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Comment Re:Distinguishing conflict from disagreement (Score 0) 1152

In politics, every opinion is essentially a threat of violence. Why? Because everything government does and could possibly do is founded on coercion (meaning violence or threat of violence).

No, meaning force, which is very distinct from violence (unless you believe that any interference with a person and all their whims is an act of violence, in which case you have an interesting conception of interpersonal relationships). A government could say "If you refuse to follow the laws of our country, we'll deport you", and plop you down outside its borders. Many governments have done exactly that, in fact.

The use of violence to that end may serve a practical function -- if you resist, they beat the crap out of you until you stop resisting -- but it's not inherent in the desired outcome, which is "Play by our rules or you can't be here". (A teleporter could serve the exact same function, with no downside.)

Every community assumes the collective use of its force as a means of its own preservation, and while it's obvious how that would work against outsiders (e.g. moats and pikes), you also can't have a viable community without the collective use of force against insiders -- members of the community -- who act destructively too. If you don't have that, then the community member with the biggest muscles or the largest armory ends up forcing everyone to do his bidding anyway.

So there is no "pure" form of politics that renounces the use of collective force, because collective force -- the will of the community to impose its own rules of conduct on all members -- is exactly the thing that allows us to live side-by-side without killing, raping, and stealing from each other. Any political agenda (overt or covert) that claims to offer a way to transcend that basic human fact is, quite simply, full of crap.

Comment Re:Hydrogen would have gotten him a lot higher (Score 1) 109

Hydrogen would have gotten him a lot higher as the molecular weight is only 1/2 of Helium. Also, it would not have wasted a precious finite resource for little gain.

I had the same thought, but if WIkipedia is correct and I'm parsing the article correctly, the gain would've only been about 8% at sea level:

Thus hydrogen's additional buoyancy compared to helium is: 1.202 / 1.113 = 1.080, or approximately 8.0%.

Now, as the balloon gained altitude, that percentage difference would've increased until the surrounding atmosphere has the same density as helium, at which point hydrogen would give an extra boost. But by that point the amount of lift itself will have drastically diminished (though the expansion of the balloon compensates for some of that, yes?) so you're chasing smaller numbers, and I don't know whether other factors like leakage and momentum become more important than absolute buoyancy.

Comment Re:Make it illegal (Score 1) 1199

Uh, except that it's not specifically "non-smokers" that do those things; it's people in general. Singling them out as non-smokers (that's who you chose to name!) makes it sound like that's somehow relevant to their bad behavior, or that they're not returning your consideration with equal consideration across the smoker/non-smoker divide.

If you're talking about "the litany of what's wrong with mankind", that's on everyone's shoulders, whatever cylindrical objects they put or don't put in their mouth. (Stalin was a pipe smoker, Hitler hated tobacco, etc.)

Comment Re:Make it illegal (Score 1) 1199

I wish non-smokers were as considerate of the things I despise that they do.

What things do non-smokers do that you "despise", other than resenting your intrusion on their space?

I'm genuinely curious about what you have in mind, because I can't think of a behavior related to not smoking that invades other people's space in the way that public smoking does. It's a fundamentally intrusive pastime, like being loud or wearing heavy perfume. And in all cases the opposite behavior -- talking quietly, not wearing fragrances, not smoking -- doesn't trespass on other people's space.

Sometimes two forms of behavior really can't coexist. When that's the case, the one that takes up less space, and involves not doing something, should always be considered the standard for public behavior and public spaces (including the workplace). Normative quiet doesn't prevent occasional loudness, but normative loudness makes quiet impossible. If fragrance-free is normal, then perfume is an occasional novelty; if every consumer product is soaked in cheap perfume and masking fragrances, there is no neutral state anymore. And if every bar and office is filled with smoke, then everyone's a smoker whether they want to be or not.

I do have serious reservations about having people sign affidavits and so on -- that's going a bit far -- but I think it's totally appropriate to refuse to hire someone because you think their behavior is unhealthy and likely to be a liability to your company. That's a legitimate basis for discrimination, unlike race, sex, and religion, which we've collectively decided are not.

BTW I say this as someone who doesn't mind the smell of smoke (if it's fresh). But I hate the effect it has on people, the way that smokers make the world their ashtray, and the way their chronic coughing and lung issues make them excellent vectors for things like TB and the flu.

Comment Jersey Shore meets space (Score 1) 81

Oh sure, drop off colonists after raising them on "Jersey Shore" reruns and "Mythbusters" episodes...

You'll have a generation of resourceful, but unproductive colonists who spend their time doing things like:

- testing the myth that duct tape can be used both as a substitute for heat shielding AND as a quick way to remove unwanted hairs;
- trying to make energy drinks out of hydrazine;
- using the interstellar medium as an in vivo paternity test to identify one's "baby daddy";
- and figuring out whether a tan from Gliese 581 will have the appropriate carrot-orange hue, or will be more towards the reddish, dwarfy end of the spectrum (as seen in a 22-year-old viral video beamed in from Earth, natch).

Comment Play some Atari! (Score 1) 221

The Atari 2600 had a one-button joystick, and you could buy models like the Wico Boss that had the fire button mounted on top. That should be pretty comfortable with one hand, especially if you add suction cups or duct-tape it to a table.

Or if you prefer something a little fancier, the Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, and most Amiga games also used the same joystick pinout & control scheme. And there are a bunch of other one-button platforms: the Odyssey^2, Tandy CoCo, TI-99/4A, most Apple II games, and plenty of MAME-able titles.

I don't know if there's a Sega Master System joystick that has both buttons mounted on the top of the joystick, but if there is, then that's another option. Some NES games, especially shooters, might be playable with a joystick that has one button mounted on the top and the other on the body. In games like Life Force and Gradius you're only using the secondary button once in a while, to buy new weapons/shields.

Comment Re:1996? Really? (Score 1) 153

Oh and "thousands" in my marketing class taught me that is 1001 or more. ;) Anything over 1000.00000 is "thousands."

Ha! :) Thanks for your detailed and good-natured reply. I think 1998 would make more sense, as it started to become more feasible then. Still, you were definitely ahead of the curve!

Comment Re:1996? Really? (Score 1) 153

Oh, MP3 (and MP2) were certainly around in 1996, as well as a couple competitors that never went anywhere (anyone remember VQF?). But I don't remember MP3 taking off until the late 1990s, and I certainly don't remember anyone with consumer-grade HDs big enough to store the equivalent of thousands of CDs, even at 128kbps, until at least 2000. In 1996, a 2 GB hard drive was still a big deal.

And like I said, encodings from 1996-1998 are likely to sound terrible by today's standards, and I'd be inclined to re-rip them. The encoder I was using in the late 1990s was just awful -- you wouldn't need to be an audiophile to hear the way it totally wrecked the music's top end.

Comment 1996? Really? (Score 2) 153

Around 1996, I converted my thousands of music CDs bought during the years of BMC Music club membership into MP3 files. It took me over a year doing about 5 CDs every day to finish. Usually 2 before work and 1-3 in the evenings. Computers were much slower back then, so doing a rip/lame was about 45 minutes per CD. It was like eating an elephant one bite at a time.

Every few years, I need to move those files to new storage media. Of course, they are backed up too - there's no chance that I'll be redoing all that time and effort again.

1996? Either you're off by a few years, or you were a very early adopter...and at an average of 50MB per CD, you would've needed at least 100GB for "thousands" of CDs (i.e. 2000 CDs minimum). Hard drives that large weren't commonly available for another five years.

Plus I'd imagine those encodings sound dramatically worse than what you could get five years later at the same bitrate. Moreover, 128k was the custom at the time (onion on belt, etc.), and the old 128k files I have from the late '90s sound truly horrible today. All the high frequency transients turn into jangling keyrings.

So, uh...are you sure that Clinton was in office when you started this project?

Comment You make a few good points, but: (Score 1) 472

The problem you, and many others are missing is that the world has changed since you were at school.

Has the world really changed that much? Or is it that we're being led to believe it has?

There's a lot of money being made, and a lot of power to be grabbed, by trading on people's anxieties...and the more anxious they are, the more you can get.

So our news reports emphasize horrific crimes; our TV shows and movies depict the world as a dangerous place, full of perverts and angry minorities who want to destroy us and debauch our children; and our politicians respond with righteous indignation to horrible (but isolated) crimes, and pass new laws that are inevitably, by their nature, restrictions and prohibitions that add a new encumbrance to the lives of those whom they affect.

And so, on to the next stage: real estate developers make money on the suburbs built for people who are afraid of their fellow human beings. Auto companies make money from the people who live 8 miles from school instead of half a mile from a bus stop. Big pharma makes money on medication designed to keep kids under control. The government gets a tighter rein on things that are difficult to control, like the Internet, using the pretext of children's welfare.

It's important to think critically about the narratives we're given, and think about whom they serve. When we accept a fearful vision of the world uncritically, we always play into the hands of the powers that be.

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