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Comment: Re:Am i on Slashdot? "Johnny appleseed exhibit"? (Score 1) 71

by Harvey Manfrenjenson (#47496593) Attached to: Exhibit On Real Johnny Appleseed To Hit the Road

I would argue that American history is a perfectly good topic for a Slashdot article. Look, I read Slashdot because it attracts a decent number of highly educated or knowledgable commenters, and I think that's still likely to be the case when the topic is a historical one.

I'm not disagreeing with you on the whole pre-DICE/post-DICE quality issue, since I don't really have an opinion on that. I just think this article was fine and you chose the wrong example to pick on.

Comment: Re:Other variants (Score 1) 66

by Harvey Manfrenjenson (#47274173) Attached to: HUGO Winning Author Daniel Keyes Has Died

Really hated Brain Wave.

As I recall, the novel centers around a group of scientists who are supposed to be unusually intelligent to begin with-- at one point Anderson proudly declares that their average IQ is about 165, or something-- and who become freakishly intelligent as the novel progresses. The problem is that we have a not-terribly-intelligent author trying to portray characters who are freakishly intelligent, and he fails spectacularly. He has them engage in witty repartee which isn't even as witty as an average episode of Seinfeld; he has them pepper their speech with foreign words and phrases (because that's what really smart people do, right?); and so on. Of course, it doesn't help that the characters are cardboard cutouts to begin with.

Comment: Re:Symptom of a bigger need (pun intended) (Score 1) 200

Your suggestion for a peer-reviewed medical wiki is a great one. I really wish someone would make that happen. For now, the closest thing we have to that is going to Pubmed and searching for recent review articles on a topic (everything on Pubmed is, by definition, peer reviewed). The big drawback to that is that the review articles are behind an incredibly expensive paywall, so unless you've got access to an institutional subscription (many doctors do not), you can't read them.

Comment: I don't believe any such conversation took place. (Score 1) 362

A bond manager met with Elon Musk to convince him to abandon a successful car company and devote his talents to building better batteries? No, he didn't. This is an exceptionally clever piece of public-relations bullshit.

The bond manager's advice would ONLY make sense if Musk were sitting on some really wonderful technology-- some new science, engineering or manufacturing process that enabled him to create better/cheaper/lighter batteries than the other seven billion people on the planet. Of course everyone knows that if someone makes a breakthrough in battery technology, it'll be a game changer for EVs. A truly radical breakthrough in battery technology would be a game changer for EVERYTHING-- it would give us a path forward to dozens of alternative energy sources.

So if you read the story casually and uncritically, it generates a lot of warm fuzzy feelings about Tesla Motors. The problem is that I'm not aware that Musk has anything special or proprietary up his sleeve in the way of battery technology. He'll achieve some economies of scale with his new factories, I guess, but that's it.

Comment: Re:Lawrence Kasdan... (Score 1) 457

by Harvey Manfrenjenson (#46961501) Attached to: Favorite Star Wars Movie?

That's nothing. Star Trek: TMP, which contains arguably the most horrific scene in the entire franchise (the transporter malfunction), received a "G" rating from the MPAA. That's right, a fuckin' "G". For you non-Americans out there, that means it is OK for a toddler to watch it.

When I was a bit younger I was pissed off at the MPAA for their long history of forcing studios to censor and water down films that are intended for teens/adults. Now that I have a 5-year-old child... I'm *also* pissed off at them for their apparent inability to warn me about what's appropriate for my kid to see. The MPAA is just a worthless organization all around, with no redeeming virtues whatsoever.

Comment: I've got a bad feeling about this (Score 2) 35

The story told in the main Sandman arc (which takes up ~75 issues and 10 trade paperbacks) is not something that you can adapt to a feature film. It's too long and complex and the pieces are too beautifully interdependent.

Part of what makes Sandman brilliant is the way in which Gaiman introduces a dozen different plots and subplots, and somehow manages to tie them together by the end. When you first read the Sandman books, many of them seem to be self-contained or episodic in nature... but by the time you've gotten to The Kindly Ones, you realize that the stories aren't self-contained at all. Almost everything in the 75 issues of Sandman (well, let's say 90% of it) is designed to set up a single, very focused story about Morpheus and the decision he must make. Everything is either required for the plot, or it's required for thematic reasons.

Just to take one example: the whole sub-plot about Hob is designed to tell us something about Dream's isolation and how he deals with it. Without that, the events of The Kindly Ones don't make quite as much sense.

There's a better solution, which is just to tell Gaiman to write some more Sandman stories for the screen. We've established that the Endless hang around for billions of years and on billions of worlds-- surely there are a few more stories to tell? It's not that much of an ask. Gaiman has decided over the years that he doesn't mind going back to the Sandman well now and then (often with good results-- I thought Endless Nights was great, for example).

Oh yeah, and Cumberbatch for Morpheus (Gaiman himself said it was a good idea). Linda Hunt for Despair.

Comment: Re:None of the above (Score 1) 293

One this I find interesting is that we know have simplified the process of programming computers to the point where an slightly above average kid with an average education can develop an App. This only took 50 years, two generations.

I see your point, but I'm confused by your timeline. When did the 50 years begin and end? It seems to me that programming became accessible to the average kid in the 1980s. I don't know that it's gotten more or less accessible to the average kid since then. Maybe a little bit less so, since modern programming languages have a steeper learning curve and it takes more effort to get your feet wet.

Comment: Re:I remember Doom 3. (Score 1) 108

It was too dark.

That wasn't the only problem. The game was about 50% too long, and the middle section just went on and on with very few surprises. I also hated the fact that enemies just spawned out of thin air most of the time. One of the pleasures of a good FPS is figuring out how to enter/explore a room without letting enemies get the drop on you. You lose that element of gameplay if the enemies just materialize next to you.

Comment: Re:The problem is MUCH, much wider ... (Score 1) 473

by Harvey Manfrenjenson (#46215243) Attached to: Ugly Trends Threaten Aviation Industry

When we think of music from 200, 300, 500 years ago, we think of classical music. Of course, there must have surely been "folk" music around at the time as well, but we don't really think of that. "Folk" music seems to be largely forgotten by history.

A lot of old folk music has survived. A lot of old popular music, too. Allow me to recommend Richard Thompson's "1000 Years of Pop Music". And if you listen to traditional Irish or Scottish music you'll hear some tunes that have been around for at least 250 years. Or look at Christmas carols-- some of them, like Emmanuel or Boar's Head Carol, are essentially folk tunes that have survived from the fifteenth century or earlier (which makes them older than most of the "classical" repertoire).

Today, we see all this pop music permeating contemporary culture. However, 200, 300, 500 years from now, will all our rock & roll, rap, and dubstep be largely forgotten along the mass of other "folk" music? Will people be talking of our "contemporary classical" composers (I can't even name one) as the benchmark for our generation while being ignorant of Elvis, Rakim, and Bassnectar?

Hell no. You gave the reason yourself-- most "modern classical" composers are incredibly obscure (and, I would argue, deservedly so).

Comment: Re:I read the article and it's basically nonsense. (Score 1) 70

I would have to know the context of how the word "adequately" was used, but a possibility is that it could have been employed in the process of clinical butt-covering. Sometimes a physician gets a bad feeling about potential adverse outcomes, yet there's maybe nothing directly actionable, and you end up with a note written in guarded terms, in preparation for legal or disciplinary review -- including perhaps careful descriptions of things that have been "adequately" evaluated or performed.

Yeah, I actually had the same thought. It's a butt-covering sort of word and it's not generally a word that leaps to mind when you are describing someone who is doing *well*. "Lipitor"-- sure, it correlates with cardiovascular disease, but it's also something that half the world takes so I doubt if it's predictive of very much (maybe it's a proxy for advanced age which increases suicide risk). "Integrated"-- the authors make the same point as you do, it suggests someone with lots of problems and lots of doctors.

My point is that you and I could sit here and speculate about what these correlations mean (that's what the authors do in their Discussion section) until the cows come home. I don't consider such speculations terribly useful. They don't teach us much about suicide or how to prevent it.

My other point is about statistical significance. What the authors are basically doing (as far as I can see) is to predict two dependent variables (completed suicide and psychiatric hospitalization) based on a total of 30,000-40,000 independent variables (the number of unique words and phrases that occurred in the notes), with a sample size of 100. That's a pretty stupid approach. With those numbers, spurious correlations are not just a likelihood; they are pretty much a mathematical certainty.

Comment: I read the article and it's basically nonsense. (Score 2) 70

What they did was this: they identified 100 VA patients who committed suicide and then identified two "matched cohorts" who hadn't committed suicide, consisting of 70 patients each (one cohort had been hospitalized for psych reasons, the other hadn't). Then they gathered up all the doctors' notes and examined the frequency of all of the words and phrases occurring in the notes. Certain words and phrases occurred more frequently in the notes for patients who had committed suicide.

The single word which appeared to predict suicide most strongly was "agitation". Want to know which word was the second-strongest predictor of suicide? "Adequately". That's right, "adequately". Here are some of the other "predictor" words: "swab", "integrated", "Lipitor".

I guess the finding that "agitation" appears more frequently in the suicide cohort is of mild interest. (As the authors themselves point out, it simply confirms a piece of information that has already been well documented-- namely that agitated affect is a risk factor for suicide). The rest of it is obviously statistical noise. I don't know much about genetic algorithms or neural-net learning, but it seems to me that these techniques are being used to provide an end-run around any reasonable test for statistical significance.

One thing that the authors didn't comment on-- was the identity of the clinician a predictor for suicide? Maybe there were one or two clinicians who, for whatever reason, experienced a significantly higher suicide rate among their patients. (This would explain why "adequately" showed up so often-- every doctor has their own writing style with their own collection of pet phrases/words, and my guess is that certain doctors like to use the word "adequately" more often than others).

Comment: Overrated? (Score 1) 218

by Harvey Manfrenjenson (#45562835) Attached to: Unpublished J. D. Salinger Stories Leaked On Bittorrent Site

It's funny to me that the whole "Salinger is overrated" thread revolves around Catcher in the Rye, with no mention of his other works.

There's a good argument to be made that Catcher in the Rye is, indeed, over-rated. (It's one of those books which is so highly regarded, and so widely read, that it can fairly be called "over-rated" even if you think it's pretty good). I would definitely argue that "Nine Stories" is a better piece of work. If you haven't read "The Laughing Man", you should take half an hour out of your life and do it immediately-- I think it's one of the best short stories ever written.

(Short digression: I once had the pleasure of meeting a successful writer of musicals, and for some reason, I spent 20 minutes talking to him about how I thought "The Laughing Man" would be great to adapt into a musical. The writer seemed to be amused by the whole idea, or at least he didn't try to back away from me slowly. Of course I now realize that the whole conversation was moot-- he never would have gotten the rights!)


"Catcher in the Rye" belongs to a very specific genre which, let's face it, not everyone likes. It's a coming-of-age novel about a relatively wealthy and privileged teenager who is being groomed for a specific type of wealthy and privileged adulthood, and who realizes at the start of the novel that he does not want the sort of life he is being groomed for. (See also: Siddharta, Tonio Kroger, and on and on).

Not everyone wants to read a novel about that, and that's fine. But I think Catcher in the Rye will keep attracting fans simply because the narrative voice is so distinctive. Remember when the Onion published an obituary of Salinger that was written in the style of Holden Caulfield? Everyone got the joke, because Holden's voice (or even an imitation of Holden's voice) is one that you recognize immediately.

I'd also argue that what Salinger did-- writing a full length novel which is narrated by a child/adolescent-- is pretty hard to pull off successfully. Mark Twain did it with Huckleberry Finn, and there was a good novel by Mark Haddon which did the same thing (The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time), but I can't think of too many other examples.

Comment: Reminds me of the Handspring Visor I used to own (Score 1) 112

Remember those? An early attempt at a "modular" PDA. It worked OK, but the concept went nowhere. The basic unit became obsolete quickly and most of the available "add-ons" were simply built into next-gen PDAs.

Anyway, aren't most of the proposed add-ons (battery packs, external displays, pulse oximeters) already available for existing phones?

Comment: Re:It's a matter of degree (Score 2) 784

by Harvey Manfrenjenson (#44644413) Attached to: Bradley Manning Wants To Live As a Woman

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is narcissism taken to unhealthy extremes; it describes only about 1 percent of the population.

I was being flippant, but let me try to restate my point more seriously:

There is something problematic with the idea of classifying a "personality disorder" as a type of medical disorder-- especially when the personality disorder is defined by qualities such as "arrogance" or "lack of empathy". The implication, which of course is never stated in so many words, is that "narcissism" is a condition similar to rheumatoid arthritis, and that we musn't blame those who are "afflicted" by it.

(The diagnosis of "gender identity disorder" is problematic too, for a different reason. Most transgendered individuals would bristle at the idea that they have a medical disorder. They would point out that prior to 1980, homosexuality was classified as a medical disorder as well).

A memorandum is written not to inform the reader, but to protect the writer. -- Dean Acheson