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Comment Carbonates (Score 5, Informative) 250

[My apologies for the lack of links: Google is your friend. The editor is being a bitch.]

If it reacts with acid, it's carbonate (such as calcium carbonate, CaCO2). The classic test for carbonates is to dump a 5% solution of HCl (hydrochloric acid, available as muriatic acid in any hardware store) onto the sample; if it bubbles, it's a carbonate. (I know one geologist who calls this test "barbaric.") You can also use common household vinegar.

99.99% of all carbonates on the Earth are sedimentary. Usually, they form in shallow to medium depth water when microscopic critters with calcium shells die by the kazillions and fall to the ocean floor, where they pile into layers that give us things like limestone. There is one exception, however: Oldoinyo Lengai is a volcano in Tanzania that produces carbonate lava (the only carbonate-producing volcano in the world -- all the rest produce silicates, products based on SiO2). Someday I would like to see a sample of this igneous carbonate, because while silicates are really really important in geology, they're also really really common, and thus really really boring.

A relatively inexpensive bulk chemical analysis could tell you the exact composition of your samples, and you would probably find a pretty high iron content, which accounts for the trigger on your metal detector. My educated guess is the mineral siderite, FeCO3. It is common both in hydrothermal veins and in sedimentary formations.

Sinkholes can form when subterrainian water flows dissolve minerals (such as carbonates), forming a cave that later collapses. When this happens, you get a crater. And yes, you can get a pretty big one, depending on how deep the cave is.

So yes, it's a probably a sinkhole.

Comment unstable (Score 1) 399

i find the gameplay to be excellent, but the game itself is unstable.

i run it on a dual-head hp desktop with a 1.86ghz processor, 3g of ram, and an nvidia geforce 9400 gt. i'm using windows 7 pro, fully patched, with dx11 and the steam version of the game installed. it's not a great machine, but it certainly should be adequate to play this game in single-player mode.

it's not. it often crashes during game in initialization, and randomly in the middle of the game, and it doesn't seem to matter if it's in dx9 or dx11. when i am in windowed mode and minimize, the entire machine lugs. when i maximize the window again, it doesn't redraw the screen or respond to keyboard input. my only option was to kill the process, losing the game state. even when not minimized, the load on the machine seems quite high.

i'm very disappointed with the stability.

Comment Porn Processing (Score 4, Informative) 124

It's incredibly difficult (and expensive) to get credit card processing for an adult entertainment business, and the cartels (Visa/MC/Discover/Amex) don't want to make it easier. In my three years' work for a site dealing with just this kind of issue, here's what I found:
  • You pretty much can't get processing in your own business name if you're up-front about what you do, in the United States.
  • You can't get processing in Europe, either, unless you're actually in the EU. Opening a shell corporation won't help, and even then, it's also impossible.
  • You might be able to get "high risk" processing outside of the United States, out of somewhere like Vietnam or the Philippines. If you do, you can expect games with your money.
  • You can expect to have your bank hold on to your funds a minimum of three months. This is not something like a 5% rolling reserve. It is, instead, a 100% rolling reserve.
  • You can expect your contract to say that when you end your contract (even at the end of term in the normal course of business), your processor can hold onto 100% of your money for an additional year, starting as soon as you give your required six months notice.
  • You can expect your contract to say that you surrender your domain name to your processor in perpetuity.
  • You can expect to pay as much as 25% of revenue for this "service."
  • You can expect to find it impossible to open even a normal checking account into which to deposit your funds, because no bank in the universe will want to deal with you, simply because you run an adult business.
  • About the only semi-reputable (caveat emptor) business that will do billing for adult websites is CCBill. You can expect to pay CCBill at LEAST 10% of your revenue, and if you want to take Visa, you have to pony up another $750 non-refundable startup fee, and a $500 annual fee, on top. Approximately 40% of adult transactions are Visa, so not accepting Visa isn't a viable option for most businesses.
  • CCB's software absolutely sucks. It is bloated, slow, doesn't give good control over affiliates and their production, and doesn't produce usable reports. And, I have never once given an email address to CCBill (yes, I use unique addresses for such transactions) that didn't get sold to a spammer. This includes addresses I gave to them in a business relationship, not just buying a website subscription.
  • Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode, which are supposed to eliminate chargebacks, are not available to adult entertainment sites. No explanation has ever been given about why this is so, but if you run porn, you can't use these "enhanced security" services.
  • CCBill supports only subscription-based services. They don't support physical good sales. Want to sell DVDs, t-shirts, photographic prints, USB keychains, or other goods along with your site subscriptions? Too bad.
  • No well-known payment service aside from CCBill allows porn. This includes PayPal, Google Checkout, Moneybookers, and the rest. Want to sell legal second-hand DVDs on eBay? Good luck figuring out how to get paid. I have a warehouse full of stuff I basically can't sell because I can't get paid.

One of the reasons problems are so rampant in credit card processing in adult entertainment is that the cartels have made it nearly impossible to get legitimate processing, and so businesses that want to take credit cards have to resort to quasi-legal tactics to be able to run them. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One of the things I looked into was the possibility of creating, essentially, a pornographer's bank. The bank would adhere to customary American banking law, but would explicitly accept legal adult entertainment business. The question we could never get an answer to was whether or not Visa and MC would allow such a bank to back merchant accounts and issue credit cards. You can't get an answer to that question unless you already are a bank. Nobody is willing to risk the several million dollars it takes to buy or start a bank without an answer to that question, and no existing bank is willing fly such a balloon for you. Catch-22.

Comment Banks Refunding Fees (Score 4, Insightful) 216

I've incurred overdraft fees based on merchant error a number of times, and every bank I have ever had has done everything they can to screw their customers out of as much money as possible. EA expecting banks to refund overdraft fees is like asking EA to ... I don't know ... behave like a company that cares about its customers.

Comment Re:health insurance is like auto insurance now (Score 2, Informative) 2424

> That's actually how it worked pre-bill,
> the poorest people qualified for Medicaid

And that depends entirely on where you happen to live.

If you live in a state like Massachusetts, which several years ago enacted many of the same reforms contained in this bill -- coverage mandate, subsidies, and guaranteed issue -- you might indeed qualify for Medicaid.

If you live in Texas, it doesn't matter how poor you are. If you're an adult and you're a) not pregnant and b) not so disabled you eat your food through an abdominal tube, you can't get Medicaid. There isn't a box to tick on the integrated application form where you may apply for it, because average adults -- working or not -- do not qualify, ever, for any reason.

The expansion in states like Texas will be slow in coming and relatively miserly, meaning that even if you qualify under the newly-expanded eligibility, chances are greater than 50/50 that you'll still be left with nothing, depending entirely on where you live.

By the way -- please don't give me that "so move to another state!" crap. There are all kinds of reasons why someone can't simply pack their shit and move, such as, in my case, children who live with an ex-spouse that I'd like to continue seeing on a regular basis.

Comment Re:OK, now what... (Score 3, Informative) 197

> > When you load it into RAM, you have made a copy for purposes of copyright law.
> That is simply not true. See, e.g. the Cartoon Networks which held that copies in RAM
> and buffered for 1.2 seconds were not in RAM for a long enough period to be considered
> "copies" under the Copyright Act.

There is now a circuit split on the issue. See M.A.I. Systems Corp. v Peak Electronics, 991 F.2d 511 (9th Cir. 1993), where the appeals court held that a copy of software loaded into RAM does qualify as a copy under copyright law. While not related to music specifically, a good researcher might turn this case up and make your life miserable. The changes to the Copyright Act that overturned this decision provided an exemption for repair shops, but did not invalidate this interpretation of "copy."

As a side note, Peak Electronics was unable to appeal this to the Supreme Court because they ran out of money. I was on the staff at an electronics servicer's trade association at the time.

Comment A Thumbnail On The Law (Score 5, Informative) 267

This case is headed to the Supreme Court, and there is a decent chance they may agree to hear it. There is a directly conflicting ruling out of the 10th Circuit in Denver. A split on a point of law (a Circuit split) is often a reason for the Supreme Court to step in, so that the conflict can be resolved.

I had to deal with 2257 compliance in my work for an adult website. It works like this:

1. The photographer (or production company) must verify identity with a government-issued ID. If shot in the United States, the government-issued ID must be an American identification, even if the model is not from the United States, such as a cute chick on vacation for a couple weeks just traveling on her passport. Note that if you shoot outside the United States, a foreign ID is fine. Are you shooting in El Paso? You can go to prison for shooting your Estonian model on her passport and visitor's visa, but if you take her to Juarez and shoot her there, you're in the clear.

2. The photographer must keep a copy of the ID, the model's contract, AND the pictures for five years after the last publication of the photographs. In addition, if published on the Internet, you have to keep a complete list of all URLs (including thumbnails!) of any picture you publish, even when those URLs change or come down. You better not be using any database-driven stuff with auto-generated URLs, because you now have to track every one of them, no matter how they change.

3. The records must be cross-indexed by model's real name, any stage names, any dates of publication, any dates of recording, title of product or production, and URL. Use three year old footage in a new DVD? You get to dig back through your compliance records and update your cross-indexes.

4. The records must be SEPARATE from your normal day-to-day business records. That is, you have to keep this stuff for the ordinary course of your business, and THEN you must keep a SEPARATE copy for the government.

5. You must publish the REAL name and address of the person who holds the records on each copy of your product -- DVD, mag, or book -- AND on EVERY PAGE of your website (a "click here for 2257 info" link is *not* acceptable).

6. This person must be available at least 20 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, for unannounced visits from the FBI, who may rifle through your records (and copy any or all of them, to dig through at their pleasure) looking for violations without a warrant or any cause at all, probable or not.

7. Violation of any of this can land you in prison, even if your models are not under the age of 18. You can do years in prison and pay thousands in fines if the only thing wrong is that you screwed up the cross-indexing.

8. If you sub-license or sell your content (such as your website's affiliates), you have to give un-redacted copies of your records to the person you sell/give the content to. Are you a DVD producer who posts your movies on HotMovies? HotMovies gets a copy of your records, complete with the model's real name and address. The model doesn't get any right to opt out, either; if they can also turn around and sell or sub-license your content, THEIR licensees get your model's information, and YOU can't do anything about it, and you have no control over who it all goes to!

9. If you receive sub-licensed or sold content, you likewise have to keep a complete set of records. It is *not* sufficient to simply keep track of where your content came from so the FBI can back-track. You have to have your own independent, complete set of records, all lined up, cross-indexed and separated from your daily business records, and ready for inspection whenever the FBI decides to materialize.

10. You are required to keep records even if you go out of business, be available for FBI inspection 20 business-time hours per week even if you go on vacation or operate out of your home.

11. In addition to "actual sexually-explicit conduct" (which is poorly defined and can cover Hollywood movies but for some reason does not) and "simulated sexually-explicit conduct," they also cover "actual sadomasochistic conduct," which is not defined. The regulations don't mention the corresponding (but must also exist, and is likewise not defined) "simulated sadomasochistic conduct." The best we in the adult industry can figure out, "actual sadomasochistic conduct" really hurts.

12. There are huge exceptions carved out for mainstream Hollywood producers. If you shoot porn, you're subject to all this, but if you work for a big studio and shoot James Bond appearing to bang whomever his latest girl is, you aren't.

13. Fuck any of this up and you can go to prison, even if every model you have is older than my great-grandmother and looks it.

One major streaming provider told me at one point that they employed 10 people full-time who did nothing but 2257 compliance, as their only function. That's easily a half-million dollars a year in employee costs, before you even give them a computer to work on. The Justice Department has not given any indication of what kinds of compliance documentation is acceptable -- they don't have a "standard form" -- so everybody has to make it up as they go along and hope they're in the clear when the FBI shows up.

It's important to note that a handful of under-age models have made it into adult productions in the last 30 years, the most famous being Traci Lords. In every case, the models used fake identification, and when the producers found out what had happened, they pulled the products. It is simply not true to suggest that porn producers routinely use under-aged models; it didn't happen before this law was enacted, and it doesn't happen now. The whole thing is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to drive porn companies out of business with compliance costs.

Comment Content-Based Taxes (Score 1) 485

Most download taxes that are based on "what" rather than "how much" you download are unconstitutional, for the same reason a tax targeting pornography is unconstitutional:

It is a content-based tax. Content-based taxes discriminate against certain kinds of (disfavored) content, and First Amendment law is well established on the point that content-based taxes are a no-no.

You can tax goods and services, but your taxes must be structured in such a way that they do not discriminate against content. You may tax paper and DVD stock, or you may tax all sales, but you can not tax just books but not movies, or just magazines but not books, or only pornographic movies and magazines but not Time and Newsweek.

In the context of a download tax, the only possibly permissible way it could work is by-the-bit (or other unit of arbitrary measure). You have to tax email exactly the same as web pages exactly the same as software downloads exactly the same as movies from Netflix. To do anything else introduces an impermissible content-based discrimination (along with the impossibility of measuring what you're taxing).

And while lawmakers may not want to target pornography because it might "legitimize" the product, they fail to realize that adult content purveyors have decades of experience fighting this sort of nonsense in jurisdictions all over the nation, and on this point, they consistently win.

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There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom. -- Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1923