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Comment: Re:It's not fair (Score 2) 144

From Wiki:

Dick wrote all of his books published before 1970 while on amphetamines. "A Scanner Darkly (1977) was the first complete novel I had written without speed", said Dick in the interview. He also experimented briefly with psychedelics, but wrote The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, which Rolling Stone dubs "the classic LSD novel of all time", before he had ever tried them. Despite his heavy amphetamine use, however, Dick later said that doctors had told him that the amphetamines never actually affected him, that his liver had processed them before they reached his brain.

He dedicated Scanner to all his friends and people close to him who suffered/died from drug addiction, even listing his own name among them.

What really pushed him into "craziness" was the episode he had in 1974, when he started having visions and revelations after receiving a dose of sodium pentothal at the dentist's. A good account of that can be read here: New York Times article

Comment: Re:Wrong way to end (Score 1) 144

[...]not the point at all. It's about something much deeper, the nature of reality as both objective and external, and as a collective, disjoint hallucination of multiple subjects.

Exactly, pretty much any novel or story of his deals with this exact subject to some large degree. If you're into that, PKD's writing is an absolute goldmine.

Comment: Re:Back then... (Score 2) 144

I think the 5 volumes of his collected short stories was a good book purchase.

After having read almost all of PKD's novels I started reading his short stories as collected in the 5-volume series. I really enjoyed the author's comments on a lot of these, some of which he's written decades after a story's publication.

Reading his novels -- first the well-known ones like Ubik, Androids, High Castle, etc., then going through all the rest of them, chronologically -- made PKD my "kind of" favorite SF author, along with Isaac Asimov, William Gibson and Kim Stanley Robinson. At first I was a bit skeptical of his writing style and recurring themes, but then it really grew on me. But when I read all his short fiction (again, chronologically as presented in the collection) over the course of the last year-and-a-half he became my absolute favorite author, period.
His short fiction is that much better than even his acclaimed novels, many of which are in fact merely expanded versions of his stories. His ideas are more suited to that format, where he is less bound by conventions and expectations, as he explained in the snippets provided in the short story collections.

Through his writing, PKD to me comes across as a very knowledgeable, educated and deeply philosophical person who lived through trauma and fear and yet does not take himself or anything else, really, too seriously. His style is as enjoyable to read as Hemingway and also close to that of Dostoevsky, who was Dick's favorite author.

If you've read any of his novels and like the style and story, do yourself a favor and start reading his stories! He really is a "consistently brilliant" SF writer, as John Brunner put it.

And if you're near Fullerton, CA you can check out his personal archive of manuscripts etc. which he donated to CSU Fullerton. I had the perfect opportunity while staying there for a week with a friend who was a student then, but did not know about this at the time... one of my greatest regrets.

Comment: Re:I wonder how long it would've taken NASA? (Score 1) 49

by Strange Quark Star (#47518893) Attached to: SpaceX Releases Video of Falcon Rocket's Splashdown

I was really astonished when I read about the old NERVA project.

NERVA demonstrated that nuclear thermal rocket engines were a feasible and reliable tool for space exploration, and at the end of 1968 SNPO certified that the latest NERVA engine, the NRX/XE, met the requirements for a manned Mars mission. Although NERVA engines were built and tested as much as possible with flight-certified components and the engine was deemed ready for integration into a spacecraft, much of the U.S. space program was cancelled by the Nixon Administration before a manned visit to Mars could take place.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

They had planned to use this and other technologies to have several space stations, a permanent base on the Moon even a mission to Mars before the end of last century, possibly even as early as in the '80s. The NERVA project was specifically cancelled by the Nixon administration because it worked too well, as easy access to Mars would have lead to a more committed and therefore costly space program. I can hardly wrap my mind around this...

[...]culminating with a human Mars landing by 1983 at the earliest, and by the end of the twentieth century at the latest. The system's major components consisted of:
- a permanent space station module designed for 6 to 12 occupants, in a 270-nautical-mile (500 km) Earth orbit, and as a permanent lunar orbit station. Modules could be combined in Earth orbit to create a 50 to 100 person permanent station.
- a chemically fueled low-Earth orbit (100-to-270-nautical-mile (190 to 500 km)) shuttle
- a chemically fueled space tug to move crew and equipment between Earth orbits (including geosynchronous), and which could be adapted for use as a lunar orbit-to-surface shuttle
- a nuclear-powered vehicle using the NERVA engine to ferry crew, spacecraft and supplies between low Earth orbit and lunar orbit, geosynchronous orbit, or to other planets in the solar system.

The tug and ferry vehicles would be of a modular design, allowing them to be clustered and/or staged for large payloads or interplanetary missions. The system would be supported by permanent Earth and lunar orbital propellant depots.The Saturn V might still have been used as a heavy lift launch vehicle for the nuclear ferry and space station modules. A special "Mars Excursion Module" would be the only remaining vehicle necessary for a human Mars landing.

As Apollo accomplished its objective of landing the first men on the Moon, political support for further manned space activities began to wane, which was reflected in unwillingness of the Congress to provide funding for most of these extended activities. Based on this, Nixon rejected all parts of the program except the Space Shuttle which inherited the STS name. As funded, the Shuttle was greatly scaled back from its planned degree of reusabililty, and deferred in time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

I wonder why Musk can't use the NERVA technology for SpaceX. Is it because of the nuclear angle? Too expensive compared to his chemical rockets?

Comment: Re:Again? (Score 3, Interesting) 557

by Strange Quark Star (#46933439) Attached to: Actual Results of Crimean Secession Vote Leaked

From what I heard from my relatives in Simferopol, even the Crimean Tatars lined up to vote "for Putin" and now that Russian passports are starting to be issued the Tatars are the first in line to get them. It's quite telling that even most of the Tatars choose Russia as the lesser evil.

And from what I can tell by living the first part of my life there and regularly visiting my friends and relatives, the general populace is really fed up with the Ukrainian government and, if old enough, reminisce about and miss the Soviet days, which now translates to longing for reunion with Russia.

It is really bizarre to us (ethnic Russians from/living in Simferopol, Crimea) how thoroughly the western media misses the fact that most Crimeans really want to join Russia or at least part from Ukraine.

Comment: Re:Politcs vs. Science (Score 4, Informative) 291

by Strange Quark Star (#46644787) Attached to: NASA Halts Non-ISS Work With Russia Over Ukraine Crisis

I was born in Simferopol and most of my relatives still live there. Here's a few things I can tell you almost first-hand.

The vast majority of people there are ethnic Russians who don't even speak Ukrainian. Khrushchev's 1954 transfer of Crimea to Ukraine did not mean anything to them until the Soviet Union split up. Since then the Ukrainian government introduced Ukrainian as the official language of the autonomous republic of Crimea, forcing the Russians to learn Ukrainian for anything official. Then they made Ukrainian the mandatory first foreign language in schools and soon the first language spoken; teaching the children's native Russian as a foreign language once a week.

Any foreign investments (like the EU's) went straight into the oligarchs' pockets, leaving health care, infrastructure, etc. in ruins. No running water after 10:00 PM, and even then it's just cold.
Pensioners like my grandmother often continue to work well beyond retirement to supplement their income enough to get by. Most medical equipment in hospitals is still from the Soviet era; clinics are usually out of medical supplies, i.e. if you want treatment you are expected to bring your own antiseptics, bandages, etc. Paying doctors for better treatment is a given.

Putin's invasion was ridiculous, no question. But honestly, that's exactly what many Crimeans were desperately hoping for for a long time. Say what you like about the Russian government, but it's way better than anything Ukraine's ever seen. Remember the fist fights in Kiev's Parliament? A regular show.

Changes coming to Crimea:
Return to the Russian school system in addition to local Ukrainian schools.
25% increase in retirement pay every quarter until it reaches Russian standards (100% increase overall) in addition to widow's pension, which previously has just not been payed at all.
Complete modernization of health infrastructure.
Repair and restoration of public infrastructure and venues including parks and plazas (you should see the current state they're in).
Exploitation of the abundant natural gas reservoirs off shore; there has just not been any funding previously. Crimea is expected to become self-sufficient and maybe even export natural gas at a profit.

A major concern surrounding the annexation was Crimea's dependence on tourism as it's main source of income, as most tourists came from Ukraine. Now they simply halved the price of plane tickets from mainland Russia to Crimea to encourage Tourism.

I don't know if the results of the referendum were falsified, it would not surprise me as it's always been the case with elections over there. But all Crimeans, not only ethnic Russians would greatly benefit from a change in government for the reasons mentioned above and they know it. My relatives told me about huge lines of people waiting at 9 AM, soaking in the rain to vote for joining Russia, including Tatars and Ukrainians. They also told me of the unprecedented joy and general happiness on the streets after the result was made public and even more so when Crimea finally rejoined Russia.

I want to stress the fact that I am by no means a supporter of Russia, its government or Putin. I despise their corruption and violations of human rights. But what is happening in Crimea is very positive change for the people on that peninsula from what I can tell by reading the news and keeping in touch with my friends in relatives there that are directly impacted by the events.

Comment: "Retail Price?" (Score 1) 633

by Strange Quark Star (#41453291) Attached to: Beer Is Cheaper In the US Than Anywhere Else In the World
I don't know where they got their figures for beer prices from. They say .5 l of beer in Germany is $ 1.9. That's a very high price for beer at convenience stores, maybe, but high quality beers go for at most € 0.7 ($ 0.9) around here, in supermarkets. There are brands going for as low as 23 Eurocents, some cans below even that. What do they mean by $ 1.9 retail?

Comment: Reverse white-balance (Score 2) 215

by Strange Quark Star (#41012687) Attached to: Curiosity's Latest High-Res Photo Looks Like Earth
How about doing the reverse, i. e. adjust the white-balance of photos taken on earth to look like they were taken on mars? Can this be done accurately if we take the picture of Curiosity's sundial as a martian reference? I think it would be very interesting to see earthly scenes the way they would look on mars!

Comment: Re:Philosophical issue arises (Score 1) 72

by Strange Quark Star (#33514292) Attached to: Translating Brain Waves Into Words
Russian was my first language, then I moved to Germany (age 5) and starting at age 6 German became my 'main language', in that I started thinking in it and being more fluent in it than in Russian, which I only used at home. At age 16 I set myself a challenge: think only in English! After some time, it became my thinking language, although maths were still done in German (German school, German university).

As the others, when talking in a specific language I think it, too. Recently I started forcing myself to count and do maths in English as well, and now it became effortless. At some point, I found thinking in Japanese to be quite pleasant, but as my vocabulary is rather limited I switched back to English. Really, my reasons for thinking in a particular language are convenience and aesthetics.

What I am dreaming in? Just this night I was dreaming in English; I can distinctly remember English phrases that I said.

When making personal notes, I write them down in English. Also, whenever there is a choice between English and some other language (web sites, books) I prefer the former.
Even though I've only ever been once to England for one week and have no English-speaking friends/relatives, it became my most used language. I just like it way more than my other two alternatives and it's much more practical.

I am 21 years old now and speak fluently in German, Russian, English and to a limited extent in Japanese.
Now I use Russian to talk to relatives and my girlfriend; German to my friends, acquaintances, generally people around here; English for consuming media (movies, books, internet).

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