Bridge Constructor Portal is not the Portal game you expected, and that’s just fine

When Bridge Constructor Portal was announced earlier this month, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t taken aback. After all, I have played the first two Portal games, and while this mobile spin-off incorporates some of the series’ elements, I wouldn’t call it the follow-up that Portal fans have been clamoring for.

Even so, $5 isn’t asking for a lot, and, at least on paper, Bridge Constructor Portal has plenty to offer.

The game tasks players with being able to use metal girders and suspension wires to build bridges. These bridges allow the always-moving vehicles to get across from one side of the level to the other. Because the game employs a realistic physics system, you have to make sure that the bridges you build properly distribute weight. Otherwise, the bridges will collapse under all the stress.

Whereas previous Bridge Constructor games stopped there, however, Bridge Constructor Portal, you guessed it, uses elements of the Portal series to make the levels that much trickier. For example, many levels include sets of portals where you can hurl vehicles, companion cubes, and other objects through. Items like propulsion gel, sentry turrets, and aerial faith plates are also present and accounted for.

With that combination, the more you progress within Bridge Constructor Portal, the more you realize that the levels end up looking like a frenzy of flying vehicles than your typical roadway. Then again, there’s nothing typical about the game, so I suppose it’s fitting.

As with the Portal series, objects sent through portals maintain their momentum, so you will have to think about how to best use them. It’s no surprise, then, that things can get rather complicated, rather quickly, and they do. The unlimited number of dry runs lend to the send of progress, however, and lend to a sense of accomplishment once you finally get past a certain level you might be stuck on.

Also lending to that sense of accomplishment is the way that Bridge Constructor Portal scales the difficulty. Each level allows you to either get by with one vehicle or a convoy of them. The risk is greater with completing levels with a convoy of vehicles, since you have to account for the greater weight and increased chance of collisions, but you get to brag about it to others.

Not that completing levels with one vehicle is a trivial matter — the game’s mind-boggling levels will make you think hard about how best to approach them, so there is no feeling of scraping by if you manage to get one vehicle from one side of the level to the other.

Editor’s Pick

Making that journey a bit more fun is GLaDOS, the dry and sometimes sarcastic AI voiced by Ellen McLain. She is as witty as ever and brought a smile to my face when I heard her voice, only for that smile to go away as I realize that my bridge engineering skills are not as good as I might think they are.

Poor bridge engineering skills aside, I never felt like Bridge Constructor Portal wasn’t fun. Sure, it might not have been the Portal game I was expecting, but it’s great to look at, the music selection is spot-on, and the game itself was fun to play. Making things better, levels beg to be replayed, since there is usually more than one way to complete them.

If you want to catch a glimpse of what’s possible with the Portal series beyond the Portal gun, Bridge Constructor Portal will be available tomorrow, December 20 for $4.99. The game will also be released for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch in early 2018 for $9.99.

Elemental Evil: Sessions 5 and 6

It appears I forgot to chronicle the previous session of my D&D home campaign. The last report was from early July, after which we had a summer break, and then resumed mid-August, and then continued yesterday. Both of these sessions were action-centric, with the group clearing out first the abandoned village of Thundertree and then the goblin stronghold of Cragmaw Castle from monsters. A “door-monster-treasure” type of gameplay can be a lot of fun, but the details aren’t always all that interesting in a journal of events. So I will summarize and concentrate on the highlights in this post.

Thundertree is an abandoned village a day’s travel from Neverwinter. The eruption of Mount Hotenow, which caused quite a catastrophe for Neverwinter half a century ago, destroyed the village of Thundertree. Erdan, the druid of the group who is prone to visions and nightmares, dreamed that the eruption of Hotenow was caused by a group of chanting fire cultists, but probably didn’t go as planned, as the cultists were killed in the event. What remained in Thundertree was mostly abandoned houses, with a population of ash zombies and twig blights. The group had gone to Thundertree to meet the druid Reidoth, who was supposed to know the location of Cragmaw Castle. Their “pet goblin” Droop also claimed to be able to find the way from Thundertree to Cragmaw Castle. They met Reidoth, who was able to provide a safe haven in the village, as well as the directions needed.

After clearing out most of the village from monsters, the group came across another group which likewise was engaged in fighting twig blights. That group was wearing blue armor and white robes, beset with feathers. They explained that they were from a club of aerial enthusiasts, and were in Thundertree to try to tame a griffon nesting here, or get eggs from his nest to raise as aerial mounts. The heroes agreed to accompany them to the griffon’s lair in the highest tower of Thundertree. But once there the air cultists tried to becalm the griffon by offering the adventurers up as sacrifice, so the group ended up killing both the cultists and the griffon. They were able to make the link between a symbol the cultists carried and the same symbol they had seen on a letter to Glasstaff in Phandalin.

On the way to Cragmaw Castle the group tried to question Droop for information about the castle. That was somewhat complicated by the fact that Droop could only count to 3, and used “3” as an answer to any question about numbers in which the answer exceeded 2. Not trusting the goblin’s offer to negotiate safe entry into the castle, they knocked him out and attached him to a tree, guarded by the paladin (the player was absent that session). Instead they built a camouflage out of branches and approached the less guarded south side of the castle at night. From there they could see into the banquet hall, but the goblins there didn’t look out the arrow slits. So they managed after a few attempts to unlock the side door. But they didn’t like the idea of advancing with the goblins in the hall behind them, so they decided to attack there.

From there they moved clockwise room by room. That enabled them to eliminate most guards in small groups. However it did move them more towards the entrance of the castle, instead towards the throne room. The toughest fight was against a group of hobgoblins. Popée the sorceress used a web spell on them, but between succeeded saving throws initially and later the web wasn’t all that effective. Then they tried to burn the web, but in 5E that deals only 2d4 damage, and the player rolled double 1s, so the spell wasn’t really a big success. The hobgoblins however had an ability with which they dealt an extra 2d6 damage if next to an ally. And two of them rolled critical hits, which doubles the number of dice on all damage, knocking the druid out of his bear form. After another fight in the central chapel of the castle the group had enough and decided to go back into the woods to take a long rest.

Returning to the castle they found that the bugbear King Grol had obviously noticed that the group had raided his castle and killed most of the goblinoids in there. So King Grol has gathered all the remaining defenders in the chapel, including a priest from the air cult. That ended up being a tough fight, with Theren being knocked down to zero health, but then rescued. The air cultist priest was a real menace, with a dust devil spell that prevented the archers and casters from sniping from the back. But Popée used a scroll of lightning bolt on King Grol and his pet wolf, killing the wolf and seriously damaging the bugbear. Soon after all the bugbears were dead. The priest tried to transform into gaseous form and flee, but didn’t make it out of the arrow slit in one round and concentrated fire killed him before his next round. At this point it had gotten rather late, and we ended the session.

Trump’s Bizarre Love Affair With Putin Deepens: What Is He Hiding?

A Washington Post feature on Trump’s Russia fixation is oddly credulous: Is wounded pride really the issue here?

On Thursday, The Washington Post published a long article about how Donald Trump is dealing with Russia as president. It wasn’t exactly reassuring. The reason is not that he’s poised to start a war, as he seems to be with North Korea, but that he’s giving away the store to the other side. It’s disturbing because Trump doesn’t seem to be capable of even thinking about America’s relationship with Russia like a president at all. He gets so upset by the investigation into election interference and his subsequent actions that intelligence briefers reportedly don’t mention it as a priority, slipping it into the written material — which he’s said in the past he doesn’t need to read — or sliding it far down the list of items of concern to avoid provoking his ire.

The upshot is that the president isn’t able to focus on relations with Russia at a time when it couldn’t be more important to do so. Trump’s insistence that there was no election interference has taken on the character of a bizarre fixation that is inhibiting the rest of the government from doing its job. And it seems nobody has a clue what to do about it.

The article is full of interesting details about the inner workings of Trump’s national security team and how they deal with this mercurial boss.  For instance, he once assumed his highly qualified Russia expert Fiona Hill (the co-author of a major biography of Vladimir Putin) was a clerical worker. Trump asked her to retype a memo, became angry when she seemed confused by the order and demanded that national security adviser H.R. McMaster reprimand her — which, astonishingly, he did.

But then, none of that should be too surprising. Trump is no more respectful of world leaders with whom he doesn’t feel that personal kinship. He reportedly got bored in the middle of a briefing about Angela Merkel and went into the bathroom, leaving the door open and telling his aides to speak up while he primped in front of the mirror. We all saw his refusal to shake Merkel’s hand in front of the press and this derisive tweet from a couple of years ago:

He apparently doesn’t consider her an equal on par with strongmen like Putin or China’s Xi Jinping, both of whom he shows a deference that verges on obsequiousness.

The article is a portrait of a man-child, so deeply over his head that you wonder if he isn’t literally going to hold his breath until he turns blue before it’s all over. In that sense, it tracks with the recent New York Times article that depicted Trump tweeting from his pillow in the morning, wandering around in his bathrobe, drinking two six packs of Diet Coke and watching up to eight hours of cable news a day.

After reading both of these articles, you get the sense that somebody in the White House has decided that the best defense against charges that Trump colluded with Russia is for people to believe that he behaves as he does because he’s a narcissistic simpleton who can’t deal with the fact that he didn’t win the popular vote. While that description may be accurate, it doesn’t let him off the hook.

The Post’s reporters vaguely examine the possibility that there could be some blackmail material or kompromat hanging out there, or that Trump has some serious financial exposure somewhere in his past. But the article primarily relies on his aides’ portrayal of him as someone who believes in the power of his personality to bond with Vladimir Putin, and believes that together they will solve the world’s problems.

Furthermore, the authors seem to take at face value the assertion that Trump’s insistence that the Russians played no part in the election is because “the idea that he’s been put into office by Vladi­mir Putin is pretty insulting.” Trump is essentially depicted as a juvenile egomaniac who lacks the capacity or imagination to have done anything as sophisticated as collude with a foreign country.

This is spin that I often see reporters and pundits regurgitate on TV, as if this can all be explained away by the proposition that Trump is a buffoon who is constantly frustrated by people saying he didn’t really win. But this fails to account for all the sucking up he did toward Putin during in the campaign and his continued inability to say a bad word about him ever since. It’s not as if Trump is usually at a loss for a well-timed insult.

It also fails to account for the fact that Trump has shown not even minimal interest in doing a “deal” with Russia that would benefit the United States. While he repeatedly insults our allies and crudely demands that they pay protection in return for the U.S. living up to its treaties and commitments, he asked for nothing from Putin in return for lifting sanctions and putting up barriers to NATO expansion, other than a vague promise that everyone “gets along.”

The idea that Putin is the only man on earth Trump sees as a partner in bringing peace on earth just doesn’t pass the smell test. That the self-anointed master negotiator has not seized the opportunity to use the knowledge we have about election interference as a bargaining chip, and instead seems inclined to grant Putin his wish list for nothing in return, does not give one much confidence.

Trump lies about everything, so there is no reason to take him at his word on any of this. Of course he is upset about the Russia investigation, and of course it bothers him that people might think he didn’t legitimately win the election. But it’s hardly likely that he behaves this way because he’s an innocent man. In fact, it’s ludicrous. Everything we know about him suggests the opposite.

Whether it’s about Trump’s past financial exposure or the rumored salacious kompromat or some agreement over dirt on Hillary Clinton or a big hotel deal, there is definitely more to this. He doesn’t act like a man who has been unjustly accused. He acts like a man who’s hiding something and thinks if he blusters and blames he can hide his guilt from his staff and even from himself. He can’t.

 

 

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A Guide To Better Google Search Techniques

A web search engine is a software system that is designed to search for information on the World Wide Web. The search results are generally presented in a line of results often referred to as search engine results pages (SERPs). The information may be a mix of web pages, images, and other types of files.
The Internet is so full of information that it’s nearly impossible to check its limits. That’s why, search engines were developed to maintain a search-able database of the web’s content. People employ the use of search engines to look up for information on the web.
Google Search, commonly referred to as Google Web Search or simply Google, is a web search engine developed by Google. It is the most-used search engine on the World Wide Web, handling more than three billion searches each day. You type in the query, and the search engine provides you with the search results. In most cases you’re satisfied but sometimes, you’re not. This is where learning the proper techniques to type in your search query comes in handy

Why The Need To Learn Proper Search Techniques?
Everyone including students, researchers, writers, etc. requires information, and they use search engines for that very reason. People spend most of their time continuously looking for the right information because they’re not aware of the proper search techniques. Learning and using good search techniques will help you in the following ways:
  • Better search results
  • Saves your time

How To Use Google.com

Google is a smart and intelligent search engine with many exciting features. But not all the features are rolled out instantly for all versions. Google.com is always first to get feature updates, and then updates are provided in versions specific to different countries such as google.co.uk, google.co.in, or google.sh.
Google’s version for your country might not support all the search techniques described below. That’s why, it’s suggested to use google.com to avail maximum benefits of the search features and techniques.
 Note: Typing google.com automatically redirects you to its version for your country, but you can override this behavior by going to www.google.com/ncr.

Basic Search Techniques

1. Keep It Simple

Keep your search simple and web-friendly. Start by entering one or two words, and gradually adding relevant or important words, if you’re unsatisfied with the results. Less is more for a search engine; meaning the less words you query for, the more results the search engine provides as output.
For example:
Query: [who is the prime minister of India]
Better query: [prime minister of India]

2. Order Of Keywords

Select the right keywords to make your search. Search results completely depend on the given keywords, and if keywords are chosen wisely, then results are more efficient.
Put yourself in the shoes of the author, and think of what words he/she would use to write/describe what you’re trying to find. If you’re looking for a phrase or quote, then keep the order of the words as accurate as possible to get the optimum search results.

3. Skip Unnecessary Parts

Google is smart enough to handle most of your typos, and other things that could just be ignored. That’s why you should skip those things in your query to save time.
You should not worry about the following when writing a search query:
  • Spelling
  • Cases (uppercase or lowercase)
  • Punctuation (dot, question mark, exclamation mark, and more)
  • Special characters (plus, minus, brackets, and more)

4. Social Search

Google is really good at handling searches related to people and social networks. You can search for people and their social profiles using:
+[profile-name]
By adding a ‘+’ before a profile-name, you can search for Google+ profiles and pages.
#[word]
Using the ‘#’ before a word enables you to search for hashtags in Google+, Twitter, and more social networks.
For example: [#privacy]
@[person-name]
You can search for social accounts associated with a person’s name by putting the ‘@’ sign before his/her name.
For example: [@rocky jagtiani]

5. Get Sunrise And Sunset Times

You can use Google to get sunrise and sunset times for many cities of the world. Type your search query in the format of [sunrise place-name] or [sunrise zip-code] to get the sunrise time for the specified location. For sunset times, just substitute the words as per the following style of [sunset place-name] or [sunset zip-code].
For example:
  • [sunrise chembur] 
  • [sunset pune]

Advanced Search techniques

You can use the Google Advanced Search form for a more convenient search

6. Synonym Search:

You can use the synonym search feature to tell Google to even search for synonyms of a specified word in the search query. This is helpful for when you want to search for a word and all its similar words without having to spend time looking for them individually.
Using the tilde symbol (~) before a word tells Google to search for the words and its synonyms too. Type your search query in the format of [~synonymWord otherWords] to search for the word and its synonyms in a single search.

7. Search For Numbers In A Range

You can tell Google to search within a range of numbers, such as dates, prices, and measurements. Using two periods (dots) between two numbers makes Google search within that number range and skip other results.
Using two periods after a number indicates a lower minimum (number..) while putting it before the number indicates a higher maximum (..number). Type your search query in the format of [firstNumber..secondNumber otherWords] to search between a specified lower and upper bounds.

8. Search Using File Types

You can tell Google to search for a specified type of file for your query. Using filetype operators before a type of file tells Google to search only for specified file types and skip other files. Type your search query in the format of [filetype:type otherWords] to search for a specific file type.
For example: [filetype:pdf free java tutorial]

Want to learn Data Analytics?

It’s Ayn Rand’s America Now, Thanks to the GOP

Conservatism has turned itself into a civic religion and columnist Neal Gabler fears the damages wrought in the Trump era will be permanent and lasting.

Sad to say, this will be my last column for billmoyers.com, where I have written for the past two years. In recent months, in the process of trying to understand for myself the cataclysm of Nov. 8, 2016, I have tried to examine a number of forces — demographic, economic, cultural, media — that may help explain it. I am certain that the question of  “what happened” will plague us for decades and that Nov. 8, 2016, will join April 12, 1861; Oct. 28, 1929; Dec. 7, 1941; Nov. 22, 1963 and Sept. 11, 2001 as one of the most calamitous and tragic dates in our history.

Historians may determine that it was the date America’s second civil war began. By that perspective, just as the first Civil War was the last gasp of slavery, this second is very likely the last gasp of aging white Americans — their full-throated death rattle against an America that they detest for having changed so dramatically the traditions and power structures by which those whites had lived. Regressions are often like that. They are an angry attempt to prevent a threatening future from arriving. Republicans had long preyed upon these discontents, but did so tepidly — a wink-and-nod approach. Trump voiced them and validated them, making racism, nativism and sexism acceptable. It will be his primary legacy.

But I think the real lesson of 2016 lies not in politics, but in religion. We hear a great deal about tribalism as an explanation for the Trump phenomenon. We hear about how Americans have divided themselves into parochial groups that reinforce shared values and interests as well as grievances and hatreds. But if tribalism answers one question — why people seem to hold so firmly to their beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence and even moral opprobrium — it doesn’t answer another, more important question: Why did they join these tribes in the first place?

I believe religion rather than politics may provide that answer. One of the most important shifts in our culture has been the transformation of politics into a kind of civic religion. Religion has always provided a sense of identity — hence the tribalism — but it provided something else, too; something even more fundamental. In what historian Karen Armstrong describes as the Axial Age, from which modern religions grew, it pointed the way to a meaningful life with spiritual values. That was for nurturing the soul. And it provided a cosmology, a systematic way of thinking about and explaining the world and our place in it. That was for the mind.

I have written previously about how conservatism turned itself into a civic religion, which I think is one of the affinities between evangelicalism and conservatism — not just that they share some values, but that they share the very idea of orthodoxy. Armstrong describes in a religious context how the Axial Age lost its spiritualism to dogma. This is especially relevant in a complex, ever-churning world that seems to outrun our capacity to understand it. True religion, I believe, begins in doubt and continues in spiritual exploration. Debased religion begins in fear and terminates in certainty.

Modern conservatism, like debased religion, has an explanation for everything, and there is nothing mysterious or spiritual about it. Trump understood the desire for some all-encompassing answer, as demagogues always do. Demagogues assume the proportions of religious leaders, but without the moral instruction. Through a process of simplification, they purport to tell their followers what happened and who is responsible. In short, they provide cosmology, not for the purpose of enlightenment, but for the opposite — benightedness.

As religious observance has declined in America, as faith has declined and the religious cosmologies have weakened, political passions and political cosmologies have risen, and those old religious/conservative affinities have strengthened as religion tries to save itself by piggybacking on politics, rather than as some believe, the other way around. Roy Moore, the Republican senatorial candidate in Alabama, is the perfect example of religion’s surrender to politics. Many evangelicals embrace him despite credible allegations of child molestation, showing how morality has become so politicized that it no longer even makes sense. That is because politics is the new religion of America.

Other observers, many of them brilliant, have been less alarmist than I about the permanent effects of Trumpism. New York Times columnist David Leonhardt wrote this past week that the Republican tax bill, which is like a nuclear bomb to the economy and to economic equality, will likely not have as severe consequences as many critics, myself included, fear. He says that politics change, Democrats sooner or later will take power, and they will revise the law just as Obama revised Bush’s tax cuts. Nothing is irrevocable.

But this assumes that politics is still politics, not religion. Religions are not easily reformed, doctrines are not easily changed, disciples are not easily converted. History is punctuated with religious warfare. This new civic religion has already put Republicans in the position of turning every election, every legislative squabble, into Armageddon. Ten years from now they may still be trying to repeal Obamacare. In the long run, perhaps, Leonhardt is right. Things change. They always change. But then again, according to the old saying, in the long run, we are all dead.

And that is why I don’t think the Trump moment will pass without serious and permanent damage to America. Trump isn’t just a politician with whom one may disagree. Indeed, Trump really has very little interest in politics, none in policy, and no respect whatsoever for the political process, which he ridicules at every turn as “rigged.” Instead, Trump, like other creators of a cult of personality, is a self-proclaimed savior, who promises his supporters redemption. In a certain sense, he is right. Trump’s is a cosmology of an America — a world, gone wrong — an America decayed by changing values purveyed by nonwhites, non-Christians and nonmales. He tells his supporters he will make it right. They believe him. And they will not be dissuaded. In Trump they trust.

So what to do? When liberal commentators discuss how Obama voters drifted to Trump and must be courted if Democrats are to win, I am deeply skeptical. I am skeptical of the data, which draws questionable conclusions about voting behavior, and I am even more skeptical of the effort to attract them. Thomas Edsall is as wise a columnist as we have, and he has been indispensable in trying to decipher this crisis in national sanity. But I think he too underestimates the forces that feed Trump and that Trump feeds. Last week’s column enjoined liberals to take their fingers out of their ears so they could hear the complaints of those Trump voters and win them back, even as he admits to the near impossibility of a liberal democracy, committed to freedom of expression, containing its more extreme elements.

I am not at all opposed to listening to Trump supporters. Quite the opposite. It is an imperative that they be heard and understood. I just don’t think there is much common cause between progressives and them. They are not all racists, nativists, sexists, homophobes and Islamophobes, but a healthy percentage are, and I think it’s probably a fool’s mission to attempt to change their minds. Just watch the people at Trump’s rallies. That is what makes the future so perilous. They are not going to convert.

Moreover, I am convinced that the worst is yet to come. Heading into the special election in Alabama, Moore seemed likely to win, confirming the utter depravity of the Republican Party. Thankfully — mercifully — that was not the case. Trump will issue blanket pardons in the Russia investigation and eventually fire Robert Mueller. The attacks on environmental protection, conservation, economic equality, the social safety net, a free press, voting rights, higher education and reason, diplomacy, women and morality itself will continue unabated with the full support of the Republicans. We shouldn’t fool ourselves. America is under siege, and this civil war has already taken a grave toll.

So I am not hopeful, but I don’t want to leave this space with a sense of hopelessness or futility. The resistance movement has already borne fruit, and there is a chance, albeit small, that Democrats will retake Congress next year and the counterattack will begin. I always remind myself, as you should remind yourself, that while the forces of hate are powerful, unshakable and mobilized, there are more of us than of them — Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, after all.

But just as I don’t think politics is the real engine for the Trump movement, I don’t think that politics is entirely the solution. Religion, which in its corrupted form is an engine, may be — by which I mean the moral and spiritual underpinnings of life. Rather than abandon our values or downplay them, as some suggest, I think we should double down on them. The religious historian Karen Armstrong, in describing those early religious principles of the Axial Age, wrote, “First, you must commit yourself to the ethical life,” and concluded that “religion was compassion.”

These are important things to remember. Let the conservatives continue to eschew ethics and compassion. Let them sow hatred. Let progressives hold firmly to ethics and compassion and to love. Morality, not moralism, is an almost ineluctable force. We talk a lot about grass-roots politics. We need to talk as well about grass-roots morality. Put simply: If you want to defeat Trump where it really counts, live ethically. The rest will follow. As Martin Luther King memorably said, paraphrasing Theodore Parker, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Moreover, when it comes to cosmology, progressives need to provide an alternative narrative to Trump’s and the conservatives’ that will explain the world without distorting it. It should tell the story of economic inequality, and of plutocracy, and of the role of conservatives in enabling these things. It should also provide a positive vision of community and mutual assistance and global interdependence. It should promote compassion and empathy. It should be simple, powerful and affirmative, and it should be repeated endlessly the way Trump repeats his racist/nativist/sexist/phobic narrative. I am convinced that you don’t fight fire with fire, which is why I am dubious of Democratic efforts to out tough Trump. You fight fire with water.

Here is hope. Even if 40 percent of Americans have gone to the dark side, there are still so many people who are good and decent and self-sacrificing and who will continue to fight for a just society. It has been my privilege to share my ideas with them (and you among them) these past two years. I hope I will be able to engage them (and you) again. Yes, it is a sad, indescribably tragic time in America, and now that we know what we know about so many of our fellow citizens, about the Republican Party, and about the incapacity of our political system to deal with extremism, there is no going back. But in spite of all that, I think we must keep the faith, and we must take comfort that we have one another, not as fellow tribalists, but as fellow human beings searching for our best selves.

 

 

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How College Campuses Can Uphold Free Speech AND Shut Down Racists

Give marginalized communities the space to address white nationalists on campus.

At the Center for Human and Civil Rights museum in Atlanta, Georgia, there’s an exhibit with headphones where you can sit and experience the verbal abuse that many civil rights activists lived through during the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins. They could not verbally respond to the racists, lest they suffer violent consequences. Instead, they used nonviolent protest to challenge the abusive provocation and impact the national public discourse.

I thought of that exhibit recently, as I read about the spread of racist speech seeking to incite a response on college campuses. Should we disrupt white nationalists, Nazis and other far right views? Or should we, like the civil rights pioneers, find other ways to shut down racist speech? And what role should college administrators and other decision-makers play?

A predictable pattern

We’re seeing a predictable pattern: The far right funds white nationalist speeches on university campuses seeking to provoke students, faculty and communities. When students and communities push back, the Nazis and other racists gleefully tweet and give media interviews about the chaos that ensued because of the “violent left.” Afterward, university administrators are “embarrassed” that their institution hosted a melee.

Our constitution demands that we fully support nonviolent, non-disruptive protests by students at white supremacist events. The text of the Constitution’s First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “a group’s request to engage in a parade or demonstration involving public display of the Nazi swastika is a symbolic form of free speech that is at least presumptively entitled to First Amendment protections.” However, as University administrators and others should be well aware, in Brandenburg v. Ohio the court also held that “government can punish inflammatory speech” if it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Considering the incited violence involving campus speeches at Berkeley, University of California Davis, and others, administrators should carefully consider the implications of Skokie and Brandenburg.

Despite the death of roughly 60,000,000 people in World War II, the U.S. Supreme Court has not allowed a government ban on Nazi hate speech and symbols. So how do we responsibly exercise free speech in higher education and more broadly while holding racists accountable for their history of violence, incitement, and hate?

A productive approach

One productive approach is for university administrators to slate white nationalists (if they insist on hosting them) on debates or panels, with multiple views represented, in place of from-the-podium speeches. This arrangement allows white nationalists to air their racially biased views with direct and immediate debunking that’s put on an equal footing.

Our nation’s colleges and universities are the place where the violent and hateful views of Nazis and other white supremacists should be vigorously challenged. I suspect that many disruptions on campus would be quelled if the views of marginalized communities were formally given the space to address white nationalists, Nazis and other radical right views in campus settings. These events would become productive democratic dialogues, not dangerous monologues.

And why not replicate this in the classroom to address the ongoing outcry from conservatives that their perspectives are sidelined in higher education? I recently lectured in a sophomore seminar course using free speech on campus as the foundation for the class. I asked the students to take a public position and provide evidence to support their arguments. But they were somewhat surprised when I pushed back on their evidence.

Protecting tenure

As faculty, we have the duty to prepare our students to be critical thinkers and ready to engage in serious discourse. I am a believer in the power of evidence and the exchange of ideas—but this concept must be buttressed by our nation’s faculty and students.

For either of these suggestions to be carried out with any consistency, we must protect academic tenure, which has been a recent target of conservatives. The sacred responsibility of academia, and the power of tenure, is the ability to wrestle with our nation’s toughest debates without fear of political reprisal.

For generations, my ancestors had to endure racist abuse from white supremacists in silence. They eventually adopted ingenious nonviolent tactics. Today, we can still resist those who would deny us our rights, but college administrators, faculty and others who invite them to speak must take practical steps to make space for our voices, too.

Gardmore Abbey 5E rerun – End

I think I forgot to report one or two sessions of my Gardmore Abbey 5th edition rerun. The campaign suffered from something very typical of campaigns in my local role-playing club: Player attrition. You start with 5 players, all very enthusiastic, and then over the months real life intervenes, or enthusiasm fades, and in the end it is hard to get a quorum together.

Today we finished the campaign. The players were level 7, but they had never fought the orcs who were the main force holding the abbey. So for the grand finale I strung together two encounters: The defense of the watchtower against attacking orcs (who had brought a hill giant and dire wolf cavalry), followed by the group attacking the keep with the orc chieftain. As there were only 3 players left, these were tough fight, especially with some lucky dice rolls on my side, like the hill giant scoring a critical hit.

But in the end the group prevailed and, having done all the quests in the abbey, returned to Lord Padraig. Having previously found out how the abbey fell through the use of the Deck of Many Things, they were able to persuade the lord to give them the last remaining cards. That assembled the deck, and allowed them to draw from it.

Ander the ranger drew just one card, but it was the Talons, which destroyed all his magical items. Ouch! Raymond the librarian barbarian drew two cards, but ended up drawing cards that gave him more draws. In the end he lost 10,000 xp, got permanently cursed, and gained a rare magical weapon. Kaze the monk drew 3 cards: The first lost him 5 points of intelligence (and he had only 10). The second gave him 50,000 xp and a rare wondrous item. And the third allowed him to erase the effect of the first card. Which meant that he was the only one who got really lucky, gaining 3 levels and some nice magic boots.

The Deck of Many Things is by itself frequently a campaign-ending item, and thus not recommended unless you don’t plan to continue anyway. But with the dwindling player-base this was the good opportunity to end the campaign on a high note.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL headphone adapter not working for some folks

The Google Pixel 2 series has already seen one significant audio problem, that being related to how it was recorded through the microphone. Though that was fixed in a recent software update, there appears to be another, more persistent, sound issue affecting devices.

Some people Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL owners are reporting that the supplied USB Type-C to 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter isn’t working. This was pointed out by users over at the Google Product Forums (via Android Police), and the issue seems to be that the headphone adapter isn’t being recognized: when connected, music still plays through the device speakers.

Editor’s Pick

According to reports, several people have experienced this problem and have contacted Google for a replacement adapter. Others are seeking software solutions, though there doesn’t appear to be a single workaround that applies in every scenario.

One person said that a software update had resolved the issue, while the process below was also offered as a fix:

  • Insert dongle/adapter into phone
  • Restart phone
  • Plug headphones into dongle/adapter
  • Start Google Play Music [and, presumably, play something]

Given that there are a variety of possible solutions, here, it looks like it’s not specifically tied to a faulty adapter (one user says they’ve owned three different dongles and the problem has persisted); there may be more than one problem at play.

Google must be aware of this by now — there are lots of comments and replacement requests have been made — though an employee is yet to step into the thread to discuss the problem directly.

If you’ve experienced this issue, perhaps try using Bluetooth headphones (should you own some) while you wait for this to get sorted out.

‘Whoa, Whoa’: Fox Panel Goes off the Rails After Guest Suggests FBI Plotted to Assassinate Trump

The right-wing media has lost its mind.

Fox News contributor on Tuesday said that it was possible that the FBI had plotted to assassinate President Donald Trump — although he quickly backed off when “Outnumbered” host Harris Faulkner expressed alarm at his baseless speculation.

Appearing on “Outnumbered,” guest Kevin Jackson said that Congressional Republicans need to get to the bottom of what FBI agent Peter Strzok meant when he said that there needed to be an “insurance policy” in the event that Trump got elected.

Even though the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Strzok’s “insurance policy” quote referred to his sincere belief in the need to investigate Trump because he was possibly compromised by Russian intelligence services, Jackson immediately went off the deep end and suggested much darker motives.

“What was his intent, right?” Jackson asked. “Because that’s exactly what FBI Director, former FBI Director [James] Comey said when he was letting Hillary Clinton off the hook. And his intent, regardless of whether it was an assassination attempt or whatever, it was definitely something…”

At this point, a surprised Faulkner interjected and said, “Whoa, whoa!” Jackson then responded by toning his rhetoric down a notch.

“Well, I’m just saying, we don’t know what it was,” Jackson said. “When you say, ‘we’ve got to make sure that this guy doesn’t get in at all cost,’ what does that mean? So I’m saying there’s a spectrum of what does it mean, but one thing that we know for sure, is that he was plotting in an election against a candidate, and there’s FBI fingerprints all over this.”

Later in the segment, Jackson admitted that everything he has heard about FBI plots to kill Trump has come from social media accounts that were “nothing credible.”

Watch the video, via Media Matters, below.

 

Related Stories

  • How Fox News Is Waging ‘Psychological Warfare’ on the American People
  • Intelligence Analyst Malcolm Nance Compares Fox News Rhetoric to ‘Psychological Warfare’
  • Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro Delivers Her Most Disturbing Monologue of Trump’s Presidency

Oracle Joins the White House in Global Campaign to Empower Girls and Women

Oracle Education Foundation
The Oracle Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization funded by Oracle Corporation. Its mission is to “inspire students globally to think, connect, create and share — using technology to help them dissolve boundaries, fulfill their potential, and create a better society.”
Oracle teamed up with the White House back in April to donate money to support the Obama administration’s Computer Science for All initiative. The goal is to empower and engage student through various computer science programs in over 1,100 US institutions. They hope the money and attention will draw young people around the world into learning about science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. The company committed $200 million to the cause.

On the heels of Oracle’s $200 million commitment to support Computer Science (CS) Education for All,the White House announced Oracle’s additional $3 million investment to immerse girls worldwide in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The company’s commitment of direct and in-kind funding supports “Let Girls Learn,” a U.S. government initiative aimed at helping adolescent girls around the world go to school and stay in school.

We want more girls focused on building upon science and math fundamentals and we want more women choosing the technical disciplines because they are both prepared to do so and because they believe it will advance their career opportunities,” Oracle’s (female) CEO, Safra Catz, said in a statement.

OWL

Oracle will offer more than 65 educational events and reach over 55,000 young girls globally through a powerful nexus of its corporate social responsibility programs spanning Oracle Academy, Oracle Education Foundation, Oracle Giving and Volunteers, (OWL), and Oracle Diversity and Inclusion. Events will include summer computing camps, codefests, workshops and conferences designed to encourage and inspire adolescent girls to become original thinkers, creative designers and enterprising trailblazers.

The money will help to fund programs to send 55,000 young girls around the world to various summer computing camps, codefests, workshops and conferences. Additionally, Oracle plans to expand its CS efforts in Egypt with an additional investment of nearly $1 million in educational resources and services over the next four years. The commitment is part of a new collaboration between the Ministry of Education in Egypt, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Oracle Academy, Oracle’s philanthropic educational program that impacts more than 2.6 million students in 106 countries. The partnership will support computing education in nine newly-created STEM schools throughout the country, including one boarding school exclusively for girls which will accept up the top 10 percent of girls across the governorates, reaching 150 girls each year and providing three years of paid education for each girl.
With the donation, Oracle joins several other technology companies which are participating in the White House’s computer science program. Both Google (GOOG, +0.89%) and Salesforce (CRM, +0.17%) (as well as the Cartoon Network) said they would donate in aggregate over $60 million to the program when it was first announced.
As part of the company’s global campaign to support girls and women in technology, Oracle will drive several notable projects:
  • Oracle Academy will team with Arizona State University and others under the USAID Build-IT project to help women in Vietnam develop into IT leaders.
  • Oracle Education Foundation and Oracle Volunteers will team to teach girls coding, electrical engineering and project management through girls-only workshops for Design Tech High School (d.tech), an innovative, free California public high school. Oracle is building d.tech’s new facility at its headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif., making d.tech the world’s first public high school on a technology campus.
  • Oracle Giving and Oracle Academy will award grants and sponsorships globally to nonprofit organizations striving to increase girls’ access to educational opportunities and encourage them to pursue degrees in computer science and STEM fields.
  • Oracle Giving will continue its support for MentorNet, which engages STEM professionals in the virtual mentoring of undergraduates, 66% of whom are women.
Oracle Academy, a computer science educational program, and Burning Glass Technology, an analytics company, recently did research and found that programming jobs grow 50 percent faster than the market average. As technology is increasingly present in people’s personal and professional lives, there is a need for computer science learning.

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