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Comments

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Farmers Carry Multidrug-Resistant Staph For Weeks Into Local Communities

Ungrounded Lightning Farmers != Farm Workers (119 comments)

The headline says farmers. The text says farm workers. Very much not the same thing. A farmer is the owner of the farm. A farm worker is generally a hired hand, often (though not always) a migrant, and if so typically from Mexico or farther south.

The story suggests that the multi-drug-resistant bacteria are the result of antibiotic treatment of the animals at the farm. This misses another possibility:

In Mexico, most antibiotics are over-the-counter, much like asprin here in the US. People who feel ill or have some infection often buy and take them. Typically they use them until they no longer show symptoms - then stop, rather than taking a full regimin and killing off all the bacteria. (Why take more of the non-free drug once the symptoms are gone? Waste of money, right?) This is a recipe for creating drug-resistant bacteria.

Of course if an infection is resistant to one antibiotic, a paitent is likely to try another, and another, and so on until they find one that works. THAT's a recipe for maintaining and improving the bug's resistance to the front line antibiotics while breeding resistance to others.

As a result, a substantial fraction of the workers arriving from south of the Mexican border are carriers of multi-drug-resistant baceria.

Meanwhile, a farming operation is likely to give a limited number of antibiotics continuously, so non-resistant infections are wiped out before they can develop resistance, and if they do develop resistance it will be to the particular drugs used, rather than the universe of antibiotics.

Of course, infected workers can infect livestock, just as livestock can infect workers. And infected workers can trade infections around, just as livestock can. (More so, since the livestock tends to be kept separated, to reduce both disease spread and breeding by unintended pairings, limitations that farmers can't impose on their workers - and would be unlikely to try even if they could.)

So it seems to me that responsible researchers would go a bit farther before reporting: Like by doing genetic testing on the strains of bug in the various workers and the livestock, and running models on the results to try to identfy whether the bugs are from the herd or the workers.

I don't see any such work alluded to in this popularized reporting. It seems to just assume that the bugs were developed on the farm and spread to the workers. I hope this is a disconnect between the actual research and the report, rather than an accurate characterization of the research.

2 days ago
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Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway)

Ungrounded Lightning Re:That is a misreading of the Supremacy Clause: (213 comments)

It would have been surprising if the US would have implemented treaties differently from every other country.

Why?

It does a LOT of things differently from other countries. It redefined "republic", just for starters.

4 days ago
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Liquid Sponges Extract Hydrogen From Water

Ungrounded Lightning Especially: The paint. (113 comments)

The gas bag itself was flammable; it wouldn't have mattered what gas was in it, when it disintegrated

In particular: The paint. It contained a mix of powdered aluminum and iron oxide pigments, in sufficient concentration to maintain a redox reaction.

You and I know this mixture as "thermite". It's really hard to get the reaction started - but an electric discharge can do it. (They tried to tether it with an electrical storm approaching. That would make one hell of a spark when the charged envelope comes near to connecting to the grounded mast - which is about when the fire started.) Once it's started, the reaction is essentially impossible to extinguish. The aluminum steals the oxygen from the iron oxide. The heats of formation of the two oxides differ so much that the energy released leaves the resulting elemental iron as an orange-glowing liquid and the aluminum oxide incandescent white-hot.

5 days ago
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Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway)

Ungrounded Lightning That is a misreading of the Supremacy Clause: (213 comments)

You are bound by the treaties your country signed.

Yes: You, and the states, and their courts, are bound by them (to the extent they are clear or were implemented by federal enabling legislation).

In fact, they have more legal weight in the US than laws passed by your own Congress.

NO! They have EXACTLY the same weight as federal law. Both treaties and federal law are trumped by the Constitution, and both are also creatures of Congress, They can be modulated, and destroyed (at least in how they are effective within the country) by congressional action.

The idea that they're any stronger or more permanent than federal legislation comes from a (very common) misreading of the Supremacy Clause:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

This says that the Constitution, Federal Law, and Treaties trump state law in state and federal courts. It says nothing about the relative power among the three.

The misreading is to interpret "all treaties made ... shall be the supreme law of the land ..." to mean that treaties effectively amend the constitution. This is wrong. You can see it by noticing the same kind of misreading also makes federal law equivalent to a constitutional amendment - which it clearly is not.

In fact the Supreme Court has spoken on the relation between the Constitution and treaties: In Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957), the Supreme Court held stated that the U.S. Constitution supersedes international treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate.

Treaties are abrogated, at the federal level, all the time, and there are a number of mechanisms for doing so.

5 days ago
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California Tells Businesses: Stop Trying To Ban Consumer Reviews

Ungrounded Lightning The had them at least as far back as the '50s (275 comments)

Now they have the guide printed on the box but I can remember when i was a kid they didn't.

Some off them had maps at least as far back as the '50s, and probably much further.

A classic was the "Whitman Sampler" - an assortment of their products with a handy map. In addition to being a tasty and relatively low-priced collection of their products, it let a family divide them up according to their individual preferences, and gave you the names of each, so you could (at least hypotheically) buy boxes of just the ones you like.

(I say hypothetically because I never saw boxes of the individual candies being carried in the stores that sold the samplers.)

about a week ago
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WD Announces 8TB, 10TB Helium Hard Drives

Ungrounded Lightning Re:containment (296 comments)

But regardless of the pressure, when the helium leaks out, it will not be displaced by air. It will leave behind a vacuum. The helium will leak out, but nothing will leak in to replace it.

(Except maybe hydrogen, but there's not much of that in your local air.)

So your metal parts vacuum-weld and tear themselves apart starting at the contacting surfaces, and adding lots of hydrogen to the air around the drives just makes the parts become brittle on their way to failure.

about a week ago
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Denver Latest City Hit By Viral Respiratory Infection That Targets Kids

Ungrounded Lightning And the original AC is wrong. (174 comments)

What original AC is saying is that our current medicine doesn't resemble Star Trek style ... We drop blanket bombs into our bodies with the expectation that the evil bits will die a whole lot faster than the good bits, and by the time the evil bits are dead, the good bits are still in a good enough shape to regenerate.

No that is NOT what we do for practically anything but chemotherapy for most cancers (where the difference from normal tissue is very small - a few mutations in signaling systems) and the main difference is that being stuck in reproduction mode makes them somewhat less robust.

Antibiotics are all about targeting one or another chemical mechanism that has one form in the target organism when its equivalen has another - or is absent - in human tissue. There are a LOT of drugs that have been discovered or designed, and the collection consists of enormous numbers of "magic bullets" that each target just one, or a small set, of systems found in particular pathogenic lifeforms, with either negligible, or far lower, side-effects on other systems.

Sure many antibiotics hit a wide range of NON-human life - pathogens and others - because THEY share susceptable versions of the target system or contain systems that are strongly side-effected. Sure the doctors sometimes have to pick drugs with bad side-effects because those are the best choices they have. But the characterization of antibiotic and antiviral drugs as "blanket bombing" has been out of date for more than half a century.

about two weeks ago
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Apparent Meteorite Hits Managua, Nicaragua, Leaving Crater But No Injuries

Ungrounded Lightning Re:Taste like chicken? (107 comments)

Recent research has shown that chickens are the closest living relative of T. Rex.

Do you have a reference for the research?

If it's true that T.rex is closer to chickens than to pheasants, peafowl, and other Phasianinae, it would mean that the Phasianinae family dates back to before the K-T disaster.

This was all over the mainstream press last April. I was echoing their over-simplified characterizatoin of the research.

It's actually "closest living relative among the set of genetic databases they tested", I.e. chickens, sheep, etc. Chickens happened to be a bird they tested, with aminno acid sequences far closer to those of the collagen recovered from T. Rex - nearly identical, in fact, than those of things like mammals. So don't expect this to re-write taxonomy - or to mean that chickens were any closer - or farter - from T. Rex than their close relatives such as phesants.

Of course there's other evidence that birds were around well before T. Rex. So it may turn out that chickens are closer relatives to T. Rex than, say, bluebirds. (Or maybe bluebirds will turn out to be closer, once they're compared.)

about two weeks ago
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Apparent Meteorite Hits Managua, Nicaragua, Leaving Crater But No Injuries

Ungrounded Lightning Taste like chicken? (107 comments)

Do dinosaurs taste like chicken?

They ought to. Recent research has shown that chickens are the closest living relative of T. Rex.

about two weeks ago
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Survivors' Blood Holds Promise, But Draws Critics, As Ebola Treatment

Ungrounded Lightning Exactly. (55 comments)

... give the patient more time to produce his own antibodies. ... the experimental treatment used on some western patients is basically antibodies.

Right on both counts.

  - Much of why Ebola is so often fatal is that it produces a glycoprotein that interferes with immune system signaling, reducing and delaying the immune system's antibody-mediated specific responses. (Meanwhile the cell damage and foreign protein stimulate the GENERAL responses, which causes self-damage to the body and aids in spreading the infection.) Details on Wikipedia Keeping the virus population and the glycoprotien concentration down by supplying ready-to-go antibodies holds down cell death from infection, self-destruction, and signaliing interference, giving the immune system more time and ability to respond.

  - The drug in question is a mix of three monoclonal antibodies, manufactured by stock genetic engineering techniques.

Injections of extracted antibodies, or blood containing them, has a long history in medicine. They have been used against bacteria, viruses, and poisons such as snake venom. Typically they are made by extracting a blood fraction containing antibodies from an animal which has been recently immunized - and is currently hyper-reactive to - the target disease agent or venom. (This gets a load of mixed antibodies which is heavy with those specific to the target.) They may also be extracted from a human survivor of a disease of interest, or a human in general. (These you might hear being called "human imune globin" or "gamma globulin".)

Downsides include allergic reactions to the animal used (typically a horse) or person providing the globulin, infection with blood-borne diseases (such as Hepatitis C), and reaction against the patient by some antibody in the serum.

Antiseura fell out of use for bacteria with the rise of antibiotics (even for diseases, such as menningitis, where antiseurm treatment had higher success rates). Antiviral drugs and the rise of a number of human viral diseases are pushing it down in preference for viral disease treatments - though better blood tests for viral infections is improving its safety. Nothing, of course, has replaced it for antivenom. It's still used for things like Hepatitis A, Measles, rabies exposure, supplement for certain immune difficiencies, and modulating immune system rejection of liver transplants.

With both the rise of antibiotic and antiviral drug resistance and the development of monoclonal antibody culture (prodcing just the desired antibodies to a target on an industrial scale, with negligible risk of dangerous contamination), expect more use of antiseura in medicine - like this "new experimental ebola drug".

Meanwhile, using antibodies extracted from ebola survivors - or transfusions if a matching donor is available - is the same system and might work just fine. And the technology is simple and cheap enough to be available even in third world countries.

Of course you need to wait until the survivor has recovered enough to have built up antibodies and enough blood to spare. Ideally you should also wait until the virus has cleared. (For instance, with Ebola, semen remains infective for at least two months, so blood likely does. as well.) But if the patient is already infected and likely to die without treatment, that's not an issue.

about two weeks ago
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Feds Want Nuclear Waste Train, But Don't Know Where It Would Go

Ungrounded Lightning Re:citation needed (258 comments)

citation needed ...
because the broken window fallacy still holds

Indeed.

Using the Obama administration's own numbers, a couple years back, for how much they spent for each job "created or saved", and taking the US median income at the time for the cost->jobs destroyed estimator, I got about a 5:1 ratio. Five destroyed for each "created or saved".

Or more: Thats what would happen if they got the money by taxation. The other options are still worse.

The problem is that the VALUE for the government spending comes out of the economy somewhere else:
  - If they tax it, they just suck it out directly.
  - If they borrow it, it competes for investment money and real job creators don't get to create real jobs and/or have to close or downsize when their funding dries up. (This has an additional multiplier: They have to pay it back, with interest. So it kills still more jobs later.)
  - If they print it, it devalues the other currency. The same number of dollars are spent, but less value is spent. Less jobs are funded as a result.

Unfortunately, the anonymous flaimng lefties only see the obvious jobs "created or saved" and not the "invisible men" laid off or not hired as a result.

about two weeks ago
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Feds Want Nuclear Waste Train, But Don't Know Where It Would Go

Ungrounded Lightning TFA betrays Ray Henry 's ignorance of planning. (258 comments)

There is no reason the design of a waste hauling train should wait until a site is identified, thus delaying the removal of the waste from many scattered temporary storage sites. The hauling design and the site identification can proced in parallel.

Indeed: The characteristics of the hauling solution may limit the selection of sites to which the waste could be hauled with acceptable levels of safety. That would argue for the design to PRECEED site selection.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Old Technology Can't You Give Up?

Ungrounded Lightning UUCP Mailnet (635 comments)

I still have several machines that interchange mail with each other and the Internet via uucp mailnet. I poll an ISP twice an hour (or use an alias to force a poll if i don't want the mail to wait.)

I even check my personal mailbox on that domain every couple months. (Every three weeks or so I get another offer to buy my domain name, which has been around since the list of machines that exchanged email fit on three typeset pages.) But you wouldn't BELIEVE the amount of spam that accumulates on an account that has been around since before the first mass mail-merge spam scripts were offerd for sale. (I think I still have a saved copy of that original piece of spam - advertising spam software.) The spammers STILL include that address in their mailing lists.

If the NSA or ISIS ever kills the connected Internet, UUCP mailnet will still work, merrily bucket-brigading email among the hadnful of machines whose mail transfer agents still interconnect by routes that don't just hand the mail off to an Internet hop.

Also: Back when we ran mailing lists over UUCP, the polling delay limited the deluge of mail when someone on the list accidentally forwarded his mail to the list. This gave us time to catch it manually and suspend the account before everybody was buried in repeated messages. B-)

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Old Technology Can't You Give Up?

Ungrounded Lightning Eight Megabytes And Constantly Swapping. (635 comments)

vi for me, too.

Not that I have anything against emacs. But I bought my first unix computer in the 80s, and it only had two megabytes of RAM and used an early member of the 68xxx series that couldn't do demand paging to act like it had more. This was too little to compile and run emacs.

After about three years of heavy bulletin-board participation I had the vi commands "wired into my brainstem". I tried emacs several times over the years and each time discovered that certain common things I did (and still do) with vi took about twice as many keystrokes.

Once I tried using its vi emulation mode - only to discover that it (the version at the time) had TWO of them, in true emacs kitchen sink style, and each had different deltas from getting the vi commands right. With only one I might have gone on to use it, and learn the deltas, while edging into native commands. But with two, and no obvious selection, I didn't bother.

Nowadays I use vim, which is close enough. (Especially if you tell it to act like vi in a couple important places.)

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Repeated Internet Overbilling?

Ungrounded Lightning Re:Take 'em to small claims court. (355 comments)

A couple thousand small claims cases a month might be more effective than a class action suit for getting their act cleaned up.

Did I just invent an open source / populist / minarchist alternative to the class action lawsuit? B-)

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Repeated Internet Overbilling?

Ungrounded Lightning Re:Take 'em to small claims court. (355 comments)

This is going to go no where unless he can get an independent expert to certify that his measuring technique is accurate.

We're talking small claims court here (where proceures are much more relaxed due to the small amount of the dispute) and civil procedure (where the standard of proof is "preponderance of evidence", not "beyond a reasonable doubt".

Also: A suitable expert shouldn't be THAT hard to find, and (with open source and things like the Raspbery Pi and Beagle Bone available for platforms), independently engineering a meter to check the first one should be quick work - and something a customer of another ISP might want to do, as well.

Heh. Once it's done it could be published open-source, bringing the tool into the hands of the technically-literate masses. A couple thousand small claims cases a month might be more effective than a class action suit for getting their act cleaned up.

about three weeks ago
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Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

Ungrounded Lightning Re:That almost happened a while back. (141 comments)

A pitty, thugh. By the time this was discovered I had done an outline for a five-volume fiction cycle, working through at least four genres, based on the sun going "putt" from time to time. B-b

The Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi novel "The Songs Of Distant Earth" (1986) used the Case Of The Missing Neutrinos as the opening premise [followed by "the sun is about to nova" and humanity having] a few hundred years to develop interstellar-travel technology before the Sun went nova. 'Twas a good story.

Indeed it was.

In mine, though, there was nothing wrong with the sun at all. It's just that the high neutrino flux makes other physical phenomena more apparent and (by book three) usable at a practical level. FTL interstellar travel IS developed by the fifth book (when things are fully sorted out), which is in hard science fiction space-opera form.

Of course, by that time "magic" is hard science (though its engineering is more like animal husbandry), religion has merged with psychology, and one of the crew members (or is he the FTL engine?) is (and must be) a literal god. (For the engineering crew chief think "Scotty in Druidic Robes"...) Using a god plus a nuclear reactor for the engine leads to complications (but not the ones you're probably thinking of right now).

No, not like Clarke's story at all. More like Keith Laumer collaborates with Larry Niven. B-)

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Repeated Internet Overbilling?

Ungrounded Lightning Take 'em to small claims court. (355 comments)

Take them to small claims court.

Ask for the difference between the billing tier your meter says you should be in and the one they charged you for. Dump your data in a reasonably clear format and show and explain it to the judge. Be prepared to swear that it is correct.

If they overcharge you next month, do it again.

Keep it up until they fix the meter so the agreement is close enough for you to be happy with it (or until the judge gets tired of it and issues an order - either to you or them - to make the cases stop.) It's not barratry - no matter how vexing to the utility - if the suits are legitimate, with real grounds asking for restitution for real damages, nor if the the suits are repeated because there are new instances of the tort.

First time through, ask for all the months for which you have data that shows overcharging. (If you can demonstrate a rule for the systematic overcharging, ask for the overcharges back to the instalation of the system, but be prepared for the judge to reject that.) Up to the small claims price and time limits, of course.

Be polite to the judge. Assume he's smart enough to understand this if you explain it clearly. (Judges don't get to be judges without being smart and good at figuring these things out.)

about three weeks ago
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Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

Ungrounded Lightning That almost happened a while back. (141 comments)

The other interesting result would be if the expected neutrino type was not detected by this experiment, invalidating the hypothesis. This would raise further questions such as: is there some other mechanism powering the Sun? Is there something deficient in our understanding of neutrinos that prevented us from detecting them despite them being there?

That almost happened, in the early days of neutrino dectection - before things like old mines full of purified water and 3-D arrays of photodetectors running for months at a time, and you could count the number of detected neutrinos on two hands (in bi-quinary so you could go a bit higher than ten). This was when the detectors could only detect the type of neutrino directly generated by fusion reactions, and before the discovery of neutrino oscillation, when it wasn't yet clear whether neutrinos had no, or very very little, rest mass.

Early numbers, and their error bounds, made it clear that there weren't enough neutrinos being detected. (This was known for years as the "missing neutrino problem".) But the earliest ones WERE about right for a situation where all the stars EXCEPT the sun were running by fusion and the sun was out.

That may sound odd. But there was a very cute explanation that made it plausible:

The gradual gravitatonal collapse of the sun, as heat is radiated away, could power it for millenia. It's nowhere near enough to power it long enough to explain the fossil record, but it IS enough to have kept it running for historic time. Meanwhile, if a fusion reaction were to start up near the center of such a ball of collapsing gas, it would also take many years for the heat to make it to the surface. Neutrinos (which go through the sun like marbles through a light mist) are about the only signature of what's going on in there NOW.

But suppose, instead of fusing continuously, stars were reciprocating engines. They might run without fusion for centuries, or millenia, until they were compressed enough to "light up" at the center. Then the fusion heat and reaction products might make the reaction ramp up. They'd burn for a little while (which would heat them up and expand them mabye a few inches), until the decreased density and/or reduction in fuel and/or accumulation of reaction products "put the fire out" again. Repeat for the life of the star.

In this scenario, if our sun happened to be between "putts (and the very nearest stars didn't happen to have an unusual distribution of where they were in their cycles), you'd see the same neutrio flux from the rest of the sky as if all the rest of the stars were running continuous fusion. That's because it's the average of stars that are "on" and "off", and comes out to the same amount of total fusion and neutrinos.

Of course later data, both larger samples and detectors that could "see" the other neutrino types, put the kibosh on that model. A big part of it was the discovery of neutrino oscillations, allowing a stream of neutrinos that started out as one type in the sun to arrive as a mix of the three types. (This means that neutrinos have a non-zero rest mass, fly slightly slower than light, and thus experience time and are ABLE to change from one type to another.)

A pitty, thugh. By the time this was discovered I had done an outline for a five-volume fiction cycle, working through at least four genres, based on the sun going "putt" from time to time. B-b

about three weeks ago
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Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

Ungrounded Lightning Re:And there is the matter of (141 comments)

But, again, neutrino oscillation can't nullify these results, because oscillation only makes neutrinos harder to detect (by changing their "flavor"). It doesn't create neutrino signals where none originally existed (at least not in this sense).

Sure it can: By "oscillating" other flavors of neutrino into the type they're looking for, when they weren't there in the first place (or not in sufficient number).

They'll need to look at the ratio of the various types and back-calculate to eliminate other possible signals, or combinations of them, to see if there is a way for other (possibly unexpected) reactions to produce a signal that looks like the ones expected and/or observed.

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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Navy is funding a polywell fusion device.

Ungrounded Lightning Ungrounded Lightning writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) writes "Just noticed that the Navy has started the contracting process to fund EMC2's construction of a polywell fusion research device. So it looks like the work on Busard's design is proceeding. This implies that the last round went well enough that the Navy thinks there's potential for a practical power generation device and is willing to fund the engineering work to get to it. From the wording it appears to be a testbed for an ion injector. Seems to me that if they're trying to get the ions into the bottle they're confident that the reaction works and are going for continuous, rather than pulsed, operation. Let's hope this is also either a full-sized prototype or at least a version scaled up enough to test the scaling laws."

Journals

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New federal "security" regs on hundreds of common chemicals

Ungrounded Lightning Ungrounded Lightning writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Big brother is at it again. The Department of Homeland Security is issuing new regulations requiring reporting on, and guarding of, hundreds of common chemicals with "terrorist applications" (such as propane, hydrogen peroxide, chlorine, ...). This impacts farms, universities, industries from pool supplies to medicine to janitorial, small business, startups, and the general public.

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Total bandwidth with MIMO and "smart antennas"

Ungrounded Lightning Ungrounded Lightning writes  |  more than 6 years ago

A thread in the Slashdot article The 700MHz Question drifted into a discussion between me and rcw-home/rcw-work on using multiple antennas to synthesyze multiple patterns. This allows a particular hunk of bandwidth to be reused to generate several full-bandwidth links simultaneously - either between a base station and several remote stations or even between the base station and a single remote station that itself has multiple antennas.

The thread is beginning to horzon out on my user info history. So this journal entry is a new venue for its continuation after rcw-*'s most recent post.

I'll respond to that after he posts here to indicate that he's also making the move.

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Hollywood vs. Sealand

Ungrounded Lightning Ungrounded Lightning writes  |  more than 7 years ago

In a slashdot posting titled "Hollywood vs. Sealand" on April 2 2007, I:
  - Made a movie proposal,
  - Asserted copyright,
  - Offered to license it,
  - Threatened possible infringement suits if such a movie is made sans license, and
  - Directed anyone wishing to license it to contact me by leaving a message in my journal. B-)

This journal entry is to receive such messages.

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IRS rule muzzles email legislative alerts.

Ungrounded Lightning Ungrounded Lightning writes  |  more than 10 years ago

Your Rights Online.

A new IRS rule (PDF here) would effectively ban advocacy groups from informing their members of pending legislation during the weeks before an election. This would allow legisltaors ram through unpopular legislation before their constituents find out and object.

It can be applied to groups of any political leaning, but is subjective enough to selective enforcement against only those groups unpopular with the IRS bureaucracy and/or the administration. Here is an explanation of how this would work, by one affected organization.

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