* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

5819 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

Argentina eyes up laser death cannon testbed warship

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Re: Time For Argentina to Move on and Drop the Sovereignty Claim

I'm amazed by the 8 downvotes. They really don't have any kind of valid claim - and even if they did it's not like there are any people living (or dead) who have claims to any land there. Given that the islands were uninhabited when colonised by the French, British and Spanish in a sort of imperial game of musical-chairs-with-gunboats.

They're a few hundred miles of the coast of Argentina, so it's not like they're somehow "so close by they're automatically ours". Otherwise France would be British-owned. Although I admit that we were a bit slow on the uptake there and only stopped officially claiming it sometime around 1800. George III was the last monarch crowned King of France, Mary I was the last monarch to hold Calais - and even by then it was just a final reminder of when Henry V might have kept France, if he'd lived.

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Re: interesting name leads to interesting subject

Puerto Rico have had several referenda on fully joining the US, but so far have voted not to. That's about half of what I know about politics in Puerto Rico though, so I've no idea why.

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Re: “Islas Malvinas” (the unofficial, Argentine, name of the Falklands)

The official name of the place is the Falkland Islands. Because that's what the people who live there call it. See official government website.

Not that there's anything wrong with calling them different things in different languages. The French named them les iles de Malouines - which is apparently where the spanish Malvinas originates.

The UN may have a convention on the name to smooth over pointless awkwardness, and that's all fine and dandy, but the official name is what the democratically accountable government says it is.

It's almost an excellent government too. They use Reg standard units, in describing the islands as about half the size of Wales. But also lose marks for daring to deviate from them by saying they're also about the same size as Conneticut. I wasn't aware that Conneticut was anyone's standard area. I thought people from the US judged things in relation to the size of Texas?

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China bans crypto-currency fundraising schemes

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Re: Typical

China operates financial repression. Which is a reason to ban Bitcoin.

That's an economic term by the way, not a political insult. QE is a also a means of financial repression. It means to try to disuade people from saving in banks (usually with below inflation interest rates), in order to either force them to spend their money and boost the economy, or at least to take more risk with it - so that they're boosting investment (and thus the economy). So Chinese banks pay about 1% interest, even though inflation's nearer 10% - which is one reason Chinese people are so desperate to find places to put their savings that they'll risk Bitcoin. Especially after last year's shennanigans with the stock market.

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Re: What can you spend the tokens on?

Why the conspiracy theories?

Politicians haven't regulated Bitcoin, because nobody uses it. They've got much more important stuff to do.

There are about 5-20k (ave c10,000) transactions a day on all the exchanges tracked by Bitcoincharts. But then their top exchange is only doing a couple of thousand dollars a day in volume - so most of those transactions are for 0.1 of a Bitcoin.

To be fair, Bitcoin Charts may be crap. When I looked at it years ago, it seemed to list all/most of the top exchanges, but since the ones I've heard of all seem to have gone bust / closed down stealing most users' money, I've no idea what's current.

Volatility is still huge though, which suggests the charts are right, and the market isn't liquid. So there may be lots of coins being held, but few people are trading them back into real money. Meaning many people may have paper fortunes, but when they try to realise them, they'll crash the market. Which isn't a problem if there's stuff to spend them on, but I've not seen figures for how large the Bitcoin economy now is - as opposed to exchanges with real money.

It could be that nobody gathers those stats - though it should be dead easy to work out the velocity of money from the blockchain. Prices a bit harder. Maybe there's a huge economy going on there, and nobody's noticed - in which case low exchange volumes are irrelevant and Bitcoin's important. Otherwise it's just a weird internet fad.

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Re: Peak Paris?

She can't have been shilling! Her tweet had the hashtag #NotAnAd in it.

Surely by the laws of Twitter this means that it was a genuine personal endorsement? No? You're not trying to tell me that slebs whore their names out for easy cash are you? My life is now meaningless! Why!!!!!

Fortunately #HonestRon'sOnlinePharmacy do remarkably cheap Prozac with same-day delivery. Hooray for them. #NotAnAd #NoticeMe! #WillShillForFood

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Paris Hilton inflates crypto bubble some more, backs Initial Coin Offering

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Unhappy

Re: PonziCoin

Because Paris Hilton has deeply studied the prospectus, and given it a clean bill of health.

Come on! What more recommendation do you need?!?!

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Coat

I put cash into the wank bank. But it all got messy, when I had to make a withdrawal.

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Japanese sat tech sinks Sea Shepherd anti-whaling activists' hopes

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Devil

Re: Two faced japanese whale murders.

They're scientifically researching just exactly how tasty whale is.

So far the results are, "not very". But no good scientist reaches their conclusion too quickly. So the correct answer is, "more research needed".

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Pirate

Re: Sea Shepherd submarine

Or build drone-whales and fill them with TNT. Then use their ships to drive the whaling fleet away from them, and herd them towards the area already seeded with the exploding drone-whales.

it's just possible that this plan may be slightly illegal though. Not to mention the dubious morality and vast expense.

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Criticize Google, get fired: Spotlight spins on ad giant's use of soft money

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Re: Beware!!!

To be fair, he was given twenty seconds to comply...

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US watchdog alert: Don't fall victim to crapto crypto-coin cons, people

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Re: The big flaw in Crypto Currencies

Wayland,

I'm not Spartacus. Different user. He's I am Spartacus, I ain't. You can tell the difference by the badge after the username.

I used lots of words to make my post above, because I was explaining something complicated. Your answer was to say I'd proved nothing as I'd used too many words, rather than to actaully demolish my argument.

Weirdly you then argue with lots of words yourself.

If Bitcoin's crypto goes, then it's dead and you're sunk. If your bank's crypto goes then you have a government guarantee that they'll pay you back your first £85,000 of savings. The rest you'll get out of the remaining assets of said dead bank, along with the other creditors, if there is any.

So here's the difference. Yes governments interfere with our lives and sometimes stop us doing things we want to. But they also have the power to regulate our econony and stop it going pop. That's the reason fiat currency is worth something. The economy of the country that issued it.

These bank guarantees are part of the lessons learned from the 1930s. If you don't back up your banks with government, then you'll get bank runs, bank collapses and depressions. Along with doing QE to avoid deflation.

Bitcoin's value derives from the fact that a lot of people believe that it will be worth more than it is now in 5-10 years time. So long as that continues, everything will be fine. If ever something horrible, on a par with say the 2008 crash, happens - that belief may collapse. At which point, there's no central authority with the ability to do something to save it. And the whole thing may disappear virtually overnight.

As an example mortgage backed securities. What nearly destroyed our banking system. The banks were bust because they held these, and nobody knew what they were worth, so trust broke down and they became literally worthless. You couldn't sell them. Banks stopped lending to each other because trust broke down, and Central Banks had to step in.

Almost all those AAA rated mortgage backed securities are still paying out, the mortgages are still being collected and they're still basically worth the 95% of their face value they always were on paper. So the panic was needless. Nonetheless it was real, and a massive threat to our economies. Without government intervention that fuck up would have destroyed our modern banking system and created another 1930s Depression.

Once confidence is lost, economic collapse can be amazingly swift. That's why we have Central Banks.

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Re: Pot! Kettle!

Cynic_999,

So what? US society is not perfect. It's still not a scam. It's one of the richest and most productive economies in the world. The Fed saved the US economy with QE. That wasn't a scam as the US economy is still one of the top performing economies in the world, and will continue to be so as they reverse QE.

There are reasons you might support Bitcoin. But these childish arguments about fiat currency being a scam really don't help. Bitcoin can have a place in a modern economy very easily. At the moment a whole lot of that place is for criminals to hide their activity and speculators hoping to make a killing. That doesn't mean there's something fundamentally wrong with Bitcoin, but it does mean it has huge problems, and is very prone to scams and outright theft.

So is anything of value of course. But if the Bitcoin community rejects government (and a lot of pro-Bitcoin arguments tend towards the libertarian or even the conspiracist) then it's going to have to sort out mechanisms to deal with those problems, or remain a very risky niche. Or just collapse.

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Re: Wait, What?

Wayland,

I promise you that there is a huge difference between QE and money printing. It's a matter of permanence. When they printed the money for QE, they used it to buy mostly government debt. The US Fed and the ECB bought a more varied mix of debt instruments, but it technically doesn't matter.

People get confused here, but we can basically ignore all the loans made to the banks, as they've been paid off. The only debt the UK banks still owe to the state is the RBS shareholding, which is currently worth less than we collectively paid for it. As that bank gets slowly turned around it can hopefully be sold at a profit. So on the bank bailouts the state will make a small paper profit - plus the bigger profit of them not going bust and causing a Depression like the 1930s. Ben Bernanke who was Governor of the Fed in 2008 was fortunately one of the foremost academic experts on the Great Depression, and did the right things not to repeat it.

In QE the Central Banks bought a mixture of bonds that will expire over the next 30 years. With money magicked out of their computers. The people holding that debt were then left with money that they needed to hold in safe assets at low interest rates - and this forced down market interest rates, as people wanting a bit more return on their assets were forced to take slightly more risk in order to get it - which kept the corporate bond markets from collapsing.

The bad side-effect of this was that lots of investment money was pushed out of bonds into shares and also property, causing inflation in their prices. The good desired effect was that the banks didn't go bust and there wasn't a sudden collapse in the ability of companies to borrow, forcing them to sack loads of staff. Thus we got a drop in GDP not too dissimilar from the Great Depression, but without the hideous 20% unemployment levels.

Now the point about QE is that it's ongoing. Every year something like 3% of these Central Bank held bonds mature. i.e. they're paid off. At the moment the Central Banks are taking that money and buying some more 30 year dated debt with it. Except the Fed in the US are tapering, every so often, they shift it into 1 year debt so that more and more of their debt takes on a shorter profile. At some point, when we have too much inflation, Central Banks will stop re-buying bonds and will destroy the money they temporarily created each time they're paid back. This will (theoretically at least) remove the excess liquidity permanently from the economy - and will allow them to sop-up any future inflation they've created with QE.

If they'd just printed money and given each taxpayer say £1,000 (helicopter money), that would have been more inflationary at the time, and impossible to reverse. The only way to kill off the inflation caused by that would be a rise in taxes or interest rates, which would have done more to damage the recovery.

The funamental point here though is that accountable democractic governments control Central Banks. They deliberately do this at arm's length to stop them being tempted to advantage themselves politically. And we can kick them out if we don't like what they do. It's also in their own interests for economies to do well.

Bitcoin has just split into two currencies because it's controlled by a much less accountable and transparent system. And there's been an argument over an update.

Bitcoin is not a reliable store of value. 3 years ago it went from being worth $1,200 per coin to $100 per coin in about 2 days. I think it had been sat at about $100 for the year before that, then briefly shot up, then collapsed.

It's also not a very good medium of exchange, because so few people accept it. That's less of a problem though, because it can happily survive being used by a small subset of people. Crypto is currently utterly unimportant, because it's so small. It may well become a valuable part of the modern economy, but that's not a problem, we already have lots of money-like things and can easily have one more.

However one reason we avoided the last recession turning into a recession was government. They didn't stop it happening, but broadly did the right stuff to not make it worse. Other than in the Eurozone, where they made a mess of it a bit first, because Eurozone governance was so badly set-up. When something horrible happens to Bitcoin, who'll fix the problem? People demonise Central Banks, even though they saved the word economy.

Bitcoin fans talk about the evils of inflation without seeming to realise that deflation damages societies as much or more. And Bitcoin has baked-in deflation. Deflation is why nobody will go back to the Gold Standard. Also 5% inflation is not wonderful, but not terrible either. Inflation only gets dangerous when it's above 10%, and if predictable is not that bad even then. It's hyper-inflation that's so destructive. 5% deflation for a few years can devastate an economy.

Deflation in Bitcoin is less serious, as it's not a whole economy and nobody borrows in Bitcoin. Debt becomes disastrous in a delfationary invironment. And while you might say that's good, without debt you get almost no investment, which means almost no economic growth. Hence QE. Deliberately created inflation to save us from the debt-deflation trap that made the 1930s so miserable and the 1940s so explodey. But reversable inflation.

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Re: Processing Power

Mr Anon,

To quote from your own source:

The Federal Reserve Banks are not a part of the federal government, but they exist because of an act of Congress. Their purpose is to serve the public. So is the Fed private or public?

The answer is both. While the Board of Governors is an independent government agency, the Federal Reserve Banks are set up like private corporations. Member banks hold stock in the Federal Reserve Banks and earn dividends. Holding this stock does not carry with it the control and financial interest given to holders of common stock in for-profit organizations. The stock may not be sold or pledged as collateral for loans. Member banks also appoint six of the nine members of each Bank's board of directors.

So the answer is that Fed is an odd mix of private and public, but set up by an act of Congress, has its remit set by the government and its boss appointed by the government and the shareholders are neither allowed to sell their shares, nor even use them as collaterol.

They do get the profit from those shares, but seeing as the only profit central banks make is from lending money to banks (or sometimes each other) this basically means that the less prudent banks are slightly subsidising the more prudent ones.

In what way can you justify calling that a private company?

By calling them private companies you're trying to imply that they're somehow profit-driven, and acting as a law unto themselves. This is basically no better than a lie.

The actual truth is that they're creatures of government. But given enough independence that it's politically costly to try to use them for short-term political advantage, such as say cutting interest rates just before an election.

The same is true of the Bank of England. It was nationalised. However, the government have used creative ambiguity. One journalist reported a rather grumpy silence from the Treasury in 2009 about what would happen if the Bank of England made a paper loss on QE. Basically because the answer was that we'd try to ignore the losses and just treat it as a paper exercise, but if forced to deal with them, then the Treasury would have to come up with the cash. Both uncomfortable answers they didn't wish to give.

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Re: Processing Power

to free us all from the depredations of private central banks (and their ability to create money from nothing, and then lend it out at interest), is not, as you put it, "fucking pointless".

You are totally and utterly wrong about this.

Central Banks aren't run for profit. They do make profits, but they're mostly notional. It's all accounting, that's not their job. I also don't know why you call them "private central banks" because they're not. They answer to government. Even the ones with notional independence have their targets set by legislation and can have their independence changed by legislation just as easily.

The reaon that you need to be able to have your central bank create electronic money at the press of a button, is in order to have a functioning banking system. There has never been a successful modern economy without a banking system. So though it may be possible to do, it's very much theoretical.

So banks perform a role known a liquidity transformation. This is massively useful to society. It allows all the few thousand quids that people have as day-to-day savings to be aggregated into useful money that can be used for long-term investment. Thus making the whole of society richer. However this has a risk. The banks suffering short-term runs on their short term deposits, that they can't meet from long-term money they've lent out. Hence we invented the Central Bank in order to keep solvent banks liquid long enough for them to survive the short-term crisis.

However Central Banks charge interest on that money, in order to punish the banks' owners (shareholders) for running their organisation so badly as to need this help. Thus they are not incentivised to free-load on this government bail-out and our economy is protected from the consequences when they mess-up. Basically everyone's a winner.

That's also why global central banks printed trillions to lend to the banks in 2008. In fact banks that didn't need it were forced to take it anyway, just so it didn't destroy confidence in those that needed it. And pretty much all that money was paid back in well under 2 years. And then destroyed (un-printed). So it had very little effect on the economy, other than the fact that it didn't collapse due to a global banking apocalypse.

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Re: Pot! Kettle!

The US is one of the richest countries in the world, with some of the highest standards of living that humanity has ever seen. Exactly how is that a scam?

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Re: Wait, What?

Wayland,

I don't think you understand either crypto or real currency.

Fiat currencies don't need crypto currency to fail. Bitcoin is a really tiny pimple on an elephant's bum. And it actually does no harm even if it succeeds. There are plenty of non-state backed virtual currencies out there. For example you can borrow serious money against Apple debt, or any other big corporate debt that's AAA-rated - making that as much a vritual currency as Bitcoin.

Or look at calculations of money supply. Only M0 is made up of notes and coins in circulation. By the time you get up to M4, you're adding in all sorts of other stuff, obviously including bank deposits, but also other ver liquid assets. Most of which is only controlled by governments in a very limited way.

BitCoin mining cannot magic £50 billion into existence with a push of a button.

How do you know this is true? The current updates and forks in Bitcoin show that there's a group out there somewhat in control of the system. If they get together and decide that it's in the best interests of the Bitcoin community that there not be a hard limit on the number of coins you can mine - they can update the system. There are a lot of miners in that group. As happens, it's probably the right thing to do for the long-term surivival of Bitcoin. Creating deliberate deflation is a really stupid idea - it's one of the main reasons the gold standard failed. Also how will the blockchain survive in a future where miners aren't getting paid for all that processor time? And why do we waste so much electricity on mining, what when someone creates a green argument for making mining easier?

All those things are possible.

In the end, currencies work from use. What makes something money is basically if enough people choose to use it as such. So where you get hyper inflation (say Zimbabwe or Venezuala), people start to barter, or use foreign currencies. As I understand it Zimbabwe is now very dollarised, because nobody trusts the government, or by extension the currency.

Money fulfills more than one role. The two biggies being "means of exchange" and "store of value". Both of those rely on trust. Will people accept my Bitcoins? If not, then they're useless as money. If some will, but others won't, then you can use it as a means of exchange, but only sometimes. As for store of value, that totally relies on trust. Can I keep my life savings in Bitcoin? When I retire, will it still be worth anything? That's bad enough when buying shares in Apple at age 20, which is why most people pay someone to manage their pension for them.

One of the things that damages crypto currencies, are the people who see them as investments rather than currencies. They're the ones who indulge in pump-and-dump and hoarding. And they're the ones who make them too volatile to be properly useful as means-of-exchange or stores-of-value.

The miners are another self-interested group. Who may not have users best-interest at heart. And the short-termists may not care about the long-term reputational damage they do.

Now we compare to your complaing about the Governor of the Bank of England. He did Quantitive Easing in order to promote stability. And it worked. It saved the banking industry, and kept the economy from deflation. I call it QE not money-printing by the way because they deliberately didn't print any money. They chose a rarely tried economic theory to attempt because it was reversible, so that it would have a short-term inflationary effect (which they wanted) but could then be reversed to avoid too much long-term inflation. One competing theory was "helicopter money" which is much more like money-printing, isn't reversible and has actually been tried more often, and actually less successfully.

But governors of the Bank of England don't become personally enriched by money-printing, in the way Bitcoin miners would. And they're public figures who'll get publicly sacked if they fuck-up. And they're also accountable to governments and Parliaments. So who's the real elite you should be worrying about? Central bankers only have more power than Bitcoin miners, because so few people use Bitcoin. But they're far more accountable than miners, or self-appointed online committees who issue the software updates.

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Terry Pratchett's unfinished works flattened by steamroller

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Re: I'm touched by the weirdness of this request...

Alan Brown,

I think Dirk Gently was the best book Adams wrote. And I'd agree about avoiding the telly-box version. However Radio 4 did a brilliant dramatisation, so enjoy that instead.

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Re: I'm touched by the weirdness of this request...

I really would start with the first two with the proviso that if you don't enjoy them all that much you don't stop at that point.

Mr Anon,

I don't like that suggestion. I don't think it's fair to make people do the less fun stuff first, in order to pay for the good later. And I think you also need to have read a bit of fantasy first, to see what 'the Colour of Magic' is laughing at.

Much better to read the other stuff first, then come back if you're enjoying it. Whereas I think the first few books can be a bit off-putting. Lots of people have said to start with Mort, but I personally feel that's one of his weaker ones - while he was still learning to be an author, and developing a style.

I've never even been motivated to go back and re-read 'Stata' and 'Dark Side of the Sun', and I suspect if those had been the first of his books I'd tried, I'd never have read any more. Colour of Magic is good, but less good and of a much narrower appeal.

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Re: I'm touched by the weirdness of this request...

The nice thing about all the literary references in Pratchett is that he was far more well-read than I am - but there's sometimes a lovely sense of recognition as I come across something that I already know from a Discworld novel.

For example, I'm pretty sure I read Witches Abroad before I read Hemingway. There's a little 2 page parody in there that I only got when I read 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. Which is also a great book by the way, but ever so slightly less cheerful than anything written by Sir Terry.

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I think it was just a joke. And his estate has the resources to be silly, so why not?

If anyone wants to do an academic study of his work, then maybe in 50 years this stuff would be interesting to look at. Maybe he'll be taught in English Literature by that time?

I really liked the Salmon of Doubt. The first couple of chapters of unfinished book starts were rubbish, but I bought it for the collection of his journalism and essays. And that was great.

I feel Adams only wrote 6 good books. The first 3 Hitch Hikers, the 2 Dirk Gently (his best I think), and Last Chance to See.

Pratchett didn't have the same writing-demons. I suspect that if he had early ideas that he really wanted written, he'd have got round to writing them.

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Happy

Re: I'm touched by the weirdness of this request...

Rafael,

Burn him! In a wicker steamroller perhaps...

I don't think there's any reading order. There are a few books which work better in sequence, but even there it really doesn't matter. It's just that some have the same characters in them, so it's nicer to come in at the beginning of their story-arc, rather than half-way through.

The one thing I would say is that you shouldn't read in chronological order. The Colour of Magic and the Light Fantastic (the only one that is a direct sequel) aren't the same as the rest of them. They're parodies of fantasy, and I'd argue they aren't as good.

He then started developing his style where he was no longer parodying fantasy. He was using fantasy to parody reality. So the next two, Equal Rites and Mort were completely different. But I don't think they're as good, because he was still developing his craft.

I would personally start with Wyrd Sisters. It's sort of a Shakespeare parody, but there are jokes within jokes. And it has the witches, who are some of the fans' favourite characters. Although they first turn up in Equal Rites (about a witch going to an all-male wizard university). But I wouldn't start there.

Or for a different theme start with the City Watch in Guards! Guards! And meet another group of favourite characters. If you like them you can then read along with their books, then start picking up others. Or just accept you like him, and go back and read from the beginning.

As a final point, you could also start with his later stuff. When he was at his peak. In which case, start with a new character with Wee Free Men - which was marketed as a childrens book in the sequence, but I really enjoyed as a 40-year-old.

Or maybe The Truth. He worked for a local paper, and so has some fun satirising it. It's more standalone, but at a period when he was turning out lots of his best books.

I found this list of his Discworld books by theme and in order, which may help.

I wish you many hours of happy reading. And hopefully laughing.

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Living in space basically shoves a warp drive into your blood stream

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Re: Immune system into overdrive?

Why don't we infect our astronauts with something nasty, before sending them into space? Then at least their immune systems will have something to do - seeing as they're in overdrive anyway...

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Re: Prevention is better than cure.

If the ISS had a gravity generating spin

It's actually not true that we don't have the money to launch a 2001-style big enough space station for spin.

The problem is that nobody has yet built a ship that can fly to Lave to buy a docking computer...

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Nasty firmware update butchers Samsung smart TVs so bad, they have to be repaired

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Re: Bricked TVs

I've got a dumb 50" Panasonic. I'd hate to have one of their smart tellyboxes, given the pisspoor quality of the menu design on the one I've got. Although for old folks, the remote does have a button market EXIT that will get you out of any menu you've accidentally got yourself into.

If I want smarts, I want them on a separate box, that probably has a shorter lifetime than the screen. Though so far I'm happy with Freeview and a Google Chromecast HDMI-stick thingy.

My friend uses a PS3 as his Blu-ray player - and I pity any Sony users, given how weird the UI is on that thing.

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Forget trigonometry, 'cos Babylonians did it better 3,700 years ago – by counting in base 60!

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Devil

So this is like a fossilised Babylonian iPad right? So why hasn't Gilgamesh sued Apple for stealing his look and feel, it's got the rounded corners and everything!

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Airbus issues patch to prevent A350 airliner fuel tanks exploding

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An "empty" fuel tank is way more dangerous than a full one.

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Not sure I'd call it terrifying, since I don't think it's actually ever happened.

Maybe this came from a near-miss, where some of the circumstances occurred to risk it happening, and disaster was averted. Or maybe it came up in a periodic safety review.

But the reason that flying is safer than almost any other form of transport is that aviation generally learns from its near-misses, as well as its disasters.

I heard an interview with a pilot who said that he sometimes has to report a couple of incidents a month to regulators. I don't know if that's because he's particularly conscientious or it's normal. But mostly these are minor incidents that they can log, and if something is happening a lot, then they can look at changing procedures in order to correct the issue.

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Fancy talking to SAP about your indirect licensing concerns? Straw poll says no

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I'm not sure about "cynical". I think "realistic" is the better word here.

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Devil

Re: Trust SAP?

I'm surprised their licensing teams don't operate from Sicily.

I'm sure a certain family business there would be able to fully implement their licensing policies with little change to their standard operating procedures. They could make a fortune doing outsourcing work for Oracle, SAP, CA etc...

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Calm down, internet. Elon's Musk-see SpaceX spacesuit is a bit generic

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Re: That helmet is not going to work.

Most suits I've seen (on telly only sadly) have various levels of pull down sunvisor. So if you're working in shade, the helmet is clear - if you're working in direct sunlight it's incredibly dark. So I imagine they've got the dark one slid down for this piccie.

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Oldest flying 747 finally grounded, 47 years after first flight

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I read "as a spare" and instantly had the mental image of the flight engineer, out on the wing adjustable spanner clutched in his mouth. A roaring 500mph wind blowing his hair all over the place.

Unbolts the burning engine, and watches it plummet into the sea thousands of feet below. Then swings the new engine across, nearly losing his grip and falling off himself, tightens a few bolts. Thumbs up to the cockpit window, it starts up. Film score goes from dramatic chords back into a major key for some 'success' music. He gets back in the plane, shuts the door, issues a wisecrack to the stewardess, and casually walks back to the cockpit.

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Can North Korean nukes hit US mainland? Maybe. But EMP blast threat is 'highly credible'

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Re: Capabilities

Mark 85,

Possibly. But rule number 2 then has to be don't over-estimate the enemy either. Otherwise you'd be too scared to do anything. This is even more true in diplomacy, where you don't want to be bluffed into letting things all go another state's way, just because they've got military force at their disposal. There are costs to using it, and you hopefully have the threat of your own (or your allies') force to couter it.

This is why the US Navy does those "freedom of the seas" patrols through the bits of the South China Sea that the Chinese bizarrely claim. And have built military installations on some of the reefs.

China are mad, or bluffing. So we could give them that area for free, or force them to accept that they can't just move forces in for a free win. At some point, if the surrounding countries want to get at all that oil, then they're going to have to do a mutually acceptable deal. After all, oil insulations are very fragile - and there's no way you can keep them going against hostile militaries.

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Re: Protect your expensive kit/drives now..

Thank heavens for that. We'll need biscuits after the nuclear dust has settled. It's a well known fact that you can't undertake any major building project without tea and biscuits.

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Re: Only the naive and the gullible believe war propaganda

Nick Z,

North Korea attacked the South with artillery only 2 years ago, several times. Without provocation or warning. Oh and sank one of its ships. And has regularly launched commando raids over the border (often by submarine) since the war. As well as threatening nuclear war, and launching supposedly nuclear capable missiles into both Japanese and South Korean territorial waters. All of those are acts of war by the way, if you hadn't noticed...

I suppose they haven't kidnapped any Japanese or South Korean actresses and film directors since the 70s though...

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Re: Capabilities

NASA, the Russians and SpaceX regularly blow up their rockets. And that's in cases where they've planned the launch several years in advance and are using rockets from a proper production line. With Q&A, and no parts built by slave labour.

NASA's annual budget is bigger than North Korea's total GDP by the way...

As the joke goes, it's not rocket science that's hard. It's rocket engineering.

Now you need to add in warhead engineering too. And enough space engineering to get your warhead or EMP to target. Britain's Chevaline programme cost £5 billion. In 1970s money. And that didn't even get MIRVs, it was to design star-trackers and some decoys to get through Moscow's ABM defences.

Now admittedly a lot of these costs don't equate, because North Korea won't be paying its top scientists top money. They'll just be telling them what to do. But to do this really complex stuff takes a large chain of scientific and engineering capabilities. And every time you bodge something to get round a problem, that's another bodge that might go wrong when you launch.

This doesn't mean the Norks aren't a threat. But it's not one to be over-stated, given how crappy their whole infrastructure and capabilities are.

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The Norks don't have thermo-nuclear.

Their tests have all been under 10kt. I may be wrong on the last one, as I haven't seen a final report on it, but the first indications was it was around 9kt-ish. The others were smaller, such that it was thought possible they could have faked them by rigging a fuel-air explosive in a cave. I seem to remember at least one left no traces for the radition sniffer planes - which of course may just have been that they kept the cave it was detonated in sealed. Or they faked it.

So we're still talking the kind of bombs that will be causing mass casualties within a mile or two of detonation. So if set off in a container port would do limited damage, modern ones usually not being in city centres.

So even with a working missile, and re-entry tech, they'd struggle to even hit a city at several thousand miles. And that's assuming everything works at once.

EMP avoids re-entry, but you've still got to get the warhead into the right place, and their one satellite launch attempt failed to do that.

Plus the US and Japan have the capability of shooting down any of their missile launches, whenever they want, from SM3-armed ships in the Sea of Japan. It's only a political decision that they don't, and that can be changed at any moment. Assuming the US can keep it's Arleigh Burke class ships from crashing into random oil tankers...

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Why would China start a war with the US to protect a state that had just nuked the US? Bearing in mind a war with the US would disrupt their trade (not to mention risking nuclear war) - and if China's economy goes South then the people may decide they no longer want the Communist Party in charge. The "experts" have been saying for a while that China needs to keep growth above 5% in order to avoid social unrest, and that's a pretty widespread view so far as I can tell. The Party may not entirely share it, but I don't think they'd feel safe entirely ignoring it either.

Anyway if China was pushed a choice between having diplomatic and trade relations with their largest trading partner and the world's leading military power or the North Korean rogue regime that had just nuked them, it's basically a no-brainer. They support North Korea now, only because it's perceived as less trouble than not doing so.

I'm sure China wouldn't be happy about an invasion of North Korea, and might well give covert help in order to keep the US on the hop. But then the US can't invade North Korea on its own anyway. They've only got 1 division in South Korea, and that's not enough - and I'm sure they've got national agreements that they can't attack from Korean bases without permission. They always did in Europe.

The US has the troops and airpower to invade, given time to build up, and permission of the South Korean government. Or obviously say 5 carrier battle groups and their strategic bombers can reach almost anywhere in the world, with nobody's permission. That's at least 300 front-line fighter-bombers and lots of heavies and cruise missiles - with which you can't win a war, but you can make a point.

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Sofa-jockeys given crack at virtual Formula 1 world championship

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Devil

Re: Tight squeeze

What if the winner is a 20 stone 13 year old that can't reach the pedals?

A typre barrier with a face?

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Science fiction great Brian Aldiss, 92, dies at his Oxford home

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Re: The 1920s onwards

m0rt,

I agree. It seems odd to say all the greats are in the past. Also, what does great mean anyway? Philip K Dick had some great ideas, but a lot of his writing was pretty rubbish. He banged quite a few of his books out in a few weeks, just to pay the bills. And it shows. I still think 'A Scanner Darkly' is brilliant, and his stuff seems to be more variable in quality than most.

I've been disappointed by plenty of books from "the greats", as well as from other writers. Sometimes because an idea just doesn't quite work out, or maybe works for other readers but not me personally. Or because they had a deadline to meet. You get made a great for your body of work, ignoring your early mistakes and occasional bits of dodgy output.

Another vote for C J Cherryh. Sadly she got sidetracked into a long series (Foreigner) a while ago, that I guess sells well, so the publishers keep asking for more. And it's gone on way too long. Which is a shame, because she's had a wide and varied output, doing some space opera, some interestingly different fantasy, some alien world-building and a good bit of where does the future of the human race go stuff (hint: often not in very cheerful directions).

Just to cheer you up, she's apparently finished a book called 'Alliance Rising' which is set in the Alliance-Union universe (where Rimrunners is also set).

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75 years ago, one Allied radar techie changed the course of WW2

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Re: There's a good book called Bat 21

fnj,

Oooops! You're quite right.

I wonder why I remembered that wrong? I read the book something like 25 years ago - and it's ages since I saw the film as well. I'll have to re-read it now.

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Happy

Re: There's a good book called Bat 21

It could be an ego boost to see that you were so essential to your side that they would try to kill you if you fell into enemy hands.

Hmmmm. I don't know about that. I like an ego-boost as much as the next man. But I think it'll be fine. 20 heavy bombers carpet-bombing my immediate surroundings seems like just a teensy bit too much of a boost to me...

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Re: As a Canadian

Omaha was a horrible location, but the naval component also buggered things up. The rocket-launcher barges were wrongly positioned, so the barage fell short of the beach. Leaving the obstacles intact. Plus the amphibious tanks were launched too far from the beach, and most of them sank. They could really have done with something armoured to hide behind, when dealing with those machinegun positions. That would have made the casualties less hideous. Which is one reason why the other beaches were comparatively easier, with fewer casualties.

Even with all the practise, doing complex combined-arms right is difficult. And out of the five beaches, that was the one they screwed up. I guess that's why they call the guys on the ground "the poor bloody infantry".

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There's a good book called Bat 21

On a similar vein, I read a book called Bat 21 many moons ago. Got filmed later, but they moved it from Korea to Vietnam in the film.

The guy was a US jamming specialist, I think a colonel, and the only survivor of a crash. I think they were trying to deal with some particularly difficult air defences on a main supply route.

Of course, he's now stuck there - and the rescue attempts are having to deal with the same stuff that just shot him down.

At some point they stopped trying to rescue him, and decided the info in his head was too vital - so they carpet bombed his location in order to kill him instead. Which is nice...

Spoiler alert:

He survived and came up with a truly ingenious way of communicating his escape route to the Airforce over an unencrypted radio that the other side were also listening in on. Which meant they knew where he was and could give him air support when necessary, in order to get him to an extraction zone where they could get a helicopter in, without it being shot down.

So he created a golf course. He could remember the holes from his favourite courses on various US bases - and so told them say the 3rd from a course at Pearl Harbour, then the 4th from one in California etc. Laid them out on his map to cover the right directions on the route he wanted to take - calling in airstrikes on targets he passed on the way - and they got a mate of his to draw up a similar map at their end and kept in touch with him as he went.

He seemed surprisingly un-bitter about his own side deciding to kill him as well.

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Daily Stormer booted off internet again, this time by Namecheap

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This has always happened. It's nothing new. I understand that in the US you'd get campaigns to write to the advertisers on newspapers and TV networks from people objecting to the content. If you can get sufficient numbers of motivated people together, this kind of thing has been possible (and happening) for at least 60 years. And probably longer...

But on the other side, if people are sufficiently motivated, there are always ways to get published. Unless of course you are actually breaking the law really obviously, and get noticed enough to become an issue. At which point government might start taking serious action against you.

Even then, there's been underground publishing for as long as there's been printing. And even before that, when manuscripts had to be hand-copied.

So it seems to me that this case has pretty much no significance. Unless you happen to be the Daily Stormer, whose life just got a bit harder. I'd not even heard of them until a couple of days ago, and know nothing about them. So I've no idea whether they deserve it or not.

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Re: sought a legal perspective...

I'd imagine he doesn't check the content of the other sites he hosts. Which isn't his job, after all. They have many customers.

But once it comes to a high profile case like this, accepting their money becomes a public statement in itself. And there's no law that says he has to throw his company on the grenade on someone else's behalf. He's free to do so if he wants to, and not if he doesn't.

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moiety,

Another example of the "It's OK because it's me doing it" malaise.

I disagree. He has a company, he has a right to choose who his customers are.

I'd never even heard of the Daily Stormer until all this came up, so I've no idea if what they run is just the usual bollocks, hateful bollocks that all right-thinking people should despise or actually illegal bollocks that incites violence.

But even if they just put out unpleasant stuff, there's no obligation on him to deal with them. He has a right to choose who he associates his company with, just as they have a right to free speech (within certain legal limits).

One doesn't conflict with the other. People have a right to express disagreeable opinions (within limits), but that doesn't give them a right to a guaranteed audience.

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British Airways waves Bing dong: At least it's not a tech cockup

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Re: Is their marketing slogan...

No. They're an airline. Their marketing slogan is, "Bend over. Now brace yourself!"

"Oh, and would sir like the optional baggage charge, the mandatory fuel surcharge, the optional inflight meal charge, the check-in fee, the airport taxes and the credit card use charge?"

"Excellent. That'll be £1m please. Or your firstborn child. Though we have an additional handling fee for those customers who choose to pay by firstborn child."

"OK. That'll be £1m or your second-born child. You are aware of our second-born child handling fee of course..."

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Drive-thru drive-by at McDs after ice cream no-show, say cops

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Devil

Surely the rest of the US can build a wall, to Keep Florida Out. And make Florida pay, of course.

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