Vol. 6 No. 5

December, 2006


Going Pro

New Comic: Rapter Agent

Check Out Quicksand

Lost in Cyberspace

New Comic: Dr. Philistine

Election Night Mares

Faux Blogs



Don't forget to check out the







What child does not dream about swishing the game winning shot in the NBA finals; hitting the game winning World Series home run in the bottom of the ninth inning; sinking a 50 foot birdie putt to beat Tiger Woods at the British Open at St. Andrews?

The odds are dramatically against anything like that happening in real life. The odds of a high school basketball player making it to the NBA is decreasing fraction of a fraction of less than one percent. It is oversupply (thousands of high school teams, hundreds of college teams) to available slots (32 professional teams). The same long odds are in all professional sports. Those are real world odds.

No one really knows what the virtual world odds are because we are on the dawn of the professional gamer sports era. Twenty years ago, game programmers who could write the next, great arcade game were money in the bank for game manufacturers. A coder who can create a long term “franchise” like Mario Brothers, the Sims or Civilization, became a rich man and a corporation onto himself. Now, the focus is a way from the next killer game app, to the road show of who is the greatest killer gamer.

There was an entire cable week in November devoted to professional gaming tournaments. In this sub-culture, there are elite gamers and teams sponsored by backers criss-crossing America in search for fame and some small purses. But with the need to fill more and more cable time, and the likes of the MTVs of the media world looking to act cool, professional computer gaming is on the rise. The is an organization devoted to creating the next television-created advertising monster (like the X-Games).

The resistance to televising real time gamers in combat is like tournament poker. Time limitations. A computer game continues until one loses. Unless there is a time factor imposed by a TV producer onto the game, it will be a hard sell to insert commercials into the telecast. The answer will have to be taped delay and action film style editing. And how does one divide the television monitor to show the most compelling action between the players? A divided television screen into two, four or more windows would be confusing to the viewer. Look at the increasing nonsense graphics infecting professional football telecasts. And the hardest hurdle may be the target audience. Most hard core game players are playing their favorite games, not watching others play it. But who would have thought that paintball would have been able to be corralled into a set field of play so television could cover the action effectively?

Kids have been hired before as critical testers for game manufacturers. The educational system decried the practice of hiring kids to play games as being harmful to their education. The same argument hit in the 1990s when high schoolers were lured away to high paying summer jobs writing software code when programmers were in short supply. Some students never returned to class because they were making more money than a liberal arts college degree. Each person has their own path. But the glorification of playing games as a viable career choice will be another educational-parent-political protest.

The concept will hit critical mass when unknown gamers suddenly get agents and endorsement deals like pro surfers for beach fashion and surf boards or X-Gamer veterans. Who will be the next Tony Hawk?


Inspired by the world being on the verge of the wide world of professional video gamers,

there will be the same kind of professional sports weird craziness, like prima donna players and strange pro agents.

And the with the term, Rapter, we defer to the Japanese anime spelling just to be difficult/different.





The press was screaming about the fact that the holiday shopping season officially began a week before Halloween this year. If you did not get out early, you would ruin your holidays. The hot toy, the talking Elmo, was sold out in a classic undersupply frenzy. The Playstation 3 arrival turned into riots at electronic stores. An alternative to the looter-mentality was to go on-line to do one's early shopping.

E-commerce has matured into a respective form of shopping. The vast majority of people are comfortable with the procedures and point and click functionality of purchasing goods. All the major retailers have web stores which feature bargain merchandise at the click of the mouse.

But even with the hot toys or computer equipment, going on-line led to road blocks and OUT OF STOCK banners. Most retailers that got a limited quantity of the hot ticket items used them to lure shoppers into the real stores in order for them to buy more merchandise. It is a classic sales technique.

In helping out a family member do her early on-line shopping, filling the shopping cart was fairly routine. Going through the pages to find the right sizes and colors of clothing items took some patience. Then finding the Christmas theme items as stocking stuffers was more on the recon side of the battle, but all those items got into the shopping cart. A review of the items, sizes and amounts seemed to be okay. There was one discrepancy in price for an item (it should have been on sale) but it was decided that the convenience outweighed the deletion of the item. So, the credit card info was verified and the transaction was completed. There were no flags, no issues from the retailer's site. Everything seemed okay.

Then, the email order confirmation arrived later that morning. In this confirmation, the retailer told us that many of the items were “out of stock” of back-ordered for arrival in early January. What? These were Christmas orders made well in advance of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving shopping gorge. A call to customer service with the order number had to be used in order to cancel the order because the time requirements of gift giving. It took a long time to get through the customer service call tree, let alone find a live-person to explain the situation.

Retailers should have real time information on the available stock of items being sold on-line. During the cart confirmation screens before payment, the retailer should tell the consumer that some item was low on stock, out of stock, or on back order before the transaction is complete. If not reviewing the email confirmation that day, we would have not known for weeks that the order would not arrive in time for the holiday celebration. The on-line experience is supposed to speed up the shopping process, not leave potential ordering landmines for an unhappy shopper to scramble to fill at a later date.




It came in the form of a merger of an old sci-fi television show and a current debate on one of the dangers of the increased dependence on the internet.

Just because one feels safe inside one's home, in front of their computer, that does not mean one is safe from themselves. More and more people are immersing themselves into the Internet world. Some come home from work and play on-line games to dawn. Others come home to seek companionship in net chat rooms. Others randomly surf from site to site, blog to blog, like a whale swimming a vast ocean to filter plankton. When does one begin to drown in his or her own surfing?

From a report from Eastern Michigan University Technology Department:

“The concept of Internet addiction has recently entered the social problem lexicon. Inordinate amounts of time spent engaging in various types of Internet activities such as muds, chat rooms, and discussion groups have been cited as having a negative impact on social relationships, marriages, school achievement, work performance, health, and other vital life functions (Young, 1998; King, 1996). Given the prediction that 80 percent of American households will be connected to the Internet by 2000 (Young, 1998), Internet addiction is perceived as a possible societal epidemic. To address this increasing concern, The Center for On-Line Addiction (1998) has classified Internet addiction into five specific types: Cybersexual Addiction Addictions to adult chat rooms or cyberporn. Cyber-relationship Addiction On-line friendships made in chat rooms, MUDS, or newsgroups that replace real-life friends and family. Net Compulsions Compulsive online gambling, online auction addiction, and obsessive online trading. Information Overload Compulsive web surfing or database searches Computer Addiction Obsessive computer game-playing or to programming aspects of computer science.” The complete report is at

The report further stated that Internet addiction could be defined as follows: “1. Feeling preoccupied with the Internet (for example, thinking about previous online activity or anticipating the next online session). 2. Feeling a need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction. 3. Making repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use. 4. Feeling restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet usage. 5. Remaining online longer than intended. 6. Jeopardizing the loss of a significant personal relationship, job educational, or career opportunity. 7. Lying to family members, friends, or a therapist to conceal the extent of their involvement with the Internet. 8. Using the Internet as a means for escaping from problems (Young, 1998, pp. 4-5). In another online survey conducted by Brenner (1996) of 185 Internet users it was reported that 17 percent may be addicted to the Internet, which included spending 40 or more hours per week online. The survey indicated that nearly half of the respondents experienced adverse effects in their work as a result of online usage. Ten percent reported problems with employment and school due to online activity.”

Various media reports have confirmed the increasing use of computers by workers in non-employment areas. One article inferred that an average worker wastes one and one-half hours per day surfing the Internet on company time. A Vietnam veteran who worked at an IBM research facility in East Fishkill, N.Y., claims he was wrongfully terminated by the computer maker for having an addiction to Internet chat rooms, according to a lawsuit filed by the worker. The worker claims to have an addiction, like alcoholism, which would trigger anti-discrimination laws and procedures that would have protected his job from immediate termination. The company rejected that position and the case is in litigation.

The question of what is the acceptable boundaries of Internet use, in the work place and outside it, is a continuing source of debate.

The EMU study above, the debate ends at a fork in the road. There are two ways of looking at this issue. One, under traditional addiction norms and abnormalities in personality traits or conditions. Two, under a broader social behavior change resulting from the emergence of new technology that may be morphing traditional interpersonal socialization into a virtual social setting. “Based upon the limited findings within this present study, we are inclined to conclude that the concept of Internet addiction should be reexamined within the context of how social factors are interfacing with Internet utilization, and if this merging of man and machine can be researched or labeled in purely traditional ways.”

From a Virginia Tech research paper, DEFINING INTERNET ADDICTION DISORDER, to be diagnosed as having Internet Addiction Disorder, a person must meet certain criteria as prescribed by the American Psychiatric Association. Three or more of these criteria must be present at any time during a twelve month period:

1. Tolerance: This refers to the need for increasing amounts of time on the Internet to achieve satisfaction and/or significantly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of time on the Internet.

2. Two or more withdrawal symptoms developing within days to one month after reduction of Internet use or cessation of Internet use (i.e., quitting cold turkey) , and these must cause distress or impair social, personal or occupational functioning. These include: psychomotor agitation, i.e. trembling, tremors; anxiety; obsessive thinking about what is happening on the Internet; fantasies or dreams about the Internet; voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers.

3. Use of the Internet is engaged in to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

4. The Internet is often accessed more often, or for longer periods of time than was intended.

5. A significant amount of time is spent in activities related to Internet use ( e.g., Internet books, trying out new World Wide Web browsers, researching Internet vendors, etc.).

6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of Internet use.

7. The individual risks the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of excessive use of the Internet. In recent research, other characteristics have been identified.

“The first is feelings of restlessness or irritability when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use. The second is that the Internet is used as a way of escaping problems or relieving feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression. The third characteristic is that the user lies to family members or friends to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet. And, finally, the user returns repeatedly despite excessive fees (Egger & Rauterberg, 1996). Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is characterized by seven basic diagnostic criteria, among them increasing tolerance of long online hours, withdrawal, and unsuccessful efforts to control Internet use. Ferris, Jennifer R. Internet Addiction Disorders: Causes, Symptoms, and Consequences.”

Other authors have found commentary on forms of Internet addiction. Some believe that Internet addiction is a correctable, benign condition, and “compensate[s] for a lack of satisfaction in other areas of life.” Hall, Alex S., and Jeffrey Parsons. "Internet Addiction: College Student Case Study Using Best Practices in Cognitive Behavior Therapy." Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 23.4 (October 2001): 312-327.

Some mental health professionals recognize Internet addiction as a disorder, and are treating it as “a dependency that can be as destructive as alcoholism and drug addiction.” Kershaw, S. "Hooked on the Web: Help Is on the Way." The New York Times (December 1, 2005):

Internet addiction can have a devastating impact on peoples' lives. The Center for On-line Addiction (COLA), which offers intervention counseling, consulting and training to help conquer this often unrecognized disorder. COLA was founded by Dr. Kimberly S. Young, Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. Resources at the site include online counseling, articles, FAQs, and self-help tests. Center for On-line Addiction (COLA)

The answer to the question is an interpersonal examination of how one is using the Internet or how the Internet is controlling them.

The image that came to mind was the fusion of the flaying robot from Lost in Space screaming, “Danger Free Will, Robinson! Danger Free Will, Robinson!” behind a tired space boy staring at his computer screen.

Inspired by the souls being lost in the sink holes of cyberspace, comic commentary cyberbarf style.




Last month, we spoke about e-voting and the perils of unproven technology.

Here are a few examples of what happened on election day. Several callers to a local Chicago radio station complained that the touch-screen voting machines were improperly tallying votes. One woman said that she went through the touch ballot; at the end instead of pushing vote button, she pressed review. She was appalled at what she found: every vote she cast was going to be registered for the wrong candidate. She brought over an election judge who scratched his head over this problem. Several calls to election central. The voter was upset because a) if she just voted instead of reviewed, her entire ballot would have been effectively hijacked and b) there would have been no way to prove the error. The election judge was not a computer technician, so he could not pinpoint the problem or reset the machine. And that was the problem the talk show host cringed about: it is the machine tally that would count; and these machines were printing paper records but no one could tell whether they would be accurate. The integrity of the election was called into question.

Florida, the land of the “hanging chad,” spend millions of dollars in converting paper ballots into touch screens. However, in one district, 18,000 votes “vanished” in a congressional race that was decided by less than 500 votes. The operator of the machine said that the voters must have “skipped” that part of the ballot. Both parties called that comment ridiculous. The other excuse was that the voters must have “missed” that race because it was at the top of the first screen. Just like the confused voter argument during the Bush-Gore litigation, the question of whether a voter punched a Chad or touched a screen became a major debate. The losing candidate is demanding an entire new election. The written record shows 18,000 voters who cast no vote for their U.S. House representative. There is nothing valid to recount with that illogical fact. The machine record shows no votes. What would one need to recount a touch screen? A FBI crime lab trying to take thousands of finger prints off of the screen glass to see what the voters intended to happen?

At least with an "optical" ballot, one which marks are read by a computer machine, can be hand tallied after an election. But it appeared that there were so many different machines, different styles of balloting across the country, there is no consistency from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If this midterm election was one to confirm the concept of e-voting, that referendum failed for the second election in a row.



The greatest long term myth about the Internet is that is the factual source of information that has replaced the local library. Besides some wild opinion and political spinmeisters affecting some parts of cyberspace, there is a new evil beginning to surface. Call it the “faux blog.”

Some corporation marketing departments have decided that the way to reach an audience is to make up a story too-good to be true, package it as being the truth, and damn the consequences. They are beginning to create web sites to tout their films, products or services without telling the viewer of the direct affiliation with the film's producer, or product manufacturer. It is like hiding subliminal images in advertising. It is a mental trick of the consumer in order to push a product.

It is an off-shoot of the Internet celebrity status a few sites have had recently. The lonelygirl video diary had captivated much of the cyberliterari. Her heartfelt explanations of the trials and relationship issues gained a large audience. But then it was revealed that lonelygirl was an actress, and the site was the visual storyboards for an independent film production company. Many viewers felt betrayed by the fact that they thought this video blogger was a real person, discussing real issues and having real interactions with her audience.

Marketers may allege that these faux blogs are harmless fun. No one should take them seriously. It is just part of the process of creating product “buzz.” But the loud buzz of false claims can lead to serious bee stings in the minds of consumers.

It may come down to a question of business ethics. How far is a company willing to go in pushing false information in order to hook a consumer to their product? Fake testimonials about cosmetic products? Fake reviews of films, television shows, books or other entertainment fare? Fake testimonials about new pharmaceutical break-throughs? Truth in advertising in print and television media should be the same standard for the Internet


The Sultanate of Clintonia-Rogstaden

The global on-line gaming experience has quietly exploded into a a bandwidth python of multi-hour, multi-kingdom game spheres. Whether it is the team combat arena, or the total simulated fantasy genre, more and more men and women are using their free time to escape to a virtual world. As a result of our tech guru's prodding suggestion, has created Sultanate of Clintonia-Rogstaden. Readers will have a running update of the status of this virtual country; get the backstories outside the game's program. For example, check out the images of the national currency. There will be inside jokes, satire, humor and pulse of a real bizarre country. New features will be added on a regular basis. So check out the cyber-soap opera of nation building here at

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