Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

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THE AIRPLANE GAME

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I have first hand experience with The Airplane Game. Don’t Google it yet. This was in the late 1980s. Ancient history to anyone born after 1985 or so. The pre-Simpsons era. (Eventually our dates will be BS or PS, Before Simpsons or Post Simpsons.) A friend was involved and invited me to a meeting. What the hell, I was curious what it was all about. And it was a big pot luck, who knows, maybe a way to meet interesting women.

So, nice suburban home in El Cerrito. We all ate in the yard, lots of nice people, great food, great fun. Then we retire to the living room, two people were running the show. A cute bubbly high energy woman, and a black fellow wearing Africanesque clothes. First they asked the crowd like three times if “Anyone was a reporter or worked for law enforcement.” Showmanship basically since, guess what, neither reporters nor cops are required to identify themselves under circumstances like this.

Then they launched into their presentation. And a lovely presentation it was. Lots of slides about Africa. And Africans. And how it was a cultural tradition in Africa for friends to pool their money for a friend to start a business. It brought tears to my eyes. OK, no, it didn’t. It certainly made a favorable impression though, because let’s face it, this is not a cultural tradition in America. The country that brought us the “Me Decade” and “Greed is Good.” So we’re all feeling positive and inspired. A big part of the crowd were witchy nature loving lesbians, the pitch was clearly tailored to the crowd.

Then, the various “captains” retire to different rooms. And my friend, who was a captain, used a chalkboard to show her “passengers” and potential passengers how it all worked. And to my dismay, she sketched a classic pyramid scheme:

Basically the captain recruits two friends, as the two co-pilots, then they recruit four people to act as crew. Then eight passengers. Everyone pays to join of course. When all eight “seats” are full, the plane splits in two and the captain finally gets paid. Hundreds to thousands of dollars. Then the two co-pilots become captains, and each set out to find eight more patsies. And patsies is the word. The vast majority of the people who buy in never get paid. Pyramid schemes are illegal in America and elsewhere because they are scams.

This scheme pretty obviously had essentially zero similarity to the African stuff in the presentation. I wasn’t particularly tempted to buy a seat. First of all, I knew it was a scam. Secondly, I knew that if had gotten down to trying to recruit me, who had no money and knew it was a scam, that the pool of patsies was just about exhausted. I went to two more much smaller and more desperate meetings before the whole thing fizzled out. Didn’t meet any interesting women either.

So, the question is, why do people fall for stuff like this? Why was my friend involved? In point of fact I found out some years later that her involvement was a key factor in her lover leaving her. Mostly I think it was she was just naive and wanted to make some easy money. I suspect that’s the case for most of the people involved. The prospect of easy money, naivety, and rationalizing that no one is forced to sign on.

The Dashiki Guy and Bubbly Lady, yeah, con artists. Criminals preying on the naivety and greed of the average Jill. There’s a school of thought that people have no one but themselves to blame if they get conned out of money. That’s the preschool level of morality. An adult knows there are huge numbers of people who for one reason or another are very vulnerable to scams. And while society obviously can’t prevent people from falling for them, it can at least try to minimize the harm. This is why usury laws exist. Why pyramid schemes are illegal. Why professional (the house takes a cut) gambling is illegal. Why lotteries are illegal. It’s called civilization, protecting the vulnerable from those who would harm them.

Note the US fails on all of these but the pyramid schemes, and even those are OK if you turn it into multi-level marketing. I’m not optimistic about the direction America is heading, who would ever have guessed? And this latest post from the good Doctor Novella is even more distressing. Fake news can create fake memories! And you better believe the powers that be are exploiting it to the hilt.

Yeah, we’re doomed.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image 1: Pyramid house in Clear Lake, Iowa. Credit: Ken Ratcliff. Some rights reserved, used legally under a Creative Commons License.

Image 2: “Airplane Game” pyramid scheme. Credit: Wikipedia User:Stannard. Released into Public Domain by the creator.)

Written by unitedcats

August 28, 2019 at 3:52 am

Zombie Cats and Other News

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killI’m back! I was going to post a picture of a zombie cat to announce my return, but I couldn’t find a suitable one. I stumbled upon this picture in the search and it seemed like it would do. Thanks for all the inquiries about my health and well being, this is the longest break I’ve ever taken from Doug’s Darkworld. There wasn’t any particular reason for it, it was a combination of things. Mid blog crisis I suppose. Part of it is that I have achieved new levels of cynicism and objectivity. So my world view has become much bleaker. Although in some ways less bleak. I’m not worried about North Korea for example. North Korea seems to be in the news, so that will be my first topic. OK, my only topic.

I really only have a few observations. North Korea poses essentially zero threat to the USA in any objective measure. That alone highlights the egregious nonsense being spewed in Washington. Anyone who is actually worried about a North Korean attack on the US mainland is worried about something less likely than lightning strike or shark attack. It’s sad that some people are actually scared. On the other hand, I hear plenty of people saying the USA could defeat North Korea in days. There is a term for people like this. Idiots. North Korea isn’t Grenada, Panama, or even Iraq. It’s a country that has spent more than fifty years preparing for another attack by the USA,  after a war where the USA bombed their entire nation flat without them surrendering. But now they would roll over in a few days? Like I said, idiots.

On the flip side, many people, possibly the same people, are convinced that North Korea could never strike the US mainland. Yes, it’s unlikely, but not impossible. They probably don’t have missiles that can reach us, but they do have nuclear weapons. Enormous amounts of contraband are smuggled into the USA every year, could North Korea sneak a nuclear bomb into San Francisco harbour? Sure, why not? This is why starting a wear with North Korea might be a bad idea, among many other reasons. Giving a nuclear armed country a reason to try and nuke the USA is a really dumb idea. The overall point of course is that no one knows how wars will turn out, although there is that word for people who think they know. Idiots. Lastly, it needs to be understood that the situation with North Korea is entirely the USA’s creation. The USA insists that its enemies surrender to it unconditionally, and oddly enough North Korea doesn’t want to do that. North Korea has offered perfectly reasonable terms for ending the war since the 1950s. The USA refuses to even consider that.

In any event I hope cooler heads prevail. Sadly any serious study of history shows that nations can and do start utterly senseless wars that spiral out of control as the politicians involve try to save their own bacon. There’s always a chance that war with Iran will break out somehow too, but that’s a whole other story that I’ve discussed many times. And in other world news, nothing much is happening. There was a plague of locusts somewhere. The NRA is going to start flying armed drones over schools. Joe Biden announced he will be changing his sex. The usual fluff.In Doug’s Darkworld a post on the best roller coaster ever proposed is coming up, plus a solution for spontaneous human combustion, and another reason why Bigfoot is a myth. The unusual fluff in other words. Oh, yeah, and how Boy Scouts almost saved Hitler’s Third Reich.

Welcome back, have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image is blatantly ripped off and being posted without attribution or copyright notice. I will remove it or attribute if the copyright owner so requests. And no, there’s no such thing as zombie cats. In fact, there’s no such thing as zombies! Who knew?)

Written by unitedcats

April 5, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Through Thick and Thin 2013

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nemo

Welcome new readers! Apparently one of my old posts made the front page of Reddit on 6 January, and I received over 200,000 hits in the days that followed. Typically I only get about a thousand hits a day, so for Doug’s Darkworld this was pretty crazy. The good kind of crazy. And of course I’d like to thank whoever posted on Reddit for me in the first place, I probably could figure it out if I looked, but I’m a writer, not an Internet geek. Hell, I didn’t even know what Reddit was until a few days ago and I looked it up on Wikipedia. In any event it’s a good way to start the year, and this is a good time to set course in 2013. What’s in store for Doug’s Darkworld?

For one thing, it’s not going to be quite so dark this year. I’m going to be posting less about politics and current events, and more about science and history. I enjoy writing the later more, but am more compelled to rant about the former. Still, being a grown-up (“There are no adults.”) means controlling  one’s impulses. I plan on more movie reviews too,  again, because it gives me pleasure to both watch a movie, and to deconstruct it afterwards. Granted my movie reviews tend to be dated, as I usually wait for the CD to watch a movie, but the good things in life are worth waiting for. I may blog more on current cultural events. I was tickled pink by the Gangnam Style phenomena last year, and also amazed by the negative reaction to it in some quarters. Lastly I will also try to add a bit more levity this year. Try likely being the operative word, my humor tends to go over a lot of people’s heads. Or under or around. Like the image above, it still makes me smile.

As always, I am open to suggestions about topics to write about. Sometimes I get to them promptly. Sometimes not. I still plan a post about the battle of Pegasus Bridge for example, and that was suggested years ago. Comments are always welcome as well, as long as they are reasonably polite. Granted I have had very few comments over the years that fell into “We’re you raised in a barn?” category. I think that speaks highly of my readers. (The spam-catcher isn’t perfect, if someone’s highly crafted comment doesn’t post, it was misidentified as spam. Fire me an email unitedcats@engineer.net and I will rectify the situation.) Also I suspect that I piss off the type of people who would make such comments, they rarely seem to follow my blog for long. I’m not complaining.

Fortunately, aside from the ongoing collapse of the US Empire, we still live in a  Golden Age of science and space exploration. Endless fodder for blog posts. And new discoveries in archeology and paleontology give new insight into our past all the time.  It’s safe to say that there has never been an era where humans were discovering so  such about the universe around us, and our own past and place in it. Even as a child it filled me with wonder, and as I have grown older, the wonder at same has increased. For me I’m perpetually a ten year on Christmas,  science puts new presents under the tree every day. It’s a dream come true, how could I not write about it?

Have a great 2013 all, old readers and new!

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, and arguably Tardar Sauce is a historically significant figure. Yes, that was a joke. See what I mean about my sense of humor? Credit and copyright: Tardar Sauce. Did I mention I will post more cat posts?)

Written by unitedcats

January 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Ten Things That Aren’t Going to Happen in 2013

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There’s lists of things that happened in 2012 all over the place, and many people have predictions of things that will happen in 2013. In the spirit of Doug’s Darkworld, here is my list of things that aren’t going to happen in 2013. Unlike other posts, where I lied and said the following is in no particular order, this list is carefully ordered. It’s from least unlikely to most unlikely. I could be wrong about any, or all of them; but the ones near the top of the list are more likely to be wrong. This is mostly just for fun, enjoy!

  1. No contact with aliens. They aren’t going to land on the Washington Mall this year. The government is not going to reveal we have secretly been in contact with them. They probably don’t even exist, at least the extremely anthropomorphic aliens we imagine. And if they do, they are separated by us through so much space and time that we will never come into contact.
  2. There will not be a zombie apocalypse. While the meme has some amusement in and of itself, and as the cultural progression from the 1950s mutant apocalypse meme it’s fascinating; all in all it’s just a bogeyman story for grown-ups. Some people seem to be taking the possibility more than in jest, hopefully I am just imagining this.
  3. No global warming action. Until the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) slides into the sea, nothing will be done. The energy industry, the most profitable looting exercise in world history since the conquistadors, makes the gun lobby look like a lemonade stand. And when I say looting, I mean taking a natural resource that really belongs to everyone on the planet, and exploiting it for the the profit of a tiny few at the top. Moving right along, history teaches that more often than not, the powerful will pursue their own interests till the end no matter what the costs to society at large. And when the WAIS does start to go … it will be decades too late to do anything about it.
  4. No progress in Palestine/Israel. Unless less one considers further Israeli encroachment into the occupied territories as progress. In which case not only will there be progress, if anything it will accelerate.
  5. No withdrawal from Afghanistan. Not now. Not ever. We may get kicked out at some point, as happened in Iraq or Vietnam, but we ain’t leaving voluntarily. Even the Romans knew when to cut their losses, America doesn’t.
  6. No Gun Control. A no brainer. The gun lobby’s increasingly sophisticated efforts to not only prevent gun control, but to roll it back even, will continue unabated. They are trying to get silencers legalized now, on the pretext that it will protect children’s hearing. Frankly, if you’re too ignorant to get your kids earplugs and hearing protectors when you take them shooting, you’re too ignorant to own a gun. And while silencers are rarely used in crime, it’s because they aren’t widely manufactured and thus available … the NRA wants to change that. I digress. Suffice it to say that America will remain one of the most gun violence afflicted countries in the developed world.
  7. No cuts in the military. In the USA this is taboo, even thinking about cuts in the military marks one as a coward at best, a terrorist sympathizer at worst. The discussion has so entered the realm of fantasy that if one side proposes a slightly less insane increase in military spending, they will be accused of proposing cuts in military spending! Right. If out-of-control military spending bothers the gentle reader, they can console themselves that the military really needs nearly 300 golf courses to defend us from terrorists. The terrorists have zero golf courses, victory is assured.
  8. Congress Does Nothing. Another no brainer. The Republicans spent Obama’s entire first turn obstructing everything; the result, the least productive congress in history. They apparently thought that by preventing Obama from doing anything, they could claim he did nothing, and there was no way he could get re-elected. This is the same method used to eliminate non Republican/Democrats when they get elected. Kill all their bills in committee, then claim they were do-nothing legislators. It works like a charm getting rid of the occasional Green Party legislator in state governments, used against a sitting president, it was exercise in magical thinking. It will continue though, partly because the Republicans still want to marginalize Obama, but mostly because the powers-that-be are perfectly happy the way things are. The rich are still getting ever richer, there’s no need to rock the boat.
  9. No Discussion of the Upwards Transfer of Wealth, no tax on the rich. Powerful forces are at work to make sure this doesn’t happen … ever again.
  10. Lastly, the one that that I can guarantee isn’t going to happen, is an end to the endless ridiculous propaganda about Obama from the right. If being a secret Muslim who wants to turn America into a police state and take away all our guns didn’t win the election, the sky’s the limit.

I hope everyone has a wonderful year, or at least some semblance of same. Any day one wakes up in the morning is a good day. One last thought, if some breakdown in the laws of statistics occurs and I am wrong about all of the above … 2013 will be a year to remember!

(The above image of the world’s most famous cat, Tardar Sauce, is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit. It’s central to illustrating the post. It still makes me laugh.)

Written by unitedcats

January 1, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Berkeley, World

Injured kittens, elections, and worse stuff

with 5 comments

On the way to work today the bus got mired in traffic. Then I saw emergency lights ahead, the police were routing traffic into one lane. Getting closer I saw why. There was an injured kitten in the road, a half grown little stripey guy. One of the cops was standing so as to keep him in the shade. For some reason the sight just about to broke my heart, I cried on and off all day. So much sadness in the world, this just put me over the edge I guess. I hope the little guy made it.

I’ll be glad when the election is over. It’s been one of the uglier elections in my memory, if not the ugliest. I still honestly don’t give a crap who wins, both candidates have aspects that are so so creepy it makes my flesh crawl. Both candidates are a tool of the bankers, militarists, and energy cartel. Obama’s social policy window dressing is a bit better, but living in a theocracy might actually make Americans snap out of their revery. More on point, I think if Superman got elected, we’d still be hosed. America is like a stately old oak tree … completely rotted out inside. It looks majestic, but one of these days there will be a stiff breeze and down it goes. It’s not going to be pretty.

Obama. Barrack “kill list” Obama. I find it more than disturbing that the POTUS maintains a kill list, a list that can and has included Americans. It’s disturbing in and of itself, but that no one is upset about it is just plain scary. Nixon had an enemy’s list, and was excoriated for it; Obama has a kill list, and no one cares? People went wild over non-existent “death panels,” but don’t care that Obama has set himself up as a death panel of one? I am not reassured.

Then we have the rapist’s right’s party. Think about this: We have a Senate candidate Mourdock claiming that a rape  pregnancy was a gift from God and couldn’t be aborted. He said he anguished over this question before coming to that conclusion. I’m a little unclear what he anguished over. He couldn’t have anguished over how he would feel if he were raped and impregnated, since that can’t happen to him. So he must have anguished over how he would feel if he raped and impregnated someone. And he concluded that whoever he, or any man, chooses to rape;  if the woman is impregnated, she must bear the child. The rapist gets to choose, the raped victim doesn’t. Right. Romney endorsed this guy. Ryan holds similar view. This is crazy, a perversion of Christianity, and an example of rape culture. Again, not reassured.

I like Jill Stein, but nothing short of a miracle will get her in the White House. It might make a good science fiction story, or an unlikely Hollywood movie. I think they put Ron Paul back in cryogenic suspension, I don’t know where he went. Probably conveyed to media purgatory. There’s other stuff on ballots. I’m cynical about it all. The special interests have it locked up, even when they lose, they have the lawyers and the money to fix it. Legalized corruption on a scale never before seen in history. See, the USA is still number one! On the other hand, unlike so many people, I’m not going to freak out no matter who gets elected. Whoever gets elected has my support, at least initially. Whoever wins has an unholy mess to contend with, and the last thing America needs now is sore losers. My studied neutrality may only last to the acceptance speech, tomorrow is another day.

Lastly, so as not to be accused of excess negatively, can I envision an encouraging outcome on election day? Yes. Yes I can. I hope the winning candidate sees an injured kitten in the road, and his heart is softened and his mind is cleared, and he gives an acceptance speech that resonates with all Americans, and opens a dialog that begins to heal this fractured land. See, I can still dream.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Not being used for profit, it’s just such a lovely image, I couldn’t resist. I got it from this site. It’s destruction from Hurricane Sandy. The image says a lot to me. Who is this woman? Where is she going?)

Written by unitedcats

November 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Romney Crushes Obama in Debate, Obama Flees Podium in Shame as the Crowd Screams: “Death Panels, Death Panels, Death Panels!” Next on Fox News, Iran’s Secret Plan the Rule the World.

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OK, I listened to most of the debate. Sadly, it wasn’t all that interesting. A few good points that I’m sure the pundits will cover at great length. Romney wants to balance the budget by cutting PBS. Neil degrasse Tyson covered that nicely: “Cutting PBS support (0.012% of budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive.” Romney also regurgitated the Death Panels fallacy. No, Obamacare does not have death panels. And we already have death panels, they work for the insurance giants. All sorts of stuff and nonsense about the budget and the economy, which basically boiled down to a debate on how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Both Romney and Obama made points that their supporters will claim as great victories, oblivious to the fact that Romney and Obama are appealing to a different demographic. Truth be told though, Romney came across just fine, so no knock-out blows were delivered.

Fox News was covering a car chase the other day, and they accidentally broadcast live a man’s suicide by gun. Then they apologized profusely for it. This really pissed me off. `What, we’re fucking children that the news has to cover its eyes when something bad happens? To censor anything gritty and real out of the news is to infantalize the viewing population. Sometimes I think that’s the whole point, children are far more easily swayed by advertising … or propaganda.

It’s been discovered that climate change may shrink fish. So close and yet so far. If scientists could only show it will shrink something else, the world’s leaders will fall all over themselves addressing the issue.

The idea that our armies operating in foreign lands are some sort of crusading force for good is straight out of the Middle Ages, 1095 to be precise. Jesus wept.

I’ve been very busy with work. I will be back to my regular posting schedule soon. Lots of stuff is happening in the world, and as always I have opinions about it all. I think World War Three has already started. A post on that is coming soon. Since the US hasn’t won a war since World War Two the prognosis is not good. A post on that is in the works. And other stuff and nonsense.

Yes, this is a  brief extemporaneous post.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by unitedcats

October 3, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Into the Desert I Go

with 9 comments

I’m off for a long awaited trip to the desert. I need this so much I could spit. Aren’t male figures of speech so delightfully colourful? I will return next week sometime. Well, someone will return, hopefully not the stressed out person I am now, I’m leaving him in the desert. Somewhere near this old mining structure. I slept on top of it in the 1970s, it was connected to the hill then. It got kind of windy during the night so the two friends who were with me wimped out and retreated to the tunnel we were camped in. It was a nice comfy tunnel. I’ll take lots of pictures on my trip and will post any interesting ones when I return.

I’m going to be making more posts on the dripping misogyny the Christian right seems to have decided to self-immolate itself with. At this point I’m hoping that the Republicans will make “legitimate rape” part of their party platform, because some of these folks don’t seem to realize just how far afield they have strayed from anything resembling common humanity. Let alone Jesus’s teachings. For the record, anyone who would deny a woman who was impregnated by a rapist  an abortion is sick in the head. Let me repeat that, anyone who would deny a woman who was impregnated by a rapist an abortion  is sick in the head. The people people who claim that such is justified are people who are revealing their true colours. And they are not baby lovers, they are people who think women are no more than breeding sows whose only purpose in life is to crank out babies. This is not a pro-life position, this is “I am a medieval fuck who thinks all women are sluts who should be punished when they they get pregnant” position. Yes, gentle reader, I feel rather strongly about this.

Hopefully the US won’t invade Syria while I’m out in the desert. Still, it would mean plenty of blog fodder when I get back. Hopefully the US won’t invade Syria ever, but I’m not optimistic on that score. Invading countries is what we do. Then we pretend to nation build before going on to wrecking the next country. Kinda like Bain Capital but on a grander scale. I’m not very optimistic about the state of the world, but long time readers know that. Heck, even short time readers can glean that from a post or two. I’m back to thinking that a major regional war is in the offing in the Middle east, even a world war is possible at this point. Expect posts on that when I return.

I’ll be posting more on global warming as well. It’s been a few years since my last foray into that false scientific controversy. I tend to avoid false controversies, like that over Evolution or the Big Bang, because there’s almost no point. Those who reject science generally aren’t terribly amenable to debate on same. Still, fun to be had. And one never knows, I might learn something. It’s been known to happen. There’s also posts on Venus and the various probes planned for it. Mars has been getting all the luvin lately, but Venus is due for some strokes.

And that’s that, time to pack and get the flock out of here. I’ll be impressed if anyone can identity the location in the picture. It’s in Nevada near a ghost town. The image is being used legally as it is not being used for profit. Credit and copyright: OldBlueWebDesigns.com

Have a great weekend everyone!

Written by unitedcats

August 22, 2012 at 9:08 am