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Comment: Re:Over 60,000? (Score 2, Insightful) 139

by Petrushka (#35755888) Attached to: Editing Wikipedia Helps Professor Attain Tenure

Maybe this guy needs to list Editing Wikipedia as his primary job and Professor at Auburn University as his 2nd job?

Perhaps, but I suspect this story says more about Auburn University Montgomery than it says about his research profile.

I had never heard of Auburn University Montgomery before today; given the nature of this story, I don't expect ever to hear of it in any serious context again.

Comment: Re:Too Much Imagination Required? (Score 1) 429

by Petrushka (#34683134) Attached to: <em>Tron: Legacy</em> &mdash; Too Much Imagination Required?

... anyone who knows anything about computers can easily see that it's just a thin sheen of technobabble hastily thrown on top of a standard action movie. Props to the guy they got to do the UNIX commands in the real life scenes, but other than that, the tech stuff was so out of this world ...

That gets to the heart of the difference between Legacy and Tron, and I'm surprised I haven't seen that comment made more widely. Tron's world-inside-the-computer was visually cool, but it also allowed those in the know to geek out a little over how they rendered real computer concepts. Tron had --

  • programmes as characters (of course);
  • a bit as a minor character (Disnification, sure, but it's true to the core conceit);
  • the MCP assimilating other programmes' functions;
  • a "game grid" that actually related isomorphically to what was going on in real-world game machines;
  • I/O "towers" representing the central importance of control over information.

All of these things were part of the world-inside conceit. In Legacy, by contrast, the only thing remaining is programmes-as-characters. We now get to see that they have code (but why? shouldn't they be binary blobs?), but all of the rest of it has vanished. The game grid has been retained as well, but now it's meaningless! Surely more people have noticed that ALL the computer-geek stuff is in the real world -- NONE of it is inside the machine? As a result, the world inside the machine is nothing more than a cool-looking veneer over a generic and dull fantasy setting.

Now, the game Tron 2.0 (by contrast, again) absolutely nailed the core idea. It added nifty mechanics like permissions, viruses, and code optimisation; missions that involved things like getting through a firewall, hacking servers, compiling code, escaping from a HDD format, and getting a PDA to do what you tell it by draining its battery.

Both sequels looked cool. But the sequel that really carried on the cool ideas in the original is to be forgotten, alas. Instead we've got the utterly unengaging fantasy realm as "canon". Sigh.

Comment: Re:very disappointing, but perhaps inevitable (Score 1) 130

by Petrushka (#34448026) Attached to: Wikipedia Pages Now On Amazon &mdash; With Product Links

Do you know of a good alternative? I agree, the pages related to my field are horrible and at looking at the discussions, practically uncorrectable [...] I do appreciate what is there though, particularly for subjects that other resources would neglect.

Well, there's always a trade-off between expertise and general coverage. So when choosing what to devote my efforts to, I'll go for more specialised venues, basically.

For academic subjects, a partial solution in print/e-book format is specialised, ad hoc encyclopaedias with references (so NOT like the Britannica, which is a horribly awful example of an encyclopaedia in almost every way). Still better is the current trend for "companions", i.e. volumes on a specific topic with entire in-depth chapters on sub-topics written by experts. For my own use (and not just in my field), the best series are currently those published by CUP and Blackwell. Either of these avoids the danger of cliques with tyrannical power, precisely because they're smaller, more autonomous, projects.

There are online equivalents, of course; here's one project that I have a great deal of respect for, though I'm not a contributor myself, and though I think it wouldn't take much for quality control to slip badly. But I think you'll agree it's pretty damn specialised. (Even there I have found errors, but the reason I haven't signed up and corrected them yet is because I'm still working on publishing the independent research that would serve as a basis for correcting them :-)

For areas outside my speciality, you're right, resources like Wikipedia are often unavoidable. That's the trade-off I was talking about. But I get the impression that we're more talking about the question of what resources an expert should be trying to contribute to. In academic areas, I'd say the most productive thing to do is edit or contribute to companions, specialist encyclopaedias, or moderated online equivalents thereof. And, when academics are not doing research or writing it up in journal articles, this is pretty much exactly what they do spend their time doing!

Comment: Re:very disappointing, but perhaps inevitable (Score 5, Interesting) 130

by Petrushka (#34445710) Attached to: Wikipedia Pages Now On Amazon &mdash; With Product Links

I doubt that, Wikipedia has thousands of revisions on even less important topics and mistakes get corrected out pretty quick, of course, if you find any 'mistakes' then perhaps you should try to fix them as any expert in any field should be doing..

I can certainly vouch for the GP's sentiment in my own area of expertise. I actually use Wikipedia primarily as a tool for finding out what kinds of misinformation there are floating around in the wild; it's a useful gauge of what misinformation is popularly perceived to be "true".

Experts have much better things to do than edit Wikipedia; it's abundantly clear that all editing is controlled by people with vested interests who use opaque processes to silence dissent. Experts do have a responsibility to write popular science, targetted at educated non-specialists. However, there's absolutely no point doing so in a venue that will invariably introduce errors after it's been written.

Comment: Re:Fake 3D movies. (Score 1) 495

by Petrushka (#31822872) Attached to: Do You Have a Secret Immunity To 3D Movies?

Heck I haggle on small ticket items. When I buy wine, if I find a good one I'll ask for a discount if I buy 3 or more bottles.

I bet the restaurants just loooove you.

It would be obvious to anyone with half a braincell that this is not a tactic that you employ after you've already received the product (when you get up to pay in a restaurant) or with someone who literally has no power to offer deals (the checkout operator). Trying to haggle before you eat the meal is entirely reasonable, however.

When haggling is practised in a non-brain-dead way, the GP is absolutely correct. If you're in a supermarket looking at the wine section and you talk to someone who actually has some responsibility in that section, then sure they might be willing to consider giving you a deal if you're buying a case at a time. (Getting a deal on three bottles, as the GP says ... well, good luck.) If you're in an electronics shop and you talk to someone who isn't (a) someone on their first day on the job, (b) a powerless checkout operator, or (c) an ass, of course it's OK to discuss alternative pricing options. (If the sitation is (c), it is of course best to go to a different shop.)

They might be less willing if the product you're after is already discounted, but then we're back in "Is brain operational?" territory; it's still worth a try, but don't get your hopes up.

Comment: Re:Backwards compatibility (Score 1) 136

by Petrushka (#31802418) Attached to: The Fruit Fly <em>Drosophila</em> Gets a New Name

Syntax is not morphology: response to TaoPhoenix

TaoPhoenix's useful summary of the development of the "fruitfly" correctly points out that the summary is missing an o. However, the author incorrectly describes this as a syntax error.(1)

This is not a syntax error but a morphology error. Syntax refers to the study of observed patterns in the sequential arrangement of words or lexemes;(2) morphology refers to the study of how lexemes change their form (e.g. requiring an extra "o" or not).(3)

In addition, the author's use of the spelling "Drosophilia" is a morphology error. ("Drosophilia" would signify "the love of dew" in the abstract; "Drosophila", with the implied substantive "zoa", signifies "life-forms that love dew".)(4),(5)

References:
(1) TaoPhoenix, Re:Backwards compatibility
(2) Wikipedia, Syntax
(3) Wikipedia, Morphology (linguistics)
(4) LSJ Greek-English Lexicon, philia
(5) LSJ Greek-English Lexicon, philos, sense II.2

Comment: Re:Great Literature != good read for most (Score 1) 272

by Petrushka (#31742870) Attached to: Amazon Reviewers Take on the Classics

I think that kind of attitude to classics is a direct consequence of how classics are chosen for schooling purposes. I don't know why, but high school curricula tend to focus on the most depressing reading they can find. Given a choice between two classics, where one is fun and/or uplifting and the other is depressing and/or horrifying, they'll always opt for the latter. Compare the following two lists:

  • Madame Bovary; The Idiot; Hard Times; Jane Eyre; Heart of Darkness; Catcher in the Rye; Nineteen Eighty-Four; the Iliad

Painful, degrading; books to slit your wrists to. Even dreary in some cases. Great, maybe, but horrible. However:

  • Tom Jones; Crime and Punishment; The Pickwick Papers; Pride and Prejudice; Robinson Crusoe; Dangerous Liaisons; the Odyssey; The Three Musketeers

Terrific, human, inspiring; when they're not uplifting, they make up for it by being funny. Completely different, even though two authors and one epic tradition appear in both lists.

So why not go for the second list? Actually, I think I know the reason: it's politics. Tom Jones and Dangerous Liaisons have too much sex, Marx liked Robinson Crusoe, Pride and Prejudice sends the wrong messages about gender roles, the Odyssey sends the message that vengeance is OK (obviously it isn't; vengeance is only OK in war, like in the Iliad) and so on. I guess books that encourage suicidal depression are fine, though.

Comment: Re:Potty brain... (Score 2, Insightful) 288

by Petrushka (#31703934) Attached to: XKCD Deploys Command Line Interface

guest@xkcd:/$ look
You are at a computer using unixkcd.

Exits: west, south
guest@xkcd:/$ go west
Life is peaceful there.

Exits: east, west
guest@xkcd:/$ go west
In the open air.

Exits: east, west
guest@xkcd:/$ go west
Where the skies are blue.

Exits: east, west
guest@xkcd:/$ go west
This is what we're gonna do.

Exits: east, west
guest@xkcd:/$ go west
Sun in wintertime.

Exits: east, west
guest@xkcd:/$ go west
We will do just fine.

All programmers are playwrights and all computers are lousy actors.

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