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Comment Re:Its a neat bit of tech (Score 1) 82 82

When I lived in the Philippines, most Filipinos around the major military bases all spoke English to each other, because they were from many different Philippine provinces and islands, most of which each have their own (mutually incomprehensible) dialects of Tagalog.

Comment Traditional Chinese Computer Translation Joke (Score 3, Funny) 82 82

The "traditional" joke concerning computer translation is about 30 years old - at least, because I've been telling it that long, and I heard it from somebody else.But it's still a classic.

The original translating computer wasn't voice-recognition; you had to type in your statement in English, and it would be translated to Chinese on the screen. So in order to demonstrate how good it was with colloquial English, the programmer typed in a common saying, "Out of sight, out of mind". The computer whirred and chirped for a couple of minutes, and a column of Chinese characters appeared. The Chinese operator looked quite puzzled, but to play along, he typed (in Chinese characters) exactly what he had read on his screen.

Chirp, whirr, beep, and the machine produced the translation back into English.

It said "Invisible Insanity".

Comment Free Public Transit? (Score 1) 654 654

Public transit assumes that you work in a single location, with regular hours, and don't need to carry a lot of stuff. It also takes a LOT longer than driving. Here in Sacramento, CA, it would take me 90 minutes and would involve 3 bus changes to get from home to my regular office; driving takes 30 minutes normally, 45 minutes if traffic is bad. But I frequently visit customers in other parts of town, and taking public transit would take a LONG time.

Here in Sacramento, we have a fairly good "light rail" system that moves people from the suburbs to downtown, and back. Our "downtown" is substantially government workers, so our public "light rail" system primarily shuffles government workers to and from work. Light rail does not go to the shopping malls, or to the university (although there is one stop only 5 blocks away) or to the business office parks. It doesn't go to the airport (although they've been promising that "Real Soon Now" for the last 15 years) and shuts down completely at about 11PM, before the downtown bars and theaters close.

Like all such rail systems, it operates at a stiff loss, and is paid for by the transportation taxes that auto drivers pay. Even when I was working downtown, the only way rail made any financial sense was when the city jacked up parking rates, so that the daily parking was substantially more expensive than the rail ticket.

Comment Re:The problem is that landfills are too cheap (Score 1) 371 371

Penn & Teller had a great segment on "BULLSHIT!" about recycling. Like most of their stuff, they started with a "reasonable" approach and expanded it to the realm of "ridiculous".

The problem is that recycling costs money, and doesn't really save the environment. We aren't running out of landfill space; at worst, we're running out of landfill space that's a short driving distance from big cities.

Comment Re:Okaaay. (Score 2) 203 203

If it's in Outlook, save everything in a PST file. Burn the PST file to a DVD, and tell your boss (before you leave) "Bob, eventually you're going to want this stuff. Here you go, and think of me when you open it." Give him the DVD, smile, shake hands, and sail off into the sunset. If Bob gives the DVD to whoever inherits your job, then the knowledge transfer will have been accomplished.

If you're in California, drop me a line; my company sells document management systems. We may be able to hook you up. :-)

Comment Re:Social mobility was killed, but not this way (Score 1) 1032 1032

I certainly agree that history, philosophy, English Literature, Art and all that are important - but the purpose of a UNIVERSITY-level education is to make you a productive member of society. Everything else should contribute to that goal. Anybody can read books; libraries are free, and has thousands of them. Many museums are free, especially while you're in college. Programs like Khan Academy and its many imitators can provide distance learning for virtually any topic on the internet, for the cost of your internet connection.

Most people who ended up with Philosophy of Art History degrees and $250K in debt spent their nights drinking and partying rather than actually STUDYING the philosophy of the history of artists. They took brain-dead simple courses that they could sleep through, because SOMEBODY told them that a degree was a ticket to the corporate high life - and it wasn't true.

I agree with the Instapundit Glenn Reynolds that college loans should be dischargeable in bankruptcy - but that the degree-granting institution should be on the hook for 50% of the loan amounts. That would give them some incentive to cut their OWN costs, and to properly determine if a student would have any chance of paying back a proposed loan. As it is, the Federal government is a giant loan shark, granting easy credit to people who never had a prayer of earning enough to pay it back.

Comment Re:Maybe someday we'll know why we invaded iraq (Score 2) 231 231

"So why was all the intelligence about Iraq wrong? That is an unanswered question. The Republican controlled Congress never stepped up to the plate to ask any hard questions. Gosh, I wonder why? "

WTF are you talking about? EVERY nation's intelligence service agreed that Saddam was working to obtain nuclear weapons, and everybody ALREADY KNEW that he had chemical weapons - because he had already USED them, in Iran and on his own people.

Comment Re:Fight! (Score 1) 293 293

I've got five dollars that says it won't.

Not because I have any particular expertise in ice or in Antarctica; my degree is in physics, not climatology - but because NONE of these quasi-apocalyptic predictions are true, or have ever come true. Not when predicted, and not after. We were supposed to have been swarmed by a billion starving climate refugees by now. It didn't happen. The Arctic Ocean was supposed to be ice free, and the snows of Kilimanjaro were supposed to all have melted by now. Didn't happen. The snows of the Himalayas were supposed to be melting, and gone completely by 2035; not happening. Not one single climate prediction has come true, and I don't think this one will, either.

Comment Re:Eff that... (Score 1) 52 52

Science fiction writers Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven often have "real scientists" run the numbers on their stories. Pournelle believes that a big enough laser could launch satellites from the ground into orbit.

Only part of the thrust would be light pressure; a volatile "fuel core" being vaporized by the ground-based laser would provide much of the blast-off thrust. But you'd still have the advantage of having your "engine" here on Earth, being able to repair or replace it as needed, and eliminating having to boost your engine to orbital velocity.

With Moon-based lasers (several of them spaced around the Moon) you could push a lightsail-powered probes to interplanetary distances, and perhaps even to the stars. This is one of the plot elements of the Niven & Pournelle story "The Mote In God's Eye".

Comment Re:Sagan? Don't you mean Clarke? (Score 1) 52 52

The story was a good one and was anthologized in several collections. But Clarke was a real genius, where Sagan only talked a good game. If Clarke had patented all the innovative ideas that he wrote stories about - like geosynchronous communications satellites or ground-controlled approaches in bad weather - he'd have been richer than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined.

Nothing is rich but the inexhaustible wealth of nature. She shows us only surfaces, but she is a million fathoms deep. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson