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Comment Classic literature and Saturday morning cartoons (Score 4, Insightful) 1168

"They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons."

Classic literature and Saturday morning cartoons are, in many cases, bloody as hell. And people have gotten plenty hysterical about them in the past.

Comment Re:Cool. (Score 1, Insightful) 191

Constantly analogizing the financial position of a government to that of an individual or a household is of limited value. Macroeconomics is not like household economics. On the personal scale, reaching zero debt is a nice goal. For a government, which is immortal, achieving zero debt is unnecessary and actually unwise. Yes, it's best to keep debt down to a low percentage of GDP, but the reality of economic cycles is such that in a down economy, debt will -- and should -- go up, in order to ensure economic continuity, protect society, and lay the foundation for future growth.

That doesn't mean that all debt is good, but in an extraordinary crisis like the one we've just been thru -- the kind of thing that happens maybe twice in a century -- a lot of deficit spending by government will be needed. Sometimes previous administrations have foolishly run up unnecessary debts even before the crisis hits. That still doesn't mean that government austerity is the right answer.

The real question is: How will a high level of deficit spending right now affect you, positively and negatively? The doomsayers have trouble explaining what the precise problem is. They yell "Greece!" But we are not even remotely close to being in the kind of trouble that Greece is in. High debt is bothersome and can be a drag on GDP. But we are not going to get into a Greece-like situation as long as we control our own currency. And we are not going to default, as long as stupid politicians do not intentionally choose to do so.

Another thing: Contrary to the way it's often described, no one is going to present your child or grandchild with a personal bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal debts to be repaid. Our debt is rolling; people are constantly buying newly issued Treasury bills, and the government is continually paying old ones off as they come due. Yet another thing: contra Mitt Romney, most of it is NOT "borrowed from China". Only about 8% of federal debt is held by China. Most of it is held by -- guess who? -- Americans. Yes, mostly the federal debt is money we owe to ourselves.

And right now, Treasury bills are considered by the market to be one of the safest and most favored investment vehicles on the planet. Even with incredibly low rates of return, people are pouring money into US debt. Given inflation, long-term US bonds right now are actually a money-losing proposition -- and yet they are still a wildly popular investment. People are literally paying us for the privilege of buying our debt.

So relax... the sky is not falling. The mistake would be to choke off credit and plunge ourselves into self-inflicted austerity. That's the true danger, and it's playing out right now in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland.

Comment We need more inflation (Score 2) 548

I don't have time to watch a 53-minute YouTube video, but in case you haven't been paying attention, inflation is not a problem in this country right now. Interest rates are at record lows. In fact, rates on some T-bills are negative. This means that people are paying the federal government for the privilege of lending it money.

We could do with a lot more inflation in the near term. It would accelerate economic growth, and it would cause the debt held by many middle-class people to shrink in real terms. This would be good for people with underwater mortgages, massive student loans, or big credit card or medical bills.

Strict anti-inflationism (and the idea that the system is secretly rigged to create inflation) is a viewpoint that tends to be held by gold bugs and other "hard money" obsessives. But inflation is mostly something that hurts people with lots of money. It doesn't hurt ordinary people as much, as long as their incomes keep pace with inflation in the cost of living, and as long as we don't have hyperinflation. And again, inflation actually helps people with debts.

From a macroeconomic perspective, the best thing that both the Fed and the European Central Bank could do right now to jump-start the American and European economies would be to significantly increase inflation.

Comment Re:Not the end of HUMAN spaceflight...just AMERICA (Score 5, Informative) 365

SpaceX has already sent an unmanned Dragon capsule into orbit around the Earth. They have a contract with NASA for cargo flights to the ISS, and are developing the manned version of the Dragon with an integrated abort system (see this video for a demonstration).

American spaceflight is NOT coming to an end. It's just not going to be a NASA monopoly any more.

Comment Re:One Era Ends To Make Way For Another (Score 5, Insightful) 365

Yep. SpaceX and Dragon are clearly the emerging future of American human spaceflight. This video is a pretty cool demonstration of how the system is evolving.

Armstrong, Lovell, and Cernan are -- knowingly or unknowingly -- lobbying for an old, failed model of government contracting, not for the continuation of the American space program.

The program continues -- it's just being done in a different (and from everything I can see, better) way.

Comment Paging Davros! (Score 2, Interesting) 161

Mr. Davros to the white courtesy telephone, please:

Davros realizes that contamination from the nuclear and biological weapons used in the war is mutating the Kaled race, and artificially accelerates the process to examine the ultimate evolutionary end product. The mutations are weak and crippled: no more than one-eyed brains with tentacular appendages and with no hope of survival on their own. His solution is to remove all emotions pertaining to weakness, a category in which he groups such emotions as compassion, mercy and kindness, and place the mutants in tank-like "Mark III travel machines" partly based on the design of his wheelchair. He later names these creatures Daleks, an anagram of Kaleds.

Comment When Apple screws you, it's always your fault (Score 4, Insightful) 443

I love how Apple cultists ritually denounce anyone who dares to want to do something that Apple doesn't allow them to do.

When I bought my MacBook Pro a couple years ago, only a few weeks after Apple stopped shipping them with S-video ports, I was surprised, to say the least. The new video-out port was something I'd never heard of (MiniDisplayPort), that only Apple was using. I bought a $30 MiniDisplayPort-to-VGA adapter (from Apple, of course)... but it turned out that this wouldn't work with most VGA devices, because it wasn't actually converting the digital signal to analog. So I had to buy an actual powered converter box to get my video output into a format I could use with any monitor, TV, or projector that I had access to.

The attitude of the "Geniuses" at the Apple Store was completely arrogant. "No one uses S-video any more -- it's out of date. Why would you want to use an obsolete standard?" It wasn't obsolete a few weeks earlier, apparently -- but when Apple declares it so, it instantly becomes so.

Comment Cycling in NYC (Score 1) 176

> I'm curious to see walking, transit and cab use mentioned but cycling left out; is utility cycling uncommon in New York? If so, could you speculate as to why?

A few people do it, but it's not all that common. For one thing, as another commenter said, full-size supermarkets are fairly rare; we mostly have corner groceries, and some undersized supermarkets. Upscale chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joes are starting to penetrate the city, but they still serve relatively few people, mostly in certain Manhattan neighborhoods.

About bikes specifically: NYC has not traditionally been super-friendly to bicyclists. I give Mayor Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner credit for massively expanding the bike lane system over the last decade... but they've now encountered so much pushback (mostly from car owners and NIMBYs who just don't want anything changed) that the expansion has slowed to a crawl.

The NYPD is now doing a lot more ticketing of cyclists. Frankly, a lot of this is deserved. I support cycling, and the expansion of bike infrastructure, but I constantly see NYC cyclists flagrantly violating traffic laws and endangering both motorists and pedestrians. Some cyclists here seem to think they have a special status than enables them to glide past everything and everyone else -- including red lights and stop signs -- and to charge thru traffic with impunity.

Basically, the city and the local cyclist community both have some distance yet to go before we have a mature, well-integrated bicycle culture here.

Comment Re:It can succeed -- but it's a local business (Score 3, Insightful) 176

P.S. FreshDirect probably benefits from certain unique features of the New York City metro area -- not only the incredible density of the population, but the relatively low percentage of car ownership.

If my wife and I owned a car, we might go to the supermarket ourselves more regularly. As it is, we shop at various local mom-and-pop groceries ("bodegas" in NYC parlance) and a CVS drugstore that we can walk to in our Brooklyn neighborhood, and supplement that with FreshDirect orders every 2-3 weeks.

We have a couple of supermarkets within a 15-minute walk, but it's much easier to order the supermarket-type stuff for delivery.

There are very few places in the US with comparably low rates of car ownership. Even in other dense cities, it's much more common for people to own at least 1 car. Most of our friends in NYC (well-educated professional and creative types) are carless. Walking, public transit, and occasional cab use are more than adequate, and IMO, much preferable.

Comment It can succeed -- but it's a local business (Score 4, Informative) 176

Some packaged grocery items can benefit from national distribution and shipping, but lots of stuff -- produce, meats, cheeses, prepared foods, etc. -- need to be staged (and in some cases, sourced and/or prepared) locally, in a refrigerated facility, then delivered in refrigerated trucks. That means this kind of service will only be available in places where Amazon invests in infrastructure to support it. And that probably means denser metropolitan regions, where there's enough of a customer base in a small area to make the investment cost-effective.

There's a grocery delivery company called FreshDirect that services the NYC area; I've had good experiences with them. But they've been refining and building their business for years. Originally they only served certain neighborhood in Manhattan (their main warehouse is in Queens, just over the 59th St. bridge from midtown Manhattan). Now, years later, they have expanded to serve all 5 boroughs, and some areas outside the city. But this expansion was very slow and deliberate, as they built up their capacity, trained their workforce, etc.

Comment Re:Videophile. . . (Score 1) 423

There are various post-production "film look" treatments that can be added to HD video, including a reduction to 24fps or 25fps (the European film speed), higher contrast, added "grain", etc.

If 60fps HD video is treated with all of these, except for the frame rate reduction, it will look a lot more film-like to viewers.

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