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Archive for December, 2005

How Conveeeenient…

Back before Thanksgiving, I was fixing the weatherstripping on my office window and accidentally stepped on my 8-year-old UPS. After the sparks had vanished and the smoke had cleared, it was clear the thing was a goner — both the battery-powered and non-backed-up surge-protected outlets were dead (despite a scorched spot the size of a hockey puck on the back, there was luckily no damage to the carpet). So, off I went to CompUSA to buy a new UPS.

That was on November 19.

As is typical of everything I have ever bought at CompUSA, the new UPS — an APC Back-UPS ES 500 — there was a mail-in rebate involved, which required me to mail in a form printed with my receipt to get $12.00 back. It was prominently printed on the rebate form that the purchase had to be made by December 19 to qualify, so I mailed it on November 22 to give it plenty of time. And then forgot all about it.

On Monday (that would be December 19), I received an email from the APC Rebate Center, which included a link to their rebate tracking website. I followed the link, and found the following information (click image for a more legible view):


(Below this, it lists a bunch of $15-$30 software packages to choose from, none of which were of any interest to me.)

In other words, though my purchase was made on November 19 and this date was printed on the form provided by CompUSA, APC Rebate Center (actually operated by a company called Parago) evidently held off on processing the rebate form until the rebate promotion had ended, and then tried to offer me what appears to be remaindered software in lieu of the promised (but now “expired”) cash rebate.

I’ll be sending them a letter tomorrow (since they don’t provide you with a means to contact them online or by phone when they decide to mess with your rebate), to see if I can pry the promised cash out of them after all.

This is the second time I’ve used a mail-in rebate (the other being on FrontPage 2002 purchased through Amazon), and both times I’ve had problems. Maybe I’m just unlucky with these things, but I have to wonder if the whole mail-in rebate concept isn’t just an upselling scheme, in which customers are enticed into buying a product on the promise of a lower net price, offered with the expectation that they will neglect to mail in the required rebate form within the allotted time…Naah, that’d be unethical…

ADDENDUM: You know, the more I think about this, the less sense it makes.

I could only get a rebate form by purchasing the UPS. They could only have contacted me if I had mailed in the rebate form. I was emailed the notification that my refund had been denied at 4:04am on December 19. Unless the Parago rebate center receives its mail after midnight, they must have received the rebate form prior on December 17th at the latest (the 18th being a Sunday).

The time stamp on the email itself proves that they had received the form prior to the end date of the rebate offer, and therefore the purchase was made prior to that, i.e.: within the promotion period. So, whether they go by the stated requirement of purchase prior to December 19, or try to move the goalposts and claim that the form had to be received by December 19, either way they owe me twelve bucks.

Get ‘Em While They’re Young

Oh, brother…who thinks up this rot?

Children’s Space Charter


About that Controversy…

Jeff Foust was wondering where the controversy over New Horizons was…it looks like Bruce has found a sudden groundswell of public opposition:

The national media has begun checking in with us about the building opposition to the launch. Journalism professor Karl Grossman’s op-eds, reporting on opposition to the mission, are now appearing in papers across the country. I’ve been hearing from people – Oregon to Florida – who have been writing letters to Congress, NASA, and their local papers expressing their outrage about the launching of nuclear power into space. NASA is losing the support of taxpayers nationwide as they push these toxic launches.

Sounds like a major surge of support for his position…but then, what quality of “organizer” would Bruce be if he didn’t present his position as having strong and growing support? Some evidence of this beyond a few papers reprinting Karl Grossman’s ill-informed and misleading op-ed and anecdotal evidence of “hearing from people” might convince me that this wasn’t just a self-serving misrepresentation.

As for NASA losing support nationwide because of RTG-powered spacecraft…prove it.

Plans are also underway in Florida for a demonstration at Cape Canveral Air Force Station on January 7.

And I’m sure that all five or six of the participants will feel good about themselves and their moral superiority afterwards.

Bruce then goes on to demonstrate that he knows little if anything about New Horizons beyond the fact that plutonium is involved:

The planets have been out there a long time and aren’t going anywhere.

In fact, time is of the essence where Pluto is concerned:

Scientists believe that as Pluto continues its 248-yearlong orbit around the sun, its tenuous atmosphere eventually will freeze and collapse to the surface. Pluto has been racing away from the sun since its closest approach in 1989 and scientists do not know how much time remains before Pluto’s atmosphere collapses. Once that happens its atmosphere is not expected to re-emerge for about 200 years.

“Some people think its 20 years off and some people think its five years off,” said Stern. “No one really knows when Pluto’s atmosphere will snow out and collapse.”

Oh, but what do they know? They’re just scientists.

Of course, no Bruce Gagnon anti-space-nuclear-power post would be complete without his trademark appeal for alternatives:

Develop alternative technologies for space exploration. No nuclear launches!

And as usual, Bruce insists on alternatives but offers none…not even a glimmer of a clue as to what other options he might have in mind. Given his poor understanding of physics and engineering and his fascination with windmills, one has to wonder if he expects deep space science probes to be powered by the solar wind…

Delay for New Horizons

I can hear the ultrasonic twittering of the moonbats already: Problem May Delay Launch Of Mission To Pluto

The space probe called New Horizons is all set for a three-billion-mile, nine-year journey to Pluto. But the Atlas-5 rocket carrying the probe is not ready for liftoff.

Engineers think a propellant tank might be flawed, and they haven’t yet determined how to fix it.

“Well, we really don’t have those details,” said Dwayne Brown, of NASA.

The new problem comes on top of an effort to repair hurricane damage, which had already thrown the launch effort behind schedule.

The Clays of Mars

An ancient, watery Mars was not always an acid bath

Drawn to Mars largely by signs of past Earth-like conditions, researchers have finally found definitive relics of gently lapping seas and balmier skies: in particular, deposits of sulfate salts. To form those sulfates, though, the ancient seas must have been acidic enough to burn off skin.

But a different tale is told by another class of minerals, fully mapped only recently: clays. They suggest that even before the era of the sulfates, Mars was drenched in water safe enough to dunk a hand in. “The clays indicate alteration with a lot of water,” says Fran?ois Poulet of the University of Paris-South, a member of the discovery team. “The sulfate indicates a second step in the climate of Mars.”

Looks like Bruce MacKenzie will have a ready supply of brickmaking materials.

It’s the SUVs

An amusing turnabout.

Thought for the Day

One of the surprising privileges of intellectuals is that they are free to be scandalously asinine without harming their reputations.

– Eric Hoffer

Katrina Memories

Here’s a fascinating site archiving personal stories and photos from Hurricane Katrina, modeled on a similar project covering 9/11.

(I used to go to this B&N almost every Saturday morning. Oops.)

McDonald’s on Mars

Commenter Wally expresses concern over the development of space:

Besides, who wants to go to McDonald’s Restaurant on Mars?

I do.

Not because I find the food appealing, but because of what the fact of a McDonald’s on Mars would say about the planet’s level of development. Shipping in from a distribution center on Earth all the mystery meat, synthetic cheese, pickles, onions, buns, soft-drink syrup, shoestring potatoes, condiments, service items, and other consumable products a franchised fast-food restaurant would require would be prohibitively expensive, at least by the modes of transportation available in the near term, so the existence of a simple McDonald’s on Mars would imply a whole range of other complex economic activities:

  • the ranching (or decanting) of various types of meat;
  • agriculture capable of supplying oil seeds, wheat, cucumbers, onions, sugarcane/corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and assorted spices;
  • silviculture providing pulp stock for paper goods;
  • processing facilities for the meat and other raw agricultural goods;
  • secondary processing facilities, such as bakeries for the buns, plants for conversion of sugar or corn syrup into soft-drink concentrate, other plants producing ketchup, mustard, pickles, etc.;
  • transportation for moving the raw materials and processed items (not to mention the consumers);
  • a local construction industry capable of building a structure to house the restaurant, and a supply of building materials;
  • a local manufacturing industry with the ability to produce the various pieces of specialized machinery and fittings required to turn the aforementioned consumables into final product and deliver them to customers — freezers, refrigerators, fry vats, grills, microwave ovens, soft-drink dispensers, cash registers, communications systems, preparation tables, sinks, water heaters, icemakers, customer furnishings, etc.;
  • the constituent items (gears, motors, electromechanical elements, control devices, refrigerants, sheet metal, advanced plastics) that go into the production of such equipment;
  • the miscellaneous secondary items involved in the running of the primary business, such as cleaning equipment and supplies;
  • items taken for granted in a terrestrial McDonald’s: a supply of breathable air, potable water, and reliable electricity;
  • a reliable supply chain making all of the above available on short notice;
  • enough unskilled and surly teenagers to staff the restaurant;
  • all of the above available at a cost which still allows the restaurant to make a profit;
  • a trustworthy means of exchange (i.e.: money), and the financial infrastructure that goes with it;
  • applicable legal structures (contract law, property law, etc.) and appropriate enforcement institutions; and
  • enough customers to keep the restaurant profitable.

Not to mention the fact that a McDonald’s would be a pleasant alternative to a communal cafeteria that would be a more practical and efficient if drab means of providing meals. That is, the restaurant would indicate a level of development at which options for enjoyment are available, and people can concern themselves with quality of life (in this case the enjoyment of a simple pleasure) versus mere subsistence.

Who would go to a McDonald’s on Mars? I would — to celebrate the accomplishment that the existence of such a thing would symbolize.

It’s Impressive…

…what you can buy on E-Bay:


2012 Prometheus Award Finalist

Buy Kindle version
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A young girl sets out to prove herself by resolving a long-forgotten mystery. But when she gets close to the truth, what she thought was a harmless adventure becomes a threat to the future of the independent commercial settlements on Mars.

December 2005
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