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Comment Re: Why? (Score 1) 391

Including information from striking outliers IS a way of cherry picking, in order to distort the big picture. Just like including suicides and calling it "gun violence." Pointing out that a very small cross section of the country - geographically and demographically - is responsible for a huge portion of what's reported as if it were nation-wide... that's NOT cherry picking. It's called context.

Comment Re:Teens shouldn't have access to guns... (Score 1) 391

but I do know that something, somewhere has got to give

Kind of like it already has? The use of guns in violent crimes has been going down steadily for decades. If you remove from the stats the four cities that host the worst of the country's intra-gang violence, the rate plummets. We have less murder per capita now than we have since the 1950's.

Alas, we've had mulitple murders right near us in the last few weeks. Of course, they were stabbings. When you say "something has got to give," you're talking about human behavior, right? Not which inanimate object some killer decides to use? Not whether they use a pressure cooker to shred dozens of people, but that they want to do so?

Comment Re: Teens shouldn't have access to guns... (Score 1) 391

I'm still very certain you don't see those guys clad as ninjas prancing around your yard

Why do you keep saying that? What reference have I made that makes any reference to any such thing?

It's almost so obvious that I wonder why you'd claim otherwise

I didn't claim otherwise. Rampant crime, and the tolerance of things like violent gangs populated almost entirely by illegal aliens, is certainly a cultural problem. Our culture is far, far too tolerant of violent criminals, and allows too many of them to rotate right back onto the street. Yes, that's a cultural problem.

People want to exploit fear, and make you dance to their strings,

Yup, just like you're doing right now. Trying to make people irrationally fear millions and millions of people who own firearms. You're completely unpersuasive.

Comment Re:Are and storms that fierce on Mars? (Score 1) 108

Seriously, how can you read this tripe without wanting to hit your head against a wall? How can you call a novel that has this sort of nonsense and does almost every single chemistry equation wrong "hard science fiction"? Does anything that spouts pseudoscientific BS qualify as "hard science fiction" these days?

IMHO you are being too hard on the book. In the book, the things Watney does are plausible solutions to problems that make sense to me.

Andy Weir said he didn't want Watney being "hit by lightning" over and over. The initial chain of events that leads to Watney being stranded is implausible (and Andy Weir is the first to admit that the physics is wrong there, because the atmosphere of Mars is so thin). But once Watney is stranded, the rest of it makes sense to me.

This isn't like a story where someone needs to "restart the sun" by flying a ship made of "Unobtanium" into the sun and lighting off nuclear bombs. If you fix the science mistakes in a story like that, there is no story left; it's just fundamentally wrong.

In an interview, Andy Weir mentioned getting feedback from some chemist, and he said something like "I loved that, because chemistry is what I'm worst at". It sounds like you are so expert at the chemistry stuff that every mistake was a torment for you, and I think I get it... I can picture how annoyed I would be if the book was about software development, and lots of little stuff was constantly wrong.

One of his mistakes: someone actually calculated how much the Hab would heat up from burning up the rocket fuel to make water, and concluded that if Watney burned the fuel as fast as described, the Hab would heat up to 400 degrees C. But that mistake doesn't ruin the book for me, because we can assume that he just didn't burn the fuel as fast, or he arranged some sort of heatsink or something to get rid of the heat. Fundamentally, you can make water by burning hydrazine in the presence of oxygen, so it works for me.

I also liked the way he portrayed NASA. On the one hand, everything NASA does is expensive and takes forever, but on the other hand, his equipment works and he trusts it; and there was one launch that failed, and Weir listed two places where NASA procedures would have prevented the failure if there had been more time. (Someone would have studied the effects of a "shimmy" on protein cubes, and also someone would have found a minor defect in a bolt and replaced it with a perfect one; either of these would have prevented the failure.)

A novel that I hated, that I just couldn't get through, is The Windup Girl. I bought it figuring "anything that wins both the Hugo and the Nebula must be worth reading" but I hated it. I couldn't swallow the science upon which the whole plot rests. It's the future, and the worst predictions of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming came to pass: the sea levels have risen, temperatures are high, lots of people died off. As a result, fossil fuels are no longer used by anyone, and the world is in a horrible depression. So, you might think that nuclear power, solar power, and Internet telecommuting would be a big deal? Nope, cities are lighted with methane gas lamps, and the methane is made from animal feces, and moving things are powered by kinetic energy stored in "kink-springs" and the springs are wound by elephant-sized bioengineered animals. No buildings seem to have solar panels on them, and at one point the protagonist uses a computer powered by a treadle! The Internet barely seems important, which is hard to believe given that the Internet is already hugely important... but in this future catastrophe world it now takes months for a business executive to travel from America to Thailand (he has to travel by wind-powered ship), yet they still send the executive instead of using teleconferencing.

I hated The Windup Girl as much as you seem to have hated The Martian. So I guess I understand how you feel about The Martian, but I don't feel the same way.

I think the difference for me is that The Windup Girl feels like the author worked backward from his desired goals: "biopunk" is cool, so let's explain why everything is biopunk now; I want to have big factories full of elepant-sized animals walking in circles to wind "kink-springs". Whereas The Martian feels like one situation flows to another. And in fact in an interview he said that this is how he wrote the book: after he had Watney do something, he thought about what would likely happen next, and worked from there.

P.S. In the book, Watney joked about poking a hole in his glove and flying around in space like Iron Man, and they discussed just how stupid and unworkable that idea was... even Watney didn't think it would work. I gather that the movie changed this part quite a bit.

Comment Re:Issue is more complicated (Score 1) 509

That's exactly what Linus *doesn't* want. "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is all about manipulating people, stroking their ego and trying to act in a way so that they like you.

So that they like you? Wrong, it's about being able to identify what you need to say and do to a particular person in order to get that person what you need or want them to do. In other words, management, influence (it's right there in the title!). It's about how to effectively lead a group of people that each have their own personal needs. You identify the needs they have, what motivates or de-motivates them, and apply that to get them to effectively do their job as part of the team. It's exactly what being a manager or team leader is all about. In practice the bad managers are the ones who don't understand how to do that. There is a very good argument to be made that Linus is a very bad manager.

For example, I'm a developer and I have zero interest in getting involved with the Linux kernel specifically because I don't want to be yelled at while I'm learning the thing. I have other things I could be doing than getting yelled at while I'm trying to learn something. I studied the architecture of it in college (we had an entire class specifically on the kernel code), and I was interested to see how it worked and how they chose to solve various problems, but I have no interest in trying to actually engage with the people who would sooner tear me down than answer my questions or point me in the right direction.

It's not a work environment I want any part of, so Linus is free to refuse to do anything based on being able to work in his bathrobe from home, but in the end he's only going to attract the kind of people who want to work in their bathrobe from home. I'm not one of those people, shit I don't even own a bathrobe. It's like the women I know who have trouble finding a good guy, and decide to dress like a whore (I say this with the utmost respect for these women, it's a term they freely and jokingly use to describe their own outfits) and go hang out in bars. If that's how they dress and that's where they hang out, then they're only going to attract a guy looking for those qualities (which, incidentally, is not the kind of guy they really want). The same goes for Linus, he's only going to attract the kind of people who think that sitting in a bathrobe at home yelling at people is just the thing for them. That's great, but there are a lot of us who want more from our relationships, and Sarah Sharp, like my single female friends, is apparently one of those people.

The same way I'm not going to start wearing ties, I'm *also* not going to buy into the fake politeness, the lying, the office politics and backstabbing, the passive aggressiveness, and the buzzwords. Because THAT is what "acting professionally" results in: people resort to all kinds of really nasty things because they are forced to act out their normal urges in unnatural ways.

I'm split on whether Linus' logical fallacy is the slippery slope, or black and white. Apparently he thinks that putting on a tie and not calling co-workers names will always lead to what he's describing. The fact is that a lot of people manage to treat their co-workers with respect without resorting to lying, backstabbing, and passive-aggressive behavior. Linux is only saying that he's incapable of doing that. It's his failure personally, not a failure of being professional.

Comment Re: Teens shouldn't have access to guns... (Score 1) 391

Was this hard for you to comprehend because of your focus on one personal anecdote?

No, I understand perfectly that you're trying to wish away self-defense use of firearms for your own political or ideological reasons. The problem is that such use has been substantially documented in well known academic studies, and even if you want to say that the numbers of uses found in those studies are off (too high) by an order of magnitude, the number of such uses still completely eclipses the number of deaths caused by criminals that happen to be using guns.

I get it. You live someplace where you don't have home invasions, you don't have entire departments of the local police agencies that exist just to deal with well organized gangs like MS-13, and you don't have problems with carjackings, robberies, and women getting accosted as they walk in public. You're probably in a nice gated community somewhere. That's lovely for you. And you think it's dangerous for you if I own a firearm. Why you think that, I can't imagine - considering you're much more likely to get by somebody driving a car while drunk. So am I. But whatever the odds are of my becoming a victim of violence where I live and work, the actual statistics for my family so far are over 100%, as it's happened to me and mine more than once - and not just some purse snatching or a shove from some punk on the sidewalk. We're talking serious assault, home break-ins, smashing of car windows, repeated threats from gang members, the works.

We've had to make a second pot of coffee for the number of cops we had in our house more than once, over local thugs doing violent crap in our neighborhood, and me being one of the few people who will actually name names to the police, pick out mug shots, and stand up to these ass-hats. For which I've had my life threatened, my property destroyed and stolen, and more. Neighbors have had their kids beaten up for not doing what the local gang enforcers demand, and we've watched a local pimp slash the tires of three cars just so he could be sure he got the one belonging to someone who made a call about him roughing up a woman in our parking lot.

Yeah, to you - these are just rare anecdotes, right? You need to get out more. Career thugs spend very little time locked up for doing stuff like this. They have no problem - especially the MS-13 types - intimidating people with machetes, torching cars, and throwing just-killed family pets through kitchen windows to make a point. I don't need a larger fix for "my" situation, we're talking about a problem that is culture-wide in some places. In our case, it's because our county considers itself a sanctuary for illegals, and so we're now a franchise operation for Salvadoran and Nicaraguan gangs. The really funny thing is we have it EASY compared to places like Chicago.

Please carry on with your untroubled life. But stop pontificating about the frequency with which other, less fortunate people find themselves unable to wait 30 minutes for the police to show up and deal with something that's going to happen in the next 30 seconds.

Comment Re:Opening Ceremonies (Score 1) 67

I understand that. But what are the people who are abusing this technology doing? They're showing ads. Like any other technology that comes along, sure enough there's an advertiser trying to use it to show people stuff that they don't want to see. This is the reason why we need ad-blockers, and it's something that advertisers arguing against blocking don't seem to want to admit.

Comment Re:Opening Ceremonies (Score 0) 67

How about this: the next time there's an article where advertisers or so-called "content providers" bitch and moan about people blocking ads, we can use this story as more evidence to show that malware authors are the colleagues of advertisers. Advertisers might not like that fact, but it's a fact. Ad blocking is akin to malware blocking.

There you go, there's the anti-advertising gripe for your "both sides".

Comment Re: Why? (Score 2) 391

We have murder rates and mass shootings far beyond that of any other Western nation.

And if you were to remove from those stats the four municipalities in the US that have the most gang-related crime, the US murder rate would be fourth from the BOTTOM of the stats pile. And the four municipalities where all of that mayhem takes place? Some of the tightest gun control laws in the country, and the places are run by Democrats and have been for decades. Not to trouble you with facts or anything.

Comment Re:Teens shouldn't have access to guns... (Score 1) 391

Cars are often necessary to life; guns aren't. Get a new brain.

So you don't think any police should be armed, because they never encounter a situation where the use of lethal force (or the deterrent power of its possibility) is ever necessary? You've obviously never actually seen someone being stabbed or beaten, or been alone and come across a group of people who would very happily kill you for the possessions you're carrying. Or been a woman alone in a parking garage being approached by three guys each twice her size and telling her they're going to rape her. Or live on the same street as three houses run by MS-13 gang members. Lucky you, you live such a charmed life.

Or DO you have such issues, but you also have a police officer that follow you everywhere so that you don't personally have to deal with preserving your own life? Cops are great - they will head into situations that the rest of us run from. But they are always minutes away when you have seconds to deal with someone violent. Guns are used for self defense many thousands of times a year more than they are used by criminals to kill people. You want to take that self defense away. Why? Are you prepared to make up for it in some other way? Who's going to pay for whatever solution you have in mind?

Comment Re: Teens shouldn't have access to guns... (Score 4, Interesting) 391

I have personally used a firearm (happily, through brandishing, not having to actually shoot) to spare my wife and I from the ongoing actions of a very large, very crazy guy beating down our back door with a metal pipe. You would prefer that we fight him hand to hand and wait the 20 minutes it took for the police to show up. Why? Because you've never dealt with such a situation, lucky you.

Comment Re:Are and storms that fierce on Mars? (Score 1) 108

He's not "joking around", the rant is like a page and a half long, describing it as vastly more dangerous than Pu-239, with a long line of superlatives for how to describe its incredible "danger".

Either you and I have very different ideas about what Andy Weir wrote, or else your copy of the book is different from mine. Since mine is an ebook, I can search it, and the string "239" has zero hits in my copy of the book.

Here's what my copy says:

...[NASA] never used large RTGs on manned missions until the Ares Program.

Why not? It should be pretty damned obvious why not! They didn't want to put astronauts next to a glowing hot ball of radioactive death!

I'm exaggerating a little. The plutonium is inside a bunch of pellets, each one sealed and insulated to prevent radiation leakage, even if the outer container is breached.

In fairness to your complaint, there is dialog later that goes like this:

"How dangerous is it?" Teddy asked.

"As long as the container's intact, no danger at all. Even if it cracks open, he'll be okay if the pellets inside don't break. But if the pellets break, too, he's a dead man."

Emphasis added by me, not in the original.

From what you have said, it's not nearly that dangerous.

I still say that The Martian is the best "hard" science fiction novel I have read in years, and the "hardest" science fiction novel I have read in years. And I predict that his next novel will have fewer mistakes; this one he wrote and gave away for free, and while he has said that he did go back and rewrite sections when he got feedback that he had screwed something up, I guess nobody told him that the RTG was less dangerous than he thought. On his next novel, he will be able to get stuff fact-checked because he's making new friends everywhere. (In an interview he said people asked him who he knew at NASA and he said nobody... before he wrote it.)

Back to joking around... one of my favorite bits from the book:

Only an idiot would keep [the RTG] near the Hab. So anyway, I brought it back to the Hab.

Either it'll kill me or it won't. A lot of work went into making sure it doesn't break. If I can't trust NASA, who can I trust?

Whatever you think about Andy Weir's safety rants on RTGs, he did have his main character using it just to take a hot bath, and at no point does the main character have any actual trouble with it.

Microwave communications are based on photons, aka chargeless particles, aka no Lorentz force, aka no deflection.

I didn't intend to imply that a magnetic field would stop photons, but rather that the hab canvas might have a layer of something that made the hab into a Faraday cage. Maybe a layer of a low-temperature superconductor or something.

I hadn't actually thought much about the geometry of the superconducting coils that would be needed to make a magnetic shield to deflect charged particles. Now that I think about it, a layer in the Hab's outer skin is unlikely to be the right shape...

I Googled a bit and found this article with diagrams. On the plus side for my theory, if something like that was on the Hab to deflect radiation, I do think it would act as a Faraday cage. On the minus side, the Hab as described in the novel didn't have anything like that.

By the way, I also had to Google for GCR. You know more about this stuff than I do. GCR == "Galactic Cosmic Rays"

So how common are stray gamma rays, and since you brought them up, stray neutrons on the surface of Mars?

Also, there is an old trope from science fiction about burying an exploration base to provide it with thermal and radiation shielding. If some kind of "Hab" were buried under Martian sand, how much sand would it take to provide useful shielding? Would one or two metres be enough to do some good?

Comment Re:Teens shouldn't have access to guns... (Score 4, Insightful) 391

I think a sensible requirement for gun ownership would be that you can't live with your parents and you can't have an adolescent child living with you where you keep a gun. Because teens are idiots. If you're paying rent then you're responsible enough to have a gun, otherwise tough luck.

So you'd obviously be in favor of adults not being allowed to own cars if they have teenagers in the house, right? Because teenagers kill WAY more people with cars than they do with weapons of any kind.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"