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Comment Re:Paul Ehrlich, eh? (Score 1) 147

I work in a technical field in a somewhat creative environment. Sometimes I'm wrong. Sometimes I'm right. There are those who try to make it seem when someone's been wrong once they are wrong about everything. It's a debate tactic which I'm sure has a name, as it's not new. Don't fall prey to it.

Just because someone is wrong once, doesn't mean they are wrong about everything, forever.

Comment Sixth Great Extinction Event is underway (Score 2, Informative) 147

Stanford researcher declares that the sixth mass extinction is here
Stanford Report
June 19, 2015

That is the bad news at the center of a new study by a group of scientists including Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Ehrlich and his co-authors call for fast action to conserve threatened species, populations and habitat, but warn that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

"[The study] shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event," Ehrlich said.

-- Stanford Report, June 19, 2015

Comment Re:Seabirds and landfills (Score 3, Interesting) 147

A Diet To Die For
One bird feasts on food that would leave most other animals stone dead
Nov 29th 2014
The Economist

Among an average of 528 types of bacterium found on the heads of 50 turkey and black vultures were those that can cause botulism, gangrene, tetanus, septicaemia, blood clots and metastatic abscesses in other animals. And although these birds did not have it, another study found Bacillus anthracis in vulture faeces. It causes anthrax, except in vultures.

Vultures clearly have strong stomachs, in every sense. With an acidity at least ten times that of a human’s, a vulture’s gut destroys a large amount of any potentially pathogenic bacteria that is ingested. Indeed, when the researchers analysed the contents of each bird’s large intestine, they could not detect some 85% of the micro-organisms they had found on its facial skin.

But what remains is hardly benign. The microbial flora in a vulture’s large intestine is dominated by two types of anaerobic faecal bacteria, Clostridia and Fusobacteria, both of which can be deadly to other animals. Some Clostridia species have been responsible for periodic mass die-offs in birds such as ducks, geese and waders (although other species can be beneficial), while Fusobacteria nucleatum is associated with human colon cancer.

-- The Economist, November 29th, 2014

[Just because seagulls and vultures can do it, doesn't mean terns and albatrosses can]

Comment Re:"I wanted to work this weekend" (Score 4, Interesting) 211

Times I've wanted to work on the weekend:

1) When I'm doing work on the side and want to get it done. I'll work on the weekend.

2) When I'm being paid well and able to telecommute, and there's a task that needs to be done - I'll work on the weekend. Heck, in that situation, I've worked late nights too. The working environment couldn't get more comfortable, with my own kitchen and bathroom and climate control. And when my brain shuts down late at night, I'm a few feet from the bed.

When I'm on-site... and I'm eating from the vending machine, trying to avoid using the low-privacy, cesspool toilets, and it's too cold or too hot, and I can't take a few minutes off and relax on the couch or outside in peace - yeah, I have no interest in staying there longer than my 8 hours. I don't care how interesting the work is. I've done it of course, both late night and weekends, but under duress like the parent poster noted.

Comment Re:So much wrong with this (Score 1) 458

My basic problem with Sanders was very well expressed by Margaret Thatcher: "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." So let's radically change our government so we can start confiscating and spending other people's money even faster, because that will make everything better!

Actually you can print up a pretty hefty amount - see Japan and the US Quantitative Easing (QE). How long that can last, who knows, but it's really appealing to politicians. And some Nobel Laureate economists are big fans of it too.

Comment Re:Showed too much of his hand (Score 2) 458

In short, Congress cannot define a group of people, and require people to give up their right to speech when joining it, to take advantage of that group's provided features.

Yes, but the executives take the logical construct's money, of which there is a copious amount, and use it to influence legislators. It's not their own personal money they're spending. Putting limits on how they can spend the construct's money is not the same thing as putting limits on how they can spend their own money.

Comment It's like encouraging everyone to become lawyers (Score 1) 365

The salaries for lawyers vary like those for software developers. There are a vast number of grunts doing basic work and making adequate salaries. BUT, towards the top of the pyramid, which is exceptionally difficult to reach, there are those making eye-popping salaries.

Ditto with the IT field. That guy who "stole" code from Goldman Sachs, Sergey Aleynikov, was pulling down 400K a year at Goldman. He was set to get 3 times that amount from another company upon leaving Goldman. That's like an elite lawyer's salary. BUT - some guy doing PHP on a no-benefits contract - what, 50-60K? Some average guy doing intranet programming, or building websites for small businesses as an employee? Probably averaging in the same range, maybe a tad higher.

The difference is that there is no bar to entry for programmers. Lawyers have to pass the bar. Anybody can start slapping together apps or get on a no-benefits contract with a little experience. Plus lawyers are highly organized, with the ABA, the American Trial Lawyers association (representing plaintiff lawyers), etc. IT types are way too... I dunno, disorganized, libertarian, low-social-IQ (in general) for that kind of thing. But people that make businesses are not low social IQ. They're dealmakers. And they absolutely hate having to pay these high salaries. They figure if they can flood the market, they can lower their labor costs.

Jokes on them a bit though. True, they'll suppress IT salaries in general. But the superstars will still be a small fraction of the overall IT pool, and they'll still command the stratospheric, though a bit lower, salaries.

And programmers ought to be organizing more behind the ACM, I guess, and encouraging some kind of "PE" (Professional Engineer) equivalent to mark one as someone who actually knows the theory of computer science and practice of programming.

Comment Re:Too big to fail (Score 1) 256

They don't have to buy the country, just the government. And all that's required to do that is merely to spend enough to influence a sufficient number of the 535 legislators who make its laws.

The same dynamic works at the state and local levels.

All corporations allocate a certain amount to lobby/invest in government. Those investments typically have a very high rate of return. Another more in-depth analysis is here.

Comment Re:Too big to fail (Score 4, Interesting) 256

Corporations were not considered in the original list of entities that would need to be included in the checks-and-balances equation. Back in the Founders day, there was the East India Tea Company, but still governments were unquestioningly the shot callers. So, there was an effort to place checks and balances within government.

Today, businesses have grown large enough to co-opt government. And they definitely influence society.

Eisenhower warned of the Military-Industrial complex in his famous speech: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

Today, the financial sector dwarfs defense in its lobbying efforts. Technology is also another gigantic sector with a growing influence.

So - Business must now be included in the check and balance equation of governing. Unfortunately, virtually no one willingly gives up power.

Comment Dangers of a homogeneous media (Score 1) 256

"When they own the information, they can bend it all they want." - John Mayer, "Waiting On The World To Change"

There are a lot of very powerful interest groups that want to gain control of the information flowing over the Internet. That would, I think, be a terrible blow to the advancement of the human race, and a slide back into oligarchy.

And also, this concept of local government officials - chieftains - working as fronts for very specific interest groups is troubling. It's commonly seen in DC where lobbyists write sections of laws which apply to themselves or competitors. Also on Wall Street where financial companies can direct prosecution (e.g. Aleynikov) as well as write law. This kind of behavior is a dereliction of duty, and should be treated as such.

Comment Hands of Death and Destruction (Score 1) 245

HODAD- "Hands of Death And Destruction" - A Hopkins doctor wrote a book about the subject.

From the article:

"At a medical conference Dr. Marty Makary saw one of his Harvard professors who “looked out at a room of 2,000 doctors and asked ‘How many of you know of another doctor who should not be practicing because he is too dangerous?’ Every hand went up.” Yet few report bad doctors and those that do often get fired.

Hospital staff knows they are practicing bad medicine and mostly do nothing. In Makary’s provocative book, Unaccountable, he describes one Ivy League-trained doctor who’s popular with patients yet dubbed Hodad, by his colleagues, for his continuing string of patient deaths. Hodad is their dark humored acronym for “hands of death and destruction.”

Doctors are kind of like cops. They both do a life and death, high stress job, and are under assault from all corners (for different reasons). So they protect their own. But to improve illness survivability, and in the interest of trying to get more information to patients, there has to be some way to get information about doctors to patients.

On the other hand, any metric will be gamed. So - if doctors aren't willing to police themselves... what choice is there but trying to get metrics on them? We're not talking about a good and a bad choice, we're talking about a bad and worse choice - which one is less bad?

And if you think the teachers union is badass - the AMA is made up of doctors, who are smart and relentless and wealthy. They're a big lobby in DC (although smaller than I thought prior to looking them up. In recent election cycles, with Obamacare, I recall seeing them near the top of the list).

Comment Magnificent (Score 1) 109

I read Bloom County throughout the eighties. It was a brilliantly funny comic, nothing like Doonesbury which was highly political. Yes, Breathed obliquely dealt with political issues ("caucus raucous!") but in an evenhanded fashion, which was unusual for back then. I'm amazed Breathed is bringing this back. I'm really looking forward to it and hope he has a long and humorous run.

What is now proved was once only imagin'd. -- William Blake