September 8th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

A couple of follow-ups

A Thought about the Failure of Scam Education: It occurred to me, well after I put that article "to bed," that there may be a really plausible reason why there is no confidence scam so old, hackneyed, and widely exposed that thousands of people don't fall for it. The thing to compare it to, as cheesy as the comparison is, is trying to teach kids not to be vulnerable to kidnapping by strangers. Now, thank God that kidnapping by strangers is so rare ... because it turns out to be basically impossible to educate most kids out of vulnerability to it. I remember seeing something on TV about a year ago where they got permission from parents and cops to stage an attempted hijacking on various grade school kids who'd just, literally just, been through a class on how not to fall for kidnapper's scams, how not to end up so close that it's easy for them to grab you before you can get away, how to tell if a stranger who says they're from your folks really is. Without a single exception, every kid they tested fell for the "look at the puppy in the trunk of my car" scam every time. Was it because the scam is so irresistible? No. It's because the kids had been warned to protect themselves from strangers, and the nice man didn't seem like a stranger at all. No matter how often you tell the kids that anybody they don't know is a stranger, they have it in their heads at some deep level that strangers are people who look scary somehow, that they can't possibly be in any danger from anybody who looks normal and seems nice. Which, unfortunately, is step one also in every pyramid scheme, Ponzi scheme, and confidence trick -- look normal and seem nice.

Burning the non-wicker Man: I don't know if I got around to mentioning Current TV's "TV Free Burning Man" podcasts, even though the only thinly tolerable remake of The Wicker Man came out right before the Burning Man festival. Current TV is a tiny little cable station, only shown in a handful of places, that specializes in podcasts, and they sent a team out to Black Rock City to do a daily 6 to 8 minute podcast from this year's Burning Man festival. They finally got the last of the episodes up on their website, and you know what? If you have ever wondered what Burning Man is? Or more importantly, if you think you "get" Burning Man but you're not sure? What you've got up on that site is roughly an hour's worth of broadcast, and if you watch it, then you will truly "get" Burning Man, because they do get it. As someone who Burned about 7 years ago, and who had massive nostalgia attacks watching their podcasts, let me tell you flat out that no broadcast journalists I've seen yet have understood the point of Burning Man as much as this team does, nor have the few print journalists who've tried done it as much justice.

Told You So about the Secret CIA Prisons: When the White House went after the whistleblowers on the CIA's very illegal secret torture facilities all over the former Warsaw Pact, I told you that the fact that they were going after somebody for leaking it was, in fact, itself a leak. Now, it wasn't much of a leak. Amateur plane-spotters had long, long ago used their worldwide-web databases to track the tailfin numbers of the CIA's front-company planes, and we knew where those planes were leaving from, when, with whom, and where they were ending up. But I argued at the time that the minute that George Bush complained that the whistleblowers had endangered national security by exposing a secret program, that was the secret program's first official acknowledgement. When I said this, several people claimed that no, it was nothing of the sort: he could have meant that it was endangering national security to claim this whether it was true or not. I said that was incompatible with the way he was saying it. Doubtless some of you thought that was "part of the coverup" or somehow proof of his competence or subtlety. Do you still think so now, that, this week, he's announced that they shut down the secret prisons in the Warsaw Pact countries that the CIA was running, praised the CIA for using "rough questioning" techniques on those prisoners, and that he's now transfered them all to our gulag at Guantanamo Bay?

A Good Weekend to Play Auto Assault: Since I hear that City of Heroes/City of Villains' "double-XP" weekend was a huge successful "draw them back in" event, the team on Auto Assault have decided to do their own loyalty-reward event. They're not doubling XP gain, though. Frankly, that would be silly. Especially after Update 2, which simplified the heck out of the first roughly 8 or 9 levels of the game and gives out about 4 or 5 levels' worth of free XP; if you ever thought leveling was hard in Auto Assault, well, for one thing you blow my mind, but for another, try it again. So what are they doing instead of doubling the XP? Doubling the "loot" dropped by NPCs. So not only will everybody who plays between noon Friday and noon Monday (US Central time) make in-game money like a bandit, your odds of getting an "uber" weapon or chassis or whatever to help you level up with or to help you in tournaments just doubled.