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Comment: Re:wildfires? (Score 2) 304

by bmajik (#49430525) Attached to: Obama Says Climate Change Is Harming Americans' Health

So I agree entirely with your sentiment, except I chuckled when you wrote that you live in Seattle.

What's funny about that is Seattle is also full of rich dumb people that make dumb decisions.

If you've done the Seattle underground history tour, you know that Seattle basically sunk into the sound long ago. The whole city history is replete with stories of stupid people that fought nature and lost.

Recently, the highway 99 project comes to mind :)

Comment: Re:Holy misleading summary, Batman! (Score 1) 587

by danheskett (#49414389) Attached to: Hugo Awards Turn (Even More) Political

Sad Puppies is different because it used the slate to effectively take over a category. In the past, there most definitely has been bloc voting, any look at the nominations clearly shows that the nominated blocks haven't changed much at all. A very small number of nominations has been enough to get you on the ballot.

The slate providing 4-5 nominations per category pushes out other works, which is new. So in the past, a bloc or voting campaign would get the target work on the ballot, which was seen as fine, because other works also got on.

I think something like 75% of the nominations made it to the ballot.

Comment: Re:Honestly (Score 1) 587

by danheskett (#49414167) Attached to: Hugo Awards Turn (Even More) Political

That's also where I heard it. It might be a fine story, it's just sort of an odd choice for SF/F. I think the Sad Puppies campaign is a backlash against this, among other problems they see with the genre.

What just makes it that much more odd is that the Nebula is a jury award, and is arguably (with the Hugo) the pinnacle of the industry. The author is pedigreed and connected well enough that she was a quite an industry star, and that may have helped her otherwise not SF/F work - Iowa Writers Workshop, UC, etc.

I makes sense that SF/F should be diverse and progressive, it's just a little weird to see the awards spin fairly far off base from the roots of the genre.

There is also a popularity gap. The works that win are trending down into more obscurity, except in some categories. I mean this year's nominations include self-published works read by not more than a few hundred people, and episodes of Game Of Thrones, seen and loved by millions.

Seems like disarray.

Comment: Re:Missionaries (Score 1) 119

Well, I personally take the view that any society that forcibly sterilized 50% of its residents doesn't deserve to continue as a society.

I also don't think Malthus was correct.

Someone insinuated that I'd be ok with Jewish concentration camps if that resulted in a society that survived.

That's a hard question to answer. On one hand, what was done to the Jews was clearly immoral. On the other hand, a society that goes extinct isn't around to argue that it was a moral society. Heinlein noted that survival is somewhat of a precursor to moral behavior.

What we'd like to hope is that the choice between survival and violence against others is a false choice - that there is always a way to both survive and not harm others.

But that may not be the case for all societies in all situations.

It may be that the Native Americans came to the conclusion that you did -- that anything beyond a certain population was unsustainable given the technology level and resources they had available to them.

That may have been an eminently moral choice.

It also means that what they thought doesn't matter today - because there weren't enough of them to defend themselves against an invading society with different ideas.

Comment: Re:Missionaries (Score 2) 119

Another question to wrestle with:

Why didn't the colonization and empire building go the other direction?

Why weren't the native Americans launching ocean going vessels towards Europe? Why, when the Europeans arrived, were the NAs unable to repel them?

Why were there so many top-notch German scientists and engineers in that society in the 1930s and 1940s? Why, given its amazing technological advantages, did Nazi Germany still ultimately lose the war?

If you want a really uncomfortable question: why was South Africa apparently a much nicer place -- for everyone -- under European management with the distasteful Apartheid policy? Why has that society _regressed_ since kicking out the colonial invaders?

There are books on these topics that take varying points of view.

My point is very simple: pining for primitive cultures is romantically appealing but intellectually dishonest. And holding our ancestors to the standards of today is also silly - we can only hold them to the standards of their day --- unless you mean to imply that there has been no human progress.

It is precisely the fact that the Western world has shown dramatic human progress - even at the cost of slowing its own rate of expansion and conquest - that we can be confident that Western Civilization has something to offer the world.

Comment: Re:Missionaries (Score 1) 119

I don't believe that inside Nazi Germany nor in Stalinist Russia, there was the problem of a foreign empire clashing with an indigenous culture.

It seems the best American analogue to the experiences of those regimes was what was done to Japanese Americans in WW2 - which while awful, thankfully, doesn't hold a candle to what was done to the German Jews or the Soviet victims of Stalinism.

The history of the world is filled with violent tribal conflict, usually over the right to settle and tax a given piece of land.

The Jews and Nazis weren't fighting for control over Bavaria.

The Europeans did not set out with the goal of exterminating the native Americans. The NAs had their land taken from them by force, which is how it has always worked on this planet.

There are two general possibilities for how to proceed from here

1) convince people that taking land from other people is immoral

2) find additional land that is both unsettled and desirable

#1 is worth working on, and can show some real improvements, but will ultimately not be enough.

#2 is also worth working on, and why I am a space nutter, and why I am interested in how seasteading plays out.

A mix of #1 and #2 may help humanity not kill each other completely. We've gone almost 70 years with the ability to wipe ourselves out and we haven't done so yet. That's an encouraging indicator.

Comment: Re:Missionaries (Score 5, Interesting) 119

Small Part Native American here. Grandpa and mom are buried on the Res.

Not that my heritage should matter, but some people can't hear the message until they've decided what bucket to put the messenger in....

How is the way of life and/or world view of the Native Americans worth saving?

Same question for impoverished rural Africans?

We are having this conversation only because an objectively superior culture with an objectively superior propensity for technical development has built this amazing medium for our use.

My ancestors were excellent hunters, excellent farmers, and excellent stewards of natural resources. There are many things to admire and respect about what they did.

Ultimately, however, I'm glad I don't live in a house made of animal skin; I'm glad I have modern medicine; I'm glad my other ancestors - my white European ones - have shot themselves into space, and have opened a way for my children to someday get off this rock.

In many ways, Humans of all colors and shapes are still participating in the tribal violence that shaped native Americans and still shapes many Africans.

Some tribes are better run than others, with better results to show for it. Adapt or die.

Comment: Re:As far as I'm considered, this article ends wit (Score 1) 85

by bmajik (#49205297) Attached to: Inside Minerva, a Silicon Valley Bid To Start an Elite College Online

I don't think the distinction you're making is as bright of a line as many people wish it were.

When you think of "for profit" college, do you think of the motivations? The governance? The educational results?

I look at "normal" colleges and I see many examples of
- bad motivations: if you don't think "normal" colleges aren't motivated by the wrong things, look at how much money gets pumped into athletics programs. look at how much money goes to administrative stafff. look at how much money goes to building lavish student unions, extra rec facilities, and all kinds of other things that aren't really related to the "stated" mission of the university. instead, they're related to attracting student enrollment with candy; attracting not the top of the intellectual pyramid, but the broad base, with bread and circuses...

- bad governance. University administration and leadership live like royalty in some places. In my humble state the university chancellor is apparently forcing campus cops to be his personal chauffer. The higher ed system in this state badly misdirects state funds, over and over, and is never held accountable.

  - bad outcomes: plenty of people coming out of "normal" universities with toy degrees that are unemployable, and worse, really have no insight or understanding into anything worthwhile... and yet are saddled with plenty of debt.

Private universities are a response to current realities: many low-risk jobs require a paper degree, but no actual skills. Many traditional universities are needlessly stupid and expensive if all you want is that paper. And there is plenty of free money to go around, irrespective of merit.

I agree that for-profit diploma mills are probably a net negative. My point is that "normal" universities, in broad strokes, may not be any better.

Government

Come and Take It, Texas Gun Enthusiasts (Video) 367

Posted by timothy
from the a-lower-receiver-can-be-an-entire-gun-under-the-law dept.
In Texas, guns are a common sight:gun-racks are visible in the back of many pick-ups, and pistols, cannons, and rifles are part of the state's iconography. Out-of-sight guns are common, too: The state has had legal (though highly regulated) concealed carry for handguns since 1995, though -- contrary to some people's guess, and with some exceptions -- open carry of handguns is not generally legal. One thing that's definitely not a common sight, though, is a group of people manufacturing guns just outside the south gates of the Texas capitol building. But that's just what you would have encountered a few weeks ago, when an organization called CATI (Come and Take It) Texas set up a tent that served as a tech demo as much as an act of social provocation. CATI had on hand one of the same Ghost Gunner CNC mills that FedEx now balks at shipping, and spent hours showing all comers how a "gun" (in the eyes of regulators, at least) can be quickly shaped from a piece of aluminum the ATF classifies as just a piece of aluminum. They came prepared to operate off-grid, and CATI Texas president Murdoch Pizgatti showed for my camera that the Ghost Gunner works just fine operating from a few big batteries -- no mains power required. (They ran the mill at a slower speed, though, to conserve juice.)

Comment: A Good Thing but for bad reasons (Score 1) 98

by danheskett (#49198035) Attached to: Apple, Google, Bringing Low-Pay Support Employees In-House

This is probably a good thing, but the most likely reason to do this is to juice their diversity numbers. Both companies have problems with diversity and by bringing in lower skilled, lower paid workers to the corporate fold, they will immediately increase the number of minorities on staff.

Next reporting period, when they disclose their racial and ethnic diversity numbers, look for a big jump in the number of minorities on staff.

Comment: Re:What it really reveals (Score 1) 112

by danheskett (#49134623) Attached to: TrueCrypt Audit Back On Track After Silence and Uncertainty

True, you didn't built everything from source, but you were happy enough that everything traced back to "the" sources to make you feel secure. That's a lot more protection than anything from a commercial vendor, who probably just sold you formulaic encryption without any extra work to make you feel secure. Your data would have been more secure, if not actually secure, but you'd have felt it less, because really you have no way of knowing. So without somebody taking the extra time to make you feel secure, you naturally wouldn't feel it very much, if at all.

The problem is that there is no conceivable way to do what you are saying. It involves compromising or proxying disparate traffic, expertly.

And then, after all that, it would involve rooting an otherwise secure installation that is barely network connected, and using that to inject what, defects into the right sources so that the resulting binaries are weak or exploitable?

I agree that the NSA, CIA, and FBI have extraordinary capabilities, but the attack vectors that have thus far been revealed are the same attack vectors that security researchers have known and published for a long time - firmware, obscure libraries that are often used but seldom examined, zero-day exploits of popular software, mathematical flaws in encryption implementations, and physical security and chain of custody.

All of which is to say, the basic landscape of the threat has not changed much in 20 years. It is sophisticated, but as always, a strong layered defense and strong procedures and policies will minimize the possible impacts, exploits, and severity of breaches (if they occur in the first place). There are few things more secure than a well maintained GNU/Linux or OpenBSD box running in the wild.

Comment: Re:Actually, ADM Rogers doesn't "want" that at all (Score 5, Insightful) 406

by danheskett (#49121185) Attached to: NSA Director Wants Legal Right To Snoop On Encrypted Data

If, on the other hand, you live in a world where simply crying "Encryption!" is some kind of barrier that magically sanctifies the underlying data, and that it then cannot and should not ever be accessed by anyone other than the data owner...well, then I would ask what you think about the German and Japanese codes in WWII?

I think it's deeply sick that our government or anyone would equate our foreign, Congressionally declared, military enemies locked in nearly unrestrained warfare with the private effects and papers and their electronic equiavlents of it's peaceful citizens.

The law and Constitution (as interpreted and implemented by our system of government) are the constraints -- not specific technological capability.
Disagree. The Constitution recognizes an inherent right - that of a person to be secure in his person and papers from unreasonable search and seizure of his person and those effects. That natural right, along with the natural right to be held personally inviolate (i.e. not tortured) are the dual foundations for the presumption that encryption keys, like secrets ensconced in your memory, are immune for the government's attempts to ascertain them.

What he "wants", when US-based companies hold data that still can technically be accessed for legitimate foreign intelligence purposes supported by our system of law, is that a legal framework should allow for it. When it can't be, it's up to NSA to determine other mechanisms to access that data.

It is impossible to know hat the NSA, or any government agency, actually wants. There is no legal nor oversight mechanism that will force them to disclose that information to you, or me, or even to their Congressional overseers, or even to other members of the Executive branch. They have demonstrated lawlessness at the highest levels and vast dishonesty, using every legal, regulatory, judicial, and yes extra-legal mechanism possible to avoid operating transparently. Whatever the intention, whatever the reason, it is beyond question that civic minded citizens should believe any pronouncement, no matter how clearly worded it appears to be, from the Executive branch. When the Director of National Intelligence says point blank they are not collecting records of millions of Americans, it is not simply a matter of redefining away the words. It's lying. Without punishing those who deceive American citizens and especially Congressional oversight, we must only be left to assume that the NSA operates outside of the realm of the rule of law, and because of that, we must act accordingly.

Even if it means a massive terrorist attack on US soil, even if means the collapse of the government, or invasion, or a mushroom cloud over a major US city, we have to resist the presumption that any agent of the executive acts without oversight and accountability.

Comment: Re:Christopher Alexander (Score 2) 81

by bmajik (#49116567) Attached to: Ancient and Modern People Followed Same Mathematical Rule To Build Cities

The last quarter or so of the patterns deal with interior space, but i think you might find it problematic to just apply them in isolation.

The patterns are meant to be applied in order, from largest effect with least detail, to smallest effect and highest detail.

So, for instance, if you take room that doesn't have "light on two sides"

http://www.patternlanguage.com...

there may not be much you can do, interior design wise, to save the room, without first trying some of the suggestions he has for how to deal with the lack of windows...

If I have not seen so far it is because I stood in giant's footsteps.

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