Saturday, October 21, 2017

666IGMA - Dead End (2017)

If you are reading this here, then I mind as well tell you a bit more about this... The album it is for (Trapikal Island) is not out yet. I'll do a few more videos for it first, I keep adding new tracks and taking away others, it is a long process, but I've finally started to cultivate a really good out and like the direction some of this newer tracks are taking.

Friday, June 9, 2017

666IGMA - Everybody Fuckin Jump [2017] [AMV]

Another brand new video from the album "SPLASH". This video is made from scenes out of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The track is called "Everybody Fuckin' Jump". As you'd expect, there is a lot of jumping! I hope you enjoy the video and check out the new album.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Trappist-1 Released!

Where can you find Trappist-1? Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon, Pandora, Deezer, Tidal, YouTube, Microsoft Groove, ClaroMusica, Saavn, MediaNet, SoundCloud and more! I'm a nice guy, so I'll tell you that Google Play is selling this album for $5.99 while some places, like Amazon want to charge more. I do not know why! I tried to make every track and the entire album as cheap as humanly possible! 

What if you want a physical version, in a nice DVD case, shrink-wrapped, and pressed, not burned? Then click here. The retail price is $3.00 + shipping. If you'd like to get it even cheaper and happen to live locally to me (in the Saint Petersburg, Clearwater or Tampa area), I have some special copies and will sign them and link you up with other awesome goodies for about $5. Can't beat that! Just E-Mail me and let me know! Here is all the artwork associated with this release, including image of what the DVD case looks like.
Here is the track list:
1. Umbrella Corporation [3:37]
2. Lose Weight [3:13]
3. Mountain Top [3:13]
4. Tommy Gun [3:08]
5. Vampiric Evolution [3:22]
6. That's How I'm Moving It [3:16]
7. Exodus (feat. Mario the Kidd) [3:39]
8. Killed for Less [2:48]
9. Grave Robber [3:28]
10. Gieger [4:11]
11. Dead or Alive [3:04]
12. Eons [3:13]
13. Laugh Face [3:45]
14. Sharp Cheddar [3:27]
15. Soul Eater [3:35]
16. Against the Gravel [5:00]
17. Trap Hau5 Five [3:35]

Friday, March 31, 2017

N-Methylphenethylamine (NMPEA), positional isomer of amphetamine, found in nature and also endogenous? A plant containing it may also contain DMT and Methamphetamine (and be growing in your back yard).

Wikipedia for NMPEA:
"PEA and NMPEA are both alkaloids that are found in a number of different plant species as well.[5] Some Acacia species, such as A. rigidula, contain remarkably high levels of NMPEA (~2300–5300 ppm).[6] NMPEA is also present at low concentrations (< 10 ppm) in a wide range of foodstuffs.[7]"
That was one of the primary parts that caught my eye. What is the effects of this substance? It may not be too active orally...

NMPEA is a pressor, with 1/350 x the potency of epinephrine.[17]
As with PEA, NMPEA is metabolized relatively rapidly by monoamine oxidases during first pass metabolism;[3][18] both compounds are preferentially metabolized by MAO-B.[3][18]
If it is vaporized or injected, what are the effects like? Euphoria? Stimulation? Obviously there are things that could be combined with it, orally, to inhibit the process that breaks it down...
N-Metyl-Phenylethylamine's half-life is very short. .It is metabolized by MAO-A, MAO-B, aldehyde dehydrogenase and dopamine-beta-hydroxylase. If you like to get long effect take an MAO inhibitor (MAOI) like Phenalzine
When the initial phenylethylamine brain concentration is low, brain levels can be increased 1000-fold when taking an MAO inhibitor (MAOI) and by 3times when the initial concentration is high.
Phenethylamine, similar to amphetamine in its action, releases norepinephrine and dopamine.

What else may be combined with it to make it stronger, make the effects more pronounced, or to maybe even alter it slightly into something more viable for recreational purposes?
It is listed in some places as aiding fat burning, meaning it may be available in some dietary supplements, which would not be surprising.
Then, here is the real gem I found researching this so far (and a commentary by Shulgin!)

In 1997[1] and 1998,[2] researchers at Texas A&M University reported finding amphetamine and methamphetamine in the foliage of two Acacia species native to Texas, A. berlandieri and A. rigidula. Previously, both of these compounds had been thought to be human inventions.[3] Like methylphenidate (Ritalin), amphetamines also prevent the monoamine transporters for dopamine and norepinephrine from recycling them (called reuptake inhibition), which leads to increased amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine in synaptic clefts.

Now remember, A. Rigidula is the plant mentioned way up above this that contains NMPEA. What else does it contain?

Amines and Alkaloids:
phenethylamine N,N-dimethylphenethylamine N,N-dimethyl-"-methylphenethylamine p-hydroxyamphetamine tyramine 3-5-dimethoxytyramine 3,4-dimethoxy-5-hydroxy-$-phenethylamine hordenine N,N-dimethyldopamine tryptamine N,N-dimethyltryptamine N-methylmescaline nicotine anhalamine peyophorine nortryptyline 3-"-cumyl-1,3,4-oxadiazolidine-2,5-dione p-hydroxypipecolamide 4-methyl-2-pyridinamine
N-methylphenethylamine amphetamine methamphetamine p-methoxyamphetamine N-methyltyramine candicine dopamine N-methyldopamine 3-methoxytyramine N-methyltryptamine mescaline trichocereine nornicotine anahalidine mimosine (methyl ester) musk ambrette pipecolamide 1,4-benzezediamine
octylphenol \ aristolone (Z)-9-octadecenoic acid (Z,Z,Z)-9,12,15-octadecatrienoic acid 3b-acetoxy-17-methyl-5a-18-abeoandrost-13-ene
nonylphenol 3b-cholest-5-en-3-ol (Z,Z)-9,12,-octadecanoic acid

If you read this properly... then this plant contains methamphetamine, as well as DMT... It also contains 4-Methoxyamphetamine (A schedule I substance, DMT is also Schedule I).
The real kicker though is that Amphetamine and Methamphetamine were thought to be MAN MADE substances, not found in nature. Here is a full commentary by Shulgin in a Question/Answer format:
Question: Are you familiar with Acacia berlandieri and A. rigidula which were noted to contain various a-methyl-b-phenethylamines? Do you have any ideas as to what the botanical origins of these structural carbon skeletons might be? The literature citations are PHYTOCHEM. (1998), 49(5), 1377 and PHYTOCHEM. (1997), 46(2), 249.
Answer: I am familiar with the literature concerning these two West Texas Acacia species, but not with the plants themselves. I had both these PHYTOCHEMISTRY papers in my Acacia file but I must admit that I have some very mixed feelings about them.
What caught my curiosity immediately was the casual indifference shown to what is certainly an extraordinary discovery. Here, amongst some 40 or so alkaloids found in each of these two species, there were five amphetamines that had heretofore been thought to be inventions of man. Two of these are Schedule II drugs, Amphetamine and Methamphetamine. Two are Schedule I drugs, N,N-Dimethylamphetamine and 4-Methoxyamphetamine. And the fifth one is a major human metabolite of Amphetamine, 4-Hydroxyamphetamine. To my knowledge, none of these had ever before been reported as being natural plant alkaloids. This unprecedented discovery elicited only a passing line of comment in the earlier of the two papers.
My first thoughts as to origin were directed towards the well known natural hydroxylated amphetamines such as norephedrine, ephedrine and N-methylephedrine. I know that ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, frequent precursors in the illegal synthesis of methamphetamine, can be reduced to methamphetamine as an artifact of analysis. The sample insertion conditions of the gas chromatograph can effect this conversion. But then, there was no mention of any of these hydroxylated alkaloids as being present in either Acacia.
Might a contaminated round-bottomed flask have been purchased at a garage sale outside an abandoned meth-lab and served as the source of these "man-made" compounds? Unlikely, even in Texas.
Even more dramatic, one of these amphetamines, the 4-Methoxyamphetamine, is the increasingly notorious PMA that is appearing as one of the lethal "Ecstasy" offerings in the rave scene.
Several months ago I tried to contact, individually, the two principal authors, by both e-mail and personal snail-mail, and I have received no response as yet.
There is certainly precedent for a drug which was originally man-made, to be discovered in a plant. N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) was first synthesized by Manske, in Canada, in the 1930s. It was over twenty years later that it was discovered in a plant from South America. But such an event usually evokes considerable commentary. Here it seems that an exciting story is being ignored. Am I missing something?
-- Dr. Shulgin
Yes, what is he missing? If this is true, this is a rather ground-breaking discovery. Is it well known that methamphetamine and emphetamine, along with DMT and all these other substances are found within this singe plant?
Granted some of the data may be incorrect, but I'd like to first find a source debunking or attempting to debunk this data before I would go that far.
What are the concentrations of these substances in this plant? I know the DMT can't be too high of a concentration, as I've never heard of this plant being used as a source for DMT the way Mimosa Hostilis and a few others are used. If the concentration was high, it was be involved in popular teks...
Wikipedia comments:
A phytochemical study of V. rigidula[6] by workers at the Texas A & M University Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Uvalde, TX, reported the presence of over forty alkaloids, including low amounts (up to ~ 15 ppm) of several amphetamines that had previously been found by the same research group in the related species Senegalia berlandieri,[7] but which otherwise are known only as products of laboratory synthesis. Compounds found in the highest concentrations (ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand ppm) were phenylethylamine, N-methylphenethylamine, tyramine and N-methyltyramine. Other notable compounds reported were N,N-dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, amphetamine, methamphetamine and nicotine, although these were found in low concentrations (e.g. mescaline at 3-28 ppm).
The presence of such an unprecedented chemical range of psychoactive compounds, including ones not previously found in nature, in a single plant species has led to the suggestion that some of these findings may have resulted from cross-contamination or were possibly artifacts of the analytical technique.[8]
Why has this not been further tested, in all of these years?
Where are the A. rigidula teks?

Finally... secure

Yes! I have finally been able to secure everything and offer encrypted protection via SSL through my server. This process took me longer than I'd like to admit and should be fairly easy and straight-forward on most server environments. There are also ways, as I found out, to be able to do this for free, instead of having to pay some kind of certificate issuer or signing authority. 

While there exist ways to "self sign" certificates for a server, I still chose to use a third party to complete the process. If you also run a server, I recommend researching into letsencrypt, which assuming you have the proper Virtual Hosts set up with your HTTPD, like Apache2, then with a couple of configuration files and then a few CLI entries, you can be on your way to fully utilizing https:// - I've even gone an extra step and *forced* all connections to my server that attempt to use http:// to convert to https://.

Now I can finish working on some of the fun projects I had going before for some companies and even plan to launch a browser-based game soon. I have actually had it in development for a while in various incarnations, but will reveal more details about it in the near future. One of the recent stumbling blocks I had recently was enabling SSL... that and I tried to originally program the game to fully utilize AJAX techniques. I've limited their usage now, as they were crippling the development.

Server maintenance

While I attempt to enable SSL, there may be some errors with pages loading and a few other things on - this process should be completed within the next few hours, so just be patient.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Secure, Contain, Protect.

What is SCP, or "Secure, Contain, Protect." AKA "Special Containment Procedures"? Essentially, SCP is a web-based collaborative writing project. According to Wikipedia:
The stories generated by the project describe the exploits of the fictional Foundation, supposedly responsible for containing individuals, entities, locations, and objects that violate natural law (referred to as SCPs). The main written works on the SCP Foundation website are documents written in the style of structured internal documentation about the SCPs contained by the fictional organization. These documents are labeled in the format "SCP-#", for example "SCP-2722". These documents usually begin with the number of the item, then the "class", then the item's "Special Containment Procedures", which describe the containment specifications for the specific SCP. Next, the item is described. This section is the main body of the document. There are often additional sections at the bottom of the documents. The documents are organized by thousands, called the "Series" of SCPs.
This may remind you a bit of Creepypasta, on the the alternative, something similar to Reddit's "No Sleep" subsection. The main difference is that SCP stories often leak elsewhere on the internet and have a style of writing that gives them an air of authenticity or authority. This is thanks to the "academic" nature in which most topics are presented.

That video was uploaded just this month and already has nearly 500,000 views. There are several other SCP videos with millions of views. Credit for the video goes to several people, all of which are referenced on the actual page if you are interested.

My only complaint about some of the SCP entries is that there may not have been as difficult of a vetting process in place previously, allowing some of the earlier entries to make it in without much scrutiny. The actual procedure for getting you writing to be added to the SCP compendium is rather tedious, but does hold true to the type of "crowd-sourced" writing platform which you expect it to be.

In addition, some items are rather dull, cheesy or not very creepy or disturbing in any way. If you're looking for something to truly scare you, SCP will likely fall short in most instances... that is, unless you come across something from SCP and are unaware what SCP actually is and are exposed to it surreptitiously.

If you are curious about the origins of SCP or the community behind it, I will also quote the "Community" section of the Wikipedia entry:

The SCP Foundation series originated in the "paranormal" /x/ forum of 4chan, where the first special containment procedure, SCP-173, was posted as a creepypasta thread during 2007.[6] Many other special containment procedures were followed shortly after, inspired by SCP-173. In 2008, the SCP Foundation series was transferred to its current Wikidot website.[6]Wikidot users are required to submit an application before they are allowed to contribute content.[6] Writers from the Daily Dot and Bustle have noted that the website maintains strict quality control standards, and that sub-par content tends to be quickly deleted.[6][15] Internal forums are used by members of the website to evaluate and provide constructive criticism on posted stories.[16]The Wikidot website routinely holds creative writing contests. For example, in November 2014, the SCP Foundation held a "Dystopia Contest" in which its members were encouraged to submit writings about the Foundation set in a bleak or degraded world.[17]The SCP Foundation maintains a forum on Reddit and a role-playing community.[6][18] Notable contributors to the SCP Foundation include screenwriter Max Landis.[19]

Surprise! 4chan was involved in the creation and the entire existence of SCP is thanks to creepypasta. This entry would not be complete if I did not include a quote (once again, from Wikipedia) that highlights examples of "Secure, Contain, Protect." cases:

Examples of contained SCPs

SCP-087, with SCP-087-1 in the background.
  • SCP-055: SCP-055 is something that causes anyone who examines it to forget its various characteristics, thus making it indescribable except in terms of what it is not.[6]
  • SCP-087: SCP-087 is a staircase that appears to descend downwards forever.[7] The staircase is inhabited by SCP-087-1, which is described as a face without a mouth, pupils or nostrils.[8]
  • SCP-108: SCP-108 is a Nazi bunker system that is only accessible through a portal found in a woman's nose.[9]
  • SCP-173: SCP-173 is a humanoid statue composed of rebar, concrete and Krylon spray paint.[6] It is stationary when directly observed, but attacks people when line of sight with it is broken.[7]
  • SCP-294: SCP-294 is a coffee machine that can dispense almost anything that does or can exist in liquid form.[7]
  • SCP-426: SCP-426 is a toaster which can only be referred to in the first person.[7]
  • SCP-1171: SCP-1171 is a home whose windows are always covered in condensation; by writing in the condensation on the glass, it is possible to communicate with an extra-dimensional entity whose windows are likewise covered in condensation. This entity bears significant hostility towards humans, but does not know that the Foundation members are humans.[6]
  • SCP-1609: SCP-1609 is a mulch that teleports into the lungs of anyone who approaches it in an aggressive fashion or while wearing a uniform. It was previously a peaceful chair that teleported to whichever nearby person felt the need to sit down, but it entered its current aggressive state after being inserted into a woodchipper by a rival organization.[6]

If you are looking for a fun read, or a good couple of videos to watch to pass some time, you can explore into SCP. Some entries are much better than others and then there are literary types of "games" that exist as to, for instance, the true nature of SCP-001, or what exactly SCP-000 is, with lots of false leads and alternative explanations. 

Unfortunately, the writing style can also get in the way of making an SCP truly engaging for the reader. There were even a few entries which I disliked entirely because (thanks to the crowd-sourced material), I felt as if they were authored in glaringly obvious ways that made them sub-par or entirely uninteresting (religious overtones, etc.; generally turn me off in relation to stuff like this, and you think SCP would be entirely free of that, but a few entries manage to sneak them in).

Tats TopVideos has two interesting entries on Youtube that catalogue a few of the more entertaining SCP items. I've linked the first and certainly you can find the second after watching this particular one (which currently has over 3 million views):

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Trap House track...

For those of you unfamiliar, there is a bit of a play on words here.

"Trap" and "House" are both genres of music, and a trap house is also slang in some areas for a drug haven. In addition, my naming of the track alludes to Deadmau5, and I've actually called it Trap Hau5 Five, because I laugh my ass off when my mother refers to Deadmau5, as "Dead Mau Five", which I have heard plenty of other people do as well, so she is not singularly out of touch, there were a few generations before us, I think. I'm no historian, though.

Let me just type some more uselessness here as well... for those that do not know, Trap is a type of music you are probably thinking "Trap Music" is Gucci, Jeezy or Gotti.  Nope. It is a type of electronic music. From my experience it is usually at 140bpm, but the drums are half that. Heavy bass, syncopated, uses a lot of vocal chopping and slurring (something I'm personally not a fan of). I like the dark and gritty feel of the trap genre, it is literally like the gangster music of EDM. So that said, what blasphemy could I possibly unleash against it when I try and combine it with House music?

It doesn't sound too bad! Now keep in mind, this track also goes and takes advantage of several other mainstays in my production and I'm always trying new things. Just so happens that recently, I'm trying to "neuro everything". This concept came from working with Reese bass line techniques that evolved into Neuro... but now I'm just seeing what all I might be able to apply it to and how it might sound.

A normal person, Reese, detunes some saw waves together. Later, people start putting FX and things  over these detuned saw waves and call it neuro. Then I come along like "duhhrr herp plz to let me neurofunk teh hi hats and haz cheezburger" and you get stuff like Trap Hau5 Five.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Despite my previous stance... (also, server security!)

The feed from my blog  is now the default news that will be displayed on - I've set this up because I think it will be easier to have all of my updates posted to a single platform. Unfortunately, this has caused me to lose some of the previous news posts that existed, but I really think that is not a very big deal.

Give me some time to get it looking and functioning properly on the website... it really should not take too long.

I am also posting this during the midst of CONSTANT intrusion attempts on my server. I've literally got a backlog of various IPs trying to access tons of different services on different ports and authenticate. I've recently moved my SSH port and disabled root login from it entirely as one of my security precautions, and if you run a Linux server with SSH enabled, I suggest you do the same.

Security through obscurity (STO), is not a great practice... that is what it is called just changing you SSH daemon to some random port in the hopes that it will not be found - It is very easy to find all services on a given machine. Hackers right now are not just discovering websites that are on the internet and randomly trying to attack them they are trying to attack entire IP BLOCKS. What this means is that they are running brute-force style attacks on any given ip that might exist within a particular range of IPs.

No big deal! There are tons of ways you can improve the security of your server. Fail2Ban is a nice option, it tries to detect these types of intrusions and eliminate them.

Here is an example of what my /var/log/auth.log looked like during the attacks:
Mar 20 07:35:05 jserve sshd[31187]: Failed password for root from port 36066 ssh2
Mar 20 07:35:05 jserve sshd[31187]: error: maximum authentication attempts exceeded for root from 2$
Mar 20 07:35:05 jserve sshd[31187]: Disconnecting: Too many authentication failures [preauth]
Mar 20 07:35:05 jserve sshd[31187]: PAM 5 more authentication failures; logname= uid=0 euid=0 tty=s$
Mar 20 07:35:05 jserve sshd[31187]: PAM service(sshd) ignoring max retries; 6 > 3
Mar 20 07:35:07 jserve sshd[31191]: Failed password for root from port 14556 ssh2
Mar 20 07:35:08 jserve sshd[31448]: pam_unix(sshd:auth): authentication failure; logname= uid=0 eui$
Mar 20 07:35:10 jserve sshd[31191]: Failed password for root from port 14556 ssh2
Mar 20 07:35:11 jserve sshd[31448]: Failed password for root from port 8127 ssh2
Mar 20 07:35:13 jserve sshd[31191]: Failed password for root from port 14556 ssh2
Mar 20 07:35:14 jserve sshd[31448]: Failed password for root from port 8127 ssh2
Mar 20 07:35:15 jserve sshd[31191]: Failed password for root from port 14556 ssh2
Mar 20 07:35:17 jserve sshd[31448]: Failed password for root from port 8127 ssh2
Mar 20 07:35:18 jserve sshd[31191]: Failed password for root from port 14556 ssh2
Mar 20 07:35:18 jserve sshd[31191]: error: maximum authentication attempts exceeded for root from 1$
There are literally pages upon pages of these attempts and failures. Far too many for me to post here, even. When did they start? I'm uncertain. When did they stop? When I changed my SSH port, first, but I also changed my SSH configuration.
# Authentication:
LoginGraceTime 120
PermitRootLogin no
StrictModes yes
This was previously set to PermitRootLogin prohibit-password - In some earlier versions of the SSH configuration files, this was styled as PermitRootLogin no-password which is confusing, right? That would seem to indicate that root could login with no password! However, that was not the case, just an issue with how the configuration was named. With prohibit-password and no-password there is still the ability for root to login via a public key. Fairly secure, but why allow root to login AT ALL? The root user is not even really used any more by any semi-secure system for any operation.

In addition, several of the forms I have provided for many of the websites I host have experienced attacks recently. Most were trying to utilize some form of SQL injection attack. In a hilarious twist of events, one of the forms that was being targeted did not even interact with SQL at all. If you take form input from users, make sure to sanitize the data. There are a lot of ways to go about this and I am experimenting with some novel methods even as I write this to make forms very secure in a way that I do not think has ever even been tried before.

Oh, that got you interested? Well, let me explain. Normally, an attacker might try to do things with an input form that will cause their input information to be read and executed by the server. If you normally take a variable and put it as part of the INSERT command as a string, for instance, malicious code can be run. The normal ways of preventing this are to make sure the user can ONLY input information compatible with that particular form. A good way to stop most attacks dead in their tracks are by limiting the input data to a certain number of characters.

This might not always be possible though, what if you are allowing them to post large blocks of text... say like on a forum post or as a comment? That could obviously create an issue. Tons of commands can be run against the input string to check it for malicious code or try to disable it in some manner if it includes characters that might lead to the input of malicious code.

One of the new ways I've devised to sanitize the input of user data is to COMPRESS it!
$string = "Compress this string to death!";
$compressedString = gzcompress($string, 9);
echo $compressedString;
That code will create this string as output:
x�s��-(J-.V(��,V(.)��KW(�WHIM,�P �* &  
Obviously some of those characters are errors, but that is the point here. There would be no real way to structure most attacks to take advantage of this compression to accurately execute their attack (and even if they could, two advantages here... STO (Security Through Obscurity - how would they know I am even compressing it in this manner?) and second, even if they were, in theory, able to create a string that might compress into an attack, it would be horribly obtuse and likely exceed even the most generous character limitations on form inputs.

Maybe "SVC", or Security Via Compression, will become a thing some day. If it ever does, remember that you read about it here first!

Interesting concept, right?

Dymaxion Map of the World

This is my favorite type of world map. According to Wikipedia:

The Dymaxion map or Fuller map is a projection of a world map onto the surface of an icosahedron, which can be unfolded and flattened to two dimensions. The flat map is heavily interrupted in order to preserve shapes and sizes.

You can really see how close all the world is to being a single contiguous landmass. I was first exposed to this map from a random page in a Wired magazine that actually was just using the map to convey some data and did not actually explain what the map was or how it was created.

Map of the world in a Fuller projection with Tissot's Indicatrix of deformation

Example of use illustrating early human migrations according to mitochondrial population genetics (numbers are millennia before present)

There are two more examples from Wikipedia. The human migration aspect is important, the creator of the map used it in a book he authored:

Showing the continents as "one island earth" also helped Fuller explain, in his book Critical Path, the journeys of early seafaring people, who were in effect using prevailing winds to circumnavigate this world island.

Here are some other interesting facts about this map... all of my quotes are from Wikipedia:

Fuller claimed that his map had several advantages over other projections for world maps.

It has less distortion of relative size of areas, most notably when compared to the Mercator projection; and less distortion of shapes of areas, notably when compared to the Gall–Peters projection. Other compromise projections attempt a similar trade-off.

More unusually, the Dymaxion map does not have any "right way up". Fuller argued that in the universe there is no "up" and "down", or "north" and "south": only "in" and "out".[4] Gravitational forces of the stars and planets created "in", meaning "towards the gravitational center", and "out", meaning "away from the gravitational center". He attributed the north-up-superior/south-down-inferior presentation of most other world maps to cultural bias.
Fuller intended the map to be unfolded in different ways to emphasize different aspects of the world.[5] Peeling the triangular faces of the icosahedron apart in one way results in an icosahedral net that shows an almost contiguous land mass comprising all of Earth's continents – not groups of continents divided by oceans. Peeling the solid apart in a different way presents a view of the world dominated by connected oceans surrounded by land. 

All off this information should hopefully convert you to a believer of this map and maybe even a user of it, next time you have to consider which projection of the world to select for an image or to illustrate various data metrics. Personally, I am a huge fan of this map, even before I was aware of all the advantages it offers. It just makes sense! If you have to view the world in two-dimensions, then this is the map to do it with.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Oxford comma and how my writing style differs because I am a nerd

One thing you may notice that is missing from my writing is the Oxford comma, also knows as the Harvard or "serial" comma. What is the Oxford comma, you ask? Let's see what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

In English language punctuation, a serial comma or series comma (also called an Oxford comma or a Harvard comma[1]) is a comma placed immediately before the coordinating conjunction (usually and or or) in a series of three or more terms. For example, a list of three countries might be punctuated either as "France, Italy, and Spain" (with the serial comma), or as "France, Italy and Spain" (without the serial comma).[2][3][4]

Opinions among writers and editors differ on whether to use the serial comma. In American English, a majority of style guides mandate use of the serial comma, including APA style,[5] The Chicago Manual of StyleThe MLA Style ManualStrunk and White's Elements of Style,[6] and the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual. In contrast, the Associated Press Stylebook and the stylebook published by The Canadian Press for journalistic writing advise against it. It is used less often in British English,[7] but some British style guides require it, including The Oxford Style Manual.[8] According to The Oxford Companion to the English Language, "Commas are used to separate items in a list or sequence ... Usage varies as to the inclusion of a comma before and in the last item ... This practice is controversial and is known as the serial comma or Oxford comma, because it is part of the house style of Oxford University Press."[9] Some use it only where necessary to avoid ambiguity,[10] in contrast to such guides as Garner's Modern American Usage, which advocate its routine use to avoid ambiguity.

This is actually one of the many differences and nuances you may notice in my writing style. I actually honed the majority of my writing skills on the internet.. mostly on forums and IRC (Internet Relay Chat). At a very pivotal point in my development with the English language and from a very early age, the internet was my primary form of communication. IRC, more than anything else, forced me to become a very fast and accurate typist. Making a typo or using most forms of abbreviation are generally frowned upon by the citizens of most IRC channels.

During this same time frame, I also took up programming. This may have actually hurt more than anything else. In programming, you must be very careful to have a certain type of syntax, or format, to every line of code you write. The order and manner in which you open and close any type of quotations, brackets, parenthesis, etc. are vital to getting your code to compile and run properly. This may have been where my aversion to the serial comma originated.

In my mind, a list of items ends with the last item. Anything following that is some new concept entirely. In most programming languages, adding the serial comma would be equivalent to making the "and" that follows part of the serial list of items that came before it.

Con: "Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones."
This example from the 1934 style book of the New York Herald Tribune shows how a comma before "and" can result in a lack of clarity. With the comma, it reads as if Mr. Smith was the donor of the cup, which he was not.
I have taken this particular example from a mental_floss article. There are many other examples where using a serial comma can cause confusion. Also in existence, however, are many instances where not using it may create problems for the reader. In all instances, proper sentence or paragraph structure can help to eliminate any problems that may arise.

One issue that I had for a long time was in understanding how quotations were supposed to work, especially in reference to works of fiction where the is a lot of dialogue between characters. This is 100% related to my programming background.

When programming, quotations are often used to contain specific parameters or data, with any punctuation that occurs inside of them belonging to that data, which punctuation which occurs outside of those quotations is used to designate other things. Most programming languages require a semicolon at the end of every line, for instance. An example from my favorite language, PHP, of the popular programming concept "Hello Word" (which is usually the first output a beginner will make with a given language):

echo 'Hello World';
The semicolon at the end is not output, neither is the word 'echo' or the quotation marks. The end result only returns a black screen with "Hello World" on it (minus the quotations). This ends up distilling a strong sense that whatever comes outside of quotation marks is in some way SEPARATE from what occurs inside of them. To make things more of a hassle, some types of punctuation are meant to occur inside quotation marks, while others must not, while writing.

When you say someone is “square,” do you mean he is antisocial or merely old-fashioned?
Periods and commas go inside, while semicolons do not. That was an actual example from WritersOnlineWorkshops. For a programmer, having that comma, which seems to logically be part of the sentence syntax and structure, occur inside of the quotation marks, is frustrating, to say the least.

An example you may have just noticed about my writing style in the previous paragraph is my gratuitous use of commas. This may not have come from programming. My paragraphs are also typically much shorter than they should or could be. This is an after-effect of so much online chatting. Getting a point across as quickly as possible is of the utmost importance on the internet, which can lead to ideas becoming fragmented and compartmentalized.

I use a few tools to help me write better, such as Grammarly, but there are still many problems with my writing and I'd like to make you aware that I am cognizant of these issues while providing a few excuses as to why I write the way that I do.

Languages are constantly evolving. They are living things. We've only just begun to witness the effect that the internet has on written language. Many words we use on a daily basis did not even exist a few decades ago. Is it safe to assume that, a few decades from now, many of the rules that currently govern writing may become obsolete are modified to fit our new favorite medium, the internet?

The difference between state/federal prison, parole/probation and jail/prison.

For those of you that do not know, I was actually on the front page of popular news aggregation website Reddit. My post was in the format of something called an "IAmA", which invited the users at large to ask me various questions about my recent trip to the federal prison system that lasted several years too long for my liking. If you'd like to view the original post, here is the link Jack on Reddit IAmA.

At the time of this writing, the post as over 12,500 votes, over 9,000 of which were positive. There are also over 3,000 comments, many of which I responded to (as that is the purpose of doing an IAmA).  To my surprise, most of the comments/questions involved what the federal prison system was actually like on the inside and how a person might fare in there. I was actually expecting more dialogue concerning what actually got me indicted in the first place - importing chemicals from China to the United States.

Several readers suggested I write a book about my ordeal. One of the main purposes of this Blog is for me to be able to collect and maintain some writing specific to my experience(s) in Federal prison which could one day serve as chapters or a template for such a book.

My experience on Reddit makes me aware that what most people are interested in is how the actual process works and what day-to-day life is like behind the walls and bars. While in prison, I thought it would be a great idea to write an epic story about how I ended up in prison, my forays into the underground Research Chemical market and all of my various escapades as a drug dealer and criminal in general.

I should have known! Prison culture is popular in the United States. Your chances of going to prison, this day and age, are much greater than they were at any time prior. Almost everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who is either in prison or has been to prison. Shows like "Orange is the New Black" highlight how successful even fictional accounts of prison life may be. I've actually never seen that show, but have heard that it is much closer to real life than many other depictions of the prison system, especially the federal prison system.

One of the big misconceptions that people have is that they think that all prisons are just "prison", or worse yet, "jail". There are many nuances to the actual structure of the system. Did you know there is a difference between "probation" and "parole"? As someone who must spend the next 3 years or so on federal probation, it is very frustrating to hear people constantly refer to it as "parole". What are the differences?

Let's start with the difference between STATE and FEDERAL prison. When you go to state prison, it is because you were prosecuted under the jurisdiction of a particular state. This is the most common scenario, as the majority of criminal cases fall within the jurisdiction of a particular county. As counties are part of the state in which they reside, the judges which handle state cases end up sending those defendants to state prison systems (when and if they are found guilty during criminal proceedings). States typically process the more mundane and common criminal cases.

Federal prison is where a defendant goes when they are indicted by a grand jury and prosecuted by the actual United States government. Rather than seeing "The State of Florida Versus (Defendant)", they will get nice pieces of paper with "The United States of America Versus (Defendant)" typed in usually all capital letters across the to of the page. Federal prosecutors handle any type of case which has international components, for a start, but federal judges have jurisdiction over a wide variety of crimes, some of which would make more sense for a state to prosecute.

You know those alphabet agencies, like the FBI, DEA and ATF? Those are federal agencies. When they get involved, the likelihood of the case making it to federal court increases substantially. This means that rather large cases involving numerous defendants or a high volume of drugs/money/victims will end up going before a grand jury and indicted on a federal, rather than state, level.

While a defendant is awaiting trial, they are held in facilities that are called jails. The difference between a jail and a prison is that jails do not typically house sentenced inmates. Some jails will hold inmates that have been found guilty on a state level, but only when their sentence is very short. In Florida, for instance, getting a sentence of over one year is what determines if an inmate will spend their time inside of a jail rather than a prison.

Once actually accepted into the prison system, there are numerous transfer and sorting facilities that process inmates on their way to their final destination. These add further confusion to outsiders who are unfamiliar with the mechanics, as these housing systems are harder to classify and come in various shapes and sizes.

A lot of state courts and all federal courts have removed parole as an option for inmates. What is parole? Parole is what happens to an inmate when they serve part of their sentence inside of prison and then serve the remaining sentence outside of prison for whatever reason. A prisoner who violated parole would be sent back to prison to finish the original duration of their sentence. Probation is different because it can occur as an alternative to a prison sentence, or as conditions for release after a prison sentence has been fully served, which is the case with federal prisoners. The minimum amount of time a federal prisoner will spend on probation is typically 3 years. Some federal inmates actually face lifelong probation after their incarceration ends.

You should now be much more informed than the average citizen about what the differences are between these various components. Besides lawyers, judges, prosecutors and the other people who are employed by the legal system, inmates are usualy the only people aware of these differences.

Monday, March 20, 2017

I have terrible news...

There may be some more content here in the future, which will be much worse than this original post. Essentially, it is all just going to get worse from here on in.

666IGMA - Magick Trick (2017)