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Overly Familiar Sci-Fi

Zobeid Keeping it Readable (368 comments)

Yes, I also have griped about SF that shoehorns the distant future into the mold of today, or of the past. I have special disdain for those who want to recreate the wild west, or the age of piracy, or empires of the past with space opera trappings. If you love the old west, write westerns, man! The obsession with FTL travel (which seems unlikely to ever really become possible) also ties in with this.

To my way of thinking, conventional literature at its best explores the human condition. SF at its best explores how the human(-ish) condition could be different. SF that doesn't make it different seems like wasted potential, a missed opportunity.

However...

I learned a long time ago that SF stories and SF writers have limitations that they must work within. SF is about ideas, and there are limits to how many new and unfamiliar ideas you can cram into a story without either losing your readers or getting lost yourself. Your readers are embedded in the culture of today. Even if you as a writer can mentally break out of the culture of today, bringing your readers along for that ride is extremely difficult.

You might want to write a story exploring the potential of AI and robotics. Or nuclear fusion power. Or asteroid mining. Or molecular manufacturing. Or life extension. All good topics. Now try to write a novel where *all* of those scenarios have become real and are interacting with one another. Oops... That's going to be really hard to pull off without ending up in a muddled mess, and it's also going to be hard to explore each of those ideas in the depth it deserves. (Especially if you also have, you know... characters, and a plot, and so forth!)

about two weeks ago
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Finland Dumps Handwriting In Favor of Typing

Zobeid Re:Not cursive, but fountain pen vs ballpoint pen! (523 comments)

"...and I never learned how to use the fountain properly."

Give one a try! It only takes a few minutes to learn: orient the nib to the page, use a light touch, try holding it at a lower angle. You'll be doing just fine in no time, and soon you'll also discover it's less tiring to your hand than a ballpoint.

about three weeks ago
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Finland Dumps Handwriting In Favor of Typing

Zobeid Re:Just cursive, or all writing? (523 comments)

Keep in mind that for a lot of us old-timers, cursive writing isn't "fancy" and was never meant to be. It's simply what we were taught and always used -- or what we always used after second grade, anyhow. I'm not sure why it's now "archaic", yet somehow the little kiddie writing is still considered necessary.

about three weeks ago
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Finland Dumps Handwriting In Favor of Typing

Zobeid Re:CORRECTION!!!!!! (523 comments)

Something has got lost in translation here.

Writing in longhand or cursive is not "calligraphy". The styles and tools used are very different. How so many people (you're far from the only one) have come to equate cursive with calligraphy, I just don't know. You claim "NO ONE writes in calligraphy", but I can assure you that many, many people write in cursive.

about three weeks ago
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Finland Dumps Handwriting In Favor of Typing

Zobeid Re:quick notes? (523 comments)

No. Writing with a fountain pen is out-of-mainstream, but it's not "exceedingly rare". If it was, we wouldn't have 25+ (by my count) brands of bottled fountain pen ink on the market today! Also, most of these are used for daily writing, not for "calligraphy". Fountain pens are actually not that great for calligraphy, and buying actual calligraphy pens and calligraphy ink is much better if you want to get into that.

about three weeks ago
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Finland Dumps Handwriting In Favor of Typing

Zobeid Re:quick notes? (523 comments)

So, I had to do a quick test on this... I pulled out a book and found a long paragraph to transcribe, first in cursive with a fountain pen, then printing with a mechanical pencil. My results: 7 minutes 53 seconds with the pen, 9 minutes 20 seconds with the pencil. That works out to a 15% speed advantage for cursive. It's not a huge, dramatic difference, but it's significant. Also, writing with the fountain pen was much less tiring to my hand, and it came out looking neater and easier to read (although both were perfectly legible).

I've often wished that someone had clued me into fountain pens back when I was taking notes in school. I think it would have saved me a lot of hand cramps.

about three weeks ago
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Rooftop Solar Could Reach Price Parity In the US By 2016

Zobeid Re:don't tax alternative energy and transportation (516 comments)

Quote: "We have to transition to ~ 90% of the transport and energy in the economy to non-fossil, in a damn hurry (e.g. 2050)..."

You may believe that, and some others may believe that, but our society as a whole does not. If it did, we (globally) wouldn't still be planning and building brand new coal and gas fired power plants with an expected 40-year life span *after* they go into service.

about a month ago
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In this year's US mid-term elections ...

Zobeid Let's boycott the two-party system! (551 comments)

I think next time around somebody should organize a boycott of the Republicrats. Vote for independents... libertarians... greens... cthulhu... whatever floats your boat as long as it's not a Republican or Democrat. It's the only way to get some real change.

http://zobeid.zapto.org/image/...

about a month and a half ago
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Landfill Copies of Atari's 'E.T.' End Up On eBay

Zobeid Slam dunk bet! (107 comments)

The E.T. game was a lesson in the folly of games based on movies. Sadly, it's a lesson many companies still haven't learned. There are still executives in the game industry who think the road to success is to license a big-name movie or other franchise and then sell a game based on it. And the key phrase there is "sell a game", without much thought given to actually creating the game, or what is going to make the game fun to play.

What makes a game fun and engaging is, primarily, the gameplay mechanism. Movies are non-interactive and have no gameplay mechanisms. Therefore, they have little of value to offer to a licensed game. Yes, you can take a generic, well-proven game mechanic and slap on a movie-colored coat of paint, but it means nothing. It may possibly turn out to be an OK game, but there's no reason to expect it to surpass games that were designed as their own properties from the outset. The reverse is more often true: a game concept originated by a game designers is more likely to produce a truly fun game, as compared with a movie concept that some programmers have been ordered to "turn into some kind of game that we can sell this Christmas".

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Where Do You Stand on Daylight Saving Time?

Zobeid Get rid of time changes and time zones! (613 comments)

I'd love to get rid of time changes and just have Standard Time all year, but we don't need to settle for that unimaginative answer. We now have the technology to do better.

When everybody's carrying around a smart phone -- effectively, a computer with a GPS -- then it should be easy to calculate the actual local time, solar time, any place on Earth. If you have local solar time, and you have GMT (Zulu time), then you have everything you need to coordinate the vast majority of human activity. Then time zones become redundant, and time changes would make even less sense than they already do now.

about a month and a half ago
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Vrvana's Totem HMD Puts a Camera Over Each Eye

Zobeid Re:Still not perfect (25 comments)

If you live long enough, your eyes will "unlearn" their focus behavior. That's why bifocals were invented. Maybe the old-timers will actually have an advantage with VR goggles.

about 3 months ago
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The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

Zobeid SCSI madness (192 comments)

I had an A2000 which I soon put a used A2620 card into -- that was the 68020 accelerator which effectively quadrupled the speed of the system. (When was the last time you saw an upgrade card do that??) It was the same card Commodore used in the A2500. It was an amazing machine for its day, not only in terms of graphics and audio, but for sheer processing power.

The thing that always drove me up the wall was SCSI adaptors. They were always tricky to get working -- fiddling with dip switches and jumper pins on the drives, and terminating resistor packs -- and I never had one that worked for a long time. It seemed like there was a steady churn of companies putting an Amiga SCSI card on the market, then going out of business, then another company would take a whack at it. I think I burned through half a dozen completely different SCSI adapters.

about 5 months ago
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Proposed SpaceX Spaceport Passes Its Final Federal Environmental Review

Zobeid Re:Wow, two whole cats. (40 comments)

Texas at one time had six native cat species: bobcat, mountain lion, ocelot, jaguar, jaguarundi and margay. Jaguars and margays have been gone for about a hundred years, and now ocelots and jaguarundis are rare, with just a few hanging on at the southern tip of the state. We'd really prefer not to give them up.

about 7 months ago
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Fusion Power By 2020? Researchers Say Yes and Turn To Crowdfunding.

Zobeid Re:Bad move (280 comments)

> "natural financing source would be venture capital" . . . "they failed to convince anyone relevant"

I suspect most of those "relevant" people remember the whole Cold Fusion flap and have had it drilled into their heads that Fusion Is Bogus. Also, every time I even raise the subject of fusion in conversation, somebody retorts with the well-traveled saying that, "Fusion power is forty years away -- and always will be!", as if that was the definitive, final word on the subject.

For venture capital, the decision not to invest in fusion research -- any fusion research, by anyone -- is easy to make.

about 7 months ago
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Boeing Unveils Cabin Design For Commercial Spaceliner

Zobeid SNC Dream Chaser (74 comments)

The article has no mention of any competing ships. Odd omission, isn't it?

The 2001 reference is particularly off-target here, since Boing are developing a mere capsule while SNC are developing a proper spaceplane. Their Dream Chaser will subject its occupants to much less G-forces during reentry, will have greater cross-range landing capability, and even has hybrid rocket engines on board for on-orbit maneuvering and other uses (such as flying the ship away safely if there's a booster failure). Plus, the Dream Chaser actually looks like a spaceship. What does Boeing have to counter that? Interior decorating!

about 8 months ago
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How Many People Does It Take To Colonize Another Star System?

Zobeid Stone Age Starships (392 comments)

Are we still talking about physically packing specimens of homo sapiens in some kind of gross physical vessel and somehow propelling it across interstellar space? Seriously?? This is the 21st Century, man! It's been obvious for a while now -- several decades at least -- that there are far, far more efficient ways to colonize the galaxy.

By the time interstellar travel becomes feasible, in terms of both technology and resources, surely our AI technology, our robotics technology, our molecular synthesis and manufacturing technology, and our understanding of biology and genetics should be easily advanced enough to ship a manufactory to the destination star system and then FAX across everything and everyone else that is needed there. The explorers and colonists are most likely to be AIs and robots -- although there's nothing to prevent transmitting and synthesizing human beings as well, if it makes any kind of sense to do so. (A human being off planet Earth is like a fish out of water, unless and until we win the cosmic lottery and stumble onto Earth 2.)

I just... I don't know what people are thinking when they trot out these star travel ideas that sound like something from the 1960s. Star travel is an idea about the future. Why do so many people look at this with their minds stuck in the past?

about 9 months ago
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How Can Nintendo Recover?

Zobeid Re:Build a Steam Box and release 1P games to it! (559 comments)

That's thinking outside the box. I like it. Nintendo should do it. But they won't. I might even say they "can't". It's a plan diametrically opposed to their entire corporate culture, their history, their way of thinking. It's hard enough for an individual to do a U-turn like that, but for a publicly held corporation with several thousand employees... They just can't.

Sometimes the old empire just has to fall, and new ones rise.

about a year ago
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How Can Nintendo Recover?

Zobeid Re:Minecraft on iPads (559 comments)

quote: "Apple crushed Nintendo by creating iOS devices and opening up it's platform to indie devs for a minimal fee."

The irony cuts deep. Nintendo first exploded into success by locking down the NES and keeping out all the crap games that had clogged the Atari VCS/2600 market. It's not easy for a company to turn against the strategy that made them. Why did it work so well then, but is backfiring now?

about a year ago
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PC Makers Plan Rebellion Against Microsoft At CES

Zobeid Re:Yeah right. (564 comments)

quote: "One big problem with netbooks was that people assumed that could MS Word, and when they found out they couldn't they returned the computer."

Did this actually happen or is it just an urban myth? (or Microsoft/Intel FUD?)

The way I remember things, there was a lot of buzz about a wave of ARM+Linux netbooks that were supposedly coming soon, and I wanted one, and none of them ever actually made it to market.

about a year ago

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