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Culberson As Chair of NASA Fundng Subcommittee Makes Europa Mission More Likely

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Texas representative? (56 comments)

Culberson's enthusiasm for space exploration goes far beyond what would be expected from a Texas representative

Okay submitter, what do you expect from a Texas representative?

Well, Louie Gohmert is at best eccentric and at worst stupid beyond belief. The fact that he keeps getting re-elected really says a lot about the voters in his district. Do a search on his name plus the words "terror babies" for one of his most, ahem, "interesting" fears. He's never gotten less than 61% of the vote while running for Congress.

Ron Paul is about as crazy as they come, unless you're a Libertarian, in which case he makes perfect sense and everybody else is insane. He's not a current member of Congress, but he inflicted his idiocy on D.C. for years. He didn't lose re-election - he simply retired or else he'd still be promoting his wacko ideas in DC today.

Sheila Jackson Lee is infamous for her use of staffers to do personal errands for her. One staffer was told by his doctor to quit or he would die from the stress. She has proposed more failed legislation than any current member of Congress according to one source. She's been in the top 3 every year in a poll of the meanest members of Congress to work for.

These are just a few of the "distinguished" representatives from Texas.

2 days ago

UK Hotel Adds Hefty Charge For Bad Reviews Online

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Ask the credit card for a refund (302 comments)

The card charges 30 pounds fee to refund it, and the hotel loses the money and the fee.

Do that often enough and the hotel will lose the right to take credit cards, because the card companies don't want scams like this.

A hotel that can't take credit cards will lose most of their business very quickly.

In the past, I'd have agreed with you, but not any more. Things have really changed in the credit card industry since what we call "the Great Recession" in the USA. In the past, I successfully protested several charges and one time got almost $400 taken off over a dispute with a Hong Kong hotel. Approximately 6 years ago, I bought 2 tickets on a European based airline. I don't want to name them, but let's just say it's not a major carrier and they aren't particularly well known unless you happen to live in the country where they are based. My at the time girlfriend was supposed to go with me on a trip. Her mother had to have emergency surgery and being an only child and her mother having divorced her husband many years ago, my girlfriend had to stay and help and miss the trip. I did not want to go by myself, so I contacted the airline. They said that the tickets were non-refundable. I then asked if I could just get a credit towards a future flight and they said no. So basically their position was that those tickets were only good for the exact flight I booked them and for no other flight. I was not advised of this at the time of purchase, so I protested it. It went on for months. I printed out copies of their entire website, showing the ticket buying process and showing that nowhere on the site did they state their policy about no-refunds, no credits. I provided copies of the email the airline sent me when I bought the tickets, showing that at no point did they mention no refunds, no changes, no credits. The airline's response to my submission was to simply say "We told him he couldn't have refunds" and offer no proof to back it up. After months of wrangling, my credit card company essentially told me that because the airline refused to refund the charge, I was stuck with it, despite my submission that they never told me their refund policy. The bottom line was that my credit card didn't want to eat the charges of the airline tickets and they were unwilling to rule in my favor because they would have had to eat the charges since the airline refused to do a refund. Granted, a hotel charge is a lot less, but I have to warn from my experience that if the hotel puts up even a half assed fight like that airline did against me, that may be enough to prevent you from getting the money back.

4 days ago

Court Rules Google's Search Results Qualify As Free Speech

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Not Google's problem (137 comments)

So, if Google's search results are considered free speech, do they also have the same responsibilities as other forms of free speech. What if you search for a person and the results incorrectly suggests that the person is a pedophile? Does that qualify as libel, or is that suddenly not Google's problem?

It's not Google's problem to report that somebody else made a libelous claim any more than if you tell your neighbor "Hey, that guy John Doe down the street put on the internet that you're a convicted child molester but I know that's not true", your neighbor would have a legal claim against John Doe, not against you for telling him. The fact that Google reports a search result doesn't make them responsible for the content in the USA. Things might be different in Europe though.

5 days ago

Court Rules Google's Search Results Qualify As Free Speech

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:I am sure there will be a challenge (137 comments)

Or how he stated that the Right to Privacy doesn't exist in the Constitution, which was how he defending the banning of homosexuality under sodomy laws (you know, "what happens in private between consenting adults is no one's business"....well Santorum thought it was his business)...

I'm not defending Santorum at all because I think he's pretty stupid, but the right to privacy does not exist in the Constitution. It's never mentioned. The Supreme Court has ruled that such a right is inferred by the other things in the Constitution, but strictly speaking he does have a valid point. A different Supreme Court such as the current one might well have come to the other conclusion that if it's not mentioned explicitly, it doesn't exist.

5 days ago

Internet Sales Tax Bill Dead In Congress

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Ok, they got ONE right... (257 comments)

We'll just have to see. The Republicans are in charge of congress now, so we'll see if they're actually going to shrink the size of government or spend the next two years repeatedly trying to repeal obamacare another 40 times.

I doubt they're going to try and end the war on [insert everything here] or roll back IRS harassment powers or end civil forfeiture or rein in the NSA or anything else that I'd really like the government to stop doing.

John McCain has already said that while he thinks it's a waste of time to try to repeal Obamacare that so many new members of Congress promised to do it that they have to pass such a bill, wait for the President to veto it, and then get on with the serious business at hand so the new members can claim at re-election time that they tried to repeal it, but gosh darn it, just didn't have the votes to override the veto. He said he'd rather the time be spent trying to accomplish something like removing the medical device tax (some Democrats may actually be OK with this idea) than trying to repeal the entire thing, which is never going to happen.

Government isn't going to shrink and probably no libertarian concern you have will be met. My bet is that while the role of the Tea Party has been reduced, there's still too many of those crazy ideologues around and they're going to bog down Congress over trivial matters that most other Republicans don't care about. Congress allows far too much of what I call "tyranny of the minority" to happen, especially in the Senate, and all the obstructionist tactics the Senate Republicans tried recently are now going to be thrown right back at them. Expect a lot of bluster about how unfair this is and how the Republicans will conveniently forget that they used the exact same tactics themselves in this current Congress.

about two weeks ago

The Other Side of Diversity In Tech

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve My take (441 comments)

I'm not as hostile towards Erica as some here, but I'm not as sympathetic either as you might think. I graduated college when Reagan was president and I've worked in IT all my professional career. I've had some jobs I liked a lot. I've had others that really sucked. My current job is pretty good and I like my employer a lot, but a few years ago things were different in the job and I was pretty unhappy. Things change in life. Some jobs start off good and get bad. Some start off bad and get good. Some are always good. Some are always bad. Erica started her career at a university in Alaska. Alaska is hardly a place with a lot of black people and university IT jobs are kind of infamous. Typically they don't pay well and they tend to attract certain types of people who aren't exactly go getters. Well, this has been my experience on the East Coast of the USA, but perhaps things are different elsewhere. Maybe in California, for example, university IT jobs are fantastic. But I've got a pretty good feeling that Erica didn't start off with a great job. That probably plays some role in her perceptions. She also worked in Windows which attracts different types of people than Unix/Linux type jobs do. That may also play a role in how things were for her.

Another thing I want to mention is that I work sometimes with other companies' IT departments to solve problems and there's a lot of variability there. Big companies usually have pretty competent IT groups. Small companies? Not always. I know that some small companies have badly overworked IT people who are doing the work of 2 or 3 people by themselves. Sometimes people in bad IT jobs won't leave for various reasons. They may fear change. They may work in an area with limited opportunities. One of my co-workers is a few years older than me and before joining our company he apparently didn't have any IT jobs that weren't horrible beyond belief. Maybe she just found a lot of bad jobs. It sounded like she was pretty happy in the job at Home Depot but got pissy over the pay and not being able to get promoted and left. If you want to work in IT and chase dollars, you can job hop and do that, but I can't promise you that the next job will be better or make you happy. You may get more money and have worse working conditions. And if you want to get promoted, you probably shouldn't go into IT at all. It's not exactly a career path to being CEO. Sounded like she was willing to trade a job that made her happy to try to get more money and she was never able to find a job she liked as much. It happens.

about three weeks ago

The Plane Crash That Gave Us GPS

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:If only that were enough... (236 comments)

Interestingly enough, the Ukrainians responsible for that disaster are currently Russians — the missile came from Crimea...

You won't find this in the Wikipedia article, but there are rumors in some intelligence circles that this flight was actually shot down by the Russians and Ukraine took the rap because they could play the "Duh! We so stupid! Not know what we doing! Soldiers were drunk!" card in exchange for some sort of special favor from Russia. That may not be true and it may be that Ukraine really shot it down through incompetence, but I just wanted to point out that there are some who don't buy the official explanation.

about three weeks ago

The Plane Crash That Gave Us GPS

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Godwin's Law (236 comments)

I'm sure any Slashdot post invoking both of these political figures will attract only the most calm and well-reasoned discussion.

Did you talk about Hitler? I think I see a Hitler reference in that comment. Godwin's Law! Godwin's Law!

(This is meant to be a joke.)

about three weeks ago

Statisticians Study Who Was Helped Most By Obamacare

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Redistribution (739 comments)

It is worth noting this article and effort was pushed forth by O-Care supporters. It fails to answer the most important questions.. has your healthcare improved or lowered in cost? Are you using it?

Let me give the experience of my best friend. He's probably in upper half of what one would call the Middle Class in the USA. I work for The Man so I've always had health insurance via my job. He is a small business owner. His business employees his wife and between 1 and 3 other employees at any given time, depending on a variety of factors. He does not offer health insurance to his employees. As a small business owner, he's had to get insurance on his own for himself, his wife and one child. He is a Republican voter who almost never votes Democratic. He's not a wing nut, but he is relatively conservative politically. He originally completely opposed "Obamacare", saying the usual Republican stuff about how it was going to be the worst thing ever, destroying the country once it got implemented. He admitted to me that now that he can use the state health exchange that his insurance payments per month have dropped about $300 over what he previously paid and he thinks he has better coverage now. He no longer complains about "Obamacare" although he's still going to vote Republican.

about three weeks ago

Cell Transplant Allows Paralyzed Man To Walk

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Next, the brain (161 comments)

This is great. Now if we could only get a cell transplant that would allow idiots to think.

Nooooo!!! Who would flip the hamburgers then? :-)

about a month ago

Your Online TV Watching Can Now Be Tracked Across Devices

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:All the more reason to get an antenna. (126 comments)

Most of those channels are religious and Spanish channels.

This. And I say this as a Christian rather than the typical rabid atheist Slashdot poster, but I have zero interest in watching those channels. Plus, OTA reception where I live is absolutely awful except for religious and Spanish channels and Fox. Oh yes - the CW, which I never watch, comes in very well too. The other major networks (CBS, NBC, ABC) either can't be viewed reliably or not at all where I live. Plenty of people actually know about OTA TV, but it's not a realistic option for everybody.

Of what's left, Netflix does a much better job of replicating most of their content in a superior format with a better user interface.

Netflix is like the 32 of those rerun dominated channels from your 500 channel cable package.

I think Netflix's streaming options are horrifically bad in general, but I seem to hold a minority opinion on that one. All I can say is that they consistently fail to have what I'm interested in watching with very few exceptions.

about a month ago

Miss a Payment? Your Car Stops Running

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:These people are doing it to themselves (907 comments)

2. It's quaint that you think there is universal ambulance service in the United States. There isn't.

Since the person in question lived in Las Vegas, not Smalltown USA, I think it's pretty reasonable to assume that an ambulance was a viable option in terms of availability. Since she had to get a predatory loan to get a car, it's also reasonable to assume that she has money problems and either didn't have insurance that would cover the cost of using it or covered very little of that cost. Saying she didn't want to pay the cost of an ambulance, and for those who don't know, this can easily be $1000 in the USA, is really a different argument than suggesting that she had no other choice because ambulance service didn't exist where she lived.

about 2 months ago

To Fight $5.2B In Identity Theft, IRS May Need To Change the Way You File Taxes

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Solution (410 comments)

Tax evasions are possible with the so called "Fair Tax" or "Sales Tax" as you call it. Rich people may find it much cheaper to buy expensive items overseas or in Canada or Mexico and ship them to the USA. That's not something that the average person can afford to do. It may also cause a black market to form where people can buy things on the sly, like electronics, where they pay cash and the sales aren't reported. I have no doubt at all that the rich people in the USA have already thought of ways to avoid this kind of sales tax that we've never considered. I've also read that in such a system businesses may pay less than individuals and in such cases the rich may simply shunt their purchases through businesses, perhaps created only to serve as a front for saving taxes on purchases. Dream on, but your idea won't work.

about 2 months ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Learning after 30 (234 comments)

In a vague way, one of my hobbies is learning foreign languages. I really don't want to oversell that, but I studied 2 languages after turning 30 and while I wouldn't say I'm fluent in either (I could eventually be with a lot more practice and a real reason to use them though) this goes along with another language I studied in college and am close to fluent in. Additionally I know enough to get by of a 4th language, particularly when reading. What I found is that I could still learn another language after 30, I just had to work somewhat harder at it than when I was younger, but it was still doable. So if you are really interested in learning astronomy and physics after age 30, I think you can. The key thing is not to give up. I know of a lot of language learning failures in older (30 and above) students because they just gave up, not really because they weren't capable of learning it. It definitely gets easier to find excuses for not studying when you get older and while I did have to study a little bit more after age 30, it wasn't like three times as much or even twice as much, but it did require somewhat more work.

about 2 months ago

Scientists Sequence Coffee Genome, Ponder Genetic Modification

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve This is robusta coffee they're talking about (167 comments)

I was not familiar with the name coffea canephora so I looked it up. This is what I have heard in the past called coffea robusta. Maybe the name got changed to disguise what it is. A lot of people know what robusta coffee is. For those who don't know, robusta is considered an inferior species of coffee. Ever heard of coffees that say that they are 100% arabica? This is because just about everybody considers arabica to be superior to robusta. Robusta is used in blends because it is is very bitter. Robusta is more disease resistant and has higher crop yields than arabica, but I've never heard of it being used in concentrations of more than maybe 1o to 15% in blends. Usually the amount used is less than 10%. This is great, I guess, and I suppose if there were 100% robusta blends some crazy people would love it. Currently in the USA there's a big interest in making craft beers as bitter as possible. Those kind of people, who are in the minority, would probably love large robusta blends. But until they sequence and maybe talk about doing things to protect arabica from disease, this is mildly interesting and no more.

about 3 months ago

In Maryland, a Soviet-Style Punishment For a Novelist

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Not necessarily (441 comments)

Wow. Talk about a lawsuit that you are *guaranteed* to win.

This guy is going to make millions.

My best friend is an attorney and we've known each other for years. He has taught me a lot about how the law really works in the USA (I live in the US too by the way). Literally anything can happen in court. You may be right in that the odds may be good that he'll be able to sue and win, but it all depends on factors we can't control or predict. The judge the case gets is important. If it's a jury trial, the outcome may have more to do with the abilities of the lawyers involved than the actual merits of the case. Then if you don't like the verdict and appeal it, you go back to square one because some appellate judges tend to favor one side over the other. You get a really conservative appellate male judge in the Scalia mold and you could find that he'll basically allow the government to do anything if they feel that public safety was potentially at risk. Keep in mind too that the author may be greatly exaggerating what happened to him and what really happened may be a lot less sensational than the news report.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Repeated Internet Overbilling?

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:What to do? (355 comments)

A less drastic, but equally annoying solution might be to just turn it off for a month. See what they bill you then.

"It was turned off" is a lot more likely to persuade a small claims court to your side than "I was overcharged by 14%, and here are the dozen esoteric ways I can prove it".

How do you as a consumer prove conclusively it was turned off when AT&T will say "Nuh uh. He was using it the whole time!". Then it just gets into "He said/She said" territory and I can assure you that judges hate that kind of stuff. Plus, we had another poster make the good point that even if you try to go after AT&T, they'll use their army of highly paid lawyers to argue "Change of venue" or try to show how your contract allows them to get summary dismissal. A lot of companies now have clauses that state that you agree to arbitration, which means you can't go to small claims court against them. And they can ask for the arbitration in a location as far away from you as possible so unless you're insane and willing to spend thousands of dollars to maybe win a few hundred back, it's just not worth it. I am having a hard time understanding how this is a constant problem for the original poster though unless he's trying to run a business via what is supposed to be a residential connection or he's the king of torrents. I've had AT&T for years and I've never exceeded my limits even once. Going to Uverse, as suggested in another post, is also a good idea as AT&T is known to deliberately degrade their DSL service anyway. Uverse is so much better than the old DSL service they had, I really don't think it's rational to stay with DSL if you can possibly get Uverse where you live.

about 3 months ago

Early Bitcoin User Interviewed By Federal Officers

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve The Butler case (92 comments)

The Butler case is not exactly what you claim. First of all, the scientist in question called in the FBI in a panic because he couldn't account for 30 missing vials of plague vaccine and assumed they were stolen. The FBI found no evidence of a break in and then Butler officially signed a document stating that he was in error and he destroyed the vials himself and he claimed they were missing to cover it up. That got him arrested. Then he said that he doesn't know what happened, whether he destroyed the vials or not. He claims that the FBI pressured him into signing the document admitting he destroyed them and he was probably led to believe that if he signed it they would close the case when it fact it was used against him as "proof" that he caused an FBI investigation for nothing. Let's not kid ourselves here - this is not at all a case as you suggest where the FBI came fishing out of nowhere. Had Butler not contacted them to begin with in a panic, they would not have bothered him at all. He was probably tricked into "confessing" and not told he'd be prosecuted for doing so and that's a valid complaint against the FBI, but they certainly didn't come to him out of the blue and invent a reason for going after him.

about 3 months ago

Put A Red Cross PSA In Front Of the ISIS Beheading Video

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:Why do they want us to see it anyway? (300 comments)

That's what puzzles me to no end. Why would they want to show us how they behead someone?

To make use hate them? Our media accomplish that easily already, but thanks for the aid. To make us fear them? Why should I fear a bunch of religious lunatics somewhere off in lalaland? Hell, I'm more afraid of the religious loonies in the Bible belt! To show us they can do it? Any idiot can kill someone who can't defend himself, no big deal about that.

So, what should that accomplish? I'm sitting here, puzzled, shrugging my shoulders with a "meh".

Thanks for providing the always obligatory "Christians are much worse than this" post. Yes, for sure they are because the fact that they actually believe in God is oh so terrible to you personally. And don't forget to mention all those family members of yours that church down the street killed in a blood ritual.

What people like you don't get is the following.
1) Some people will always be religious. This crazy idea that one day all religions will go away is never going to happen.
2) When Christianity shrinks, you know what religion is uniquely positioned to grab the people in category #1? That's right - radical Islam. Why? It's messages of "All of your problems are being caused by non-believers" and "You can get a huge reward in the afterlife by doing a whole lot of killing here now" resonate with poor people who have no hope of improvement.

You fail to grasp that if radical Islam does one day show up at your door then they're going to do a lot worse to you as a non-believer than knocking on your door and asking to leave a pamphlet.

about 3 months ago

Tech Looks To Obama To Save Them From 'Just Sort of OK' US Workers

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve Re:That's why slashdot is against tech immigration (441 comments)

Then your company is breaking the law and you should report them. Companies are required to pay above the prevailing wage for the position and region. We paid both of our H1B workers well above average for our staff and when they worked out sponsored their green cards (and boy is that process a cluster!), we're the kind of employer that the program was actually designed for, we were looking for extremely rare talent sets and had advertised the positions for months before looking abroad. I have to say that I have much bigger problems with the screwups in the green card program than I do with the H1B system, permanently bringing smart people from abroad raises the GDP of the US and brings diversity to the country.

It's actually possible to both "pay above the prevailing wage for the position and region" and seriously underpay H1B workers at the same time. All you have to do is define the job in the right way to drive down the "prevailing wage" for it and then hire someone into the job but have their duties be different. Congratulations on being the exception to the rule. My employer, who I deliberately refuse to name, is actually pretty good, but we hire a lot more H1B workers than Americans for certain jobs and it's not logical to conclude that they are "better" than Americans. Cheaper? Yes. I also briefly dated an H1B worker at another company. I'm pretty sure she makes $20,000 to $30,000 less than an American would at her job, but her company is really small so they somehow get away with it, maybe by defining her job differently than what her actual duties are.

about 3 months ago


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