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The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies Trailer Released

jfengel Re:Such a Waste (156 comments)

That is stuff Tolkien actually talked about at more length in the LotR appendices and in material published after his death. It seems reasonable to include it, since this is really intended as an LotR prequel rather than just The Hobbit on its own. I'm not entirely crazy about the way they wrote it, but it's not something they invented out of whole cloth.

I'd have liked to have seen more of Saruman, in fact, but that was limited by Christopher Lee's health. It ties in to the continuation of the Gandalf plot line from the second film.

2 days ago
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Tesla and Panasonic Have Reached an Agreement On the Gigafactory

jfengel Re:Cell and battery production in same plant (95 comments)

There's no good reason to do it that way now that the era of cheap labor in China is over.

I really don't know much about that; can you amplify a bit? I mean, economics said that it should happen some day, as all that money washing into China should eventually translate into demands for higher pay, but there were plenty of places to squirrel that money away rather than pay workers. And there were a LOT of potential workers.

So what finally caused the labor rate to rise enough? I gather that the goal was to establish dominance in some kinds of manufacturing so that we'd have to re-establish the industry from scratch, raising the threshold for bringing manufacturing projects back here. Did the achieve that, or what?

3 days ago
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China Plans Particle Colliders That Would Dwarf CERN's LHC

jfengel Re:IANAPP (I am not a particle physicist (218 comments)

One pathway for electron/positron collision can produce a neutral Z and a Higgs. In fact, they already tried that at the Large Electron Positron collider, the predecessor to the LHC. It came very close, at 115 GeV. There were hints of the Higgs, and so it came as no real surprise to find it just 10% higher.

This is actually a more efficient way of producing Higgs particles, at lower energies. The LHC produces the Higgs with two quarks, but there are six quarks involved in the proton/proton collision, so a lot of the energy you put in doesn't produce Higgs bosons. (In very rare instances you'll get two Higgs bosons, but most of the time the other quarks just produce other stuff.)

about two weeks ago
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No RIF'd Employees Need Apply For Microsoft External Staff Jobs For 6 Months

jfengel Re:Not about leaks (282 comments)

This is almost certainly about eliminating the risk of contingent workforce being classified as employees.

Sorry, I think this is the point I'm not getting. Is that a tax thing or benefits thing or some other law? Does it incur some sort of penalty, like making them pay some kind of retroactive tax?

about two weeks ago
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Researchers Find Evidence of How Higgs Particle Imparts Mass

jfengel Re:Misleading title (91 comments)

Yeah, as usual, the summary is terrible. ALL collisions at the LHC are proton-proton collisions, not just the W-W ones.

What they're measuring is one of the higher-order corrections implied by the Higgs mechanism. Without the Higgs field, W bosons wouldn't have mass. Measuring how the Ws interact with each helps verify that the Higgs mechanism for explaining W boson mass is correct. Unfortunately, it's kinda hard to produce a W boson, much less two at once, much less getting them to interact with each other. You have to produce a lot of high-energy collisions to see it happen.

They did, and they got the answer they expected from the Higgs mechanism. Yay, Peter Higgs gets to keep his Nobel prize.

about two weeks ago
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US House Passes Permanent Ban On Internet Access Taxes

jfengel Re:November? (148 comments)

It was sponsored by over 200 people on both sides. It passed by a "voice vote" which means they didn't track exactly who voted for it or against it, but it was overwhelmingly positive. I gather that a few Democrats voted against it, mostly on the grounds that some states tax it and need it as a revenue source (it's a Republican thing to believe that collecting less taxes somehow magically decreases deficits rather than increasing them), but mostly, it's hard to vote against a tax cut in an election year.

Because of that there's a good chance that it will flounder and die in the Senate. The House is 100% up in November, but the Senators are a bit more responsible about forbidding states from raising revenues, and the Senators from Texas (which lose their exemption under the current moratorium) may ask Reid to spike it.

So arguably, this is more about ending the moratorium than extending it: by voting up a permanent ban they've diminished the chances of extending the temporary one. I don't know all of the inside-baseball on this one and there's more that I'm not seeing, so I can't give a confident prediction.

about two weeks ago
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Comcast Customer Service Rep Just Won't Take No For an Answer

jfengel Re:We're sorry we got caught? (401 comments)

If so, perhaps they their script from when I quit Comcast. I quit because they couldn't or wouldn't fix a very unreliable connection; don't get me wrong, the service sucked. But canceling it took a few minutes; they asked me why, and I told them, and that was it. They didn't try really hard to retain me.

Perhaps the frequent complaints I'd made popped up a box saying "Customer is a pain in the butt, let them go" or "Customer is at the end of a long last mile with outdated equipment, and it would cost more to fix their problem than we'd make in payments, so give it up." Or maybe it was just my very definite answer about why I was canceling. But it didn't take me very long and I got no real pushback on it.

about two weeks ago
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Selectively Reusing Bad Passwords Is Not a Bad Idea, Researchers Say

jfengel Re:Simpler approach... (280 comments)

I find that in effect my password-keeper for sites with onerous restrictions, but used only rarely, is my email. I end up using the password-recovery feature which usually ends up as "we'll email you a link; if you have access to the original email address you signed in with, we'll treat that as proof that you are who you say you are."

Losing access to my email account would be pretty disastrous. That can happen not just by forgetting the password, but with any kind of administrative failure, or even simply being out of range (though fortunately, trying to access a web site usually implies access to my email.)

It's very much an eggs-in-one-basket situation, though fortunately those rarely-used web sites are usually of limited importance to me.

about two weeks ago
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White House Punts On Petition To Allow Tesla Direct Sales

jfengel Re:Not a duty of the Executive Branch (382 comments)

What I find particularly perplexing is that if there was a real significant movement, and the request were possible, the White House would already be doing it. It's hard for me to imagine a President saying, "Gosh, 134,000+ people, you're right. This is a really important issue and I had no idea that people cared about it. Thanks, I'll get right on it."

So I'm confused as to what they hope to accomplish with the site. Maybe, maybe they'd end up going to Congress and saying, "Look, we've got ten million virtual signatures here, and that means I've got a campaign issue next time around. So go do something." But shy of that I don't see it giving anybody anything except a place to vent, followed by a quick civics lesson on the separation of powers.

about two weeks ago
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Walter Munk's Astonishing Wave-Tracking Experiment

jfengel Re:Cheap documentary? (55 comments)

Oh. Duh. That makes perfect sense, visualized that way. Thanks.

about two weeks ago
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Rocket Scientist Designs "Flare" Pot That Cooks Food 40% Faster

jfengel Re:Wow. (204 comments)

I learned to camp during the 80s, when we were transitioning from the "huge swaths of canvas with wooden poles" era to the "flimsy nylon with folding aluminum tubes" phase. It was so, so much better.

about two weeks ago
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Scientists Have Developed a Material So Dark That You Can't See It

jfengel Re:Solar panels (238 comments)

Is it that significant of an improvement over the previous blackest thing? I would have expected that solar thermal panels would be limited primarily by the difficulty of generating usable power from the heat differential. I know that there already existed previous really-really-black coatings, though I actually would have thought that compared to the other problems, ordinary black paint would suffice. Is this enough of an improvement to make a difference in that vein?

about three weeks ago
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Walter Munk's Astonishing Wave-Tracking Experiment

jfengel Re:Cheap documentary? (55 comments)

Have you got a link with more information? (I did try Googling, but words like "wave" and "sphere" and "converge" are used in too many contexts and they drown out specifics.) How does that work?

about three weeks ago
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Economist: File Sharing's Impact On Movies Is Modest At Most

jfengel Re:Same old song and dance .... (214 comments)

I wonder how much the illegality of it figures into the convenience. The study implies that copying, as currently practiced, has only a limited impact. But that takes place in a world where copying is illegal: people are repeatedly told that it's a bad thing (ad nauseam; I really don't need to be reminded every time I play my legally purchased movie) and the news is full of horror stories of people being harassed by prosecutors when they do get caught.

So I don't know what policy conclusions we could draw from this study. If we made sharing legal, how much would that impact people? Would they continue to want to go to the theater, which has a much larger screen and great sound, but which also costs a fair bit (and even more for any snacks you want, which are actually the theater's primary profit center) and which isn't as convenient in either time or space as having it at home?

I'm not sure how we could guess, aside from actually doing an experiment in which sharing was made legal, and even that is difficult to control (since the entire marketing process would need to change to accommodate it, and it's hard to predict which movies would have been blockbusters at the box office.)

about three weeks ago
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Rocket Scientist Designs "Flare" Pot That Cooks Food 40% Faster

jfengel Re:Wow. (204 comments)

The hammock is probably unnecessary, and in backpacking, you really need to be prepared to do without.

But I wonder if combining the tent and the pack could work, such that the tent poles form the backpack frame and the tent the body. It would be tricky to get the form factor right on both (and if you're humping it for hours, form factor is crucial) but the tent already has an interior and a waterproof exterior. It could shave a kilo or so off your load, and that would be huge.

Folding it every morning would probably suck, but if it could get down to five minutes it might be worth it.

about three weeks ago
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Nano-Pixels Hold Potential For Screens Far Denser Than Today's Best

jfengel Can I have an indigo pixel? (129 comments)

One possibility would be improving the color range, even if the resolution isn't improved. Rather than cramming in three phosophors per pixel, perhaps we could have four, or more. There's a considerable chunk of color space not well represented by RGB color.

I don't know how much of a difference it would make to TV viewers or gamers, but I know that artists would be grateful for a better color range. The conversion from RGB to CMYK is always a bit of a crapshoot; things that look great on your screen don't look as good when they come back from the printers, and there's a whole range of stuff it doesn't occur to you to try because you can't see it.

I could even imagine that it might be handy for medical imaging and other applications where you want to cram as much information onto the screen as possible: more pixels may not improve things but more colors might. Though more pixels could achieve that as well: it would be nice to be able to zoom in by bringing your face closer to the screen without simply seeing bigger pixels. Head motion is kinaesthetically appealing: you can move in and out without losing your sense of overall place.

Sharp already makes a four-pixel TV, with an added yellow (which is especially helpful in skin tones). I think it would be neat to be able to produce true indigo, violent, and cyan. If this lets you add more phosphors without costing resolution, it might not be a killer app, but it could be a desirable thing.

about three weeks ago
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Rocket Scientist Designs "Flare" Pot That Cooks Food 40% Faster

jfengel Re:Wow. (204 comments)

I am intrigued by your ideas, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

I think that the combo tent/backpack/hammock would be a challenge, since each has different materials for different purposes. But the weight savings (or comfort from not doing without) could be substantial (at least, in an activity where people are said to snap handles off toothbrushes to save weight), and now that you mention it I'm surprised that somebody hasn't tried before. If I actually see the product on shelves some day I'll raise a glass to ya.

about three weeks ago
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FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

jfengel Re:Perfectly appropriate action for the FAA to tak (199 comments)

It's time for Congress to do a lot of things. But when was the last time Congress did anything at all? Has there been even a single non-trivial piece of legislation in the entire 113th? Was there any in the 112th?

The bar to legislation is fairly high and there's always a large set of voters prepared to punish their legislators for allowing anything through that would be seen as a victory for the other side or even as a compromise with them, regardless of the issue. Those Congressmen have been trained in a Pavlovian fashion to loudly denounce anything anybody tries to do.

So don't expect Congress to fix this, or anything else.

about three weeks ago
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Today In Year-based Computer Errors: Draft Notices Sent To Men Born In the 1800s

jfengel Re:Technically, it's not a "draft notice" (205 comments)

Interesting.

Given MAD, it's hard to imagine another WWII-type scenario (though it would be a bad day if China invaded Taiwan). But I could foresee something like Afghanistan spreading to the entire Middle East, where they couldn't nuke us (at least, not more than a couple of times, not like Cold War-style "nuclear winter" barrages), and we'd be strongly pressured not to nuke them. But the theater would be so wide that we'd need vast, vast number of ground troops.

about three weeks ago
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Today In Year-based Computer Errors: Draft Notices Sent To Men Born In the 1800s

jfengel Re:Technically, it's not a "draft notice" (205 comments)

The closest we get to that is the airport, where rights have been considerably and visibly curtailed (as opposed to the comparatively invisible loss of rights due to government intrusion in electronic communications). People seem to have accepted that more or less gracefully: they bitch, but it's not seen as a massive imposition on most people's daily lives.

I don't know if we'd ever get to the point of rationing food. Even if we declared a full-scale war, technology means we grow a lot of surplus food in this country. Prices might rise, but I don't think we'd ever see "grow victory gardens" posters as we did in the last unlimited war.

Oil, however, would skyrocket, and technology might be severely curtailed. It would be interesting to see how people reacted to that. It's hard to say whether that would be a bigger factor than outrage at a draft of manpower. In Korea and Vietnam, a lot of the public seemed to take the draft with equanimity since it came without the kind of rationing we saw during World War II.

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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Executive order makes government data open by default

jfengel jfengel writes  |  about a year ago

jfengel (409917) writes "Last week, President Obama issued an executive order titled "Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information".

Government information shall be managed as an asset throughout its life cycle to promote interoperability and openness, and, wherever possible and legally permissible, to ensure that data are released to the public in ways that make the data easy to find, accessible, and usable.

It relies heavily on a paper from the CIO, "Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People.", issued in February."

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Former Senator claims US government suppressing UFO evidence

jfengel jfengel writes  |  about a year ago

jfengel (409917) writes "Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) says the White House has helped keep the truth about the “extraterrestrial influence that is investigating our planet” from the public. He was joined by five former Representatives. Paradigm Research paid each $20k to appear at a press conference, at which Gravel said:

“It goes right to the White House, and of course, once the White House takes a position, ‘well there's nothing going on’...it just goes down the chain of command, everyone stands toe. ... The smoking gun of the whole issue, which is when they saw hovering space craft in Wyoming and South Dakota over the ICBM missile silos that the missiles couldn't work.”"

Link to Original Source

Journals

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Theater

jfengel jfengel writes  |  more than 10 years ago Just on the off chance somebody comes to find out who I am, I'll stick in a plug for my theater group, The Rude Mechanicals. We put on really, really good Shakespeare in Laurel, MD. Half the cast reads Slashdot, and you've never seen Shakespeare until you've seen it performed by computer nerds. The other half are English majors. This is serious amateur theater.

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