Gallant young troupers

    “When we were growing up, every aspect of personal and private life was a measure of our father’s professional competence.” – a military brat

Mary Edwards Wertch writes in her book Military Brats the recollection of a variety of children who grew up in the authoritarian, and not authoritative, there is a distinct difference, environs of the military. “The notions of conformity, order and obedience reign supreme… The great paradox of the military," writes Wertch” is that its members, its self appointed guardians of our cherished democratic values, do not live in a democracy themselves. Not only is individuality not valued in the military, it’s discouraged. There is no freedom of speech, save on the most innocuous levels. There is no freedom of assembly for anything that is not authorized. There is not even a concept of privacy as civilians understand it, for in the military the distinction between public and private is thoroughly blurred. What a soldier says and does privately and what his spouse and children do and say can be held against him.”

From birth we are imprinted with names like Dwight and Omar. USAF parents are particularly fond of naming us after air force bases like Travis, Edward, Luke, and Kelly. (Famous aviators) Even the Marines call their daughters Maureen or Marina Cora. And there’s nothing like being born in a hospital where Moms make their own hospital cornered bed, then shuffle to the mess hall to collect their dinner tray.

We were starched and creased and by the time we were five we were little militarized troupers. The Marines even have a Devil Pup summer camp in San Diego. I must admit there was some envy when I read about that. Wertch explains, "When asked by civilians if it was really all that different to grow up in the military we children of the Fortress sometimes draw a blank....(It's) like being drafted into a gigantic theater company. The role of the warrior society, even in peacetime, is to exist in a state of perpetual "readiness": one continuous dress rehearsal for war. The principal actors are immaculately costumed, carefully scripted and supplied with a vast array of props...this is not a theater of improvisation. And then there is the supporting cast: the wives-- who may lack costumes but whose lines and movements are crafted every bit as carefully-- and the children, the understudies."

Weekend chores occurred on Saturday for us. At 0700 we got up, ate breakfast and while Mom and Dad went off to the commissary Sister and I had two hours to get the house squared away. Some kids that were interviewed in the book tell about their room inspections including beds made a certain way. Our shoes had to be lined up and the clothes hung with the left shoulder facing outwards. And while ours did not include bouncing any quarters off the bed we could not sit on our bed spreads; if something was set on the bedspread it had to be neatened up immediately. Furniture was not allowed to be kitty-corner.

One Friday night Dad won a typewriter at bingo and I awoke to orders of the day typed and posted on my closet doors, but there was no standing at attention during inspections like there were for some of us. Actually Dad just took a look at our rooms and pronounced them “outstanding” most of the time. Occasionally we were jokingly threatened with the “white-glove inspection” and told to get down on our hand and knees and use some “elbow grease” on that bath tub ring! Afterwards Dad and I would open the window on the second floor, set the radio on the sill and watch the Woodward boys play street hockey while listening to the dih-dih-dah-dah-dah of some far away station. We were far enough north that it may have been Russian.

Some kids relate that they received Article 15’s if things were not ship shape. In our home, they were reserved for more serious infractions imagined by maternal alcoholism. One boy recalled his mom doing the white- glove inspection and finally came up with some dust from behind the toilet. When I read that I thought of all the kids like me who had lived in the same quarters scrubbing the same bathrooms and felt a kinship like I have not felt before; something less than family, yet more than friendship. Maybe that’s why we always begin with where we lived and what years we lived there. Then I grinned and wondered if these family-like friends would have stifled a giggle too if they saw a Colonel in dress blues standing over the sink, peering into the mirror and using my eye lash curler to straighten out a wayward eyelash that was bugging him. ‘Can’t be winking at the General’s wife,’ I teased my father.

We have rich and difficult roots and like Mary Edwards Wertch says we’re troupers, real troupers.

The VEX discussion to date:

I believe that the Voting/Experience System serves and should serve two functions:

  1. By offering both tangible and abstract rewards, it encourages users to always continue to contribute to the database.
  2. It ensures that certain powers are only granted to those users who have proven their trustworthiness to use them.

The VEX system as it currently stands includes XP requirements, mainly to discourage noders from advancing by writing numerous low-content nodes (noding for numbers). NFN is not a problem these days. However, we have a different one: everybody reports that the XP requirements are much easier to reach than the writeup count requirements.

  • For example, to reach L2 requires 20 writeups and 50 XP. That's 2.5XP per writeup. You get 5XP per writeup anyway, so all you have to do to level up is make sure you don't lose more than 2.5XP from votes, or in other words stay above -7.5 reputation per node, which is laughable.

This is the most extreme example, but it is clear that the requirements should at the very least be revised upwards dramatically.

Alternatively, we could recognise that XP is incredibly freely available these days, and can be gained in many ways which do not constitute contribution to the database. As such, XP is now more like a currency or score than a proper measure of one's contributions.

I suggest using total reputation instead of XP to ensure consistent writing quality. XP would be retained, but as a more fluid measure of success. XP may go up as well as down. You can use it to buy goodies or /anvil your friends. Total reputation, however, is usually strictly increasing with writeup count.

In addition to this, I also have comments to make on the (in my opinion, ridiculous) placement and awarding of the various powers in the current VEX system. You'll see these as we go.

With all this is mind, here is my

(proposed) New Levelling System

(Obviously the level-by-level writeup and total rep requirements must be subject to immense discussion and controversy. Ideally, some raw data pulled directly from the database, indicating what kind of XP/writeups/rep distributions currently exist on E2, would enable us to tailor these requirements for a good balance.)

Level 0 (Guest User)

  • May see who created nodeshells - Why this perfectly harmless functionality is denied to users below level 3 is beyond me. It seems like this was only withheld to L3 because otherwise L3 gives no substantial new powers. Even guest users can see who created each node, right?

Level 1 (Initiate)

Requires registration.

  • May configure writeup header display - Again, a "power" which is currently withheld until later. I fail to understand why we can't trust a new noder to configure his own display. This is basic site functionality, withholding it is totally arbitrary.
  • May access Node Heaven and Scratch Pad Viewer

Level 2 (Novice)

Requires 20 writeups, 100 total reputation. Optimally, that's a node-fu (average reputation) of 5, but obviously a user may take more than 20 writeups to get there.

  • May cast 10 votes daily - disallowing voting until the user has made a substantial contribution to the site is critical to maintaining the high level of quality we demand here on Everything2. Allowing just anybody to vote reduces every site to the same lowest-common-denominator content standard. I've seen it happen before on other sites and I'll fight anybody who disagrees.

Level 3 (Acolyte)

Requires 40 writeups, 400 total reputation - Optimal node-fu of 10. Optimal node-fu increases gradually, since noders are anticipated (though not required) to become better noders as they progress.

  • May cast 20 votes daily
  • May create chatterbox rooms
  • May create polls - these last two are relatively harmless powers, reserved for L3 only so they are not wielded frivolously.

Level 4 (Scribe)

Requires 80 writeups, 1200 total reputation - Optimal node-fu of 15.

  • May cast 40 votes daily
  • May buy Ching!s (for large amounts of XP) at the E2 Gift Shop - the C! is a super-upvote, an official Everything2 seal of quality, which also gives a user indirect control of front-page content. The power to bestow them should, usually, be reserved for users who have proven themselves good judges of content by virtue of their own contributions.
  • May run an Everything Quest - not a job for an inexperienced noder.
  • May become a mentor - ditto. I was tempted to add "May host a nodermeet" here, but meatspace has its own voting and levelling systems.

Level 5 (Monk)

Requires 120 writeups, 2400 total reputation - Optimal node-fu of 20.

  • May cast X votes daily, where X is the user's writeup count divided by two - this is 60+ daily votes. I seriously doubt many people spend all their daily votes once they get more than 40, so we might as well let this increase without limit. (Never let it be infinite though, otherwise we are open to autovoting abuse.)
  • May cast 1 Ching! daily - a major prize
  • May delete own writeups - a power reserved for proven mature noders

Level 6 (Seer)

Requires 160 writeups, 4000 total reputation - Optimal node-fu of 25.

  • May cast X votes daily, where X is the user's writeup count divided by two - that's 80+ votes by now. An M-noder will have 500 daily votes.
  • May cast 1 Ching! daily - I feel that C!s should be kept as a scarce resource so that a C! remains a valuable honour to bestow on a writeup. I'm open to debate here, though.
  • May reset Chatterbox topic (for large amounts of XP) at the E2 Gift Shop - we don't want the topic resetting minute by minute, of course
  • May display a home node image - E2 being a text-only site, I am semi-firmly convinced that this should remain our highest prize. Do we even have the bandwidth to serve multiple images per node? Let alone video? E2 is and should be about what reaches can be explored using text alone, in my opinion.


  • There are no more levels, simply because there are no more earnable powers. If more powers are suggested, then intermediate levels could easily be inserted, but a level without a reward is pointless.

  • In addition, the highest level is placed relatively low, because no power, not even having a home node image, should flatly require hundreds upon hundreds of writeups.

  • Hopefully, any L6 user is sufficiently hooked to continue noding for its own sake, rather than to gain new toys.

  • Cloaking, previously an L10 power, is absent here. Users have always been able to simply log out if they wish to remain undetected, which is no big deal anyway. This power should be allowed for admins only, really.

  • Conspicuously absent here is the Honor Roll. I dislike the Honor Roll, for the following reasons:

    1. It is hopelessly complex. When somebody asks how the levelling system works, I believe one should be able to give a full answer using a single /msg, or right there in the catbox, rather than having to redirect the noder to a 1000-word essay.

    2. It is unfair. Not all noders can make use of it if they want to.

    3. It is unfair because other people can make it harder for you to level up.

    4. It changes dynamically even as we all node, representing a moving target. It seems to me that every noder should be subject to the same, static levelling-up requirements.

    5. Its purpose, in introducing the Merit metric, is exactly the same as that of the VEX system itself: to encourage and reward good writeups over bad ones. In other words, it exists because the VEX system is somehow felt to be unable to accomplish this adequately; it papers over a perceived flaw in the VEX system. If the system is flawed, fix it, don't make it more complex!

    6. Finally, the Merit metric has the property that submitting a new node can easily cause this metric to go down instead of up - regardless of the noder's skill or past performance. This always results in a situation where the Honor Roll encourages the noder to stop noding, or even to nuke their own nodes! This is the worst possible thing that can happen!!

    Metrics like Merit and node-fu, which can go down despite best efforts, provide negative reinforcement. I think they should be removed from Everything's Best Users, the Statistics nodelet, and wherever else they appear, and replaced with metrics which increase without limit (writeup count and total reputation) or which only decrease due to lack of activity (which is, I believe, how Devotion and Addiction are calculated).

Re kthejoker's Editor Log: November 2007

ktj delves more deeply than I do into the strict requirements which a good levelling system should meet. I agree with the clarity and positive reinforcement criteria.

Proportionality I don't necessarily agree with, I don't see that vote and C! numbers should necessarily be proportional to level, writeup count, each other, or anything else. Besides which, most rewards in the VEX system are not numerical. They are individual powers, without any obvious attached numerical values. Attainability, I will debate; it implies that we want everybody to be able attain all the levels in a finite amount of time, even if they write 1 node per year. Perhaps a better word would be practicality. Requiring 1500 nodes for any reason whatsoever is preposterous.

It looks like I duplicated most of his negative comments about the Honor Roll.

I dislike ktj's Writeup Bonus suggestion mainly on the grounds of complexity - it is difficult to explain and it means that suddenly your "writeup count" is no longer simply the number of writeups you have written. (Lacks clarity.) I do believe that better writeups should enable faster levelling, but I also firmly believe that a writeup IS a writeup is a writeup.

Re in10se's November 16, 2007

By parallel evolution, we both propose total rep as a replacement for XP in the levelling-up requirements. High five!

I agree with in10se on many points, including the meaninglessness of the current XP requirements. His dynamic levelling system, however, is something I have major ideological issues with. As I stated above with regard to the Honor Roll, I believe that levelling requirements should be the same for every user and, as far as possible, completely static. Not only should they not fluctuate as other users node, they should be altered by the administration as little as humanly possible, maybe once every few years.

Re ushdfgakjasgh's How to make e2's level system accomodate everyone

Somehow, ush has devised a levelling-up system which is even more difficult to grasp than the Honor Roll, while still being as changeable and unfair. This system uses five individually weighted metrics to calculate your level-up factor, including both median reputation AND mean reputation, as well as the original Merit metric carried over from the Honor Roll system! Imagine trying to explain this to a new noder!

If you feel like adding to this debate

At the time of writing, the by-invitation-only tfxp usergroup (which includes myself) is discussing VEX system modifications. If you want to contribute to the discussion, there no reason why you shouldn't daylog your own thoughts (but please, link back to any nodes you're responding to, so others can follow the discussion).

It is highly unlikely that any proposed replacement system will be adopted lock, stock and barrel. Unlike the site redesign competition, we are not going to solicit eight or nine possible alternatives and pick the best. However, we know good ideas when we hear them, and we're all ears.

Slightly Delayed Apocalypses

Every time the calendar rolls over to a nice round number people start to worry that the end of the world is coming. The theory is that God is getting old, and is ready to end it all, and if there's one thing God likes, it the double zero. (And we thought sure he'd go for the triple zero. What is he waiting for?)

These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
Selections from Revelation 11

And then, every century, like clockwork, the world doesn't end. We're all sorry for a few days, but we quickly get back into the dull routine of daily living. By the time Gaia gets her act together and creates the disaster we've all been waiting for, we've forgotten what's going on, and are surprised by the completely unexpected chaos we'de all been talking about just 15 years before.

If we can learn anything concerning what is before us, from the language of prophecy, great calamities, such as the world has never yet experienced, will precede that happy state of things, in which the "kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ."

That the second coming of Christ will be coincident with the millennium... is evident from what Peter said, in his address to the Jews, on the occasion of his healing the lame man at the gate of the temple, Acts 3:19.

Joseph Priestley, 1794

There was a lot going on. The Reign of Terror in France, unrest in Britain, the Papal dominions were divided into ten parts, moral decrepitude in all quarters... We could be forgiven for thinking the world was going to end. But on January 1st, 1800, nothing much happened. Well, that is to say that everything kept happening, but that was all. No four horsemen, no flaming swords, no nothing. Just the same old milling mass of violent and immoral humanity we've always had to deal with.

Of course, if we really wanted a sign of the apocalypse, we couldn't have found one much better than the eruption of Tambora. The biggest volcanic eruption of the last 10,000 years, it killed at least 100,000 people with its explosion and the resulting tsunamis. Unfortunately, the volcano was late, not exploding until 1815, and far away, way out in Indonesia. It barely made the papers in Britain and America. But 1816 didn't have a summer. The particles the volcano had spewed into the air caused a year-long winter (the year of Eighteen Hundred and Froze To Death). Crops couldn't grow, animals couldn't eat, and many people couldn't eat either. Unusually harsh storms caused flooding, and there was an unfortunately timed typhoid epidemic. Thankfully, the spring and summer of 1817 came as scheduled, and the world recovered. (Although the typhoid epidemic was still going strong through 1917).

NOV. 13, 1900
In czarist Russia, a district called Kargopol (about 400 mi. from St. Petersburg) contained a 200-year-old secret sect which called itself the Brothers and Sisters of Red Death. Believing the end of the world was to be Nov. 13 (Nov. 1 Old Style), 862 members of the cult thought it would please God if they all sacrificed their lives by locking themselves in their homes and setting them on fire. When news of the threatened suicides reached St. Petersburg, troops were rushed out to Kargopol, but by the time they arrived, more than 100 members had already perished. The rest were prevented from committing suicide, and when the appointed day passed without catastrophe, the sect disbanded.

The People's Almanac

America actually got their disaster -- the Great Galveston Hurricane smashed into Galveston, Texas killing over 10,000 people. China had fun too -- the Boxer Rebellion took off and then collapsed. Not a bad start, but the rest of the world was pretty quiet, and overall things seemed okay.

But the six years from 1914 to 1920 were some of the busiest years in world history. World War I killed 10 million people, and wounded another 20 million, and was surely the biggest war one could ever imagine (right?). And then, when we all thought things could get no worse, the Spanish Flu killed at least 40 million people, and maybe as many as 100 million people. How is that for war and plague? Had anyone thought to predict 1918 as the end of the world, they would have gained a good bit of credibility, even without The Rapture.

In the year 2000, a disturbing number of people were predicting the end of the world as we know it. Y2K was going to be the year that things fell apart for sure, even if God didn't get involved. Power, phones, banks, they were all going to go down. There would be riots and looting, and we would need to stockpile food, water, generators, gasoline, and guns. 2000 was the Biggest Fizzle Yet.

We have about a decade to go before things really blow up, but this time we've at least caught on. It might be the Yellowstone Supervolcano, or a meteorite, with attendant global cooling (the 1815 eruption only caused a 1.5 degree Fahrenheit global cooling; a meteor could do ten times that, or worse). Most likely it will be global warming, flooding from melting ice sheets, and the acidification of the oceans. Of course, it could be the flu again; we have next to no defense against major new mutations in the flu virus. And with antibiotics becoming more and more useless as bacteria mutate to survive them, we could have an epidemic of literally anything. We're all set for the biggest disaster since the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event.

It'll be an exciting time to be alive -- briefly.

I saw an old lady die today.

She was walking across the street, in a crosswalk, and a car hit her and she rolled up on the windshield and off it onto the pavement. Dude was going about 40-45mph, I'd say.

Blew her fuckin' shoes off.

I was walking home from Pete's house after watching an entertaining movie and smoking some good pot. I was going to go get some teriyaki chicken from the Bento Company (no, that's the name of the place) down the street from my apartment in the ghetto. If the rest of my day had not gone so well, this would have been what they refer to as "a serious buzz-kill". It didn't really bother me, though. I think that's probably the result of watching Greeks thrust spears through Persian abdomens for 90 minutes. It may also be because, since coming to live in The City, I have grown to hate cars more than I ever have before. This incident was just validation of the loathing I feel for these giant metal boxes that have taken over the streets.

Neccessary evil and all that, I suppose.

Oh well. I got a job today. And I got bento.

Roommate shit still sucks. I cannot wait to move out. I hope he doesn't fuck with the people I bring over to try and take over my part of the lease. I am really, really sick of this shit.

Apart from that, shit's peachy.

Trivia Day
Little known fact: every January 4th is trivia day. Mua ha ha. I rule at trivia. Sometimes. A fair amount of the time. Anyway, days like these are just a bit of fun and don't have anything else special about them. I mean, you don't have to enter a trivia quiz every January 4th. IIRC, I was halfway between Ararat and Coffin Bay on that date. I've also heard that there is such thing as a Donut Day. OH, YUM!!! I wish every day was Donut Day.
Thinks: I should treat February 14th as one of these trivial days (pun intended) and hope that people will follow suit. From observing goings-on for the last few years, I've just seen February 14th as something comical. I mean, some of the things that people will waste their money on, only to have their significant others break up with them the next week.

Yeah, I didn't do anything special. The other day I saw icefire off at the airport - on a three-week trip to the States - but apart from that and work, things have been pretty humdrum around here.

We did, however, 'celebrate' Trivia Day by doing the daily newspaper quiz. (Like we do every day. But still.) I love it how Trivia Day is, ironically, something trivial.

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