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Comment: Let's privatize the roads too! (Score 1) 329

by Phil Karn (#47733125) Attached to: FCC Warned Not To Take Actions a Republican-Led FCC Would Dislike
Yeah, and we should also ban municipalities from building roads because they discourage private investment in toll roads. All the roads, including the street in front of your house, ought to be sold to UPS. You'd have to get their permission to drive your car on their roads. Since they'd be private property, they'd be within their rights to make any arbitrary rules they wanted. They could ban certain makes or kinds or colors of cars. They could allow you to drive only to certain pre-approved destinations. And don't even think about trying to create a package delivery service to compete with them.

Comment: Not putting up with jerks (Score 2, Interesting) 174

by Animats (#47732661) Attached to: When Customer Dissatisfaction Is a Tech Business Model

You don't have to put up with jerks.

  • Internet provider - Sonic.net DSL. No packet filtering, good support, no nonsense.
  • Phone - Caterpillar B15 ruggeized Android phone.. Bought from Caterpillar dealer, not carrier. Declined Google account at first power up. Google services disabled. No updates from Google.
  • Cellular carrier - T-Mobile. Has no control over phone. No carrier apps.
  • Email - IMAP server. SpamAssassin spam blocking.
  • Main desktop machine - Ubuntu 12.4 LTS.
  • No Google account. No Twitter account. No pay TV. Ad blocking on all browsers.
  • Main news source - Reuters. (More news about Ukraine and ISIS, less about Bieber and Apple.)
  • Main food store - Trader Joe's. No "club card" required. Good prices.

For almost every crap business, there's a competitor that isn't crap. Find them.

Comment: Re:Better to starve I guess? (Score 2) 150

by ChromeAeonium (#47727395) Attached to: China Pulls Plug On Genetically Modified Rice and Corn

Disrupting ecosystems due to unintended consequences could be far more destructive.

This is agriculture. We're producing food for billions of people on a very large chunk of the earth's land, I'd say the environmental disruption thing has already happened. The question is no longer about causing environmental harm, it is about minimizing it. Could Bt crops have negative environmental impacts? Wrong question, the issue is if they are superior to spraying insecticides.

Your hypothetical about gene transfer, if you were referring to a jump from a GE crop to related wild species, that is something that environmental impact studies (they are done!) considers on a case by case basis. It depends on the gene, the location, the species, the environment. If you were referring to a jump to non-related species, while technically possible, it is wildly implausible, and that GE is involved is no more reason to suspect it will happen than to suspect that, say, the gene for the insecticidal PA1b protein will jump from pea to lettuce.

These are not generally helped by increasing yields in the already-overproducing rich nations who can afford to buy GMOs.

Which is why technology transfer to developing countries so that they can work towards improving food security has always been a goal.

Comment: No big deal (Score 2) 168

by Animats (#47726537) Attached to: How Does Tesla Build a Supercharger Charging Site?

This is a straightforward industrial electrical installation. There's a pad-mounted distribution transformer and meter provided by the power company, a weatherproof load center provided by the customer's electrical contractor, and the Tesla supercharger control unit and outlet stations. No big deal to install. There's a comparable installation at every large standalone store.

That's a small charging station. Here's the build-out of a bigger one. Black and Veach, which does infrastructure construction for the energy and communications industry (substations, cell sites, etc.) is doing the job. They see it as a lot like building out cell towers. (If you watch that video, you may wonder why the transformers and switchgear are on raised platforms. Probably because there's a flood risk at that location.)

Installing a gas station's underground tanks, which today are dual tanks with leak detection, is a much bigger job. There's a big excavation, lots of plumbing and wiring, and several different trades involved.

Comment: Re: Redshirts vs. Old Man's War (Score 1) 172

by billstewart (#47726175) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

Guess you and I are on opposite sides of the fence about Scalzi. I read Old Man's War, and while it was well done, it didn't grab me at all. Most military sci-fi is pretty soulless. Redshirts started out looking like it was going to be a fun Star Trek parody, but then went into a bunch of totally new directions. It wasn't my first choice of the nominees that year, but it way exceeded my expectations.

Comment: Re:So, what controversy? (Score 3, Interesting) 172

by billstewart (#47726127) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

Correia seemed to be trying to rudely bully a lot of people to make it clear that he doesn't like all of you politically correct liberal liberal liberals out there in the publishing business. He was the one who brought Beale in to offend anybody who's even vaguely possible to offend; I don't like people doing that at parties I'm attending. (He also ran a campaign slate for nominees, which is pretty much not done (except every publisher saying "hey, vote for all OUR stuff.") I assume they did that together, but I don't know either of them. Their other main slate-member was Torgerson, who writes Mormonish mil-sci-fi. (He also threw the Schlock Mercenary comic in as a graphic work, which I found quite enjoyable back when it was originally nominated but which wasn't eligible as a 2013 work, so I thought that was tacky.)

Beale's fiction wasn't, in my opinion, Hugo quality, but it would have been ok in a pulp magazine back when those were the dominant form. His personal writings are so creepy that I can see why anybody willing to vote for his work would get criticism; reminds me of the "Vote for the Crook" election in Louisiana a few years back. Correia's writing is entertaining, in a mostly cartoonish way, and I'm ok with that. Not super deep, moderately fun if you like the stuff. Torgerson's work was so utterly soulless I ranked it below Beale's.

Comment: Ideological right-wing whiners don't speak for me (Score 1) 172

by billstewart (#47726069) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

Sorry, I'm a Libertarian, from a relatively conservative background (which is not at all the same thing as a right-wing background, so I guess I was the "wrong" type of conservative for you), and I'd much rather read good writing by somebody whose politics I disagree with than bad writing. There are writers who really need gatekeepers to keep them from wasting my time, and there are good writers who still need editors to rein them in (how did Neal Stephenson get to burn a Baroque Cycle worth of paper?) or to help them fix stuff that isn't working. Small presses or big presses can both do that, while electronic publishing usually means "self-publishing" by people who might know to hire a copy-editor, which isn't the same thing at all. And while Charlie Stross* is a socialist who hangs out with Paul Krugman, his economic writing is great stuff; I'm planning to finish Neptune's Brood after reading the Hugo nom excerpt.

Publishing on dead trees is a tough game these days - it has to compete with TV, video games, and the Web and other internet distractions for readers' time, bookstores are dying, getting people to sit down for an entire novel is harder than it used to be, and forget trying to make a living as a short-story writer now that the pulps are gone and the remaining outlets can't pay as much a word. "Hollywood accounting" is more of a problem for writers selling to the alternate-publisher press than the traditional houses.

And yeah, there's too much formulaic dreck out there; Sturgeon's Law hasn't changed, and many publishers are still willing to make literary decisions based on what they've been able to get bookstores to buy, but that's no different for Baen's mil-sci-fi writers than for the urban-paranormal subgenre or the million Tolkien imitators.

* (Yes, Charlie's published in London, and mostly only later in New York, because of the international publishing rights weirdness, but most of the other Scottish SF writers are fairly radically socialist just to annoy people like Anonymous Coward.)

Comment: "New York" was London this year - Orbit Excerpts (Score 1) 172

by billstewart (#47725923) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

BTW, you might not have noticed, but three of the five nominees for the Hugo novels this year were published by Orbit Books, in London. The ideology that marked them was "Hey, we don't want to lose book sales by giving away free copies in the voting packet, let's just do excerpts!" Correia's trilogy was published by Baen, and the Wheel Of Time series, 15-or-so volumes, which got nominated as a single work, was published by Tor, both of whom included the entire sets, which I liked much better. (In Correia's case, Volume 3 was the new work that was actually nominated, but including the first two made it make a lot more sense.)

Excerpts didn't do the job for me. It's not just that I'm grumpy because I'm cheap and consider getting the nominated novels part of what makes it worth paying for the voting membership*, but it also affected how well I could judge the work before voting. For Stross's book, which I was planning to buy anyway, it was enough; for Mira Grant's, it probably was (though so far it doesn't look like as strong a work as the Feed series.) But I know both of their work and have read most of their novels, so I've got some idea of where they might be going; Ancillary Justice was Leckie's debut novel, and while the excerpt was enough to get some flavor of her writing skill, and see some of the things she did in the first few chapters, it's a bit of a slow start, I didn't get sucked into it, and also I can't yet tell whether the main character is just an interesting and complex post-human or a totally creepy slave-taker.

* The package includes the Hugo novels or excerpts, the Campbell-nominated works (mostly novels), all the shorter works, most of the graphical material, a lot of short stories in this year's short-form editor award, a really amazing related-works section (this was a good year for that), all for the cost of a supporting membership for the upcoming Worldcon, which is usually about $40. You get to nominate for the Hugos if you bought it in time, and you get to vote on the winners.

Comment: Re:Tactics unsuccessful? (Score 0) 172

by billstewart (#47725591) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

Yes. People talked about them. They got to whine to each other about how all the liberal feminazis voted against their immensely well-written books for political correctness reasons; I ranked them low because of the writing. They were pretty much going to do that anyway. Maybe they kept some better-written works from getting on the ballot (but there's usually lots of competition, and certainly was this time.) Maybe Correia will get some more book sales (a friend who likes his writing says that the trilogy that got nominated wasn't his best work; so far I've found it to be readable escape-fiction, fun if not deep.)

Having heard some of what Beale's written when he's blathering misogynistically about whatever vile tripe he's blathering about, I'm not going to buy anything that will pay him any money or even read more of his writing online. But I did give his nominated work a fair review (wasn't Hugo material; would have been ok as a story in a pulp magazine, back when there were more pulp magazines around.)

On the other hand, Torgerson's work surprised me - while his two pieces had much better writing mechanics than Beale's, they were utterly soulless non-introspective pieces of formulaic bland. Mil-fi isn't my favorite genre, but this isn't close to being Honor Harrington (which I liked) or Scalzi's Old Man's War (meh, and I like his other writing), or even up to the quality of one of the freebies given out at the previous Worldcon, where the author obviously at least enjoyed obsessively describing the spaceship which Our Guys were going to go Fight Aliens with.

Comment: Chris Hadfield's Space Oddity missed by 3 votes (Score 1) 172

by billstewart (#47724647) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

It hadn't occurred to me to nominate it, and unfortunately didn't occur to enough other people, so it missed the short list for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form by about 3 votes (usually only the top 5 nominees get onto the ballot, occasionally 6 if there's a tie or fewer than 5 if not enough works meet the "5% of nominations" threshold.)

An actual astronaut, in space, performing a classic science-fiction-themed song, named after one of the most influential SF movies? It so totally belonged on the ballot, because [expletive deleted] we're living in the future!.

Of course, a few other works I liked, and works I haven't read yet by authors I like, also didn't get on the ballot, but that's normal.

Comment: Re:Grammar Flaming As A lifestyle... (Score 1) 31

by billstewart (#47724531) Attached to: Interviews: Andrew "bunnie" Huang Answers Your Questions

First of all, this is English. You can do just about anything you want. Even more so if you're a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist.

Second, using "they" as a non-gendered third person pronoun referring to a singular antecedent has been in documented use for at least 600 years. It's no worse an impedance mismatch than using a gendered singular third person pronoun, and no matter what your middle-school English teacher taught you, English grammar isn't Latin grammar, nor is it modern German grammar.

Third, you should be using lead-free solder these days anyway (and while it is a lot less cooperative, inexpensive soldering irons today are better than cheap soldering irons were when I was a kid.)

After all is said and done, a hell of a lot more is said than done.

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