re wondering: “Is it time for a retcon?”

‘Retcon,’ if Wikipedia is to be believed, stands for ‘retroactive continuity,’ which is Slightly Pretentious for ‘We painted ourselves in a narrative corner, and now we’re getting ourselves out of it.’ It’s done a lot in comics (you try keeping Superman and his universe’s story perfectly consistent and non-contradictory for decades, especially when you have multiple writers) and is not unknown in films. For example: depending who you ask, the status of Star Wars’ midichlorians are a retcon either when George Lucas stuck them into continuity to explain how the Force works, or will be a retcon when J.J. Abrams yanks them out of continuity because the very idea was idiocy on stilts. So it’s pretty inevitable that the idea would have eventually ported over to tabletop roleplaying.

All of this doesn’t really help a gamemaster (GM) who needs to to decide what to do when the perceived need for a retcon shows up.  The good news is, there are options. A few of which follow right after the page break.

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8 Great Gangster Films

Friday, September 11th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

On September 18, 2015, expect to witness another iconic gangster performance from Johnny Depp, who plays Boston’s meanest gangster ever, Whitey Bulger, in Black Mass. He’ll add his name to a distinguished list of actors who delivered murder, blood lust, betrayal, greed and terror on film. With so much drama, ruthless hoods have been a Hollywood staple since the 1930s.

Here’s a list of the eight greatest gangster films in history:

Scarface 1932-001

#8. Scarface (1932). No, this is not the horrible, cringe-worthy 1983 film starring Al Pacino about a coke dealer with a bad accent and terrible fashion choices.  This is the black-and-white classic with Paul Muni, one of the greatest actors ever, playing a fictional version of the gangster Al Capone. Since the movie snuck into theaters in the pre-Hollywood ratings days, it’s loaded-up with plenty of sex and violence. It set the standard for every gangster film that followed.

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Going to the Big Apple? Your Phone Will Get Hacked

Friday, September 11th, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano
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Remember the guy who hacked digital billboards on Times Square with a cellphone? That was a fake.  But, turns out the city isn’t safe after all.

Skycure surveyed the world’s most popular tourist attractions. The company that markets protection against malicious cyber-activity identified the sites where mobile devices are most at risk. Topping the list is Times Square.

“When you’re in a high-traffic area like these famous destinations,” warns Adi Sharabani, CEO of Skycure,  “you’re a target for hackers. Unlike your computer, your phone is always on, even when you’re taking in the sights. Mobile tourists are a lucrative target for cybercriminals.”

In addition to the dangers of the Big Apple, other targets on the list are:

2 .Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

3. Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallee, France

4. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Calif.

5. Ocean Park, Hong Kong

6. Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, Nev.

7. Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood, Calif.

8. Union Station, Washington, D.C.

9. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, Mass.

10. Disneyland Park, Anaheim, Calif.

11. Navy Pier, Chicago, Ill.

12. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

13. Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

14. Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Fla.

15. Pike Place Market, Seattle, Wash.

The safest wonder of the world? According to Skycure—it’s the Taj Mahal.  Sorry India. There is just not that much Internet and wifi in Agra.

The best advice?

Avoid “free” wifi like the plague.

Make sure your operating system is updated.

Turn-off data roaming.

If your phone starts acting weird—shut it down.

Don’t look into the light. (okay, I made that last one up)

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Dear Servers: I’ll Tip Extra if You’ll Stop Interrupting My Dinner at Inopportune Times

Thursday, September 10th, 2015 - by Tricia Lott Williford


What if, and this is crazy big thinking, the waitstaff at restaurants didn’t interrupt the conversation at the table?

I will tip extra — perhaps double — if the server will not interrupt.

Here’s the thing. I was a waitress for six years, and I know the job well. It’s a lucrative business for those who learn the science, and it’s a highly respectable trade to balance orders and timing and trays of food. In fact, I think everyone should have to wait tables before they can ask for anything at a restaurant. It’s a hard job with long hours and tired feet. And it’s surprising how easily people get angry when they’re hungry.

I respect waiters, waitresses, hostesses, servers and waitstaff. Seriously, heaps and gobs of respect. Hear that.

But when I’m out to dinner, be it with a friend, my parents, a date, I came to spend my evening with that person. I actually didn’t come to spend the evening with the server, though I am deeply thankful for his/her role in the evening.

Instead of walking up to the table and diving in with tonight’s specials, what if you waited just a moment to let the guests finish their sentence?

Instead of asking if I need a refill, what if you simply brought a freshly filled glass?

Instead of paying zero attention to the fact that my son is crying over a hard day at school, what if you took the social cue and walked away to give us a moment?

Instead of talking every time you come to the table during the meal, what if you just make yourself available, check in silently, and know that every single one of us will ask you for something if we need it?

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Christian Blogger: Kim Davis Hasn’t Experienced True Persecution

Thursday, September 10th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Here’s a confession. I’m not sure what to think about Kim Davis.

I know. How can someone not know what to think about Kim Davis, right? You’re supposed to have an opinion ready to go for a case like this, especially one that’s been in the news for as long as Davis’ defiance has. But it’s actually a fairly complicated issue that requires a fair amount of thought to parse through, and I’m not done parsing.

One thread of thought worth considering is whether Davis has been the victim of religious persecution. Christian blogger Renée Schafer Horton has some thoughts on that:

There absolutely are Christians being persecuted for their faith throughout the world. They are tortured and killed for nothing more than believing that Jesus Christ was who he said he was.

U.S. Christians are often treated in a manner that can make one feel persecuted… However, feeling persecuted in these ways in no way compares to the aforementioned actual persecution of Christians…

People of faith often feel that a secular world gone amok is being crammed down their throats. Violent and dehumanizing music lyrics, abortion on demand, websites that encourage and enable adultery, the sexualization of childhood, the latest Jack Black movie – all of this can be frustrating. I’m certain Kim Davis feels frustrated, or perhaps her personal history and subsequent religious conversion made her feel the need to take a stand.

But because – praise the Lord – we do not live in a theocracy, frustration doesn’t mean you get to stop following the law of the land. If you disagree with that law, you can go through appropriate channels to try to change it. You cannot, however, hang onto your elected position while refusing to carry out the duties of that elected office and claim that act is Christian. Because, it is not.

Horton’s argument works in a laboratory where all else is equal. However, as The Blaze’s Matt Walsh points out in a provocative column supportive of Davis, all is not equal.

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George Takei Responds to the Release of Kim Davis

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Kim Davis was sent to jail, ostensibly for violating the rule of law. This while overt lawbreakers from groups like Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, and — ahem — the State Department go unscathed.

Actor and gay activist George Takei took to his Facebook page to offer comment on Davis’ release:

Well this is a bit of a circus. So let us be clear: This woman is no hero to be celebrated. She broke her oath to uphold the Constitution and defied a court order so she could deny government services to couples who are legally entitled to be married. She is entitled to hold her religious beliefs, but not to impose those beliefs on others. If she had denied marriage certificates to an interracial couple, would people cheer her? Would presidential candidates flock to her side? In our society, we obey civil laws, not religious ones. To suggest otherwise is, simply put, entirely un-American.

Legal arguments aside, there remains a high degree of irony in supporters of recent Supreme Court decisions balking at an imposition of belief. Indeed, the Supreme Court — five individuals — has imposed its view on states whose residents have established laws under which its residents wish to live. Those laws are crafted and enforced by duly elected officials like Kim Davis.

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‘Conspiracy Research Community’ Declares VA Reporter Shooting a Hoax

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard


This is making the rounds on social media right now:



The source is a website called Activist Post, which bills itself as “Alternative News for Enlightened Minds.”

Here’s how this bizarre conspiracy theory goes:

The latest reporter shooting hoax in Virginia is getting so easily torn apart by the conspiracy research community that the media’s emotional staging of actors is becoming absurd.

The latest discovery is that Alison Parker’s alleged fiancé Chris Hurst, who has only eight social media photos of him with Alison, is probably just her “TV” boyfriend. A guy named Daniel Wulz has been outed by facial recognition as her real-world boyfriend.

Try to keep up because it get’s a little tricky after this: A guy named Daniel Wulk (who in reality is likely an ex-boyfriend) has a bunch of pictures of himself with Alison Parker on his Facebook page. Chris Hurst, the “alleged” bereaved fiancé, has only a pathetic little scrapbook to show for his life with Parker. Also, and perhaps most damning in the eyes of the “conspiracy research community,” Hurst has some — gasp! — film-making experience. Therefore — everyone take a deep breath — it must logically follow that the shooting was a government-sponsored false flag operation involving professional actors who agreed to be complicit in a giant, secret gun-grabbing operation by participating in a staged shooting on live TV. Got that? (I might have missed a link somewhere along the way in this fantastical yarn, but you get the idea.)

Left unanswered? Where are the alleged actors who were involved in this elaborate ruse now? Is there some secret witness protection program for undercover government hoax actors? Or maybe there’s a remote exile island in the Pacific where they’re kept in seclusion for the rest of their lives!?!? Also unanswered: how did the government gun-grabbers get the families of the victims to believe their loved ones were in those caskets they buried? Oh, wait…sorry. Apparently they are in on the whole thing. They’re awaiting an airlift to Conspiracy Theory Island as I write this.

Seriously, what is wrong with these people? Do their readers actually believe this nonsense? I’m really wondering because the articles have been shared tens of thousands of times on social media (by some individuals I actually know in real life, I might add). I’d like to think that people are sharing them with messages like “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.” And you know what? I’m going to just go with that version because it’s preferable to believing that tens of thousands of people actually buy into these stupid hoaxes.


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