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Comment: HR uses degrees as a filter (Score 1) 283

by Theovon (#46750179) Attached to: Bachelor's Degree: An Unnecessary Path To a Tech Job

I’m not saying that ALL companies are like this, but in many of the larger ones, the first people looking at your resume are non-technical. Many just have a checklist, and if the over-worked HR person looking at your resume does not perceive that you have every one of the listed qualifications, it goes straight into the bin. An over-abundance of applicants leads to a superficial and stochastic filtering process that isn’t especially good at figuring out which applications can do the job.

I’ve worked as an engineer, and now I’m faculty in a CS department. On an unrelated note from the above, I find that it’s easier to get a job with a CS degree than other major engineering fields. Not necessarily a GOOD job, though. Compared to EE, for instance, there are way more jobs for CS graduates, although many of them are low-paying grunt work that could indeed be done by lots of people with only a high school diploma.

Except that they won’t hire people without the degree, because it’s one of the required checkboxes on the HR form.

Comment: Re:Why do people listen to her? (Score 0) 581

by Theovon (#46747541) Attached to: Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

We’re exposed to environmental toxins CONSTANTLY. Vaccines, we give once every month or so? Wouldn’t it be a more productive use of our energies to clean up our environment and diets?

Of course, it costs no money to avoid vaccines, and all it requires is a bunch of whining about conspiracies. Eating better and not ruining the planet actually takes EFFORT, something many Americans don’t seem to believe in much.

Comment: Vaccines did contain some questional ingredients (Score 3, Insightful) 581

by Theovon (#46747497) Attached to: Jenny McCarthy: "I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'"

It’s not mytical that some vaccines used to contain thiomersal, a mercury-based preservative. This was replaced with an aluminum compound, and aluminum is correlated with diseases like Alzheimer’s. Of course, we have no evidence that aluminum accumlation causes Alzheimer’s; it could just as well accumulate as a side-effect. Still, it’s cause for investigation. Some flu vaccines are grown in chicken eggs, which may be of concern to someone who has an allergy to eggs. In general, most preservatives aren’t a good thing to be putting into your body, although I’m at a loss how else you’d give vaccines a reasonable shelf life.

As for autism, there is a growing but confusing and often conflicting body of evidence that it is associated with a variety of different things: Inability of the liver to keep up with metabolizing toxins, over-activation of the immune system, food sensitivities, and a number of things I can’t remember right off. Actually, the three I listed aren’t entirely unrelated. Food sensitivities can cause heightened immune response (depending on the nature of the sensitivity), some of which are auto-immune like celiac disease. As for the liver, I don’t fully understand its role, but there seems to be some issue with competition for a limited resource (which is why taking too much tylenol and/or alcohol can cause liver damage), and it’s involved in doing some cleanup during immune response, I think, and if your body is busy dealing with a pathogen (perceived or real) then it won’t deal with other brain-affecting toxins well enough. (If you want to spend the time to check this, please do.)

One hypothesis regarding autism is that there is an accumulation of toxins in the system that the liver can’t keep up with, and those toxins impair brain function. If you eliminate foods you’re sensitive to, the liver has less work to do and can better keep up with the remaining toxin workload.

So the reasoning seems to be that vaccines cause an overactivation of the immune system and that that response is somehow different from the normal one if you contract the real disease, that over-activation lasts a long time, and during that period, the liver is too busy to metabolize toxins that cause autism.

Ok, fine. Let’s go with that. So vaccines may add ONE contributing factor that may, in some circumstances, overload liver function. Also, so do allergenic foods, polluted air, polluted ground water, BPA, pesticides, etc., etc. But the one thing they pick on is vaccines? Of course, because we HAVE to eat our shitty American diet and drive our gas-guzzling cars and blast our farms with neurotoxins. Oh, NO. We couldn’t possibly boycott those other things with the same vehemence (and possibly ignorance) that we do with vaccines!

So my opinion is this. If you think that vaccines cause autism and you’re being a responsible parent by keeping your kids off vaccines, then you’re a moron unless you also:
- Drive only solar electric vehicles or use horses
- Use reverse osmosis and only glass containers for ALL of your water consumption
- Eat a 100% organic paleo diet

Just to name few. Because only then will you at least have any semblance of consistency in your reasoning. I can’t say for sure whether or not you’d be RIGHT, but at least you’d be CONSISTENT.

As for me, I get my kids vaccinated but we also eat a mostly organic diet, high in nutrients, low in junk food, and we filter our water. Also, we live out in the country and get fresh air. So IF there is some kind of convoluted link between vaccines and autism, I think we’ve more than offset that risk by removing some of the OTHER potential environmental factors sometimes vaguely linked with autism. Also, we feel better because we eat healthier food, and I’ve lost 30 lbs (down from almost 190) since December 2013 by putting myself on the paleo diet (actually, it’s SCD, but you never heard of it). BTW, although I and my wife both have family histories of ASD, neither of our kids show any sign of it, despite the fact that they get vaccinated.

Comment: Re:You know what thay call "alt medicine" that wor (Score 1) 408

Only problem is that many MDs I have met are just as muck quacks. They superficially assess the symptoms and prescribe something that only treats the symptom so they can charge the insurance company a rediculous fee and move on to the next patient.

Urticaria, for instance, can be a symptom of a number of serious and less serious underlying causes. Most doctors will merely prescribe an antihistamine. An antihistamine is a good short-term measure to make the patient feel better, but it should also be cause for concern and prompt deeper investigation. Almost never happens.

“Alternative” doesn’t enter into it. “Lazy” is the word we should be using here.

Comment: Not all alternative medicine is homeopathy (Score 1) 408

by Theovon (#46705793) Attached to: Australia Declares Homeopathy Nonsense, Urges Doctors to Inform Patients

My wife and I have had health problems that were helped only through the assistance of some alternative medicine practitioners. There was this one nutritionist we went to in Ohio, and her main advantage over the typical MD was that she was willing to investigate to figure out underlying causes. MDs invariably would dismiss us because they were unfamililar with our ailments and were never ever interested in spending more than 15 minutes on a patient. They would NEVER do research. Even specialists weren’t interested. We went around in circles for years, never getting any help, and a lot of the advice they’d give us would directly contradict advice we’d get from other MDs and also from articles we’d read in places like JAMA.

The thing with MDs is that they’re really just normal people who are a bit smarter than average and have advanced clinical degrees. Very few of them want to go into research. Most just want to do basic practice. Just like my PhD in computer science doesn’t make me expert in all of CS or competent to teach all areas, an MD doesn’t make you magically able to treat every illness. And when you get into something super unusual, an MD is unlikely to know about it, even if you manage to find the right kind of specialist. (I’ve noticed, for instance, that most endorcrinologists don’t know a damn thing about thryroid disorders because they all specialize in diabetes.) In my life, I’ve only met a couple of MDs who were super smart and had a mind for research and advanced diagnosis. Most are just people who want to do a regular job and not get sued for malpractice.

So, like so many other people not helped by mainstream medicine, we turned to alternative practitioners. (Some MDs, more DOs and nutritionists. We haven’t gone to any Naturopaths.) Occasionally, one would suggest something homeopathic, and we would just ignore it. But what they did that was useful was run tests that regular MDs wouldn’t think to run. For instance, we found out that we had protozoan infections becase our nutritionist had us submit fecal samples to a lab that does diagnosis by DNA testing. The treatment involved presenting the findings to a DO who wrote us prescriptions for Tinidazole, which is a standard anti-parasitic medicine. So, the irony is that in order to diagnose our condition, we had to go to an alternative practitioner who was interested in actually doing diagnosis and did that by running standard blood and fecal tests and treating problems with standard pharmaceuticals. Who’d have thunk it.

However, there are numerous herbal and natural treatments that work because they’re based on similar chemicals to those found in regular medicine. Here are but a few examples of “alternative treatments” that work:

- Taking 5HTP instead of an SSRI to treat depression (it’s a precursor to serotonin that easily basses through the blood-brain barrier)
- Taking dessicated porcine thyroid gland for sub-clinical hypothyoridism (because it contains all the thyroid hormones)
- Taking dessicated bovine adrenal gland for norepinepherine and cortisol insufficiency (because it contains them)
- Using oil of oregano to treat some kinds of microbial infections (because it’s antimicrobial)
- Taking Goitrogens concentrated from cruciferous vegetables to treat hyperthoridisn
- Using a netipot to clean out the upper respiratory system to help clear/drain infections faster
- Taking low-dose naltrexone to treat fatigue and auto-immune disorders (this treatment is shifting from alternative to mainstream now)
- Eating less grain or eliminating it altogether to improve digestive function
- Identifying food allergies/sensitivities and eliminating those foods to reduce misdirected immune response and tissue inflammation
- Eating a diet high in probiotics and cultured foods
- Supplementing with a variety of amino acids and neurotransmitters to help with mood problems (e.g. theanine, which is a great mood enhancer)
- Having willow bark tea if you feel like it instead of taking aspirin (because they both contain acetylsalicylic acid)
- Drinking green tea for a variety of health benefits, including antioxidants
- Echinacea for immune support
- Rhodiola rosea to help with energy and concentration problems
- Valerian to aid with sleeping

Different people reading this will disagree on which of these are alternative and which are effectively mainstream. Some alternative treatments have undesirable side-effects as well as benefits. Some have purported benefits that are questionable. Basically all of them are unregulated, so you don’t always know what dosage you’re getting. But a lot of them work, and to know what does, you have to research it carefully. For every herbal treatment you’d consider, there’s a wikipedia article that tells you all about the pros and cons.

Homeopathy is bizarre, though. Supposedly you dilute something so much that there’s nothing left. How in the hell does that help you? Because you drink more water? But I know perfectly rational people who tell me about problems that persisted until they tried homeopathy. If it worked, why? Is it psychological? Or might it be the case that not all homeopathic treatments are really “homeopathic” and that they actually contain active ingredients. But what then are you taking? Scary. At least with gingko, you can read about the chemical content and look at peer-reviewed studies that tell you what the good and bad effects are. With homeopathy, you have no idea, because it’s shrouded in mystery and magic.

Comment: I still don’t want to pay for Windows 7/8 (Score 1) 641

by Theovon (#46693549) Attached to: Meet the Diehards Who Refuse To Move On From Windows XP

All three of my installations of Windows are completely legit, and I intend to keep it that way. However, I don’t use Windows enough that I feel any urge to upgrade. Two are in VMs, and one is on a super-old laptop that I let my kids use. The two in VMs may be upgradable, the laptop probably not. But why do I want to spend the money to upgrade something I don’t use much? Actually, one of those XPs may get upgraded, but only because I’m getting a company I consult for to pay for it.

Comment: Re:Please proofread your post (Score 0) 60

by Theovon (#46683279) Attached to: How To Build a Quantum Telescope

And of course, everyone else on slashdot waits with baited breath to see you and your ilk post grammar complaints. Surely, nobody just gets over the minor typos and actually concentrates on the article, which (unlike so many other articles) is actually really interesting news for nerds.

What astounds me is the arrogance of some people who seem to imply by their behavior that they believe that they themselves never make mistakes. I would assert that losing sight of the forest for the trees (what’s more interesting, quantum telescopes or complaints about grammar?) IS a mistake, which means that you ARE imperfect and therefore might want to stop making yourself look like an ass by unnecessarily complaining about grammar and spelling.

Comment: And also separate “truth,” “fact (Score 1) 469

by Theovon (#46673591) Attached to: It's Time To Bring Pseudoscience Into the Science Classroom

Some people have a really hard time separating “truth” from “fact,” and they also have difficulty with how these relate to science.

A novel may contain truth, in that it is not a factual account of anything, but you might learn a life lesson from it. Indeed, many childrens books (and certainly many other genres) are specifically intended to teach valuable lessons. Religious practitioners often conflate the two. If your scriptures are (as they are taught) “true,” does that mean they are factual? You might learn something from the Bible, but there are many things in it provably non-historical, consistent with the Hebrew penchant for taking other people’s oral traditions and adding a “moral” component. Anything historical in it doesn’t necessarily convey useful truth, and anything non-historical is not necessarily devoid of truth.

Conversely, it’s common to mislead by the use of facts. Propagandists often present accurate factual information, followed by specious reasoning that leads the listener to an incorrect conclusion. It’s all in how you present things, what you emphasize, what you downplay, and what teleological conjectures you want to draw to explain those facts. Politicians are brilliant at making the statistics say whatever they want.

Then there’s science. It is indeed fact-based. And we hope that it is true. But in fact, it is not a truth generating engine. It is a MODEL generating engine. A true model is, of course, better than one that is merely numerically accurate, but there’s only so far you can be sure (or maybe even care) just how true it is. Sometimes, you just need something predictlve. A recent Ars article about zebra stripes mentioned how scientists developed and tested several different explanatory models before they found one or two that were fully consistent with all of the facts. Every single one of those models, even the wrong ones, was scientific, because they were falsifiable (a term that few people really understand). Another example is the prevailing theory of the moon’s origin; we have a model that is consistent with what we can measure today, but there’s so little physican evidence that we only accept the model because we lack any better explanation. It if turned out to be wrong, nobody would be the least bit surpirsed. Even a blind, non-explanatory model, like using a neural net for numerical regression, is of scientific value, because it can be used to do engineering, and it may aid in further analysis that leads to a falsifiable explanatory model. Once a model has gone from postulate to hypothesis to theory, consistent with the evidence, we can say that it is consistent with the FACTS, but as for truth, we can only say that it is PROBABLY MOSTLY TRUE. Each time we discover some more evidence that we haven’t explained or which contradicts the model, we have to adjust it, making it incrementally more probably mostly true.

This brings me to pseudoscientific ideas like intelligent design. Even if it were, hypothetically, true, it isn’t and can’t be science. Why? Because it isn’t falsifiable. Anything you can’t explain, you can dismiss as being the result of some outsider tweak, so it’s impossible to prove it wrong. It’s also not predictive. It makes no interesting testable claims that evolutionary theory doesn’t, so it doesn’t yield any new knowledge. Finally, it’s useless to engineering. Not all scientific theories are necessarily going to be used by engineers, but in the case of intelligent design, it CAN’T be. A potentially useful scientific theory must be based entirely on predictable naturalistic mechanisms. This way, engineers can develop new systems that rely on or leverage those natural phenomena. Intelligent design, on the other hand, requires miracles or alien interference that we’re (by definition) too primitive to understand. And unfortunately, engineers can’t perform magic and don’t have access to alien hyperspace nano-wormhole entangement bioengineering technology.

Comment: $9 million really isn’t that much (Score 2) 341

Considering just how many Windows XP systems the must have, with a sizable fraction of them being the sort you CAN’T upgrade (due to there being no Linux or Win 7 version of some software packages, literally or practically), this was probably the best option.

From Microsoft’s perspective, they want to stop supporting an ancient OS. So it’s reasonable for them to charge for additional support. It’s actually probably the UK government that got the better deal here, since Microsoft would be able to function a bit more efficiently if they could just chuck it.

Someone else mentioned DRM for old software that you can’t virtualize, like those old printer port dongles that were required to run some software. I don’t know UK law, but I’m betting it’s illegal right now to crack or reverse engineer those things, like the DMCA in the US. If I were in parliament, I’d be about ready to propose a bill to make it legal to crack them in just this sort of situation, where you’re not violating the original intent of the license agreement. Just one license to one machine. In some cases, the DRM was moronic anyway, because the software is useless without the much more expensive piece of equipment it was attached to.

It goes both ways, though. At a company I once worked for, we sold some recording software that worked with our graphics cards. It turns out that since it was just an X11 extension, it would work with other graphics cards, so one govermnent entity started making unlicensed copies and using them with competitors’ cards. We were pissed. We were pissed that they were violating the licensing agreement, and we were pissed that we had to add some bullshit license key system to ensure that they complied with our contractual agreements. We didn’t believe in it, and we didn’t want to waste the resources on it. (And we all hated things like Flex LM with a passion. Most unreliable and brittle system on the planet.) But it was easier than trying to sue them or even just argue with them. We used a technological means to make it super inconvenient (not not impossible) to not comply with already-agreed licensing terms, and they kept buying more of our products without so much as a minor disagreement (because they knew they were in the wrong in the first place and were in no position to complain). It also means that when they want to migrate a copy of the software from an old machine that died to a new one, it’s inconvenient for both them and us. But they made their bed.

Comment: Re:Better intestinal health--better mental health (Score 1) 257

by Theovon (#46666583) Attached to: Start-Up Founders On Dealing With Depression

Don’t be surprised if your MD doesn’t know about it. Some people will lump it in with junk like homeopathy, even though the chemical properties are very straight-forward. MDs don’t know about alternative treatments and/or nutrition because they don’t study this in school. I once had a gastroenterologist tell me that he didn’t believe in food allergies, so I wasn’t too impressed. On the other hand, a DO is more likely to know about these things.

Anyhow, this isn’t stuff I’ve picked up from forums. I’ve spent many years learning about these things by internet searches and speaking with nutritionists. It takes a while to start making sense of it all and takes a lot of study.

Comment: Patents help fund education! (Score 1) 130

by Theovon (#46657207) Attached to: Details You're Not Supposed To See From Boston U's Patent Settlements

I disagree. Think of holding patents as another way of funding an already cash-strapped educational system. A lot of schools are in need of better facilities for teaching students, many bright students are in need of scholarships, and professors are substantially under-paid compared to their industry counterparts. To do research (and get paid during the summer), you have to go out and apply for grant money, and not all of it can come from the NSF or other government agency. Organizations like SRC pool industry funding for research as well. So, if a professor or grad student invents something truly novel and actually worth patenting, why not leverage that as a means to bring more money into the school? This isn’t double-dipping anymore than it is double-dipping to use one grant-funded innovation as supporting work to motivate more grant-funded work. It’s more research funding to make the school run better and the royalties aren’t functionally a whole lot different from any other industry grant. It means that students, instructors, and researchers at that school will have better resources.

What Boston U is doing exactly, I’m not sure. There was a big hubbub at Wisconsin recently too, but Guri Sohi is a MAJOR pioneer in computer architecture, so I’m inclined to lean towards his side there. When someone sues over patents, my first reaction is to assume they’re trolling. But universities aren’t shell corporations or patent trolls that produce no real innovations. Things most universities patent have already been published in peer-reviewed venues, unlike so much other crap that is snuck into the PTO, making them much more likely to be real innovations, often with functional prototypes and open source implementations. if anything, I would say that universities should get the benefit of the doubt WAY more than any other class of patent applicants.

Comment: Re:There's only one thing; (Score 0) 257

by Theovon (#46657057) Attached to: Start-Up Founders On Dealing With Depression

Thumbs up to you. My wife grew up in a family that put too much value on being “tough” and never going to the doctor. If she had gone to the doctor in high school and been properly diagnosed with celiac disease, that might have been caught early enough to avoid further complications. Instead, it got progressively worse and caused her to develop auto-immune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease). If you think mood problems from plain old depression are bad, you’ve not seen anything until you’ve met someone with Hashimoto’s.

(Just to fill in some gaps so you don’t have to look it up, in people with celiac disease, the body produces an IgA antibody for one or more of the peptides that gluten breaks down into. The intestinal villi are composed of proteins that are sufficiently analogous to the gluten peptides that those same IgA antibodies attack the intestines. So, celiac is an auto-immune disease spurred on by a spurious reaction to a food protein. In general, if gluten is eliminated, the antibody isn’t produced anymore, and the body can heal. If the disease progresses, you can develop leaky gut syndrome, where food proteins as well as those IgA antibodies get into the blood. There are proteins in the thyroid that are sufficiently analogous to the gluten peptides that they will attack the thyroid, often causing symtoms of Grave’s disease. Now, through a process that I don’t fully understand, this auto-immune response can take on a life of its own, where the body’s immune system actively produces antibodies that attack your own thyroid gland. Thyroid function is critical to energy management and many other endocrine processes, and interfering with it can be debilitating. It gets worse from there, and it’s very hard to treat. Note that other hypotheses suggest that it might be the other way around: You might start out with a general propensity to auto-immune disorder, which gets out of hand due to trauma of one kind or another.)

Comment: Better intestinal health--better mental health (Score 3, Informative) 257

by Theovon (#46656903) Attached to: Start-Up Founders On Dealing With Depression

SSRIs work reasonably well for a lot of people to help with depression. But that depends on how much serotonin you have in reserve and whether or not the depression is actually caused by low serotonin. One of the major places your body stores serotonin is in the intestinal lining. If you eat a diet that is more conducive to intestinal health, you’ll store serotonin better. Meanwhile, 5-HTP supplements are like eating pure serotonin (there’s actually a two step conversion process from 5-HTP to Tryptophan to Serotonin, IIRC, but 5-HTP passes through the blood-brain barrier much more easily than Tryptophan). And if you are too low in serotonin, an SSRI won’t help, because there just isn’t enough serotonin to reputake inhibit.

Some people are low on norepinepherine too, so an MD might prescribe an SSNRI. Tyrosine (which you can also get in pill form) is a precursor to dopamine, norepinepherine, and epinepherine. Another way to boost dopamine is low-dose (i.e. 4.5mg) naltrexone (LDN), prescribed for a variety of things including chronic fatigue and autoimmune diseases; it’s a dopamine receptor antagonist that causes the brain to produce a net surplus of dopamine. Some people with mood problems also benefit from supplementing GABA, but that never worked for me or my wife, so I don’t know much about it, except that GABA is inhibitory in some parts of the brain and excitatory in others, making it have the opposite of the desired effect for some people.

Another mood enhancer is Theanine. You can get it in pill form, but a great source of that is Kombucha, which is fermented tea. It’s also loaded with antioxidants and probiotics. The probiotics and possibly the moderate amount of vinegar are also helpful for digestion problems.

Getting back to intestinal health, some people have a mild sensitivity to things like dairy (casein, lactose), wheat (gluten), and/or soy. Removing those from your diet may reduce tissue inflamation that interferes with good intestinal function. My kids can’t have dairy in winter. That’s when all these colds and other infections go around. Dairy causes just enough additional inflammation that when they pick up a bug, they much more prone to ear infections that require antibiotics (which tend to also kill off a lot of good bacteria). In small children, eustachian tubes aren’t fully developed and tend to have drainage problems. If we keep them off dairy (they get calcium and protein from other sources), proper drainage prevents ear infections from getting out of hand, and although they probably pick up various infections anyway, the symptoms are so mild that there’s no need to take them to the doctor. IIRC, when I was a kid, my parents observed that if I had too much dairy, I’d get phlemmy and have more trouble with colds and such. The dairy might also directly interfere with immune function. Anyhow, removing that may seem like a mild food irritant can actually have a substantial positive impact on intestinal function due to reduced inflammation and as a result better mucosal lining and better serotonin storage.

Other amino acids people often take to enhance intestinal health (e.g. people diagnose with celiac disease who require a great deal of gut rebuilding) include glycine and glutamine. Google that for more.

Not to get mystical or anything, but everything in the human body is a lot more connected than is suggested by what you learn superficially in high school biology. Why would the human body store serotonin (an important brain neurotransmitter) in the intestinal lining? I don’t know. Because there was no selective pressure not to? Perhaps the mucosal lining that partly serves to protect your tissues from getting digested themselves just happens to be good at suspending other things the body needs to store. Either way, the link is well established (see in the Journal of Neuroscience, for instance). Some things may seem obvious, like maintaining proper blood sugar levels (prefer low glycemic foods) and making sure you get enough protein are good for mental function; in fact, the link goes much deeper. Eat well, and you’ll think well.

"Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished." -- Goethe