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Comment Re:Feinstein's not at all "Furthest Left" (Score 2) 510

Yes, Feinstein likes a big-spending government, and prefers more of that spending to go to social programs than Bush did, but that doesn't make her a "leftist" any more than it made him one. She's pretty consistent in her opposition to most of the Bill of Rights - doesn't like free speech on the Internet, doesn't like search warrants, didn't stop torture at Gitmo. Yeah, she's occasionally come out to support the liberal side of issues like gay marriage or abortion, but it's not like she really broke through a lot of boundaries on those in the Senate.

Basically, the only thing leftist about her is that she counts as +1 in the "D" column instead of the "R" column when you're counting the Senate majority party, which does make a huge difference. But she's got enough seniority that California's Democrats haven't run a serious primary challenger against her in years, and California's Republicans know they're going to lose so they've only run token candidates who are doing their "take one for the team" job in return for future party favors. It's too bad Carly Fiorina decided to run against Barbara Boxer instead of DiFi - I dislike her immensely, but it would have been a fun race to watch.

Comment Gerrymandering and Special Interests in California (Score 1) 510

No, it doesn't affect the Senate races. The latest rounds of assembly-district gerrymandering have been fun to watch - the Republicans put together a plan for a bipartisan citizens commission to run the gerrymander, figuring that it would work better than letting the majority-Democrat legislature do it, and then botched the followthrough that they needed to stack the commission with Republicans; they ended up with a group that was less Republican than the legislature, and didn't have the commitment to preserving current members' seats that a legislative version would have had. So they lost a few more seats than they needed to, but fundamentally this is California, where we've got a majority of Democrats, the Republicans are mostly nasty right-wingers with no more care about fiscal responsibility than the Democrats have, and pretty much everybody viewed Schwarzenegger's attempts at fixing the budget to be half-hearted and the Republicans to be Not Helping, so they got stomped.

California's legislature has fairly short term limits, which means they're much more influenced by current events and nobody sticks around long enough for the programs they pass to actually get implemented, so the penalty for failure is low, there's no institutional memory, and lobbyists write most of the legislation and get assembly members to pass it.

Comment Yes, less savory than DiFi (Score 1) 510

Nothing against Elizabeth Emken, who as far as I can tell is a fine person, except for her involvement in an evil criminal conspiracy called "The Republican Party". Yes, there are some good Republicans, and California seriously needs to upgrade our local Republican Party, who tend to be nasty right-wingers who don't have any more clue about fiscal responsibility than our Democrats do, interspersed with occasional rich folks showing off. (The 2006 token Republican, Dick Mountjoy, was a pro-war right-winger, and California didn't have their "top-two primary", so I was able to vote Libertarian, since there was no risk of him beating Feinstein. I don't remember if I voted for Emken or abstained, since there are no longer third-party candidates in the general election here.)

But it won't be safe to vote for any Republicans for anything until the national party cleans up the corruption of the Bush/Rove/Cheney/Norquist/Koch era. Senate majorities matter even if our senior senator is consistently on the side of Evil. House majorities matter, and Congressmembers occasionally get promoted to Senator. State legislators run for Congressional seats, city council members run for state legislature, school board members run for city council.

Comment Friends have better gear (Score 4, Interesting) 201

Personally I've got two eyes, some eyeglasses, and varying qualities of binoculars, which have been useful for watching comets or lunar eclipses, and I might still be able to find the dark-film eclipse-watching glasses. I've also got a hand-held collapsible telescope, but the optical quality is somewhere between "looks cool sitting on the fireplace mantel" and "goes with the parrot on my shoulder, yarrr!"

I do have friends who are more serious about astronomy, though. One of them built a fairly large reflector scope which folds up into the trunk of his Miata (this was some years ago; don't know if he still has the car.) Another has a backyard observatory shed, 8-foot sliding roof, computer-controlled motors for the scope. ("Engineer with lots of time on his hands after he retired?" Yup. He can do some really cool stuff with it.)

The most interesting astronomy gear I've seen the results of recently are from a Pentax digital SLR camera that does image stabilization by moving the sensor, and has a GPS in it. Apparently there's a mode you can use to tell it to track the sky for a really long exposure, so my friend who had it was able to take some good galaxy pictures.

Comment Interesting Architectural Change, Actually (Score 2) 76

It used to be that the US was the largest target/market for malware, but the malware itself was often running in China or Korea, and if it was running in the US it was on compromised home PCs. Now it's moved to the cloud. The Amazon part is more interesting, because it's general-purpose cloud service, as opposed to GoDaddy which specializes in hosting domain parking pages and similar malware-usable services.

Comment Wrong. Re:Welcome to 1999 (Score 2) 76

Amazon cloud instances are a perfectly plausible place to send spam from, if you can get away with it and if it's cheaper than botnet service (and of course botnet services are just as happy to sell you compromised Amazon cloud instances instead of compromised home PCs if they have them.)

But he didn't say he tried to spam from his Amazon server and got questioned - he said he tried to send mail, and Amazon questioned them. Most virtual machines don't send mail directly, just as most residential PCs don't, so it's reasonable for them to check that he's sending mail on purpose and wasn't just pwned.

Comment Banning Joe StolenCreditCard works so well! (Score 1) 76

It used to be that malware ran on cracked residential PCs, because there were lots of them around and they were much easier targets. But these days the place to be is renting cloud servers with stolen credit cards, and if they're good enough to pass initial validation you're probably golden for a month, or at least until your malware site gets caught. That's plenty long enough to steal some more credit cards, if you're a professional malware practitioner. And it's harder to get caught if you can fire up a server, fire off an attack, and shut down before it's traced. Launder-rinse-repeat.

Eventually Joe StolenCreditCard or his bank will catch on and invalidate the card, and maybe Amazon has to eat some chargeback as well as banning that credit card in the future, but there's another stolen credit card waiting to abuse.

Space

New Class of "Hypervelocity Stars" Discovered Escaping the Galaxy 150

Science_afficionado writes "Astronomers have discovered a surprising new class of 'hypervelocity stars' that are moving at more than a million miles per hour, fast enough to escape the gravitational grasp of the Milky Way galaxy. The 20 hyper stars are about the same size as the sun and, other than their extreme speed, have the same composition as the stars in the galactic disk. The big surprise is that they don't seem to come from the galaxy's center. The generally accepted mechanism for producing hypervelocity stars relies on the extreme gravitational field of the supermassive black hole that resides in the galaxy's core."

Comment Why the Sex Education option is there (Score 1) 227

The blocking system is a menu of categories you can check or uncheck. Unless they're really stupid, the Sex Education category is there so you can block the Porn category but still leave the Sex Education option unblocked so your teenagers can find that (either because you care about their education or because you want to avoid uncomfortable conversations with your kids, take your pick :-) Even if they ARE irresponsible prudes, the Sex Education category is at least there so they can SAY they're giving you the option of leaving it on.

And yeah, there ought to be an option for blocking crazy right-wing political parties, like the Tories and Labour and on some days also the LibDems.

Biotech

Police Pull Over More Drivers For DNA Tests 562

schwit1 sends this news from the Washington Times: "Pennsylvania police this week were pulling people to the side of the road, quizzing them on their driving habits, and asking if they'd like to provide a cheek swap or a blood sample — the latest in a federally contracted operation that's touted as making roads safer. The same operation took place last month at a community in Texas. Then, drivers were randomly told to pull off the road into a parking lot, where white-coated researchers asked if they'd like to provide DNA samples for a project that determines what percentage of drivers are operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol at given times. With uniformed police in the background, the researchers also offered the motorists money — up to $50 or so — for the blood or saliva samples."

Comment Re:My experiences with Android 4.0 (Score 1) 210

Because my $DAYJOB calendar has a lot of proprietary information in it. Since it's Outlook, that often includes documents attached in calendar appointments, but even without that, meeting announcements about "lets talk about how to fix the $FOO problem with $NEXT_PROJECT" aren't something we'd trust to an internet-based cloud service without specific contracts in place.

Comment My experiences with Android 4.0 (Score 1) 210

I've got a Coby 10" tablet running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (i.e. really vanilla, with no manufacturer's software value added.) It'll run Google Play Store apps just fine.

The main thing it's missing is a program to sync the calendar with MS Outlook or at least accept iCal events; it really really wants you to sync its calendar app with Google Calendar, and I'm not going to sync my $DAYJOB calendar with Google. The free Play Store apps to do this haven't been very reliable, and $30 is more than I want to gamble for a commercial program that may not be any better.

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