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Comment The summary is rather incomplete. (Score 1) 227

You can't just take a paragraph at random from the article and throw it up onto the screen. I mean, you can, but it's not useful. Having read the article it's an interesting experiment, but the summary gives me no information about the other important piece: when the number of chips to avert disaster is set at 150 and known, the players cooperate; while when that number is unknown except for "between 100 and 200" everybody skimps on contributions and loses 15 euros plus whatever they contributed.

On the other hand, the summary could just be missing the last sentence, "And that's how I became the prince of Fresh Air."

Comment Re:This isn't studio ambiance (Score 1) 163

The tone is the tone, however it is created, and the tone should always serve the song. I often find myself turning to my acoustic guitar for inspiration because there is something about the instant, expressive playability of acoustic instruments that, for me at least, engenders the best kind of creativity. Still, the goal should be to find and use whatever serves the song. I have more electronic compositions than acoustic, and the good ones are just as good.

Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek, for example, gains its power from her raw versatile voice singing atop a chorus that is electronically generated by a harmonizer, making for a highly artificial sound-bed that nonetheless retains the expressiveness she puts into her vocalizing. You wouldn't get the same kind of intimate power through an unaided a capella performance, nor would it be present if she were backed by an orchestra or by acoustic instruments. On the flipside, a piece like Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians is just boring as all get-out when it's composed electronically--everything is metered out and tightly controlled and sterile. When it's performed as written, by eighteen (or thereabouts) people banging on or blowing into things, it has an incredible sonic depth to it. (Here is a link, but be warned that it is an hour long and highly unconventional piece of music.)

There is a tendency to compare music with the visual arts which is often unhelpful, but there are undeniable parallels. I think the appropriate one here is that good visual art is good visual art regardless of whether the artist used oil, acrylic, pencil, watercolor, collage, or some mix of them. The final result is what is important.

Comment Re:squeaky wheels (Score 1) 707

If you're from another country, or an American who slept during civics class (seems like many did)...

You may realize this, given your statement about the power of the president versus state governors, but a lot of us weren't sleeping through civics class. Lots of us didn't even have a civics class, only a "Social Studies" curriculum in which the reasons for having an electoral college were mentioned briefly, almost as an aside.

I personally believe this is by design, but I'm a conspiracy nut.

Comment Re:Ready Player One (Score 2) 278

I think Stephenson takes an eternal and unjust beating about his endings. His books end when the major conflicts are in a position to be resolved by a thinking reader. There's no "and they lived happily ever after," but there is always a sense that all of the key pieces are in the right place and the outcome is decided in that the people we want to come out on top will come out on top. Chess is a very apt metaphor, in my mind: when he stops writing, you know that the Bad Guys are outmaneuvered and trapped in a corner. Does he really need, considering that he tends to be free with his words as it is, to write another thirty pages in order to gift-wrap a final outcome that is already easily imagined by an engaged reader?

Don't get me wrong; I appreciate books that have those kinds of endings. But Stephenson is more concerned with the interesting conflicts, the multiple disparate threads that weave and tangle with each other. When the massive knot becomes a loose collection of simply-twisted loops, he loses interest. I don't find that to be a fatal flaw at all, and I respect that he wants to devote all of his energy to the engaging events leading up to the point where a resolution is inevitable instead of spending a lot of time on the resolution itself.

Take The Diamond Age, for instance, the ending of which a sibling comment laments. (Spoilers follow.) We end with Nell essentially leading an army of girls who are ready to take on the status quo, and with the decentralized Seed in a position to overtake the top-down economics of the Feed. The implication is that these two things, both on their own and taken together, are forces that can and will reshape the world they inhabit. To me, in a way, it's like politics: as soon as you start to get into the details of the resolution, you're going to alienate people who think it should have taken a different path.

Comment Looking forward to a new iMac (Score 1) 211

MacRumors also thinks it highly likely that a new iMac will be unveiled at the same time. I hope so, because my 2007 MacBook Pro is getting long in the tooth, and while it serves most of my mobile computing needs it just can't keep up with my music recording software of choice. I'm confident that the curent-gen iMacs will, and if a new model is released, I'll be able to snag the newly-outdated one at a healthy discount.

I like the hardware and the OS, and I don't mind paying a bit of a premium for it. I also don't need the cutting-edge, and since my "mobile" setup already involves an audio box that requires power and a desk to sit on, I don't mind the sacrifice of full mobility. Here's hoping.

Comment Re:Done right, fracking is harmless (Score 1) 208

You seem to know what you're talking about. I'm just an armchair muckraker, so I'll defer to your numbers. I'm curious to hear your response to this question: why is it that places like Marcellus are only being drilled now? If we've had the technology to do it for so long, why didn't we start drilling there during the Reagan push for energy independence, for example?

The argument from the anti-shale-drilling folks, the ones I tend to be more sympathetic towards, is that there have been new developments "that unlocks gas that was previously not considered recoverable". I pulled that from a rebuttal to the rebuttal of Gasland by the film's creators. A lengthier quote from the same document reads,

On Chesapeake Energy's Hydraulic Fracturing "fact" site, this contradiction is evident: "Hydraulic
fracturing, commonly referred to as fracing, is a proven technological advancement which allows
natural gas producers to safely recover natural gas from deep shale formations. This discovery has
the potential to.... [emphasis added].” Later in the same passage we get the same refrain: "Hydraulic
fracturing has been used by the oil and gas industry since the 1940s..."

Since you seem to have substantially more knowledge of the industry than I do, I'd like to hear your take on that. The whole document is an interesting read, and one that seems pretty convincing to me, but again, I am very much a layman when it comes to this stuff. In any case, I appreciate your previous informed responses. I suspect that I will remain biased against shale drilling, but I do my damnedest to remain open to new information.

Comment Re:Robo Rally (Score 1) 246

I came here to suggest exactly the same game.

In addition to tracking the order of execution, the game requires you to be aware of your environment: there are board elements such as conveyor belts that always execute just after each player instruction, and failing to take them into account will make the rest of your instruction set (five instructions per turn) detrimental or even suicidal.

As far as programming goes, it's a very simplistic model. Keep in mind though that just because your nephew likes math does not mean he will like programming. I think Robo Rally is a good way to see if he's interested in the dynamic aspect of creating a system that does what you want before giving him a more substantial primer on programming. Plus, it's just a damn fun game in its own right, even for a bunch of 30-somethings!

Comment Re:Done right, fracking is harmless (Score 1) 208

Oil drilling is not gas drilling. Modern fracking for gas in particular uses much higher pressures than oil drilling and even older gas drilling operations. It's not the slantwise drilling itself that is the issue; it's the high-pressure fracking in that kind of well structure (and also possibly in the kind of geological formations that are gas-bearing) that is new and unstudied.

Comment Re:Done right, fracking is harmless (Score 2) 208

Fracking with modern techniques is what is of concern here, in addition to the fact that it's being done on the east coast, an area more densely populated than where fracking has traditionally been done.

The modern techniques are not a safer, more efficient version of older techniques. Modern techniques involve drilling down and then snaking sideways to get at the gas. This has only been going on in populated areas since 2006, which isn't a whole lot of time to study effects. And since it's being done around a lot more people, we've seen a large amount of complaints about air quality, water quality, and increased levels of sickness. Some of that is bound to be the equivalent of headaches from an unpowered cell tower, but some of that is also bound to be genuine.

There is significantly more than "a shred of hard evidence" that fracking poses dangers to people living near wells. Anyone who tells you otherwise is being deceptive:

[P]roponents of hydraulic fracturing have erroneously reported in the press and other media that the recent University of Texas Study ("Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development") found that hydraulic fracturing caused no environmental contamination,[17][18] when in fact the study found that all steps in the process except the actual injection of the fluid (which proponents artificially separated from the rest of the process and designated "hydraulic fracturing") have resulted in environmental contamination.

That text is from this Wikipedia article all about the environmental impact of fracking in the US. Much of the data from that article comes from the UT study, and is most damning since the industry (and its shills) looked at the one positive bit and said, "See?! That piece there is really what fracking is! That's harmless! Ignore all of the setup and finishing steps...that's not fracking, so fracking is harmless!" If the evidence in that paper for the fluid injection stage is deemed reliable by the industry, so too should be the evidence against the other stages; if it were not so, we'd have heard them specifically attacking that evidence instead of remaining silent about it and relying on misdirection to keep it out of the spotlight.

As for fracking being "our golden chance for energy independence": it is an entirely stupid notion. What better way to not have to rely on fuels from other countries than to...dig up and use all of our reserves?

Comment Re:Why is the Obama administration objecting ? (Score 1) 308

This man is extremely dangerous not only for America, but for the entire world. Obama might not be any good, but Romney will destroy the American dream, and several other countries along with it.

This is why American politics is in such a sorry state.

I watched the Stewart / O'Reilly debate yesterday, and, surprisingly, came out of it with a bit more respect for BillO than I had before. They both made some bullshit claims, and some good things to say, though Stewart was by far the more compelling of the two despite being frequently childish (as I expected, just as I expected BillO to be frequently churlish). In Stewart's closing remarks, he said that the biggest problem in American politics is that the people backing both teams are so caught up in this idea that if The Other Guy gets in, it's going to be the end of the world. It's not.

Personally, I don't go in for either of the major parties, and I think both of them are going to foster the slow decline of America. I don't know if that can in practice be helped any, but this incredible polarization, the idea that the opposition is not only to be disagreed with but reviled as the worst possible humans who will destroy everything, is extremely unhelpful and flat-out wrong. Until we can return to a civilized discourse, where policy can be expressed as better and worse instead of better and Oh My God What Are These So-Called People Thinking, there is no way to really hash out anything that is going to work as best it can.

I'm not absolving myself from guilt in the matter, either--as a person who is dissatisfied with the whole system I've definitely fallen prey to the urge to claim that we're on a brink of some kind, and more than that I've fallen prey to believing it. Yet I can't help but wonder if airing those concerns is at all helpful: in essence, you are not only preaching to the choir but alienating every thinking individual who might respond better to a more reasoned analysis of the situation.

I don't have all or any of the answers, but demonizing the opposition isn't going to do anything except for strengthening their belief that you are also to be demonized instead of engaged with.

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