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Comment: Re:At GenCon... (Score 1) 195

by pr0t0 (#47712041) Attached to: Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

Yeah, it's hard to miss that WotC had their events in the Sagamore Ballroom for years, but Paizo has had that space for the past two years and WotC has been relegated to a small corner of Hall C.

I've played most editions of D&D going back to 1984. My gaming group and I generally play the "living" campaigns. I didn't mind 4e so much, and LFR is a great campaign setting. We were often tapped to play-test 4e LFR's a few months before the cons. I just thought the combats in 4e could take too long if not properly designed. I like the way LordLucless above regards 4e as a "tactical skirmish" game; I think he's right. We play-tested Next a few times and I wasn't impressed. I just did a 5e this past Saturday at Gen Con and hated every second of it. I played a pre-gen archer and it was 2.5 hours before I loosed my first arrow. WAY too much RP. That's obviously module-specific, but a poor choice to introduce 5e at a con.

We left D&D for Pathfinder PFS a year ago when WotC/Baldman dropped LFRs from the Gen Con lineup without warning, and with nearly nothing to replace it. It's ok. I think what really needs to happen in tabletop RPG's, at least with living campaigns, is that modules need to have rating system for how they've been written. I'd like to know in advance if this module is geared more towards combat or role-playing so I can choose accordingly.

I've been getting into Shadowrun 5th edition lately and liking it more and more.

Comment: Follow the funding (Score 5, Informative) 393

by pr0t0 (#47657235) Attached to: 3 Congressmen Trying To Tie Up SpaceX

Thanks to the awesome new browser plug-in called Greenhouse (how has this not been on slashdot?), here's a little context.

Congressman Mo Brooks gets his biggest financial contributions from the aerospace industry. Among his top-10 contributors are Lockheed Martin (1), Northrup Grumman (2), Boeing (6), and Raytheon(10).

Both congressmen Coffman and Gardner have Koch Industries in their top-10 at 7 and 5 respectively. At first, this didn't mean much to me, but I found the coincidence intriguing so I dug deeper. Koch Industries purchased Molex, Inc. in December for $7.2 billion. Among other things, Molex makes wiring and connectors for defense and aerospace. Is that enough to push a couple of congress critters to voice concerns about Space X? I don't know, but following the money is usually a good first step in determining motive.

Comment: Experiment not the problem (Score 5, Insightful) 315

by pr0t0 (#47627399) Attached to: Why the "NASA Tested Space Drive" Is Bad Science

It's the reporting. This wasn't a peer reviewed scientific discovery, and it didn't claim to be. It was just a paper that laid out how the experiment was done, and what the results were, nothing more. Just because IFL Science, like every other tech/science site, picks up the story and hints at trips to Mars in a matter of weeks, doesn't mean that's what the experimenters were claiming.

This is how science works. You do experiments, you post your methods and results. Other scientists may do the same. If there is enough evidence that something may be at work, you do more. If you end up showing that everything we thought we knew about the universe was wrong, THEN YOU START CHANGING THE TEXTBOOKS.

The law of conservation of momentum, like all scientific laws, comes with the caveat that our understanding of how the universe works is correct. They are not immutable. Given reproduceability, predictability, and strong empirical evidence, it probably is correct; but that doesn't mean it may not need "tweaking" in the face of new evidence. It could also be that no scientific principles are being broken here, it's just there's something else at play we don't understand.

People who claim otherwise are really just religious zealots in a lab coat.

Comment: But it's just a misunderstanding! (Score 5, Funny) 50

by pr0t0 (#47477681) Attached to: ExoLance: Shooting Darts At Mars To Find Life

In the decades past, it was viewed as harmless...even cute when the little golf-cart like robots crawled across the surface doing their little experiments. But then in 2025, Earth attacked. It was without warning or provocation that the vicious spikes penetrated the community, and this action would not go without swift and formidable retribution. So the ships were fueled and armed, and a vast armada launched into the sky and made their way to seek...not revenge, but justice. The Earthlings, with their antiquated detection systems, didn't even notice the approaching fleet with weapons ready to unleash hell.

But alas, due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was swallowed by a small dog, and no justice was served that day or any other.

Apologies to Douglas Adams.

Comment: Sensationalistic title and duh! (Score 5, Insightful) 116

by pr0t0 (#47403177) Attached to: Researchers Develop New Way To Steal Passwords Using Google Glass

As the video points out, this is not limited to Google Glass, any video capturing device will work. But beyond that, this is really kind of obvious. Yeah, video recording someone entering their password on a touch device will give you a fairly accurate idea of what that password is. Record, playback at 1/4 speed, password. I would bet that security camera footage might even be better to work with due to the angle. The custom software I suppose is a nice achievement, but I would guess it's not all that necessary.

Comment: I find this approach unsettling (Score 2) 79

We've certainly left rovers and probes on other planets, and even intentionally crashed a couple on the moon. But raining hundreds of fingernail-sized chipsats on Europa kind of seems like cosmic littering. The debris from previous exploration missions have always felt large enough that we could go and pick it up if we were inclined (or capable) to do so. I know the truth is probably as bad or worse than this Europa mission, and I've probably subconsciously ignored that truth, but this just seems so willfully arrogant.

I feel like it plays into some of my worst fears about our species: arrogant, destructive, self-centered, lacking empathy, etc. As long as we exhibit those kinds of behaviors, we'll never get invited to the really good extra-terrestrial parties. You know, the ones where the all of the molecules of the hostess' undergarments leap simultaneously one foot to the left? Let's not do this mission. I want to go to that kind of party.

Comment: Re:the Putin stage (Score 4, Insightful) 294

Then you haven't put much thought into it. People with bad credit history (or good) are utterly incapable of forcing a bank to lend them money. The decision to lend money for a mortgage is at the sole discretion of the lender. They alone decide if the credit-worthiness of the borrower justifies the loan. They created the sub-prime packages for investors in hedge funds, and they alone then bet against those packages...YES, the very packages they created! The government didn't force them to make those loans. That whole thing was built as an investment vehicle by the banks, allowing wealthy Americans to purchase the debt owed on sub-primes with higher interest rates, thus higher ROI. And everyone ate it up: the investors, the lenders, and the least qualified to know what the hell was going on...the borrowers.

I witnessed this shady practice first-hand as a first-time home buyer (my credit was fine though). I went to a broker and told him what I could comfortably afford for a mortgage payment (including taxes, insurance, etc.). I asked, based on that figure how much can I offer on a house. He gave me an amount, and I went house shopping. I found a home, made an offer, and he came back with a mortgage payment that was 25% more than what I said I could afford. Needless to say, I was pissed and told him off. 25% isn't a lot when you are talking about dinner, but it's hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars when talking about a mortgage. When I stopped the deal, the real estate agent called the broker to find out what was going on. He told her that he didn't know what the problem was...I was approved, I just didn't like the price. That in itself is telling. They approved me for a loan that was well in excess of what I already told them I could comfortably afford. Then the real estate agent, a licensed realtor mind you, told me that since I made the offer I was legally bound to honor it (total bullshit).

It may be more cleaned up now, but back in 2007, I think everyone involved in real estate became a con artist drunk on the promise of easy riches. I of course cannot speak to the motives of every person who got a sub-prime mortgage loan, but blaming people with bad credit for that crisis feels a lot like blaming the victims. It's possible these people, knowing their financial straights, would have never even considered buying a home. But here comes a letter from First National Never Trust telling them, "Hey, it's not as bad as you think!. You can OWN your house for just a bit more than you're paying in rent." And they trot out spreadsheets and graphs to back up that claim. So the financially challenged are thinking, "Wow, I had no idea! Sure!". You can buy that mail list you know. Give me every person in the United States who pays rent and has a sub-650 credit rating (or whatever the number). They're ambulance chasers.

And you want to blame the borrower for that? Wow. That's just willful ignorance; a total lack of understanding that companies, like people, need to take responsibility for their actions; and a complete lack of empathy for people being emotionally prayed upon by those companies.

Please, get off my planet.

Comment: Re:Ithaco Space Systems made the wheels that faile (Score 1) 55

by pr0t0 (#47020945) Attached to: NASA's Broken Planet-hunter Spacecraft Given Second Life

I think all the respondents to my comment missed the last line: "--The Arrival".

This is a quote from the movie The Arrival. It was meant as a joke to imply that whenever anything goes wrong with our remote-sensing spacecraft, it's because aliens have sabotaged the effort so they are not found.

Comment: Monopolies are only part of the problem (Score 5, Insightful) 286

by pr0t0 (#46998313) Attached to: Major ISPs Threaten To Throttle Innovation and Slow Network Upgrades

I’m going to open a big can of worms here, and I’ll admit up front that I haven’t fully thought it through. This more of a US-centric stream-of-consciousness kind of mind-dump.

I’ve lately come to hate the US telco industry with the angry passion of a thousand fiery suns. They enjoy a monopoly or near-monopoly in most areas of the United States. They also have a legal responsibility to maximize value to their shareholders. In the absence of competition, maximizing service and quality to their customers runs counter to maximizing that shareholder value. Our natural instinct is to shout the mantra of “increase competition!”, but even in the areas where there is competition, we see very little competitive behavior.

Why is that? Collusion? Well...maybe it’s because the Comcast CEO doesn’t have to pick up the phone and discretely call the AT&T CEO to find out what he’ll do if Comcast decides to lower rates and provide better service. He already knows it will start a price and service war that while benefiting the consumer, will hurt corporate profits. Nobody at this echelon wants to race to the bottom. All the big players have to do is find a happy medium of market share and slowly increase profits. The barriers to entry to be competitive/disruptive are enormous. It takes a Google to do it. Even if you could do it, you’d be forced to join the club and be a part of the same problem for the same reason the incumbant companies do.

But telecom isn’t the only industry that operates in this manner, even when competitors are present. The average prices in automobiles, new homes, health care, etc. have all outpaced increases in wage at a rate of roughly 2-to-1 over the last 45 years. The increases should be in line with wage increases to guarantee sustainability. These are competitive markets, so why the disparity? The reasons are many and varied. There are some easily justified increases like safety, R&D, and environmental concerns; but there are also offsets like increases in efficiency, automation, logistics and transport, overseas labor, etc. More often than not, these companies report quarterly and annual profits that measure in the billions and frankly defy belief. Which brings me to that can of worms.

There was a time when companies were reluctant to sell stock. They were literally selling a piece of their company to the public, and only did it because they needed the capital to bring new products and technologies to market. People bought stocks because they believed in that company, product, or technology; and handed over their money to help bring it to market and maybe make a little money in the process. Now, stocks are strictly investment vehicles for the buyer, and the seller often uses the capital to force stagnation instead of innovation. Look at Facebook. They are a titan in the tech industry, lighting cigars with $100 bills. Why the IPO? What new major advances in social media did the IPO make possible that they couldn’t make happen themselves? Likely none. But what it did do is allow Facebook to make some acquisitions. They are staying on top by removing the competition not rising to meet it.

Maximize shareholder value. That phrase is used to justify: higher prices, lower service, lower quality parts, environmental damage, damage to the long-term future of our nation, and general unethical corporate behavior (skimming, fleecing, shell corporations, tax loophole exploits). I’m not opposed to making money as a shareholder. But that money isn’t made out of thin air, and it doesn’t come from the seller. It comes from the American public. We pay that. When you get your dividend check or sell your stocks for a fat profit, that money came from me, from your neighbors, from your family and friends, from anyone that ever bought a product or service from that company. You paid for it too.

Similar to the underlying storyline in the movie The Matrix, I’m of the ever-increasing opinion that the US public is viewed as (literally) a cash crop by people who trade in tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. Top 1% income type of people. If we’re over-farmed, we’ll rebel. But if we’re fed and nurtured, told it’s for our own good, even made to believe that if we buy stocks we can come along for the ride; the money will slowly move from our pockets to that top 1%. We think because we made 8-18% on our investment portfolio we’re doing ok, being good citizens, and saving for our retirement. But we don’t realize we overpaid by 20-60% for the goods and services to make that happen*.

I think common carrier status is the only way to remove the need to maximize shareholder value in this segment of the telco industry. Or maybe, conversely, the only way to maximize shareholder value in a common carrier scenario is to increase market share by once again competing on speed and quality. I don’t want innovation from my ISP...I want a dumb pipe, and the ISP that can provide the fastest rates and highest quality of service at the lowest price will get my business.

*percentages pulled directly from my backside

Comment: My methodology (Score 1) 191

When in college, I would take copious notes during class with pen and paper. When preparing for a test, I would retype the notes over and over. Once I could type all of the notes without looking at my notebook, I felt ready to take the test. This is clearly memorization for the sake of the test, but I retained much. I also graduated with a cumulative GPA of 3.92, so I think it's fair to say my process was effective.

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller