January 18, 2013

When sarcasm goes right over their heads…

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:00

Andrew Coyne parodied Toronto attitudes to winter in a Twitter update earlier this morning:

As often happens, the sarcasm went right past some folks:

This week in Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming, Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:21

My weekly Guild Wars 2 community round-up at GuildMag is now online. We had a lot of new information from ArenaNet this week, which has sparked lots of discussion/analysis/angst/whining. All that, plus the usual assortment of blog posts, videos, podcasts, and fan fiction from around the GW2 community.

For your “protection”, some new smartphones are configured to hide “mature” content

Filed under: Britain, Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:52

Willard Foxton discusses some eye-raising configurations on new smartphones in the UK:

When you get a new phone, there’s a very good chance it comes with automatic filters enabled. For example, it’s very common for you have to explicitly request the ability to call premium-rate phone lines. This is long established, but now, a sinister new trend has started, whereby phone providers are automatically blocking access to certain websites for “mature content”, rather than “adult content”.

Mobile provider 3UK is blocking access to political satire as “mature content”; Orange is preventing access to feminist articles as “mature content” through its automatically applied Orange Safeguard service; several providers are blocking perfectly legitimate sites like Pink News because they deal with gay issues, or Channel 4’s excellent Embarrassing Bodies website, because of the graphic discussion of body parts and sexuality.

This was bad enough when these services were blocking porn (I for one wholeheartedly support the right of teenagers to watch smut on their iPhones), but now it seems overzealous providers are blocking access to anything a Catholic Bishop might consider for adults only. This carries not only the problem of “overblocking” caused by lazy filter design — notably, it’s hard to get your website read if it refers to Middlesex or Scunthorpe — but also as these filters are automatically applied, most people don’t even realise they are losing access to certain parts of the web.

Obsessing over drugs will damage sports much more than Lance Armstrong could

Filed under: France, Media, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:41

At sp!ked, Tim Black reviews Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, by David Walsh:

And so, in the aftermath of his Oprah-atic confession, bound to neither sate the critics nor elate the devout, the infernal humiliation of one-time cyclist Lance Armstrong continues.

The kicking and pelting began in earnest in August last year, when the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles following his failure to challenge their numerous doping charges. The USADA then followed that up in October with a voluminous, damning report, complete with gruesome testimonies from Armstrong’s one-time confidantes and teammates. By this point, even the International Cycling Union (UCI), which had long sided with Armstrong, had given up the defence to join in the lynching. ‘Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling’, exclaimed UCI president Pat McQuaid. ‘Lance Armstrong deserves to be forgotten in cycling.’

As sporting officialdom condemned, large swathes of the media spat. Gossipy stories of Armstrong’s bullying, his lying, his alleged sociopathology were published without nuance; op-eds assassinating Armstrong’s character, inflating his wrongs to Biblical proportions, were rushed off without perspective. On a man once lionised by millions, whose fame had for years been wrapped yellow around the wrists of those who admired him, open season had been declared. All the hunt lacked was a sighting of the quarry himself. And then this week, that finally happened — in the interview with Oprah Winfrey. Caught and unavoidably contrite, Armstrong acted out the role of the doping sportsman. Yes, he was saying, I am everything that the Dopefinder Generals say I am: I am that witch.

Camouflage patterns and the patterns of inter-service rivalry

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

In The Atlantic, D.B. Grady reminds us that some patterns are more deeply dyed than others:

Military combat uniforms have two purposes: to camouflage soldiers, and to hold together in rugged conditions. It stands to reason that there’s only one “best” pattern, and one best stitching and manufacture. It should follow that when such a uniform is developed, the entire military should transition to it.

MARPAT woodland patternIn 2002, the Marine Corps adopted a digital camouflage pattern called MARPAT. Rigorous field-testing proved that it was more effective than the splotched woodland pattern in use at the time, and the Combat Utility Uniform (of which it was a part) was a striking change for such a conservative institution.

UCP patternNot to be outdone, the Army drew up digital plans of its own, and in 2005 issued a redesigned combat uniform in a “universal camouflage pattern” (UCP). Three years after the Marines made the change, four years after the invasion of Afghanistan, and two years after the invasion of Iraq, you might think the Army would have been loaded with data on how best to camouflage soldiers in known combat zones. You would be wrong.

In fact, not only did the Army dismiss the requirements of the operating environments, but it also literally chose the poorest performing pattern of its field tests. The “universal” in UCP refers to jungle, desert, and urban environments. In designing a uniform for wear in every environment, it designed a uniform that was effective in none.

[. . .]

Such dysfunction is not unique to the Army. MARPAT was a success not only in function, but also in adding distinction to the Marines wearing it. Naturally the Air Force wanted in on that action, and set about to make its own mark on the camouflage world. It’s first choice? A Vietnam-era blue tiger-stripe pattern. (You know, to blend in with the trees on Pandora.)

After an outcry in the ranks, the leadership settled on a color scheme slightly more subdued. The new uniform did, however, have the benefit of being “winter weight” only, which was just perfect for service in Iraq.

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