65,000 Complaints Later, Microsoft Files Suit Against Tech Support Scammers
"Does your mother know what you do for a living? Do you think she would be proud?"
Astrophysicists Identify the Habitable Regions of the Entire Universe
That's where you find the Wisdom Chits necessary to advance your civilization.
(Wow . . . no hit on the correct reference ten pages into a Google search.)
Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun
. . . the last professor in the once-prestigious Solar Combustion Sciences department clutches his chest, winces, and slumps face-down on his desk.
TechCentral Scams Call Center Scammers
These scammers also have web pages that offer "AOL technical support," "PC technical support," and so on, with 800 numbers prominently listed. So if an un-aware person (like my Aunt . . . ) hunts for help via Google they'll often end up getting in touch with these jerks.
I have a couple of variant responses worked out:
"So, in India, do they use the term 'con artist' or 'confidence trickster'?"
"So, does your mother know what you do for a living? Did she teach you to be a crook or did you go bad on your own?"
"Sorry, I only have Linux machines. I don't think you'll know how to fuck them up."
"Oh, good, I was waiting for your call. Let me go to the server room and pick up there."
"Oh, good, I was wondering what was happening. Let me turn the computer on." (Put down receiver, wait.)
Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate
If everyone is stoned they'll hang out on the couch and won't wash as often, saving on shower water.
Also, they won't have the initiative to go out for a round of golf.
So, you can let the water-hog golf courses turn back into habitats for ground squirrels and coyotes.
Dungeons & Dragons' Influence and Legacy
Sirnomad99 notes that there were other influences. Jon Peterson, author of the scholarly gaming history Playing at the World, suggests that Tolkein and LOTR was just one influence among many. The Conan stories, Pratt and de Camp, Leiber and Vance are all specifically mentioned.
In fact . . . I just picked up the book and turned to page (117) where I'd last left off. There are quotes from Gygax where he suggests that Tolkein is not the be-all and end-all authority on the nature of fantasy creatures.
Oh . . . I actually have a set of the Ace paperbacks! They're not impressive. The special characters look hand-sketched, and the cover art is mediocre.
Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek To Control the Internet
A firm hand on the rudder is required at troubled times such as these. We should gladly accept
NO WAIT THIS IS BS, I DI
A Brain Implant For Synthetic Memory
Google* and others should be willing to pour big bucks into the research. We may as well bow to the inevitable and let them build DRM, mandatory personality profile tracking, and advertising insertion right into artificial memory creation standards.
* New motto: "We'll figure out what 'evil' is and then not do it."
Portland Edges Closer To Google Fiber
From what I've read, Tigard, Beaverton, and Hillsboro are all in consideration. Not every neighborhood in every town. My house is not far from Ronler Acres (massive Intel plant) and across the street from an office park, so hopefully I'll be in luck.
I'd love to have another alternative to Comcast.
A Measure of Your Team's Health: How You Treat Your "Idiot"
Now I know why I always get asked to collect the folding chairs.
Plan B is a Chinchilla Ranch. Anyone want a cool chinchilla-fur mouse pad?
The Singularity Is Sci-Fi's Faith-Based Initiative
In, ah, 1997, just before I moved out west, I went to the campus SF convention that I'd once helped run once last time. The GOH was Vernor Vinge. A friend and I, seeing Vinge looking kind of bored and lost at a loud cyberpunk-themed meet-the-pros party, dragged him off to the green room and BSed about the Singularity, Vinge's "Zones" setting, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and gaming for a couple of hours. This was freaking amazing! Next day, a couple more friends and I took him for Mongolian BBQ. More heady speculation and wonky BSing.
That afternoon we'd arranged for a panel about the Singularity. One of the other panelists was Frederik Pohl. I'd suggested him because I thought his 1965 short-short story, "Day Million," was arguably the first SF to hint at the singularity. There's talk in there about asymptotic progress, and society becoming so weird it would be hard for us to comprehend.
"Just what is this Singularity thing?" Pohl asked while waiting for the panel to begin. A friend and I gave a short explanation. He rolled his eyes. Paraphrasing: "What a load of crap. All that's going to happen is that we're going to burn out this planet, and the survivors will live to regret our waste and folly."
Well. That was embarassing.
Fifteen years later, I found myself agreeing more and more with Pohl. He had seen, in his fifty-plus years writing and editing SF, and keeping a pulse on science and technology, to see many, many cultish futurist fads come and go, some of them touted by SF authors or editors (COUGH Dianetics COUGH psionics COUGH L-5 colonies). When spirits are high these seemed logical and inevitable and full of answers (and good things to peg an SF story to); with time, they all became pale and in retrospect seem a bit silly, and the remaining true believers kind of odd.
Game of Thrones Author George R R Martin Writes with WordStar on DOS
I was working for a computer mail order place (Logicsoft) when WS 4.0 came out. The salespeople all got promotional lucite paperweights; I might still have one!
I used WS 3 and WS 4 to crank out role playing game manuscripts. For most of this time I only had a floppy-only PC-DOS system. This required juggling floppy disks when running spell check. It was great upgrading to a hard disk drive, but I maintained one-or-two-floppy running copies of WordStar that I could bring with me. Kind of like putting applications on a thumb drive.
I used WordStar X.X on an Osborne PC. The "OzBox," which lived in the campus SF library where I spent a lot of my time, had a program that could copy files to single-sided DOS floppies.
I was what you might call a Journeyman user of WS. I used "dot commands" and spell check and maybe even Mail Merge. There was still a lot more I didn't need and didn't bother learning.
I remember buying WordStar 5.0, but regretted it. It couldn't be whittled down to a few floppies.
I still had copies of WordStar (and various versions of DOS) until, um, late last decade, when I got rid of all my floppy disks. If Memory Serves, a fairly complete WordStar 4.0 install took up two 720K floppies. As part of the great reduction I converted all of my old RPG manuscripts to ASCII, so I didn't need a working WS copy.
I sometimes regret the loss of the "keyboard diamond" method of navigation. I could probably set up Word to use it, but it isn't worth the trouble.
Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans As Antarctic Ice Melts
Virtually all of the people who have visited "Antarctica" are SCIENTISTS. And the rest are GOVERNMENT WORKERS.
Can we really believe people who have a vested interest in grant money to accurately report on this place?
Pretty soon now we'll find the set in Alaska where "South pole research station" news segments are filmed.
Wyoming Is First State To Reject Science Standards Over Climate Change
4.5 No One Could Have Foreseen This Problem. Let us not point fingers and play the blame game.
5.5 Fine, we're in a fix. It is time for the ideologues to step aside and the Level Heads and Professionals and People Who Have a Stake in the Game to take over and provide reality-based solutions. We'll start by proposing tax credits for owners of shore front vacation homes to move their properties, because summer recreation is a vital part of our economy. And cancel Social Security to incentivize Honored Citizens to get healthy exercise filling sandbags to protect oil industry facilities in the Gulf. And annex Canada to provide homes for citizens displaced by the Texas Hell-Cyclone. After all, Canadians sold us a lot of that oil . . . remember the XL pipeline they forced us to build?
CSIRO Scientists' Aquaculture Holy Grail: Fish-Free Prawn Food
There was an interesting piece on Radiolab* last year about some guys who'd found an protein-rich insect whose larva at almost anything, including agricultural waste and pig manure. They reduced the amount of waste that had to be dealt with and result in copious quantities of nutritious bug flesh.
One of the suggested uses was food for farmed fish.
* I think . . . I'm having trouble finding the segment in the archives.
70% of U.S. Government Spending Is Writing Checks To Individuals
Was that a hit song in an alternate universe where the wealthiest people were actually getting less rich and getting taxed more?
Can Science Ever Be "Settled?"
"evolutionary criticism . . . is completely forbidden in US schools."
Well, unless you go to school in one of those states where the school boards also don't think children should be trusted to learn about puberty, carbon dating, and history that wasn't vetted by the Club for Growth and the Daughters of Confederate Heroes.
3D Maps Reveal a Lead-Laced Ocean
Based on these comments, Slashdotters are also experts on moving goal posts.
Ask Slashdot: What Essays and Short Stories Should Be In a Course On Futurism?
Any number of novels by John Brunner, but Stand on Zanzibar if you have to choose one.
Fred Pohl's short-short "Day Million," about a cyborg spaceman and a transgendered otter-woman meeting, falling in love, exchanging virtual reality sex profiles and never meetin again.
Freeman Dyson's essay "The Greening of the Galaxy."
VA Tech Experiment: Polar Vortex May Decimate D.C. Stinkbugs In 2014
I sometimes hear the effects of climate change blown off with glib remarks about longer growing seasons.
The truth is, good hard winters are good for certain types of agriculture. Freezing and thawing churns up the soil. Hard frosts kill off weeds and pests.
Now we have another data point.
One: It is surprisingly easy to train a dog to jump through a hula-hoop.
Two: It is surprisingly difficult to train a dog not to eat cat shit.
- Being able to trade in unused Mod points for valuable prizes!
- If Humane Societies took bids for adoptable dogs. I saw this awesome shepherd mix at the pound the other day. Couldn't adopt her because someone beat me to her by, like, five minutes. A silent auction with a respectable minimum bid could bring in a good amount of money.
- A site that generated impressive BS responses to BS job self-evaluation questions like "What objectives relative your job do you consider important to achieve during the coming year?" (As far as I can tell, the six questions on this self-evaluation amounts to: "What have you done and what could you do better?")
- A computer case that looked like a miniature Warp Core.
I was in New York last week. Specifically, upstate New York. Just south of the Catskills mountains.
I went to The City one morning, via a far-ranging suburban rail line.
The train station had a ticket machine. It wasn't working when I arrived. Specifically, it had frozen during boot-up. The little screen displayed a Award BIOS style hardware status table: Amount of memory, attached drives, IRQ allocations, and the like.
A _Tillamook 266 MHz_.
Tillamook is a small city on the coast of Oregon (where I live), best known for a big dairy of the same name.
It was kind of surreal, seeing that name in that circumstance.
(On a few occasions, I've peeked at the description of an item, more out of morbid curiosity than anything else. I think Amazon mistakes these peeks as interest, and thus skews my selection.)
Here are things that I would be pleasantly surprised to find in my Amazon Gold Box:
- Nanobots that would restore my bulging L-5 spinal disk to proper shape.
- A 1988 Honda Civic DX hatchback with A/C and prototype airbags. No miles. Mint in the box.
- A litter of sapient GMO coyote pups I can mold into the first minions of my Army of Darkness.
- A George Foreman Grill actually big enough to grill George Foreman.
- A case of Reggie Bars.
- A new copy of Tom Weller's Science Made Stupid.
- A little plastic plug exactly designed to fit into the overflow drain in my bathtub, so I can efficiently employ my plumber's helper and finally uproot whatever is plugging up the drain.
My workplace has two buildings. Physically checking on the state of a server means donning an anti-static robe and toddling over from Broadway to Hollywood. (We do movie-on-demand hardware and software, so our buildings and meeting rooms are cinema-related.) Not a long walk, but there's a bit of tedious threading through cube farm along the way.
This morning I had made it to the other building to reset a machine when I realized that I needed to check with someone who might have been diagnosing a bad drive. I made a call to him from a phone in a cafeteria.
When I was done I hung up the phone, or at least tried to. The handset flopped off the body of the phone, right into a trash can. I hauled it out to discover it covered with coffee grounds.
I dusted the mess off with a paper towel, trying to be discrete because a bunch of guests were being shown around the cafeteria.
After the worst of the crud had been wiped off I hung up the phone, taking care that the handset hook was squarely in its slot.
It tumbled off immediately. Into the garbage can.
I wiped it off again, moved the garbage can aside, and replaced the handset.
It fell off.
I inspected the little hook that was supposed to hold the handset in place; it was in the "vertical mounting" position, but was just too wimpy to do the job. I noticed that the handset had smudges of paint on it. It had, apparently, smacked into the wall on many previous occasions, when it fell off its hook when the garbage can *wasn't* there.
I finally managed to balance the handset in place, then backed away.
Time to find some velcro . . .
I work in a nicely landscaped office park. The landscaping elves recently laid down a nice fresh layer of shredded bark mulch around the plantings.
Just now, while crossing between buildings, I came across a squirrel burrowing in the mulch by the edge of a shrub. He was waist-deep in the stuff, worrying away at something underneath.
He seemed totally oblivious to what was going on up above. It seemed very un-prey-like behavior. I stepped really close, maybe two feet away, and waited. Just stopped and watched and waited for him to notice me.
After a moment, he kind of spazzed out. Jumped straight up a foot and a half while thrashing around frantically. He kind of melted into the shrubbery, vibrating like some kind of insane wind-up toy.
I'll give him points for a quick get-away, but a Zero as far as wariness goes. If I'd been a raccoon or fox or coyote, I'm sure he'd be digesting by now.
American Science & Surplus is a great place. They sell stuff ranging from Russian microscopes to surplus ammo boxes to kiddie toys. The catalog (printed and on-line) has great item descriptions.
I recently purchased from them a resin coyote skull. An amazingly real-looking resin coyote skull:
It's on top of my monitor here at work, next to my THE ONION calendar.
After seeing how small the brain-pan is, I'm not surprised that coyotes keep buying defective gear from ACME.
This is my first Role Playing Game product since 1993 or so. It's the official worldbook for David Brin's "Uplift" SF series. You can use the source material any way you want, but the stats for the characters and species are given in GURPS form.
There's also a support site at:
I wish I could say this experience was going to get me back big-time into writing and game design again, but it was a reall tough haul. The quality standards have gone way up since I wrote this stuff to pay for pizza and crack* when I was in college.
* No, not really. Unless you read "computer games" for "crack."