Not only was there a shakeup in the 49ers coaching staff after the firing of Jim Harbaugh, but the 49ers have lost almost enough players to field a team. Many of them are starters.

[Edit Aug 28] and starting OLB Ahmad Brooks was charged with sexual battery, so that might be another player out.

We'll miss these guys too

Judging by the preseason, the new players and coaching staff are doing a good job. However, I have no idea who these people are.


Barely related: explaining football to a dinosaur.

Some blogger argues that Cecil the Lion was not famous before the media made him famous. TL;DR version:

According to Google Trends, “Cecil the Lion” was searched ZERO times before July this year.

Wikileaks has announced:

TPP fails after scandal over US spying on Japan's trade negotiators

This conclusion is not supported by the story they link to, so it is not clear where they are getting this information. Maybe Wikileaks is spying on the Japanese.


Also: David Sirota claims that Hillary Clinton was "deeply involved" in promoting the TPP.

When my comics routine starts to involve hunting through five pages of topwebcomics.com for the comics that I've started following since the last time I updated my webcomics list, it's time to build a new list. Read more... )

How did Chinese hackers break into the Office of Personnel Management (mentioned earlier)? The OPM gave them root access.

They say that the X-Files is coming back, so I'll drop my vague ideas of what I'd have done with the property instead.

Introduction

Some FBI agents at a field office in the South are working a mafia case and are short of leads. The new guy Jason sets his computer to run an overnight search of all networked drives overnight for some of the names they are looking for information on. In the middle of the next day, as the search is still running, he starts getting results from file names beginning with the letter X. One of the files is a report issued fifteen years earlier by someone who had the same name as a CIA assistant director who had been in the news recently for mismanaging money.

He brings it to his partner Jeanette whose first words after glancing at the file are "It's an X-file. Those are for UFOs and stuff." He tells her to look at the name of the informant and she recognizes the importance immediately.

They bring it to the special agent in charge who confirms that the assistant director was working in this area at the time, and he finds it very interesting that a trustworthy report would end up in the X-Files. He asks for a printed copy of the report, says that he will investigate this personally, tells Jeanette that she is in charge of the investigation while he is out of the office, and departs alone.

Jason looks at a few other X-Files while he's on break and laughs at them.

A few days later, they go looking for the CIA guy's reports in the X-Files during a meeting with other agents and some of the files are missing. The SAIC's jaw drops. He orders everyone to print out everything they still have access to, "we're going back to paper for this investigation."

Jason and Jeanette get the building's IT to copy all of the X-Files to an external hard drive on the local network so it is under the control of the field office and they can search it more quickly.

The mafia investigation ends abruptly when the mafia leader's yacht sinks in the Gulf of Mexico with some of his deputies on board. Jeanette looks at the SAIC as if she thinks he might be responsible, but the look on his face is one of dejection and defeat rather than guilt. SAIC gets back in command mode: this is going to cause a power vacuum, somebody is going to take over, get on top of things before the gangs start a war across the entire state.

Jason goes home where he still lives with his parents and mentions "hey, did you know Mrs. Johnson's house is supposed to be haunted?" On his next off day he visits Mrs. Johnson and awkwardly asks her if she has ever seen a ghost, because he was reading an old ghost story and it had her address in it. She says no, but when her mother was dying she said that there used to be an angel in the house before the fire that happened when Mrs. Johnson was only four.

On his next work day, Jason updates the 60-year-old X-file about the ghost sighting with the information that he collected on his day off, writing that he did this on his day off, and marks the file as closed. Soon he is in the SAIC's office. The SAIC says "I hear that you closed an X-file. I've been hearing it from my friends in Washington. Now, I read your appendix. It was solid work and you didn't waste any taxpayer money. My gut instinct is to chew you out but you didn't do anything wrong and you did good work. Just... don't forget that we have real crimes to solve. If you want to chase ghosts, keep doing it on your own time."

As Jason leaves, the SAIC adds "and let me know if you find anything interesting in those files." The viewer has seen enough of both characters to know that the SAIC's definition of interesting may be different from Jason's.

On her day off, Jeanette mentions to a friend that her partner decided to investigate a haunted house because it was close to where he lives. Her friend mentions that she knows where there is a haunted house...

Soon they are at the "haunted" house with sleeping bags, laptops, and recording equipment. Jeanette's friend brought her kids who are about 8 and 5. It's a sleepover party atmosphere and Jason mentions that if there are any ghosts they would scare them off. In the morning, they start wrapping up. No one saw anything, no one had nightmares. They walk out the door as the ghost watches.

Different attitudes, different climate

The X-Files themselves are a source of mystery and comedy until they become familiar.

Not every X-File is real. Most of them are worthless, introduced and thrown away in a short time. An extra mystery in the show is which mystery will turn out to be the real one.

There is more than one story in each episode. Some are resolved quickly, some are spread out across a few episodes, many are simply background stories.

Neither investigator is a believer in the paranormal until it forces itself on them, and their attitudes and approaches are different from Mulder and Scully. Jason is in it for the "wouldn't it be cool if..." factor and he drives most paranormal investigations with his eagerness. Jeanette prefers rational explanations but enjoys carrying out the investigation and seeing where the facts lead.

The agents solve real crimes for several episodes before they are assigned to work on the X-Files on a special request from a deputy director who their SAIC is not familiar with.

The agents work in an office with other staff. Actors playing background characters will be hired on for a season to just nod and say "hi" once an episode and to have the same familiar faces in the same cubicles. The agents have friends and families. The cost of the show is going through the roof.

Long-term plot

In later seasons:

  • Somebody gives the order to delete all of the X-Files. The backup drive at the field office is the only copy until they start getting requests from other field offices to make a copy.
  • Jason gets beamed up by a UFO. It turns out to be a secret US military aircraft. After seeing his FBI badge, they hand him over to "The Investigator": Dana Scully. She tells him that aliens do exist, and welcome to the resistance. Jason is written out of the show and replaced by another character.

Some previous concepts:

One of my game ideas that I'll never get around to developing is a multi-generational RPG where the initial party of heroes fights some battle against the stereotypical evil force, then their kids fight the next part of the battle, and then their kids finally defeat the evil, where this is driven by a game engine and not a written script. How would this work?

1. The player must be enticed to retire the party.

Possible mechanisms:

  • The party defeats the local evil that they see and misses the big picture. With no remaining quests, the party automatically retires.
  • In-game full party wipe. Survivors flee.
  • Randomly throw romantic encounters at the player until the player accepts the option to marry and settle down, or a limit is reached where the character automatically chooses this option.
  • Randomly cause events that cause fighters to leave the party until the player is left with so few fighters that the party is guaranteed to get wiped out if they keep attacking, leaving the player to decide that retiring is the better choice.

2. The next party should have the potential of being stronger than the last.

This follows naturally from the retirement of fighters being a game. Children should have traits similar to those of their parents, plus a little bonus for having been raised by heroes.

3. The evil force regrows strength between generations.

There must be low-level targets for your kids to beat their swords against before they go into the final dungeon. The game engine will randomly generate a series of local villains, missions, and travel mechanisms between continents that open up when previous missions are completed.

4. The game environment changes between generations. Towns grow. Buildings fall into disrepair and are replaced. NPCs have children, get old, and die.

Drawbacks

While the idea is intriguing, there are drawbacks.

Randomly generated content is not as interesting as well-written scripts. If the characters are randomly generated and the mission engine pulls random events out of a bag of tricks, the dialogue cannot be written toward specific characters. The game cannot have all of the little things that make a good RPG stand out from rpgmaker amateur hour.

If the player gets a different randomly generated set of kids on each playthrough, there is no emotional attachment. There will be an emotional backlash on additional playthroughs when the player's kids are different from the ones on their first playthrough, as someone who remembers the adventures of their daughter Sara may be a bit grumpy when they get a son named Fred.

Characters cannot be used as points of reference from which to talk to other players about the game. "You know that character...." they don't know that character. At best, the game can keep a log of events and players can share logs.

Abstraction

There is a freeware flash game called Idle Monster Slayers that is basically Cow Clicker with an implementation of generational improvement. The game's rules are:

  1. Gold is produced over time.
  2. Click the button to trade gold for an increase in the rate of gold production.
  3. Soul Orbs are produced over time at high levels, and increase the rate of gold production when the game is reset.
  4. Click the reset button to collect Soul Orbs and zero out the rest of the game.

During any single playthrough:

  1. Player strength rises linearly over playing time.
  2. Difficulty rises geometrically or exponentially over the length of game content that the player completes.

There eventually reaches a point where it takes more and more playing time to gain the slightest advantage, and the marginal gain of additional leveling up approaches worthlessness. The player may choose to give up at this point, and the game provides a mechanism where giving up will produce a bonus on the next playthrough.

Player strength is modified by a bonus that increases in each generation, allowing the player to reach a further point in the game before gains are stymied.

The Supreme Court let stand the Google v. Oracle decision finding APIs to be copyrightable (mentioned earlier). They did not make a decision but chose not to hear it on the advice of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli who affirmed the appeals court ruling.

Reality:

U.S. military members serving in countries that observe Ramadan are required to adhere to certain practices while outside U.S. installations.

“The commander’s policy dictates that airmen will adhere to local law, which prohibits eating, drinking or tobacco use off base in public,” said Sickles.

This is only a When In Rome situation. Fasting during Ramadan is the law in some countries, not only a religious practice, and soldiers are expected to follow the country's law when they are off base.

al-Monitor, citing emails from Tyler Drumheller to Sidney Blumenthal:

According to one entry from March 22, 2011, “officers” with the General Directorate for External Security — the French intelligence service — “began a series of secret meetings” with Jalil and Gen. Abdul Fatah Younis in Benghazi in late February and gave them “money and guidance” to set up the council ... “In return for their assistance,” the memo states, “the DGSE officers indicated that they expected the new government of Libya to favor French firms and national interests, particularly regarding the oil industry in Libya.” ... Another memo dated May 5 asserts that individuals close to the council stated “in strictest confidence” that as early as mid-April 2011 French humanitarian flights also included “executives from the French company TOTAL, the large construction from VINCI and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. (EADS).” Subsequent flights have allegedly carried representatives “from the conglomerate THALYS and other large French firms, all with close ties to [Sarkozy].”

Also blamed is Bernard Henri-Levy.

al-Monitor notes that this information is impossible to verify, and questions Drumheller's honesty due to his involvement in the Nigerian yellowcake hoax.

John Schindler on Twitter says that the Office of Personnel Management data breach is much worse than reported given the types of information that is in this database, including blackmail material and identities of foreign contacts.

Let me explain a bit about why the compromise of OPM information is so serious from a security & counterintelligence (CI) viewpoint. We can take it as a given that career/HR type info has been compromised on 4M FedGov employees (2.1M current) whose data got hacked. That's important -- but far more is background investigation (BI) info which OPM first denied was compromised, now admits it has been.

A USG BI, which OPM handles a lot of for many different agencies, is NOT some sort of glorified credit check, it's much more than that. BI contains very personal & private information, supplied by security clearance applicants then verified (one hopes) by adjudicators. BI data includes your personal life, travels, full bio, details on finances and any "troubles" -- legal, private, sexual, you name it. BI also goes into great detail about "foreign national contacts" of clearance holders and applicants -- a goldmine for foreign intel.

Whoever has this info now can say about FedGover X that they know more about them than that person's best friends, even spouse/partner. This is EXACTLY the sort of information any FI service would love to have in order to influence, recruit, or compromise USG personnel. From any CI viewpoint, OPM hack is a certified disaster that it will be difficult to repair in less than decades. A truly epic #FAIL

Only people who may know me as well as my BI paperwork does are my lawyer, my doctor & my priest. Nearly all cleared people = similar. Although OPM says "only" 4M FedGov are impacted, I strongly advise ANYBODY who's had a clearance since 1985 to watch credit rprts etc.

The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the NSA phone metadata collection program illegal. They skip over the constitutional question of Smith v. Maryland and say that since it was not authorized by Section 215 or any other law, it is not legal for the government to do. I love it.
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