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Nintendo's official Zelda site states Ganondorf surname

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Nintendo's Legend of Zelda website has stated the surname of the series' big baddie: Ganondorf Dragmire.

It's the first official usage of the surname in 25 years - since 1992, when it originally appeared in A Link to the Past's English game manual.

The Legend of Zelda series features different incarnations of Ganondorf (and Link, and Zelda), and so Ganondorf Dragmire was previously assumed to be just the name of Ganondorf within that game.

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mwclarkson
213 days ago
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Gotta say I'm disappointed it isn't "Ganondorf Ganondorf"
Providence RI USA
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The Underlying Cause of the United Fiasco (Among Many Others)

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The volume and ferocity of public outrage over United Airlines' forcible ejection of a passenger last week has been remarkable -- the last time I looked, the main article on the incident in the New York Times had prompted more than 6,500 comments. Clearly, this is a story that's touched an extremely sensitive public nerve. But why? I think there's a reason the analysts seeking to answer that question have overlooked.

In addition to the outrage of overbooking, the gradual accretion of indignities — jamming ever-more passengers into ever-smaller spaces, the added charges for things that were once included in the cost of a ticket, the privileges offered those who pay for first class seating, the lines, the crowds, the occasional nasty gate attendant — are the most readily identifiable causes of the furor, duly noted in any number of columns. 

The assessment that gets closest to the point I want to make came from New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo, who wrote that a variety of technologies — online travel sites where customers can find their flights and buy their tickets without ever talking to a human being, for example — have allowed the airlines to serve more customers with fewer employees, encouraging a "race to the bottom" in terms of passenger service and satisfaction.  


All of these practices tend to produce feelings of dehumanization. In their pursuit of efficiency — processing the greatest number of people with the least amount of cost — the airlines have succeeded in making their relationships with their customers as impersonal as possible. We feel as if we're being "herded" like cattle in airport lines because we are being herded like cattle — and not just in airport lines, but in countless other exchanges in modern life. The United fiasco tapped into a river of resentment and rage that these experiences of dehumanization have cumulatively produced. And yes, this river of resentment and rage is a tributary of the greater reservoir of resentment and rage that put Donald Trump in the White House. "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!"

There's a word that describes the mechanism of disconnection that's responsible for these feelings of dehumanization: mediation. Mediation means dealing with a given reality through something else. (That definition is borrowed from Thomas de Zengotita). A vast, vastly complex operational system stands between — mediates between — United's passengers and the people who run the airline. This system combines legions of machines, an extensive array of management techniques, and thousands of employees. The employees who deal directly, in person, with passengers are the only human interface with the system, but first and foremost they are agents of the system. As such they are dehumanized themselves.


The power, reach, and speed of the machines enable the system; their impersonality defines it. A fundamental characteristic of technology is action at a distance. The physical and psychic distance between the people who have their hands on the system's levers — management — and their customers is so great that the former are unable to see the latter as human beings. Passengers are numbers, and are treated accordingly. Managers, as many commentators have noted, are motivated by the drive for profit. Mediation is the means by which they are able to pursue profit without being unduly hampered by qualms about the impacts of their decisions on their customers or their employees. United’s stockholders, on whose behalf management’s decisions are made, aren’t anywhere to be seen.


This is how a 67-year-old man winds up being dragged by armed security forces from a seat he's paid for. As far as management is concerned, it's nothing personal, at least until an especially embarrassing incident reveals that it is, in fact, extremely personal. At that point the public relations experts are called in to compose an apology. 

The other passengers on the United flight knew, unconsciously if not consciously, that this was only an extreme example of a commonplace disregard for their own individuality as human beings, distinguished by degree but not in kind from the sorts of treatment we've all experienced in countless encounters with other mediated systems (eg. your health insurance company, or your Internet service provider). When we feel dehumanized we tend to behave inhumanely, which is why we hear so many complaints these days about the disappearance of manners and the coarsening of the culture in general.

Major companies like Amazon and Apple go out of their way to emphasize service because they recognize how important it is to overcome the essential impersonality of their relationship with their customers. That's smart, and it helps. Nonetheless at a fundamental level the impersonality of the exchange remains. Mark Zuckerberg's recent manifesto "Building Global Community" grapples with the same problem. How can Facebook foster personal connection with two billion users? It can't.  

John Lachs
More than thirty years ago a professor at Vanderbilt University named John Lachs published a brilliant book about the corrosive effects of mediation, Responsibility and the Individual in Modern Society. The further removed we are from the effects of our actions, he said, the easier it is to remain ignorant of their effects, and unmoved by them. The depth of our ignorance is "largely a measure of the length of the chain of intermediaries" that separates us from the consequences of actions we initiate. Distance opens the way for ignorance and moral lassitude in consumers as well as managers. We don't see the suffering of the people who produce the products we buy, and therefore don't care much about it, until some tragedy brings it to our attention.

Lachs cited three specific consequences of mediation. First, when others perform actions we initiate, they become instruments of our will. We come to view them as tools, as means to our ends, and we grow accustomed to manipulating them to accomplish those ends. The second consequence is that those who are manipulated develop a growing sense of passivity and impotence. Many have noted that the other passengers on the infamous United flight took no action other than recording the doctor's eviction on their smartphones and posting the video on Twitter, in itself a technologically mediated response. Others have noted that the public has uttered hardly a peep of protest as the airlines have undergone a series of mega-mergers that have radically reduced their need to worry about customer service or satisfaction. 

Oscar Munoz
The third and most important consequence cited by Lachs is the moral lassitude mentioned above. "We quickly lose sight of the conditions of our existence," Lachs says, "and forget, if we ever knew, the immediate qualities and long-range effects of our actions. There appears to be something grotesque or paradoxical about a person failing to have direct experience of his actions. It conjures up the image of a man drunk or anaesthetized who can move through life without creating a ripple in his mind…The result is that there are many acts no one consciously appropriates.”

United's chief executive, Oscar Munoz, failed to appropriate the result of his actions in last week's overbooking fiasco until he had to. In a culture in which technologies allow us to effortlessly extend our reach far beyond our lines of sight, this is a failure all of us share, to varying degrees, but none more so than the corporate executives who wield the most highly-developed, farthest-reaching mechanisms of mediation. We don't know who they are, usually, but their decisions shape our lives, at a distance.  






 ©Doug Hill, 2017



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mwclarkson
216 days ago
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Providence RI USA
betajames
217 days ago
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Michigan
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Goodbye Sweet Nomad

io9
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Things get weird on Mass Effect: Andromeda’s desert world of Eos when you start pushing the Nomad over 160 kilometers per hour. As several players have reported on Reddit, the glitch happens while zooming around the planet’s surface at high speeds.

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mwclarkson
225 days ago
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Flux capacitor engaged but alas passengers were not carried back in time with vehicle.
Providence RI USA
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Uber said to use “sophisticated” software to defraud drivers, passengers

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Uber has devised a "clever and sophisticated" scheme in which it manipulates navigation data used to determine "upfront" rider fare prices while secretly short-changing the driver, according to a proposed class-action lawsuit against the ride-hailing app.

When a rider uses Uber's app to hail a ride, the fare the app immediately shows to the passenger is based on a slower and longer route compared to the one displayed to the driver. The software displays a quicker, shorter route for the driver. But the rider pays the higher fee, and the driver's commission is paid from the cheaper, faster route, according to the lawsuit.

"Specifically, the Uber Defendants deliberately manipulated the navigation data used in determining the fare amount paid by its users and the amount reported and paid to its drivers," according to the suit filed in federal court in Los Angeles. Lawyers representing a Los Angeles driver for Uber, Sophano Van, said the programming was "shocking, "methodical," and "extensive."

The suit (PDF), which labeled the implementation of Uber's technology as a "well-planned scheme to deceive drivers and users," is one of a number of lawsuits targeting the San Francisco-based company. The suits range from disputes over drivers' employment rights to sex discrimination to trade-secrets theft. Just weeks ago, Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick, declared that he needed "leadership help."

This latest lawsuit claims that Uber implemented the so-called "upfront" pricing scheme in September and informed drivers that fares are calculated on a per-mile and per-minute charge for the estimated distance and time of a ride. "However, the software that calculates the upfront price that is displayed and charged to the Users calculates the expected distance and time utilizing a route that is often longer in both distance and time to the one displayed in the driver’s application," according to the suit.

In the end, the rider pays a higher fee because the software calculates a longer route and displays that to the passenger. Yet the driver is paid a lower rate based on a quicker route, according to the suit. Uber keeps "the difference charged to the User and the fare reported to the driver, in addition to the service fee and booking fee disclosed to drivers," according to the suit.

The manipulation of prices between the amount charged to Users and the amount reported to drivers is clever and sophisticated. The software utilized in determining the upfront price is specifically designed to provide a route distance and time estimate based on traffic conditions and other variables but not to determine the shortest/quickest reasonable route based on those conditions. Meanwhile, the software utilized in the driver’s application, which navigates the drivers to the User’s destination, utilizes traffic conditions and other variables to provide the driver with a more efficient, shorter, or quicker route to the User’s destination, resulting in a lower fare payout to the driver.

The suit claims breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, and unfair competition. The suit seeks back pay and legal fees, and it demands a halt to "the unlawful, deceptive, fraudulent, and unfair business practices."

Uber declined comment.

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mwclarkson
225 days ago
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Providence RI USA
popular
225 days ago
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3 public comments
steingart
221 days ago
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Wooooooooow
Princeton, NJ
reconbot
227 days ago
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Hahhaah, uber charging passengers one price and paying drivers another.
New York City
satadru
227 days ago
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Bloody hell.
New York, NY

The Long, Lucrative Right-wing Grift Is Blowing Up in the World's Face

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If you want to understand intra-GOP warfare, the decision-making process of our president, the implosion of the Republican healthcare plan, and the rest of the politics of the Trump era, you don’t need to know about Russian espionage tactics, the state of the white working class, or even the beliefs of the…

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mwclarkson
228 days ago
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Providence RI USA
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Overheads: Nobody Is Leaving Money On The Table

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Last week, after a surprise attempt by the Trump Administration to take back $1.2 billion of committed funds from NIH, HHS Secretary Tom Price responded:

Price repeatedly suggested reducing the amount the NIH pays universities to cover “overhead” costs, like lab equipment and utilities. That would let the agency direct more of its funds to actual research, even if the overall budget were reduced, he said.

“I was struck by one thing at NIH,” Price said, “and that is that about 30 percent of the grant money that goes out is used for indirect expenses, which as you know means that that money goes for something other than the research that’s being done.”

This led to much internet discussion about how certain places suck down YUGE! and BIGLY amounts of overheads, while other institutions (usually said discussants’) were frugal and noble. If universities had to compete on indirect costs, the major research gluttons would lose and the money would be distributed into the heartland, where good, pious (in a sciencey way) researchers and their administrators would spend the money wisely.

Before I get to the main point–that nobody is leaving money on the table–let’s discuss two other things. First, as Potnia Theron notes, this will just result in a lot of category shifting; related to that, there are things in the indirect category that are legitimate expenses (e.g., personal computers). Second, to all the overhead warriors, you do realize that neither scientists nor universities are getting that money? Instead, it’s going to pay for rich people’s tax cuts.

OK, so onto indirect costs. I went to NIH Exporter and downloaded the FY 2016 RePORTER Project Data (you can too!). Then I started looking at what percentage of institutions’ NIH funding was spent on direct versus indirect costs (keep in mind the caveat I mentioned above). I didn’t break this down by grant type, since the goal was simply to identify the percentage spent on indirect costs across the entire institution (besides, low overhead grants ‘subsidize’ high overhead grants). I also exclude grants that had no overheads, since these were small in size and uncommon, and when I checked a few, it wasn’t clear why there weren’t any overheads (these could be errors).

So let’s look at some institutions. Harvard (and I lumped together Harvard institutions, which administratively probably isn’t correct, but in the popular mind, they’re indistinguishable) has 72.7% of NIH funds spent on direct costs, and 27.3% spent on indirect costs. Now let’s look at some heartlandy stuff. University of North Dakota has a 75.4:24.6 direct-indirect cost split (go Fighting Hawks!), and North Dakota State (go Bison!) has a 72.2:27.8 split. ND State is basically the same as Harvard.

University of Nebraska (go ‘Huskers!) has a 71.8:28.2 split, while the Alaska universities had a 72.7:26.3 split. Stanford, not surprisingly, as it’s always played fast and loose with the rules, has a 68.7:31.3 split.

To examine the Boston effect, Northeastern University has a 74.8:25.2 split, better than many of the public universities. The Broad Institute (which is TAKIN ALL THE MUNEEZ!!) has a 78.6:21.4 split–very efficient! Entities with LLC in their names had a 73.6:26.4 split, while entities with “INC.” in their names had a 77.7:22.3 split.

When I first wrote about this, a faculty member at Ohio University worked himself into high dudgeon over coastal indirect rates. In 2016, Ohio University had a split of 68.9:31.1–worse than Harvard.

Whether overhead rates should be this high to begin with is another question (though this loss of funds would drive up tuition rates, even at large public universities by hundreds of dollars). But there aren’t significant disparities in indirect costs. Your humble heartland institution is just as greedy as your coastal elite one (sometimes even a bit more).

No one is leaving money on the table.




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mwclarkson
229 days ago
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Providence RI USA
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