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Comment: Re:great (Score 2) 128

by afeeney (#43917323) Attached to: GM Crop Producer Monsanto Using Data Analytics To Expand Its Footprint
True for some plants but not others. Most plants with seeds (fruits, grains) need to be delicious and nutritious so their seeds get excreted some distance from the original plant so that they don't compete for light and nutrients. Only leafy plants (the tops of root vegetables like potatoes, spinach, etc.) tend to be bitter or poisonous.

Comment: Destroying priceless sites for petty reasons (Score 3, Interesting) 276

by afeeney (#43719467) Attached to: Mayan Pyramid In Belize Leveled By Construction Crew
This kind of destruction for the pettiest of reasons isn't anything new. In Malta, a group took a bulldozer to the stone temples at Mnajdra, a glorious megalithic site, older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. Mnajdra is breathtakingly lovely and enigmatic and fascinating. Fortunately, it's largely been restored and is again open to the public. Why? People had constructed illegal bird-hunting hides on the adjacent land and objected to their hides being destroyed. People will be vicious destructive assholes for any number of reasons, including just because they can. Profit, sheer revelry in destruction (Persepolis), symbolism of dominance or victory (Summer Palace in Beijing), religious fanaticism (Buddha statues), a fanatical dislike of cities (Mongols and most of the cities in their way), to discourage attacks (Carthage), any number of reasons.

Comment: Re:Polygraqph + drugs for death row inmates (Score 1) 308

by afeeney (#43159327) Attached to: Using Truth Serum To Confirm Insanity

It's quite true that many people on death row are innocent; we've seen enough cases where later DNA evidence exonerated them. In many of these cases, the inmates even pleaded guilty, either because they believed that a guilty plea might help their case, they were coerced, or were mentally incapable of understanding the situation.

However, a polygraph is about as scientifically valid as a palm reading. They measure stress levels, which can be affected by existing mental illness, PTSD, fear, emotional stress, or other factors completely unrelated to guilt or innocence. In addition, it's possible that psychopaths or people who believe the murder to be absolutely justifiable may not feel stress when asked about it.

That's one of the strongest reasons to be against the death penalty; for most cases, we have no absolute way of knowing the truth. Even in a case where the police, prosecution, defense, judge, and jury are all intelligent, conscientious, and well-meaning, there can be errors or new findings can come to light (such as everything that the invention of DNA testing allows). We're learning more and more, for example, about how fallible eyewitness testimony is, but we still often go by the rule, "Seeing is believing." It's possible that as we learn more and more about cognition, we might end up formally instructing juries to minimize rather than maximize the value of eyewitness testimony.

Comment: Re:Underestimating (Score 3, Interesting) 350

by afeeney (#42915083) Attached to: Alcoholism Vaccine Makes Alcohol Intolerable To Drinkers

I have either that mutation or some other factor that makes drinking even a tiny amount of alcohol a horrible experience. I can handle about a teaspoonful of wine or a quarter cup of beer, but any more than that and I feel nauseated and dizzy with a terrible headache and grogginess. It developed about the time I hit 30 and the same thing happened with my mother at around age 35, so I assume that it's a genetic factor that either gets triggered with age or some environmental factor.

I was always a light drinker and never felt emotionally or physiologically dependent upon it, so my experience is NOTHING like an alcoholic's or somebody whose entirely social life is dependent upon drinking, but I gave up drinking immediately once it developed. Didn't matter that I'd just started being able to appreciate the good stuff and really enjoy it, I dropped it completely.

Can't say how it would work for an alcoholic, but I'd imagine it'd be very effective on somebody who is concerned about becoming one.

Comment: Re:iterative innovation (Score 1) 417

by afeeney (#42761423) Attached to: Are There Any Real Inventors Left?

I'd say many of these these are largely market breakthroughs, the application of an existing technology to a new market. If anything, with the exception of the Internet, these demonstrate the article's point.

1. Smart phone. Internet delivered via cell phone, both pre-existing.

2. Internet. Definitely a breakthrough.

3. OLED. Application of organic semiconductors to lighting. (On the other hand, the discovery and development of semiconductors is a genuine breakthrough.)

4. GPS. Application of mapping software to cell tower location detection tools. (Location detection tools are breakthroughs, though.)

5. Social media. Offspring of the Internet.

6. Autonomous car. Application of automation, GPS, sensors, etc. to cars.

7. Speech recognition. Computerized version of break audio into components, looking them up in a translation table, and report results.

8. Automatic language translation. Computerized version of looking something up in a translation table and reporting results.

Comment: Re:here we go (Score 5, Informative) 514

by afeeney (#42693309) Attached to: Lego Accused of Racism With Star Wars Set

In Turkey, this has always been more or less flexible, as it is in many branches of Islam.

It comes from two theological roots: The first that portraying the face of a prophet (including Jesus, Moses, etc.) is full of opportunities for blasphemy, the second that creating realistic images of living things usurps Allah's role as creator. In many ways, these reflect the Judaic prohibition in the Ten Commandments against creating carved images. This is one reason why Islamic architecture is full of those amazing geometric designs.

In Turkish art and architecture, this has been fairly relaxed, especially in Istanbul. Typically, images of a prophet simply cover his (I'm fairly sure that they're all male) face with a veil or show him from behind. Mosques in Istanbul are full of images of flowers and sultans often commissioned portraits of themselves, books with figurative art in illuminated manuscripts, and so on. Topkapi Palace is full of this kind of art.

I've been in Hagia Sophia several times and can't see the resemblance myself, beyond the fact that it's a domed building with a squared front.

Comment: Re:Depression [Re:You Disgust Me] (Score 5, Insightful) 382

by afeeney (#42581841) Attached to: MIT Investigating School's Role In Swartz Suicide

Agreed. The following is based on my own experience.

To put it metaphorically, depression manages the volume control for positive and for negative thoughts and emotions. It turns the volume to almost zero on positive thoughts and to zero on positive emotions. At most, after something that makes a normally functioning person happy, the person with severe depression is only aware that something good has happened.

For negative emotions and thoughts, on the other hand, it turns the volume to maximum. Problems become insurmountable and the person with depression is typically too emotionally drained to contemplate or execute ways to solve them. (This is one reason why cognitive behavioral therapy is such a vital part of successful treatment. The brain needs to get out of that groove once the underlying physiological problem is resolved by relearning how to process negative and positive thoughts appropriately. It's another reason why the placebo effect is so powerful with depression. The person may well have been recovered physiologically but the brain had gotten into a rut of negative thoughts.)

It is quite possible that anything bad might have tipped Swartz over the edge. The end of a relationship, the death of a pet, a personal or professional failure, anything like that.

Comment: Re:I'm old (Score 1) 330

by afeeney (#42531435) Attached to: How Old Were You When You First Got a Cell Phone?

Actually, bosses are technically still legally required to check work phones for personal usage, though by now virtually everybody, including the IRS, ignores the law that requires it.

Back when cell phones were hideously expensive and only the most higher-ups got them, personal use was valuable enough that it was considered a taxable benefit. Of course, now that the value of a call is down to pennies, if even that, it's not worth it for companies to track or the IRS to tax, but to the best of my knowledge, the rule hasn't actually been rescinded.

Now the odds are overwhelming that if a PHB wants to check a cell phone for personal usage, it's just for PHB reasons. So have fun with creating contacts for "FBI Whistleblowing Hotline" and "IRS Corporate Deductions Abuse Reporting."

Comment: Re:Previously Unknown 11th Commandment? (Score 1) 851

by afeeney (#42517789) Attached to: Indiana Nurses Fired After Refusing Flu Shots On Religious Grounds

Absolutely trivial note: In the Bible, Jesus is described as healing lepers and telling them to go wash in the sea, and the results were described as miracles.

The Dead Sea has minerals that can cure some common skin conditions, including ones that would have looked like some symptoms of leprosy. However, people with leprosy were forbidden to come too close to common accommodations, including bathing in the sea. So many scholars speculate that these miracles were actually acute medical observations that either the historic Jesus made or that were credited to him.

Comment: Re:Good (Score 4, Insightful) 851

by afeeney (#42517619) Attached to: Indiana Nurses Fired After Refusing Flu Shots On Religious Grounds

Personal choice includes the choice of one's employment and accepting the consequences of one's other choices. If my religion requires me to refuse to serve alcohol, I can't take a job as a bartender. If my personal choice is to have a dog lick my hands clean rather than wash them, I can't take a job as a cook.

If there is solid, double-blind, peer-reviewed evidence that my refusing to take a flu shot creates a risk to patients, then my personal choice of religion means that I can't take a job as a nurse, where I'm dealing with people with vulnerable immune systems. I could request a switch to an administrative job or one that doesn't involve patient contact, but my employer is not required to give that to me. If I developed a physical condition that precluded getting a flu shot, then it might count as a disability, in which case the hospital might (IANAL) be required to give me an alternative position, but a disability is inherently out of my control.

Comment: Re:McAfee is Malware, not just Crapware anymore! (Score 2) 111

by afeeney (#42412175) Attached to: McAfee Labs Predicts Decline of Anonymous

Absolutely. When I worked at a company that used McAfee, my machine would run incredibly slow at least three or four times a day. It was consistently McAfee taking up half the CPU and available RAM.

The first thing I do when any friend or family says "My computer is running so slow" is get rid of McAfee and replace it with AVG.

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