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Comment Indisious MegaBloks (Score 4, Informative) 165

MegaBloks makes generic bricks that are nominally compatible with LEGO bricks. But in practice, they are built to lower quality standards and tend to attach much more poorly. As small number of MegaBloks in a collection of LEGO bricks can cause a lot of havoc and result in LEGO models that keep falling apart.

Yes, and even worse, in my experience, MegaBloks are dimensionally unstable over a decade or less, Legos are stable for at least 4 decades.

About 10 years ago I gave my nephews a set of MegaBloks and patted myself on the back because I had given an enormous set of "Legos" for so cheap. When new, they worked just as well as Legos. My nephews have long-since outgrown those MegaBloks but my own kids were visiting recently and we dragged them out. They do not stay together at all now.

I still have the real Legos which I had as a kid in the 1970's, and they hold together just like new.

So you might think you are getting a deal with MegaBloks, but not so much, if you plan on them lasting.

Comment Backroom Deals (Score 2) 143

from the ./ summary:

the Obama administration canceled amid strong local and state opposition to it.

from the Wall Street Journal:

The Reid-Obama Bargain: Harry shut down the Senate because Barack shut down the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada... Mr. Reid’s admirers seem to think Mr. Reid is their champion, but the reason he has carried so much water for Mr. Obama isn’t liberal ideals. It’s the result of a crude political bargain in which Mr. Reid agreed to do the President’s dirty work on Capitol Hill if Mr. Obama blocked the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Comment If DHS were not idiots... (Score 4, Insightful) 77

A friend who is an amateur pilot pointed this out to me a few years ago: There is a huge surplus of cheap pilot labor because passenger airline pilot jobs require a minimum of 1,200 hours of flight time for certification. All of those would-be passenger airline pilots are trying to accumulate that much flying time on someone else's dime, meaning any flying job where the pilot does not pay for his own aircraft, maintenance and fuel.

Military drones are super expensive and have different requirements than are needed for border patrol, requirements such as long loiter times, capability for long-range missions, extreme stealth to evade sophisticated radar , offensive capabilities, high fuel efficiency, etc. Any conventional aircraft would be just fine for the job of border patrol. If DHS hired pilots to fly conventional aircraft retrofitted with cameras instead of purchasing and maintaining state-of-the art military drones they would save an enormous amount, get far greater coverage, and help out all those pilots looking for flight hours.


Comment Hollywood vs. Reality (Score 1) 245

You listen to some people and you get the idea that the business world is run by Gordon Geckos, that Hollywood caricatures of capitalist villains are the reality and the norm and that the greedy bastards who would do anything to take one dollar more control corporate America.

Then a person who is really like that actually shows up, and only then, by comparison, do we realize again that the others are not. Every few years some of these guys climb out from Hell to remind us of that. It is Martin Shkreli taking over from Enron accountants, Bernard Madoff and John Corzine.

Comment Cops Steal More than Criminals (Score 3, Informative) 210

I posted this link a few days ago here on ./ but it's topical and worthy of a repost here:
Cops Now Steal More from Citizens than do Actual Criminals

And also on the "policing for profit" topic: Prisoners are now billed for their time in jail.. More here with some commentary here.

Comment Silver Hauled Away (Score 1) 97

Fascinating article over at City detailing how Silver's legislative agenda was to support corrupt government because he benefited from corruption personally, including this nugget:

Silver thought the people’s money was his money. For years, he helped lead a regime in which legislators from both parties received millions of dollars to distribute as “earmarks”—money handed out directly by elected officials to favored organizations outside of the state’s regular contracting or granting process. The New York Times dubbed Silver the “king of earmarks” because he used them as a way of exercising power over members of his political caucus. In doing so, Silver was accountable to no one.... In New York, the earmark process is so corrupt that politicians can create their own nonprofits and then finance them with taxpayer money...

Comment A Politician gets a Clue (Score 2) 28

from the /. title and summary:

Microsoft Promotes New Trade Secrets Bill [which] ... would extend ex parte seizure law to federalize private information and data in corporate plaintiffs' lawsuits and extend the possibility for closed hearings and media injunctions.

from the opening sentence of Marco Rubio's guest column warning against government-funded corporate bailouts and appearing today at

For too long, under both Democrats and Republicans, Washington and big businesses have teamed up to rig our economy to their benefit, often at the expense of everyday Americans.

So, more rigging underway here.

Comment cloud and desktop synergy (Score 1) 167

from the ./ summary:

"People still see Ubuntu as primarily a desktop operating system. It's not — and hasn't been for some time."

Well there is a distinction between Ubuntu being the primary desktop Linux OS and it being primarily a desktop operating system. The poster conflates those claims by asserting the first while prior surveys supported the latter. And he is too quick to dismiss, and therefore to overlook, what is likely critical to Ubuntu cloud adaption: We want to run in the could what we already run on the desktop. It's familiar. We know how the package manager works and we do not have re-learn all those other differences between distributions which we stumble over and have to look up when moving between them. Sure, not hard to sort out, but who wants to? And who wants to keep 2X all those distribution-dependent details in their head? I think most people are like myself in this respect; pleased to learn fundamental Unix/Linux concepts, annoyed and pestered by details specific to particular distributions. Now what flavor of Linux am I on and where did it keep its config file for this?


Comment why that is (Score 3, Interesting) 257

We are right to hold discoveries of science and the scientific method in high regard. But that approval is distinct from respecting scientists as a class. The problem of non-reproducibility is no fault in the scientific method but instead indication of the rotten state of modern academia.

Earlier in my career I worked at universities writing software used for psychology and neuroscience experiments. On the basis of that experience I can offer an explanation for why about 1/2 of experiments are not reproducible: A lot of psychology faculty are terrible liars. While some demonstrate perfect integrity, others, probably the ones generating all those irreproducible results, lied whenever it suited their purposes. Still others were habitual liars who lied not to achieve some specific outcome but out of habit or compulsion. The center director of one research group confided to me, after a dispute with the faculty, that he had not been able to control his compulsion to lie. And when I claim that faculty "lie", I do not mean what could, by any stretch, be characterized as errors, oversights, or honest differences of opinion. I mean abusive, sociopathic, evident and deliberate lying. Like being told that the inconvenient evidence which you have in hand, "does not exist."

The lying is enforced by implicit threat. One time I responded to an email message, correcting an error, and then immediately after that a prominent member of the faculty, somewhat creepily, follows me into the restroom, stands too close to me while I am using the urinal, and explains to me in a threatening tone the error of my reasoning, which according to him, was that, "it would not do that because it would not do that." The dean imposed a disciplinary penalty on me for objecting to that. Though that was unusual, typically challenging lies elicited, a yelling, screaming fit from a faculty member. So it's not just lying, but lying backed up by threatening, thuggish, behavior of the faculty and university administration. This was a highly-regarded department with generous NIH funding, which makes me think that lying in that field is kind of a mainstream thing.

The root cause here has little to do with science, per se, and has more to do with the rotten management of colleges and universities. Regardless of what the employee handbook states, there are few de facto restrictions on faculty conduct and university administrations act to cover up problems by disciplining and threatening the whistle-blowers. Jerry Sandusky was not a scientist, he was a football coach, but if you look at the way Penn State concealed child molestation and protected him, that is typical of the way universities respond to faculty misconduct as welll, and explains why academic dishonesty is tolerated. One full-time faculty member in the department in which I worked had not set foot in the department in over five years nor ever appeared in any of the classes which she "taught." According to the department chairman, every time she was contacted to encourage her retirement was, whe was, "drunk off her ass in the middle of the day." It was tolerated and covered up.

I am not claiming that all scientists, fields, or academic departments are full of liars. I have never worked closely with physicists, computer scientists or mathematicians on a daily basis, but none whom I know personally have behaved like that.

To sum it all up, psychology has a problem with poor reproducibility of published results, many of the psychology faculty I knew were terrible liars; there might be a causal connection between the two.

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