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Comment Watching vs Learning (Score 3, Interesting) 102

While we do a lot of our lifelong learning outside of formal structures, I think it would be dangerous to rely on this until it can demonstrate that people did not merely watch, but actually now know and understand the material. That may be difficult to measure in an unstructured environment, but without it, the system will be ripe for abuse and ultimately fall into disrepute. Especially because you can't even confirm that someone watched a video, but only that it played for its full duration on a specific machine.

Comment Re:Not me, not in California (Score 1) 940

No, the reason that property can be such a good investment for individuals is the opportunity for leverage. I put down only a few thousand dollars (5%) on my house when I bought it, yet its increase in value is very large (several hundred thousand dollars). Of course, with leverage comes risk. Many people lost out dramatically in the recession when house prices dropped. My house value never droppped below its original purchase price.

And that risk has burned some folks significantly. I know folks who bought property with a 5/1 ARM, planning on moving before 5 years, or refinancing if they stayed. Four years into it, they hit the recession, couldn't sell their place, were underwater and unable to refinance, and saw their interest rate rise at the same time. They took a risk -- they're better now, but it was tough for a while.

Comment Re:Not that easy to buy (Score 1) 940

Peter - could you supply examples? Why won't the lenders lend to people "who can really afford to buy a house"? What percentage of renters fall into this category? I'd bet it's small. There are great rates for folks with stable W-2 income; there are decent rates for folks with more-fluctuating income (salesmen, business owners). Interest rates in the past five years are lower than they've ever been.

Comment Re:Not me, not in California (Score 1) 940

You sound bitter. Renters rent property because they prefer it to buying property. If they want to buy, there are many banks happy to lend money to people to buy property. Meanwhile, the person renting the thing out did trade something for the payment he got: he was deprived of use of the house or car for a month. Try going without your house or car for a month. Some people can; most people can't, not without some money to compensate. And let's not forget that the landlord who reclaims his property at the end also had to pay property taxes and perform maintenance on the building. If you think that the landlord's money is unearned, and he should let someone live there for free, I would like to rent from you.

Comment Re:So live underground (Score 4, Informative) 135

Interesting. I had read that they adjusted to a 25 hour day, not 30. My source: Richard M. Coleman's book, Wide Awake at 3:00 A.M., page 8, "The results of these sleep-wake cycles shows that most subjects averaged a 25-hour day - that is, left on their own, free from time cues, humans have an internal day length of 25 hours." The problem isn't the Martian day, which is much closer to our natural biorhythms; it is trying to work a Martian time schedule while living on Earth with its time cues.

Comment Re:Conform or be expelled (Score 3, Interesting) 320

HOA boards are proof that "for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing." The problem is that most good people would prefer to skimp on their community political engagement and let others deal with the bother of it all... they don't realize the danger of the vacuum that they leave.

Comment Re:Conform or be expelled (Score 1) 320

Where I live, townhouses mean you don't have anybody living below or above you, and you have some ownership rights to a patio-sized patch of fenced-in dirt.* Condos mean that dwellings are stacked on top of each other, and the association owns all the dirt.
* You still have to follow HOA rules about what you do with the dirt.

Comment Re:And? (Score 1) 448

There is actually quite a lot of competition in the air travel space. About a dozen major national air carriers and over 100 regional and specialty air carriers that do passenger service. I assure you, the cost of airfares are set at what the market will allow. Chances are good that your local cable company or phone company has a monopoly on internet or video services where you are...There is almost certainly not a monopoly on air travel.

Somewhat true. There are limited gates at each airport, so any airline wanting to expand its business at a busy location will have to buy a gate from an airline that holds it today, and if the other one won't sell, too bad. Mergers as well reduce competition: American, Southwest, Delta, and United now serve >85% of the US market. Milwaukee claims to be served by 8 airlines, but it's really 3 plus a few miscellaneous flights.

Comment Re:And? (Score 1) 448

However, what's wrong with bringing fewer bags, if you want to, or else paying the going price for the bags you really need?

What I'd like to see is a fee to use the overhead compartment. First checked bag is free; first bag overhead costs you $25. The problem with the process today is that it noticeably slows passenger loading and unloading, because everyone tries to cram all their stuff into overstuffed roller bags, making us feel like a cattle car and enduring multiple announcements of "place your small items at your feet, folks; we offer free gate check; ..." It's why I love that Southwest still includes bags checked for free.

Comment Re:And? (Score 1) 448

You make some excellent points about why phones unbundled better than airlines, and the latest cellphone rate wars are a great example of the competition that remains in that arena. Based on this, though, I think cable is more like airlines than cell phones, as cable has a physical presence. I pretty much have two cable providers locally, and it won't make sense price-wise to get some from one and some from the other. Dish/DirectTV offer some hope, and Amazon/Netflix/Hulu offer even more hope, since they can stream nationwide as long as I buy Internet access from someone who won't throttle them. But I wouldn't bet on the pricey channels like ESPN or HBO switching to those folks since they have a good deal with the cable providers today.

To communicate is the beginning of understanding. -- AT&T