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How Your Computer Manipulates You

Las Vegas, Paris, Eiffel Tower, Montgolfier Balloon

Be careful, it’s Vegas out there

The cavernous room is lit in a dim, yet pleasing way. There are no windows, no clocks, no reminders of the outside world. It could be noon or it could be midnight outside. In here, there’s always time for one more round.

In front of you, a machine flashes like a video game. You watch the simulated wheels turn quickly at first and then they slow, one by one. The first wheel lands on the letter “W.” The next stops at “I.” The last rolls excruciatingly forward, passing worthless letter after worthless letter until you see the one you’ve been waiting for.

The letter “N” appears at the top of the screen and begins to move its way down toward the jackpot position. You watch as it slides ever so slowly toward the thing you’ve been playing for all night: WIN. You see that word completed on the screen for just an instant before the N ticks once more, out of position and back to worthlessness. You almost won big. Or so you think. In reality, you’ve just been manipulated.

Many years ago I recall reading about the incredible amount of planning that goes into making slot machines as addictive as possible. Their lights and bells are meticulously calibrated to keep you in a perpetual state of agitated excitement. The payouts are statistically measured and timed to give you just enough reward so that you keep on playing. And every once in a while, just often enough according to the latest behavioral science, the machine will let you think you almost won the big jackpot. How can you stop playing now when you were oh so close to cashing in?

It’s all carefully choreographed to relieve you of as much of your money as possible. Now those same tricks and tactics are coming to a website near you.

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Bite Sized Debauchery

For a tasty sampler drawn from Shannon’s new book, Writers Between the Covers, check out her latest article printed over at The Huffington Post: 8 Literary Heartbreakers.

Money Quote

The jerk gene was also shared by fellow Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who dumped his pregnant wife to elope with 16-year-old Mary Godwin.”

It’s Here!

Writers Between the Covers

Get Your Copy Now.

Where’s Waldo?

Shannon atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Shannon atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Or, more accurately, where in the world are we? It’s a continuing source of confusion for our readers that our blog writing considerably lags our travels. By the time a post gets published, we’ve long since moved on from that location – meaning that the wonderful tips we get from readers by e-mail and in comments often reach us too late.

We’ve also been a bit reluctant to post more regularly on our Facebook Page for fear of creating additional confusion about where we are and what we’re doing.

So we’re making a small addition to the blog we hope will help correct these problems. In the right hand column, in the Meet Brian and Shannon section, beneath the photo of our big melons, you’ll now find a brief note about where we are currently and where we plan to go next.

Hopefully this small addition will help close the gap between our blog, our real-time travels, and our Facebook musings (of which we expect to do more.) In the meantime, keep those great tips coming. 

Giving Thanks for Today

Ozzie and Harriet

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

For some strange reason I found myself thinking about super powers the other day. Not about how cool it would be to have one but mostly about how useless they’d be in the real world. Without a horde of super villains to fight against, what practical good is super strength anyway? For the most part comic book abilities seem better suited to creating mischief than doing anything productive or interesting. The one exception I happened upon was time travel. Not necessarily even to mess with stuff. You don’t need the ability to change the past or profit from a preview of tomorrow’s headlines to make time travel totally awesome. Simply being able to observe the universe unfold over a period longer than a human lifespan makes it a power worth having.

It would be fascinating enough to walk the streets of 22nd century America but what about in the year 3012? Imagine plucking someone from the Middle Ages and dropping them in Times Square. What a mind-blowing experience. The differences between today and the next millennium are likely to be even more dramatic given the accelerating pace of change. I imagine a future of increasing global harmony and prosperity and one where everyday technologies seem magical by today’s standards.

And yet we don’t know for certain what tomorrow holds. It’s possible that future generations will look back and see that the beginning of the 21st century marked the pinnacle of human achievement. It may be that there aren’t even any future generations to ponder such things. We may find that tomorrow is not such a great place to visit, let alone to live.

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