11.19.2005

Assorted articles

Are you familiar with the life and history of the illustrious photographer Lillian Virginia Mountweazel? No? Well, she doesn't exist -- she is the subject of a fake entry in the New Columbia Encyclopedia, which was written as copyright protection. Dictionaries do it too, inserting definitions for fake words. A New Yorker article explores one investigator's attempt to locate the spurious entry somewhere within the E's of the New Oxford American Dictionary, with experts weighing in on which of the likely candidates was the made-up word.

So when word leaked out that the recently published second edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary contains a made-up word that starts with the letter “e,” an independent investigator set himself the task of sifting through NOAD’s thirty-one hundred and twenty-eight “e” entries in search of the phony. The investigator first removed from contention any word that was easily recognized or that appears in Webster’s Third New International; the remaining three hundred and sixty words were then vetted with a battery of references.

Six potential Mountweazels emerged. They were:

earth loop—n. Electrical British term for GROUND LOOP.
EGD—n. a technology or system that integrates a computer display with a pair of eyeglasses . . . abbreviation of eyeglass display.
electrofish—v. [trans.] fish (a stretch of water) using electrocution or a weak electric field.
ELSS—abbr. extravehicular life support system.
esquivalience—n. the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities . . . late 19th cent.: perhaps from French esquiver, “dodge, slink away.”
eurocreep—n. informal the gradual acceptance of the euro in European Union countries that have not yet officially adopted it as their national currency.



I was a player on Ultima Online for a period of time, and I knew that player accounts and sums of in-game gold, usually in denominations of millions, could be traded for real-world cash. What I didn't know is that there is an entire industry of full-time workers in "video game sweatshops" doing nothing but bringing in the gold in pretty much every MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) out there, assets which are then sold off to net a tidy profit for the enterprising entrepreneurs who mastermind it all. An article at 1Up, "Wage Slaves", tells the whole story.

Weeks go by as I chase ghosts and rumors of Chinese workers clicking 12 hours a day. Word has it that 300 farmers are working at computers lined up in airport hangars somewhere in Asia. After all, Lineage II banned certain Chinese IPs for a reason. Finally, I get in contact with a man in his 30s who goes by the name Smooth Criminal. He's a partner in one of the largest sellers of MMORPG gold, and he isn't apologetic. His rap sheet: banned from Ultima Online, Asheron's Call, Shadowbane, Star Wars Galaxies, and Ultima Online again. He says once someone even traded him a wedding ring worth $2,000 for WOW gold.

Smooth Criminal's game cartel made $1.5 million from Star Wars Galaxies alone last year, and individually, he's made as much as $700,000 in a single year. "[SWG] built my new house, which I paid for in cash," he says. "So when you ring my doorbell, it plays the Star Wars music." Smooth Criminal is in charge of writing programs, finding exploits, and locating in-game "dupes" (bugs for duplicating gold or items). "I have a real job, but when there's a dupe, I call in sick," he says. It costs him more money to actually go to his "real job." "When I dupe," Smooth Criminal adds, "I farm billions on every game server and spread out my activities." He then uses three accounts to launder the gold: a duper account, a filter account, and a delivery account—each created using different IPs, credit cards, and computers. This way, it's hard to trace the source, and the gold comes back clean.



Where London Stood is an interesting article about ruined cityscapes in the futures of science fiction worlds. The article explores the different forms that these scenes take -- overgrown city, sleeping city, blasted city, dying city -- with descriptions and examples of occurrences of these various themes. There is, of course, a nice picture gallery to accompany the list, along with some links.

I think that there are three broad categories into which the vast majority of SF's ruined cities can be placed. The power of all of these comes from a subversion of a familiar landscape. Sobchack's remark about the vastness of alien landscapes in film can be applied in temporal terms - "Our civilization and its technological apparatus is at best a small town set on the edge of an abyss. Watching these films with their abundance of long shots in which human figures move like insects, their insistence on a fathomless landscape, we are forced to a pessimistic view of the worth of technological progress and of man's ability to control his destiny. We are shown human beings set uncomfortably against the vastness and agelessness of the desert and sea, are reminded by the contrast that land and water were here long before us and our cities and towns will be here long before us and our cities and towns and will be here long after we and are artefacts are gone."

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2 Comments:

Anonymous ladysusan:

Check out that photo of Smooth Criminal. If he were on the Geek or Serial Killer game I definitely would have gone with Serial Killer.

11:08  
Blogger bluewyvern:

I'm not sure that's a real photo. I think it's an image from World of Warcraft or something.

The real guy probably does look more like a geek. His doorbell plays the *Star Wars* theme, for Pete's sake.

12:54  

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