top Elon Musk Talks "X-Wing" Fins For Reusable Rockets, Seafaring Spaceport Drones
There is a great interview with Elon Musk on youtube
here. He is remarkably transparent about his reasoning. One key to his success is that he works very hard to understand motive and purpose when making decisions.
Musk makes that point that it costs about as much to fuel a rocket as it does to fuel a 747. Space launches are mostly so expensive because the vehicle is sacrificed with each launch, not because of the energy requirements for a space launch. The other big component of the expense is that rocket manufacturers charge a lot. According to Musk the value of the raw materials from which they are formed is reasonably inexpensive. Those were two hugely important realizations because they meant that space launches were not inherently expensive and therefore there is enormous potential for reducing launch costs.
By being Space X instead of Boeing the cost of launch is reduced to about 25% of conventional launches because Space X can assemble a rocket from raw materials for that much less. A re-usable vehicle, Musk predicts, would reduce launch costs by an order of magnitude.
So those are the motives and reasoning underlying the X-wing grid fins and re-entry discussed in the Slashdot summary.
top Your Incompetent Boss Is Making You Unhappy
your boss's technical competence is the single strongest predictor of workers' well-being
I am not disputing that that is the best correlated variable, but in my experience it is not the lack of technical competence per se which causes problems with bad bosses but instead the concomitant pathologists exhibited by low-skill bosses to compensate for their own incompetence.
I have a story which illustrates the point: Earlier in my career I worked for a state government. One day I get to work and the lead programmer is having something of a breakdown in front of the project manager and they both happen to be standing in front of the entrance to my cubicle. So all I could do was wait there and listen. Turns out that the lead programmer had been devoting all of her time, and struggling for months, to find any way to digest and print the document files previously used in the old oracle/COBOL/dumb terminal system in our new custom client software running on OS X and which was replacing the dumb terminals. So I stand there and listen to the irate complaints from the lead programmer about how the problem was impossible to solve. At the end of the conversation I ask if she would like me to take a look at it. I was done by about 2:00pm the same day. It was easy. I just asked the DB programmer in the cubicle next to me for a sample of a document file. Looks like gibberish so I figure it's not PostScript and therefore must by PCL. Download and install the free GhostPCL renderer, an offshoot of the GhostScript project. Built and installed it. Wrapped the command-line GhostScript in Cocoa's NSTask. Threw together a GUI in interface builder. Wrote a little glue code in Objective-C to invoke Cocoa native classes for loading and displaying the output of GhostPCL and to invoke my NSTask GhostPCL wrapper. And checked the GhostPCL license, which I think might have been GPL, but since I was running it as a separate process and not modifying the source, or redistributing it outside of or organization, we were not compelled to share our custom OS X client source.
Worked great. Everyone was happy. Except the lead programmer, who was livid and from then on set about trying to make my life hell. She banned the project manager from speaking to me. She excluded me from meetings.
The fundamental problem was that the lead programmer did not know how to code. That is not a criticism of her programming skill, I mean she really did not know how to code. As in, literally, could not have programmed a single line to save her life. (Although I can not think of an actual circumstance where anyone would have to do that.) She did not understand what a pointer is. Did not now how to check code out of the repository. Would not have done any good if she had because she did not know how to build code. (In XCode. You click the build button.) Being technically incompetent, she was completely preoccupied with compensating for her own lack of skill, and it was that, not the lack of skill itself, which caused the problems.
top US School Installs 'Shooter Detection' System
The noted gun rights advocate John Lott, Jr. makes a point
... consider the advice from PoliceOne, whose 450,000 members make it the largest private organization of active and retired law-enforcement officers in the U.S. It surveyed its members last March and asked, “What would help most in preventing large scale shootings in public?” Their No. 1 answer: “More permissive concealed carry policies for civilians.” (It was followed by “More aggressive institutionalization for mentally ill persons.”)
top US School Installs 'Shooter Detection' System
So my father grew up on a dairy farm near Frederick, Maryland in the 1940's. After the Columbine massacre I commented that that kind of thing, students shooting each other in school, seemed new and wondered what gave rise to it. He said he did not know, but that when he was in grade school, the boys brought rifles to school so that they could hunt squirrels on the walk home. There was never a problem.
Some time later I ran into ESR somewhere or other, up on his gun rights hobby horse. I mentioned the thing about the squirrels. His only comment was, "that's a healthy gun culture."
I grew up in rural Ohio where hunting was an excusable absence from school. Many of my classmates owned guns. There were never any problems with threats or gun violence.
Children own guns. And that has been going on for a while. The student massacre thing is new. Which suggests that the underlying cause of these student-on-student gun massacres is not caused by the introduction of guns.
top Apple's Luxembourg Tax Deals
Tax avoidance schemes are remarkably common among large successful coporations. Other successful U.S. tech companies exploit the "
Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich" loophole. Ikea pays almost no tax by incorporating in Holland and exploiting its permissive rules for non-profits.
Which raises two questions:
- Are tax rates so high that it is necessary to engage in complicated tax avoidance schemes in western democracies to be successful in business?
- Is it best that companies do avoid taxes? Do we trust Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Vinod Khosla and Bill Gates to invest efficiently for the betterment of society more than we trust Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? And I would ask the same of the Republican counterparts of those politicians. Though that the comparison is somewhat unfair to Republican politicians because it is their objective to reduce the concentration of wealth under their own control by shrinking government, regardless of the political persuasions of those who would benefit from that dispersal of wealth. I have never understood why, for those who believe wealth is dirty, that its transfer to the political class is somehow purifying.
top Earth's Oxygen History Could Explain "Darwin's Dilemma" In Evolution
Life appeared when the earth was tens of millions of years old, but evolution didn't go into high gear until the "Cambrian Explosion", nearly a billion years later.
Another leading theory which explains this delay is
Snowball Earth, a super ice age enveloping the entire surface of the planet.
top Silicon Valley Swings To Republicans
Both parties deserve credit for cooperation. Republicans and Democrats have been working together in the House to enact many reforms, not just patent reforms.
... as of August, 356 bills passed by the House sat languishing in the Senate. Some 200 of those bills were passed with bipartisan majorities and 100 with the support of 75 percent of the House Democratic conference. link.
The problem here is specifically Harry Reid, not the Democrat party in general. However, Democrats will not replace him on their own, and the only way to do that in this election cycle will be to vote a Republican majority into the Senate. Hence support for the Republican party when the actual target is only one Senator.
top Colleges Face New 'Gainful Employment' Regulations For Student Loans
from the summary:
Now Kimberly Hefling reports that for-profit colleges who are not producing graduates capable of paying off their student loans could soon stand to lose access to federal student-aid programs.
A secret about those private "not for profit" colleges which the Department of Education exempted from that regulation. They are for profit. Huge profits. The distinction is not that these institutions do not earn profits, but rather that they are exempt from business taxes on those profits and the income accrues to the administration and faculty instead of to business owners.
So I had a friend in college who worked part-time in the payroll office and had access to the campus salary database. From her dorm room. So one evening she asks if I want to know what any of my professors make. Looked them all up. In 2014 dollars the mid-level salary for recently-tenured faculty was about $300,000 / year. Deans, provosts and presidents made much more.
Subsidized college loans have created a glut of education dollars and "not-for-profit" educators are raking them in. They are not opposed to earning huge profits themselves, the just do not want competition from other colleges which are run as business. So they lobbied Arne Duncan to enact a regulation which, for no legitimate rationale, applies only their competition.
Don't believe me? Universities try to keep this information locked away tightly but occasionally it leaks out.
Here, for, example, is what Treasury Secretary Jack Lew received as severence pay from New York University:
President Obama’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department, Jacob J. Lew, got a $685,000 severance payment when he left a top post at New York University in 2006 to take a job at Citigroup.
is a private "non-profit". And, as that link indicates, as such they receive additional benefits from the federal government beyond tax exemption.
top Hungary's Plans For Internet Tax On Hold After Protests
A proposed internet tax is the least of problems with Hungary's current government. Selected headlines from around the web:
Hungary's rabid right is taking the country to a political abyss
Meet Europe’s New Fascists
Inside the far-Right stronghold where Hungarian Jews fear for the future
Towards the Abyss Investigating why critics of Hungary's authoritarian government believe it is leading the country towards fascism
The Tablet's, tagline is "A New Read on Jewish Life" and of course Aljazeera is Islamic. The Telegraph and Guardian are respectable British publications. They all agree that Hungary is leaning fascist.
top First Detailed Data Analysis Shows Exactly How Comcast Jammed Netflix
Franchise fees are governed under Section 622 of the Cable Communications Act of 1984. Section 622, states that municipalities are entitled to a maximum of 5% of gross revenues derived from the operation of the cable system for the provision of cable services such as Public, educational, and government access (PEG) TV channels.
Franchise fees are fixed at a maximum of 5% of gross revenues. So how do municipalities maximize revenues from franchise fees? By maximizing cable company gross revenues. And how do municipalities maximize cable company gross revenues? By creating monopolies! By awarding exclusive license to one provider to extract monopolist profits from the public.
Note that there is nothing inherently wrong with permitting local governments to charge cable companies fees. That is justifiable to the extent that local governments incur costs of infrastructure repair with damage from cable installation. All that is needed is a single addendum to the law, one prohibiting local governments from creating monopolies. The law could simply mandate that municipalities must offer franchise licenses to all ISPs if they offer licenses to one and that all licencees must be be charged at the same rate.
The only reason we have cable monopolies in the U.S. is because the Cable Communications Act of 1984 created that perverse incentive. Other countries without such laws have much faster service at much lower prices.
If federal law permitted local governments to do this sort of thing with groceries, computers and cars we would have regional monopolies for those products as well. Be grateful that your town council is not permitted to sell grocery, computer and car franchises.
top Facebook To DEA: Stop Using Phony Profiles To Nab Criminals
Civil asset foreiture as well as eminent domain follow a legal process with appeals routes and so on.
Not true. The cops can pull you over and help themselves to you cash. There is no "legal process" involved whatsoever.
top Facebook To DEA: Stop Using Phony Profiles To Nab Criminals
There is a fascinating and unexpected inversion here: Corporations are now standing up against government to protect the rights of citizens. Of course, most of us expect that relationship to work the other way around.
It is not just Facebook. The first sentence of
this article reads: "The FBI director has slammed Apple and Google for offering their customers encryption technology that protects users’ privacy."
Today, a product which includes protection from the government has added value. A prediction: In the future, corporate protection from government intrusion and persecution will become the product. Smart corporations such as Tesla (see
Nevada tax deal) or Apple and Google (see double Irish Dutch sandwich) have special rights or have exempted themselves from government rules by using loopholes. Meanwhile, every day there is news of the federal government becoming increasingly insane. Like today. Increasingly, the government is engaging in unethical, illegal activities such as theft. As demand from protection from the federal government increases with the growing abuses, corporations will meet that demand by sheltering customers under their own umbrellas.
top Debian's Systemd Adoption Inspires Threat of Fork
from the summary
"They just don't want other parts of the system to be wholly dependent on systemd."
That is really the crux of the issue and what distinguishes the systemd dispute from all the other FOSS food fights. The FOSS community never agrees on anything. That is why we have multiple everything: Multiple Kernels (BSD & Linux Kernels, multiple flavors of each) many distributions of each flavor, a host of programming and scripting languages, multiple package management tools (rpm, portage, dpkg) several GUI toolkits, GNOME and KDE desktop environments etc. Wayland is not enough, we must also have Mir. And the licenses. Egads! How many of those do we need?
Despite all the passion and ego involved, disagreement between adherents of particular designs and implementations has never before risen to the level of open revolt that we see over systemd. Why? Because in all these disputes each person can choose what is best for him/herself. Like Python and despise Perl? Use Python. Vice versa? Use Perl. But the usual rule of the user getting to pick what he likes best does not apply with systemd. Lennart Poettering is working to restrict choice to only systemd. His tactic is to make systemd a dependency of major software packages.
Here he ison the Gnome dev list pushing a Gnome systemd dependency.
Sometimes an unpopular item is replaced on the buffet; Good software wins out and variety shrinks a bit. That can be a good thing. But the fear is that systmd is going to win not because it is a popular choice but because Poettering has gamed the outcome using dependencies. Something is wrong if you are running systemd because you hate it and you love Gnome. Perhaps the
fanatical hatred of Poettering is driven by belief that systemd adoption is advanced in part by his cheating, instead of on the merits of systemd alone. The abusers are abusing not because he has written what they judge to be bad software but because he has violated an unspoken ethic of the FOSS community.
top Michigan About To Ban Tesla Sales
this map, state bans on Tesla sales are a Republican thing.
The Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, is a Republican. The Michigan State Senate has a 26-to-12 Republican majority and in the House a 59-to-50 Republican majority. With control of both the executive and legislative branches of government, it is certainly Republicans who are accountable for revoking the freedom to purchase a Tesla in Michigan.
By the way, it is election season, and I have noticed signs in my neighborhood stating, "For freedom, vote Republican."
about a month and a half ago
top Flight Attendants Want Stricter Gadget Rules Reinstated
"...the nation's largest flight attendant union is now suing the FAA to have the ban on gadget use during takeoff and landing reinstated."
An excellent example of how unions supplant an eagerness of workers to meet customers wants and needs with an attitude of wanton truculence.
about a month and a half ago
top Who's In Charge During the Ebola Crisis?
from the commentary linked in the summary:
" If changing to a single-payer national system is, for political reasons, out of the question, then, at the very least, the Affordable Care Act must be fully implemented in all states. "
"Single-payer." Like the VA. Because unaccountable, lying government officials and patients dying while on fake waiting lists are exactly what we need during an ebola epidemic.
And Obamacare. Because of Obamacare I can not afford medical care. My premiums are about 3x before Obamacare. My deductible is $5,000.00. I am taxed $300.00/month on my health insurance because I am employed at a small company which can not purchase the plan directly from an insurer. (Obamacare revokes the tax exemption for employer-subsidized health insurance.) I am buying the least-expensive plan mandated by Obamacare to avoid the penalty and paying about $1,300.00 per month in insurance and taxes. I had a shoulder injury, went to an in-network doctor and had to pay for the entire visit, treatment and the physical therapy myself.
To summarize, now, because of Obamacare, I am required by law to pay $1,300.00 per month for health insurance and taxes at a minimum and on top of that I have to pay for my own medical expenses. Because of Obamacare, unless I am absolutely certain that I am dying I will not be going anywhere near a health care provider. By both making the patients poorer with higher insurance premiums and by raising the cost of treatment with higher deductibles Obamacare has created a massive financial disincentive to seeing medical care during an epidemic. And then also there is the decreased access to health care because of shrinking provide networks.
In addition to advocating for evidently broken and corrupt systems, the author wants to re-write the Constitution. You know, that document which guarantees citizens rights. What could possibly go wrong?
about a month and a half ago
top PETA Is Not Happy That Google Used a Camel To Get a Desert "StreetView"
I do not know any camels personally but I grew up with horses and I can tell you they like to work. Sure, they would always rather be eating, like pigs but with longer legs. Yet some of them seem to enjoy the company of people and are eager to please. Imagine a large vegetarian dog. Camels are a different species but the point here is that there is no basis
a priori to believe that the camel was abused or even inconvenienced by taking a walk in the desert with a camera on its back. Sure, it seems miserably hot and dry, but we are anthropomorphising;Camels are adapted to the desert.
Some animals do suffer terrible abuse in the hands of people which makes it especially unfortunate that an organization dedicated to their rescue and protection is governed by batshit crazy people like Ingrid Newkirk. Unfortunate both because their antics discourage mainstream donations and support, and because the donations which they do receive are often misdirected to this kind of bullshit. (or camelshit.)
That is the problem with "good causes." They can be perverted or hijacked to serve any end and are impossible to oppose successfully. Who strongly defended Bill Clinton's serial molestations and ignored Bob Packwood's? Women's rights activists. What group works hardest to trap poor children in failing schools by blocking reform? The National Education Association. What legislation encroaches on the rights of patients, guarantees profits for insurance companies and is making health insurance increasingly unaffordable for the middle class? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And remember the Patriot Act?
Self promotion of your own virtue is a gambit. A good cause is a power grab. If you want to succeed in acts unpopular, illegitimate, or harmful, first enshrine yourself as a public symbol of virtue.
about a month and a half ago
top New Global Plan Would Crack Down On Corporate Tax Avoidance
It's a race to the bottom, my friend. You don't out-compete countries with less than a few million inhabitants and no significant social programs.
You mean, like Canada? It has a 26% rate, compared the US's 40% rate. Yeah, third-world hell holes like Canada always whore around with those low numbers, right?
Other third-world hell-holes: Estonia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden and Australia. They have the five least burdensome taxes among the 34 OECD nations according to the Tax Foundation’s
International Tax Competitiveness Index (pdf, rankings on page 5).
Canada ranks 24th. The United States ranks 32nd with an overall score of 44.6% (to Estonia's 100%), better than only Portugal and France.
top Tesla Plans To Power Its Gigafactory With Renewables Alone
from the linked article at engineering.com:
"Musk said that the factory would be aligned with true north so equipment could be located with GPS
Can anyone here make sense of that statement? GPS only works when buildings are aligned with true north?
top Tesla's Next Auto-Dealer Battleground State: Georgia
from the summary:
"...as reported by the L.A. Times, is that recent electric car sales in the U.S. have been stagnant"
from the LA Times:
"Sales of electric drive vehicles are stuck at about 3.6% of all new car sales for 2014"
"And that's during an otherwise robust sales season. Total figures for August were higher than any time in the last decade."
So the absolute number of electric car sales is increasing but their market share is not. The reporter, one "Charles Fleming," seems not to comprehend that a fixed percentage of an increasing value is itself an increasing value. "Stagnant," is the wrong term to describe an increase in sales. Math is hard.