announcement, big brother, cellphones, convention, gaming, monitoring, rpg, saloncon, steampunk, surveillance, tracking, victoriana
Word has come down from the state of New Jersey that Saloncon, the first known neo-victorian convention in the United States, is no more. Following the tribulations of 2009, including the economy floating upside down in its fishbowl, the organizers are not able to set the wheels in motion for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, the organizers have branched out in new directions in their personal lives and do not have the time or energy right now to put on a convention as a result. saloncon will certainly be missed; I know I shall miss the yearly trek to New Jersey with my finest clothing carefully packed in the trunk of the TARDIS. However, there are other conventions out there to satisfy our convention addictions, such as the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition and Steamcon in Seattle.
Next, RPG advocates The Escapist have announced Read An RPG Book In Public Week. Three of them, actually, to coincide with the weeks that creators of Dungeons and Dragons (Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson) were born and died, respectively (wow, that's awkward grammar...) For fifteen years, the Escapist has been fighting the crazy and ultimately senseless fight to get the hobby of gaming to stop being considered a dangerous, subversive, suicide-inducing pastime. I wish I were kidding when I write that, but there are many people who still consider co-telling a story and occasionally rolling polyhedral dice while so doing a threat to life, limb, sanity, and religion. At any rate, celebrating these weeks is simple: just sit in a public place and read a gaming book. It could be a core book, it could be an expansion, it could be the module you're planning to run soon. If people come up to you and ask about it, answer their questions politely and truthfully. Please try to be tasteful in the book you choose - the D20 Book of Erotic Fantasy is probably not going to reassure a parent concerned about their son or daughter's interest in fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons. The point is to help us stop looking like scary deviants (just interesting ones). You don't have to take part in all three weeks if you don't want to, and you're not obligated to. Think of it as having extra chances if you get too busy one week.
Last and certainly not least, the Department of Justice is being buffeted by civil liberties advocates port and starboard over the fact that people have been tracked by their cellphones without the issue of a warrant. Many people know that the location of a particular cellular phone can be ascertained if it has an on-board GPS receiver and the phone transmits its current co-ordinates, but it's less known that you can do the same thing by querying cell towers for a particular ESN, and then you look in the region of space wherever the zones covered by two or more towers overlap. Of course, the cell companies don't give just any that information, which means that you have to have pull with them... the thing is, for the past few years law enforcement has been getting this information without showing probable cause or even getting a warrant from a judge requiring the companies to give them this information. Oh, and this ability is being abused from time to time for unethical purposes: a sheriff in Alabama browbeat a local cell company into monitoring the movements of his daughter, claiming that a kidnapping had taken place.