Virtual Groping


Does this surprise anyone?

When developer Aaron Stanton first heard that a woman had been groped while playing his virtual reality game, his heart sank.

The woman, Jordan Belamire, was shooting zombies alongside strangers in QuiVr when another player virtually rubbed her chest and shoved his “hand” toward her virtual crotch.

“Our first response was, ‘Let’s make sure this never happens again,'” Stanton told CNNMoney.
Stanton reached out to me after I wrote about Belamire’s experience on Monday.

I received many angry emails in response to my story. I was told I was a feminist who knew nothing about QuiVr; that it was impossible to assault someone in that particular game, or more generally, in the virtual world. I was more than curious to hear what Stanton had to say.

Stanton, whose day job is in software development, told me those attacks were “absolutely incorrect.” What happened to Belamire (a pseudonym) was possible in QuiVr and in other virtual reality games too. It’s up to developers to create controls to make players feel safe inside the world that they’ve brought to life, he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Stanton and QuiVr creator Jonathan Schenker published an op-ed in Upload VR.

In it, they suggest that developers band together to create a universal “power gesture” to combat harassment in virtual reality, essentially a “safe word” in the form of a motion that would give the player special powers to protect themselves. “We need to offer tools that give players better controls, not simply better ways to hide.”

Kudos to the developers for taking this seriously, and may I suggest that the “special powers” include the ability to pluck the virtual groper’s virtual twig and two berries off and display them as a trophy?

I’m not a gamer; I’ve played a few zombie apocalypse games to placate the teens. I’ve wowed my old grandma by convincing her to experience virtual reality via Google Cardboard. I probably won’t live long enough to see consumer VR resemble the Holodeck on Star Trek TNG.

But if it does, one of the highest and best uses of it would be to give us all an opportunity to walk around in each other’s shoes — to serve as the “ultimate empathy device,” as Sheryl Sandberg said in the linked article. That might be more valuable than building robots that make Mrs. Glenn Reynolds redundant.

More Things in Heaven and Earth

So the most shocking news of the year may turn out (for me, at least) to have nothing to do with the election. It’s that Christopher Marlowe has been officially credited as coauthor of some of Shakespeare’s plays:

Shakespeare may have had a little more help than previously suspected.

The New Oxford Shakespeare edition of the playwright’s works — which will be published by Oxford University Press online ahead of a worldwide print release — lists Christopher Marlowe as Shakespeare’s co-author on the three “Henry VI” plays, parts 1, 2 and 3.

It’s the first time that a major edition of Shakespeare’s works has listed Shakespeare’s colleague and rival as a co-author on these works, the volume’s general editor, Gary Taylor, said in a phone interview.

There’s been literally centuries of dispute on this, with the Shakespeareans accusing the Marlovians of all kinds of bad faith. But it was Big Data that validated Marlow’s authorship:

For the New Oxford Shakespeare scholars ran tests to determine whether authors like Marlowe could be reliably identified by the ways they used language — like frequent use of certain articles, and certain words commonly occurring in a row, or being close to each other in the text. Once this was determined, researchers applied these patterns back to texts, to see if they suggested an author other than Shakespeare. If results came out positive, further tests were run.

Mr. Taylor said that the exact nature of the playwrights’ collaboration cannot be certain, but that they did not necessarily work together in person. Scriptwriting at Shakespeare’s time was often structured similarly to how movie writing happens now: One author would earn an advance for writing a plot outline, and theaters would hire other authors to write other scenes, according to their strengths.

It’s possible that this is how the “Henry” plays were written, Mr. Taylor said, noting that some playwrights also collaborated by hashing through ideas in pubs.

Personally, I find the Big Data angle a bit creepy. I’m happy Marlowe is finally getting his due, and am all for the use of scientific techniques in the humanities. But if Shakespeare’s not “safe,” no one is. What other time-travel toppling of literary and historical edifices awaits us?

PS – someone at Wikipedia needs to get cracking:

The Shakespeare authorship question is the argument that someone other than William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the works attributed to him….Although the idea has attracted much public interest, all but a few Shakespeare scholars and literary historians consider it a fringe belief and for the most part acknowledge it only to rebut or disparage the claims.

Also, PPS – for those who are interested, a reminder. I know some Juicers are planning to participate in NaNoWriMo or AcWriMo, so here’s my resource center for those. Also my SavvyAuthors online class starts Monday (10/31) and will provide great support for all writers in November, and there’s a $5 discount for Juicers. (Happy to answer questions on any of these; email me.)

Christopher Marlowe

Someone’s looking smug!

About those price hikes

Yep, Qualified Health Plans in the individual market are seeing roughly a 25% price hike year over year. For people who are buying on Exchange, the vast majority of that price hike will be hidden if they are being subsidized and if they are willing to switch plans. For people who are buying off-Exchange or don’t qualify for subsidies, they are screwed.

But let’s get some context here.

Most people get their insurance through either a government program (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, VA, IHS etc) or through work. Employer based coverage looks like it is increasing by 5% to 6% this year.

The rest of the market is fairly stable and predictable with few major policy shocks to it. The QHP market is still not stable and still not predictable as the ramifications of major policy shocks are still reverberating.

Is it a problem. Hell yes. Is it a widespread problem. Hell no.

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Well Said (with Just A Look)

And a nice little reminder, from Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post:

Not enough has been made of two obvious facts: Hillary Clinton, if she wins, will be the first woman elected to the White House. And it will have been the votes of women who put her there.

Think, for a moment, about what a remarkable milestone that would be. Consider what it would say about the long and difficult struggle to make the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom and equality encompass all Americans. The first 43 presidents were all members of a privileged minority group — white males. The 44th is a black man, and the 45th may well be a white woman. That is a very big deal…

President Obama’s election meant that African American parents were no longer lying when they told their children they could grow up to be president. Likewise, if Clinton wins on Nov. 8, all parents will be truthful when they tell their daughters that there is nothing they cannot achieve…

Apart from taking a moment to feel good about this moment, what’s on the agenda for the day?

She Has Hair Like Tortured Midnight

I have never seen a dog with such glamorous lashes. I am so jealous.


Things are going as well as can be expected with a 10 month old Great Dane puppy and a still puppy-like two year old Dane. Utter chaos peppered with bouts of sleeping, lots of drool and many, many games of tug. All Bixby ever wanted was a tug partner and he has met his match.

In other news, seems we might have company:

Strange Messages Coming From The Stars

A new analysis of strange modulations in a tiny set of stars appears to indicate that it could be coming from extraterrestrial intelligence that is looking to alert us to their existence.

Preliminary, but fascinating all the same.

Open thread.

Open Thread: Bill Explains It

Y’know, Bill’s the one with the raw political talent (aka ‘charisma’), but I can see that he might actually think the woman he’s loved so long is not only smarter than he is, but liable to end up in the history books as the better President, too.

Let’s Go, Cubbies!


That is all.

Open Thread: Trump’s Dropping All Pretense

And you didn’t even know he had pretense! From the Washington Post article:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has effectively shut down his high-dollar fundraising operation for the rest of the campaign, a highly unusual move that deals another serious blow to the GOP’s effort to finance its get-out-the-vote operation before Election Day.

Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s national finance chairman, said in an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday that Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the party and the campaign, held its last formal fundraiser on Oct. 19. The luncheon was in Las Vegas on the day of the final presidential debate.

While Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is headlining her last fundraiser Tuesday night in Miami, her campaign has scheduled 41 other events between now and Nov. 3 featuring high-profile surrogates such as her daughter, Chelsea, running mate Tim Kaine and the entertainer Cher, according to a schedule sent to donors this weekend.

Mnuchin said the Trump campaign decided to keep the candidate’s final weeks focused on taking his message to the voters in person rather than on raising money. There may be a handful of events in coming days featuring Trump surrogates, including his son Donald Jr., according to people familiar with the internal discussions. But Mnuchin said “there is virtually nothing planned.”

… Trump’s decision effectively turns off one of the main spigots to the Republican National Committee, which collected $40 million through Trump Victory as of Sept. 30. The party has devoted a large share of the funds to pay for its national voter mobilization program to benefit the entire Republican ticket.

RNC officials said that party leaders, including chairman Reince Priebus, are continuing to bring in resources for the party. “The RNC continue to fundraise for the entire GOP ticket,” said spokeswoman Lindsay Walters.

Mnuchin said Trump does not need high-dollar fundraisers because his campaign is being buoyed by online donations, which he said are on track to hit a new record in October…. But the RNC gets only 20 percent of the money that Trump raises online in conjunction with the party, while the vast majority of the big checks contributed to Trump Victory are routed to the party…

Trump has no respectable surrogates, and he’s lost interest in doing fundraisers now that it’s clear the party hopes to salvage other peoples’ campaigns rather than pumping up his. Sucks to be you, RNC!

Tuesday Early Evening Open Thread

On the way home from running some errands I stopped by the Barn With Inn and spent some quality time with Chatman and the animals:

Such a good place.

Tuesday Afternoon Open Thread

Have we seen this one before?

Vet tech is trying to restrain a large dog (possibly a mastiff?) to trim its nails, and the dog bolts with the vet tech hanging on like a bronco buster. I love the woman who collapses with laughter after her colleague is carried off by the runaway beast.

My dogs are somewhat unruly at home but good as gold at the vet’s office. Go figure.

Open thread!

336 Hours

You know that handful of folks who show up at this here blog to taunt Clinton supporters when there’s a bad run of polling? Do not expect them today. Even this cycle’s outlier polls that Trump loves to tweet — Rasmussen, LAT/USC and IBD/TIPP — are showing Clinton leads.

Like Trump, I have my favorite polls, though unlike Trump, I don’t put too much stock in the snapshots but rather pay heed to averages. But as far as today’s crop goes, I like ABC’s daily tracking poll, which shows Clinton up by 12. I think this is my favorite part:


If it holds, that gap signifies a stunning repudiation of the Angry Circus Peanut from a group the GOP cannot write off if they ever hope to be competitive in a national election again.

circus-peanutsOn average, there’s an 8-point gender gap in US presidential elections that favors Democrats. Most of the credit goes to nonwhite women, who vote for Democrats by overwhelming percentages.

White women vote Democrat in larger numbers than white men do, but Republicans typically get the majority of their votes too. Doesn’t look like that’ll be the case this year.

Thanks for getting a clue, fellow college-educated white women! Now go talk some sense into the white dudes in your lives. (Though to their credit, even white dudes are abandoning Trump — the poll shows Trump 4 points behind Clinton with college-educated white men and losing altitude with non-college white men.)

Another interesting thing to note about the above chart, as someone on Twitter pointed out: Jill Stein has essentially ZERO support with this group, which means she’s sewn up the hardcore Dudebro bloc and pretty much nothing else.

And another thing: the Cook Report predicts that Team Donkey will pick up 5-7 seats to secure a majority in the US Senate. Life might be about to get more interesting for Judge Garland.

Just 14 days to go before our long national nightmare is over, my friends. A mere fortnight. Vote. Phonebank. Knock on doors. We can do this. Silver Spreads for 2017

Using the 2017 QHP Landscape PUF file , I was able to build a map of the Silver Gap and Silver Spams regions of that are served by


Dark red is a small gap and dark green is a large gap.  The smallest gap is $.03 while the largest gap is in western Tennessee at about $97.

The intermediate processed data is available on a Google Sheet. The grayed out counties in are the counties with only a single Silver plan. Given the way I set up my map, they were not showing anything. If I was not doing this as I was relaxing after putting the kids to bed, I would do this right, but for quick and dirty, a single Silver county is effectively a Silver Spam county. updated to show single Silver counties.

On first glance, the spreads are massive. The smallest spread in a multiple Silver county is three cents. The largest spread is just under $100. In states, there are larger spreads in California.

Tennessee, Montana and, central Illinois, southeast Pennsylvania, north Texas  and a few other slots seem to benefit from significant Silver Gaps of at least $40.  I am very curious as to what is happening in Tennessee as almost the entire state is a massive Silver Gap strategy.

Kansas, Utah, South Carolina, Maine, New Hampshire are entirely Silver Spammed.  Significant chunks of South Carolina (and south Jersey) have counties where the spread is under $1.00 between the benchmark and the least expensive Silver plans.

If anyone wants the data, please grab it and see what fun things you can do with it.

Definition update:  Silver Gap is when the price spread between the cheapest Silver in a county and the benchmark, second lowest priced Silver is wide.  This gives the subsidized buyers a great deal on the #1 Silver.

Silver spam is when the price spread between the #1 and #2 is tiny. The buyers of the #1 Silver do not get a meaningfully better deal.

Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Never Kiss A Trump Toad on the Lips

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

(Tom Toles via

Hugh Laurie is a very funny fella — even off the cuff:

Apart from working towards a Democratic landslide, what’s on the agenda for the day?

Late Night Steve Open Thread

“None of this stuff is important, right? You don’t mind that I jumped up here to lie down on all your shit, right?”


“Oh, good. Then I’ll just stay right here and stretch out. BTW, running low on tuna, fatty.”


Rough life.

Open Thread: Affirmatively Pro-HRC

Yeah, just because Hillary voters weren’t seeking out chances to yell LOCK HIM UP on camera, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. From Politico, ten days ago, “Revenge of the White Working-Class Woman“:

… The first polls to emerge since the release of the “Access Hollwood” videotape now show a historic gender gap splitting what might be the GOP’s most important constituency. The fracture was already apparent back in August, when a four-way poll showed Trump’s lead over Clinton among white men without a college degree was 40 percent, but only 12 percent among women without a college degree. This week, after the 2005 videotape was released, that number stayed roughly the same for blue-collar men—Trump is still up in that group by 43 percentage points—but it tanked for women, to a low that hasn’t been seen since the 1960s, with the exception of Bill Clinton in 1996. According to the first post-videotape poll, among white women without a college degree, Hillary Clinton had pulled even.

It might be easy to write off blue-collar women as a special interest group, like the 18-25 demographic of some slice of suburbia. But the situation is almost exactly the opposite: If you look at the white working class—Americans without a college degree—the majority, 53 percent, are women. Right now, the numbers suggest that within that group, women’s interests appear to be diverging so quickly from their male counterparts they could stop whatever momentum Trump has left. “The rationale for [Trump’s] candidacy is that he is the champion of the hardworking Americans that the elitists have left behind. But many of those hardworking Americans are women,” says John J. Pitney Jr., an American politics professor at Claremont McKenna College…