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Comment: Re:Shash-job-vertisement (Score 1) 196

by Theovon (#48179873) Attached to: The One App You Need On Your Resume If You Want a Job At Google

Admittedly, the R code was probably horrible, but I inherited some of it, so I can't take all the blame. On the other hand, I'm really good at squeezing good performance out of C++.

This reminds me of the big hullabaloo Paul Graham made about how superior Lisp is because he was able to make more quickly adapt web back-ends for some website he'd done. I think attribution of this success to the language is misplaced -- his implenentation was more adaptable simply because he was a superior programmer, and Lisp probably only helped a little bit.

Comment: Re:Shash-job-vertisement (Score 5, Interesting) 196

by Theovon (#48175609) Attached to: The One App You Need On Your Resume If You Want a Job At Google

R syntax is a lot better. In Matlab, the dimensions of a 3D array are Y,X,Z. That's just one of the many papercuts that makes Matlab difficult and unintuitive to use. R makes a hell of a lot more sense to me.

That being said, R is also very slow. For one project, I used R and ended up having to use a supercomputer (I only needed a few hundred Opertons out of the 4096 available) to get all the work done in time. For a followup project, I rewrote it in C++ and reran all the same stuff in the same period on a Core 2 Duo. R is really that slow.

But then, R is an interpreted language, so that's not a surprise. And I was able to rewrite my code in C++ because we didn't need any special libraries; if we had, I wouldn't have had the expertise to reimplement it. R is really convenient to use for many things, and it's also faster than Matlab for everything I've tried in both. Matlab is a dog, and the Mac version crashes at the drop of a hat too. I can't believe people pay money for that crap, except that it's pushed on universities, so people get used to it.

Comment: Re:Creativity without competence is useless (Score 1) 389

by Theovon (#48079119) Attached to: Is It Time To Throw Out the College Application System?

What kind of courses do you think are bullshit? While I as in grad school, an undergrad I knew complained about having to take poetry course. I told him his complaint was stupid. For sure, this guy needed to have his horizons broadened. When I took grad CS courses (at Ohio State, BTW), they were certainly challenging, but when I took courses in Psych, Linguistics, and Cog Sci, I had to think about things in entirely new ways, so I came away feeling like I had expanded my mind more fundamentally.

Comment: Creativity without competence is useless (Score 3, Insightful) 389

by Theovon (#48073015) Attached to: Is It Time To Throw Out the College Application System?

I've known a few intellectually brilliant people who still live off their parents because they can't take care of themselves. They are "so in the clouds" that they are worthless, unproductive members of society. Sure, they're fun to discuss philosophy with, but I would never want to have one as a room mate or depend on them in any way. I don't care how smart or left-wing you are, every person has the responsibility to find a niche in society that allows them to work and TAKE CARE OF THEMSLVES.

These "creative C students" are exactly the people we DON'T want in college, creativity having nothing to do with it. They the sorts of people who can't complete simple tasks or do anything practical. How the hell do you expect them to not just completely fail out of college? A college degree program that does not require students to GET EDUCATED in a range of areas (literature, foreign language, basic math & science, fine arts, etc.) is not a good educational program, and these C students will not have the discipline to make it through classes in subjects they're not interested in.

Nobody will suggest that we give them a free ride through those classes either. So they're GOING TO FAIL.

I'm biased because I am one, but the creative types I respect the most are college professors, especially in fields where you have to seek your own funding. You HAVE to be creative to publish new science. But you also have to be able to teach, present ideas clearly and logically, manage people, promote yourself, stay focused on specific productive problem areas, etc. Some of them (such as myself) had industry experience prior to going into academia. These people are WELL ROUNDED.

Well-rounded is what we want to get into college. People who can manage their time and money, think about more than one type of thing, work on problems they don't necessarily prefer, etc. The most successful people are those most willing to do well at the less interesting parts of the job. And THOSE people are not C students.

Comment: Not a problem for many Christians I've talked to (Score 1) 534

by Theovon (#48035897) Attached to: Are the World's Religions Ready For ET?

The theory behind Christianity is that everyone is a sinner and needs Jesus to redeem them lest they suffer some kind of punishment. Many Christians are flexible enough to believe that Jesus has appeared in many forms with many names, and as such, many other religions are also perfectly valid. If we generalize this, "original sin" is an abstraction, representing the idea that all sapient creatures have the ability to choose to do evil and need redemption. Extended to advanced alien civilizations, the assumption is that at some point in their evolution, they too will have developed the ability to choose to do wrong (harm others in some way, etc.) and therefore need a redeemer. If God has appeared on Earth in some form many times, logically, He will have appeared on every civilized planet many times, offering every advanced intelligent creature an opportunity to repent and ask for forgiveness.

On the other hand, this is probably an exceptional viewpoint, and many religious people who believe that believers in other religions (or none at all) are infidels will decide that this is an opportunity to either convert or kill off those evil godless aliens.

Incidentally, Thomas E. Hanna ( is one of the most intellectual Christians I've ever known. Although I don't necessarily agree with all of his beliefs, debating philosophy and religion with him is downright enjoyable, because he doesn't try to shove a set of rigid beliefs down your throat. He just reasons. I can't be offended by that. I'm not really into going to church, but if I lived in Lakeland, I'd go to his. His blog tackles a lot of concepts that may be esoteric to non-Christians, but for those who are, he pushes the envelope and as a result gets under the skin of many conservatives. I enjoy anything that challenges established idiologies even in small ways.

Comment: Instead of also? (Score 1) 942

by Theovon (#48035073) Attached to: David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

Learning more than one system of measurement doesn't sound like such a huge burden, especially if there's an emphasis on how to convert. I don't have a good intuitive sense for conversions between US and metric systems because they were taught to me separately. If, when they were initially introduced, there had been an emphasis on conversion, that would have helped. Also, teaching the conversions helps with some simple math too.

Comment: Window decorations don't suck! (Score 1) 250

by Theovon (#47992295) Attached to: GNOME 3.14 Released

I've been complaining for years that the default KDE window manager not only looks ugly but also clashes with the rest of the theme. If they made windows look like plasma widgets, then they would look sleek, and they would look like they were designed to fit with the rest of the theme. But KDE devs seem to have no idea what I'm talking about. How can thing go so right in so many ways and then fall apart in one so conspicuous area?

On first glance, the new Gnome window decorations actually look pretty good. Maybe I'll change my mind later, but it looks like someone developed a sense of style.

Comment: Re:Who cares about succinctness .... (Score 2) 165

by Theovon (#47983475) Attached to: Rosetta Code Study Weighs In On the Programming Language Debate

Verilog vs. VHDL. I find that the verboseness of VHDL (which requires like 3 times as much typing) actually impedes readability. Sure, there are situations where VHDL can catch a bug at synthesis time that Verilog can't, but the rest of the time, it just makes VHDL unwieldy.

Comment: I got a PhD in computer engineering too (Score 1) 479

by Theovon (#47977437) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

I was maybe 80% sure that I wanted to go into academia, so it's not so strange that I got a PhD. But I interviewed for both industry and academic jobs. In my case, I had extensive industry experience previously. For some academics, the industry experience seemed to be a negative, and for some industry employers, the PhD seemed to be a negative. Very few companies saw the combo as a bonus, although the list of companies that did think my background was good included Intel, AMD, and my current employer (a research university -- I went into tenure track).

I recently interviewed at AMD (because they called me, and I figured it couldn't hurt to see what my alternatives are), and they grilled me hard on programming questions. They asked me things like what do 'volatile' and 'static' keywords in C mean (I was able to quickly rattle off more than the interviewer needed to know about them), and when I went on-site, they gave me some programming problems. The key reason they like me (and are writing up an offer) is because I knew a lot about programming, had done a lot of programming (despite having been in academia for 2 years, they referred me to as a veteran from industry), and I knew a good deal about each of the topics they talked with me about (CPU architecture, GPU architecture, the 3D graphics rendering pipeline, compilers, etc.).

Key ways in which this went well for me included (a) I proved that I was a very strong software engineer with practical knowledge, skill, and efficiency, and (b) I was able to show how, for me, the PhD augmented (rather than hurt) my engineering skills. That last bit is key. For instance, I showed that I could approach a problem with creative solutions, apply a scientific approach to determine the viability of the idea, and (most importantly) explain how I can fit it into the context of a BUSINESS that wants to make money from it. Coming from academia, also I know how search for existing solutions, so I can also avoid reinventing the wheel. I can look up what people have done before and incorporate some of those ideas into a new practical solution.

So, bottom line, if you want to go into industry (and not necessarily into some big company's research wing), then you have to show that you're a real engineer who can design complex solutions to complex problems and do it efficiently. You have to know a LOT about programming. On top of that, you have to know a lot of theory (algorithms, data structures, computational complexity, etc.). And you have to show that you can think in business and product terms. You're working there to make products that will sell and make money, and you have to convince them that you're unconsciously competent at doing this very well. You need to break the stereotype that PhDs arrogantly have their heads in the clouds, can't think about practical matters, and get too easily distracted by things tangential to the job at hand.

Comment: Re:List the STL? Seriously? (Score 1) 479

by Theovon (#47977205) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

Yes and no. Depends on how specific they want to get. Can you list general types of containers? They're fairly universal: linked list, vector, double-ended queue, set, map, multimap, etc. This kind of question just probes for familiarity with the kinds of facility the language and its standard libraries offer. Bonus for remembering the names of a few of the methods (like size() and push_back()). All this means is that you understand data structures and that you've managed to retain some of the facts about that language's take on them.

Comment: Re:Too bad your DNA is useless to most MDs (Score 1) 113

by Theovon (#47955797) Attached to: Data Archiving Standards Need To Be Future-Proofed

We seriously considered chronic lyme as a possibility and even got testing. The test came back negative, although there can be false negatives. We ultimately ruled it out on the basis of certain key symptoms being absent. Basically, we considered a LOT of things and did our best to rank the changes of each illness that might explain the symptoms. We were open to the idea of more than one cause but considered it a remote possibility; fortunately we were right.

Anyhow, homozygous MTHFR C677T can be serious, especially if there are other complicating mutations. Compared to some people my wife has a moderate problem. She had chronic fatigue (not to be necessarily confused with CFIDS), brain fog, autoimmune disease, gluten intolerance, weight gain, pale skin, hairloss, and many more symptoms. But she never lost feeling in her limbs; some people do. When you mess up the methylation cycle, all sorts of things can go wrong.

I'm not sure why you (an anonymous coward, so why am I feeding the trolls?) think that this mutation is of "dubious clinical significance." It's one of the more serious mutations, and the appropriate treatments have worked. Taking methylfolate, a few different forms of B12, and several other supplements has caused massive improvement in energy, return of proper skin tone, hair regrowth, appropriate weight loss, and so on. In other words THE TREATMENT WORKED.

This is one of those fortunate cases where a hard-to-find single cause has been identified. It explains ALL of the symptoms (many of which are secondary, caused by a deficiency caused by the underlying problem), and the treatment has worked very well. It's a little hard to get the exact dosages of vitamins right, because as soon as you get enough of one thing, the body will start repairing things, which requires other chemicals, and cause a deficiency in another thing, etc. So the fix isn't an over-night sort of thing but the progress is rapid.

And my biggest complaint is not that the MDs didn't know how to diagnose this. My complaint is that they EXPLICITLY REFUSED to help us when we were trying to track down the cause. Seriously. Most doctors just didn't have a clue and were unwilling to "do a lot of speculative testing," while some out-right said they refused to help us. Even if we came in with a list of tests to do to try to narrow down a range of possibilities (like a decision tree), they wouldn't do it. We had to figure this out completely on our own.

I don't expect MDs to know everything or be super-human. But I do expect them to listen and take patients seriously.

Comment: Too bad your DNA is useless to most MDs (Score 2) 113

by Theovon (#47952929) Attached to: Data Archiving Standards Need To Be Future-Proofed

... or for that matter any of your medical history. MDs do spot-diagnosis in 5 minutes or less based exclusively on what they've memorized or else they do no diagnosis at all.

My wife has a major genetic defect (MTHFR C677T), which causes severe nutritional problems. We haven't yet met an MD who has a clue about nutrition. Moreover, we had to diagnose this problem ourselves through genetic testing, with no doctors involved. We've shown the results to doctors, and they don't entirely disbelieve us, but they also have no clue what to do about it and still are dubious of the symptoms. (Who has symptoms of Beriberi these days? Someone whose general ability to absorb nutrients is severely compromised.)

What makes anyone think that this will change if your doctor has access to your DNA, even with detailed analysis? They won't take the time to actually read any of it. In fact a lot of what we know about genetic defects pertains to problems in generating certain kinds of enzymes, a lot of which participate in nutrient absorption. (So obviously RESEARCHERS know something about nutrition.) These nutritional problems require supplementation that MDs don't know about. Do you think the typical MD knows that Folic Acid is poison to those with C677T? Nope. They don't know the differences between folic acid, folinic acid, and methylfolate and still push folic acid on all pregnant women (they should be pushing methylfolate). They also don't know the differences between the various forms of B12 and always prescribe cyanocobalamin even for people who need the methyl and hydroxy forms.

Another way in which MDs are useless is caused by their training. Bascally, they're trained to be skeptical and dismissive. Many nutritional and autoimmune disorders manifest with a constellation of symptoms, along with severe brainfog. Someone with one of these problems will generally want to write down the symptoms when talking to a doctor, because they can't think clearly. The thing is, in med school, doctors are specifically trained to look out for patients with constellations of symptoms and written lists, and they are told to recognize this as a condition that is entirely within the mind of the patient. Of course, a lot of doctors, even if not trained to dsmiss things as "all in their head" are terrible at diagnosis anyway. They'll have no clue where to start and won't have the patience to do extensive testing. It's too INCONVENIENT and time-consuming. They won't make enough money off patients like this, so they get patients like this out the door as fast as possible.

I've had some good experiences with surgeons. But for any other kind of medical treatment, MDs have been mostly useless to me and my family. In general, if we go to one NOW, we've already disgnosed the problem (correctly) and possibly need advice on exactly which medicine is required, although when it comes to antibiotics, it's easy enough to find out which ones to use. (Medical diagnosis based on stuff you look up on the internet is really hard and requires a very well-trained bullshit filter, and you also have to know how to use the more authoritative sources properly. However, it's not impossible for people with training in things like law, information science, and biology. It just requires really good critical thinking skills. BTW, most MDs don't have that.)

MDs are technicians. Most of them are like those B-average CS grads from low-ranked schools who can barely manage to write Java applications. If you know how to deal with a low-level technician, guide them properly, and stroke their ego in the right way, you can deal with an MD.

Comment: Nutritional deficiencies! (Score 1, Interesting) 222

by Theovon (#47916215) Attached to: Schizophrenia Is Not a Single Disease

Probably at least a few of those sub-disorders are actually nutritional deficiencies. We have this myth (perpetuated by MDs who have ZERO training in nutrition) that we don't have nutritional deficiencies in America. In fact, the American diet is horrible, and we all know it. B12 deficiencies are common (which is one of the reasons shots are often prescribed), as are deficiencies in magnesium, along with numerous other vitamins and minerals. Since the mid 90's, the FDA has mandated "enrichment" of foods, but the forms of the additives are NOT the biologically active forms, so some people have trouble processing them. For instance, MTHFR gene defects are common (my wife and I have different ones, and she has the really bad C677T defect), making folic acid (which is artificial) range from useless to poisonous to some people who need to take methylfolate instead. In fact, since the mid 90's a lot of people have reported declines in their health, which may be correlated with that FDA mandate (although without a more complete study, we have to assume this is anecdotal and COULD be correlated more strongly with something else).

Anyhow, my point is that many psychological disorders, such as bipolarism, are associated with vitamin deficiencies. If you look at the symptoms lists of various B vitamin deficiencies, for instance, you'll see that it is already established what kinds of psychological effects can occur in cases of "extreme" deficiencies. If we can get past the idea that nobody in America can have extreme vitamin deficiencies (you can have plenty of some vitamin but still be anemic if you can't USE it in that form), then we can start treating mental disorders using carefully controlled diets and supplement schedules. I'm sure it won't work on everyone, but it would be insane to not try it in place of loading people up on antipsychotics because the "doctors" are mental hospitals have no fucking clue about nutrition.

And just to reinforce, folic acid is basically poison to about 10% of humans. Different vegetables contain methylfolate and/or folinic acid, NOT folic acid. Defects in the genes that code enzymes that convert folinic acid and folic acid are more common than most food allergies, making this a serious problem!

One interesting side-effect of this is the proliferation of the bad genes. People with homozygous C677T mutation have about a 30% conversion rate from folic acid to methylfolate. (Meanwhile the unconverted folic acid itself interferes with the methylation cycle.) If a woman gets pregnant and takes folic acid in large quantities (which is what doctors instruct), the fetus will take all of the methylfolate, and the mother will get very sick. Meanwhile the fetus will be allowed to develop when otherwise it would have naturally aborted due to an inability on its own to convert folinic acid that you get from food. As a result, we have more people born with this defect, while people in the FDA and the medical profession are too ignorant of the consequences to deal with them properly. Mind you, if they were to take more methylfolate, the viability of this defect would increase, but at least the mothers wouldn't get as sick.

Comment: Personalized medicine... and nutrition (Score 3, Interesting) 291

by Theovon (#47881899) Attached to: Link Between Salt and High Blood Pressure 'Overstated'

Yeah, much of what we know is being overturned. Some of the disinformation was probably created by the food companies that wanted to make cheaper food. Back in the 70's we were told that fat was bad, and so all these processed foods got lots of extra sugar instead. Now we find out that sugar is bad and you need to consume more of the right fats. We're also starting to see that this "food pyramid" they taught us about should be basically inverted. The reason for the food pyramid is more to do with cost (grains are cheap) than nutrition.

Today, we know a hell of a lot about the impact of genetics, microbiotic flora, and many other things that affect individuals differently. For instance, many people have some mild sensitivities to various food proteins, although no always enough to notice more than some unexplained lethargy unpredictable times after eating certain foods. Of course, for some people, it's bad, like those with celiac disease.

Here's an interesting one: Apparently, about 10% of the population (US or world, I'm not sure) has a homozygous MTHFR C677T mutation. These people cannot convert folic acid (which is artificial anyway) or folinic acid (found in lots of vegetables) into methylfolate. As a result, these people suffer from massive B9 deficiencies (which indirectly causes others, like trouble absorbing B12). Moreover, it's not just that folic acid and folinic acid are not useful to them; they're functionally poison, interfering with the normal function of the methylation cycle. So these people need to take large quantities of methylfolate and cut out certain "healthy" vegetables. They also have to cut out "enriched" foods. We're starting to see a correlation between health problems increasing in these people and the mid-90's FDA mandate to enrich certain foods with Folic Acid. Lovely.

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982