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Comment: Re:I'll take getting a job Alex (Score 5, Insightful) 630

by SJS (#41309637) Attached to: Is a Computer Science Degree Worth Getting Anymore?

However, I stay clear of Java or Visual Studio only people. They have a truly warped and unrepairable mindset.

Stay clear of anyone who is [anything]-only.

Anyone who will only use one language will warp all problems to that language -- and worse, warp all solutions to only those that they don't have to think about. It doesn't matter if the language is Java, C#, C++, C, Perl, Python, Ruby, or COBOL. If they are only willing to code in one language, let them go.

Nearly every accredited university offers "language survey" courses. This is where a CS degree can be useful -- the graduates have, in theory, been exposed to other languages. Bring this up in the interview. See if they can articulate the tradeoffs of various languages.

Entirely-self-taught developers often require a lot of basic remedial training. I'd suggest investing in them only if they will spend their evenings completing a CS degree. For an intelligent and skilled person, this isn't terribly difficult. The ones to be careful with are the "Meh, I can't be bothered to obtain/complete a degree." types. They might be intelligent, and they might be skilled. But their ego is going to make a lot of work for everyone else, as that can't-be-bothered attitude is a sign.

(Yes, there are lots of people who could only possibly succeed in an academic environment where the problem is carefully structured to be completed in five weeks by a mediocre and distracted person. This is where "what do you do in your free time?" comes in useful. One of the best teams I've ever worked on had "What are the last three books you've read for pleasure, and when?" as a key interview question.)

As for the 10% effect ... Sturgeon's Law.

Comment: Re:What are people complaining about? (Score 1) 241

by SJS (#40560571) Attached to: San Diego's Fireworks Show Over In 15 Seconds

They can see an artistically choreographed fireworks show next year. They probably saw one last year. Around here they do one every Thursday, all summer. How often do you get to see what happens when all the fireworks go off at once?

Every night during the summer SeaWorld has a fireworks show at 9:45.

The only good reason to complain about this is if you didn't catch it.

Comment: Re:Really? (Score 1) 3

by SJS (#40538137) Attached to: You'd Think I'd Learn

And yet, nevertheless, I get near-daily email from Amazon to the email address I provided only to Amazon, offering to sell me things I don't want or need.

Do I assume it's personal? Perhaps I annoyed someone at Amazon at some time in the past...

(That's actually too paranoid, even for me.)

Comment: Re:IRS taxes them for 15%. (Score 1) 9

by SJS (#40506595) Attached to: On Tipping (in the USA)

If this is how you wield power, I shudder what would happen if you ever get to a position with real power.

Quite well, obviously.

People who don't do their job get mildly penalized. People who do their job well get rewarded. People who do the bare minimum are neither penalized nor rewarded. It's fair, it's more-or-less standardized, it applies pressure instead of going over the top, and it scales. This is the essence of a meritocracy.

It avoid the negative feedback loop of a customer making a fuss and calling over the manager for substandard service (which would demoralize the employee and result in continued substandard performance). It avoid penalizing the entire establishment for hiring inexperienced staff (as not ever returning would). It avoids setting up a system of entitlement (which kills the drive to do well for a fraction of the populace needs an incentive to do a good job).

How is this not an ideal exercise of power?

User Journal

Journal: You'd Think I'd Learn 3

Journal by SJS

I've been using Amazon for a long time.

You'd think I'd learn not to trust Amazon.

Don't get me wrong. They have an amazing amount of stuff at very nice prices, and what they don't have, their affiliates have.

But.

Comment: Re:Why can't they extend the range? (Score 1) 311

by SJS (#40431895) Attached to: Tesla Delivers First Batch of Model S Electric Sedans

The thought might occur, and has occurred to many, but that doesn't make it useful. :)

Typically, on-ramps aren't all of the cloverleaf design - there is an intersection where the on/off ramp meets with the cross-road, and a stop sign or stoplight at the intersection. (Even on-ramps *with* a cloverleaf design often have drivers in heavy squishy-suspension vehicles slowing down traffic behind them to ~10mph, with the resulting excitement. Such driver+vehicles aren't all that uncommon, alas.)

And then there are the congestion-control lights, which are typically put *on* the on-ramp itself, with a little sign indicating that 1 or 2 cars can go when the light turns green. (There are sensors to count how many cars *actually* go through, and whether or not the light was green at the time. They track these things quite carefully.)

"Fixing" such things would be more than what a traffic engineer could manage; businesses and/or employees would have to be relocated to better control the flow of people from one place to another, which has its own huge set of downsides. Engineering-wise, it's a bad tradeoff.

Comment: Re:Why can't they extend the range? (Score 1) 311

by SJS (#40430327) Attached to: Tesla Delivers First Batch of Model S Electric Sedans

Why the hell do people obsess about 0-60 time? How often do you ever accelerate flat out from 0 to 60?

Freeway on-ramps. I average a half-dozen times a day when I put the foot down and shift > 5k rpm.

Now whether or not that's a good idea is another thing, perhaps worthy of discussion. If we all drove VW microbuses then I imagine we'd not care so much about acceleration or top speeds.

But as it is, our expectations have been set. Given that air resistance is such a big factor, we could probably greatly extend the max distance simply by setting 25mph as a maximum speed for all vehicles -- but it would then take me over an hour to get to work, which is a change I wouldn't be happy with at all.

Comment: Re:To streamline future posts (Score 1) 311

by SJS (#40430115) Attached to: Tesla Delivers First Batch of Model S Electric Sedans


Doesn't matter, if you are buying one of these to save money, you are making a mistake. If you are buying on of these to save the environment, you'd be better off buying a Honda Civic and spending the $30,000 planting trees or something.

It is amazing how many people don't actually bother to do the math before buying an electric or hybrid vehicle. They may pretend to do the math, but then add in an undefined fudge factor big enough to "fix" the problem, hiding it behind assertions of "it's obvious".

It's not that it's a bad idea to buy these sorts of cars. It's just annoying to hear someone blather about how much money they're (going to be) saving when one has done the math and they haven't.

Then again, I keep a "stupid little book", so I know *exactly* what the TCO is for my vehicles. Most people don't bother, and so they need to wave their hands a lot and go by "gut feeling", so it's no wonder that they get the math wrong. They don't have actual data.

Comment: Re:Tipping (outside the USA) (Score 1) 9

by SJS (#40382277) Attached to: On Tipping (in the USA)

Good point about obligations.

I don't see cash as making boorish behavior pleasant. I see avoiding boorish behavior entirely as a better place to start.

Thinking on it, it's like kindergarten lessons:

When you ask for something, say "please".

When you are given something, say "thank you".

It's never appropriate to throw a temper tantrum.

Smile at people.

No hitting, yelling, shouting, screaming, or making a mess.

Don't be grumpy on the outside.

Always be ready to help, but don't get in the way if help isn't wanted.

Basically.... all the stuff we should be doing *anyway* when interacting with other people.

Comment: Re:Very sad. (Score 1) 9

by SJS (#40382207) Attached to: On Tipping (in the USA)

I am indeed entitled to a meal without putting up with hostile staff, substandard food, or unprofessional service. Why? Because I am *paying* for it.

With. Actual. Money. That. I. Earned. Myself.

I understand how the restaurant business works in North America. I have had it explained to me at length by some very passionate people. Some of the harshest judges of service are my friends who've actually worked as waitresses. They'll ding the tip *and* chew out the staff if the plates are cleared away incorrectly, a sin I can't even comprehend. To them, my heuristic is weak, pathetic, and amusingly non-confrontational. (And other friends who are just as passionate about generously tipping, no matter how bad the service. To them, my heuristic is cold and stingy.)

What astonishes me about your position is how the burden of respect falls entirely on me, the paying customer, and not at all on the person to whom I am giving money to. At a minimum, it should be an equal and mutual respect, should it not?

If the corporate headquarters are indeed as callous to the conditions that result in my having an unpleasant experience, then those chains need to go out of business. If my comfort, and the comfort of the staff, is as meaningless as you imply, the sooner that chain goes out of business the better.

Then there's a remote chance they can be replaced by something that doesn't suck quite so much.

I also infer that there's a suspicion that my heuristic is used to keep my tipping low. On the contrary, it's normally at the upper end of the scale. I don't like having a crappy time, so I tend to not return to places where I did not enjoy myself. My heuristic is used as an attempt to keep my tipping fair. (Yes, it's a rather geeky thing to do.)

Finally, I agree, this is a sad reflection of the state this society is in, as there's a sizable number of people around who think that paying customers should just accept crappy service, crappy food, a crappy experience, and pay extra for it, because the people responsible for all that crap *deserve* that money. A clearer sense of entitlement would be hard to come by.

Comment: Re:a basic question (Score 1) 713

by SJS (#40381725) Attached to: David Lowery On the Ethics of Music Piracy


If I am enjoying some music, do I owe the artist for that enjoyment? (Owe in the sense of "some money or obligation is due" rather then the sense of "resulting from".)

Good question.

Here's a principle to live by:

Value given for value received.

If you stand and listen to a busker, toss a few coins into the hat or case.

If you listen to a song on the radio, remember that it's been paid for by advertising (generally). If the commercial isn't actively annoying or stupid[1], let it play -- you're the product, the music is the lure, and the customer is the advertiser, and if you like the music, you want the customer to keep paying, right?

If you buy the CD or pay for a download from iTunes[2], you've purchased _a_ product. Treat it like a book -- you might loan it to friends, you might copy small portions of it to use in your journal or other personal work -- but remember that it isn't yours to distribute widely (yet).

Here's where things start to get tricky... there's a lot of crap out there. A lot of the music is utter drek, and you deserve the three minutes of your life back after listening to something that purports to be "culture", much less paying $18 for a CD or $10 for an album[3].

That's not good value.

With the advent of cassette recorders, we had a try-before-you-buy model: friends would make friends mix-tapes as a way of informing them about artists they liked. If the friend liked that artist, he'd be inclined to go out and buy that artist's work. This was a good thing, and while technically stealing, it was more like grassroots advertising.

The advent of anonymous file-sharing broke the try-before-you-buy model -- broke it hard. People amassed music collections they'd never be able to listen to, solely as virtual currency in the the file-sharing systems. They're receiving value without giving it in one frame of reference, and engaged in some quite serious value exchanges in another frame of reference.

Others announced[4] that they'd no longer be wasting money actually *buying* music, when all this "free" music was available. What's amazing is that these sorts of people tend to hold very dim views of "leeches" -- those who only take shared music, and never share their own. This is the whole purpose of technologies like BitTorrent -- to MAKE people share, rather than to simply consume at the edges. The hypocrisy is rather stunning.

And now we have the new generation that has never bothered with trying to own music. It's just there, freely available, practically an entitlement -- modulo some jerk whining about how it's theft. The implicit agreement has changed: artists are now supposed to create content for all to share -- and some artists are unhappy about this.

However.

The artists and their representatives changed the agreement first. Thank you Sonny Bono.

Copyrights used to be quite limited. And now they look to be effectively forever. That's not the agreement! And when one side unilaterally changes a contract, surely it's fair for the other side to do the same thing.

And that, I think, is where we're at. We had a sort of value-given-for-value-received arrangement, and then one side broke it, and now we have the backlash. A new arrangement[5] is needed, a new agreement between artists, infrastructure, and consumers. We've broken the old one beyond repair[6].

We need a new arrangement. A new agreement. And it needs to have buy-in from all players, not just the one with the upper hand at the moment. Dictating unreasonable terms never results in a lasting solution.

[1] If it is actively annoying or stupid, switch stations. Don't reward advertisers for producing crap advertisements. Their product needs to be entertaining as well. That's part of the game, after all; paying for the music is only half the bargain. They buy a spot, not your actual attention.

[2] Or iTunes-like service, of course.

[3] Cost of production and distribution keep going down, and yet the retail prices don't really change. Costs of distribution from an iTunes-style store is pretty cheap, and yet the 'album price' is still more than half. Someone's getting ripped off, and it's clear that value isn't being given. But that's a separate issue.

[4] Or did so quietly, but then, we wouldn't know about such folks.

[5] I suppose artists can call the bluff of the consumers, and go on strike for a generation. Let the talented people go get jobs, and leave the field to the talentless hacks.

[6] And now we can't have anything nice.

User Journal

Journal: On Tipping (in the USA) 9

Journal by SJS

The subject of tipping in restaurants has come up recently, and I realized I had a heuristic for such things. This seems a good as place as to write it down.

If I have to stand in line and order at a counter, there's not going to be any tip.
Caveat: if (a) there's a tip bucket and (b) I've been there before and (c) the food was really good, I'll drop a dollar in the tip bucket.

Base tip rate is 15%.

Comment: Re:Conjecture. (Score 5, Insightful) 467

by SJS (#39319733) Attached to: A Better Way To Program

Smalltalk and Lisp are a good example, and they show (to me) that the problem isn't the language. The hard part about programming isn't the code.

The hard part about programming is understanding and decomposing the problem. If you're not any good at that, then no matter what language you use, you're going to struggle and produce crap.

This isn't to say that languages aren't important -- different languages lend themselves to particular problem-spaces by suggesting particular solutions. Picking the right language for the problem is as important as picking the right wrench for the nut.

But there will never be a DWIM language, because the big problem is getting the programmer's brain wrapped around what needs to be done. Once that's done, what's left is only difficult if the programmer doesn't have the figurative toolset on hand.

The person who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.

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