An image to describe 2019

The Gregorian calendar is about to increment, and here is an image to describe this passing year. No need to photoshop this time, this one has been ready since January:

dxuvqgzwsaet6_n

Old media has demonstrated it’s efficacy by hastily concocting a story that defamed a young man for doing nothing more than smiling while wearing a hat that they didn’t like. That’s the current year for you.

The origins of Christmas are coming to light. What does this mean for you?

santa mask.png

There is an increasing number of people who are coming to the awareness that the celebration of Christmas is not what it appears to be. This has to do with the various trappings associated with Christmas that didn’t originate in the Bible, but instead with numerous solstice traditions observed throughout pagan Europe.

There are many elements of Christmas that are non-Biblical, and they can be surprising when one is presented with them. Here is a list of a few of these traditions:

  • December 25th was the birthday of Mithra, whose religion was the main religion of the Roman empire at the time of Christ’s ministry.
  • The evergreen tree as a religious symbol was favored throughout the ancient world because it remained green throughout the year. Druids offered child sacrifices to Thor until their tree was chopped down by a Christian who tried to end the custom.
  • Mistletoe was a religious symbol, too. If enemies were to meet under mistletoe during the winter solstice festivities, they were required to refrain from hostilities until the festivities were over. Druids used mistletoe as medicine. The joke’s on them, because mistletoe is poisonous.
  • Caroling had less to do with music and more to do with going door-to-door demanding things.

There’s more. Much more. In light of all this, it becomes clear that the observance that we call “Christmas” is not Christian, but a set of appropriated solstice traditions. But what effect does this awareness have on Christianity?

More to the point, what does this mean for you?

That really depends on how sincere you are when it comes to your faith. Is your faith something that you take seriously? Or is it a matter of cultural identity, and you’re just doing something because everyone else around you is doing it?

As one reads the Bible, they can see that the ancient Israelites made poor choices in that regard. Even though they had been given express commandment to not follow the customs of the peoples around them, they were enamored with solar worship, and had integrated some of the customs of the pagans into their own worship, and in some cases they even turned to false gods outright! This mistake was among those credited with their national captivity.

While one might think that the New Testament is more lenient when it comes to taking on pagan customs and giving them Christian-sounding themes, we have no indication in the New Testament that this is the case. Instead, the Apostle Paul warned that what the nations offered, they offered to demons!

The Pagan origins of Christmas are increasingly coming to light, and more people are becoming aware of them. What do you do with this information? That depends on how sincere you really are about your faith. The wishy-washy would continue observing Christmas as though they didn’t know any better. However, those who have strength of conviction would decide that commercialized pagan mysticism is no proper way to worship!

When it comes down to it, everyone decides for themselves what they do. But can a person really honor someone by observing their birthday when it’s actually the birthday of their enemy? And can anyone really put someone back into something that they were never a part of to begin with?

YouTube’s Real Beef With COPPA

YouTube-COPPA.png

YouTube was recently found to have been in violation of COPPA, and was subsequently fined. Afterwards, in a public statement, YouTube suggested that they’d crack down on content creators who post content directed towards children without tagging their videos as child-appropriate. Content creators that run afoul of YouTube’s COPPA measures could end up fined $42,000 for each offending video.

Since learning of this, YouTube’s content creators are speaking up in outrage about both COPPA and YouTube, with some saying that this recent development could result in the end of their channels.

If you’re wondering what COPPA is, it’s the Child Online Privacy Protection Act, a law passed in 1998 that makes it illegal for website owners to collect data on children under the age of 13. Why 13 and not 18, which is the generally-agreed-upon age of adulthood, I don’t know. Website owners have largely responded by disallowing persons under the age of 13 from starting accounts. In light of this, it should be obvious that COPPA is a good thing, as it extends protections to children online that adults would love to have.

So then, why the outcry among YouTubers against it? The answer is simple: YouTube has turned the onus of compliance with COPPA to its content creators, complete with a disproportionately steep punishment for slipping up.

That being the case, it’s obvious why YouTubers would be upset with YouTube and COPPA. While this seems unfair on YouTube’s part, it would be just the right move if their aim was to present COPPA in an intensely negative light, turning public opinion against COPPA, and potentially stir up a movement that results in getting COPPA repealed.

Is that what’s motivating YouTube? It’s hard to discern motives for certain, but if turning people against COPPA wasn’t their plan, it’s hard to think of a reason for them to punish the community for their own failure to properly manage a website. But if we were to look for motives, it helps to understand how YouTube makes money.

YouTube is owned by Google, a tech company that offers many online services that are (apparently) free to those who want to use them. These services include Gmail, Google Drive, Google Maps, and the huge search engine that put them on the map. Because Google offers its services for free, many have wondered: How does Google make money?

Google makes money by collecting data. About you. And anyone else they can. Google then takes this information and sells it to a network of advertisers who then use it to serve targeted advertisements.

Make no mistake, the information collected about people is something that ad companies are willing to spend a lot of money on. On the internet, advertisements are big business. The more effective advertisements are the ones that succeed in convincing people to make purchases. If advertisers know what kind of things appeal to you, they can serve you advertisements specific to you that other visitors to the same page might not see.

As a person uses Google products, Google collects data on that person that’s used to construct a profile specific to them. While Google is who we’re talking about today, they’re far from the only tech company that collects data like this to sell to advertisers. Even social media outlets get in on this, and it’s on these platforms that people voluntarily surrender piles of information about their interests.

nami one piece google violating privacy.png

To give an idea of how extensive an ad company’s profile could be on you, the algorithms that are used collect deeply personal data, including psychological information. An ad company is able to make determinations about a person’s internal tendencies, including sexual preferences, that the person themselves might not even know about. Even the federal government doesn’t collect this kind of data on the general population. If they wanted to, tech companies are capable of making a person’s life a living hell, and they have all they need to do so.

If that’s not scary enough for you, try this one: an advertising company was able to determine that a woman was pregnant based only on her purchasing history, then serve her targeted ads based on this information before the woman herself discovered that she was pregnant.

Considering this, think about what Google has to gain from having COPPA repealed: if COPPA no longer factored into their considerations, their dragnet of data collection could be cast without restraint. Children would then be included in Google’s data collection endeavors. As the shopping season comes full swing, consider what this would mean for the pocketbooks of millions of parents: children would be included in Google’s psychoanalytical scheme of subconscious desires, to be directed as their data purchasers wished.

Of course, indirectly encouraging parents to max out credit cards on Christmas toys is just one of many ways the data purchasers can use data from children. If the data purchasers had political motives, they could use this data to direct culture and political opinion in a manner and scale that has never been seen before.

If you want tech companies such as Google to collect data on your kids, then go right on ahead and play into YouTube’s hands: react with outrage about COPPA as though COPPA was to blame. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s about time that even more limits were placed on tech companies concerning the data that they can collect about us.

What is Sockpuppeting?

ichigo machimaro strawberry marshmallow sockpuppet.png

Have you ever happened upon a network of bloggers with content, layout, or opinions that seem suspiciously similar, but they don’t seem to have much engagement from anyone else? If so, you might have just seen sockpuppeting at play.

What is sockpuppeting? On the internet, sockpuppeting is the act of making it appear as though there is more engagement than there actually is. This is usually accomplished when someone makes multiple accounts, then uses those accounts to engage their own content. This can be done by leaving comments, likes, linking posts, just to name a few examples.

But why would a person sockpuppet? There are a few reasons a person might. Perhaps they want to encourage discussion on their posts by making it appear as though a discussion is taking place. Perhaps they want to make it appear as though their ideas are well-supported by the community, in an effort to persuade people to accept their ideas. Perhaps they intend to make the appearance of multiple biases to dissuade people from arguing against them. In some cases, it’s a measure to ensure that the discussion heads in the direction that the puppeteer prefers, perhaps so that they can take on arguments that they’d prefer to, rather than the ones that would pose a significant challenge to their viewpoint.

Of course, it’s very possible that it’s a lonely and sad individual who isn’t getting a lot of real human attention.

Sockpuppeting isn’t as big as it used to be, largely due to the fact that it’s become harder to get away with. Admins on message boards and bloggers can see the IP addresses of individual comments, which contain location-based elements. If a blogger notices a couple commenters shooting it back and forth, and the discussion seems kind-of predictable, the shared IP address of the commenters is a red flag that something is up. And, in case you’re wondering, the FBI and NSA pretty much laugh at your silly VPN.

Have you seen sockpuppeting at play? Or do you have funny stories where sockpuppeting is involved?

Is Go from Pokemon secretly a girl?

go from pokemon.png

A long-running tradition in the Pokemon anime is that of the poke-girl, the female traveling companion in Ash’s party. It started with Misty, continued with May, and went up until the seventh gen which gave us a few poke-girls instead of the usual one (Lillie, Lana, and Mallow). It would appear that the newest step in Ash’s journey would take things in a different direction by teaming Ash up with a boy named “Go”, and that a girl might not be traveling with Ash for this part of his journey.

Or is that really the case?

Japanese viewers have noticed that Go has been blushing a lot, which tends to happen often with female characters in anime.

gou blush.png

I could also point out that Go has stylized eyelashes, a feature that is usually only seen in anime girls and women.

gou blush eyelash.png

Is Go’s character a play on gender politics in a similar way to Samus from Metroid? Or is he simply an expressive male?

There is another mystery here, and that’s that Go is blushing at all. Blushing, or turning flush, is a feature of Caucasians. Blushing occurs when there is a sudden rush of blood, which is a physical reaction to awkwardness. With darker-skinned individuals, it’s less apparent that this rush of blood is taking place. When you put Go side-by-side with Ash, it’s plain to see that he’s not Caucasian.

go pokemon.png

As one could easily point out, Brock had darker skin too, and he was a legendary blusher. It would appear as though blushing in Pokemon was a stylistic choice, or perhaps was decided on by a team of Japanese animators who didn’t have access to many non-Japanese people to use as reference.

Also, what is up with those red clips in his hair? And those thin eyebrows? Were the writers of the Pokemon anime trying to pull one over on us?

Pokemon Sword version: first impressions

pokemon sword zacian.jpg

I’ve started playing Pokemon Sword, and I’m a few badges in. Here are a few first impressions:

NOTE: If you care about spoilers, there are some mild ones ahead. But because you’re using the internet, you’ll likely have come across some, anyway.

  • The rabbit, Scorbunny, is my favorite starter. By the looks of it, it’s the right choice, as it seems to have a clear edge against many early-game opponents.
  • The wild area is big, and you gain access to it early on. Don’t expect something immense like in BotW, however. Still, open wilderness areas are something I’ve wanted to see in Pokemon for a long time, and they’ve finally done it.
  • Even though there’s a large area that connects some locations, thereĀ are still routes that are connected to towns, and the gyms must be taken on in a certain order. So there is still linearity in this game.
  • Trainers have to be endorsed to take on the gym challenge, which does come up as a story element.
  • Hop is your main rival in this game. He’s a friendly guy who seems very enthusiastic, but gets in your face often and can get kinda annoying. But at some point, someone says something that gets under his skin, and it has an effect on him. At that point, how he develops becomes kinda interesting.
  • The use of UK slang is an intermittent reminder of the game’s setting. It also makes for somewhat difficult reading at times. Other English speakers let the British brag about the way they do English, but when we have to read it, it becomes apparent how generous we’re being.
  • The Wild Area is a dangerous place. Shortly after the game’s outset, you can battle wild pokemon 20 to 30 levels higher than yours! It’s easy to get into a difficult situation in which your team can get quickly wiped out.
  • You might have the idea to catch a high-level pokemon and quickly breeze through the game. In Sword and Shield, the level of pokemon you’re allowed to catch depends on how many gym badges you’ve obtained.
  • As far as power-leveling goes, unless someone discovers a way to cheese a super-strong wild pokemon, battling trainers close to your own level seems to be the most consistent way to go about it.
  • Dynamax may be impressive, but it’s not game-breaking. I’ve had an ordinary pokemon hold it’s own against a gym leader’s Gigantamax pokemon until it reverted.
  • PSA: If a Dynamaxed pokemon switches out, it reverts back immediately. Also, a Dynamaxed Golisopod’s ability still activates while Dynamaxed. Therefore, General Grievous Golisopod isn’t a great choice for Dynamaxing.
  • When booting up the game with a save file, a skipable animation plays. Skip it, and the save file loads up from where you last saved, immediately. No menus, no title screen, you get right into playing. Just as I would have it.
  • There are NPCs that dress up as Eevee. They are cuter than any pokemon I’ve found in this game, so far.
  • The bad guy team in this game is actually another trainer’s cheering team. The trainer that they’re cheering on seems indifferent and perhaps kinda annoyed at what they’re doing. This is both hilarious and sad.
  • It seems like every pokemon can Dynamax, but only specific ones can Gigantamax. What’s more, they can only Gigantamax if they were obtained under certain conditions. I’m kinda disappointed that the first Alcremie that I obtained isn’t eligible.
  • Those leaked pokemon turned out to not be as bad as I thought. There’s a difference between seeing a still image of a character and seeing that character in action in the game.
  • There is a Thunderstone located in a wild area near the start of the game, and Pikachu can be obtained early on. You know what that means…

dynamax raichu.jpg

To address the National Dex controversy, I don’t see it as a big deal. There have gotten to be so many pokemon that it was likely to happen at some point that not all of them would be coded into a game. When it comes to that point, it’s more expedient to prioritize pokemon that are more relevant to the setting, among other considerations such as game balance and popularity of certain characters. Sword and Shield aren’t the first games to have done this, that distinction would go to last year’s Let’s Go games, which didn’t receive nearly the backlash in spite of there being a far more limited selection of pokemon.

The availability of every pokemon that’s ever existed wouldn’t matter to very many players except a few fans who might actually have some kind of disorder. I suspect that much of the noise we’ve been hearing about this can be attributed to this remote and vocal minority. To normal players, omitting certain pokemon isn’t likely to make much difference. When it comes to playing a game, the experience is more important than some collection chores that mainly appeal to the overly-obsessive.

So far, I’m really liking Pokemon Sword and Shield. GameFreak did pretty well based on what I’ve seen so far.

#ThankYouGameFreak Shows the Best in Pokemon Fandom

pokemon great taste.png

After it became apparent that some pokemon would not be making it into the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Shield, social media lit up with hashtags such as #dexit and #bringbacknationaldex. Within the last day, Pokemon fans spoke up with the #ThankYouGameFreak hashtag, expressing gratitude toward GameFreak for their hard work in making a game that had a positive impact all around the world.

But there is another major difference: the #ThankYouGameFreak hashtag became the number one trending tag in the US.

In today’s culture, we see the more ungrateful among us screeching the loudest, and it’s easy to perceive that we live in an entitlement culture, and this perception is reinforced with the ease of finding social media posts from ingrates who apparently are facing the prospect of not getting everything they want for the very first time.

the empty can rattles the most

It’s easy to miss that the silent majority doesn’t always share the sentiments of the most vocal among us. The information media, the entertainment industry, and tech companies have platforms that allow them to spread their voices far and wide, but the common population continues to hold to their own virtues, and the social engineers are only able to succeed in preying on the more gullible among us.

In another example of the silent majority expressing their voice, the Pokemon fandom isĀ turning out in great numbers to express their sincere appreciation for a media franchise that had a positive effect. This stands in stark contrast with those who binge-raged at the possibility that they might not find a character in an upcoming video game, and the hack industry analysts who are now carefully searching out and compiling any evidence they possibly could that the game company is in decline, as though a random YouTuber in some place like mid-state New York suddenly has access to information about a major game company that the rest of us don’t.

When it comes down to it, the culture isn’t made by the face on the TV screen or the person who shouts the loudest. It’s the people who make the culture. And, as it turns out, this culture is actually very capable of being grateful.