Month: July 2012

RACCOONS IN THE NEWS: Monsterous!

A mysterious, dead creature washed up in the New York City area.  This event mirrors something that happened back in 2008, and–just like back then–it has been ruled to be a dead raccoon in all likelihood.  This is much better than the supposed alternatives, which include an alien creature brought to our world by mysterious government projects involving time travel and a “stargate.”

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Copycat Killers

The Dark Knight Rises came out this weekend.  There was some unfortunate news related to its nationwide premier, however.  I guess this will put to the test the adage of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”  Of course, it would be public relations suicide for Warner Bros. to indicate the incident, and its subsequent coverage and tangential connection to their film, helped their sales in any way.

The incident has been met with the typical over-reactions from the public and its protectors.  Fueled by the media’s fears of copycat killers, theaters have been closely watched by police with renewed discussion about the kinds of additional security measures that should be put into place to keep the populace safe.

Are copycat killers all that common? Are there nutjobs out there with caches of weapons, no idea what to do with them who, who upon hearing about the Colorado shooting would jump up and go: “Eureka! That’s a GREAT idea!” Let’s look at the extensive history of copycat killers:

  1. Virginia Tech Massacre? No noted copycats. 
  2. The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords? No noted copycats. 
  3. The Beltway Snipers? No noted copycats.
  4. Columbine Highschool Massacre? Yes! A couple of kids in England attempted to recreate the event on its 10th anniversary.
So I suppose the police should step up their security at theaters in the summer of 2022.  Until then, expect the government to begin more closely monitoring the things you buy as people eagerly give up their privacy to protect themselves from the hordes of imagined threats that exist.
Additional Material
  1. 10 Deadliest U.S. Shootings at the Washington Post
  2. Twilight Language Blog, which details connections (plausible and implausible) between events.
  3. 10 Notable Copycat Killers at How Stuff Works, note how their examples of copycat killers often take place years after the initial event and even then are often more inspired by the source rather than a mimic of it. 

Even Internet Celebrities are People

I have to admit to being something of a online video review junkie.  Ever since the Angry Video Game Nerd (back when he was the Angry Nintendo Nerd) I’ve been a fan of reviews of movies and video games in humorous ways in relatively brief (or perhaps overly long) nuggets, usually off of YouTube.  Now, as with music, I usually take no interest in the people who make these things.  I don’t care about their personal lives, views, or whatever.  They make a product and I consume it.  Hopefully they profit off the commercials I’m exposed to while watching.  Occasionally, however, real life intrudes on their work.  Often its by a video suddenly breaking the fourth wall, and the reviewer acknowledging that they persona they adopt while reviewing is simply a character.

One reviewer I’ve enjoyed of late is The Spoony Experiment, especially his retrospective on the Ultima PC game series. I remember playing Ultima VII a lot when I was a kid.  In fact it was the only Ultima game I’d ever played (although I’d always wanted Ultima IV on the NES.) No, wait, I remember I played Ultima VIII briefly, but it was this whole thing where a friend screwed me over on a pirated copy or something.  Anyway, Ultima VII was the most amazing RPG ever.  It’s apparently an overall good series, up until the final installment (which I’d also wanted, but never purchased due to uncertainty as to whether my PC could handle it.)  Now, his review of the final Ultima game has been split up into three parts.  The second part was posted about one and a half months after the first.  After watching that second installment I quickly scrolled through the comments and saw veiled references to “Spoony’s” troubles, including theorizing that it was the cause of the delay, people wishing him luck with his future, and other discussions not terribly related to Ultima IX.

I became curious.

It turned out there had been considerable drama related to Spoony and some other online reviewers.  He offended one over Twitter (it turns out every internet reviewer has a Twitter account and they all know each other) which lead to infighting between him and a group of reviewers and so he was booted from some reviewing hub (or not; the place he was booted from insists there was no connection between the drama and his ousting.)

It was just a weird reminder to me that as much as I try to ignore the private lives of these people, it doesn’t mean they don’t have them.  And even they screw up, just like I do.

Additional Material

Cleaning Out the Basement

I’m clandestinely helping to clean the house.  It’s funny how all those years ago my parents would constantly nag me to clean my room, but these days my mother actively works against my attempt to organize the basement.  Of course, my concept of cleaning involves initially throwing away the bulk of stuff that can only be described as useless. The latest battleground has been books.  Boxes and shelves of my parents old college/highschool textbooks, crappy novels from the 70’s and early 80’s, and assorted programming guides and tutorials that are just a little bit dated.  My mother is, of course, offended that I would get rid of these books which could be useful.  My argument is that nobody has so much as glanced at these books they were crammed in these spaces when we first moved to this place back in 1995. They’re clearly not useful, and her ignorance of what was and was not available in that pile proved how the usefulness of these books was far past gone.

But hey, maybe books about nursing from the mid 1960’s, programming guides for Fortran IV and Ada, and tutorials on Wordstar are still of use in 2012.

My mother’s not a hoarder, the living areas of the house are well kept, however she’s irritatingly hesitant to part with things, leaving to the over crowding of storage areas (the garage, basement, and most shelving) with materials she will never use but insists is “useful.”  Even 20 year old VHS tapes–some of which she has DVD replacements for. 

Internal Auditors, a Smarmy Bunch

I’m a certified public accountant, however I’ve spent most of my career as an internal auditor.  Accordingly, I am a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors and have a subscription to their monthly magazine.  It provides … well it’s fluff.  Articles are brief, lack and depth, and the publication mostly exists so that on top of the subscription fee the IIA can make money off of copious advertisements for continuing professional education providers (they were also eager to sell my name and address to these providers so I could be inundated with mailings.)

Anyway, a recent article really impressed me with its brazen detachment from reality.  The writer basically went on to promote how very important effective risk assessment was and how all risks can and should be both identified and mitigated.  To illustrate his point he discussed the 2011 tsunami in Japan.  His argument hinged on how a 900 year old scroll, basically an old newspaper, from that region in Japan described how a similarly high tsunami devastated the area back then.  With such information in hand, everyone should have planned for such a large tsunami accordingly and so they’ve only themselves to blame for the destruction wrought in 2011.

This is logic that only works in the minds of auditors.  It’s also a great example of hindsight always being perfect 20/20 vision.  It also exhibits the danger in groupthink, which is endemic in the field of internal audit.

You see, auditors–in their need to justify their existence–insist that simply dealing with financial data and controls is just too limiting to them.  As a result they’ve expanded into “risk” as a big factor in their work.  As a result they use risk to justify any and all expansion of scope in their work, all the while berating management for not evaluating risk well enough.  Invariably they fail to even properly apply their own stated concepts of risk assessment, that being the basic formula of Likelihood x Impact, and assume that because they can imagine a risk it must be significant.

In the case of the disastrous tsunami or the other go-to example, the September 11 attacks, they are always only half correct.  Yes, the impact of those events was very significant to those affected, but the auditors are very bad at recognizing the probability.  They’ll go on and on about how clearly every business needs to spend great money to fully mitigate the risk of a September 11th-level event because look at how bad September 11th was.  How eager were they to crow about impending terrorist strikes in the United States on September 10, 2001?  I was recently talking to an auditor and he mistakenly said that obviously businesses should have been preparing for such a thing given the prevalence of terrorist activities “worldwide.”  Sure, suicide bombers are “common” in the Middle East, but how much terrorism has there been in Australia?  Japan?  Canada? Why would anyone use the risk profile of a Middle Eastern country to assess risks in New York City?  Should the occasional sand storm also be taken into account when assessing risk in NYC?  Also, how well has the existence of 9/11, or the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and even the Oklahoma City Bombing, predicted the abundance of terrorist attacks to which the United States has been subject over the past ten years?

Having trouble wracking your brain thinking of any?  That’s because there haven’t been any of that level of significance.  History can be a bad predictor of the future.  Also, the fact that something has happened in the past doesn’t make it a certainty to occur in the near future (although damn near anything is likely over a large enough time period, which I guess means companies should start planning for the destruction of the Earth which is bound to happen eventually.)  It’s that whole “likelihood” part of risk assessment that I said auditors love to ignore.  Like the 900 year old scroll describing a tsunami of size similar to the one that happened last year.  If a company had immediately reacted to the last giant tsunami and spent the money to make themselves resistant to a similarly sized on, they would have put a lot of resources into preparing for something that wouldn’t happen for almost a thousand years.  Money that could have been put to better use in numerous other ways over that thousand years.  Unless you’re talking to an auditor.