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Journal Journal: What the NSA actually is

Man I love this comment from IamTheRealMike,

"You know, I've read this excuse a million times since Snowden did his thing, and I'm sick of it.

The problem is it's an abuse of language. Saying "Every country spies. It's one of those things governments are supposed to do" is nothing but rhetorical sleight of hand. The word spy conjures up cartoons of men in pork-pie hats and long raincoats following some traitor in a car. The word is loaded with cold war imagery. It reminds people of a time when there was an "us" vs a "them" and spying was a very small scale and targeted activity done against "them" or, at very least, those of "us" working for "them".

We need a new word to describe what's going on in todays world. Spying doesn't even come close to being the right word. How about totalitarian surveillance? But even that isn't strong enough to communicate the reality we are living in.

In today's reality there's no us vs them. There's no good vs evil, capitalism vs communism. There's just bureaucrats and their power, exercised over their own people as readily as over foreigners.

This is not only not "one of those things governments are supposed to do", it's often one of those things governments are expressly prohibited from doing by their own laws. And that's for good reasons!

Please, don't flatter the NSA by calling them spies. They aren't spies at this point. They are real life equivalents of O'Brien, the dedicated agent of totalitarian control in 1984. O'Brien is a far darker and scarier character than anyone who could be described as a spy."

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Journal Journal: Biology Help Desk: Volume Seven 19

Hey, remember these? I do. Vaguely. But vaguely isn't good enough, so here's another one. Since I've discovered that the secret to understanding machine learning problems well enough to implement them is mostly a matter of strategically procrastinating, it seems only fair that I should run one of these. So before cross-entropy actually starts making sense to me, what would you like to know?

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Journal Journal: Biology Help Desk: Volume 6 36

It's probably a bad idea to run one of these while I'm slogging through the project bulge of my last semester of undergrad, but let's take a stab at it anyway. Have at it! Clever trolls welcome!

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Journal Journal: Biology Help Desk: Volume 2n+1, n=2 34

I've gotten a couple of requests now for another one of these, so here one is. Please, bring to me your curiosities and questions about the strange and mysterious biological sciences. I can probably answer (or research answers to) most questions. (Also, if you keep missing these, I've decided I'm going to vaguely hint at them in mysterious ways on Twitter (@rhet0rica) from now on. I guess even Twitter has to have some utility.)

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Journal Journal: Biology Help Desk: Volume 4 22

Bring me your curiosity! As before, if this expires and you want to ask a question, just slip me a comment (or an e-mail) and I'll put up another one of these. No question is too trivial; no thinly-veiled troll too transparent! (I'm going to regret saying that, I'm sure.)

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Journal Journal: Biology Help Desk: Volume 3 10

I've received another request for one of these, so I figured that I would put it up. Since they only last about two weeks, please feel free to track me down and ask for a new one if you ever have a question!

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Journal Journal: Biology Help Desk Again 25

I'm really not sure how long these last as comment-on-able, so here's another one. I'll try to be a little more vigilant in making sure there's always a journal open for asking questions.

A little more elucidation: I'm in the fourth year of a combined bioinformatics/medical informatics degree. Most of my semester is from the CS curriculum, but I have gotten through biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, physiology, and organic chemistry courses. (Mostly in the presence of pre-med students.) I've also taken genomics-specific courses and worked in a molecular biology lab studying C. elegans, and a medical lab studying Autism.

So ask away!

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Journal Journal: Biology Help Desk 4

Thanks to the power of my silly sig, I've been getting a lot of biology questions lately. Most of these are fun to answer, but occasionally they pop up in totally inappropriate threads just out of the blue. Since Slashdot supports commenting on journal posts, it seemed like the best thing to do would be to make one and encourage people to ask here instead. So do that!

And I really will phrase things as car and computer analogies when possible. Although computer analogies are way more common.

For clarification, I've taken physiology and genetics courses, and can answer most geeky things about the human body and fundamental biology. I don't know much about pharmacology or ecology (because it is very, very, dry), and I am not a doctor. But I'll try to answer those questions, too.

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Journal Journal: Black Ops

The Manhattan Project employed two hundred thousand people. It had eighty offices and dozens of production plants spread out all over the country, including a sixty-thousand-acre facility in rural Tennessee that pulled more power off the nation's electrical grid than New York City did on any given night. And no one knew the Manhattan Project was there. That is how powerful a black operation can be.

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Journal Journal: Quote

Top Ten Reasons to Procrastinate...

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Journal Journal: Quote

Support your local Search and Rescue unit -- get lost.

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Journal Journal: Quote

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

Retirement means that when someone says "Have a nice day", you actually have a shot at it.