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South Dakota driver licensing shenanigans [Aug. 22nd, 2015|10:18 am]
sparr
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Yesterday (Friday) I tried to get a driver license in South Dakota, having [I thought] fulfilled all of the requirements for doing so. I failed, due mostly to incompetence on the part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

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Old affidavit form: http://dps.sd.gov/licensing/driver_licensing/documents/RESIDENCYAFFIDAVIT_000.pdf

New affidavit form: http://dps.sd.gov/licensing/driver_licensing/documents/RESIDENCYAFFIDAVIT_001.pdf
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Epic Road Trip, first few days [Aug. 21st, 2015|09:51 am]
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My laptop died on my Boston moving trip, so this post is a bit delayed. Also, future posts in this series will probably not have exact date labels, so things can flow a little better.

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That's all I've got time to write right now. Time to grab our laundry and hit the road. Next post will probably be from Denver in a few days.
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Last rounds of ambulance prep before road trip, and a sad few hours. [Aug. 21st, 2015|09:23 am]
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2015/08/10 dashcam, tire compression

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2015/08/11 shopping, crafty stuff, power outlets

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2015/08/12 kitchen stuff

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2015/08/13 maintenance woes

Today, things took some turns for the worse, with a happy ending.

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2015/08/14 Sleeping, organizing, swamp cooler

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2015/08/15 Final touches

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That's all before I run off to move my storage belongings to Boston. In a few days, I'll be back in Chicago and starting the road trip. Future improvements and updates will be done/written on the road!
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Ambulance almost road-trip-ready, entering the home stretch of prep [Aug. 9th, 2015|09:12 pm]
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2015/08/08 Organizing, fridge test, solenoid resistance, swamp cooler

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2015/08/09 Fuel efficiency, test drive, nap

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Ambulance prep, research, wiring, packing, parts [Aug. 8th, 2015|12:04 pm]
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2015/08/05 Unpacking, packing, air conditioner

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2015/08/06 Wiring diagrams

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2015/08/07 Goo-gone, unnecessary wiring, lighting mistakes, and ordered parts

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Next on the agenda, designing additional shelves/cabinets, for the "kitchen" stuff, appliances, electronics, clothes, etc. This will all go in the space previously occupied by the gun racks.
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Ambulance organization and wiring [Aug. 4th, 2015|08:48 pm]
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2015/08/03 Voltage shenanigans

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2015/08/04 Unpacking, exploring

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That's all for now. More news to come tomorrow! Maybe more organization, maybe more wire following, maybe the start of the actual wiring diagram.
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Electrical and mechanical exploration of the ambulance [Jul. 26th, 2015|09:34 pm]
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2015/07/25 continued

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2015/07/26 Under the hood and mechanical bits

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Ambulance back from the mechanic and first electrical exploration [Jul. 25th, 2015|11:36 pm]
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2015/07/24 The ambulance returns from the mechanic.

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2015/07/25 Let there be light!

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Bought an Ambulance, first of many journal entries [Jul. 23rd, 2015|11:29 pm]
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I'm going to try to keep a journal of my adventures in owning a 1986 Ford E-350 ambulance. This is the first post in that journal, covering the first few days. If all goes well, future entries will come one day at a time.

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Jealous for the first time [Jul. 6th, 2015|05:49 pm]
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I recently experienced jealousy for the first time, in a situation with no especially novel components. I would like to figure out why.

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Almost interviewed at Palantir today [Jun. 30th, 2015|04:42 pm]
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Today I had a job interview with Palantir in Washington, DC. Read more...Collapse )
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Tax shenanigans [Jun. 24th, 2015|01:37 pm]
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The Massachusetts Department of Revenue says I owe them money.

In 2012, someone with my name worked in MA, earned money, and had taxes withheld from their check.

In early 2013, someone with my name filed a tax return in MA claiming that amount of earnings and withholding.

MA doesn't believe these are the same two people. They say they don't have enough identification info* from me (the person who filed the tax return) to prove that I'm the person who paid the withholding, so I owe that amount [again].

I have a few questions, the answers to any of which might help me navigate this problem:

1) If they don't have enough info to connect my tax return to my withholding, how do they have enough info to levy my bank account?

2) If I'm not the person who paid that withholding, then once MA collects the money from me that they say I owe, they will have an extra thousand dollars or so from someone who doesn't owe them taxes. How can that person (who also happens to be me) get that money back?

3) If MA says that I owe them the money AND the person who paid the withholding also owed it, then that other person should be in trouble for not filing a tax return, right? Is there something I can do to trigger an investigation for that?

* - I don't have a social security card. I lost mine ~10 years ago. For the first 3-5 years, I couldn't replace it because MS didn't believe I was me when I requested a new birth certificate. They've since changed that. Now that I've got it, the SSA dislikes my birth certificate for some reason. I don't really care, since it virtually never matters that I don't have one. In those ten years, the MA DOR is the only organization that has made a fuss about it.
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Lakes of Fire 2015 [Jun. 22nd, 2015|12:40 pm]
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Last weekend I traveled from Chicago to Lucky Lake Campground in Rothbury, MI for the Great Lakes Regional Burn, Lakes of Fire, which is a spinoff event from Burning Man, similar to Alchemy, Firefly, Transformus, Burning Flipside, etc. This writing will be about my experience and observations.

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Overall, I'd say that LoF is one of the most enjoyable and well-organized burns that I've been to. I will definitely be attending again if I'm in the region, and I'd consider traveling for it.
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Mothers vs corpses, bodily autonomy [Jun. 3rd, 2015|11:41 am]
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Our society refuses to take organs from a corpse without the person's consent, even when it would save multiple lives. We refuse to take blood or bone marrow from an unwilling donor, even when it would save a life or cure a disease.

However, we are quite willing to subject a woman to months of pain, risk of injury or death, and mental trauma in order to preserve the life of one fetus.

This analogy has been a commonly occurring meme in pro-choice internet discussion communities recently, and it's an amazingly good one. It's so good that my powers of devil's advocacy are failing me. I need someone more creative than me, or a real anti-abortion advocate, to answer this question for me...

Why does a corpse have more right to bodily autonomy than a pregnant woman? Why do we give the dead body more rights than we give the living person?

PS: No arguments here about whether a fetus is alive, please. That's another issue for another thread. For the purpose of this discussion, I will concede that a fetus is a living person.
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Career progression [Jun. 1st, 2015|04:53 pm]
sparr
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A friend in search of a job in a field somewhat related to my career path recently posted that they are looking for a new job. They described themselves as "mid-career" in their field with ~2 years of job experience and ~1 year of education. This irked me, in a lot of ways.

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So, in summary... No one with 1 year of school and 2 years of experience is "mid-career", no matter how good they are at their job.

Unless they are a rabbit.
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Nomadic musings [May. 28th, 2015|08:09 pm]
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Allowing my thoughts to wander to how I want to spend the fall and maybe the winter, I've got some ideas that involve going nomad for a while...

2 months, attend Burning Man:

Aug 15, leave Chicago
Aug 16-29, cross the great plains, probably stop in Denver along the way
Aug 30 - Sep 6, Burning Man
Sep 7-20, California (mostly San Francisco)
Sep 20-31, cross the southwest and south, probably stop in Austin
Oct 1-5, Alchemy (large regional burn near Atlanta)
Oct 6-15, Atlanta to Nashville to ?? to NYC to Boston

2 months, no Burning Man:

Aug 30, leave Chicago
Sep, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida(?)
Oct 1-5, Alchemy (large regional burn near Atlanta)
Oct 6-30, Georgia, South Carolia, North Carolia, Virgina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, ... Boston

6 months, week long stops in cities, multi day camping in some parks:

Aug 15, leave Chicago
Aug 16-29, cross the great plains, probably stop in Denver along the way
Aug 30 - Sep 6, Burning Man
Sep 7-31, Cascadia
Oct, California
Nov, southwest
Dec, southeast
Jan, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio
Feb, Pennsylvania, New York, ... Boston

Anyone have any input that might totally derail any of these ideas?
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Shibaricon 2015 [May. 24th, 2015|07:35 pm]
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This weekend I'm at Shibaricon for the first time. I'm living in Chicago right now, so this may be my only chance to attend without paying for travel. I'm writing this on Sunday evening, while things are fresh on my mind. The event goes until Monday afternoon, so there's still one more night of play and a half day of classes ahead of me, but I don't expect those to significantly change what I'm going to write here.
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Geekway to the West con report [May. 17th, 2015|06:14 pm]
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After discovering the very thriving tabletop gaming community in Chicago I looked around and discovered that there are at least a few good medium size gaming conventions in the midwest that I had not previously heard of (aside from Origins and GenCon, which are rather large). The top one on my radar was Geekway to the West, where maybe 2500 gamers congregate in St Louis each spring. A number of folks from irc://freenode/#boardgames recommended it, and I read good things about it, so I decided it was worth a couple of days off work to check out.

I took Amtrak from Chicago to St Louis, which worked out pretty well. It's about a 5.5 hour ride for $34 each way, which compares pretty favorably to $100 for a plane ticket for a much less comfortable 90 minute flight plus an arbitrary number of hours of airport hoop-jumping. I'm actually on the train home as I write this.

The first major hiccup came after I reached St Louis and took their Metro train and bus out to the convention hotel on Thursday afternoon. I had made plans elsewhere in the city for Thursday night and my last decade of big city living left me making the spoiled assumption that I would be able to arrange transportation in the few hours before those other plans. That was a mistake. At the convention hotel I found myself with no reasonable way to attend a late night event ~25 miles away. The closest zipcar and relayrides were 5-10 miles away, with light to no taxi infrastructure to get me to them. Calling a taxi to take me into the city would cost $50+ each way. All of the non-airport car rental offices within reasonable distance of the hotel closed at such ridiculous times as 5-6PM on a week day. Their airport counterparts remained open, but had nothing for less than $100 per day. In hindsight, I should have rented a car downtown, rather than taking the train and bus to the hotel. If I visit St Louis again, I'll keep that in mind.

Having my Thursday night plans ruined, I ended up working a volunteer shift and then being a hermit for the night. I decided that I'd rather start fresh on Friday morning. That turned out to be a great idea, despite the loss of some hours of evening/night gaming.

Between Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I probably spent about 40 hours gaming, which I call a successful gaming weekend regardless of what else went on.

Regarding the gaming, Geekway has an amazing game library, where I spent my volunteer time. I donated a couple of games, the convention owns a few hundred, and a couple of board members also loan their own few hundred each as well. It was the best stocked game library I've seen at a con, and I'm including Origins' tabletop room and board room in that. Some resident techies have developed a library system to make checking games out and in as easy as barcode scanning the game and the person's badge, which allowed us to operate at a staggering pace, sometimes handling a dozen games in/out in a minute. This library, combined with many gamers' personal piles, kept a couple of 500-1000 seat rooms near capacity for most of the day, with just a few dead hours in the morning each day.

Separately, there is also another game collection entitled "Play and Win", filled with games donated by publishers and vendors and designers. Players record each time they play a game, and are entered in a drawing to win a copy of the game at the end of the event. That arrangement led to a lot more focus on repeat plays for some great games, which was a neat alternative to events where tournaments provide the only consistent recurring play opportunities. I played about a dozen such games, and ended up winning copies of two of them (Heroes Wanted and Scoville).

The event officially facilitates a number of ways for gamers to trade/buy/sell the games they want to get or get rid of. This year their "trade table" had about 500 games on it, with each person getting to choose whatever game they wanted after their own game was chosen by someone else. 60% of the entries did not get traded due to time constraints, but it was a neat event overall. They hosted a flea market for gamers to trade and sell with each other, which I did not get to attend due to a schedule conflict (read: I slept through it). Also, hosted by myself, they had a math trade arranged ahead of time for the first time this year. 41 of our 47 participants had at least one trade and 168 of the 477 games listed were traded. It was one of the most successful math trades I've participated in, by most metrics. If I attend again, I'll definitely run another one.

On the mediocre side, I found Geekway attendees a lot less likely to use "Players Wanted" signs at their tables. There may have been the normal number of people willing to play with strangers, as I encountered many groups who were willing or even wanted to, but many of them didn't know about the signs or didn't have them handy to use. As someone attending alone and relying on finding strangers to game with, this was annoying, especially during events (like the trade table and the closing ceremonies prize drawings) where I was forced to stay in one room for hours at a time, when I'd have been able to find a game to play much more easily in another room.

Aside from my transportation problem, nothing really bad happened. The worst things were just 'meh'. If I wasn't likely to move a thousand miles further away between now and next spring I'd say that I was relatively certain to attend again. As things stand, that's up in the air.
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Can you put rape, torture, and murder in order? [Apr. 17th, 2015|11:51 am]
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Trigger warning

I recently included a clarifying footnote in a post: "the belief that rape is worse than murder, which is not universal". I had two people contact me to inquire about this. They were otherwise reasonable and informed people who did not think they had ever encountered any belief contrary to this one. I write a lot about value systems, priorities, decision making, and outcomes. I'm surprised that I've overlooked such a good example, amid the few others that come up with regularity. In this writing I'll try to elaborate on why this matters.

Rape, torture, murder. Even the most rationally ethical people can have different opinions about the ranking of these three evils, based on how they value others' lives, agency, happiness, etc. In the general case, considering each of these as a whole, they can go in any order. In more specific cases, it gets even trickier. Some people believe it's worse to murder an infant than someone on their death bed. Some people believe it's worse to rape a virgin than a whore. Some people believe it's worse to torture for fun than for information required to do good. And many (most?) people who have one of those beliefs also allow them to overlap. Torture can be generally worse than murder, while murder of an infant is worse than torture of an octogenarian for good reasons. Making it even more tricky, that good reason could be saving a life. Skipping rape, both torture and murder can often lead to saving one or more lives, and even a completely rationally ethical person can decide that it's preferable to intentionally murder one person than to let two others die through lack of action (look up the Trolley Problem).

Now, to throw some irrational, but very prevalent, people into the mix, consider devout religious adherents. The holy books of many religions give strict rankings of some types of evil, often including some of these three. Consider a Catholic, to whom suicide may be the only unforgivable sin, followed by the mortal sins that include idolatry, adultery, murder, slander, etc. Depending on their precise sub-sub-sub-sect, rape and torture might not appear on that list at all, not having been entirely proscribed by their deity. I know less about various other religions, but I do know that other Abrahamic religions have similar aspects, if not such a rigid ranking, and some even include rules mandating these actions in certain situations.

All of these factors combine to form an environment where it is often not fruitful to have a conversation with someone about avoiding or preventing evil, or doing good, without first getting at least some hint of whether their value system and priorities align with yours, and the ways in which they conflict. If you disagree on whether murder is worse than rape, or even whether slander is worse than rape, you'll be spinning your wheels trying to reconcile conclusions that stem from those base premises.
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Think positive [Nov. 16th, 2014|08:28 pm]
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When I moved to Chicago I knew that there would be colder winters and warmer summers than in Boston. I committed to toughing it out, and I've experienced worse in the past (barely, rarely). Tonight, I saw an animated sign outside a bank with the temperature on it. It read "+33°F". Can you guess which character in that string got me thinking about how cold the winters here get?
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Three free copies of the video game Insurgency [Nov. 11th, 2014|03:39 pm]
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https://www.humblebundle.com/?gift=4MZCRdt67WhP3A3f

First come, first served.
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I've had better days [Nov. 5th, 2014|05:24 pm]
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That moment when you tell a partner "I would be better off without you", and they know you're right. :(
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Livejournal needs a fresh start, or a wrapper. [Nov. 3rd, 2014|12:19 pm]
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LJ is the best social network. I cannot count the number of times I have seen (or made) a complaint about Facebook or G+ or Ello or Fetlife that could not be countered with "LJ does that better".

What they don't have is the best interface, or the best marketing team.

I would love to wake up tomorrow and learn about a "new" social network launching, which is really just a new domain name and front end for LJ. A modern web interface (AJAXy, dynamic, etc). A more convenient interface. A new marketing campaign, and a "new" thing to tell my friends about.

Dreamwidth isn't much better. None of the LJ clones really match what people want out of the user experience of a social network. But the back end is SO MUCH BETTER. One-way friends, per-user and per-tag subscriptions and notifications, threaded comments, markup in posts...

Some day, maybe.

Ello, if you're listening, just clone LJ.
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Asexual vs antisexual [Oct. 16th, 2014|07:37 am]
sparr
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I have a number of friends who describe themselves as asexual, in one form or another. I've heard the term defined in a few ways, mostly boiling down to something like the first noun definition from google, "a person who has no sexual feelings or desires".

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If you place negative value on all sexual activity, such that you avoid it in circumstances where the net value is otherwise positive, and your partner asking you to have sex is mostly/always a no, then you are not asexual. You are antisexual (or some other word that I am not familiar with). If you want "asexual" to describe that situation, then there's a lot of work to be done on the popular definition of the term, including the definition actively promoted in pro-asexuality literature and events.

(This note may be revised based on feedback.)
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Visiting Boston [Oct. 14th, 2014|06:09 am]
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I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit back to Boston. Saw a few friends and made some new social and professional networking acquaintances at Barcamp Boston. Got to spend (never enough) time with Kat. Saw many other friends at Honk and cuddle parties on Sat and Sun nights. Flew back and straight to work this morning.

I failed to make solid plans with a lot of people who I wanted to see, and aim to rectify that when I visit again next weekend. I fly in on Friday around 7 and am headed straight for NECTR. If you'll be there, I'll definitely see you there, and you should seek me out if you wish to converse or interact in some way. Non-NECTR folks, here's the plan:

Sunday afternoon I return from NECTR. I have no plans Sunday evening, Sunday night, or Monday morning. I may be busy on Monday afternoon. Monday evening I'm having a meeting for a sexy/kinky play space project I'm trying to organize for Firefly next year, which I'd love more input or help with. Monday night I'm free. Tuesday morning I fly back to work in Chicago, again.
So, anyone who wants to see me, get in touch here or directly and let me know. I'm probably going to try to host something social, at the Sanctuary or elsewhere, on Sunday evening or Monday night. Maybe dinner, maybe gaming, maybe cuddle party.
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A month ago I moved from Boston to Chicago. [Sep. 29th, 2014|11:06 am]
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I moved because of a job offer. I accidentally applied for a job in Chicago, thinking it was in San Francisco due to some website filtering shenanigans. Fast forward a few days and I get an email asking "are you willing to relocate to Chicago", to which I respond with a cautions affirmative. A few phone interviews and some negotiation later and I discovered I'd be moving on a week's notice.

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If not for all the people I left behind in Boston, including the person I love most, I'd call Chicago the clear winner. After 2.5 years in Boston I had finally managed to establish some long lasting friendships and other relationships. Hopefully those will persist despite the distance, and I can convince people to visit me, and I'll be able to find more good people in Chicago. As with all things, time will tell.
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Firefly 2014 [Jul. 12th, 2014|10:56 am]
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Firefly 2014

The good:

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The bad:

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The ugly:

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The whiny:

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My Perfect Girl, redux [Jun. 26th, 2014|11:34 am]
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Three years ago I wrote "Day 13, My Perfect Girl". It was part of a writing challenge, and I tried to describe a set of traits that define my perfect match in a partner, intellectually, romantically, sexually, etc. I've changed since then. I've dated and played with more people in more ways and over longer periods of time. I've also gotten to know myself and what I want/need better. That is how I find myself re-writing this post.

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Who loses when someone bails out? [Jun. 19th, 2014|11:07 am]
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When someone commits to buying a ticket to an event from you, or sharing a hotel room, or riding in your car, when other people also want to, and then they bail, do they still owe you the money? If they tell you they aren't coming a month in advance? A week? A day? During the event? Or if they just don't show up?
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Rumors about me? [Apr. 29th, 2014|12:44 pm]
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Some of the things I've written lately have prompted people to inform me that there are rumors about me that I did not know about. I would greatly appreciate hearing those rumors. I am allowing anonymous comments on this post.
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Hosting my own events [Apr. 24th, 2014|02:31 pm]
sparr
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There are events and venues in my chosen communities that I am not welcome at. The majority of these cases are due to my views on the subject of consent and determinism, and the discomfort of others who have trouble with rational discussion and spotting contradictions in their own beliefs and actions. Would I like this state of affairs to change? Sure. Am I willing to give up on my beliefs, and the actions predicated on them, which I believe to render a net good to my communities and society? Not a chance.
To a much less severe, but more widespread, degree, there are people who simply don't enjoy my company. I have an abrasive personality; I'm somewhat loud; I am not particularly attractive; I am not wealthy to the degree that often engenders companionship. I am on the wrong end of a dozen different trait spectra that lead to fewer people choosing to be around me. Many people will tolerate my company, despite these things, out of some overriding unrelated priority, but that doesn't speak to my value at all.
These are things that have driven me towards hosting more of my own events. By hosting my own movie nights, play parties, educational events, etc, I can ensure that I am mostly, if not only, surrounded by people who actually value my company, or at least actively choose to endure it. People who feel threatened by me can easily opt out of my company. People who do not enjoy engaging in conversation with me can be sure they will not accidentally encounter me.

This post was prompted by, but not even remotely entirely based on, my recently hosting some of my first "adult" events in MA, in close temporal proximity to being explicitly not-invited to a number of similar, vaguely or not, events in other community I'm part of. Please do not read this as directed entirely, or even mostly, at any specific event or venue. While I welcome replies on the topic of specific events, venues, or people, the scope of this post is meant to be more general than that.
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Frolicon 2014 [Apr. 21st, 2014|12:49 pm]
sparr
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A bad Frolicon is still better than a good weekend at home. This was my worst one yet, but I still had fun.

The good: I got to do decorative rope, including a couple of large corsets and my first serious attempt at a rope bra, with a bunch of new people. I got to see a lot of old friends and acquaintances. I learned/tried a few new tricks for improvising a working vacuum cube.

The bad: I had to improvise a working vacuum cube, again. I didn't get to spend more than a few minutes with any of the people that I miss who weren't my roommates at the hotel. Half of my potential "wishlist" play dates fell through, and people took my cards off the wish board without contacting me.

The ugly: 40 hours in the car for 48 hours at con is an entirely unacceptable ratio, especially with just 2-3 drivers. I won't make that drive again with fewer than 3 drivers, or for fewer than 4 days in Atlanta (which is entirely plausible for Frolicon, DragonCon, Alchemy, or Euphoria). I missed Thursday entirely, spent most of Friday tired, and fell asleep early both nights, missing out on a lot of fun and opportunity. Next year we will either extend the trip by a few days, or fly.
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How can I invite people for impromptu board games on short notice, with results? [Apr. 13th, 2014|11:54 am]
sparr
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I want to invite people over to play board games frequently but irregularly and on short notice. This could extend to movies or dinner plans, but for now it's just board games. I want to invite 10-30 people, so that hopefully 1-5 people show up. I do not have a good way to accomplish this.

I can use a FB Group. I can Post to that Group's Wall. FB will make sure most members of the group never see the post.

I can use a FB Group. I can create an Event in that Group, and Invite people to that Event. FB seems to also filter those invites from some people (which is news to me), and I don't think most of my friends use FB event invites in a real-time manner.

I can post to my own FB Wall. More people will see that than the Group Wall method, but it will also reach up to a thousand people who don't care, and it may be delayed in reaching people.

I can tag people in my FB Wall post. This reaches people more quickly, but is also tedious and manual, and is still visible to a thousand people who don't care.

I can filter that FB Wall post to a list. This solves some of those problems, but not the delay and FB filter shenanigans issues.

I can create an email list. My primary objection to this is that I do not think that most of my friends use email for realtime communication. This particular kind of invitation expires after an hour or three, and that's more quickly than most people check their email, I think.

I can send individual IMs and FB messages. This is, by far, the most *effective* solution, but it also requires the most work (although a third party IM client might be able to fix this) and would lead to more people opting out as the notifications became too frequent.

I can send group IM/SMS/FB messages. This is unacceptable because of the forced-reply-all and opt-out nature of those messaging systems. People seem to almost universally hate these systems.

Help? Feedback? Suggestions?
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Let's talk about games and rules and cheating. [Apr. 5th, 2014|09:25 pm]
sparr
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When two players want to engage in a game together, they first have to agree on what kind of game it is going to be. They have to agree on what the rules of the game are, how the game works, what they are going to do independently and with each other during the game, etc. Read more...Collapse )
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Tennessee Game Days 9, and my trip to Nashville [Mar. 18th, 2014|02:34 pm]
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Tennessee Game Days 9, and my trip to Nashville

The trip:
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The people:
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The convention:
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The games:
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I would repeat any part of this trip except the travel shenanigans, and plan to do so next year at the latest.
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Preserving my OKCupid profile for posterity [Mar. 4th, 2014|11:13 am]
sparr
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I'm going to start fresh with a mostly-empty profile and see what that does. For posterity and future reference, here's my entirely unsuccessful profile as it's evolved over the last few years:

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Long shot, getting paid too late for Arisia [Jan. 16th, 2014|12:43 pm]
sparr
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Short version: I get paid Friday morning. I need to check into the Arisia hotel tonight. Would anyone out there be willing to check my room in for me? I can switch it over to my own card tomorrow for payment when I check out.

Resolved!
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Paypal Alternatives [Dec. 25th, 2013|11:13 pm]
sparr
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Every time someone asks me to send them money (or accept money from them) via Paypal I have to explain that I don't use Paypal and that I will happily use any other online money transfer service. The most common responses boil down to "I didn't know there were any alternatives to Paypal" and "Why not?". Read more...Collapse )
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Euphoria 2013 [Jun. 18th, 2013|11:11 am]
sparr
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Euphoria, the smaller of the two Georgia burns[1], was this past weekend. In short, I had a great time overall, but because the bar has been set so high by other events this was the least enjoyable burn I've been to.
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Intent, actions, reception [Feb. 5th, 2013|07:30 pm]
sparr
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Trigger warning: rape

There are a lot of legal terms and theories related to the concepts I am going to cover here. I know a few of them, but don't know most of them, and would probably not correctly use the ones I do know, so I'm going to try to stick to plain English with some occasional explanation of my meaning.

It has come up recently in conversations about dealing with sexual assault in my local communities that some people want to strongly prioritize the impact on the victim when deciding how to deal with a person or incident. I am strongly opposed to this plan, and want to thoroughly explain why. I'm going to apologize in advance for sticking to male-aggressor rape; it's arguably more common and keeps my use of pronouns simpler. Everything I say can, of course, be applied in reverse. And I am not going to cover malicious rape here. It happens. A lot. It deserves a lot of discussion and consideration. It doesn't get as much as it deserves. That doesn't mean it's unacceptable for us to discuss OTHER things, and THIS post mostly isn't about that.

First and foremost, I will readily admit that preventing future rapes is higher on my list of priorities than avoiding mental distress for past victims. If given the choice between the two, I will choose the former. I will encourage rape victims to testify against their rapists even when I know it will cause them mental distress, because I have strong interest in that rapist being convicted and removed from society. I am aware that there are people, particularly rape victims and/or trained/professional rape counselors, who do not agree with this prioritization. If you disagree with that choice then we have fundamentally different value systems, and you should not bother replying to any of the things I say below because they are all predicated on those values.

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Now, we come to the goal of preventing future rapes, and my earlier mention of priorities. Our community is going to take some steps to try to accomplish this goal. Those steps will be more effective the less random their basis. If we choose to ostracize everyone whose victim felt raped, we will appease the victims more often, but we will be doing away with some people who are not dangers to our community, and not addressing problems with people who are a danger but who are luckier or better at picking their victims. If, instead, we choose to ostracize people whose ACTIONS are unacceptable, and/or whose intent becomes apparent and unacceptable, then we will have a community in which those actions take place less often, and those intents are held less often. I choose the latter. To the consternation of many, this will require us to actually discuss and decide what those unacceptable actions are, to talk about the unacceptable behavior of others, and to enforce our rules consistently. I am willing to do this. Are you?
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Why do I write the things that I write? [Jan. 22nd, 2013|03:58 pm]
sparr
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When I write on a subject at length I've usually got at least a few reasons for doing so. Some of those reasons also dictate that I share the writing, and some of them also lead to my engaging in discussion on the subject of the writing, both in public or with individuals. Often there are one or more potential or apparent goals that are NOT the reason I'm writing something, and I try to make that explicit when I think it is unclear. This particular writing is meant to comprehensively answer the question "Why did you write/publish X if your goal wasn't Z?".

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I hope that this has helped illustrate my motivation behind writing and posting all of the things that I do. I am, as always, open to feedback on this subject. Things people say to me about this probably won't make me stop writing, but you could conceivably convince me to write or publish less often or publicly, or to word things differently if not deceitfully. I also hope that some of these motivations may inspire others to discuss things more openly and publicly more often, as well.
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I like you, two [Jan. 2nd, 2013|01:32 pm]
sparr
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If I sent you a link to this, that means I like you. I'm bad at interpersonal stuff, especially opening conversations and negotiations when I'm unsure of where exactly we might stand. This is my attempt to evade that hurdle, by putting everything on the table at once. I'm sorry if it seems impersonal, but hopefully you'll reply and we can begin a dialogue on the subject that isn't.

I want to...
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In light of all this, what furthering of our relationship would be comfortable to you, and what might I do to accommodate that? I assign sufficient value to keeping our acquaintance or friendship stable that I would give up the possibility of having more with you to avoid significant risk of alienating you out of my own ignorance.
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Consent on behalf of a third party [Dec. 11th, 2012|04:39 pm]
sparr
I'm going to jump right into some real situations that occur with regularity for me. I don't feel my usual need to resort to hypotheticals, because most of the bases are covered by things that have actually happened and will continue to recur. As usual, I will tend to progress upwards in terms of the importance/severity of the situations. If we reach a point where you disagree with my thoughts or actions, you should stop and discuss THAT point with me. There is nothing to be gained by debating my conclusions if you disagree with one of my base premises.

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So, given all of this information, where do you draw the line? Can you, should you, would you accept consent from one person on behalf of another, and if so then for what actions? Are there things about their relationship that would affect your decision, such as if you know they are acquaintances, friends, lovers, married, in a D/s relationship, kinky, sexually open, polyamorous, etc? Would you give that consent, on behalf of someone else? Would you let another person give consent for you? When, and why? Have you already told them that? Does it require more trust for you to accept consent from me for someone else than for you to accept consent from me for me?
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Being creepy and rapey is not black and white [Dec. 10th, 2012|07:14 pm]
sparr
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I am not a rapist. I do not believe that I have ever engaged in sexual activity with someone without exercising an above-average degree of caution regarding any implicit consent and I regularly seek explicit and comprehensive consent during negotiation of potential intimate encounters. I have never engaged in sexual or intimate activity with someone who I thought was not consenting. I am aware that our culture has some really fucked up things going on regarding gender roles, rape, sex, and all sorts of other stuff. Unfortunately, trying to bring these topics up will often result in being shouted down by people who think this discussion should not be had as long as intentional rape is still happening. I am not trying to argue with or devalue any discussion of people trying to prevent intentional rape. I am, however, saying that for people who want to not be rapists, there remain just as many concerns in the opposite direction as for people who want not to be raped. As much sympathy as I feel for rape victims, and as much good as conversations about preventing people from intentionally raping other people, those conversations generally do not provide useful information to people who already want to not rape other people. That is who this post is talking about.

I am, however, a creep. A creeper. A creepy guy. I creep some people out. This is unavoidable. The mere act of being out in public, being the not-ideally-attractive person that I am, makes a few people uncomfortable. When my beard is acting out, more so. Looking at women is creepy. Starting conversations with strangers is creepy. Asking personal questions is creepy. Asking intimate questions is creepy. Voicing romantic or intimate intentions is creepy. Asking to touch people is creepy. Touching people without asking is creepy. Not being creepy isn't an option. HOW creepy to be in any given situation is a decision that I have to make, and those decisions work in the exact same fashion as "how rapey is this action" decisions. Being creepy can't be about reaction in the same way that rape can't be about regret. An action is creepy or rapey when it is committed, even if the result is positive. It is with that mindset that I have to decide whether or not to take a particular action, because over a long enough timeline, if I keep doing the same things (asking people out, complimenting people, hugging people, having sex with people, etc), every possible reaction will take place as often as its likelihood dictates.

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So, to summarize, you are Schrodinger's Rape Victim. Every interaction that I ever have with you has the potential to cause you undue distress, to offend you, to insult you, to arouse you, or to cause you irreparable mental harm. The odds of all of those increase as the nature of our interactions tend toward intimacy. The odds of them decrease as we exercise thorough and honest communication. But they are never 100%, and they are never 0%. I have to decide where my risk threshold is, but I won't ever have enough information to make that decision completely effectively. So I write this, and I talk to all of you, and I try to get feedback that will allow me to set that threshold in a place that results in a greater net benefit according to some value system more effective than my own. I hope you will think on this, and in doing so help yourself and help me work towards a culture that is at least a little less rapey.
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Other people's relationship rules; on breaking them. [Nov. 28th, 2012|11:51 am]
sparr
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Like many of my writings about my decision making process, value system, priorities, and thoughts, this one is about planning ahead. I like to make broad categories of decisions in advance so that I don't have to make them on short notice. I have more time right now to think about these things, to collect the views of my friends and peers, to weigh consequences and repercussions, and generally to make a good decision than I will when it comes time to put that decision into action.

You probably think this post is about sex and cheating. You probably think "don't be involved in other people breaking the rules of their relationships" is a pretty straightforward statement, and a good rule to live by. I'd like to disabuse you of that notion. You need to think a lot more broadly about rules that might exist in a relationship, and the myriad factors that might affect your decisions and lead to those rules being broken. It's rarely safe to deal in absolutes, so let me start by thoroughly stepping outside that box. My take on this whole concept is a work in progress, but more often than not my reaction to such situations is going to be "She knows more about her relationship than I do. I'm going to let her make those decisions and she is responsible for the consequences. I may impose honest communication requirements on her as a condition of my participation.".

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How to create jobs and fix traffic problems [Nov. 16th, 2012|11:34 am]
sparr
Computerized traffic control gets better every year. My parents remember when inductive sensors under the pavement were new. I've seen computer-vision assisted traffic control devices. Eventually cars will have transponders in them, and later humans will stop driving. However, until that happens, traffic still sucks, and there are so many small changes that could make it better. I'm going to present here two ideas, one practical, immediately possible to implement with minimal effort, but unappealing to some people, and the other rather less realistic but nonetheless at least as effective.

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Geeky Kink Event [Nov. 8th, 2012|08:20 pm]
sparr
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I've just returned from the Geeky Kink Event, a small convention in its second year in New Jersey. Delivering exactly what it says on the tin, this event is geeky and kinky. That describes both the programming and attendees, covering the spectrum from geeky to kinky and combinations of the two. The demographics of the attendees skews a bit younger than other geeky and kinky events I attend. The geeks tend to be of the internet media and fandom and video game generations, rather than the dea tree media and fannish and board game generations. The kinksters, likewise, tend to be less old-guard and lifestyle and "trained", more casual and friendly.
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Overall I found the event enjoyable and would recommend it for anyone who can get to the area. I made some connections with the convention staff and may be more involved in various ways next year.
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GMX and GKE, report and otherwise [Nov. 8th, 2012|08:19 pm]
sparr
I've just returned from a week and a half mostly away from home, having attended the Geek Media Expo and the Geeky Kink Event, a small convention in its second year in New Jersey. This post is going to be broken up into two parts. First I want to cover some aspects of GKE that I found interesting or notable, in a positive or negative way. Some of those things will be presented as a comparison to Frolicon, a similar event that I attend in the spring in Atlanta. I also want to write about my personal experience through my travel, the two conventions, and the dates I had along the way. I'm going to post those two things separately so that links from the future and comments from people will be more appropriately targeted. The second post will also be friend locked.
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My new favorite word (or party or car) game with no components, Contact [Oct. 7th, 2012|10:47 pm]
sparr
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I recently learned of this game at a house party, and then later played it on a car trip for a couple of hours. The basic mechanics are guessing and trivia, with some know-your-opponents aspects as well. It's a decent game for building vocabulary, and stresses verbal creativity. It requires 3 or more players, and I think it plays best with 4-5 (road trip, anyone?). The internet has exposed me to a number of variations already, so I'll start with a description of the most basic game and then describe as many variants or additional rules as I can.

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Two months on OSX [Sep. 17th, 2012|09:00 pm]
sparr
Two months ago I wrote that my employer had given me a MacBook and asked me to use only it for work matters. This posed a bit of a hassle because I have to do work when I am out of the office, and I don't want to carry two laptops with me everywhere, or set up VPNs and passwords and such on two or three different computers. Some friends at work suggested I simply do everything on the work laptop, and I jumped into this idea. Except for dumping some photos to my desktop (a workflow I wasn't up to porting and amount of storage the laptop doesn't have), I have used only OSX 10.7 for the past two months. It has been an interesting and enlightening experience.
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Anyway, what this all boils down to is that I can't keep using OSX exclusively. It's missing too many features that make my computing life easier, and has too many anti-features that slow me down. If I had never discovered Linux, I'd have jumped ship from Windows to OSX years ago, probably on a hackintosh to avoid paying the hardware markup. As it is, I'll be going back to Linux for my daily computing. I MIGHT keep an OSX partition on the laptop so that I can do firmware upgrades, but that's about all.
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