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Comment: Re:A first: We should follow Germany's lead (Score 2) 698

by Yaztromo (#49478755) Attached to: 'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status

So, what exactly is our threshold for saying "sure, your wacky religion can have tax exempt status"? Because my "Church of the Big Titties" could definitely use some tax free status if we're just handing it out like that, that way we can have more "Sacraments of the Holy Wet T-Shirt" while imbibing "The Blessed Beer".

Hmm. Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.


Comment: Re:What? (Score 1) 624

So, I've known a few people who were learning Esperanto on this premise ... but, seriously, who the hell do you think is interested in replacing the English language? Do you think Esperanto has stormed the world yet?

Let's face it -- the very vast majority of people on this planet really aren't all that interested in learning any language other than the one they were brought up with.

Esperanto suffers from the same challenge every other language in the world suffers from: the need to memorize a massive vocabulary to be proficient. There really isn't any way around it either -- as humans, we like to categorize and name things, and there is no naming of anything that can be considered universal.

This is what has always tripped me up in the world of spoken languages. While I have some proficiency in four languages, I've always been hampered by the need to memorize the words themselves for all but the language I was raised in (English). Esperanto was my third language, and while the grammatical rules are easy, and the language encoding of grammar makes many things very obvious, you still have to memorize the vocabulary. Rote memorization unfortunately isn't my forte, and the vocabulary size need to be useful in a language is always my stalling point.


Comment: Re:Hmm (Score 1) 1168

Hitler and Nazi Germany were opposed to religion.

I have many more than just one quote. Hitler refers to the Christian God and Jesus many times in his various speeches; at one point the Nazis even tried to setup their own church. There were attempts to evict those Christian sects that were felt to be insufficiently Germanic, but the Nazis in general were a Christian group.

A more telling quote from historian Richard Steigmann-Gall is more telling:

"What we suppose Nazism must surely have been about usually tells us as much about contemporary societies as about the past purportedly under review. The insistence that Nazism was an anti-Christian movement has been one of the most enduring truisms of the past fifty years.... Exploring the possibility that many Nazis regarded themselves as Christian would have decisively undermined the myths of the Cold War and the regeneration of the German nation ... Nearly all Western societies retain a sense of Christian identity to this day.... That Nazism as the world-historical metaphor for human evil and wickedness should in some way have been related to Christianity can therefore be regarded by many only as unthinkable."

The Nazis used the writings of Martin Luther in particular to support their beliefs; the party even held mass celebrations in support of his 450th birthday.

Also inarguable is the fact that 95+% of Nazis were brought up in Christian households with Christian values. None of which apparently did anything to stop them from perpetrating the worst injustices of the modern age.

I'd be careful using Wikipedia as a reference here. There are unfortunately many writings both for and against Hitler's belief or disbelief in 'God'; however the Nazi regime was much bigger than just Hitler. And as Mr. Steigmann-Gall alludes to in the above quote, many historians and writers since the end of WWII have tried to paint Hitler as being non-Christian, as they are unable to conceive how a Christian person could commit such atrocities, in "No True Scotsman" fashion. Regardless, Hitler wasn't brought up as an Atheist with modern Humanist values, and he certainly wasn't opposed to religion -- at the very least, everyone can pretty much agree that he was more than happy to use it as a useful tool in advancing his agenda.


Comment: Re:Hmm (Score 1) 1168

Yes religions opens wrong kinds of doors. Adolf Hitler was apposed to religion and killed about 11 Million people in the process. Then you had the SS doing their weird cult like practices.

Nazi Germany was not opposed to religion -- they were very specifically Christian. Hitler himself said: "We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity ... in fact our movement is Christian.". 94% of the German population at the time of the war were Christians, as was the bulk of the Nazi party members.

Indeed, the SS specifically did not permit atheists in their ranks; the SS Oath went like so:

What is your oath?
– I vow to you, Adolf Hitler, as Führer and chancellor of the German Reich loyalty and bravery. I vow to you and to the leaders that you set for me, absolute allegiance until death. So help me God !
So you believe in a God?
– Yes, I believe in a Lord God.
What do you think about a man who does not believe in a God?
– I think he is overbearing, megalomaniacal, and foolish; he is not one of us.

Hitler wasn't opposed to religion -- like many despots, he was opposed to potential political threats against his interests. There is a significant difference between the two.


Comment: Re:Gonna be like the ipod (Score 1) 87

by Yaztromo (#49297573) Attached to: Apple Reportedly Working On an Online TV Service

The USB player I had at the time that the iPod came out was way easier to use. The player I had you could plug into any computer and simply copy a file.

Which is fine if you want to listen to one song. But most people prefer to listen to multiple songs.

So you've been using your media player for a while, full of music, and you decide you want to change what you're listening to. You can't just sync in a new playlist like you can on the iPod -- you wind up having to manually delete the songs you don't want in there, make sure the directory structure is correct, and then move in all of the songs you want to add.

And hope that you only ever want to organize or select songs based on album, or perhaps artist. You don't easily have the option of selecting songs off your hard drive by genre, or perhaps by decade, unless you've pre-organized your music in this manner (in which case, adding songs by album or artist is probably going to be impossible, unless you've manually maintained some huge directory full of symbolic links to organize your music along multiple vectors simultaneously). Again, doing this is ridiculously simple on the iPod, but it's a chore on media players that just present themselves as a mass-storage device. You wind up doing all the things that a computer is good at handling by hand.

And that's fine if you like that. Some people like chores. I know some people who love sweeping their floors. I'll stick to my Roomba. There are tasks that machines are simply better at than humans are, and if you like to do those things yourself, more power to you. I'm not trying to put down your choice of device, but don't fool yourself into thinking that it's easier than plug-and-play synchronization (and if you had to "go through all kinds of options to sync" an iPod, you were doing it wrong).

Again, this is one big reason why the masses flocked to the iPod. For most people, dragging music around in a UI to load up their device is boring busywork that wastes their time. The iPod only ever asked them to plug it in, wait, and go.


Comment: Re:Gonna be like the ipod (Score 1) 87

by Yaztromo (#49285713) Attached to: Apple Reportedly Working On an Online TV Service

The trouble for Apple today is none of this new stuff they are doing (iWatch, iTV etc) has anything near the wow factor anymore.

I can agree with that, although in a somewhat qualified manner. Apple has always been pretty open that the Apple TV is more of a hobby device for them. It shows, especially outside the US where the app/"channel" support is pretty pathetic. Here in Canada, it's really only useful for Netflix and iTunes content (I bought one for my parents a few years ago after the last video rental shop in their town closed; my father, who is virtually computer-illiterate, loves it for renting movies). I own a lot of Apple gear (although not exclusively), but have avoided the Apple TV as other that Airplay, I can't figure out what I'd use it for (we already have three devices in our entertaining centre that can play Netflix).

I think for the watch we'll need to wait and see. I feel it could still go either way. It could be the next iPhone 1 (remember how the original iPhone had no app store, and the push was for HTML5/Javascript based apps?) and bring in enough early adopters to kick off a critical mass of users and innovation on Apple's part, or it could be the next Apple TV (a nifty device that most people don't really need or know what to do with).

But you're right -- neither have much of an immediate "wow" factor. The only devices they seem to be somewhat hitting with "wow" is with their new laptops -- I do find it pretty hard not to be impressed by the latest MacBook, and look forward to getting my hands on one in a store to check it out. That, however, is a different market than their consumer electronics like the iPhone, and isn't going to drive the same sort of uptake as the iPod and iPhone did.


Comment: Re:Wake me up when it's available outside the US. (Score 1) 87

by Yaztromo (#49284511) Attached to: Apple Reportedly Working On an Online TV Service

In Canada, the only notable services we have are the iTunes Store (of course), Netflix, Crackle (if you like watching the same ads over and over even in the same breaks), Crunchyroll (if you like anime). There's also YouTube and Vimeo.

I think you might be selling Shomi and Cineplex Online a bit short. Both seem to be fine services -- what is really holding them back is a near total lack of device support, making it more difficult to integrate them into the living room (or in the case of Shomi,needing to be a Shaw or Rogers customer).

I recently cancelled my 90 day free Shomi trial. It's more geared towards TV binge watching it seems -- while it has movies, its selection is sparse, and in some cases duplicates what Netflix already provides. I'm not much into TV shows, however my wife may have watched it if it had actually been available on any of our smart entertainment devices. They technically support cable boxes from Shaw and Rogers, but that doesn't include much in the way of browsing; you have to use another device to find what you want to watch, flag it, and then find it on your cable box's "On Demand" section as a saved item. Perhaps even more stupid, the service just started three months ago, and the only other non-PC and non-phone/tablet device they support is the Xbox 360. Way to aim for last generation there, guys!

I've never even used Cineplex's offering, even though it looks like a pretty decent service overall. Again -- the device support just isn't there for set-top devices, although it seems to be better than Shomi. They also support the Xbox 360, the Roku 3, and some LG and Samsung smart TVs.

Then there is the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). Nearly their entire collection is available to watch online (http://www.nfb.ca) -- over 2500 films. I was surprised to learn that they do have some device support (Roku, LG Smart TV, Samsung Smart TV, Panasonic, Google TV, Opera TV, Philips). No Playstation (or Sony TV/BluRay player) or Apple TV support, unfortunately.

The CBC would seem to be ripe for this sort of streaming service. Their iOS app already has a full compliment of all of their shows and original programming available to watch free on-demand, as does their website. They also have streams of all of their radio stations, again for free. I'm rather surprised that nobody has done the footwork to get their content on their devices (beyond PCs and iOS/Android mobile devices).

So I'd argue that the content is there -- it's the device support that sucks. It's all over the place. You might get two or three services with a Roku, but for others you'd need an Xbox 360. Apple Canada should be pursuing more of these sorts of connections. It's bad enough we don't get many of the US service like Hulu here, but it feels nearly criminal that we also don't even get was access to the existing Canadian services either. The services are there -- it's the lack of widespread device support that is hurting them.


Comment: Wake me up when it's available outside the US. (Score 1) 87

by Yaztromo (#49280181) Attached to: Apple Reportedly Working On an Online TV Service

On the other hand, maybe that's a bad idea, as I may then have to sleep forever...

This is why, even though I do own a bunch of other Apple gear, I don't own an Apple TV. The Apple TV "channel" selection here in Canada is pretty pathetic. And while we do have a variety of online streaming services at our disposal (Netflix, Shomi, Cineplex Store, NFB, and probably a few more), none of them are available on the Apple TV, other than Netflix (indeed, many of them aren't available on ANY devices outside PCs (Windows/OS X, and sometimes Linux), or phones/tables (running iOS or Android)).

Honestly, the only thing the Apple TV potentially has going for it is Airplay support, which would allow me to use my iPad to stream stuff to the Apple TV, or to use as a secondary wireless display for my MacBook Pro. It's cheap enough I might buy one someday just for AirPlay, but otherwise the online services are sufficiently pathetic outside the US that it makes it hard to really get excited about.

Apple needs to spend more time in international markets like Canada in getting more content. Or they should just open up the device to 3rd party developers ala iOS, and permit "channel apps". All of the big networks in Canada already have iOS apps for streaming and watching shows online; porting these to the Apple TV should be trivial, and would open up a huge world of possibilities. I already have the HDMI interface cable for my iPad so my wife and I can watch content we may have missed, and so my wife can watch TV from her home country -- being able to do something like this directly on the Apple TV would be greatly welcomed (that, or have more such apps available on the PS4, which is already part of our entertaining system).


Comment: Re:Gonna be like the ipod (Score 1) 87

by Yaztromo (#49280137) Attached to: Apple Reportedly Working On an Online TV Service

MP3 players arose in a time when PCs in general were still primitive. They suffered because of this.

Which only reenforces my point that Apple came along, and won the market by introducing a device that didn't suffer from these issues. And a huge part of that was the end-to-end software integration that all the other device manufacturers ignored.

At that time, CD ripping was already simple. Buying ready made content was only a problem because of a sandbagging cartel.

Sure, you could pop open some piece of software and tell it to rip tracks from your CD player, resulting in a whole bunch of files name TRACK_XXX.MP3, but then you had to manually do the work of naming them, organizing them into an album, and getting them into your MP3 player (as your mp3 player-of-choice's sync software of the day typically didn't include its own CD ripping software). It was a chore. iTunes did away with all of this; it had a built-in CD ripper, it used CDDB (now Gracenote) to automatically tag track data, it uses a database to automatically categorize and organize music along multiple vectors.

Sure, the parts were there for other MP3 players, but getting them all integrated together was a chore, and not one likely to be undertaken by your average everyman. The iPod integrated all of these things together, making ripping your CD and putting it onto your iPod as easy as insert CD, press button, plug-in iPod, wait. It took the chore out of it, along with the need to get together all of the disparate pieces of software you'd need to do the task, as it was with other MP3 players. That is why the iPod won.


Comment: Re:Gonna be like the ipod (Score 0) 87

by Yaztromo (#49280015) Attached to: Apple Reportedly Working On an Online TV Service

Apple essentially invented a new market, just like Starbucks did. Were MP3 players (and expensive espresso drinks) available before that? Yes. Could you download music before that? Yes. What Apple did that wasn't so readily available before was made a device that could hold tons of music and had the market power to negotiate contracts to make music available for purchase on iTunes.

Perhaps even more importantly, Apple made it dirt simple for the everyman to actually get their music onto their device.

I had an early MP3 player. It was from before USB was popular, and used a parallel port interface. Getting music onto it required the following procedure:

  1. - Unplug the printer (after ensuring no print jobs were going)
  2. - Plug in the custom parallel cable
  3. - Run the custom software
  4. - Hope that the custom software would actually work from the time you started it, to the time the transfer completed. The software for my MP3 player was notoriously bad, and updates were virtually non-existent.
  5. - Find music you don't want on the device anymore and delete it
  6. - Navigate around the file interface to find all the MP3s you wanted added to the device
  7. - Transfer the files, and hope the software didn't crash during the transfer.
  8. - It was completely up to you to organize your music on your hard drive. The device had no display, didn't work with any form of metadata like ID3 tags.

Contrast this with the original iPod, where iTunes took care of organizing all your music on your hard drive for you, made metadata handling easy, and allowed you to simply plug-in your iPod, wait for the "Do not unplug" icon on its display to go away, and unplug and walk away.

I had the opportunity back-in-the-day to experiment with a lot of MP3 players, and for almost every single one, it's bigger failing was in the software to get music onto the device. These devices were primarily pushed out by small consumer electronics companies that knew very little about software development; the software was often painfully craptastic. Some of the better ones did simply identify themselves as USB Mass Storage devices, but you still had to manually catalog and organize all your music (a task admittedly some people seem to enjoy; myself this is a perfect sort of task for the computer to do for me while I focus on more important tasks), and then sit and drag-and-drop music to the device.

It was the overall iPod experience that really made it excel. Apple took the time and care to make everything right end-to-end. The majority of the other devices just pushed out hardware, and paid very little attention to decent software integration to make the process seamless to the (particularly non-technical) end user.

Not to mention the fact that virtually no other MP3 player had an integrated store to make it even easier to put music on your devices -- I remember the days of ripping CDs, or scouring FTP sites known to host MP3s. Apple made both CD ripping and downloading (for a fee) pretty simple, whereas for most other MP3s, getting the music in the first place was your problem, and not one their software would tackle.


United States

How To Execute People In the 21st Century 1081

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-road dept.
HughPickens.com writes Matt Ford writes in The Atlantic that thanks to a European Union embargo on the export of key drugs, and the refusal of major pharmaceutical companies to sell them the nation's predominant method of execution is increasingly hard to perform. With lethal injection's future uncertain, some states are turning to previously discarded methods. The Utah legislature just approved a bill to reintroduce firing squads for executions, Alabama's House of Representatives voted to authorize the electric chair if new drugs couldn't be found, and after last years botched injection, Oklahoma legislators are mulling the gas chamber.

The driving force behind the creation and abandonment of execution methods is the constant search for a humane means of taking a human life. Arizona, for example, abandoned hangings after a noose accidentally decapitated a condemned woman in 1930. Execution is also prone to problems as witnesses routinely report that, when the switch is thrown, the condemned prisoner "cringes," "leaps," and "fights the straps with amazing strength." The hands turn red, then white, and the cords of the neck stand out like steel bands. The prisoner's limbs, fingers, toes, and face are severely contorted. The force of the electrical current is so powerful that the prisoner's eyeballs sometimes pop out and "rest on [his] cheeks." The physical effects of the deadly hydrogen cyanide in the gas chamber are coma, seizures and cardiac arrest but the time lag has previously proved a problem. According to Ford one reason lethal injection enjoyed such tremendous popularity was that it strongly resembled a medical procedure, thereby projecting our preconceived notions about modern medicine—its competence, its efficacy, and its reliability—onto the capital-punishment system. "As states revert to earlier methods of execution—techniques once abandoned as backward and flawed—they run the risk that the death penalty itself will be seen in the same terms."

Comment: Not entirely fairly applied. (Score 5, Informative) 89

by Yaztromo (#49258153) Attached to: Mike Godwin Interviewed

For those who aren't aware of what was said, in the case of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's comments, I don't think Godwin is being appropriately applied.

Mr. Trudeau didn't compare the government to that of the Nazis. He didn't compare it to Hitler. He didn't claim that a government policy was as bad as the Holocaust.

What he did say is that current anti-Muslim government policies are akin to the Canadian policy just after World War II of "none is too many" when it came to Jewish immigrants to Canada, which the Government of Canada has since admitted was wrong.

In essence, it compared a current policy to a previous policy that the Government had admitted was wrong. I don't see why everyone is so upset, other than that the government would like to try to make this into a Godwin-like comparison in order to score cheap political points. For the record, according to the interview (for anyone who doesn't RTFA), Mr. Godwin agrees with this analysis.

Minister Blaney, however, seems in my mind to have skirted the line much more closely, specifically bringing up the Holocaust as an example to try to prop up support for an unpopular bill. His specific statement, that the Holocaust didn't begin with the gas chambers, but with words is correct -- however I have to agree with MP Randall Garrison (FWIW, he represents my riding, although admittedly I didn't vote for him in the last election) who said that this was "over-inflated rhetoric".

So in essence we have one instance worthy of invoking Godwin against, and another that had nothing directly to do with the Holocaust, but instead a Canadian policy that happened around the same time, and affected the same people, which mirrors in some respects what the current Government is attempting to do with a different population, for which Godwin shouldn't apply (but which is being brought out in some corners in an attempt to score political hay).


Comment: Re:Useless? (Score 2) 447

by Yaztromo (#49246171) Attached to: Homeopathy Turns Out To Be Useless For Treating Medical Conditions

I'm fairly sure the Placebo Effect is effective.

Well, then you'd simply be wrong.

You see, there isn't one "Placebo Effect". The effect is different for different ailments.

An example: you have a patient who is suffering from a migraine. You give them a placebo. In 10 minutes, they say they feel somewhat better. That may be the "placebo effect".

A second patient comes in who has had a heart attack. They aren't breathing, and there is no pulse. You give them a placebo. In 10 minutes, they're dead.

When constructing studies with placebos, you typically have to compare like with like. There isn't a universal Placebo Constant you just throw into your paper to compare against-- you have to compare outcomes between a population of patients with condition X taking the substance being tested, to the outcomes of a population of patients, also with condition X, who are taking placebos. The placebos may or may not have any effect -- that makes no difference. What is important is that the substance you're testing will ideally do better than placebos do, otherwise you might as well just use the cheaper placebos for the condition at hand, and head back to the drawing board.

(This is, of course, a gross oversimplification of how such studies are run and constructed -- it is provided for illustrative purposes only)


I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky