log (2005/07/29 to 2005/08/04)

Don't worry, the government can tell what printer printed that document. Investigating Machine Identification Code Technology in Color Laser Printers:

It is especially worrisome that the Secret Service was able to coordinate with private-sector manufacturers on the development of this technology since at least the early 1990s with no public awareness, much less public discussion, of the privacy and anonymity risks for users of this technology.

Awesome cleverness: web page regendering. See for instance this very page.

Remember these matches? I'd forgotten all about them until I stumbled over that file on the website here. How odd.

Zillions of Sims mods (now I really want to learn how to write Sims mods) on a funnily-designed website: More awesome than you dot com.

On the EA discussion boards, there's a link under each posting that says "Rate this post as beneficial". You're only allowed to rate five posts a day as beneficial, and doing so is called "giving a bene". Benes are used for at least two things:

  • When you search the postings, you can elect to sort the results highest-rated first (which is sometimes useful), and
  • Everyone registered on the boards has a "BBS Rank", and one of the things that goes into one's Rank is the number of benes one's gotten (the number of one's postings that someone's rated Beneficial).

This system has resulted in at least two effects: the first one (which I think I would have thought of immediately) is that some people talk about "bene buddies": pairs (groups?) of people that just give each other all their benes every day. The idea is sneered at by the cognoscenti, of course, but it's certainly Around as a meme. I also suspect that it doesn't work at all, at least in its simplest forms, because it'd be easy to detect and because the exact relationship between benes and Rank isn't exposed:

What is my BBS rank?
Your BBS rank is determined by a super-secret algorithm based upon your contributions to The Sims 2 community, how other community members have rated your contributions to the community and your general Sim-tastic-ness. Feel free to mark posts as beneficial if you find them to be. You'll see your ranks change as the community builds and grows!

So most likely multiple benes from the same person are discounted in figuring Rank.

The other effect I've seen in my participant observation is one that I don't know if I would have thought of: let's call it The Wrong Answer Effect. One of the main ways of getting benes is to answer questions. Many of the posts on the boards are questions, and in many cases the asker gives a bene to the first person (or the first few people) that answer it. It's natural to give out benes right away (so as not to forget, not to lose track of who you still need to give one to, etc). But often answers can't be (or in any case aren't) verified right away. And there's no way to take back a bene. So...

For instance I saw a question posted saying "What does the 'Give Death Token' action in such-and-such debug menu do?". Someone answered very quickly, saying that if your Sim has a Death Token, then the next time it would normally die, it actually won't, but will get "another chance". The asker said, "Thanks, a bene for you" or other words to that effect.

But that answer was completely wrong; in fact giving a Sim a Death Token basically kills the Sim, albeit after a delay (something complicated having to do with loading a different lot and then returning to the original one, or something). The "saves your Sim from death" story was apparently a rumor some time ago when the debug menu in question was first discovered, but it's now known to be wrong. I (and other people) jumped in with the correct answer. But the person who got there first, although completely and in fact dangerously wrong, still got his bene. (And since a number of us came in to correct him, only some fraction of us got one, since the asker had at most five to start with.)

I've seen the same thing happen with other questions. Someone asks "when the last Sim on a lot dies, what happens to all their possessions?". Someone quickly answers "everything on the lot except for the house itself and any graves goes away", and gets a bene. But that answer is (at least in the consensus opinion of the people who answer afterwards) again completely wrong. That's what happens when you move a family out of a house (all their possessions are sold so they can use the money to buy into another house); but when the last Sim on a lot dies, all the possessions stay there for the next inhabitants.

Interesting social phenomenon. File in the folder with Ebay feedback and presidential elections...

But I know that you've really come for the Sims pictures! So let's see if we can get the bandwidth burden of this page up over a Meg, shall we?

Since last I wrote Kaylynn Langerak and Benjamin Long have become very friendly:

Kaylynn and Ben in the tub

In fact she invited him to move in, and he accepted (they don't do anything interesting or picture-worthy when that happens; just a friendly hug, and the moved-in person suddenly appears on the control panel to be controlled).

Turns out he's an up-and-coming member of the City Council, with the Knowledge aspiration (a decent match to Kaylynn's Family), and he brought thirteen thousand Simoleons to the household. (With that and a twenty-five thousand bonus from a good Chance card, they're very well off and thinking about major housing improvements.) He and Kaylynn are now happily shacked up:

Kaylynn and Ben in the sheets

(He's thinking "that was fun", and she's thinking "Now I'm doing well".)

The only problem is (was) that, as illustrated in this picture of their first meeting:

Benjamin 1.0

version one of Benjamin was sort of dorky-looking, with those awful shorts and that Aryan Youth League haircut. So after coming under my beneficent control he fixed the hair, and added some manly stubble and shades:

Benjamin 1.5

That got him looking decent in his work duds:

Benjamin 1.5, in his suit.

Now there's a man anyone'd be proud to bribe!

When next he got home he went to the shopping place and got some decent pants to go with his sweater (not shown), and a slick casual suit; here he is striding boldly into the bathroom:

Benjamin 2.0

("Next week on Celebrity Sim Makeovers...")

A side note: just as Benjamin was getting into the taxi to go shopping, Eleanor Raptor strode onto the lot, walked down to the hot tub, changed into her skimpy bikini, and headed in. (I'd forgotten to put the fence back after Kaylynn and Ben's little dip, and apparently Eleanor for some reason can interact with stuff on the lot even without being greeted; those Raptors!)

When Ben got back, she was still there (no time passes on a lot while someone's out shopping). He called her out (I rebuilt the fence), and they chatted a bit:

Benjamin and Eleanor chat

"Yeah, Kaylynn's a really good friend of mine. Who are you?"

They parted cordially enough, for the time being.

And just so Benjamin's fashion transformation doesn't get all the bandwidth tonight, here's Kaylynn in her stunning Celebrity Chef outfit:

Kaylynn in uniform

Hubba hubbba!

(Since I started writing this entry, Kaylynn has had Sally over just to get her aspiration meter pumped (nothing compromising occurred, just lots of tickling and joke-telling), and then proposed marriage to Benjamin, who accepted. I'm hoping she'll finally have some "interact with Benjamin" wants now that they're engaged, but it hasn't happened yet. Numerous pictures of all this, no doubt, to follow.)

Whoa, amazing! The wireless access point way over on the other side of the house there still gives me a decent (28%) signal out here by the pool watching the boys splashing around. K00l. And I can see one other wifi network, too, and it's not even encrypted. But it's only at 4% strength. So I guess I'll stick with mine.

Now if only I had something interesting to say! *8)

Hey, since I can get to the network, I can get to the drive where the Sims snapshots are. Oh, you lucky people!

Let's see, we got a nice picture from the time Georgia invited Jane over and Jane spontaneously went over and picked up Hermes and cuddled him (these Family type Sims like Jane do love kids):

Georgia and Jane and Hermes

We got some pictures from Jane and Georgia's first woohoo, but I have to watch myself with those because The Guys are already teasing me at lunch about trying to lure more readers to my weblog with hot girl-on-girl action. Here's a picture from afterward (note cool stop-motion shot of the dart that Ransom's throwing):

Ransom throws a dart

(Georgia says, "Nice shot, Dad!", and Ransom says "Thanks. Say, wasn't Jane here?", and Georgia says, "Oh yeah, she just got, um, sleepy so she's taking like a nap, in um you and Mom's bed; hope that's okay!")

Note the purple camo pants that Georgia's wearing; I recolored the standard khaki pants that all the Danverses wear, because Georgia wanted something that will fit in when she moves in with Jane, but green khaki is so not her. I even uploaded the clothes to the Sims 2 Exchange (isn't that exciting?).

We got a picture of baby Hermes growing up (his mom was on the phone at the time):

Hermes grows up

(looks like he's descending from Heaven, eh?) and a picture of toddler Hermes coming down:

Child Hermes

Cute as a button, eh?

We got some pictures of Georgia potty-training him and teaching him to talk; nothing there you probably want to see. Hafta feel for Georgia, though, having to put off moving in with the love of her life so she can bring up her little brother because her parents are too busy writing novels, enslaving alien planets, giving speeches to the Junior Sports Club of Central Nebraska, and like that, to want to pay much attention to the poor little thing.

Speaking of which, we got a picture of Ransom writing his latest novel, sitting under a picture (painted by Marisa) of Ransom writing his previous novel:

Ransom and Ransom

And we got a picture of Marisa standing at the bottom of the stairs, doing the Sims whining-dance and complaining that she can't go upstairs like I asked her to because as any fool can see the stairs are blocked by, well, by nothing at all:

Marisa angry at the stairs

(People on the EA BBS say that, yeah, that happens sometimes and you just have to sell those stairs and replace them with identical new ones. That could get pricey!)

Speaking of annoyed whining Sims, Kaylynn got herself the aspiration reward that's a romantic candle-lit hot tub, in hopes it would help her find someone to replace Eleanor in her heart (sob!). The trouble is that the candles have a limited lifetime, and random visitors keep trying to go over and get in unasked, which would waste them. So she (I) put a fence around it. Visitors are still attracted by it, but once they get over there they find they can't get to it, and will spend hours waving and stomping:

John angry at the fence

Well duh, John, do you think maybe the reason the fence is there in the first place is so that you can't randomly get into the tub without being asked? Hm?

And speaking of Kaylynn, here she is as mentioned the other day making chocolate with the chocolate machine, in her PJs. (Mmm, chocolate!)

Kaylynn making chocolate.

Kaylynn's been visiting the Raptors again (when I play Kaylynn I encourage her to be strong and hang out with other people instead, but when I play the Raptors and one or more of them want to invite Kaylynn over, I don't deny it to them; it would be out of character). I won't post any pictures from the actual visits (that whole girl-on-girl-action issue again), but here are the Raptors themselves, sitting around the dining table and discussing the general subject over pancakes, shortly before dawn:

Sally instructs her daughters

They miss having Kaylynn around all the time, but they're coping well in general.

So I've added a few hundred K more Sims pictures to the log here, haven't I? My my my my my...

Here's an interesting-looking Sims-related newspaper (cool design). In French and everything!

And speaking of interesting, here's the interesting section of flickr. Bill saw it mentioned on boing boing, and we had a discussion about whether or not they have to manually filter out the pictures of nekkid people after their automatic "identify the pictures that people are most interested in" algorithm runs (if they don't, I'm fascinated). This eventually led me to the Innuendo Pool, which is a great name for a thing.

(My mind is really in the gutter tonight, eh? Not that there's anything wrong with gutters.)

And now it's getting dark and there are mosquitos, and I'm sure that these little boys need to get out of the pool momentarily. Sorry about all the bandwidth! (heh heh heh)

Happy August Day!

Today's apotd is an artist's conception of UB313. This artist apparently hasn't bought into the "fused remains of an alien battlestation" theory.

(This apotd from the other day is my current desktop background; it's very nice. Gotta love pictures of galaxies; they're so big and all. There must be so much interesting stuff in all that. Makes one feel comfortingly small and awed and stuff.)

On the Sims question of how Jane and Georgia are going to have a baby that combines their genes, I realize that I'm an idiot! They can just talk to Jane's mom, who is the famous Mad Scientist Jean Danvers. She has access to the advanced Simsanto Inc. Biotech Station, and can certainly figure out how to do the required gene-manipulation. (So I have a perfect an in-game explanation for the cheat that I'm planning to do.)

I'm going to try really hard not to post any Sims pictures today (not even the one showing Kaylynn making candy on the Schokolade 890 Chocolate Manufacturing Factory; mm, chocolate!). Although one reader did very encouragingly write:

I think the Sims2 stuff is great. And it saves me from having to play it myself.

Nice to be appreciated. *8)

Sims philosophy: on the extremely spiffy (and funny (and hilariously named, if you're a big Sims 1 fan)) This Grawl is Fredeschay weblog, the Sims say things like "by Anne" rather than "by God", because Anne is one of the real-life humans that controls (oversees) them.

This gives rise to the obvious question of Sims' religious beliefs. If a Sim were to believe (or, more accurately, if a Sim were to be complex enough to meaningfully have beliefs, and were then to believe) something like "I am a character in a computer game being played by David Chess", would that belief be true? Similarly, if a Sim were to believe "I live in the house at 231 Oxnard Boulevard with Kathy and Trudy", would that belief be true? Can they in fact both be true?

See all sorts of interesting philosophical discussion about fictional truth on the web, like here and elsewhere.

More generally, is there any truth beyond potential experience? If X and Y are incompatible (they deny each other, or loosely "can't both be true at once", or even X is "Y is false"), but there is no possible experience that would prove one over the other, does it make any sense to say that one is true and the other not true? Is it true that one is true and the other not true? What if there is no possible experience that would even count as evidence of one over the other?

I may have written about this before; I think about it every now and then. Is there any notion of truth beyond experience? Do statements about this world here (pointing) have truth values for Sims? Do statements about creators that exist in words at higher ontological levels than this one have truth values in this world?

Of course all this "truth" stuff is just words anyway... *8)

The latest Directory of Lots of Weblogs at BlogFlux dot com now has an entry for us. Because I put it there. (Usually I ignore these weblog directory things, but this one wrote a very nice note; apparently they bought some of the brand and intellectual property of the old Eatonweb weblog list.)

I finally finished Vidal's "Creation". It was pretty good, really; it just took awhile.

After a long absence, some poetry has turned up in spam subject lines:

Re: To send no skeleton
Or need the adage
Re: and share kitchen
Re: But run is gasket rejoin

You probably heard they found a tenth planet. Or at least a big chunk of something. Could be the fused remains of a huge alien battlestation, probably.

I think your site has some really good stuff related to my site's topic of charms and would be a great resource for my visitors.

Interesting dust-up at the Black Hat conference: this dude is about to make a presentation about a perhaps quite serious security vulnerability, but his company decides at the last minute to cancel the presentation. So he resigns on the spot, and gives the presentation anyway. (More here and on all the obvious Google searches.) I haven't been following this one at all, and have no technical opinion on how serious the vulnerability actually is, and whether or not the network will have been entirely destroyed by the time you read this.

In the inevitable Sims news, Kaylynn finally finished that portrait of Eleanor and moved out into a place of her own, after a certain amount of complication. I've posted it as a story to the Sims 2 site, so you're spared those 34 pictures or whatever it is. (Although it may not be there long; looks like anything older than two weeks is eligible for pruning, because of the tens of thousands of stories that people are constantly uploading.)

Since the rather wistful and uncertain ending of the story as posted (will Kaylynn always be poor? will she get over her obsession with Eleanor and find love?), things have gone well. Not only did she meet and fall in love with Benjamin Long (a fellow built-in character with a Nixon-like nose):

Kaylynn and Benjamin

she also reached the apex of her profession, and is a Celebrity Chef:

Kaylynn in her power suit

How far she's come, eh? And if she still has a certain fondness for artistic depictions of red-headed women

Kaylynn's wall

we can put it down to an understandable nostalgia.

Meanwhile, back at the Raptors', Eleanor has some nostalgia herself:

Eleanor daydreams of Kaylynn

(On a more prosaic note, this picture was taken while Eleanor was on enforced bed-rest due to a really bad case of food poisoning acquired at Kaylynn's place; visitors are pretty stupid in some ways, and will gladly wolf down rotting fly-infested food if the hostess carelessly leaves it around. Or at least Eleanor will. She was barfing constantly for like three days.)

Over at the Danvers', Jane proposed to Georgia:

Jane proposes

and Georgia accepted:

Georgia accepts

(It's funny; Jane and Georgia are both adults now, but somehow they still look very young to me. I guess because I remember them in their childhoods. I'll bet the real-life little kids will be the same way! "My God, Daddy, when are you going to stop thinking of me as a little kid?")

And finally, since Jean Danvers' mechanical hand came up in Kaylynn's story, here's another picture that shows it:

The Hand

Kinda weird and kinky, if you didn't know that this is an old married couple, and that the hand reverts to normal when she changes out of her work clothes...

At first I said to myself "sheesh, I can't put fourteen thirty-kay Sims snapshots into one log entry, that's ridiculous"; but then I answered myself saying "hey, it's my weblog, I can do whatever I want". So here we go. *8) Today we're doing birthdays in the Danvers' house.

For Joan's into-childhood birthday party, they invited the headmaster of the private school (couldn't hurt); that's him right behind Joan, with the noisemaker. Everyone was very enthusiastic:

Bringing toddler Joan to the cake

Joan grew into a fine child with green pajamas:

Child Joan

And as the last of the guests left, she played Red Hands with her sister, and acquired a nice shiny Good Party memory:

It was a Good Party

The next day it was Jane's turn. As of course everyone recalls from last week, Jane's teenage steady Georgia Bendett has been teasing her mercilessly ever since she (Georgia) grew up. Her other teenage crush, Ricky Cormier, is a townie and therefore doomed to be left behind at least until we get the expansion that lets them go to college and grow up.

For Jane's adulthood party, she invited both Georgia (far right):

Jane at the cake

and Ricky (symbolically exiting the picture as Jane makes a wish over the candles):

Jane makes a wish

The next moment, Jane was an adult. Everyone (including me up here in the real world) was very impressed:

Jane's quite a babe!

"Yep," says Jane, "this is just about what I wished for."

A classis Sims snapshot

And of course this...

Jane catches up with Georgia

(Not the most private place, but she was impatient.) In the kitchen, John and Joan were surprised that the teenage crush had carried over so quickly into adulthood. Or something.

John and Joan surprised

Meanwhile, Ricky began behaving rather oddly. He came into the room carrying Joan's teddy bear, and held it up to Gina Raptor (who just happened to drop by; these Romance Sims are always up for a party):

Ricky with teddy bear

Shortly after, he made a bit of a scene in the kitchen:

Ricky menacing Gina

It almost looks like he's accusing her of misbehaving with John; but surely he knows that the very laws of SimPhysics make that impossible (since John's an adult and Gina's still a teenager). He also took a bath in the back bathroom during the party; I didn't think houseguests were allowed to do that. Was he traumatized by seeing his crush grow up? I dunno.

Anyway, amid all this Jane and Georgia managed to sneak away for some smooching (in Jane's parents' bed; very clandestine and thrilling!).

Jane and Georgia in private

When the party finally ended and everyone left, Jane got her own Good Party memory (in fact it was officially a Roof Raiser on the Sims party-grading system):

Jane gets her own party memory

She went to bed dreaming of Georgia.

Jane dreaming of Georgia

Next, engagement, marriage, swarms of little children? Who knows!

When I told the little daughter that I was posting a log entry with fourteen snapshots from Danvers' birthday parties, she said "Does anyone care?". "No way of knowing, really," I said, "that's the thing about weblogs." And, I could have added, it's not necessarily the point, either... *8)

Tomorrow I may try to talk about something else (although I have some great pictures of Remington the maid finding Eleanor and Brandi getting entirely too friendly in the Raptor hot tub...).

The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam's absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram - or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not "martyrs."

The Qur'an, Islam's revealed text, states: "Whoever kills a person [unjustly] ... it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (Qur'an, 5:32)

Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: "Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil." (Al-Tirmidhi)

God mandates moderation in faith and in all aspects of life when He states in the Qur'an: "We made you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind." (Qur'an, 2:143)

In another verse, God explains our duties as human beings when he says: "Let there arise from among you a band of people who invite to righteousness, and enjoin good and forbid evil." (Qur'an, 3:104)

Islam teaches us to act in a caring manner to all of God's creation. The Prophet Muhammad, who is described in the Qur'an as "a mercy to the worlds" said: "All creation is the family of God, and the person most beloved by God (is the one) who is kind and caring toward His family."

In the light of the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:

1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.

2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.

3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.

We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur'an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad - peace be upon him. We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners.

We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of our country, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safety and security of all inhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe.

-- Fiqh Council of North America