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Comment Re:Kill!!! (Score 2, Funny) 855

One time in the late 80s I was in the Harvard U. computer sales office (back when people bought computers through their university) just inquiring about prices.

The sales person told me that a very irate professor from Harvard Business School called her up and was yelling about the fact that his new Compaq luggable (suitcase-sized) PC wouldn't turn on.

She asked him if he had plugged it in and he shouted "You're not supposed to plug it in! It's a portable!" She suggested he try it nonetheless and he hung up on her. He did not call back, suggesting that the solution worked.

This probably doesn't make a lot of sense to younger people who are used to all sorts of battery-powered computer appliances, but back then it was very funny indeed!

Comment Re:One of my favorite places... (Score 1) 314

buy.com usually has pretty good deals on memory cards and USB drives. I split my purchases between Amazon for general books, electronics, appliances, etc., and Buy.com for hot deals on electronics like memory.

What amazes me is how Amazon manages to offer the best deals time and again. Even a 40-lb ceiling fan/light which can be had through Home Depot and many other places still prices out $10-$20 cheaper at Amazon.

And I remember when Amazon was only about books.

Damn these internet businesses which make me buy so much stuff!!!

Comment Re:It's all about the money (Score 1) 74

I take it that you are referring to Harold Pinter who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 the last male British writer to win this prize. This comment just shows how little you know about English literature. Pinter is indisputably the greatest living British playwright and in the view of many including myself, who has been seeing his plays since I was a child, the greatest living playwright in the English language. This indeed does qualify him as a leading contender for the prize which he so deservingly won.

The political controversy over the prize arose because while hospitalized by a serious infection he videotaped his Nobel Prize acceptance lecture "Art, Truth & Politics" from a wheelchair. It was a scathing attack on US war of aggression against Iraq. Any suggestion that the award was made for political reasons is both erroneous and unwarranted. The criticisms of Pinter were that he used his award as a vehicle to put forward his political views. But this comes from those whose job it is to viciously denounce anyone who condemns US foreign policy so in fact it is a compliment. What is a public intellectual for but to criticise the wrongdoings of those in power.

There's a trend with the Nobel committee to nominate people who are anti-American and anti-Zionist. This man fit the bill pretty well--a great writer and a Chomsky-esque, frothing at the mouth idiot.

Consider these pearls from his Nobel "speech", which had little to do with literature:

"The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law."

"How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand?"

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them."

The United States "also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain."

OK, moderators will probably rate this posting "troll" as they did my previous one, but that doesn't alter the fact that this man is twisted.

If he could devote one iota of his intellect to addressing the "systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless" crimes of Saddam Hussein, of Osama Bin Laden, of the Islamist imams who brainwash young men into killing themselves and hundreds of innocents along with them--if he displayed the slightest evenhandedness, I would say fine, he was a great playwright who had political opinions.

But he took the low road. The Nobel Prize is, or used to be, a highly prestigious award, and it is a shame that some of its recipients stoop to trashing their political opponents in their acceptance speeches.

Consider another "great" writer, Jose Saramago, who won the Nobel for literature in 1998. From a blog on the subject:

Jose Saramago, the Portuguese novelist who won the Literature Nobel in 1998, visited the Ramallah headquarters of the Palestinian Authority and the late Yasser Arafat (himself, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994). Saramago came out against the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, declaring "What is happening in Palestine is a crime which we can put on the same plane as what happened at Auschwitz." When an Israeli journalist asked him whether he knew of gas chambers in Israel-controlled lands, Saramago replied, "I hope this is not the case. There are so many things being done that have nothing to do with Nazism, but what is happening is more or less the same."

That a talented artist can display such an astonishing a lack of wisdom and understanding is dismaying, but even more dismaying is the fact that the Nobel committee looks past these issues, or perhaps agrees with them and uses them to promote their own, similar world view.

Comment Re:It's really Psion's trademark (Score 2, Informative) 234

I agree with the parent. Psion PLC previously developed a product called the "netBook", although it is no longer in production. However a sister company or umbrella company "Psion Teklogix" appears to have a current product that uses the "netBook" name. Maybe someone else can tease out exactly what these companies have in common, but at any rate the term appears to be a valid trademark that is in current use.

Unfortunately for them, it has also become a common term and they may have trouble holding on to it. A similar situation occurred in the late 1980s for those old enough to remember: a PC manufacturer trademarked the term "Tower" as in Tower PC, an upright form factor for (what we used to call) IBM compatibles. The term quickly spread and the manufacturer threatened to sue several other PC makers. I remember that one in particular changed their product from "Tower 286" to "Power 286". (Yeah, I'm old :)) Needless to say, "tower" stuck as a common term and that company lost control of it.

This is not as egregious as someone trying to co-opt the term "google" or "xerox" for commercial gain, even though these words have nonetheless become household terms. Actually, about 20 years ago Xerox tried to get their name back by warning people not to say "xerox" as a verb, especially when it wasn't actually a Xerox machine. But they failed, just as they failed in several other wrong headed pursuits such as suing Apple for its GUI and suing Palm for using Graffiti.

I think the moral high road is simply to keep on innovating and don't worry so much about empty words. I'd love to see Psion come out with some innovative products; they've always been a good company. As a commenter put it on the article site, R&D is better than C&D.
 

Comment Pie in the sky (Score 5, Insightful) 275

I'm sorry to say, this SSP white paper is simply that--a piece of paper with a pie-in-the-sky proposal that is unlikely to get funded to the same extent as fusion energy by the DOE.

Since it's a space-based project, it should really be funded and organized by NASA, which after all knows something about orbital solar arrays, while the DOE is merely an umbrella bureaucracy without a clear mission. Jimmy Carter set it up, as I recall, and during the laissez-faire Republican administrations as well as the Clinton years, it has been primarily a custodian for regulating fission reactors and funding some research projects.

There is so much potential for reaping energy savings on land, without having to resort to dangerous space flights and risky, massive construction projects in orbit, that it's amazing that this proposal is even being looked at by the transition team. I suspect this is fake news.

Don't get me wrong--I'm a total space nut, and I want to see us spending a trillion a year on space, and spread our civilization out to the planets before we blow this one away.

But when we can reap significant energy savings merely by painting the rooftops white of most government buildings, when we drive cars that have half or one third the fuel efficiency they could have, when we live in uninsulated buildings--it's ridiculous to proclaim that an SSP would solve our energy problems.

We should definitely build orbital facilities that would include solar arrays, perhaps to house dangerous manufacturing operations and to do zero-grav research, but this is not the most persuasive white paper that they are going to look at, I suspect.

Comment It's all about the money (Score 0, Troll) 74

Winning a Nobel prize in any field makes someone pretty much a guaranteed celebrity for the rest of their life. You want your future books to become best sellers? You want a tenured professorship at Harvard with your own research team, plum grad students, no undergraduate teaching duties, and dinner with the President and members of Congress? Win a Nobel.

I would say, the process is guaranteed to be flawed because they can't possibly single out the one person in every field who most deserves such an honor. In the arts, it's a rather arbitrary pick and seems to be colored by politics.

A couple of years ago they picked some writer in England because he was a leftist. They gave Jimmy Carter a prize for supposedly stopping the North Koreans from working on a nuclear bomb, and they just kept right on doing it. It doesn't hurt that Carter hates Israel and regularly visits groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Oh, for Israel haters it's probably fine but for those who are a bit more skeptical of Carter's intentions and methods, it has greatly demeaned the award.

The sciences are a bit different. But even there, it's difficult to tease out who exactly made complete and original innovations without relying heavily on the brilliant but unsung work of others. The most famous example is Watson, Crick, and Wilkins' discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. Their colleague Rosalind Franklin, who unfortunately died of cancer in 1958, played a key role in this discovery but is virtually unknown today because the Nobel prize is not awarded posthumously.

Einstein said that his accomplishments were "on the shoulders of giants" who came before him. Surely he was being humble but still, that is how science works, and Nobel encourages a notion in the general public's mind that scientists operate in a vacuum.

Comment Re:I would buy it... (Score 1) 197

Thanks for the correction, I meant of course the Ares booster rocket and not the Orion craft itself.

I do question why Obama's team sees itself as fit to decide that an existing booster (Delta, Atlas) is more suitable than the upcoming Ares. As the article points out, these existing boosters are not really suitable for manned missions. It sounds like business as usual in Washington D.C., politicians meddling in technical matters. Wasn't Obama going to bring about a change to business as usual?

Getting back to space travel--clearly the Shuttle system, while spectacular in 1981, was a one trick pony. Yes, it's neat to have a craft that can return most of itself to land, but having accomplished this amazing feat, NASA should really have stepped back and taken a hard look at the economics before building a fleet of four ships (two of which were to blow up spectacularly, taking their crews with them). Having one shuttle system and many single use systems such as Apollo might have been a wiser compromise that gave the public its cool spaceship and gave NASA more flexibility.

I would agree with the poster above that space exploration should not rely on manned ships, but to cease manned flight would simply relinquish space to other global powers, notably Russia and China. Americans will be going to space fifty years from now; we'll either be doing it with our own ships or we'll be 2nd class passengers aboard foreign vessels, to go and visit the Chinese outposts on the Moon and in orbit. I'd rather stay in the game and be one of the leaders.

Comment I would buy it... (Score 4, Insightful) 197

If I had the money, I'd buy the thing, set up a launch pad and a refueling station, and rent flights out to NASA. After all, they're retiring the shuttle five years too soon, so I figure I can make a few billion in rentals until the Orion starts up.

Except it sounds like Obama wants to kill the Orion project.

I can't understand how they could be so keen on throwing $500 billion at failed banks and mortgage deadbeats, yet they have no problem cutting NASA's $30 billion budget. And then there's Obama's national health insurance which is bound to cost a few hundred billion, if not a trillion or two when it's up and running.

Here's an idea: don't bail out the banks that made bad loans and investments, and let the mortgage deadbeats be foreclosed. That's the way our system is supposed to work. And take about $100 billion of that bailout money and put it into R&D, including space exploration. In the medium to long term, we will reap much richer economic rewards for such an investment.
 

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