September 15th, 2012

Putin

Patent Penders

A couple of years ago, Ken Penders dropped a bombshell on the comics industry.

Penders had been working on Archie's Sonic The Hedgehog comic book.  Along the way, he created some characters for the series.  The characters were popular enough with the Sonic fans that they started appearing in the video games.  Not bad, huh?

Two years ago, Penders left Archie in a huff, and sued.  He says the characters he created were not work for hire -- no formal deal was reached, so he retains all rights to them.  This caused Sega to hastily rework its then upcoming Sonic game since some of those characters factored in as NPC's.

Was it work for hire?  I don't know.  Archie Comics has a reputation for strongarming the talent.  Combine this with other creators who worked on Sonic like Scott Shaw! and Elliot Maggin saying they never signed contracts either, and it is possible, not certain but possible, that Archie didn't sew everything up.  I've heard rumors that their version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was more creator-friendly than most "creator comics" out there.

It was about two years ago that Archie announced they had patched things up and Penders wouldn't be a problem anymore.  Penders disagreed, quite publicly, and has continued to press his lawsuit.  Other than Sega changing the game, there has been no forward movement.  I'm guessing Archie decided to try the classic "stall until the opposition runs out of money" gambit.

Penders just escalated.

Diamond is carrying the trade Knuckles The Echidna Volume 3, which features some of Penders' creations.  Diamond is very risk adverse when it comes to lawsuits.  Penders sent Diamond a C&D, saying they are distributing his work without his permission.

Diamond just pulled the collection from distribution.

Now, like I said, this doesn't necessarily mean Penders has a valid claim, just that one company doesn't feel it is worth the risk, and Diamond is very flinchy when it comes to this stuff.  But it does put Archie back in action.  A lot of the collection sales go through Diamond (the other, who handles actual bookstores and such, is Random House), and this not only means lost revenue, but makes them look bad.

Expect this to get back to the bargaining table soon.  And expect it to be NDA'ed out the ass.  Which is a shame.  There's a lot of lessons creators could learn from this.  Thankfully, the truth will eventually get out.  One ear at a time....

Kill It With Fire

Taking Down Josh Hoopes -- An After Action Report

So now, master con man Josh Hoopes has seen his dox get spread all over the Internet.  We needed a test run see whether or not someone could make Hoopes pay for his crimes.

Up stepped a fine gentleman who was stiffed for the relatively low amount of $375.  Since it wasn't like he was starving in the streets and he had the time, he led his unit into battle, armed with everything all the armchair advocates said he needed.

Unfortunately, what happened is a reminder why people don't believe in The System anymore -- The System doesn't work.  At all.

His first move was with PayPal, who any eBay seller will tell you is lopsidedly biased towards the payee.  He explained at the debriefing, "Paypal sounded very helpful at first, then declined to refund our money. Apparently Hoopes convinced them that he provided the good/services he promised."

(Note to those wondering:  no.  This ends here.  PayPal is a private entity and because it is doing its business over the Internet where no commerce rules have been enacted, there's nothing the government can do.  Because it isn't the Post Office, investigations for mail fraud are out.  Because it isn't a regular bank, wire fraud is out.)

He then went with Plan B, the option most of us were anxious for -- he buzzed the fuzz.  He contacted the Sacramento Police Department, where Hoopes lives.  However, their commander declined to provide our friend with aid.  "The Sacramento Police were worthless...told me to call the FBI because its an interstate crime."

So he called the FBI.  He has filed a complaint.  They took his information, but there has been no further contact since.  No explanation given, but it likely has to do with PayPal being an unregulated bank (read that:  the feds have no juristiction), PayPal not interested in protecting their reputation, and the amount of $375 being so small. 

TL;DR -- if Hoopes scams you out of money, The Establishment that is so insistent you put your faith in them can't do jack shit.

So if someone contacts you with the name Josh Hoopes, Lalit Kumal, or Joshua John, ignore them.  Search Google using any information (one publisher who he contacted under another name searched his email and found out all about him, so any information helps) you are provided with.  And if you do get him, if it is an honest to God Josh Hoopes encounter, spread the word so others can watch out for him.

We must look out for each other.
Thor Likes It

Oh, Those Daring Young Men In Their Flying Machines

"I'm gliding in the beautiful skies, it's such a clear day
"Go riding in your sweet lullabies, come fly away...."
-- Benny Benassi featuring Channing
"Come Fly Away"

It's been a horrible week at work.  My being stuck in my life situation has been getting to me.  I should be writing, not working a job with clueless bosses and a soulcrushing amount of overtime.  I have no time to write and draw, and frequently drawing Rhapsody and Melody are the only things that can snap me out of a funk this bad.  No chances to try and show the world what I can do until C2E2, and it's my only shot for the year, the days of submitting work and landing with an editor looking for new talent are over.  Wizard World?  I might as well stay home and play with myself.  Family stupidity.  Isolation from those I care about.  Not making any headway in the world.  Oh, I'm doing great helping others, but I have made no measurable advances for myself since last year....

During the week, I'm talking on the phone to my teacher, the only real contact I have with her.  I haven't seen her in about a month and a half, and it's been longer since I saw the Munchkin.  She listens with her usual infinite sympathy and understanding.  That was before Friday night.  Friday, we were expecting management to say that the overtime would be easing up a little bit, it's all they talked about the last few weeks.  Friday, Lucy pulls the football away again.  Not only will it continue, but the schedule is getting jiggled with so that I'll be starting at 3AM for a couple of days a week.

Talking with my teacher on the phone that night, I just vented all my frustration with my life and how sick of it I am.  She gave me a pep talk, telling me that I would make it through it fine, I'm just feeling overwhelmed.  "Once you shake it off, you'll make it through this okay."

It's going to take something pretty big to shake me out of this.

"Yeah...it will.  Good night, Peter."

This morning, I wake up, have breakfast, and check my email.  There's a message from my teacher.  It lists a couple of groups of numbers.  I call her up.  What's this?

"What do you think it is?"

It looks like -- coordinates.

"Very good."

What's there?

"Now, Peter, that's not how this works."

When should I be there?

"Anytime after 1000AM."

What kind of money should I bring with?

"At least $50, I would suggest $70 so you can grab a snack.  And bring your camera."

$70?

"What's the point of making all that money if you can't enjoy spending it?"

She's never wrong, and she knows me better than I know myself.  So I hang up, jump in the Angry Red Dragon (my car), and set my GPS for the coordinates she listed.  It tells me how long until I get there, and I start driving.

The route takes me through corn country.  I can't even begin to imagine what could be out here until I'm notified I'm almost there.  About a half mile away, I see a sign that says to watch out for low flying aircraft.  Just over the hill, I see a grassy area with several cars parked parking lot style.  I guess that's it.

I pull up and get a look at the sign telling me what is going on.  A charity fundraiser for a kid with cancer.  And what are they selling to raise money?

Glider rides.

My eyes light up.  I'm going to fly in a glider.

Taking Up PositionI quickly park and jump out.  The guys taking the money greet me happily and, after a quick exchange and me forking over $50, they mark me down on the list for a flight a few hours later (big turnout).  I head for a McDonald's to grab a snack and check the Intertubes, then head back.

Killing time, one of the things I did was look over a glider they had parked off to the side for kids to get their pictures taken in it.  It is really remarkable how deceptive these things are.  They look fragile, but they are not only strong, but they are aerodynamically perfect.  Planes fly because of the Bernouli principle, the difference in speed of air flowing under and over the wing creating lift.  You can do this with either natural shapes like a glider or by forcing the wing into the air to generate the currents (known in local parlance as "angle of attack"), which is how those big bulky jets fly.  There's a ratio that describes gliding.  A regular jet gets a 1:15 ratio, which means for every one mile up you go, you glide fifteen miles forward.  The most efficient jets have a 1:22 ratio.  These gliders have a 1:50 ratio.

Glider ControlsTo achieve this, the gliders are extremely lightweight.  The bodies are made of fiberglass, and the wings are composite polycarbonate -- more expensive than fiberglass but damn strong.  Anything extraneous is gone from the vehicle, and that includes motors, not just to power flight, but also for things like retracting the landing gear and closing the hatch.  That's done with a simple lever system.  Same with the flight controls.  The only part of the glider that doesn't use human muscle is the heads up display with the radio and SatNav.  Even the altimeter just uses elementary physics as air in a pair of cylinders compresses or decompresses at different rates.  In fact, that exact same simple mechanism is what is inside those giant jumbo jets.

Eventually, it was my turn.  The glider I was getting was a racer, which was pulled to the runway by a golf cart (I did mention they were extremely lightweight, right?).  The pilot (yes, there was a pilot and I was a passenger.  They aren't THAT crazy) was a swell guy ready to answer any questions I had as we went.  I sat down in the cockpit, and got my first disappointment -- the seat belt was having trouble reaching around me.  "What do you weigh?"

Me Getting In GliderI overestimated a little and said, 260.

"...uh, we have a weight restriction of 254."

I'm pretty sure I'm below that, if not by much, and told them I guessed high.  They decided to make sure.  The belt extended as far out as it could get clasped around me snuggly, but wasn't constrictive.  The pilot told the tow plane that would take us up to go about 70 (and that's knots, not MPH.  MPH, that's about 80.6).  Since there is nothing excessive on the glider, there are no shock absorbers, so you felt the little bumps in the ground as we were pulled along.  That lasted maybe fifteen seconds before we could lift off the ground, and we were off.

Tight FitI had a set of guages where I was sitting, and could see we were cruising at about 1,800 feet.  Once we were aloft, the pilot was told that it was going to take a little longer to get the landing gliders into position and aloft, so keep me up a little longer.  The pilot hit a couple of thermal updrafts, and we kept on.

It was during this that the pilot asked if I'd ever flown in a glider before.  I told him no, and in fact, until just this past November, I'd never flown before period.  He seemed a little shocked since I didn't seem to be exhibiting any nervousness.  He just didn't look at my forearms, where I had a small hive outbreak.  Nervous?  A little scared?  Sure.  But I wasn't about to let that stop me from flying.

If you ever get a chance to ride in a glider, I can't recommend it enough.  Unlike being on a jumbo jet, you have a far more immediate sensation.  You see everything.  You hear it.  The pilot and I just talked like we were in a car because there was no engine noise, just the wind going past the canopy.  You are high enough to see the world as a cohesive unit, but not so high that all the details get lost.  I forgot to take pictures, I was just blown away.

We came in for a landing with a sharp bank that was actually quite fun if a little nerve racking.  The landing was perfect, and I thanked everybody.  I got a certificate (give me a break, I like it) and was soon on my way to my regular life.  I called my teacher.  "Hello?"

I just flew in from Chicago, and boy are my ams tired.

She laughed, and I told her all about it.  She said I sounded happier than I have in ages.  She's right.  It may be back to my regular life where I am struggling against my own obscurity, hoping to some day break through and be a writer instead.  But at least, I have a happier attitude, so I can handle it a little better for now.

Supposedly, when you dream you are flying, it's sexual.

Not tonight, it won't be.
Peter G

Doctor Who -- A Town Called Mercy

Was the ending a reference to The Three Amigos and how they defeated El Guapo?  Just wondering.

Yup.  The Doctor blames himself, all right.

Also pegged that the Doctor's companions keep him in check.  But for how long?  This Doctor is becoming the most fatalistic and intolerant of any of them so far, even the Ninth.  The Doctor spent 200 years running from what was to happen to him.  Did he learn more about himself during that time than we realize?

Best line is in the saloon.  "Leave the bag in."  God, that was funny.

Pretty straightforward episode.  Great episode, but pretty straightforward.  Not a lot of portents of doom here.

Or are there?

This is two episodes in a row where the Doctor mentions his Christmas list.  And the Christmas episode is supposed to be the end for Amy and Rory.

Every episode has featured flickering light bulbs.  That ALWAYS means something foreboding is about to happen.

Talk about relative morality.

My personal favorite Harry Potter book is Chamber Of Secrets because, after seeing how everything ends, that book is the first one where what will come to pass takes center stage.

Could A Town Called Mercy have a similar pedigree?