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Comment: More recent example: Brin's Existence (Score 3, Interesting) 104

by StefanJ (#49234543) Attached to: Some of the Greatest Science Fiction Novels Are Fix-Ups

The first, ummm, say two-third's of David Brin's Existence is a mix of short stories (altered a bit since their publication) and a new framework that ties it all together. It works pretty well.

The last third takes place many years after the intrigues of the first part, using a subset of the initial large cast. It is threaded around an updated version of a very old story, "Lungfish," which is arguably the keystone.

Comment: Cheap entertainment for obsessive planners! (Score 1) 480

by StefanJ (#49034555) Attached to: The Mathematical Case For Buying a Powerball Ticket

I buy tickets for the state lotteries each week. Relatively low payouts compared to Powerball, with a greater (but still infinitesimal, 1:6,000,000 or 1:2,000,000) chance of winning.

It is entertaining, for an OCD-ish planner like me, to jigger with figures (inflation, taxes) and imagine what kind of lifestyle and payouts to relatives the week's jackpot would support.

FWIW I'm an extremely aggressive saver, have a rigorous household budget, and live a modest lifestyle; there's a good chance I'll be able to retire by 60. My lottery ticket money comes out of my "movies, toys, and other fun stuff" budget.

Comment: What I do when I get these calls (Score 1) 251

by StefanJ (#47758685) Attached to: TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers

These scammers also have web pages that offer "AOL technical support," "PC technical support," and so on, with 800 numbers prominently listed. So if an un-aware person (like my Aunt . . . ) hunts for help via Google they'll often end up getting in touch with these jerks.

I have a couple of variant responses worked out:

"So, in India, do they use the term 'con artist' or 'confidence trickster'?"

"So, does your mother know what you do for a living? Did she teach you to be a crook or did you go bad on your own?"

"Sorry, I only have Linux machines. I don't think you'll know how to fuck them up."

"Oh, good, I was waiting for your call. Let me go to the server room and pick up there."

"Oh, good, I was wondering what was happening. Let me turn the computer on." (Put down receiver, wait.)

Comment: Re:And all because a copyright expired! (Score 1) 127

by StefanJ (#47492471) Attached to: Dungeons & Dragons' Influence and Legacy

Sirnomad99 notes that there were other influences. Jon Peterson, author of the scholarly gaming history Playing at the World, suggests that Tolkein and LOTR was just one influence among many. The Conan stories, Pratt and de Camp, Leiber and Vance are all specifically mentioned.

In fact . . . I just picked up the book and turned to page (117) where I'd last left off. There are quotes from Gygax where he suggests that Tolkein is not the be-all and end-all authority on the nature of fantasy creatures.

Oh . . . I actually have a set of the Ace paperbacks! They're not impressive. The special characters look hand-sketched, and the cover art is mediocre.

Comment: Fund the research by building in targeted ads! (Score 1) 87

by StefanJ (#47417701) Attached to: A Brain Implant For Synthetic Memory

Google* and others should be willing to pour big bucks into the research. We may as well bow to the inevitable and let them build DRM, mandatory personality profile tracking, and advertising insertion right into artificial memory creation standards.

* New motto: "We'll figure out what 'evil' is and then not do it."

Comment: Vinge & Pohl Anecdote (Score 4, Interesting) 339

by StefanJ (#47112337) Attached to: The Singularity Is Sci-Fi's Faith-Based Initiative

In, ah, 1997, just before I moved out west, I went to the campus SF convention that I'd once helped run once last time. The GOH was Vernor Vinge. A friend and I, seeing Vinge looking kind of bored and lost at a loud cyberpunk-themed meet-the-pros party, dragged him off to the green room and BSed about the Singularity, Vinge's "Zones" setting, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and gaming for a couple of hours. This was freaking amazing! Next day, a couple more friends and I took him for Mongolian BBQ. More heady speculation and wonky BSing.

That afternoon we'd arranged for a panel about the Singularity. One of the other panelists was Frederik Pohl. I'd suggested him because I thought his 1965 short-short story, "Day Million," was arguably the first SF to hint at the singularity. There's talk in there about asymptotic progress, and society becoming so weird it would be hard for us to comprehend.

"Just what is this Singularity thing?" Pohl asked while waiting for the panel to begin. A friend and I gave a short explanation. He rolled his eyes. Paraphrasing: "What a load of crap. All that's going to happen is that we're going to burn out this planet, and the survivors will live to regret our waste and folly."

Well. That was embarassing.

Fifteen years later, I found myself agreeing more and more with Pohl. He had seen, in his fifty-plus years writing and editing SF, and keeping a pulse on science and technology, to see many, many cultish futurist fads come and go, some of them touted by SF authors or editors (COUGH Dianetics COUGH psionics COUGH L-5 colonies). When spirits are high these seemed logical and inevitable and full of answers (and good things to peg an SF story to); with time, they all became pale and in retrospect seem a bit silly, and the remaining true believers kind of odd.

Comment: I used WordStar 4.0 for MANY years (Score 1, Interesting) 522

I was working for a computer mail order place (Logicsoft) when WS 4.0 came out. The salespeople all got promotional lucite paperweights; I might still have one!

I used WS 3 and WS 4 to crank out role playing game manuscripts. For most of this time I only had a floppy-only PC-DOS system. This required juggling floppy disks when running spell check. It was great upgrading to a hard disk drive, but I maintained one-or-two-floppy running copies of WordStar that I could bring with me. Kind of like putting applications on a thumb drive.

I used WordStar X.X on an Osborne PC. The "OzBox," which lived in the campus SF library where I spent a lot of my time, had a program that could copy files to single-sided DOS floppies.

I was what you might call a Journeyman user of WS. I used "dot commands" and spell check and maybe even Mail Merge. There was still a lot more I didn't need and didn't bother learning.

I remember buying WordStar 5.0, but regretted it. It couldn't be whittled down to a few floppies.

I still had copies of WordStar (and various versions of DOS) until, um, late last decade, when I got rid of all my floppy disks. If Memory Serves, a fairly complete WordStar 4.0 install took up two 720K floppies. As part of the great reduction I converted all of my old RPG manuscripts to ASCII, so I didn't need a working WS copy.

I sometimes regret the loss of the "keyboard diamond" method of navigation. I could probably set up Word to use it, but it isn't worth the trouble.

Comment: And don't forget . . . (Score 2) 784

by StefanJ (#46985259) Attached to: Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans As Antarctic Ice Melts

Virtually all of the people who have visited "Antarctica" are SCIENTISTS. And the rest are GOVERNMENT WORKERS.

Can we really believe people who have a vested interest in grant money to accurately report on this place?

Pretty soon now we'll find the set in Alaska where "South pole research station" news segments are filmed.

When you don't know what to do, walk fast and look worried.