Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Visions of a parallel world: 3rd Tlön Conference on Uqbar Management and Orbis Tertius Economics edition

Here at the Riddled High-Energy Experimental Literature Laboratory, we were impressed by the following cast-list. It appears to have been constructed from a list of delegates to some international meeting, re-assembling surnames and forenames and patronymics into novel combinations, creating a Pynchon-manqué quality in the process from the polyglot and promiscuous intermingling of nationalities.

It is in fact the Editorial Board at the Academy of Global Research or AGRresearch.org ['research' is so important it's in the name twice!], and cries out to be sung to the tune of Widdecombe Fair. Some of the members have even acquired institutional employment! It is good to see so many universities valuing Diversity, and recruiting and promoting staff without a narrow-minded requirement of physical reality.

Dr. McMahon Edward, (PhD). Chair of Scientific & Review Committee, Academy of Global Research.
Professor F. A. Bajwa. Professor, School of Management Sciences, Imperial University PK. (Conference Coordinator)
Professor M. A. Rahman. Professor, National Textiles University, Pk (Co-organizer)
Dr. Ahmad Raza Bilal, (PhD). Editor & Conference Coordinator- Academy of Global Research, Main City, UAE
Professor Dr. Zafar Ahmad (PhD). Syracuse University, New York, USA.
Dr. Philiph Kovar, (PhD). College of Computer Science and IT, Michigan State University, USA.
Dr. Bilan Winer, (PhD). Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya – Kuala Lumpur.
Bruce Rasli, (PhD). School of Biological Science, (SBS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Dr. Kieu Li Nguyen, (PhD). Flinders University Australia.
Dr. Douglas J Turskis, (PhD). Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey.
Dr. Lopatin Brown, (PhD). School of Management Sciences, (SMS), Aix Marseille University France.
Dr. Simon Johnson, (PhD). School of Business Studies, The University of Warwick, Philippines.
Professor Farooq Ahmad. School of Business Administration, Imperial University, PK.
Dr. Natalia Van Duyne, (Ph.D). Department of Economics and Finance, Humboldt University of Berlin.
Prof. Svitlana Bouillon, (Ph.D). School of Natural Science, (SNS), Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich Germany

Artist's impression of Prof. Edward
Professor Doctor McMahon Edward in particular is such an engaging literary creation that one can only regret his lack of real-world existence, given his stellar career of expertise and accomplishments and public service. As recorded in the introduction to his Keynote Address to the AGR-sponsored 2013 Global Conference on Multidisciplinary Academic Research in Business Psychology, in Manila:
Dr. McMahon is professor of economics and strategic management research at Flinders University Australia. Dr. McMahon initially attained the bachelor degree from Australia. Subsequently, he obtained his degrees on Master (MPH) and Doctoral (DrPH) from Flinders University Australia. He also attained MFOM from Ireland. He was then inducted to the department of management sciences Flinders University Australia. He also acquired Fellowship (FAGE) and economic certification from Harvard Business School. In 2008, in recognition of his services, he was conferred the Excellence Service Award by the ministry of Australia.
He also attained the Best Session Presentation Award from the International Conference on Global Trends in Academic Research 2008 and International Conference on Innovation Challenges in Multidisciplinary Research & Practice 2013. He had also chaired sessions in the International Conferences. He has affiliations to various organizations.
During his earlier stint, he served at various governments educational institutions. He previously held office as the Director of Finance Committee (ministry of finance Australia), member government audit wing, advisor to minister of finance and commerce and edition of various financial and economic international research journals.
Plating a boiler
Although Edward has much in common with Professor A.R. Bilal, to the extent that a Conference Message delivered by the latter to MARBP in 2013 as AGR secretary was recycled by the former for FCEG, in Paris 2015. Boiler- plate text, as it were, such as one addresses to boiler-platers.

It is not entirely clear how these keynote speeches were delivered. Perhaps a less existence-challenged surrogate was employed, or a video link to an alternative time-line in which these persons do exist. AGR offers a gallery of photographs from these earlier symposia, documenting the large numbers and general satisfaction of the attendees and the sumptuous facilities provided, but they were of little assistance, for checking them with the Goofle Image Search was like taking a whirlwind tour of the globe, from an architecture meeting in Sydney to the Goose Specialist group in Beijing. Almost as if low-life shitweasels had harvested the images from some other, less grifty grove of Academe.

AGRresearch might potentially be linked to a glittering array of respectably non-fraudulent organisations. Perhaps not in this universe, but the Multiverse is large enough to accommodate all possibilities.

Of course there is nothing original about scammy little mockademic conferences. They are the inevitable outcome of pressures and incentives in the education environment, where administrators demand some simple, easily-quantified metric to let them decide on staff promotion and retention with minimal effort on their part... metrics like "networking" and "peer participation". An entire vibrant ecosystem of disguised travel agencies evolved to meet that demand. No, it was the exuberant inventiveness of AGRresearch that singled it out from the competition and brought it to the attention of Riddled, as we now bring it to yours! Though we aren't sure whether to applaud and encourage that creativity, or try to quash it -- for if there's one thing we learned from Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, it's that excessive exposure to knowledge of an alternative reality brings artifacts from that reality irrupting into our own, then its history and culture and physical laws, displacing all that is familiar.

But don't go yet, there's more! The 'Partners' link at its website informs us that AGR is linked to the International Organization for Research and Development, an august, globe-spanning noble-intentioned body lending its authority and granting its gravitas. The IOrd has a logo and everything, which appears on the Proceedings of many another Conference, placing its imprimatur on diverse organisers; also a Mission Statement [see later].

Given its unimpeachably lofty ideals, it is disappointing that the one quality lacking of IOrd is any non-fabulated existence: even the domain has lapsed, on account of the registrant neglecting to pay the domain renewal fee. For some unfathomable reason, the logo was filched from a Tucson manufacturer of temporary tattoos.

Also listed as partnering AGR is the “Journal of Management Sciences” at jmsciences.com... which has gone like tears in rain, its erstwhile domain having lapsed through the registrant's negligence. Only fragments echo on within Goofle Cache, bad luck for the suckers who paid to have their papers hosted there.
Not to forget the Academy of Science and Technology. Despite being
created in 1986 to recognize outstanding achievements in science and technology and to serve as a reservoir of competent scientific and technological manpower across globe. Current membership is 345 academicians from across world, grouped into the following divisions: Business and Management, Finance, Economics, Agricultural Sciences, Mathematical, and Physical Sciences, Computer studies, Engineering Sciences and Technology, Health Sciences and Social Sciences,
Would look good on a red shirt
and having a logo evidently modelled on the emblem of Starfleet, its grip on existence is precarious indeed, with not so much as a website constructed on its domain.

This is where things get interesting [for sufficiently small values of 'interest']. These more-or-less fictive, more-or-less disparate entities turn out to be linked, like the multiple bodies of a Rat-King, with the domain registrant -- one farooqanwar79@gmail.com -- as the knotted tail they share in common. That is to say, Dr Farooq Anwar Bajwa -- token Real Person among the AGR Editors -- set up the domains for the IOrd, AGRresearch, J.Man.Sci., and AST. Carried away with enthusiasm, he went on to register the Eurasia Research Institute or ERI, a.k.a. eurasiaconferences.com; and academicconferences.org (although the latter domain expired and all that lingers of the site is its dim reflection on Wayback).

"providing a classy paltform for the researchers across the globe."

ERI was another bite at the conferencing cherry, its credibility enhanced by endorsements from AST and IOrd and JMS... although it succumbed to inertia and incompetence, and is currently soliciting contributions to the August and December 2015 performances of ERC-2015.

For the sake of completeness, we should also mention the “International Research Conference on Business, Economics and Social Sciences”, for this organisation is affiliated with the usual suspects, and attendees are regularly promised a Welcome Address from Prof. Dr. F.A. Bajwa (the domain is registered to a Khalid Chauhdry, perhaps the IT technician).

Rather confusingly, each year’s IRCBES is a moveable feast, performed at multiple venues around Asia at roughly fortnightly intervals. For further confusion, and to increase the market, these IRC meetings are variously branded and sold through yet more buttocks of the communal bum: the Academy of Business Management Conferences, and through Global Research Conferences.

Less creativity has gone into these sites, and the academics who are listed on the Advisory Board mostly seem to exist (though if they are aware that their names have been enlisted for this purpose, they are doing their best to conceal the fact).

More damningly, the site designers display an unhealthy fondness for Algerian typefont.

At the present rate of growth, grifty mockademic conferences will soon be Pakistan's #1 industry.
Disappointed at the loss of inventiveness in these latest literary artefacts, we console ourselves by reading the encomium where Bajwa wrote himself into the narrative, introducing himself as Keynote Speaker to (and Head of Organising Committee of) FCEG 2015. It reaches unmatched heights of autohagiography, and may give some picture of his many achievements and capabilities.
Professor F.A. Bajwa is Dean of Research at Imperial University, Pk. He is regarded as a leading international researcher and known consultant of financial issues in academia. His contribution for promotion of research excellence and work on handling of financial challenges are recognized at international level. Prof. Bajwa has been in leading positions formerly across many countries including Malaysia, Thailand, and UAE and have been involved in research and development activities with various other global level institutions. He is among the main advisors of Academy of Global Research. His research contributions are wider and impactful for the scholars and researchers in the multidisciplinary fields. He is among the top advocates of promoting multidisciplinary research and practice for better service of humanity. He is on the advisory boards of several countries for development of psychological empowerment, organizational mistreatment and innovation infrastructure to help in growth of knowledge based economies. His 20 years of rich academic and research experience along with visionary leadership for innovation and excellence makes him an ideal scholar to share his thoughts regarding financial and management challenges in fields of business practices and research.
Unusually for lecturers on Management Science and organisers of conferences thereon, Bajwa has actual management experience, at a Sizzler Grill and a Fort Restaurant... although the LinkedIn and FaceBonk entries that recorded these experiences were recently removed from public view, presumably out of modesty, shortly after the inquiring commenters at ScholarlyOA began exploring the whole backstory.
International Organization for Research and Development (IORD)
Since its founding as a nongovernmental organization, the International Organization for Research and Development (IORD) has been established with the mission to facilitate, guide, fund and render all other services to the research community in general and different research institutes in Asia and Europe particularly to promote the Research culture especially among developing countries.
Within the framework of these objectives, the International Organization for Research and Development (IORD) organizes national and international conferences, seminars, panel discussions and lectures for specific groups either directly or through any of its affiliate organizations. Currently 34 affiliates are associated directly or indirectly with IORD. Another feature of the organization is to provide different fundings to the students at different levels to enhance the quality of education in less developed areas around the globe. IORD, for instance, has sponsored more than 25 students in developing countries to pursue their PhDs in different domains.
The Association is also active in the field of publishing. Among its publication affiliates are majorly, Academy of Science and Technology, Journal of Organizational studies, Journal of Management Sciences. The Association maintains library and documentation facilities which can be consulted freely.
The International Organization for Research and Development (IORD) cooperates actively with government institutions, non-governmental organizations and scientific and political institutions across the globe. This cooperation enables the Association to organize a variety of national and international conferences with contemporary challenging and unique themes. In addition, the organization assists other governmental and non Governmental organizations to organize and implement the projects relating to the core issues being faced in one particular territory or a region in general.
The independence, autonomy, and the transparency of the International Organization for Research and Development (IORD) is safeguarded by the Board of the Directors, comprising of mainly, the donors, researchers and renowned academicians from different parts of the world.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Distraction Watch

It was Friday, so I walked around the trapline to see if the Stupid Traps had snared anything. And oh yes, there was Stupid aplenty, enough for everyone, but of such a nature that I find myself working the Retraction Watch side of the street.

1. Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?

RW blogposts have sometimes focused on the long delays between the appearance of a flawed paper and its eventual expulsion from the academic literature, and its transferral into the hands of the secular branch to be consumed in cleansing fire.

At the other end of the spectrum, one hears less often of negative delays, where the paper is criticised, condemned and withdrawn even before it appeared in press. If only because the Temporal Continuity Police look askance on that kind of chrono-anomaly and CODE PALIMPSEST dangling causality pointers (which require no end of temporal-continuum re-knitting and recompiling from the source code, and you wouldn't believe the paperwork, while the Temporal Continuity Accounts auditors are notoriously humourless on the concept of "overtime").

But none of this stopped one Jake Crosby, anti-vaccine campaigner, in the throes of a Category 4 Butthurt, from demanding the pre-emptive retraction of a paper that hasn't been published, and currently exists only in the fertile imagination of another anti-vaccine campaigner (who in turn claims to have heard about it from the author's lawyer,* because that's what lawyers are for).
In short, it is Schrödinger's Manuscript, in a superpositioned state of potential publication, and Jake wants to collapse the wave-function to a state of unpublication, for he is convinced that if it were written it would violate his belief system.

To that end, Crosby asks his readers to
(a) Stalk the potential author.
(b) Contact the potential author's employers.
(c) Contact the P.N.A.S. (which he believes to be the target journal IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROPHECY) and warn them not to publish the potential paper.
(d) Denounce the P.N.A.S. to the Committee Of Public Safety On Publication Ethics.**
Please write and call Dr. Thompson at the following numbers and email address and tell him to withdraw his “reanalysis” and that he will face ethical complaints against him due to the ridiculous nature of his claims.
[redacted]@cdc DOT gov
(404) xxx-xxxx (office) Liz writes: the number published is incorrect
(404) xxx-xxxx (cell) Liz writes: the number published is incorrect

Also contact the journal publishing his paper as well and tell them withdraw his paper and that they too will face ethics complaints for publishing it. Here is the email for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where the “reanalysis” will likely be published. You should let the journal know that it too will face an ethical complaint for publishing Thompson’s analysis and should withdraw it from press: [redacted]@nas dot edu, Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx redacted for charity

Also make a complaint to the Committee on Publication Ethics. Let them know you complained to both the author of the piece and to PNAS: http://publicationethics.org/contact-us
* "Mr. Richard Morgan, Esq. [sic], Dr. Thompson’s whistle blower attorney, stated that Dr. Thompson will be publishing a paper in May, 2016". Actual attorney is Mr Frederick "Rick" Morgan.

** Crosby is perhaps unaware that a key part of the COPE mission statement is "Do not criticise dues-paying members of COPE".

2. He who lies down with dogs should take a long spoon. And being smeared all over with peanut butter beforehand, turns out not to be such a good idea.

Dear Health Ministry people,
This is what happens when you go into partnership with the Police and NZ Customs to establish a National Drug Intelligence Bureau -- which with three bodies and a single head is going one step better than a T'ao T'ieh. You find your name signed onto a mendacious clickbaity 'report', stuffed full as a bad- taxidermy walrus with fabricated claims and numbers about social costs, gateway drug, dangerous potency of marijuana today, hospital emergency admissions. A report that served the police well back in 2008, when it was mysteriously though promptly leaked to the media and churnalised into editorials about the need to press on with the War on Drugs.

Then when the report's tendentious and self-serving nature comes to light eight years later, and you seek to retract it for fear that 'making shit up' will not reflect well on the joint agency's reputation as a source of impartial reliable information, the police will veto that retraction, for fear of damaging the NDIB's reputation. Remember, they come from a culture in which the only shame in fabrication or chicanery comes from admitting it.

Also (a) there is nothing to be gained from recriminations after so many years; (b) the report is long forgotten; (c) it was of little importance and was only used to dictate public policy; (d) the Drug Analyst who wrote it is no longer in the NDIB, after promotion elsewhere for a job well done.
In a letter dated October, 2013, national manager of intelligence Detective Superintendent Stephen Vaughan said the report had been removed from the police website and the internal police intranet.
He said the report was no longer referenced, "due to the fact that it is over six years old", there had been "significant changes" to intelligence practices and processes within the NDIB, and none of the current staff were in their roles when the report was released.
"The issues that you raise ... would not occur in the current intelligence system," Vaughan wrote, saying there was no need for further action.
Bonus T'ao T'ieh
This description of Stuart Dawson's five-year exercise in accessing the actual number of drug-related hospital admissions makes for interesting although repetitive reading, in which phrases recur about "file destroyed". Apparently the custom of the day was to maintain no hard-copy back-ups for crucial dispositive data, and only a single easily-corrupted electronic copy.

HA HA, "joint agency", you see what I did there?

3. He sounds nice.
Bonus Anti-Vax Loon: Christopher Savage!
These reports give the impression that Savage is actually in New Zealand, dispensing toxic prescriptions in person (rather than across the Interlattice), but this may be a misunderstanding of the District Health Board's warning. He only recently returned to Australia, fleeing Bali one step ahead of the Indonesian authorities. Indonesians were not well-pleased with the medical treatments he was offering there to treat autism and heart disease -- a form of homebake chelation, administering intravenous magnesium chloride to flush that heavy-metal 'calcium' out from blood vessels and bones and muscles.*

Savage has previously earned some notoriety in certain circles as an apologist for infanticide, popping up to defend the parents whenever a child dies of broken bones and internal bleeding, offering his trained opinion that these are really the side-effects of vaccination. Savage's medical expertise being the many years he spent as a police constable before leaving under a cloud when his truculence, incompetence and laziness became too much for the Queensland Police DON'T LAUGH. Savage is inclined to blame the QP themselves for the two weeks he took off work to spend in bed, for subjecting him to vaccination (against Hep-B) as a requirement of his continued employment.

Anyway, Chris Savage also turns out to be a homicidal gun-licker:
Savage declares that he wants his guns back, granting us some retrospective succour in the knowledge that, in 2012 at least, Savage was not in possession of firearms
...and an antisemitic, holocaust-denying, white-supremacist unabashed neo-Nazi. Nevertheless, he remains persona grata to the "Australian Vaccination-skeptic Network" and to the "Vaccine Resistance Movement", whose members flocked to the comment threads of Australian news-sites to condemn the actions of Indonesian authorities and the media who report those actions. If "flocked" is the correct term to use for groups of flying monkeys.

The idea that apparent cases of infanticide are really the sequelae of vaccines is not uncommon in anti-vax circles. Three schools of thought can be adduced. In one form of the theory -- this is Röver and Scheibner's preference -- the toxicity of any vaccine depletes the infant's bodily reserves of Vitamin C, causing a kind of instant scurvy or Barlow's Disease, with internal bleeding and fragile bones that break even under the lightest discipline.
OR the vaccine destroys the body’s reserves of Vitamin D (I am not so clear on the mechanism here), and therefore instant rickets and skeletal fragility. This seems to be Buttram’s preference.
On the gripping hand prehensile tail, we shouldn't forget Innis, who theorises that the particular micronutrient destroyed by vaccines is Vitamin K. No need to worry about the mechanism because it leads inexorably to the same end-point of internal bleeding and broken bones.

Don't worry, none of this will be on the test.

* Savage has progressed from his earlier on-line scam where he spruiks "superoxy" for curing cancer, i.e. "stabilized electrolytes of oxygen" -- "the extra Oxygen goes to work cleaning and healing the cells and indeed the entire body". That is to say, industrial bleach for oral or intravenous administration.

Am I alone in wanting a Sexy Fascist Octopus costume for next Hallowe'en?

4. Protraction Watch

Via Stat, here is the heart-warming tale of the Faithful Little Archive. A collection of data that languished in a basement for 45 years, mouldering away on punched cards and magnetic tapes, without so much as a 5-1/4 floppy disk in sight, and did it complain? DID IT BOGROLL, for it knew that one day when THE STARS ARE RIGHT the world would be ready to hear the message it contained. See, other neglected data, be of good cheer, your time too will come.
The message being that reducing the animal-fat component in the diets of a cohort of subjects lacking any choice in the matter -- substituting vegetable fats instead -- does not reduce their rate of dying by heart disease, contrary to the conclusion that the data were collected with the intention of proving. Also contrary to most dietary advice of the last half-century... for the animal-fat / heart-disease paradigm became Received Wisdom anyway, even without that expected support.


But Official Advice in its magisterial grandeur is too important to be swayed by the whims of mere empirical evidence. It matters more that official advice remain consistent, thereby retaining the childlike faith of the masses, than correct. We learn that the anti-fat genre of advice should remain in the official canon, for although the animal-fat / heart-disease link may lack for evidential support, nor have enough data piled up for overwhelming proof of the absence of a link. Apparently "not offering advice at all if the data are equivocal" is not an option.

Not only are the Basement Tapes not dispositive, they were collected a long time ago, under conditions of dubious ethicality, when confounders were not adequately controlled. One could say much the same of those studies which did support the link and the advice, but that's different, shut up that's why.

But the Stat story buries the lede, leaving this until the penultimate paragraph:
The coleader of the project was Dr. Ancel Keys, author of the Seven Countries Study,* Time cover subject, and the most prominent advocate of replacing saturated fat with vegetable fat. “The idea that there might be something adverse about lowering cholesterol [via vegetable oils] was really antithetical to the dogma of the day,” Bob Frantz said.
That is, Keys knew in 1970 that his public policies were empirically wrong, but he had invested too much in anti-fat crusading to change.
[h/t Retraction Watch for link to Stat]

* The Seven Countries Study started out as the 21-Countries Study, before the extraction of countries which did not support the desired relationship between diet and heart disease. Even for those seven data points, recent re-analyses that took confounders into proper account found the main dietary driver of cardio-vascular disease to be sugar.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

They are the Mothers!
Do you fear?
The Mothers! Mothers! Strange the word I hear

The details of hipster fermentation, if done properly, are even ickier than I realised:
I don't remember that from the Philip Jose Farmer story.
Here, it seemed, was the ultimate source of all miscreation and abomination. For the gray mass quobbed and quivered, and swelled perpetually; and from it, in manifold fission, were spawned the anatomies that crept away on every side through the grotto. There were things like bodiless legs or arms that flailed in the slime, or heads that rolled, or floundering bellies with fishes' fins; and all manner of things malformed and monstrous, that grew in size as they departed from the neighborhood of Abhoth. And those that swam not swiftly ashore when they fell into the pool from Abhoth, were devoured by mouths that gaped in the parent bulk.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spam, Spam, Spam, Pathos and Spam

The award for 'Most Embarrassingly Pathetic Plea for a Pity-Fuck from a wannabee predatory publisher' goes to...
Bio Accent!
From Renu and Ravi Kuppala, of Hyderabad. Not only naming their company like a laundry-powder additive; but also for contributions to fulsome flattery in the griftergram genre:
We, Bio Accent open access publishers came newly into publishing sector to provide a platform to the researchers, practitioners, students and professionals from both academia as well as industry to meet and share cutting-edge development in the field of Neurology.

We have found your profile from your institute; it seems you are a very good expert in Neurology. We don’t want to miss your appreciable work so, we are inviting you for manuscript submission in BAOJ Neurology.

We request you to let us know if you have any kind of research work to publish with us and please let me know your tentative date of manuscript submission.

We are expecting huge support from your side, so it will help us to get indexed & impact factor soon.

Awaiting for your positive response.


But "Fair words butter no more than 0.025% of parsnips" as we found in the course of rigorous research at the Riddled Experimental Cuisine Laboratory. A rough translation follows (courtesy of the Riddled Ktistec Machine):
Ktistec Machine
"The website collections of floor-sweepings, barrel-bottom scrapings, and jizzmop squeezings that we misrepresent as 'journals' are such contemptible trash that they are not indexed or impact-factored [and we can't be arsed buying a fake impact factor or fake indexing from one of the second-order parasites, or making up our own like the other low-lifes in the field]. It would benefit our scammy enterprise if we could steal reputation and prestige from established researchers. Please pay $650 each time you transfer your credibility to us."
From Oglaf
When this doesn't work, they will progress to the "Other Operation" (in which they offer not to publish my papers as long as I don't send them $650); and after that, to the "Other Other Operation" (in which they threaten to publish my papers, unless I send them $650).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Laughing Jack -- Not just a murderous clown from Creepypasta

Alternatively known as Laughing Jim, Giant Flamecap, Spectacular Rustgill and Prächtiger Flämmling, all of which are acceptable names for adventurers in a Fritz Leiber novel, singly or together.
According to one guide, "A yellow cortina covers the gills of the immature fruitbodies, breaking and shriveling to leave fragments around the rim of the cap and around the stipe." I think they're just making that up. "Fragments of cortina around the Stipe" sounds suspiciously like a re-make of that Sledgehammer video.
This time of year they sprout in impressive clumps from tree stumps or logs, or in this case from a piece of log that must have been ploughed just under the soil during the last round of landscaping.
Some are said to contain psilocybin, but they are also hideously bitter, and may contain a range of other neurotoxins, and there are some things even I won't eat. Now using them to flavour beer, that's another matter.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Letting the days go by, 365 of them since last ALaJVC Day

And you might ask yourself, How did I get here?
And you might ask yourself, Why am I dressed this way -- in the habit of a Cupatory Nun of the Littoral Dispensation, on the Isle of Varve in the Rhodomontane Reaches? Accompanied by a pair of the tutelary baboons essential to the votive duties of a Cupatory Nun, hoisting the Amphora of Holy Mugwump so that they might drink deep of the salted pineapple juice? And why does that costume appear to be modeled on the usual work clothes of Evangeline van Holsterin when she is barmaiding at the Old Entomologist?

And you might ask yourself, How is it that I address the baboons in this strange manner of speech, an idiom that is at once antic and lapidary and bombastic with braggadocio, as if intoned by Cardinal Bembo in the course of his secret career as a Landesknecht?

And then you remember, as if from a fading memory of a dream, that you allowed yourself to be cajoled and wheedled -- inveigled, even! -- into entering the immersive, multiple-player game that we at Riddled Research Laboratory commissioned from Space-Time Eddie. A game designed to celebrate International Act Like a Jack Vance Character Day,* and to make it easy by rephrasing all the players' interactions into the appropriate style.
And looking down at your avatar, you remember that the game assigns you a persona without offering a choice about the gender... any more than it allows a choice whether to be a mooncalf or a non-pareil. Eddie reckons that all the cool MMORPGs have gone this route of imposing an avatar's appearance, and it has nothing to do with making life easier for the programmers because of female characters in the Jack Vance universe generally having SFA to say.

You won't make that mistake again, will you?

* Don't worry, you still have until April 20 to mentally prepare.
Why is this not a MMORPG yet? In which guilds of crusading Librarians rampage from hexagon to hexagon of the infinite Library? The non-existence of "World of Lorecraft" is deeply disappointing.