Happy Birthday!

(Personal)

2008-03-14 17:14
Comments [2]

A bit over month ago, I got interested in various demonstrations pertaining to the “Church” of Scientology. The February 10th demonstrations had at least 7,500 members around the world, at dozens of locations. There were apparently about three arrests — of Scientologists who attacked the peaceful demonstrators. There doesn’t seem to have been a single violent or illegal act by any protestor.

The CoS has spent the intervening months doing what they always do. Despite the lies about how the Scientology policy of harassing and intimidating critics has been stopped, it’s still going. One man who’s been holding a sign at a safe distance from one of their buildings was approached by someone who identified his full name, his employer’s name, his position, and other personal information — and told him that he would soon be in trouble for fraud and forgery. Obviously, for this to happen, they have to forge the evidence — but the Church of Scientology has extensive experience forging evidence.

The CoS also tried to get an injunction against peaceful protestors, justified by claiming that there were “threats”. They have failed at least twice so far, but in the process, they named names. Whose names? Bystanders that happened to be in the area and whose names they were able to obtain, of course!

Since the last protest, I’ve learned a lot of things about the CoS. For instance, I didn’t know about the forced abortions for women in “Sea Org”. I didn’t know that CoS parents are often induced to sign paperwork appointing staff as guardians of their kids, who are sent to “school” that consists of ten and twelve hour days of labor — rather than any kind of education.

So, it’s on again for tomorrow. The theme? L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday party! We will have silly hats, and we will have big ribbons on our signs.

Come on out. Compared to last time, when it was about fifty below including windchill, it’ll be a balmy thirty above or so. (For those of you not used to our excellent system, think of these as “negative forty-five” and “about zero”. And yes, a temperature at which water freezes is “balmy” for Minnesota.) The MN demonstration is intended for about 11AM to 4PM at the CoS office in downtown Minneapolis. Bring your friends, bring signs, and above all: Do not plan to be destructive or hostile. The people here are, for the most part, the victims of a destructive cult. The goal is to help them, and stop the abuses. This is not about how “weird” the beliefs of Scientology are, this is not about stopping them from practicing their religion. It’s about stopping the thing where Scientologists kidnap people and deny them medical care until they die.

People like Lisa McPherson, who was killed by the cult. To be fair, it’s true that a doctor disputed those findings. Of course, that doctor was being paid tens of thousands of dollars by the Church of Scientology — that’s not the kind of money you get without finding a way to call someone’s death an “accident”.

Peter Seebach

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Rah walked the dog and the dog won.

(GeekStuff, Personal)

2008-03-02 23:52
Comments [2]

So, once a few months back, we were coming home, and we saw one of our roommates. She was walking the dog. (Our other roommate got a dog.)

The dog is about fifty pounds, but he’s half German Shorthaired Pointer. He’s very, very, energetic, and while he certainly can be quite intelligent… Sometimes his heart’s just not in it.

The girl is a tad over a hundred pounds.

Ever since then, a song has been running through my head. It is set to a perhaps-recognizable tune, that being the Clash’s iconic I Fought The Law:

Goin’ to the park in the hot sun
Rah walked the dog and the dog won
Rah walked the dog and the dog won
He needed training cause he had none
Rah walked the dog and the dog won
Rah walked the dog and the dog won
He’s on a leash and he pulls so bad
Guess her race is run
He doesn’t care that it makes her mad
Rah walked the dog and the dog won
Rah walked the dog and the
Goin’ places at a dead run
Rah walked the dog and the dog won
Rah walked the dog and the dog won
Pissed off the girl but the dog had fun
Rah walked the dog and the dog won
Rah walked the dog and the dog won
He’s on a leash and he pulls so bad
Guess her race is run
He doesn’t care that it makes her mad
Rah walked the dog and the dog won
Rah walked the dog and the
Peter Seebach

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Today, I am FAMOUS!

(Personal, GeekStuff)

2008-02-19 12:10
Comments [1]

I made it into the media. Twice!

The first is coverage of my ongoing crusade against junk faxing. As you might expect, the junk faxer lied. She apparently claimed that they have “since gone out of business” — but the Secretary of State never got told. Her claims about how the mortgage leads business worked are obvious nonsense. Also, they were still sending faxes five or six months after I spoke to them about the faxes and their legality — and they knew, when I called them the first time. The article doesn’t mention it, but Integris also fed information back to their fax blaster, who gave my home phone number out to complainers, claiming I was the advertiser.

The second is an article on why OOXML is not a viable standard, published by IBM developerWorks. It’s an attempt to clarify issues so those of you who know a bit about computers, or are interested in XML, but haven’t got the time to read a six thousand page standard, can quickly get up to speed on what exactly is the big deal.

Peter Seebach

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Scientology's amazing tax break

(Personal)

2008-02-13 23:21
Comments [1]

Go to the search engine of your choice, and enter these keywords:

scientology tax deduction religious training

Unlike any (other?) religion, the Church of Scientology gets a special tax break — money paid for their “training” is tax-deductible. No one else can claim this. Why can Scientologists? When this “training” is a substantial chunk of their income (and boy, do they get a lot of income), and is used to fund all sorts of health resorts and the like, it seems odd that it’s considered tax-deductible.

Why? It came about, somehow, during the IRS’s clash with the CoS organization over their tax-exempt status, which they apparently did not qualify for — until something mysterious and undocumented happened to cause the IRS to settle. Read more about Scientology’s mysterious, and perhaps unjustified, tax breaks.

But wait, aren’t they a religion?

Here’s what L. Ron Hubbard said about the decision to pitch the CoS as a “religion”:

Scientology 1970 is being planned on a religious organization basis throughout the world. This will not upset in any way the usual activities of any organization. It is entirely a matter for accountants and solicitors

In short: They are a “religion” only insofar as it gets them tax breaks. In other documents, in other places, they avoid the label. But in the US, where it allows them to avoid paying taxes on very large amounts of money, they are a “religion” — and indeed, one which gets special privileges that religions normally don’t get.

Peter Seebach

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An open letter to the Scientologists

(Personal)

2008-02-13 21:08
Comments

There was a really compelling Scientologist at one of the protests over the weekend, who was asking a really hard question: Do we want her to just walk away from the religion she’s practiced for twenty years because some guy who can’t even get his facts straight says it’s bad?

No, ma’am. We don’t.

Like most of the people involved in these protests, I really have no objection to people believing stuff that sounds crazy to me. You have thetans, I have my magical Jewish zombie, and that’s fine by me. I don’t object to Scientology. I object to the harassment tactics practiced by the Church of Scientology. I object to people dying at the hands of a cult.

I have no gripe with the rank and file victims of the cult, the people who will lose their jobs and never see their families again if they admit that the “tech” really isn’t working for them. I want them to be free. Free to read whatever books they want. Free to question what they’re told. Free to practice that religion, or any other, as they please. So I suppose it’s time for an open letter to our Scientologist friends:

No, friend, I don’t want you to walk away from the religion you’ve been in for much of your adult life.

If you walk away, your friends and family will be questioned, rigorously, about their possible influence in your doubts. That is to say, they will likely be tortured, and charged for the privilege.

If you walk away, you may lose your job, your home, and everyone you know, all at once.

If you walk away, you are quite likely to be stalked and harassed for the rest of your life, with a never-ending string of “bad luck” as people are told everything that the Church has on you that could hurt your chances.

None of us want that to happen to you. Keep on smiling. Keep your ears to the ground. If you are TOTALLY sure you are not being watched, go ahead and send a quick email, or post on a board somewhere. Let us know how it’s going. Let us know how we can help.

But for now? Stay safe. Until the control freaks are out of power, you are going to be very very vulnerable to their attacks. Chill. Relax. They will be gone soon. Hang in there. We’re coming.

We are worried for you.
We want you to be safe.
We are willing to take those risks for you.
Expect us.

Peter Seebach

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CoS protest report

(Personal)

2008-02-10 19:29
Comments [3]

So, I went to a protest today against the Church of Scientology. I’ve already written about the reasons. Here’s some impressions from the event:

It was cold. About ten below zero for us Americans; everyone else would call it about twenty-five below. That’s not including the wind chill, with which it was probably somewhere south of forty below. The cold was bad; the chilling effect may have been worse. Nonetheless, there were sixty or seventy people there. When I showed up, there were two police cars, but one of them drove off. The police were very polite, and quite helpful.

Pretty early on, this guy “just walking past” started talking to the group. On careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that he was probably a plant. A few things:

1. He shouted things that could almost have been internet memes, but weren’t. For instance, I think he was shouting “up with fur” at one point.
2. He started trying to incite people to shouting more loudly, and being more angry. This is a bad sign.
3. He kept trying to get people to yell things like “Scientology is a fucking cult!” None of the other people there were using obscenities. He was, right in front of the police.
4. He was about the only person (maybe there was one other?) all day to cross to the side of the street where the CoS building was. He went over looking menacing, and the cops told him to back away.
5. When he did this, there was no visible fear reaction from the Scientologists inside, despite the fact that they had no fewer than three people watching us constantly.
6. He continually harassed people, exhorted them, and tried to anger them.
7. He yanked signs away from people.
8. He threw things at at least one person.
9. He littered.

In short, he behaved in a way that makes no sense if you assume he’s a random passerby who approves of the protest, but in a way that makes excellent sense if you want to see these protests turn ugly so the CoS can claim to be persecuted.

What else?

The protest was primarily centered across the street from the CoS offices on Nicollet Mall, but there were substantial groups at both the 10th Street and 11th Street corners. Note that the 11th Street corner had no windbreaks, and was easily ten degrees colder (in practice) than the other side.

There was a drawn curtain on the second floor of their building, with just a thin opening, in which there was a camera, on which you would occasionally see someone’s hand. Given the CoS’s long history of harassing critics, this was probably intended to try to come up with information about people to harass.

Lots of people driving by honked and waved, and some cheered. One person biking past yelled “Anonymous delivers!”

I talked to a couple of people, and we handed out a number of flyers. One of the people I talked to was very interested, simply because she couldn’t imagine people being out in weather like this if there wasn’t something serious going on.

There were two more people (whom I didn’t see, as the protest was sort of scattered) who apparently tried to cause various trouble or pick fights. As with the other CoS things, and given their long history of trying to fake attacks or threats to their organization, it seems reasonable to assume that they’re plants.

The waitress who served dinner to us on our way home used to live in New York, and had lots of cool stories about how abusive the Scientologists were there, and how bad their “personality test” was.

The fact is, this was not a group of “cyberterrorists”. This was a bunch of reasonably well-educated people (although one person, being interviewed, said this was the anniversary of Lisa McPherson’s death at the hands of Scientology when it was actually her birthday…) protesting a dangerous organization with a long history of brutal and illegal retaliation against critics. I didn’t hear much mockery of Scientology beliefs, although I’m sure there was some. I did hear a lot of criticism of abusive practices.

And it was cold.

No, really.

COLD.

ice forming on eyelashes

Those are not the eyes of a terrorist.

Peter Seebach

Comments [3]

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Fair Game

(Personal)

2008-02-09 20:59
Comments [4]

Once, long ago, the Church of Scientology had a policy, called the “Fair Game” policy. This policy said that “enemies” of the church could be “SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”

Later, this policy’s name was revoked. Note: The policy was not revoked, but the name was revoked, in an order claiming:

The practice of declaring people FAIR GAME will cease.

FAIR GAME may not appear on any Ethics Order. It causes bad public relations.

This P/L does not cancel any policy on the treatment or handling of an SP.

But SPs (“Suppressive Persons”, those who oppose the church in any way) are, in fact, still subject to the exact same treatment.

This is not a vague abstraction of hypothetical retaliation. Look at what happened to Paulette Cooper when she wrote a book critical of the church. My personal favorite was when they had people steal her typing paper to submit fake bomb threats to their own churches and claim she wrote them, but you may find other parts of the story just as engaging. Note that harassment of Paulette Cooper is ongoing.

Over the years, it’s gradually become easier to find accurate information about the Church of Scientology. A lot of people are focused on mocking their beliefs (and to be fair, I do find the spaceships that look just like DC-8s, only with rocket motors, to be a bit questionable), but I really don’t care. People believing crazy stuff are not a problem for me.

The problem for me is the systematic and brutal attacks that the church has repeatedly launched against their critics.

Enter Anonymous. A bunch of people who normally content themselves to hang around on bulletin boards and post badly-drawn furry porn got annoyed at the CoS attempts to suppress a recent (and hilarious) video showing Tom Cruise demonstrating just how crazy their beliefs can get… And they started trying to undermine the CoS. The thing is, even though very few people have thought highly of Anonymous, well, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The Church of Scientology has killed people. It has put people in gulags. Their dogged insistence on refusing even minimal treatment for mental disorders has done irreperable harm to thousands of people. And, perhaps most significantly, their heinous abuses of the US legal system have done immense damage.

So tomorrow, February 10th of 2008, people are protesting at their churches. There’s a protest scheduled for the Minneapolis branch. The temperature outside will be under zero degrees, with windchill to below -20. Scientologists often react to protest with specially-trained staff who harass and intimidate protesters, and it’s not unusual at all for them to make fake claims. The only difference? Lots of people who know this and are bringing cameras.

A great deal of operational security is going into this; people are covering their faces, arriving through public transit, and so on. And the CoS has issued a preemptive press release announcing that these “cyberterrorists” are devotees of both Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto — a feat of intellectual acrobatics I doubt many people could manage. But you know what? It ain’t so. Many of the people going to these protests (I know half a dozen, easily) have never read either of them. I certainly haven’t, sad though that is in someone usually interested in politics.

The Church of Scientology claims that this is about suppressing free speech. It’s not; it’s about suppressing systematic abuses of the legal system, and it’s about suppressing organized and premeditated criminal acts. They claim that it’s about their religion, but it’s not. No one’s protesting the freezone people, who believe the same things, but don’t, as a matter of policy, try to destroy people who criticize them.

To a certain extent, it’s great for everyone to be anonymous; it’s impossible to take action against a whole bunch of nobody in particular that you can’t even identify. But what about the people who can’t hide their identities? What about the thousands of people who would oppose needless deaths caused by Scientology, but dare not be the first to come out and say so, lest they be harassed for twenty or thirty years by a multi-billion dollar organization? What can they do?

You there, reading this? You can be Anonymous too. You do not have to fear these people; they don’t have enough hired goons to get all of us. You do not have to hide your face when you walk past their buildings. You do not have to be afraid of them anymore. Courts around the world have, on many occasions, indicted and even convicted Scientologists for their criminal behaviors. Many countries are no longer extending them unwarranted protection as a “religion”, but treating them rather more like a protection racket or a pyramid scheme — which is, in the end, how they do business. If the Church of Scientology really wants to be treated as a legitimate organization, a great way to start on that would be not to go proving us all right by harassing us.

Hi. My name is Peter Seebach. My contact info is not hard to find. And today, I am Anonymous.

Peter Seebach

Comments [4]

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Dr. Bronner is dead, but has been reincarnated as a PS3 fan.

(GeekStuff)

2008-02-08 19:09
Comments [1]

This is absolutely amazing. There’s a guy on a PS3 fan site who is… Well.

$$$This is the battle between Seebs Pessimisms and My Optimisms!$$$

While I choose to aim higher in order to hit a target. Seebs merely defaults to aiming at the floor and ends up having us hitting ourselves in the foot with his ignorance of what lies B3yond the Box!

I aim for the sky in order to at least hit something. While he aims for the floor, in order to miss the target entirely. Just so he can justify his wii bit of ignorance concerning his view of PS3’s Power!

It’s yin and yang in the balance. Darth Vader against Luke Skywalker. Out to harness the Force to conquer Evil or to help him crush all opposition to his/their dominance. Mine is the Battle to allow us as PS3 Fans the Right to Feel Good about our console of choice. I’m positive and he’s negative. Numbers, facts and figures, without feelings even in the equation is what he offers. With only electrical shorts and quirks running rampant through his brain. We love our PS3 and he hates the fact that wii do. But we PS3 fans have rights too! To be free of his cutting, belittle-ling, pessimistic errant ugliness. We know about feelings and he only knows those feelings sown in doubt, hate, and fear of the unknown. We have rights not to be attacked by his childish egomania festering out in belligerent disrespect of our rights as human beings here.

The sense that he somehow owns these forums (therefore our very thoughts), invades and pervades the atmosphere that surrounds us. Making many of us afraid to post for fear of his and others (like Mynd and other so called professionals), who’s mere opinions are to be regarded as if from GODs! …..the use of imagination and the belief that we may have a better system than any of them believe, is considered heresy. Where the edge of the PS3 World, has yet to be fully explored by either Programmers or US! ……and that like in the Middle Ages (w/Columbus), crossing that line makes us all crazy lunatics in their eyes!

Are we going to continue to allow this invasion of despots with their sock puppets to scare us into retreat? They have us all backed into our foxholes. It’s time for a REVOLUTION! Where we get our information from where we can trust that it hasn’t been stretched to fit their lies. The information I provide here is not just from the same old boards and specs we’ve all seen a thousand times. I’ve gone to the Manufacturer’s specs on the actual parts numbers in our PS3’s. So now Seebs and his whole lot of snickering and anti-PS3 spam spewing clones/cronies can take a hike. It’s now our PS3’s they’re dealing with. For us it’s an Adventure, for them it’s a Mission of ill repute to brain wash us all in the name of their GOD. “IGNORANCE”!

By opening this thread I invited everyone in. Seebs moved in quickly to take possession of it. His fears of us will now be justified. As we take back our side of the PS3Forums and send them all packing into retreat behind their Wii and 360 console Forum barriers.

We the fans of the PS3 do hereby declare our Freedom from this invasion of Haters! ….and in order to form a more perfect PS3Forums (beyond the confines of their corrupt minds), we do solemnly swear to ignore the pestilence they bring upon us all. We do this in the name of “Freedom From Ignorance” for all Playstationkind!

As you might expect, his essential arguments are, uhm. Well, they’re innovative. He picks up bits and pieces of spec sheets, quotes them out of context, adds numbers when it doesn’t make sense to add them, multiplies things by irrelevant numbers, and makes up an incredible variety of lies. Given a slide from a 2006 Sony developer conference that has numbers on it he doesn’t like, he’s claimed that it’s a fake, he’s claimed that Sony’s Phil Harrison dismissed it as a “preparation error” in 2005, he’s claimed that it reflects specs from before major upgrades were made to the system, and he’s tried to argue that it doesn’t line up correctly with spec sheets. Interestingly, not only are all of these wrong, no two of them can both be correct at the same time!

If you find stupidity, and madness, interesting, have a look:

http://www.ps3forums.com/showthread.php?t=122078

Peter Seebach

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The Cat In The Hat

(Personal)

2008-02-03 15:27
Comments [1]

Molly, it turns out, was indeed not yet spayed. She is now. However, she is the sort of cat who nibbles at stitches, and she now has a nasty-looking incision that went a little septic, but looks to be improving with treatment.

This is the sort of thing which merits an epic poem. Sadly, I can’t write one.

Molly, wearing one of those collars to keep her from biting her stitches

The Cat In The Hat

The cat is in the hat.
The hat is on the cat.
The cat is sad!
The hat is bad!
The feet are too far, the walls are too near.
It weighs down her head, it flattens her ear.
Could we, please, remove the hat?
She would not bite.
She would not scratch.
Would we, please, release the cat?
She wants it gone,
with great dispatch.

(And no, the vet’s last name isn’t Geisel, why do you ask?)

Peter Seebach

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Instant Review: No More Heroes

(GeekStuff)

2008-02-01 23:22
Comments

So, I figured I’d pick up the game most unlike Endless Ocean.

No More Heroes is a flourescent painting of a soup can. It’s art; it masquerades as something utterly vapid, and it’s easy to think it really is just that vapid, but they keep piling on things that are dumber and dumber until you realize that no one could be that bad by accident — and it clicks.

The plot, if I may use the term so broadly, is that you control a character named Travis Touchdown, who has been tricked into taking on the tenth-ranked assassin in the world. (Conveniently, the top eleven all live in the city he’s got a crash space in.) He meets a mysterious French girl, whose shirt is open so you can see her bra, who explains to him that, now that he’s ranked, he can either kill all the others in order, or be killed by some new up-and-coming sort — she apparently forgot to mention this.

Does this motivate him? Not really. But that she says maybe she’ll “do it” with him if he becomes number one? That’s motivation enough.

A character whose defining characteristic is that he’s willing to climb over hundreds of bodies in order to have a shot at sleeping with a pretty girl that he thinks of as an evil and manipulative bitch? We’ve just gotten started.

Save points are toilets. You recharge your “beam katana” by making wanking guestures — which are shown in-game, too. When you kill enemies right, little slot machine icons show up on screen — get three cherries and you get a bonus power! The rankings of the top assassins are shown on a high score chart that would have looked a little dated in 1986.

This game is a beautiful, and rather biting, commentary on a whole lot of other games, especially things like Grand Theft Auto or the Godfather game. The fourth wall never had a chance, and the graphical style does a lot to cover up the Wii’s hardware limitations. You’d never mistake it for a PS3 game, but it has substantial style, and looks pretty decent. Frame rate is good, but stutters sometimes.

Overall… It’s art. If you are interested by or fascinated by media which comment on their genres, you will like it. If you think GTA is a serious game that deserves a lot of respect, you probably won’t like NMH, because you’ll spend the entire game feeling like the designer is mocking you, which he is. If you think games like GTA are fun, you might enjoy this one, as long as you don’t try to take it too seriously.

Peter Seebach

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