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Comment Re:Reading skills (Score 1) 208

Ok, I'll give you an example. At one point characters climb into a large faux rock in an environment that is described as containing many similar rocks. They transit a large distance by making this rock mobile, according to the narrative, hiding from satellites, etc.

The problem: technology we've had for many decades would catch them the first day out. Simple image subtraction. Imagine an image of a scene of any particular complexity represented as a series of numbers (pixel values.) Move something in the scene overnight. A day later, take a new image. In the context of the whole scene, you, with your human eyes faced with significant complexity (many rocks in this case) might not be able to pick out the movement.

Now subtract each pixel from image one from the pixel in the same location in image two and take the absolute value of the result. In all places where image 1 is the same as image 2, the values are the same, so the result is zero (which generally we treat as black.) But in the location where the object moved, the pixel values are not the same, so the image resulting from all these subtractions shows a spot of brightness (values above zero) in two locations: One, where the object was, and two, where it is now. From the perspective of the Red Mars storyline: address both spots, characters trivially eliminated or captured, storyline demolished.

This is one of the most basic (and effective) types of satellite detection of movement and change, and believe me, it's no secret.

The consequence: No such travel would hide them; the storyline is therefore borked.

From my POV, while these kinds of flaws will get past a certain percentage of the audience, they're not forgivable WRT the author (or the agent, or an editor familiar with the genre); if you're going to write SF, particularly SF that uses technology to actually inform the storyline, you had better make sure that at *least* your postulated idea hasn't been obsolete for a quarter of a century. It takes research. You can't just sit down and write about this stuff, you should know it first, or if you don't, you need to fix that. Or your support team needs to catch it -- and that's still your responsibility. In this case, the premise was hiding from satellite surveillance; even a cursory check of the public subject matter would have found that the method described would not work.

Not to just beat up on KSR; Sometimes it's simple anachronism; for instance, in a future written about by Anne McCaffrey where we've been in space for a while, and the characters are at a new planet discovering dragons, mentioning the "floppy drives" in the spaceship simply shows a failure of the ability to think ahead -- it's just not reasonable. James Blish, in Welcome to Mars, had his character use a "power tube" to build a technical transport widget critical to the storyline; in a future far removed from vacuum tube technology. Said tube breaks on landing, and so the characters are stranded, and on this premise the majority of the adventure is based. This is slightly more forgivable, given that at the time, tubes actually were the tech at hand, but I still rather think it was some weak writing from an otherwise capable author. I had the chance to call him on it, and was rewarded with kind of a hangdog look and a nod.

SF authors -- if they're serious -- need to find people who can do this kind of checking. It's important, particularly if you're going to be (or hope to be) hanging with the big dogs. Because eventually, someone will call you on your errors, and on such things reputations and careers can rise and fall. It's just that simple.

I recently had the distinct pleasure of working with an author, a new one, who not only did a good job out of the gate, but was amenable to having flaws such as the above pointed out, corrections made, references provided and checked, etc. I think the work is top notch; we're doing all we can to get it published, but alas, right now the term "new author" is another way to say "not getting published" by any of the major houses. They all seem to be running off backlists and the lack of foresight of many agents to reserve electronic rights, allowing them to produce e-book titles at little cost. I think we'll get him published one day, simply because the work is truly excellent and because I (fervently) hope that these conditions will not persist forever. As long as his patience holds out, anyway. He could at any time throw up his hands and go straight to e-book, which might indeed get him launched, but carries many downsides that would be particularly galling to see afflict a work like this. It's a frustrating time to be in the business, I assure you of that.

Comment Re:How is this legal? (Score 1) 1103

2 is 100% true. For instance; buy some furniture on time. Fail to pay. Court implements judgement against you. Creditor gets to take $$$ from your account. Scenario 2: Run a credit card up. Can't pay. Collection agency, etc., gets judgement. They can hit your bank account, they can even take your tax return.

I understand that those of us who don't live like this don't tend to run into these situations, but they're real, they do happen, and they are certainly motivation to keep one's money elsewhere.

Note that I am not justifying any particular behavior; just pointing out sequences of events that have certain results.

Comment Re:How is this legal? (Score 5, Interesting) 1103

I don't understand why so many low-income people don't have bank accounts.

1, if they've written bad checks, the bank simply won't give them an account. 2, when your money is in the bank, it can be easily taken without your consent - various kinds of debt, credit agencies, lawyers, even the feds. Cash money in hand (or hidden wherever), much harder for third parties to access, hence, you can live easier when in trouble. 3, banks keep shitty hours: when you need your money in the evening and you can't get it, that can be a problem when the issue at hand is diapers, etc. 4, even when "free", make an error (common with low income types), and the bank will hose you with a huge fee (or fees... they can be pretty tricky about things like the order they cash/bounce when you overdraw. 5, location can be an issue if you're not mobile. There's probably more than this too; these were just off the top of my head.

Comment Re:Reading skills (Score 1) 208

Heck, I have to put my disbelief suspenders on when reading much more recent "best" SF titles. One example is Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars." Red Mars won the BSFA in 1992, the Nebula awards in 1993, and was nominated for the Hugo, Clarke, and Locus Awards in 1993. I read that book, and the lack of research and technical error that afflict the title make me want to cry. Could have been a great hard SF title. Instead, it's full of critical errors that significantly disrupt the plot. You have to either be ignorant yourself (not really a good bet with an SF audience, I'm afraid), or you have to squint so hard to blur out the details that the story risks being lost in the process.

My point is that the ability suspend disbelief is called on in all but the very greatest of SF titles, by the very greatest of SF authors (among whom I am afraid I cannot number KSR.) Also, in just about everything Hollywood ever touches.

Hey -- Hollywood -- funny interlude. Jim Carry, "The Majestic." In the film, he's a screenwriter. The scene is, he's in a meeting and they're talking about his screenplay. Some wanker paces around the table and says something to the effect of "We should add a dog." Which is both hilarious because that's exactly the kind of relentlessly revisionist pop culture shite that Hollywood inflicts on every title, and awesome, because it turns out, if you're paying attention, the movie they're talking about -- is The Majestic. First thing you see? They add a dog. Me, I was highly amused.

Comment Tech will affect this (Score 1) 208

I seriously doubt that lady HaHa will be spoken of in the same reverent tones in 300 years

I'd just like to point something out. We have recordings now. She is more likely to be known because of that; you'll be able to hear her, see her (re-)judge her, perform her music yourself, whatever, in 300 (or 3,000) years. Of the classics, we have written scores, and to a lesser extent, a tradition that finds life through various orchestras, to the degree that the actual music managed to propagate in that manner (pretty limited, and even then, only for the masters.) The fact that we have these recordings, starting in the early 1900's, is likely to change the face of who is known, what for, and in what periods or trends of musical taste as they cascade through society over time.

Comment Musical Taste. Or lack thereof. (Score 1) 208

Arghh. See, you're ALL arguing taste. Some taste derives from rhythm; some from melody; some from lyrics; some from technical expertise (either shared or recognized); some from a preference for a particular instrument; some from emotion; some because the goal is dance or other rhythmic engagement; probably an unending list of those examples, and then there are those who form their interest from a combination of these things.

For instance, I despise most (not all) lyrics, because I typically find them repetitive, trite, and (lately) whiney. So when I say that I prefer a large subset of Joe Satriani's music, a fellow who is a technical virtuoso but rarely engages at the level of the lyric... that's just me. It doesn't mean that lyrics suck, it means that they don't reach me personally. It doesn't mean that guitar is the be-all and end-all of musical instruments, it's just one I know (I play) and that I really enjoy. I have other tastes based on other metrics (and other distastes as well.) Zeppelin kicks up my endorphins the most when they shut the hell up, except for quite a few tracks on the first two albums. But in the end, it's just me. It's not them; it's not you.

As long as we argue absolutes -- and I used to be guilty of this myself, so I am speaking from experience, not just in an accusatory manner -- we're arguing apples and oranges and a meeting of the minds is not possible except with those so like-minded, there's little to be gained by discussing anything with them.

Lighten up.

Comment Reading skills (Score 2) 208

But that doesn't keep most of it from being boring

That's still true today. The essence of being a skilled reader is to drop the crap within the first few pages, and move on. Try Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. More recently (but not that recent), try the Skylark series by E.E. "doc" Smith. Try Journey to the Center of the Earth. There's plenty of great stuff out there of various flavors: per Sturgeon's law, as quoted above, your job as a reader is to find the 10%. If you can't do that, it's not the material. it's you.

Comment Re:anti-sex ad policy? (Score 1) 192

when an executive engages in sexual acts with a subordinate within an organization, it constitutes sexual harassment.

Utter bullshit. Only if coercive elements are involved is it oppressive in any way, unless you're a weak minded, politically correct ninny. And in which case, I don't care what you think anyway.

Just for one example, my lady is the much loved daughter of a lawyer and his secretary, who he wooed and married and stayed with her entire life. Then, in turn, she was my student; I met her in that environment and we fell in love. Since then, we've been together 15 years and I guaren-fucking-tee you our relationship is mighty fine. Your direct insinuation that this process -- either example -- was in ANY way wrongheaded just shows you up as lacking the clues you need. What you're talking about is politically correct nonsense and bogus legislation.

Let me tell you the metric for "ok": It's informed consent. Nothing else. You can't have consent with pressure; what you have there is capitulation. But the idea that any intersection of differing levels of authority and personal relationships sans pressure are suspect, or worse, wrong, is just sick, a product of thinking that is grossly in error. If you had half a brain, you'd already have worked it out. How could a police officer or a judge or a politician ever find a mate? A martial arts instructor? By definition, the authority and/or power distribution is uneven. That's normal.

The fact is, it is ok, and one thing that is NOT ok, is some dweeb questioning someone else's choices absent any complaint from them. You are not your brother's (or sister's) mommy. Or, more concisely, fuck off.

Comment Re:Speaking as a Mac owner (Score 1) 282

If you can show that any remark I made about the new Mac Pro was ill-informed because *I* wasn't paying attention, as opposed to speculative based on Apple not releasing info, have at it. Otherwise, yeah, you're a troll, so what. All Apple has said so far about the unit is it will support 3 4k monitors, 6 thunderbolt, 2 firewire, and 4 USB(3), with one CPU socket and 4 ram sockets, no internal HD or card expansion. All of my remarks about it that I can recall, at least, have been in that context.

But as I say, if you can point to something different...

Comment Non-US readers: how they keep control (Score 4, Insightful) 458

The parent shows you the effects of a careful propaganda campaign to divide the voters.

The propaganda machine counts pensioners together with welfare recipients to "prove" that government is keeping everyone dependent. That's Romney's "47%": anyone who pays into the system and expects to get anything back out is a "taker".

Two mainstream Presidential candidates tried to make food stamps a racial issue and claimed that all the children, disabled people, and Wal-Mart workers who receive them are lazy deadbeats.

If you can keep half the victims resenting the other half, you are well prepared to implement Jay Gould's solution: 'I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half".

>I could be in a better financial position if I quit my job, declared bakruptcy, and took the handouts.

See the victory of the propaganda? They've got somebody believing this even though he has an Internet connection and could find out the truth within minutes.

Comment Re:anti-sex ad policy? (Score 1) 192

Impeachment basically has its parallels in "we find enough reason here to go to trial"; the second stage, where the person of high office is convicted of the charges brought in the impeachment, did not so find in the case of President Clinton.

It's as if you were arrested for X, but they failed to convict you of X.

Impeachment is meaningless under such circumstances. The more so as this wasn't anything to do with his job, this was a sexual matter they really had no business whatsoever asking him about in the first place.

Personally, I wish he'd said: "Are you really asking me questions about my sex life? Because you have no right to ask such questions, and I have no obligation to give you any answers. Those are private matters. Now, do you have any legitimate questions, or are we done here? Lying -- though I can't really say I blame him much -- was a poor way out, and gave the MORONS in congress an excuse to cobble up a dog and pony show out of it, in the process wasting many taxpayer dollars, their precious time (well, it'd be precious if they'd use it for the purposes for which we elected them, anyway), and interfering with the operation of the presidency.

Comment A real distinction, which they're bungling (Score 5, Insightful) 331

I worked for a military contractor once and was told that there was a good reason not to talk about classified material even after it appeared in the press. Our enemies couldn't be sure that the press reports were right, not without confirmation from classified sources.

The military has now done what I was told not to, confirming the authenticity of the Guardian report.

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