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Comment: China isn't communist (Score 4, Interesting) 42

Technically, China is a capitalist dictatorship. People often conflate the economic system with the system of government, because in our experience, most capitalist counties are also democratic (although typically republics), while most communist countries are also dictatorships. China has a heavily regulated economy, but the government doesn't own all wealth and resources, so it's not communist. That being said, I'm sure there are aspects that are heavily socialist, but no country is completely polar in these regards. I mean, the US isn't totally capitalist; there are high taxes, and there are a lot of centralized resources in the government.

Comment: Most skeptics believe they are correct (Score 1) 700

by Theovon (#49579209) Attached to: Pope Attacked By Climate Change Skeptics

There are a lot of "skeptics" who are really motivated by their own special interests, like not wanting reduction in coal mining to impact their home state's economy. They are set up to be biased. But a lot of skeptics are true believers that climate science is some kind of grand conspiracy. Now with those people, I don't really know what their motivation is for being skeptics, because they're not scientists. They just repeat some stuff they've been told by other people that sounds plausible to them. But anyhow, this is the problem we face. Most of the skeptics are not "lying." They are simply misinformed.

Comment: Ugly but improving window manager (Score 1) 53

by Theovon (#49576093) Attached to: KDE Plasma 5.3 Released

I've been saying for years that plasmoids (with their rounded corners and translucency and other cool effects) look neat, but the window manager looks terrible, because it doesn't fit in with the rest of the theme. It looks like they've been improving it a bit. It's still not totally seamless, but it's way better than it was a few years ago.

So, I have a question: KDE seems like a more technlogically advanced desktop system and it's more pleasant to look at than GNOME. What is the appeal of sticking to GNOME as the default in distros like Ubuntu?

Comment: Re:Fluoride in drinking water isn't necessary (Score 1) 314

by Theovon (#49569053) Attached to: Feds Say It's Time To Cut Back On Fluoride In Drinking Water

Regarding lead in the water, you don't know the half of it. People harp on all the wrong contaminants. It's like this bullshut about vaccines and autism. Two (!) cases involving autism and vaccines have gone to court, and in both cases, the "victim" had some preexisting condition. The fact is, the really horrible American diet, with excessive sugar and pesticides and all kids of other crap, has far more impact on developing autism symptoms.

Comment: Fluoride in drinking water isn't necessary (Score 1, Informative) 314

by Theovon (#49568773) Attached to: Feds Say It's Time To Cut Back On Fluoride In Drinking Water

The original theory was that by putting fluoride into drinking water, it'll get into developing teeth, which are chemically altered to be harder. Then they figured out that that doesn't happen; it just reacts directly with teeth in the mouth. But we have fluoride toothpaste that does just as well and doesn't get swallowed quite as much. Then there's the issue of toxicity, which apparently is essentially nil except for people with thyroid problems, where the fluorine can displace iodine.

The conspiracy theorists actually play on the thyroid thing. The idea is that fluoride induces hypothyroidism, which slows people down and makes them more docile, and a docile populace is what governments want, because they rock the boat less. But I think this is a case of opportunism, kinda like how creationists will accept scientific theories whenever they appear to support their delusions. The theory that it was a communist plot predates any hypotheses about thyroid effects. I don't think there's any evidence that fluoride will *induce* thyroid problems.

Comment: STOP LINKING TO PHORONIX (Score 2) 232

by Theovon (#49559157) Attached to: Linux 4.1 Bringing Many Changes, But No KDBUS

It's possible that Michael Larabel didn't get his facts wrong this time, but he has a history of (a) sloppy reporting and (b) completely ignoring requests for making corrections. Considering the number of times his mistake was pointed out in this one case (https://twitter.com/phoronix/status/575005596501590016, http://www.phoronix.com/forums/showthread.php?115543-An-LGPL-Licensed-Larrabee-Inspired-GPGPU-Processor/page2), I think he does it on purpose just to fuck with people.

Comment: Time to properly test systemd (Score 1) 493

by Theovon (#49545693) Attached to: Ubuntu 15.04 Released, First Version To Feature systemd

There are systemd haters who just think the design is fundamentally broken. There are others who just don't want to have to deal with an immature, buggy system for years upon end. By putting it into a distro as popular as Ubuntu, there's going to be a ton of practical fallout, where more and more people hit the corner cases and experience system crashes, many of which are directly the result of systemd bugs. Now, if Canonical are really smart (who knows), they'll be logging these crashes and make it easy to push stack traces upstream.

Eventually, the bugs will be worked out, and all we'll be arguing about is the architecture.

Comment: The evolution conspiracy (Score 1) 69

by Theovon (#49519315) Attached to: 3.46-Billion-Year-Old 'Fossils' Were Not Created By Life Forms

Someone already pointed out how the creationists are already going to use this in their favor as evidence that fossils aren't the product or evolution or somesuch.

But it goes both ways. They often rant about how the scientific literature is biased against anything that goes against the evolution dogma. Although these non-life fossils don't really contradict any OTHER fossil evidence, nevertheless, here we have an example of a publication about exactly the sort of thing that the creationists say would never get published.

Comment: It's like having mens and womens sports teams (Score 1) 599

Except in this case, variation in STEM performance is a cultural phenomenon, not a physical one. Imagine giving girls a place where they can concentrate on learning STEM topics without worry of being psychologically intimidated by the boys. Only once we've had a full generation of women who have taught that they can stand on their own will we be able to free ourselves from the inherent sexism in our society.

Racism and sexism aren't PC, so parents and teachers pay lib service to the new ethos. But subconsciously, it's still really bad. Peers, parents, and media still paint women and minorities as being inferior. Sure, we don't want thought police, but it's people's unrecognized and unadmitted beliefs that cause problems of racism and sexism to linger.

This girls-only STEM school is an attempt at fixing this. Maybe it'll open up its own new problems. But people are burying their heads in the sand about just how racist and sexist we are. It's closeted, so if festers and generates resentment among those who hate being forced to treat everyone equally, and this actually perpetuates the problem. We need to blow it out into the open and address it head-on.

Some of these problems would also be helped by making men take more equal roles in parenting too. Professional men with kids are seen as responsible. Professional women with kids are seen as a flight risk. That's got to change. And the law should come down REALLY hard on men who father children and then skip out. Some companies provide equal paternity leave, and that's a step in the right direction. If I were the CEO of a big company, I'd have the addition of an in-house daycare (free for employees) on my action list.

Comment: Women in academia are given a little more slack (Score 0) 517

Disclaimer: None of the below is official policy. I'm describing things that I believe go on in the heads of interviewers where I work.

I'm in academia, and I've been involved search committees. Before we bring someone on site, we do skype interviews and thoroughly scrutinize their CV. We select the best CVs regardless of gender or ethnicity or anything, and the skype interview is to assess their communication skills. A slightly smarter person who can't be understood is going to be less effective than someone who is perhaps a little less creative but communicates well. Teaching is very important, and being understood is very important in teaching. Gender does not factor into this, and people from other countries vary massively in how intelligible their accent is, so ethnicity doesn't directly enter into it either. (I'm pretty good at pronouncing other languages, because I have studied phonetics extensively. To some degree, a thick accent occurs due to a lack of talent -- they just have a really hard time understanding how to produce the sounds, and grammars are a chalelnge too. Most people don't have a talent for learning languages as an adult. However, I also think there's a laziness factor. Some people work harder than others and develop explicit compensating strategies. For instance, several of my colleagues from China have learned to *just slow down*, which helps like you wouldn't believe.)

With regard to female faculty candidates in in-person interviews, we tend to make two major assumptions:

1. They are a priori no more or less competent than the men.
2. Various cultures (including our own) make them less up-your-nose about their accomplishments.
3. Since women are generally perceived as less competent, a woman making it through a PhD program at a good school is often an indicator of superior "grit" (courage and resolve).

So when we interview, I think we tend to work a little harder at making sure we aren't missing any sparks of creativity, good ideas, or important accomplishments that the women may be unnecessarily humble about.

There are also some other factors:

4. Although we'd like to have stellar candidates, the main thing we evaluate is just whether or not they will be succcessful in research and bring positive attention to the university. While we certainly like the rock stars, there are many people who fit into the "very good" category, whom we would be very happy to make an offer to. Very few of the people we interview *aren't* in the very good category, independent of gender and background.
5. We're not Cal Tech or Harvard. The rock stars will go to the higher-ranked schools. With limited hiring slots and limited time to make decisions, we often choose "very good" and "likely to an accept an offer" over "rock star" but "likely to go somewhere else."
6. With programmed lower esteem, a more competent female candidate is slightly more likely to accept an offer than an equivalent male. We're not exactly taking advantage, because they decide whether or not they want to accept the offer. It's just a female applicant is likely to be more competent than they appear, and we're happy to factor that into deciding on the limited number of offers we give out.

So if we have a female candidate who has done good research and but was so-so in the interview, although we don't give slack on the quality of their publications, not bowling us over with how awesome they are in the interview is not going to hurt their case perhaps as much as it might for the men.

In my time here, two male faculty in engineering have washed out. No female faculty have. The thing is, the men who washed out were clearly not meeting standards, while all the female faculty have objectively strong publication records. It's not like we have much in the way of borderline cases where we let a woman get tenure with the same level of accomplishment as a man who didn't. The recoil effect of #2 the direct effect of #3 up there is that women in academia often work harder than their male colleages because (again culture) they are worried they will be perceived as less competent, so they over-compensate. They may generally be shy about telling you how great they are, but they're not shy about doing good research and publishing papers.

The conclusion is that gender does play a role in the interview process. To say otherwise would be disingenuous. But the effects are subtle, and the main reason we'd prefer a seemingly less competent female is that the seemingly more competent male isn't likely to accept the offer; if we were to make that offer, we would not only lose that candidate but also all of the others we were considering for the same position (because it's important to make offers in a time manner). So a *given* female candidate who is objectively competent is probably more likely to be made an offer than a similar male candidate. We haven't done the statistics on this, but it's probably true, but probably much more pragmatic than it is discriminatory. It's betting on the horse with the lower standard deviation rather than the higher mean. Despite this possible bias in favor of women, we still hire mostly men, because the vast majority of applicants are male. And that is disappointing to us.

Comment: Good. We need a female president. (Score 0) 676

by Theovon (#49460183) Attached to: Hillary Clinton Declares 2016 Democratic Presidential Bid

I think that having a black president (depending on your definition of "black", because Obama is more like Colin Powell or Laurence Fishburne than Jesse Jackson or Dave Chappelle) has done a lot of good for racism in the US. Many people think that Obama hasn't been an awesome president, but they don't blame it in his being black.

Having a woman president should help with sexism as well. And although I'm sure I don't agree with all of her policies, Hillary Clinton an accomplished and proven competent politician. Unlike some horrible embarrassments (e.g. Sarah Palin), Hillary Clinton is smart and won't fuck things up in a way that people will blame on her being female. And if she does well, only total fuckwads will say it's because she's a lesbian or something.

It'll take a bit longer, but it'll be good when we finally elect an openly homosexual president. It'll mean the US has finally grown up and gotten past these stupid prejudices that have held the human race back for thousands of years.

Comment: Well, China IS a little bit scary. (Score 2) 229

Nothing on the magnitude of North Korea or Iran. Not even on the same order as Russia. But it's clear that China is not in the global market for altrustic purposes. They're an economic superpower, and they're going defend that. They're unlike to attack the US, though. But mostly beause they sell most of their products to us, not for any other reason. If I were in the Chinese government, I'd be scared of North Korea and want to maintain a defense.

So the US DoD and DoC have to weigh the slight risk of China deciding some day to come in and take over the US against the more immediate benefits of China drawing NK's attention away from us and being part of the general defense against NK's batshit craziness.

Comment: Re:Unauthorized access is illegal. Period. (Score 1) 629

See my other post. The idea isn't so much to make the punishment for teenagers more than for adults but to make the punishment SCARIER. The more I think about this, this student should get charged with a felony and then have that expunged from their record at 18. It needs to be a super big deal to everyone so that other students don't think they'll get away with the same shit.

Comment: Re:Unauthorized access is illegal. Period. (Score 1) 629

I'm not sure what is the difference (in any philosophical sense) between (a) exploiting a known vulnerability to hack in that they should have fixed ages ago, (b) using social engineering to get someone to inadvertently give you access, or (c) guessing someone's really stupid password.

All of them are "abuse" of a secured system.

For that matter, say a teacher stays logged in and goes to the bathroom, and while they're away, some students use the teacher's account. So it's wide open, and the teacher was stupid for doing that. But this is kinda like leaving your car running with the keys in while you run into the 7-11. If someone steals your car, they're still stealing your car, even if you made it easy for them to do it.

Students should live in deathly fear of what horrible things might happen to them if they inappropriately access a teacher's computer account. A misdemeanor charge may not be enough to get through to them.

The teen brain is interesting. They're almost too logical. If they knew the real statistics about pregnancy and STD's, a lot more of them would be fucking, and then that would actually alter the statistics. This is why teachers and parents commonly make it sound like every sexual encounter leads to disease, ruined lives, and all manner of other scary things. Well, disease and ruined lives happen often enough that people need to be *extremely* cafeful about it, but teens are not exacly known for their mature and careful choices.

So if this student gets punished in proportion to the crime (basically a slap on the wrist), it is a real concern that this kind of intrusion may start to happen more often, because the risks to the perpetrators are so low.

"Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it." -- Marvin the paranoid android