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Comment I think there is a fundamental problem with this.. (Score 5, Insightful) 258

There is a basic, underlying, flaw in this proposal. It's the same flaw in human nature that makes all activism and even the democratic process less effective than it is in theory.

Studying the history, reading and evaluating the various pundits, activists, experts and talking heads output is hard. Sure; any one of normal intelligence and education should be able (and willing) to do this, but it is human nature to take the easy way out if possible. How many people, even in political organizations, really pay attention to what the other guy is saying, attempt to understand what is being said and why?

It is the real world equivalent of reading all the foot notes and reading all the citations mentioned in the bibliography. It's tedious and time consuming, even people whose job it is to actually do all of that due diligence stuff tend to skimp and cut corners if they can. Only Russell's teapot knows how many student essays and theses, how many scientific papers, how many campaign and floor speeches reference totally bogus or inapplicable bullshit, counting on the audience to not bother following up on them. I am convinced however, that it is a large number.

This is just human nature, and I've come to simply accept it for what it is. So; rather than ranting on about how people should be doing X or Y, I try to ask myself Why don't> people do X or Y, How can I make X or Y the more desirable/rewarding choice than what the people are already doing?

Why don't more people do this? Obviously because doing that is also hard compared to just ranting about what people should be doing. Frankly; I consider myself a smart person, but I haven't been clever enough to figure out a way to make active, diligent participation in the democratic process more desirable/rewarding than just sitting at home complaining about the politicians.

Comment Mod parent +1 Informative (Score 2) 113

Count me as one of those who had never heard of the Niihau Incident before now. What puzzles me is why this incident is not more widely known. I would think that the US government would have a vested interest in telling it's own citizens about this. At the least, it would make their actions against Japanese immigrants and Japanese-American citizens a little more understandable and perhaps even acceptable. However; The US government and the various civilian assembly organizations still need to bear the responsibility for how they handled the internees and their property once the decision to intern them was made. Many families lost everything because of theft and/or corruption and for the longest time the official response boiled down to "no comment" or "tough shit"

Comment Not the greatest tourist attraction? (Score 1) 99

Actually I'd find a bog museum or learning centre, with bodies on display, maybe a glass wall where you can watch researchers working on the remains would be fascinating. Sure, it's not the usual Eiffel tower, Big Ben, Windsor Castle etc tourist spots you think of when planning a trip to the EU. However; not having to deal with the usual swarms of tourists would also be part of the allure for me.

Comment two candidates... (Score 1) 620

During my post grad internship (circa 2003) I worked with banyan VINES which was still running a pre-Internet internal email program that had been migrated onto it from an even older system. At the time, the place using it was migrating the email to Exchange (5.5 I think) on a Windows 2000 server and wiping the new incoming XP and XP sp1 desktops to install their in-house version of Windows 2000. (this was IIRC, because the standard 2000 and XP didn't support the higher encryption required out of the box, and being a Canadian government operation, they had their own encryption stuff)

Much later (circa 2009) , I was supporting a VT200 terminal emulation program that connected via telnet tunneled over dial up to a government health care billing system. The client machine was NT 3.51 and I don't know what the government server was running. I just know that the server was also emulating a VT200 compatible system, because one of my tasks was to research what emulation clients were still available for NT systems that were also on the government provided list of emulations they would support. What ever system they were using at the time was finally being deprecated and phased out.

Comment Narcobeer? (Score 1) 333

I seem to be the only one so far to make the connection to narcobeer. Alan Cole and Chris Bunch wrote a series of military sci-fi (The Sten Chronicles) in which narcobeer is the drink of choice for low status migrant workers. Corporations in the sci-fi equivalent of mining/single industry towns would encourage the consumption of it as a means of controlling the "migs".

Comment Re:BAh, (Score 1) 124

I have to say, I'm of really mixed feelings about paying royalties for the right to play music. On the one hand, there is the advertising of a band or artist aspect which you refer to, which helps drive ticket, CD, download and merchandise sales. But on the other hand, musicians are in the business of making music. I see nothing wrong with paying to see/hear them in person, so I have no problem with paying (in some fashion) to hear them broadcast or streamed. Pus, I've been spoiled by growing up during a time when broadcast radio was entirely free, paid for by ads and later having access to virtually unlimited music through legal or illegal downloads.

The biggest reason I am against requiring publishers, bands or artists paying to have their music streamed though? One word: Payola. If the owners of music have to pay to have their stuff heard, then only the stuff owned by the deepest pockets will get heard. We already complain quite loudly about manufactured bands and artists who have no real talent, are airbrushed, auto-tuned and managed to a fare-thee-well by the big labels. The labels spend a lot of money finding good looking people who are suitable for such exploitation, massaging the image etc etc. They want and need to get that investment back. Pouring money into radio and internet stations would just become part of that investment. If you think that having to pay for play would convince the labels to only focus on bands/artists with *talent* that the consumers want to hear, in sufficient variety, you are clearly not living in the same universe I do.

Any broadcaster or streaming site pretty much has to choose a playlist based on highest bidder, they are in it to make a profit after all. The only question is; who do you want to be the highest bidder? The music owners=Payola, The advertisers who want music we like to be played so we'll listen (traditional radio and paid access only streaming download sites) Or the actual listeners? (Satellite and some cable-only "radio stations") Everyone involved between the original creative spark and your ears needs to make a living. As I said, I'm spoiled by free radio, streaming and downloads, so I favour the ad supported model rather than the payola or subscriber models. That lets me get my music for free and still have more sense of influence over what is being played.

I deeply miss Yahoo Launch, free music I could rate, build custom playlists with and so on. There were unskippable ads, a programmed halt in playing every once in awhile to make sure I was at the keyboard and an annoying tendency to play artist interviews/behind the scenes and the odd "top 40" track no matter how vigorously and thoroughly I downvoted that stuff. But even with those annoyances, it was my favourite source of music when at the computer for a long time. Nothing I have found since has quite satisfied me. Currently I am alternating between using the Songza website, the Firetube plugin and Minitube for Linux. I've thought about adding a shoutcast server to my home server machine and building my own playlists, but that wouldn't satisify my desire to get *good* recommendations based on my admittedly eclectic tastes. (early delta blues, the latest death, thrash, symphonic and nu metal, dubstep, electroswing, taiko drums, even the occasional bit of crunk)

Comment Re:Impossible (Score 1) 274

I've seen several images of American Civil War bullets being dug up welded together. There were battles where there was so much musket and rifle fire and so densely targeted that a few bullets actually collided in mid air Granted; this was an accidental result, the product of sheer numbers. It invalidates your specific claim without invalidating the point I think you were trying to make about using lasers to down incoming missiles/artillery/etc.

Comment Only a mile? (Score 1) 784

A mile is roughly 1.6 Km and I live in a neighbourhood court that is 1.1Km from the local school IF you take the semi-hidden foot paths that wind their way through other neighbourhoods. If you stick to the proper streets with sidewalks, it adds another 200m to the trip but those are all fairly busy streets, North/South thoroughfares for traffic. Every school day, about a dozen kids from my neighbourhood make that walk, most often with no adult in tow. Granted; most of the time, most of the kids are in clumps and there is usually a parent somewhere in sight walking the youngest ones (5-7 yr olds). But for the most part, the kids are unsupervised and there are always a straggler or three. If I kid got lost or decided to play hooky and go exploring, nobody would notice them detouring.

Every Wednesday evening, my friends 10 yr old son does a paper route that is just under 2 Km long. At this time of the year, that means working mostly in the dark and along streets that are pretty bare. It's supposed to be his older brothers route, but the elder got sick of it and was going to quit. The younger lad campaigned heavily for parental permission to sub-contract the job. (Since the newspaper company wouldn't hire anyone younger than 12) He's been doing it for a little over two years now with no problems except for one jerk who usually has a hostile and aggressive acting dog. The man tells the boy to just ignore the dog, to tell it to shut up and go on with his delivery. Both my friend and I have told the lad that controlling this dog is NOT his job. If there is any doubt, any cause for concern *whatsoever* he is to skip the delivery and let the jerk complain to the newspaper.

When I was a child in the major city of Toronto, two of my friends and I routinely made bicycle trips that were well over 3 Km in round trip length so we could explore a ravine city park/conservation area. Plenty of opportunity to get into an accident, get lost or encounter a person of bad intent. Lots of adventures, some minor accidents scrambling around in the ravine, but NO tragedies.

we moved when I was 11 and for the remainder of the school year (about 4 mths IIRC) I escorted my 5 yr old brother on the TTC to our old neighbourhood, dropped him off at the day care and then proceeded to my school around the corner. Our mother went with us for the first trip, just to reassure herself that I knew the route as well as I claimed. (a short bus ride to the station, several stops on the subway and then a 4 block walk above ground) But after that, it was all on me. The following year, it was a 1 Km streetcar ride, followed by a two block walk for my brother and I to attend school. His afternoon day care picked him up at lunch time, but after school I picked him up from daycare and took him home. We usually walked because there was a bakery we would mooch day old goodies from. I took care of my brother until our mom got home at around 5:30.

TL'DR version. Both my own extensive experiences at that age and my daily observation of kids that age today suggest that a 1 mile walk from a park IS NO BIG DEAL. It really does depend on the competence of the child(ren) involved and the character of the route being taken.

Comment Re:They all suck (Score 1) 190

Hear hear! I also learned on a Selectric. I miss the amphitheatre/stepped key rows, the demi-conical keys, and the serious business and damn near indestructible double shot keys. I can find mechanical keyboards with the right key shapes and if I lay out serious money, can even get the double-shot keys made out of that serious, almost indestructible plastic that Ma Bell and IBM used for their products. What seems to be impossible is finding a keyboard with all of these features *and* the slight curve of amphitheatre key rows rather than the stepped style.

I have given serious thought to making my own keyboard essentially from scratch, sourcing keys and switches online and then building my own curved "plank" to mount them on, and soldering my own logic board.

My dream keyboard would have the following features:
1) curved "amphitheatre" key rows
2) double shot ABS demi-conical keycaps with transparent symbols. (appear black except when lit from below)
3) Illuminated keys that are not only switch-able, but dim-able as well. (I plan on PWM and tricolour LEDs so I can chose my own custom colour and intensity)
4) relatively quiet mechanical switches, possibly MX Cherry reds
5) Ctrl, Alt, Meta and Windows keys as well as a double row of Function keys. (I got my computing start using terminals and I miss some of the dedicated keys those keyboards would have) with status lights for each
6) rubberized shaped buttons for the keys commonly found on "media keyboards" (calculator, email, favourites, rev, fwd, play, vol+, vol-)
7) horizontal bar Enter and Backspace keys
8) USB port on the right side for occasional thumb drive uses
9) wireless, with one of those RF charging mats built into the desk to power it, on-board batteries to run it when I remove it from the pad

I have the skills needed to make the board itself, it's the logic board inside I'd need help on. As far as I know, it should be fairly easy to set up some sort of an IC that can map the roughly 150 actual key switches and output the appropriate actual keyboard signals. From there, it should be trivial to tack on the 27.8 MHz transmitter that sends to the USB receiver. I don't have much need to program macros and those few I use can be handled in software on the computer.

Comment Drake equation... (Score 1) 307

Of course, all of us here are familiar with the Drake equation, something this article certainly applies to.

But I wonder, has anyone made a serious attempt at coming up with real numbers for the various variables to see what the final number was? Every attempt I've seen thus far at solving the equation either uses very loose figures or doesn't enumerate the variables at all.

What I'd like to see is someone take the most rigorous numbers we can come up with, narrowing the estimated ranges as best as we can with current knowledge and then combine that with the stellar distributions we already have mapped. The idea being come up with our very best guess at the number of systems which harbour life (preferably intelligent life) and how big of a sphere of space would we have to explore before we are mathematically probable likely to encounter/discover alien life. I've seen the Seager Equation, which inherently implies the number of possible life bearing planets within a certain radius sphere {our detection range for biosignature gases} but still doesn't try to plug in the best numbers we can come up with.

There is the Texas U calculator, for anyone who has estimated values for the variables at Drake Calculator But I don't have the data to plug into it, nor do I have the skill needed to evaluate the usefulness of numbers I can search for on my own.

Comment Re:Their answer to oversubscription as well (Score 1) 243

Given the way many broadband ISPs oversubscribe their services, I consider weasel words like "up to X speeds" in the fine print while all the headlines and banner texts say "Now surf at X*" or "Fastest Internet in Y county!*" with all those asterisk footnotes to be a form of corporate buggery.