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Comment Re:thats what you get for being stupid (Score 2) 173

It was the bank's fault that people took out mortgages they couldn't afford!

You mean this in some foolish sarcastic fashion I take it - but that is exactly correct.

The job of a loan originator ("bank") to make sure that a loan that is issued is sound - that experience and financial data show it is very likely to be repaid, and that the chance that it won't be is sufficiently well characterized that it can be covered by private mortgage insurance. That is what loan originators do. If they do not do that then they are likely engaged in some form of fraud (i.e. repackaging bad loans as top quality investment vehicles).

Comment Re:Prestressed concrete performs better under tens (Score 1) 322

... I read that when Hadrian ordered the construction of the current version of the Pantheon, the Roman engineers were faced with difficulty designing a dome that would not collapse under its own weight (again, tensile forces and concrete are not friends). The Romans overcame this by reducing the density of the concrete in the dome by using pumice in the aggregate and reducing the thickness of the concrete as the dome progressed....

That is not the only interesting weight reducing methods they used. They also used a form of hollow core composite construction - embedding hollow clay pots in the wall to reduce its density, and the done itself is a ribbed structure, with vertical and horizontal ribs framing those "decorative" (but highly functional) square indentations in the inner surface.

Some speculate that scale and partial full scale engineering models were used to perfect the design and construction techniques.

Comment Re:Prior art (Score 4, Informative) 322

Turns out its not the ash that mattered.

Its just the composition of the particular variety of ash they had on hand. Volcanic ash differs in various volcanic regions. Further, seawater was also key. You don't find much of that in the middle of continents.

This wasn't ancient knowledge at work at all. It was simply an accident of geography.

Is it really any different from the fact that availability of raw materials in any region is an accident of geography?

If you read TFA you will see that:

A) the Romans were well aware which ashes were the best for this purpose. Vitruvius and Pliny wrote about it. It is not as if they were mystified why this hydraulic cement was turning out so well. Sure they didn't understand the chemistry, but they tried many ashes and knew the ones that had special properties.

B) The researchers found this concrete in 11 harbors around the Mediterranean. This means the Roman were exporting their special ash to where it was needed for harbor construction.

Sounds like ancient knowledge to me. (Otherwise you are going to have to hold that none of the material production skills before modern times were really ancient knowledge.)

Comment Re:why dont cars have 100MPH bumpers (Score 1) 139

Weather related fatalities would be a more apt standard of comparison, don't you think?

Tornadoes come in number one as the cause of weather-related death over the last 10 years. And Oklahoma's tornado fatality rate is the highest in the country, three times the national average.

Comment Re:Will Tesla buy them? (Score 2) 193

Why would he bother? He has a successful company, why would he want to buy a company that burned through that much money with no noticeable product."

Let's see: according TFA -
"...about 1,000 Better Place cars are on the roads ..." and
"Sunday’s announcement left many questions unanswered, especially what will happen to its cars and charging stations. Better Place has also installed a network of stations in Denmark and has operations in Australia, the Netherlands, China, Hawaii and Japan."
And according to Wikipedia: "By mid September 2012, there were 21 operational battery-swap stations open to the public in Israel".

That may not be excessively impressive, but 1000 cars in operation, 21 charging stations in Israel, and others in six other nations is not "no noticeable product."

Comment Because U.S. Submarine Building is Problem Free? (Score 1) 326

Although the Sea Wolf submarine project did not have this particular problem (insufficient buoyancy requiring retrofitting) - it did have the problem of starting the construction of the submarine before the design work was finished, which then delayed the project and drove up costs as the builder waited on the designers to finish their work. The cost increase for the Sea Wolf was 45%. And it is not as if the U.S. had limited experience in building submarines.

The Spanish program was projected as costing 550 million Euros per sub, if they can fix the buoyancy problem by lengthening the sub by less than 30 meters (very likely) then they will be doing better than the Sea Wolf program.

BTW - another to describe the situation is that once all of the specs were completed, the Spanish Navy discovered that it needed a bigger sub than originally planned. Many U.S. defense programs have had similar experiences. Not as scandalous sounding though.

Comment Re:How do you know that? (Score 2) 167

...

Sorry ... hundred thousands of dead people in the decades AFTER the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and AFTER Chernobyl say something different.

...

Yes, they say they don't exist.

Please provide a citation to an actual scientific study supporting these claims. You can't. There aren't any. This is just urban folklore.

The total number of deaths attributable to the atomic bombings, but occurring after October 1945 (when the last of the acutely injured perished) is no more than about 4000 people. Nearly all were individuals that received high levels of radiation exposure close to the bomb hypocenters.

Comment Re:Don't tax the companies! (Score 1) 716

No. Companies are allowed to keep reasonable financial reserves, but the billions that Apple and other companies keep are anything but reasonable reserves, and are unprecedented. This was worked out decades ago, but they stopped enforcing it.

Amen to this. Apple is currently engaged in the largest stock buy-back in history, $60 billion so far.

In essence, with its immense cash reserves, which instead of tangibly building the business in some way, or increasing the compensation of its foreign workforce, or making its product more affordable, it is benefiting those holding tons of stock options (the execs), who will only pay low, low capital gains taxes on the wealth being transferred to them risk free.

Comment Re:You pay corporate taxes, not the corporation (Score 1) 716

Please remember, corporations don't have their own money, every penny they have comes from consumers.

If you raise corporate taxes, prices increase...

Because currently Apple is selling their products to us as cheaply as they can (as a public service?), and have razor thin profit margins?

The non-contract-subsidized price of an iPhone 64B is $900 (you can get it discounted to $850). The cost of parts for that phone is about $188, cost of labor $8, Apple mark-up $700 or so.

With a 350% mark-up the price of Apple products have virtually nothing to do with their costs of manufacture or doing business. They are charging every penny that they think the market will bear. In other words they are already squeezing every dollar out of the consumer that they can. If they have to pay a little more taxes on their profits, it will come out of their margin.

Comment Re:He's a great writer (Score 1) 34

The very influential critic Edmund Wilson, prominent beginning around 1920, is the apparent source of this prejudice - he despised Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lord Dunsany, Lovecraft - really all recent or contemporary fantastic literature being written in English (if it was old enough, Swift for example, it might get a pass).

I think critics' low opinion of some of those authors was deserved, because while those authors were masters of world-building, they were not masters of prose style. Their use of the English language feels flat and unimaginative. In spite of the rich detail of Middle Earth, Tolkien's prose, for example, is just as much uncreative aping of English epic writing as the Book of Mormon was Joseph Smith's aping of the King James Bible.

Valid points - Tolkien's prose is uneven in quality, and parts of LOTR are quite leaden, but the delightful Hobbit, for example, is entirely free of Saxon epic styling. But Wilson's dismissal was all encompassing, and drew few distinctions among these hated fantasists.

Lewis was better, over all, than Tolkien. But Wilson's attack on Dunsany, Lovecraft, and James Branch Cabell simply shows him as a pretentious fool. The fact that the greatest writer of the Twentieth Century Jorge Luis Borges (one of those Spanish fantasists, BTW) admired Lovecraft is enough to discredit Wilson.

One of the reasons I admire Wolfe's writing of the 1970s and recommend it to my friends who "don't read science fiction", is that Wolfe's prose in The Fifth Head of Cerberus and Peace is just as powerful as anything by Proust or Nabokov. Unfortunately, Wolfe's rich feel for the English language disappeared in the 1980s and some of his recent novels and short stories sound as bad any most genre fiction.

Agreed on all points (unfortunately, on the last). The The Fifth Head of Cerberus had a powerful effect on me, ditto Peace, and especially and forever The Book of the New Sun, which will in the fullness of time be remembered as a landmark work of the Twentieth Century. Soldier in the Mist is quite good, but with the odd There are Doors his genius seems to start to fading. I started the Book of the Long Sun but after the first volume, I did not want to be disappointed again.

Comment Re:He's a great writer (Score 2) 34

As Peter S. Beagle, and others, have observed in essays - the prejudice against fantastic literature in academia and "serious" criticism is an anomaly that arose in the early 20th Century, and is largely confined to the U.S. Throughout almost all of history literature based heavily on fantastic elements was the norm, and was commonly accepted even after "realistic" literature became a mainstream phenomenon.

The prejudice is very ethnocentric. "Magic realism" from Latin America is lionized, but the literary equivalent by an English speaking writer is ignored or worse. The very influential critic Edmund Wilson, prominent beginning around 1920, is the apparent source of this prejudice - he despised Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lord Dunsany, Lovecraft - really all recent or contemporary fantastic literature being written in English (if it was old enough, Swift for example, it might get a pass).

Sometimes a mainstream author will turn out a bland effort in this direction which gets praise, but no one seriously writing in the fantastic literature vein ever does.

Comment Re:$125K 'personal' limit (Score 4, Informative) 228

Having has to suffer for a time working for a company that had something of a scam going regarding employees and AmEx cards (Litton Industries, absorbed by Northrop-Grumman in 2001) I have some insight into how the story might have unfolded.

Litton Industries had AmEx cards issued to employees. It had your name on them, you were required to activate and use them, you were solely responsible for paying the balances, but the limit was set by AmEx based on Litton Industries' financial situation and thus were effectively unlimited. You were required to pay all company travel expenses with them (even charging airline tickets to them) and file for re-embursement when the trip ended (or monthly is it was long-term). Thus the employee could be on the hook for quite substantial amounts of money at the direction and for the benefit of the company.

Something like this could have happened to the poor employee.

But back to Litton Industries. They could not process a reimbursement claim (which required multiple sign-offs) within a week, it often took two (or even more). And they had a "payment cycle" that cut a check only once a month, if approval came in by the cut-off date. So if you took a one-week trip, filed immediately upon return, it was almost impossible to get the check in hand before the monthly bill was due, and thus you either had to pay the balance off out of your own personal funds, or you were hit with a late fee that the company would not reimburse for.

I did not stick around there for long.

Comment Re:Fiat Currency (Score 2, Informative) 692

... the bankers who caused the problems paid for BHO's election/relection rather then being prosecuted...

The "banker" (financial institution) money went very heavily for Romney, not Obama, 3-1 in Romney's favor in fact. Obama did not prosecute the numerous (extremely rich) malefactors in the Bush Crash it is true, but their attitude is always: "Well, what are you going to do for me now?!".

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