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Comment: Re:Militia, then vs now (Score 1) 1328

by hey! (#46772927) Attached to: Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

It's not a "re-examination". It's a butchering.

You say that like it's necessarily a bad thing.

We've got to stop acting as if the Founding Fathers were like Moses descending from Mount Sinai with the Constitution chiseled on a couple of stone tablets. They were brilliant, enlightened men for their day, but the Constitution is not a document of divine inerrancy.

The US Constitution is the COBOL of constitutions. Yes, it was a tremendous intellectual innovation for its time. Yes, it is still being used successfully today. But nobody *today* would write a constitution that way, *even if their intent was exactly the same* as the founders.

For one thing it's full of confusingly pointless ("To promote the Progress of Science") and hoplessly vague ("securing for *limited times*") phraseology that leaves courts wondering exactly what the framers meant, or whether they were just pointlessly editorializing ("A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State").

It's also helplessly out of date. The Constitution was drafted before the existence of mass media and advertising; before photography even. It was the appearance of photography in newspapers that woke people up to the idea that they might have privacy rights that were being threatened. A Constitution written in 1900 would almost certainly have clauses explicitly recognizing a right to individual privacy and empowering the government to protect that right. A Constitution written in 2000 would almost certainly have clauses restricting the government from violating individual privacy.

And then there is slavery, an outright *evil* which is enshrined in the founder's version of the Constitution. That alone should disqualify any claim they may have had to superhuman morality.

So if we take it as given that the US Constitution is not divinely ordained, it's not necessarily a bad thing that the current generation should choose to butcher what the founders established. Would you re-institute slavery? Allow *states* to deprive citizens of liberty and property without due process? Eliminate direct election of senators?

So it's perfectly reasonable to butcher anything in the Constitution when you're proposing an *amendment* to the Constitution. That's the whole point. We should think for ourselves. In doing so, we're actually carrying on the work the framers themselves were doing. Every generation should learn from its predecessors, but think for itself.

Comment: Re:Hypocrisy abounds (Score 1) 725

by hey! (#46765817) Attached to: Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

What's so hilarious is that to most of the commenters here, the Koch Brothers exemplify the absolute evil in the system whilst (and simultaneously) George Soros is merely 'doing the right thing' and 'helping people speak truth to power'.

So in other words, what somebody says is less important than who says it.

Comment: Re:Tyrant: The computer game (Score 1) 725

by hey! (#46765803) Attached to: Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

While sorta fun, those games are not simulations. All you revealed was the program(mer)'s built-in biases and assumptions, rather than any insight about what happens in reality.

That's true of social science research as well. The difference is that social science research has to pass peer review, and stand up to contrary reearch in the literature.

Comment: Re:I have a degree in computer science. (Score 1) 723

by hey! (#46743175) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

Sinews (aka "tendons") are bundles of fibrous collagen bound together with an organic glue of proteins and polysaccharides. Sinews can be pounded to extract those collagen fibers, and then those fibers can be spun into cordage of any desired length.

The process is exactly the same as spinning short wool fibers into skeins of yarn, or transforming cotton bolls into cotton thread. The fibers are bundled together and twisted so they lock together and the axis of the resulting cord cuts across the axis of orientation of the fiber, producing a very strong thread. As the fibers are locked together into a thread, you continually add more bundles of fiber to the loose end. You finish by tying off the end of the thread you've created, or twisting the thread into a multi-strand rope.

Collagen fiber from sinew is an excellent cordage material, but less available in large quantities than plant fibers. For that reason you don't see sinew ropes. Although such a thing would be physically possible, sinew is a costly material so it is only used in specialized, low volume applications like fishing line and bowstrings.

Primitive people are every bit as smart as engineers who design microchips or airplanes; they just express that ingenuity through materials they can harvest and process themselves.

Comment: Re:I have a degree in computer science. (Score 1) 723

by hey! (#46740091) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

Well, my first choice would be to use surplus and scavenged materials, like polyester or silk. In the long run as these materials become more difficult to find, I'd go for hemp or flax. Just about any fiber can be spun into a workable cordage. Shredded animal sinew yields extremely strong cordage.

Comment: Re:I have a degree in computer science. (Score 1) 723

by hey! (#46739663) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

You can always concoct a situation in a scenario where your skills aren't important.

You're a farmer? Seems like your skills would be useful but wait -- what if the neighboring tribe burns all your crops and steals your seeds?

You're an emergency room physician? How will that help you when bandits club you to death in your sleep?

Comment: Re:I have a degree in computer science. (Score 1) 723

by hey! (#46739605) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

go into "crazy-land" a bit. I'm not saying the historian necessarily has the best answer, but someone who actually has first-hand knowledge and experience with draft animals in large numbers would undoubtedly have a huge amount of insight over a random CS nerd who has never seen a horse.

Agreed, but your hypothetical persons with first-hand knowledge of managing large numbers of draft animals is likely to be in short supply *in the stipulated scenario*.

Seriously -- there's a reason we make jokes about mathematicians or physicists saying, "Assume a spherical cow...." The real world is messy, and unless you already have access to a person who knows almost enough to run the draft army already who can feed you good data to solve the problem in the abstract, I'm not sure your scenario is realistic.

My point is *about* the limitations of simplistic models. In the simplistic model, a computer science major can do computer science -- and nothing else. In the simplistic model you can obtain precisely what you need, which is either a two hundred year-old soldier or a historian who specializes in the logistics of pre-mechanized armies. But chances are *in our scenario* people with precisely such skills will be hard to find as unicorns, and people with CS degrees will be common as muck. So, do you look for a historian, or someone with a degree in a somewhat math-y field who happens to have a little of both common sense and imagination?

This is actually a situation which is less exotic than you might think. When you hire an employee, it's often the case that you've got a round hole to fill and a bin full of square pegs. None of the candidates are exactly what you're looking for, so you have to imagine how the candidates you *do* have might adapt.

I just think real-world scenarios are often quite messy, and until you accumulate enough data to construct an accurate model, your algorithmic solutions are likely to have serious flaws.

Right. And this is different from the pre-apocalyptic use of whatever your academic specialization is, how? You get out of school and you have to apply your ivory tower training in idealized problems to messy real-world problems. Does that mean that the ivory tower training is useless, and that the time would have been better spent just getting real world experience? Of course not.

When my dad had a heart attack, my oldest brother was going into his senior year as civil engineering student. He quit school and got a job selling restaurant and food service equipment. He did very well at it, probably made more money than he would have as a civil engineer. That was mainly his people skills, but his engineering training made him the go-to guy for large projects. You might not think there is such a thing as a large restaurant supply project, but it turns out that if you're opening a new theme park and you've got to figure out how to feed a couple million visitors a year, it's very useful to have an engineer who understands food service.

That's the hallmark of a good engineer. A good engineer doesn't just apply his skills, he finds ways of making his skills applicable.

Umm, you're doing it wrong, if you're waiting to sort until you get the bags in your house. I don't have a computer science degree, but my sorting begins as I put items in my CART.

Please, give me some credit for not being stupid. Anyhow, you're just making my point.

This does not require a CS degree

Never said it did.

Comment: Re:I have a degree in computer science. (Score 2) 723

by hey! (#46736967) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

While you are busy intellectualizing a food redistribution algorithm, someone with a club will just smack you and take it.

Not before I put an arrow between his eyes. I can not only shoot a primitive bow pretty well, I could make one, including the bowstring, with nothing but a knife. If I didn't, then I'd have to fall back on my boxing and (admittedly rusty) judo skills.

It's a common misconception that people capable of unusual intellectual feats must necessarily be physically helpless, hopelessly specialized, and oblivious to everything around them.

Comment: Re:Medical doctor (Score 4, Interesting) 723

by hey! (#46736653) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

So when you break your leg, you're going to have your witch doctor set it for you?

Vaccines and antibiotics are not high tech -- by which I mean something that requires an extensive and intact industrial infrastructure to produce. Crude replacements could be created by someone with 21st C scientific knowledge and the kind of technology that would have been available to 18th C gentleman scientists.

As for other drugs, a doctor could work with herbalists. Willow bark replaces aspirin; foxglove replaces digitalis; Ephedra sinica replaces pseudoephedrine; absinthe replaces anti-worm medications. A herbalist working under medical supervision is a lot better than nothing.

Comment: I have a degree in computer science. (Score 5, Insightful) 723

by hey! (#46736593) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

Which, it turns out, has very little to do with actual computers.

The intellectual skills involved in CS could, with not much difficulty, be turned to other kinds of problem solving such as operations research. Seriously, you're going to leave questions like how to most efficiently distribute scarce resources such as food to someone with a *business* degree? As a computer scientist, I'd create a model of the underlying problem, develop alternative algorithms, then show how those algorithms and model apply the real world problem. I use computer science every time I come home from grocery shopping. As I remove items from the bags I stage them by where they are eventually going to go. Why? Because efficient sorting algorithms eliminate lots of entropy early on. Consequently I only open my refrigerator *once*.

Computer science is essentially about figuring out the resources needed to accomplish things. If you want to figure out how much fodder it would take to move your draft animal powered army over a certain distance, you *could* consult a historian who specialized in the logistics of pre-mechanized warfare who'd tell you how Viscount Howe did it in the New Jersey Campaign of 1776-1777. Or you could find some CS graduate who pulled at least a "B" in algorithms to figure it out for you.

As for experts in gymel -- a technique for singing polyphony with one voice -- it's worth considering that the technique was developed in a period of human history that would be considered apocalyptically awful by modern standards. Even when times are violent, disordered, and desperately poor people still need art and music, and if we're stipulating that apocalyptic == "no computers", that means no iPods either. So it seems quite plausible to me that experts in gymel might find their services *more* in demand in a post-apocalyptic world.

Comment: Just like food, your food itself is what it eats. (Score 5, Insightful) 116

by hey! (#46731983) Attached to: CSIRO Scientists' Aquaculture Holy Grail: Fish-Free Prawn Food

We think of fish is heart healthy, but fin fish don't produce omega-3 fatty acids; they bioaccumulate Omega 3s produced by the algae at the bottom of the food chain. Farm-raised fin fish may or may not have a healthy fat profile based on their diet. Grass fed beef has a healthier fat profile than grain fed beef, as well as containing useful phyotchemical (chemicals from plants) like carotenoids. Same goes for pork; lard from pasture raised pigs is relatively high in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats.

The pattern seems to be that the best thing to feed an animal is something that approximates that species' natural food in the wild. So I'm skeptical of a secret, proprietary, industrially produced feed. It's not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if it's just a matter of skipping a few trophic levels (i.e., feeding the animal something prepared from stuff that's lower on its natural prey's food chain). Aquaculture needs something like that. The world's population demands more seafood than can be wild caught. But I'm not enthusiastic about buying meat from animals raised on mystery food.

Comment: There's one thing you can be sure of. (Score 1) 236

by hey! (#46731739) Attached to: GM Names Names, Suspends Two Engineers Over Ignition-Switch Safety

This is a self-serving move by GM.

Perhaps the engineers named are responsible for the deaths caused by the faulty switch. Perhaps they are not. We don't know. But we can be certain that GM is naming these engineers in the hope that the public will blame and vilify them instead of the company.

This is an attempt to evade corporate responsibility disguised as an act of transparency. Even if the engineers bear some responsibility for the faulty design reaching production vehicles, it should be impossible for two engineers alone to put an obviously unsafe assembly into a production car, even if they conspire to do that *deliberately*. Obvious flaws should have been caught in design reviews, non-obvious flaws in prototyping and testing.

It is not every question that deserves an answer. -- Publilius Syrus