Oh, apparently, Blizzard still hates gays

(GeekStuff)

2012-01-07 18:10
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Apparently (it says a lot about Blizzard’s continued relevance to my world), back in October, Blizzard aired a long homophobic rant at Blizzcon. (No, it wasn’t bleeped at the actual con. EDIT: Or at least so some bloggers claimed.) Then there was a sort of half-baked apology. Eventually they posted an actual apology.

What amazes me is that people appear to believe the apology.

This is not the kind of thing that happens at companies that actually care about these issues. The problem here isn’t that they didn’t think about it enough; it’s that it would require them to consciously think about it to determine that a long rant full of slurs against gays would maybe offend someone.

They don’t care. They have never cared. Look at all the Real ID drama; note that they never, ever, acknowledged that maybe there was an issue. That’s because the bulk of the really bad side-effects hit queers of various sorts; trans people, gays, other people like that. Blizzard gives no fucks.

I’ve never seen any evidence that there was a point at which they cared about that set of people. Like many companies with an online gaming presence, Blizzard has made its money off an endless stream of gay-bashing teens.

A while back, it was observed that at this point, every adult who might realistically play WoW has played it. The only way for them to get new people to play their game is to target kids who haven’t yet really gotten into games. And that’s a market full of teenage boys who consider “gay” an insult and gay-bashing a necessary part of proving that you’re a mature adult. And that’s the market they have to pursue, and pursue it they do.

I think this is actually a dumb strategy, and their loss of subscriptions supports my belief. I think they are ignoring the people who leave over their ever more abusive disregard for some of their players. Not that many gay or trans people still play WoW, but the fact is, a lot of adults have gotten to know other adults and have learned about this stuff — and they tend to find it uncomfortable. So they leave. And Blizzard’s laser-like focus on the question “will a person play the game who didn’t yesterday” has blinded them to the question “how many people are leaving over this crap”.

But seriously. If you’re still paying Activision-Blizzard money, the fact is, you’re rewarding them for telling everyone that they need to be told that gay-bashing could possibly annoy people, and that they just think it’s funny. You’re rewarding them for doing this over and over, for building policies that might as well have been designed to exclude gay and trans people, for acting like this whole concept is a bright new surprise every time, and for never even considering doing something about the gay-bashing in their games.

I really do not get why people are discussing Blizzard’s “apologies” as though they had semantic content other than “we were not done with your money yet”. They have not actually fixed or addressed any problems. They have not acquired any staff who, upon hearing a gay-bashing rant, will say “hey, guys, I don’t think that’s appropriate”.

I’d say it’s depressing, but really, it’s not new. We already knew this.

And yeah, if it had only been once, and they’d apologized, and then things had changed, I might totally think they were sincere. But not after the last couple of years, no.

Peter Seebach

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Autism: What's a "spectrum" anyway?

(Personal, Autism)

2011-12-29 13:11
Comment

People occasionally see autism and Asperger Syndrome and related things referred to as “autism spectrum disorders” (ASD). People who work in the field tend to refer to someone being “on the spectrum”.

Why?

Because the traits vary. Lots of traits. Highly variable. Not all autistic people have the same set of autistic traits. They don’t always come with the same degree of expression. So, say I have sensory integration difficulties (I do), and also I have trouble reading faces (I do). Someone else might be better at faces, and worse at sensory integration, than me. It’s not just a matter of “more severe” or “less severe”.

This creates a problem, which is that people tend to assume that, if one autistic person can do something, so can others, especially others with “less severe” autism. That’s not how it works. I’m generally high-functioning, I almost never get too overloaded to make mouth noises (though it took me about 5-10 minutes of a shopping trip to prepare for the challenges of knowing when to say “thanks” or “paper” during grocery checkout), and so on… But I can still be unable to handle stuff that other people find trivial.

And this creates a problem. Say you’re pretty good at social processing, but a lot of people know that in general autistics aren’t, and you are known to them to be autistic:

  • People might not believe you’re autistic.
  • People might treat you like an idiot.
  • People might disregard your evaluations because they think they know that you’re not good at social things.
  • People might refuse to believe that a particular mistake was unintentional if you do miss something.

I’ve had all of those happen.

Peter Seebach

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Bye, Walgreen's.

(Personal)

2011-12-28 18:30
Comment [4]

So, Walgreen’s and Express Scripts played chicken this year, and the answer is, we have to move our prescriptions.

The local drug store (“Village Drug” on Division St.) we picked is overloaded pretty badly right now, so I got to spend some time waiting while they processed stuff. And I decided to browse the store. The entire store has a grand total of zero homeopathic treatments for anything.

I do not think I will go back to Walgreen’s later, even if stuff gets sorted out, just because I really hated buying medication from a place that sold such blatantly fraudulent stuff. I found it sort of upsetting.

That said, I sort of wish the FDA would officially approve the use of homeopathic medicines to treat hypochondria.

Peter Seebach

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Year 17. No end in sight.

(Personal)

2011-12-25 23:41
Comment

Being married: Actually sorta cool.

I still find it amusing that I have to qualify “married for 17 years” as “consecutively” and “to the same person”.

Peter Seebach

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Nice try, FedEx. Nice try.

(Personal)

2011-12-23 10:45
Comment [1]

Someone sent me something, signature required. Obviously, there’s no hint as to when during the day the package will show up, but usually FedEx is early afternoon here.

10:35. I am right near the front of the house and I hear a noise. I look. There’s a truck in the street, absolutely no logos or identifying marks. I go downstairs, and there’s a fedex guy filling out the “signature was needed” thing. Note: No doorbell.

That was a very, very, good effort. If they’d called me to notify me that the delivery would be “soon”, they could have kept me from hearing the faint knocking, and I think they would have won.

The mystery that remains: Is there a particular reason that they try so hard to avoid successful delivery?

Peter Seebach

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Buffer overruns

(GeekStuff)

2011-12-22 01:11
Comment

My spare cognitive capacity for the forseeable future will be on buffer overruns. I just saw a hunk of code which struck me as truly spectacular, in a number of ways, and it occurred to me that there is some kind of fundamental barrier here. I don’t think there’s been any time in the last fifteen years where I could possibly have made that mistake. I’m alert to this in some kind of structural way; that particular subclass of errors just leaps out at me.

So I’m messing with concepts about how to explain buffer overruns, data validation, and so on. Thing is, we have plenty of solid explanations of this. So the problem isn’t that these concepts aren’t understood; it’s that the understanding isn’t being presented in a way that lets newbies get it.

Currently leaning towards doing something with comic graphics, perhaps to do with our friend Mister Buffer, who ends every example with tire tracks on him.

Peter Seebach

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numb3rs instant review

(GeekStuff)

2011-12-18 02:09
Comment [1]

He’s an FBI agent. He’s a brilliant mathematician. Together, they fight crime!

I really love this show. It’s great. But now I’m going mad. See. The intros always show a handful of numbers that are relevant to the case. “2 killings, 1 M.O.” or something like that.

S2E13, the numbers are “52 cards, 186,184 combinations, 3 players, 1 tell.”

186,184? wtf. That’s not a number of combinations for cards. That’s 8 * 17 * 37 * 37. There’s no 52s in it. There’s no 13s in it. 37 just doesn’t figure into this.

Peter Seebach

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Movie Review: Chocolate

(Personal, Autism)

2011-12-08 17:44
Comment [1]

Chocolate is a Thai film about an autistic girl. It’s a martial arts movie; the premise is that this particular autistic girl can imitate martial arts moves that she’s seen.

I liked it. The autistic kid is handled pretty well, I think. They don’t shy away from her inability to handle certain stimuli or unplanned changes of routine. The superpower is a little unrealistic (well, okay, a lot), but they make up for this very well by playing with the choreography so that she fights in a way that makes sense, especially early on. It’s hard to explain how this works, but she tends to pay no visible attention to things she’s not interested in, and when she acts, she acts only exactly as much as is needed. She doesn’t turn to catch things, she just moves her hands. Until I saw this, I hadn’t realized why I play catch “wrong”, or what I was doing wrong, but that’s it. I’ll just stand there watching a ball until I know where it’s going, then move. If I don’t have to move anything but my arm, I don’t, because why would you do that?

Watching this, I am pretty sure that at least some of the people involved had spent a fair bit of time with autistic people, and had come to the realization that this isn’t all-good or all-bad, but mostly different. There’s sort of a balance there that I rarely see; either we get OMG THAT IS SO HORRIBLE responses or I AM SUPERIOR TO THESE MONKEYS. It’s nice to see someone recognize that this isn’t all one or the other.

Some people might feel that it’s ridiculous for this in some ways fairly competent girl to, say, utterly freak out when informed that today is not actually going to be go-out day, even though it should be. I do not feel it ridiculous. I’m on the way high functioning end of the spectrum in a lot of ways, but I still remember the time my mom screwed up a routine.

I was maybe 4ish or 5ish. It was winter. In winter, I get into the car, mom starts the car, then goes and scrapes the windows. When it becomes possible to see into the car through one of the windows, she waves at me. And one day, she forgot to wave, finished scraping the windows, and got into the car. I still have a hard time articulating why this was wrong; at the time, all I could do was cry. I think I must have managed to communicate that waving was involved, so my mom waved at me. From inside the car, which just made it worse. Somehow she figured it out (or I managed to express it), so she got out, and waved at me through the window. Boom. HAPPY! World is acting according to plan. Procedure has been followed.

I’m a lot more flexible now, but I still get really squicked when people are off-plan. So, yeah, I think that’s a realistic depiction.

Peter Seebach

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Autism and diagnostics

(Personal, Autism)

2011-12-05 20:29
Comment [2]

Apparently I have asthma. No, not adult-onset asthma. The thing where, if I run or breathe cold air, I have horrible coughing fits? Asthma.

You might wonder how this would go undiagnosed, especially given that I’ve seen doctors about the coughing fits several times. Well, a friend of mine has had the same experience, and what I think we have in common is this:

A lot of diagnostic criteria refer to things like “excessive” coughing. I don’t know how to identify “excessive” coughing. I mean, if you breathe in a bunch of smoke (and you’re not a habitual smoker) you cough, right? And if you have a cough, you cough. And if you run a lot and breathe really hard, you cough. And so on… And it turns out, one of these is apparently not all that common. But lots of people cough some after exercise. It’s just that maybe I cough more.

I have problems like this all of the time. People ask whether I have “unusual” X, or “excessive” Y, or whether something is “abnormal”, and I don’t know.

What I wonder is whether non-autistic people actually know these things, or whether they’re also unreliable at them and the difference is just that they notice less. :)

(EDIT: Additional information has come to light: I was on lisinopril for blood pressure at the time, and this often causes mild coughing — but appears to cause mild coughing which can trigger asthma. Off that medication, I am back to only occasionally having horrible coughing fits, and now I can treat them.)

Peter Seebach

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Black bars on TV with ATI/AMD video

(GeekStuff)

2011-12-05 08:36
Comment [2]

Okay, this one took me a while to figure out, and it turns out there’s not a solution I can find. (Before you rush to link me to the articles on this: Yes, I know about the overscan setting, I messed with it, it did not do what I need.)

Problem: Hooking up a laptop with an ATI video chipset to a flat panel TV, I get black borders around the display, and everything looks like crap.

Solution: None, really.

Background: In days of longago, our ancestors used analog devices. For instance, a display did not actually have a fixed number of well-defined pixels; rather, it had an area of phosphors which were hit by an electron gun, and you could smoothly adjust the size of the area the gun worked on. The corners of the display were usually unreliable, so what people did in general was arrange to send slightly more signal than you could physically see, so the picture would go all the way to the edges of the screen. Of course, this meant that some of the graphical signal was invisible to the user. So on things like the old Amigas, you’d have software controls for the actual size of the image to send, and knobs on the monitor to adjust how it displayed things, and you’d mess with these to get more pixels and still be able to see them all.

Modern displays, such as LCD TVs (and “LED” TVs are still LCD displays, they’re just using LEDs instead of fluorescent lights), do not work like this. The “panel” has a fixed resolution, the entire panel is visible, and the corners are not particularly special.

When working with old-style TVs, “overscan” controls were extremely useful. With new-style TVs, they’re still reasonably useful when using analog inputs (because the conversion hardware is going to be making guesses about which parts of the signal to translate to the screen), but they’re mostly optional. With new-style TVs and digital inputs, they are basically worthless.

Which comes to the weird part: the Catalyst Control Center (the ATI/AMD driver) does not appear to allow you to disable this functionality. It starts out by default set to significant underscan. There exists a control for this, but every new graphics mode will default to significant underscan again. Worse, the underscan/overscan thing is set such that the range reported is “-15%” to “0%”. However, at least on the display I have access to, 0% is actually overscan. Which is to say, if you size the display up to “0%”, the outside edges of the display are clipped.

This could just be the TV (a Dynex 42E250A12), but I tried it with a Macbook Air (nVidia 320M) and with an Acer TimelineX 3830 (nVidia 540M), and both of them work perfectly well in 1920×1080, with every pixel lined up.

With the ATI display, things are worse. The overscan/underscan control is a slider with about 15 positions. None of the positions corresponds to an exact 1:1 display. About 2/3 of the way across the slider, there’s a pair of positions such that at one, there’s a few black pixels below the graphical display, and the next, a few pixels on the left side of the screen are cut off. Which is to say… None of them are doing what the nVidia hardware does, which is to just trust the display’s claimed resolution and stop trying to outsmart it.

Research reveals that this is a very common complaint, and that for some people with some displays, “0% underscan” appears to produce the expected behavior. I can’t say why it isn’t working for me, but I am not too inclined to blame the TV, simply because it’s working with the other devices I’ve tried it with.

Interestingly, this doesn’t happen with any monitor I’ve ever tried, only with a TV. Obviously, ATI’s hardware is capable of displaying cleanly on a digital display over digital — they just chose not to.

Why is a bit of a mystery, but here’s my guess: There exists, somewhere, a set of driver requirements, and one of them is that for TVs, the display shall have overscan/underscan controls because TVs need that, and no one has updated this list of requirements since the 1990s.

Peter Seebach

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