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* Posts by Mike Richards

3579 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

Elon Musk delays SpaceX launch until 2009

Mike Richards

@ lglethal

There's never really been any competition for cheap rockets in the past. The US expendable rockets could be expensive because the bulk of their launches went to the military who'd pay almost anything. The only serious attempt to cut costs was the original plan to turn the Shuttle into a space truck, but the Shuttle proved to be about the most expensive way imaginable of putting stuff into orbit and the commercial launches were all suspended anyway after the Challenger explosion.

The Russians did produce cheap rockets because they needed to launch several hundred rockets EVERY year in the most appalling conditions. So their Soyuz family of rockets was built on an assembly line out of cheap components with fairly loose tolerances. However, Soyuz has had trouble getting into the commercial business because of concerns over technology transfer to the Russians and the lack of an equatorial launch site which limits the amount of payload that can be fired into the most valuable geostationary orbits.

Soyuz is by far the best cheap launcher at the moment, but it's worth remembering it is based on half century old technology - all those small thrust chambers and strap-on boosters make it inherently less effective than a rocket designed today with more advanced materials and engines. So there is a market for a competitor, but the Soyuz IS going to be a tough act to follow.

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Mike Richards

@Timbo

That weight includes the re-entry systems you need to bring astronauts back without being char-broiled.

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NASA reveals Moon's rugged south pole

Mike Richards

@Tim @Michael

Tim.

You'll be glad to know that the Americans previously imaged the surface of Venus with Earth-based during the early 1980s. These maps were superseded by data retrieved by the orbiters Pioneer Venus, Magellan and Veneras 15 and 16.

More recently they've used the Goldstone telescope to examine the Martian surface and done several surveys of Earth-crossing asteroids. The resolution is usually pretty low (Mars maps were in the tens of kilometres per pixel level), but they can reveal large geological features and the relative roughness of the surface. IIRC as long ago as the 1970s radar surveys of Mars were used to identify areas of the surface where the Viking landers could touch down safely.

Michael.

Lunar altitudes are calculated as differences from the centre of the Moon. The most up to date figure for the mean lunar surface is 1,737,988 metres from the centre, with spot heights being given as +/- that number. IIRC the highest points on the Moon are something like 4,700 metres above the mean surface. Calculating altitude is not as easy as it sounds since the Moon is noticeably aspherical with a considerably thicker crust on the far side than the hemisphere we see from Earth.

HTH.

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Apple unearths Time Capsule

Mike Richards

Pretty good value

I'm guessing 'server grade' means a drive with an exception MTBF - we'll find out as soon as someone gets their hot little hands on one and cracks it open. If it is a good drive then Apple's pricing seems reasonable.

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Terminator Salvation is go for May 2009 release

Mike Richards
Paris Hilton

Need a new Terminator...

Sort of plasticky, monosyllabic and regularly naked.

The icon says it all.

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Asus Eee PC gives Sony the willies

Mike Richards

Alternatively

Sony, Apple and the rest could start advertising their laptops using similar scantily-clad loveliness.

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Gov boffins to carry out simulated London dirty bombing

Mike Richards

McNulty

(Currently about the third most odious NuLabour minister)

They may not kill you, but perfluorocarbons ARE potent greenhouse gases - has McNulty done an environmental assessment of releasing these chemicals? And how many hippies will we have to plant to offset this test?

And to go back in the thread, some basic chemistry.

Argon wouldn't be a very good gas to use as a tracer in the atmosphere, since there's already about 0.8% of the stuff floating around

And no, you shouldn't swallow U238, not only because its toxic, but because its an alpha emitter and could do various nasties to your GI tract as it worked its way through.

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Hotmail dies on both sides of the Atlantic

Mike Richards

Ah that explains it...

My spam filter hasn't had much work today - now I know why.

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ICO tells Cabinet Office to release Iraq docs

Mike Richards

Want to bet

That not one of Blair's Cabinet colleagues dared speak up against the proposal for war?

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Blunkett gets another job

Mike Richards

'with' or 'by'?

'Banged up with Blunkett' - a series in which liberals are incarcerated with New Labour's own mad, bad and dangerous to know bearded demagogue would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment in any book. Grown men have been known to beg to go to Guantanamo Bay rather than share the Today programme with our big-budget Mullah Omar.

Meanwhile, that positively engorged bonkbuster 'Banged up by Blunkett' a the racy story of American millionairesses, their third world nannies, our deliciously stern ex-Home Secretary and a dog - must be deemed too disturbing for sensitive viewers.

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HMRC pays criminal for 'tax dodger' discs

Mike Richards

An economy built on tax fraud and dentures

is all I know about Liechtenstein.

On second thoughts, does Liechtenstein actually exist? Has anyone ever been there? Has anyone ever met a Liechtensteinian? Real country or a cartographic rounding error?

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China plans 'deep-sea base project'

Mike Richards

@ Ru

'I'm not about to cast aspersions on the Chinese, but it might be nice if someone could give examples of interesting things they've created in the last 1000 years or so? Or better yet, the last 100?'

Ziyi Zhang???

Well *I* find her interesting ;)

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Mike Richards

Mwahahahah!

Presumably it'll flit between picking up bits of lightly barbecued spy satellite and snipping ocean cables?

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UK rattles 'three strikes' filesharing sabre (again)

Mike Richards

And if ISPs finger the wrong person?

Will the record companies be willing to share the fines imposed by the court? Or will they be busy buying another archipelago for Cliff Richard.

(slightly offtopic, but what is it that makes Andy Burnham quite so inherently slappable?)

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Google encourages 10 teams to rocket to the moon

Mike Richards

Micro-space

'"I want to thank the lord Jesus Christ for this opportunity," said team leader Richard Speck at the press event, holding up a piece of paper with a cross printed on it.'

Is it so *VERY* wrong to hope this one goes tits-up in a thrillingly telegenic coast-to-coast tribute-to-Gerry-Anderson launch pad explosion?

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Turkmen prez sacks 30 for TV news cockroach outrage

Mike Richards

Cockroach +1

And I thought it was only Channel 4 who decided it makes sense to repeat the news.

And who doesn't think a cockroach would do a better job of the news than GMTV?

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Virgin biofuel jumbo trials won't use algae

Mike Richards

@Dunstan

No, there's no need for biocides. The algae would be cooked in a fermenter to produce a liquor containing either ethanol or butanol. That's recovered using distillation to make a near pure product.

I assume Virgin aren't going to try scumjet because Branson's worried about burning close relatives?

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Deloitte flags risks of UK child database

Mike Richards

What you forgot to mention...

...is that the government is refusing to publish the detailed findings of the Deloitte report on the grounds that if they did so people might use that information to target the database.

Clearly someone in Whitehall thinks that security through obscurity is still a reasonable argument.

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Gears of War 2 scheduled for November release

Mike Richards

GoW

Was it just me and everyone I know with a 360 who thought that GoW was just far too hard to control, too difficult to get into and too muddy?

Thought so.

And as for the list of upcoming 360 exclusives - 'Too Human' is ALWAYS on the upcoming lists, it was upcoming for N64, for PS1, PS2...

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Missing: 80GB PS3. Last seen: Sony's website

Mike Richards

Upgrading HDDs

Since a couple of folks here have already done it - is there any way of transferring data from the old PS3 disk to the new one?

Thanks.

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US cruiser nails crippled spy-sat on first shot

Mike Richards

Good day for Chinese missile scientists

The Americans have shown their seaborne anti-missile missile works perfectly given enough space to play with. So any Chinese military scientists looking for a cool billion or ten to build a submarine-launched solid-fuelled MIRVed missile will be to buy that Porsche after all.

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Report into MP bugging: MP was bugged, no laws broken

Mike Richards

Mandarin clears government and police outrage - shock horror!

I'm so surprised by this finding I might need to lie down for a while in a dimly lit room.

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Aliens seize control of Daily Telegraph

Mike Richards

Answer

In a surprising move, people at the Telegraph don't actually worship Thatcher, but are actually Cthulu followers who admire his small-government, low-tax and death to mankind policies.

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Unseen 'Marilyn Monroe' nude snap wows US expert

Mike Richards

So that makes two...

...people who think Madonna ever looked anything like Marilyn Monroe; this twonk and Mrs. Ritchie herself.

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Miami cops trial 'hover and stare' ducted-fan Dalek

Mike Richards

@ Yarrow Paddon-Butler

'Next thing you know, Princess Leia'll be coming out of the TARDIS.'

In the chain mail bikini? Say she'll be wearing that outfit!

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Space shuttle descends: Satellite turkey-shoot to commence

Mike Richards

How big an area?

Looking at Google Earth the region of the Pacific it makes sense to avoid right now is about the size of Mexico!

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Software glitch hits Heathrow T4 baggage system

Mike Richards

What if you're going on holiday?

It's okay for BA to say that you can rebook a flight at a later date, but there's every chance your holiday company will not cooperate and rebook. You could also find yourself SOOL when claiming on insurance.

And remember, Terminal 4 is the *nice* terminal at LHR. The other three are even less fit for purpose.

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Northern Rock FOI gag 'out of order' say Tories

Mike Richards

FoI exemption and other public companies

Anyone know if that other New Labour fiasco, National Rail, is exempt from Freedom of Information requests? That too has a huge balance sheet and engages in commercial deals.

And agree with captain kangaroo - this isn't nationalisation; NR's juiciest assets have been packaged offshore in the Granite portfolio which has not been included in the bail-out. The public is now underwriting NR's less attractive assets including all their high loan/value accounts. We're about to be shafted.

The only saving grace is that we're not being shafted by Beardie.

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US declares 1400-mile Pacific sat-shoot exclusion zone

Mike Richards

First to eBay?

Anyone in the Pacific with a bit of BacoFoil and a Tamagochi they need to get rid of on eBay?

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EU commissioner backs record biz on copyright extensions

Mike Richards
Flame

So the taxpayer is to keep Cliff in desert islands?

I caught part of News 24 last night where they were interviewing some douche bag from U2. Apparently this isn't about artists needing a fleet of Lear jets or hot and cold running hookers. It's actually a tragic story; many multimillionaires were so busy shovelling Colombian marching powder up their sinuses for the last half century that they never got round to organising a pension. If we don't say 'please keep gouging us' various superannuated has-beens will have to quit crashing hotel suites into swimming pools and start living in the real world. They're simply not ready for things, it'd be like letting your gran loose on a PS3.

On grounds of balance, I have to ask, is a 50 year extension on copyright such a terrible price to pay to keep Cliff out of the recording studio?

If you need me, I'll be billing the government for some work I did 20 years ago and only got paid for once. Hopefully U2 will back my claim.

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Mole claims Toshiba to terminate HD DVD

Mike Richards

Toshiba is a *huge* company

Actually Toshiba is only very slightly smaller than Sony, although much of its output is not known to us in the West. They're one of the biggest semi-conductor manufacturers in the World, they have a very successful heavy engineering arm and they recently bought the Westinghouse company which designs the majority of pressurised water reactors.

Losing HD-DVD would be an accountancy headache for the company, but it wouldn't endanger it. And they have powerful friends, Toshiba was one of the original zaibatsu conglomerates and are now a major keiretsu having a strong, favourable relationship with the Mitsui Bank.

They're probably better off than Sony which has recently become highly dependent on one or two product lines - Bravia and PlayStation - for the vast majority of its profits.

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Inventor promises bottle-o-wind car in a year. Again

Mike Richards

Nitrogen

I seem to recall there were plans to trial a fleet of liquid nitrogen powered cars in Mexico City where the thin air is a stew of ozone, nitrogen oxides and finely powdered human sewage. A zero emission car running on cheap as dirt liquid nitrogen would have helped a little tiny bit.

Anyone know if anything happened with this?

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Blighty might have astronauts in future, says UK gov

Mike Richards
Flame

Nice sense of national priorities

Our telescope programmes are being gutted and hanging on by a thread, we've pulled out of a major particle physics project on grounds of cost but we've got moeny to pull a suitably telegenic Brit in the World's most expensive tin can to do - ermmm...

I can't remember which hapless government minister was on the news this morning saying that satellite programmes were of great use because they let people play the Lottery. Which, even if it were true, has nothing to do with Dumbo the ISS White Elephant.

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Big Climate's strange 'science'

Mike Richards
Flame

Not a geologist are you John?

So many errors, such a short article:

Firstly Ephesus lost its access to the sea because of the silting up of the Menderes River. Nothing to do with sea level change. It's actually one of the few places in the Eastern Med and Aegean where sea levels *aren't* a major factor - over much of Greece, recent massive changes in observed sea level are down to tectonic movements. Yet remove the tectonic movements and sea levels still change, so there is a climatic effect

You wrote: 'Yet, with the notable exception of the extinction of the dinosaurs, it seems life has happily trundled along through it all.'

You mean it's trundled happily along - APART from the repeated mass extinctions observed in the geological record; the biggest of which are: end Ordovician, late Devonian, end Permian, end Triassic, and end Cretaceous, some of which were much more serious than the one which killed off T-Rex and friends. There are also the PreCambrian Snowball Earth in the Proterozoic and the Oxygen Catastrophe in the PalaeoProterozoic.

Increased greenhouse gases the best explanation for the Palaeocene - Eocene Maximum; a relatively minor, recent mass extinction which did huge damage to oceanic diversity. It has also been proposed as the driver for the end Triassic extinction which saw something like 20 - 25% of species go to the wall.

Finally, you'll be glad to know, climate models DO include factors such as water vapour and they include climatic information from deep ocean oozes, O16/18 isotope ratios in shells, ice cores, lake sediments, tree rings... to help establish climate records going back hundreds of thousands of years.

It's also worth noting that climate scientists have been desperately trying to tighten up their models. Last year the Open University released a PC client to let everyday users help resolve some issues with the parameters in existing climate models. Users could download a model then their computer would change some of the parameters, run the model and transmit information back to the central server where it could be compared against historical records to see if the model became more accurate or less accurate. More information and download links here:

http://www.climateprediction.net/science/strategy.php

With so many mistakes, it kind of makes me wonder why you wrote the article?

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Government wants every English child on 'secure' database

Mike Richards

Secure database

Will be posted on an HD-DVD so no one will be able to read it.

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US may shoot down spy sat to safeguard tech secrets

Mike Richards

Soviet nuke sats

There *was* one serious incident; in 1978, Kosmos 954 re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and crashed into Northern Canada. 954 was a RORSAT which used a miniature nuclear reactor to power a large radar. At the end of its life it should have ejected the core into a high storage orbit, this didn't happen and a large chunk of enriched uranium and fission products ended up amongst God's Frozen People.

A number of people were exposed to radiation in excess of 1 Sievert (aka. 1 metric shit-load of radiation) and less than 1% of the core was ever recovered. Much of it probably burned up in the atmosphere, but there are almost certainly pieces still waiting to be discovered.

The RORSATs were in polar orbits which meant that they covered most of the surface of the Earth. We were very lucky Kosmos 954 didn't come down somewhere less barren. To give you an idea of the size of the contaminated area; had Kosmos 954 landed in the Gulf of Mexico, there would have been intensely radioactive particles stretching from the coast of Texas to Toronto.

Fortunately, there are no more of these nuclear-powered satellites left in low-Earth orbit.

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Europe hails foothold in space

Mike Richards

@ Andrew Heenan

The 2016 closure date has nothing to do with the ISS being life-expired at that time; it's because NASA have no plans to budget for the ISS beyond 2015. Their plan is to switch funding from the ISS to the Orion/Ares lunar exploration programme with a landing on the Moon by 2020.

The remaining partners in the programme, Japan, Europe and Russia, want to keep the ISS open beyond 2015 but have so far refused to pay the additional contributions if the Americans pull out.

HTH.

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When poor people pollute - the Tata Nano and eco-crime

Mike Richards

Biggest problem about the Nano

Is that it is going to increase Indian oil imports, with China's own burgeoning car population hot on its heels. These two new oil-hungry economies are going to force the price of a barrel ever higher. Painful for us in the West, potentially disastrous for African countries dependent on oil imports and the very poor in these emerging economies.

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Sarko calls for global Mars exploration gig

Mike Richards

Re: RyanAir

Nice idea, but RyanAir's service to Mars actually terminates at Phobos from where you need to take a connecting bus service for the last 10,000km.

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EU squeals over US pre-flight personal data grab

Mike Richards

Will Gordon jump?

Britain has a long and dishonourable history of making unilateral deals with the Bush administration - our appalling lop-sided extradition treaty overseen by Blunkett and our kowtowing to American refusals to deal with the court in the Hague being just two.

I'd be amazed if the Home Office as part of its 'Building a Safe Just and Tolerant Society*' schtick wasn't gagging to hand over this data and more - yes much, much more - absolutely free - to the DoHS**.

* I couldn't find that fine piece of strategy boutiquery on their site - perhaps not even the Home Secretary can say it and keep a straight face.

** Assuming of course the DoHS hasn't already received a pair of mislabelled CDs.

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Police bugging of lawyer visits might see flood of appeals

Mike Richards
Flame

@ Mike

'I thought our justice system was to protect the innocent? As far as I am concerned, anyone who commits a crime in this country gives up their human rights, privacy rights and any other rights while they serve their time.'

Conversations between a lawyer and their client, however unwholesome, are confidential. If you really value the justice system you have to accept this

Some of these conversations took place when the people were on remand awaiting trial. At this point they were legally innocent, anything that could have interfered with the outcome of the trial is an abuse of the justice system.

Other bugging would have taken place when a person was appealing against a sentence. Again it could have distorted the outcome of the trial.

If Huntley was bugged then serious questions must be raised as to *why* he was bugged. If it happened after his initial trial it is unlikely to mean the verdict would be set aside, but it should result in a real enquiry as to what the hell the police are up to. If they can't explain it, then heads, right up to the Chief Constable and the Justice Minister *MUST* roll. Neither of them should be allowed to get away with 'I wasn't told' - they are paid huge sums of money to run their organisations, if they can't do it, or if they turn a blind eye, then they have to go - and hopefully be prosecuted.

With any luck this will sink the whole New Labour Big Brother state built by a succession of control-freak Home Secretaries determined to look tough and a pair of inadequates masquerading as Prime Minister.

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More videogames to face censor scrutiny

Mike Richards

Bloody Channel 4

We've got Channel 4's favourite therapist, Tanya Byron, telling Labour what we can play - if she has her way things won't get more exciting than Tetris. Meanwhile on the other side of the non-existent ideological divide, Channel 4's favourite grasping property magnate, Kirstie Allsopp, is guiding the Tories' housing policy (bet it won't involve building council houses).

So the only question is when do the Lib Dems team up with Gillian McKeith (not a doctor however much she likes to say otherwise) and tell us to love our poo?

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Stopblair.eu tries to halt Tony's march on Brussels

Mike Richards

How does he find the time?

Blair's meant to be resolving the territorial, economic, military and religious difficulties of the Middle East. He's got not one, but two jobs with banks, a sports foundation and a think tank pondering the issue of faith. Now okay, bank hours aren't that long (they're always closed when I need a branch), I assume Tony can get similarly recently-unemployed Tim Henman to continue his winning ways with the sports thing and I expect a quick before-bed prayer covers the whole faith issue. But isn't the Middle East worth at least a full time job?

In reality it all boils down to him not being able to wait for the BBC to announce 'President Blair...'

But our best hope is that the UK government won't back this bid for glory by a political has-been. At the end of the day Gordon Brown has the final say.

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Brit firm levitates floating chair

Mike Richards

Rails

Put it on a suitable track and we could all have our own maglev monorails.

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Smith plugs into wired police plans

Mike Richards

Getting rid of paper

Makes it easier to get rid of evidence when someone tries to prosecute the police. You can stake money on these wireless messages and other technogeegads not being archived anywhere.

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Top cop urges RIPA review in coded attack on snoop code

Mike Richards

Over interpretation?

Ah Sir Ronnie (Omagh anyone?) means police are finding it too onerous to follow the rules.

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US spooks won't get UK census access

Mike Richards

@ Nomen Publicus

Ooooh I'm sure the government saw that giving data to Lockheed was a good idea about thirty seconds after Lockheed's lobbyists mentioned they might need a some more non-executive directors in a few years time. It's an ancient political maneouvre known as 'doing a Hewitt'.

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Britt Ekland on board for 'Wicker Man 2'

Mike Richards

Christopher Lee

'horrific enough to loosen the bowels of a bronze statue'

Ooooh I wish I could hear him say that - it'd be the scariest thing since Balmer did 'Developers' (see how I slipped the IT angle in there?)

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MoD goat-bothering boffinry to cease

Mike Richards

Where will they get their kicks now?

No more goat in rubber suit action for the Navy boys? Guess they'll have to go back to the staples of rum, sodomy and the lash.

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Bunker-nobbling US megabomb test delayed

Mike Richards

Delays, delays

If they have many more delays Dubya won't be able to drop one of these on Iran before he's out of a job.

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