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Comment: A moon base would make more sense -- or Venus (Score 1) 94

Much closer, more scientifically useful.

If you want sustainably habitable, Venus is a better choice. Similar in size to the Earth, and much closer than Mars. Use 'global warming' mitigation techniques developed on Earth to convert Venus CO2 to oxygen, and then add hydrogen to create water. The biggest problem is figuring out how to speed up the rotation of Venus. That's a tough one.

Comment: Re:May I suggest an alternative... (Score 1) 190

Almost no access to broadband Internet other than big$$$$ leased lines purchased by a few local broadcast technology companies. Average age 60 (plus or minus 20 years). Housing prices on average twice that of Sacramento due to being primarily a retirement community. Both towns turn off the lights around 7:00PM. Limited tech employment opportunities. Not uncommon for talented employees to stay a few years then be vacuumed up by Bay Area / Sac / Roseville companies at 2-3 times the pay.

Lovely weather. Beautiful place. Great place to raise kids. Plenty of outdoor recreation nearby.

The next big tech startup hub? Not likely. A regional hub for the burgeoning Northern California "hydroponics" industry? Certainly.

Comment: Summary Fail (Score 2, Insightful) 818

by ShoulderOfOrion (#46764997) Attached to: Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

As usual. It implies that the views of 'average Americans' are abrogated by the economic elite. As the PDF clearly states on page 14 "It turns out, in fact, that the preferences of average citizens are positively and fairly highly correlated, across issues, with the preferences of the economic elites." It also turns out that the paper defines 'average American' as someone at the 50% income level, and 'economic elite' as someone at the 90% income level or above, which works out to $146,000. The paper than argues that this 'elite' population fairly represents the truly elite (the top 2%) based on 13 policy preference questions--which aren't listed in the paper--with a correlation of r=0.91 vs a correlation of r=0.69 for the 'average' population.

Sorry. There ain't nothing in this paper about the Koch brothers, Soros, Oprah, Bill Gates, or any of your other favorite elites. This is all about Joe the Plumber vs your mid-level Google executive.

So how does the paper define the views of the 'average American'? Well, on page 15, there's this "Some particular U.S. membership organizations--especially the AARP and labor unions--do tend to favor the same policies as average citizens. But other membership groups take stands that are unrelated (pro-life and pro-choice groups) or negatively related (gun owners) to what the average American wants." A footnote 40 then directs you to another paper by one of the same authors, presumably for the corroborating data.

Finally, on page 18, we encounter this: "Because of the impediments to majority rule that were deliberately built into the U.S. political system--federalism, separation of powers, bicameralism--together with further impediments due to anti-majoritarian congressional rules and procedures, the system has a substantial status quo bias. Thus when popular majorities favor the status quo, opposing a given policy change, they are likely to get their way; but when a majority--even a very large majority--of the public favors change, it is not likely to get what it wants."

In other words, here's the real summary: "Elite academic researchers at elite universities have conducted a study in which they find that the constitutional system put in place by the founders of the republic to prevent mob rule is thwarting their elite progressive agenda by working as intended. Oh, and throwing a lot of money around and making noise tends to draw attention to your cause, particularly when it aligns with the majority view, which it does most of the time."

Nothing to see here. Move on.

Comment: Re:The magical scenario is "gradual social decay." (Score 1) 737

by ShoulderOfOrion (#46744663) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

Exactly. A very insightful post.

I would place 'teacher' very high on the list of required professions. Human society has had them for thousands upon thousands of years. Back then, they were called 'old people'. Through oral tradition and example they taught the children the skills and knowledge necessary to survive.

One of mankind's greatest skills is the ability to communicate with increasing precision (well, at least until the advent of texting in the last decade). Reading, writing, printing, are among man's greatest inventions, as they enable future generations to build upon the past. Remove those skills and mankind reverts to a stone-age lifestyle within a few generations. Teach literacy to those same generations, hope that at least a few dead tree libraries survive the great server cloud apocalypse, and an advanced civilization could be reborn as soon as there was sufficient population to support the required specialization.

Comment: Re:Oh great (Score 1) 64

by ShoulderOfOrion (#46732125) Attached to: Future Airline Safety Instructions Will Be Given By Game Apps

Seriously, in order to save a few minutes and pennies, the airlines probably would scrap them if they could.

At least in the U.S., the safety briefings are mandated by the FAA: see FAR 91.519 and FAR 91.1035. As a private pilot, I'm required to give the same sort of briefing to any passengers I carry before takeoff. (Basically, "here's how to fasten the seat belt; here's how to open the door; please don't do that in flight.") Getting the FAA to modify those regs will probably require something between an Act of Congress and an Act of God.

Comment: Re:Permenant Beta (Score 3, Interesting) 295

Yes, you got most of the issue correct.

I would add, however, that you missed a big one: hardware video acceleration in general quickly gets one into the world of DRM, patents, and other BigCorp-induced headaches that have been causing Linux trouble since day one. This has always been the major impediment to hardware acceleration in the open source drivers at least. Even the Linux binary drivers have had acceleration features stripped from the for DRM reasons.

As a Linux user for close to twenty years, I'd argue that the quality of the GPU drivers has improved remarkably over the past few years. For general desktop compositing and engineering 3D work I find the open-source radeon drivers work fine now; far better than they ever have in the past. Not gaming-quality yet, but improving all the time. This Google Chrome decision sounds more like the typical BigCorp excuse to avoid Linux support than a valid diatribe against the current drivers to me.

Comment: Re:Not Cost! (Score 3, Insightful) 473

by ShoulderOfOrion (#46216029) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

I agree with most of what you wrote, except your title. Cost is indeed a large part of the problem, along with everything else you cite.

I also think you unfairly pick on teen-age kids. I see ' the curious, entrepreneurial spirit and playfulness' of just about every age group diminishing in all the activities you cite, and more. I've been a pilot for two decades and an experimental aircraft builder, and I see fewer and fewer unique homebuilt planes every year. Most new homebuilt planes are now assembled from a handful of popular kits. Why? Building from plans or even designing your own plane takes an extraordinary amount of time and money, something only a few have anymore.

Amateur radio? Only a hardcore few still build their own gear, with the rest buying do-everything transceivers from a few big firms. What happened to the rest of the electronics hobbyists? Those with the passion and money apparently moved on to computers and now robotics. The rest left the hobby along with Radio Shack and the newsstand electronic and computer magazines. To build anything other than basic LED-flashing circuits today takes a lot of time and fancy (expensive) equipment.

Shooting? My grandfather was an avid shooter and reloader. It takes time, commitment and the right gear. Another niche, expensive activity now.

Mechanics? In 1982 my brother and I hot-rodded an old '67 Camaro for around $2K in our driveway. New V8, new tranny, and a bunch of parts scrounged from junkyards. 32 years later, I can't even change the oil on my Honda for less than $20, plus another $10 to take the used oil to the hazardous waste facility. None of the kids I know have the money to buy the tools and parts needed to 'hop up' a modern car, even if they had the skill to deal with EFI, CAN buses, and the like.

In my opinion, the '50s and '60s were an anomalous time in U.S. history. A post-war economic boom, a baby boom, a nascent technology boom and Cold War panic, along with 40% fewer people around to get in the way, made for a unique set of circumstances that invigorated all the activities noted above. Those times are gone forever. Even the Maker movement cannot rescue us from the reality of the lack of disposable time and income that exists today.

Comment: Re:Good, because it's inevitable (Score 2) 379

by ShoulderOfOrion (#46208555) Attached to: Debian Technical Committee Votes For Systemd Over Upstart

I don't care if it's in a final state (no software ever is). However, I echo the OP's lament that pushing out software that does half of what the old software did, half as well, seems to be a common and distressing mode of operation among too many developers. KDE 4.0, Unity, Gnome 3, etc., would have been a lot more acceptable if it was at least as functional as what it replaced. The common pattern seems to be throw out beta software, spend two years sorting out the issues until most users are satisfied, and then start over from scratch, just because. It would be nice if more developers followed the example of eg the LateX project and valued functionality and stability over 'oooh, shiny new thing!'

Comment: Re:Should Everybody Learn Calculus? (Score 1) 387

by ShoulderOfOrion (#46135315) Attached to: Should Everybody Learn To Code?

Agreed. However, the fundamental problem with most university math departments is that the course work required for engineering is taught by math professors. I remember being taught in my higher level math courses subjects such as formal proof, esoteric derivations, and other arcane minutia that was pertinent to those who wanted to be math majors but totally useless for us engineering majors. Most of what an engineer needs on the job could be easily handled by two semesters of 'Engineering Math' (Calculus I) and 'Advanced Engineering Math' (ODE, matrices).

There can be no twisted thought without a twisted molecule. -- R. W. Gerard

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