Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Numa Numa Yay!

So, you ask, what was all that Brouhaha last night on Meta-Wiki that got Bastique's tattoos in a knot?
Well, it seems there was a thread about this very blog that invited Cary Bass to explain his heavy-handed interventions on Wikiversity, at the urgent behest of FeloniousMonk Centaur of attention.
I am informed that people are rapidly getting sick of all this.

And so, as is my custom, I offer a little music therapy to relieve all the annoying schpilkes...

Vrei Sa Pleci Dar Nu Ma, Nu Ma Iei
Nu Ma, Nu Ma Iei, Nu Ma, Nu Ma, Nu Ma Iei.

[You want to split cuz you don't want,
don't want to have me,
Don't want, don't want to have me,
Don't want, don't want, don't want to have me.]


Halo?? Salut??
Sunt Eu, un Haiduc.

[Greetings, Jimbo.
It's Me, an Outlaw.]

Credit: Leg-O-Zone QuickTime parody of Dragostea Din Tei by Franky Pageos.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Phreaking Spectrum

How do you react to a heartbreaking, disturbing, disquieting, challenging, threatening, or inflammatory situation? It occurs to me that there is a spectrum of possible responses. Can you identify where you lie along this axis when confronting a difficult or troubling situation?

Phight, Phlight, Phreeze, Phuss, Phlame,
, Phry, Phumigate, Phoam, Phloat,
Phocus, Phunction, Phaze, Phoenix Pheather

Do you know which neuropeptides — which 'Molecules of Emotion' — are implicated in each response? What are the roles of Cortisol, Adrenalin, Bombesin, Gastrin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, Endorphins, and Erasin in the various responses along the Phreaking Spectrum?
Copyright 2004 Phaerie Phyre Productions.

Harden Not Your Heart

Even those of us who do not read bible passages on a weekly basis are nonetheless familiar with many of them.

There is a phrase that appears in both the Old and New Testament that has long arrested me. I first heard it in a passage from the Passover Haggadah, in connection to the story of the Ten Plagues. The Plagues were supposed to cause Pharaoh to relent, and allow Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, out of oppression. But nine times, Pharaoh changed his mind. In the text, he "hardened his heart."

In the New Testament there is a prominent teaching, "Harden not your heart."

Most of us understand this metaphor to mean a failure to adopt a merciful, compassionate, and understanding attitude. In the 1982, the pop group Quarterflash produced a musical number entitled Harden My Heart to dramatize seething anger that culminates in bulldozers and flamethrowers.

But why that metaphor? Why the metaphor of "hardening the heart"?

Today we know that the heart is a powerful muscle, used to pump blood.

Like any muscle, it can be made hard by mechanically tensing it. Who among us has not "made a muscle" of the biceps and palpated it to see how hard we can make it?

But the heart is not a voluntary muscle like a bicep. What hardens it?

Today most of us can name the neuropeptide that acts to make the heart race like mad, pumping blood in times of stress or danger. We know it as the Fight or Flight Response, mediated by Adrenaline.

And yet as a child, I was mystified by the biblical phrase, "harden the heart" for a reason that most adults of that era would not have been able to explain.

You see, I'm a redhead.

And there is something different about redheads.

For reasons having to do with physiology and cell biology, those of us who have diminished levels of Eumelanin also have correspondingly diminished levels of correlated neuropeptides, including Adrenaline, Serotonin, Dopamine, and Oxytocin.

As a result we tend to be somewhat more mellow, contemplative, and affectionate than the mean population. Think of a Golden Retriever. That's my demeanor.

The key thing here is a diminished store of Adrenaline. I rarely pump Adrenaline, and then only under exceedingly dire circumstances, such as a life-or-death situation (which almost never happens in my laid back life as a semi-retired scholar, researcher, and science educator).

But a lot of people not only experience Adrenaline surges, they actively seek the thrills that produce an Adrenaline rush. And one effect of that is to activate the heart muscles so that they can pump blood like crazy.

It's hard for me to have empathy for someone who is berserking in an Adrenaline-driven rage, because it's not a physiological state that I have any direct experience with.

Oh, sure, I've had my heart-pounding moments, but harnessing that surge of physical energy for Fight or Flight is just so far outside of my normative behavior that it didn't even occur to me to put a fist through a wall (let alone someone's nose).

On the Internet, it's nigh impossible to detect when a correspondent is in an Adrenaline-mediated rage. You can't see their eyes bulge out, or any other physiological manifestation of turning into the Incredible Hulk. Instead, people seem to take on a Jekyll and Hyde character, behavior uncharacteristically idiotic when intoxicated with Adrenaline and other surging neuropeptides (like Dopamine).

When us mellow redheads observe that, we scratch our heads, and mutter WTF???

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Malwebolence: The Trolls Among Us

From the Sunday New York Times Magazine...

Malwebolence: The Trolls Among Us

New York Times Sunday Magazine
Published: August 3, 2008

A growing subculture has a fluid morality and a disdain for pretty much everyone else online.


/b/ is the designated “random” board of, a group of message boards that draws more than 200 million page views a month. A post consists of an image and a few lines of text. Almost everyone posts as “anonymous.”

Measured in terms of depravity, insularity and traffic-driven turnover, the culture of /b/ has little precedent. /b/ reads like the inside of a high-school bathroom stall, or an obscene telephone party line, or a blog with no posts and all comments filled with slang that you are too old to understand.

In the late 1980s, Internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities. Early trolling was relatively innocuous, taking place inside of small, single-topic Usenet groups. The trolls employed what the M.I.T. professor Judith Donath calls a “pseudo-naïve” tactic, asking stupid questions and seeing who would rise to the bait. The game was to find out who would see through this stereotypical newbie behavior, and who would fall for it. As one guide to trolldom puts it, “If you don’t fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.”

“Lulz” is how trolls keep score. A corruption of “LOL” or “laugh out loud,” “lulz” means the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium. “Lulz is watching someone lose their mind at their computer 2,000 miles away while you chat with friends and laugh,” said one ex-troll who, like many people I contacted, refused to disclose his legal identity.

Another troll explained the lulz as a quasi-thermodynamic exchange between the sensitive and the cruel: “You look for someone who is full of it, a real blowhard. Then you exploit their insecurities to get an insane amount of drama, laughs and lulz. Rules would be simple: 1. Do whatever it takes to get lulz. 2. Make sure the lulz is widely distributed. This will allow for more lulz to be made. 3. The game is never over until all the lulz have been had.”

Sherrod DeGrippo, a 28-year-old Atlanta native who goes by the name Girlvinyl, runs Encyclopedia Dramatica, the online troll archive. In 2006, DeGrippo received an e-mail message from a well-known band of trolls, demanding that she edit the entry about them on the Encyclopedia Dramatica site. She refused. Within hours, the aggrieved trolls hit the phones, bombarding her apartment with taxis, pizzas, escorts and threats of rape and violent death. DeGrippo, alone and terrified, sought counsel from a powerful friend. She called Weev.

Weev, the troll who thought hacking the epilepsy site was immoral, is legendary among trolls. He is said to have jammed the cellphones of daughters of C.E.O.’s and demanded ransom from their fathers; he is also said to have trashed his enemies’ credit ratings. Better documented are his repeated assaults on LiveJournal, an online diary site where he himself maintains a personal blog. Working with a group of fellow hackers and trolls, he once obtained access to thousands of user accounts.

I first met Weev in an online chat room that I visited while staying at Fortuny’s house. “I hack, I ruin, I make piles of money,” he boasted. “I make people afraid for their lives.” On the phone that night, Weev displayed a misanthropy far harsher than Fortuny’s. “Trolling is basically Internet eugenics,” he said, his voice pitching up like a jet engine on the runway. “I want everyone off the Internet. Bloggers are filth. They need to be destroyed. Blogging gives the illusion of participation to a bunch of retards. . . . We need to put these people in the oven!”

Socrates vs. Pseudocrates

Trolls employ what M.I.T. professor Judith Donath calls a “pseudo-naïve” tactic, asking stupid questions and seeing who rises to the bait.

Socratic educators are high-functioning "trolls" by most popular definitions.

I define a troll as "someone who asks an arresting question you'd rather not have to answer."

The main reason Socratic Interlocutors ask such questions is to highlight questionable beliefs that are ripe for exposure as haphazard "flights of fancy" rather than scientifically grounded hypotheses supported by solid evidence and sound reasoning.

Unlike Donath's definition in the NY Times, the questions asked by Socratic "trolls" are not stupid questions at all.

So why do those laboring under unsustainable misconceptions and delusional beliefs rush to label such insightful and didactic Socratic questions as trollish stupid questions?

(That's not a rhetorical question. I'd really like to know.)

And is there a reliable way to distinguish Socrates from Pseudocrates?

Title: Both Sides Now
Artist: Montana Mouse
Composer: Joni Mitchell and Barsoom Tork Associates
Both Sides Now

Rows and floes of devil's snare
And icy sanctions of despair
And popcorn fandoms evrywhere
I've looked at trolls that way

But now they only block my fun
They rant and rave at evryone
So many things I would have done
But trolls got in my way

I've looked at trolls from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's troll's delusions I recall
I really don't know trolls at all

Loons and tunes and frosty wheels
The lazy lancing way you deal
As evry scary tale comes real
I've looked at lulz that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em lurching when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at mods from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's mod's confusions I recall
I really don't know mods at all

Tears and fears and feeling down
To say I dread you right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus clowns
I've looked at strife that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, say I'm deranged
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In lurking evry day

I've surfed the web from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's pained aspersions I recall
I really don't read blogs at all

I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

CopyClef 2008, Joni Mitchell and Barsoom Tork Associates.
Resurrection Hackware. All wrongs reversed.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Odd Socracy Tackles Condo's ad hoc Ochlocracy

Thanks to Mike Ault of the Bedfordshire Condominium Association for suggesting this number...

Title: Parking Prison Blues
Artist: John McCarthy
Composer: Johnny Cash and Barsoom Tork Associates
Midi: Folsom Prison Blues

I hear the tow truck comin'
It's rolling round the bend
And I ain't seen good neighbors since I don't know when,
My truck's in Parking Prison, and time keeps draggin' on
But the Trustees keep a boilin' on their lord high throne

When I was just a baby my mama told me, Son,
Always be a good boy, don't ever diss the Nuns.
But I parked a truck in Bedford just to watch Bob sigh
When I hear that rule book quoting, I hang my head and cry..

I bet there's rich folks eating in a fancy barbecue
They're probably drinkin' coolers and driving funky carts.
Well I know I had it coming, I know I can't be free
But those Trustees keep a movin'
And that's what tortures me...

Well if they freed my truck from prison,
If that parking space was mine
I bet I'd park my truck a little longer down the line
Far from Parking Prison, that's where I want to stay
And I'd let Barsoom Tork's music blow my blues away.....

CopyClef 2008, Johnny Cash and Barsoom Tork Associates.
Bedfordshire Bupkes, All Wrongs Reversed.

Folsom Prison Blues ~ Johnny Cash