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Comment Re:Go to college to actually learn something (Score 2) 306

At least with Engineering/Math/Hard Science you have to demonstrate via projects and tests that you have actually learned something.

That "something" is the ability to solve problems.

There is a simple formula: To be employable (in a free society) you need to solve more problems than you create.

Every employee creates problems - most notably they expected to be paid. Some individuals create additional problems by being high-drama, which makes them less employable, but that is another story.

If "getting an education" means the same as "learning to solve more and harder problems", then it is easy to see why getting an education leads to better employment prospects.

Much disappointment, bitterness, and argument ensues, methinks, when people confuse "earning a diploma" with "learning to solve problems". These are distinct things. Though there is a correlation between having a diploma and being able to solve a problem, the correlation is less than 1.0 and is quite a bit less, I believe, than most university administrators are willing to admit. This comes down to marketing: Universities do not sell problem solving skills, they sell diplomas, and so naturally they will emphasis the "earning a diploma" aspect over "learning to solve problems".

STEM courses are all the rage with employers now, I believe, because a STEM diploma has a much better correlation with problem solving skills than do other degrees. I do not think that is an inherent property of the STEM curriculum. My experience is that someone with a liberal arts degree can be just as good of a problem solver as someone with a STEM degree. I think instead that this is an indictment of the current horrid state of liberal arts education.

Note to students: If you desire is to be employable, focus on developing problem solving skills, not on getting a diploma. I don't mean to blow the diploma off completely - it might still be a technical requirement at the (unenlightened) HR departments of the companies for which you want to work. I mean instead that you should be constantly asking yourself "will this course improve my problem solving ability" rather than "will this course help me to graduate". I also mean that you should actively take it upon yourself to practice solving problems. And not just technical problems: business problems, interpersonal problems, societal problems, environmental problems, logistical problems - all kinds of problems. Do you see a piece of litter on the ground - pick it up and put it in the trash bin, and you've just solved a problem. Instead of being arrogant, bitter, angry, or hostile towards people you interact with, trying being kind and understanding, and you're on your way toward solving interpersonal problems. Make up your bed. Wash the dishes. Wash and fold your laundry. Make it your habit to solve common everyday kinds of problems like this and you are well on your way toward solving the bigger problems that employer are willing to hire you for.

Comment Chatting with passengers (Score 5, Interesting) 224

I recall going through security at the Charlotte, NC airport once, a few years ago, and noticed TSA agents out in the queue making smalltalk with all of the passengers. "Hey, how are y'all doin' today?", "Goin' someplace warm?", "Be sure to take off that belt buckle sir.", "Were are y'all headed?", "Y'all fly much?", and so forth. At first I thought that this was a misguided effort at public relations. But then it occurred to me that those agents were probably pre-screeners looking for nervous and evasive passengers who would then be subjected to additional traditional screening. I don't know what SPOT is and have no opinion of its effectiveness. But it seems to me that chatting up passengers in order to spot potential trouble-makers is probably the single most effective part of the whole TSA process.

Comment Re:It's not that complicated (Score 2) 106

Go install some SQL database on your desktop machine and play with it. MySQL, MariaDB, and Postgres are all free and will work on Linux or Windows desktops.

Or, experiment with SQLite. You can download a self-contained standalone precompiled binary that you run as an ordinary command-line program. (ex: "sqlite3 mynewdatabase.db") In fact, sqlite3 is already installed by default on your Mac and probably also on your Linux desktop, so you might not need to install anything at all. There are no servers to set up and maintain and no access permissions and user accounts and passwords to configure. And the database you create is just an ordinary disk file that can delete once you finish experimenting.

All of the databases on your Android and iPhone are SQLite databases, so if you want to look at some real-world data, just upload them and look at them using the sqlite3 command-line tool. You might find other SQLite databases to look at already on your workstation from programs like Firefox, Skype, iTunes, Dropbox, etc.

MySQL, MariaDB, and PosgreSQL are all fine products. But if all you want to do is experiment with the SQL language, they are way, way more complication than you need.

Comment Energy storage, not energy production (Score 1) 580

The importance of something like this (assuming the report is true) is for use as an energy storage mechanism, not as a means of "producing" energy.

Imagine a PVC power plant out in the desert someplace. Electricity from the plant is used to generate liquid hydrocarbons that can be stored and burned for fuel for use when the sun isn't shining, or that can be used in circumstances that are necessarily off-grid such as to power an airplane. The "gasoline" thus produced can be thought of more as a battery than as an energy "source". It is merely storing the energy of the sun for later use. And it is completely carbon neutral since the CO2 released when the fuel is burned was taken out of the atmosphere in the first place so there is no net change in atmospheric CO2.

The Achilles's heel of many renewable energy schemes has always been that they are inconsistent and do not generate energy when and where it is needed, and that there is no efficient way of storing the energy for later use. If the reports in this article are true (and that is a BIG IF) then this could be a huge win for renewable energy.

So the idea is sound. The question becomes whether or not the report is real (I have serious doubts) and if it is real, is the efficiency sufficient to make it worthwhile.

Comment Advantages and disadvantages (Score 1) 293

Advantages:
  • (1) Your corporation will have a separate tax ID number, meaning that you won't have to give your your SSN to clients.
  • (2) Your personal assets are better protected from liability lawsuits
  • (3) Clients tend to take you more seriously if you are a corporation rather than a sole proprietor.

Disadvantages:

  • (1) You have two income tax returns to file instead of just one. And the corporate return is considerably more complicated and jargon-rich than the 1040 you are used to. You can try to do the corporate income tax return yourself if you are masochist, but I would recommend paying $500-$1000 to get an income tax profession to do it for you. Getting the corporate return prepared professionally might also help you to avoid unwanted attention from the IRS.
  • (2) There is a lot more paperwork. You will have monthly and quarterly filings with various local, state, and federal entities. I recommend that you keep a calendar of what needs to be filed, with whom, and when.
  • (3) You will need new bank accounts. (Co-mingling of personal and corporate funds is not allowed.) Banks charge higher fees and pay less interest and offer fewer fraud protection guarantees to corporate accounts.

Comment Re:Heard that (Score 5, Interesting) 373

I've actually *sold* a few of licenses to the public domain SQLite library. Companies call me up and say they want to license the product. I carefully explain that no license is necessary and that they can use it forever for free for anything they want. But they still want a license. So I sell them one. So far, I've sold them cheap. Maybe I should charge more....

This appears to be more of an issue in Europe where, apparently, the concept of "public domain" is less well defined than in the US.

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