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Comment Re:Where was the CIA, FBI and NSA... (Score 1) 253

How do you know it was credible, besides through the benefit of hindsight? The CIA/FBI/police get 100 tip-offs per day that the stranger down the street must be a drug dealer/kiddie fiddler/international terrorist because he can't whistle 'Dixie'.

Strawman argument. The point is that there were several credible warnings of both an Al Qaeda attack and specific concerns with piloting students affiliated with them, some from foreign intelligence agencies; all these reports were not duly considered and discarded -- not because they were the moral equivalent of not being able to whistle "Dixie", but because of organizational and political dysfunction.

It was a failure -- specifically a failure to do something that was well within the government's power to do. I'm not saying that signals intelligence is not important, but it's an evasion of responsibility to claim our failure to take effective action was because we needed some technical capability that we lacked at the time. We had everything we needed to catch the 9/11 hijackers before they struck except for leadership.

Comment Re:Easy solution - COSTCO does it better (Score 1) 448

Real estate prices are ridiculous everywhere these days, unless you live in some backwater where there's no employment. Cheap real estate isn't of much use if you're unemployed, unless you're retired.

As for rain, you sound like you've never been to northern California. How do you think all those forests grow? The pictures I've seen of Florida only show palm trees, same as southern California.

Comment Re:Increase productivity?? (Score 1) 222

Here's my anecdote: Many interesting ideas I had back in the day came to me under the influence of pot. Some of those ideas brought me a great deal of money.

I never said this doesn't happen, but your reasoning is post hoc ergo propter hoc: your ideas came to you while you were stoned, therefore they must have come from the pot. In order to conclude that you'd have to have done all of your thinking about the problems while you were stoned.

As I said, I think it quite plausible that drugs can, at the right time, help you escape the limitations of self-censorship in your thinking. But in my experience people who are stoned all the time certainly have novel ideas, but those ideas aren't particularly useful. That's because creativity actually involves a kind of interplay of critical and imaginative thinking. Enough people have anecdotes like yours to think there's something to it, but the very nature of creativity -- at least as I'm defining it -- makes me doubt you can get it entirely out of a bottle.

For the record, I consider creativity the finding of novel approaches to a thing that are better in some way than pre-existing approaches. This almost certainly presupposes an intimate familiarity with pre-existing approaches, unless we count pure dumb luck as creativity. Picasso, for example, didn't draw the way he did because he couldn't to realistic work. He had very good drawing skills, and his early works were representational. That level of draftsmanship doesn't come without struggle; and from that he derived his interest in geometric figures, most easily seen in the development of his landscapes. Note if "House in the Field" seems a bit crude, it was painted when he was twelve years old.

Comment Re:Wow... (Score 1) 52

Unfortunately it's a symptom of having only enough money put into the system to house and punish those found guilty and not rehabilitate them. We keep them completely shut out of society with no preparation on how to re-integrate and then just shove them out the door with a few dollars in their pocket. Can you imagine trying to catch up on all of the changes in society if you have been away for a decade or two?

Actually, rehabilitation may well require isolating prisoners from some parts of the outside world.

The specific concern being addressed here is the operation of criminal networks in prison. This goes two ways: imprisoned leaders continuing to operate their criminal enterprises from behind bars, and gangs extending their operations into prison -- supplying drugs, weapons, and contraband, recruiting members, targeting rivals. Clearly not participating in criminal activities is a precondition to reformation.

All that said, recent research shows that the recidivism rate calculations may be misleading, because they overrepresent repeat offenders. Basically if you ask the question "What is the likelihood that someone exiting prison will return to prison," and "What is the likelihood that someone entering prison for the first time will be incarcerated again after he's released," you get very different answers. A solid majority (about 2/3) of people who go to prison will only go to prison once.

Can we conclude that prison then is better at reforming people than we thought? Not necessarily; it may be that most people who commit crimes only do so once in their lives, or naturally age out of the crime-prone demographic. But what is clear is that the recidivism problem is overwhelmingly people who go back to their old lives when they're released. So if you want to reduce the recidivism rate you have to focus on people whose social connections keep them involved in criminal activity throughout their lives. Disrupting at least some of those connections is a no-brainer.

Comment Re:Increase productivity?? (Score 3, Insightful) 222

Comparing recreational doses of cocaine to microdoses of LSD is an apples-to-oranges comparison though. Cocaine is a stimulant; LSD is a hallucinogen; it would make more sense to compare it to marijuana, although all these drugs have radically different (and very complex) mechanisms of action. Because we call them all "illegal drugs" doesn't mean they're the same thing or act the same way. Even the same drug at different dosages can have dramatically different effects.

It's very plausible that microdoses of LSD produce illusory creativity, since many drugs do indeed undermine self-perception -- not that that tends to be very reliable in humans anyway. But drugs are unlikely in my opinion to be a substitute for struggle in the creative process. Creativity has two components: novelty and appropriateness. Drugs are an easy way to get to novelty, but when it comes to judging appropriateness there's no substitute for plain, naked struggle with the obvious but inadequate approaches to a problem. Only then, after you've been forced to gain a deep and intimate connection to the problem's constraints, can some kind of flash of insight do you any good. Until you've struggled with a problem your insights are worthless, whether or not they come to you in a flash.

So it's essentially inconceivable that any drug could make you creative. However it seems plausible that some drugs could act as a kind of adjuvant to creative struggle when you're approaching a creative breakthrough. Such breakthroughs often come at a time when you're critical faculties are slightly deranged; when you're exhausted; dropping off to sleep; or just say "screw it for now" and do something unrelated.

Note that "plausible" isn't the same as "probable", much less "likely". The problem with information with drugs is that it's almost always slanted one way or the other. For example I think MDMA has a lot of potential to alleviate suffering, however research on it has been restricted by the fear that if it proves useful then controlling its recreational use will become harder. On the other hand I wouldn't take the word of recreational users and dealers unquestioningly either; I can easily find people who swear by homeopathy. There's a distinct lack of objectivity and reliability in information about recreational drugs.

The "good" news, I think, is that there's no substitute for creative struggle; and I think you can mentally train yourself to make that leap of intuition once struggle has prepared you.

Comment Re:Give up PCs? Not likely... (Score 1) 215

"EFI firmware should check PCs for known checksums of child porn and report them to the authorities, and why would you want to disable that unless you're a paedophile yourself?"

"This technology isn't reliable. Just today another security flaw was found in the phone-home software that was supplied by a major PC brand, and it's the third one they've had recently. Cyber-crime is the fastest growing type of law-breaking and your bank spends a lot of money on IT security. Do you really want to force your bank to leave back doors so the hackers can get in and empty your account? What about hospitals? A back door there could mean the next big terrorist attack is breaking in and stopping all the equipment working so your loved ones die, without ever leaving their hideout on the far side of the world. Back doors let evil people into important systems to do evil things. The people who want your computer to include a back door are evil and you can't trust them."

Yet we have none of this for the machines that are locked down today.

But most machines sold today don't have this problem. There is still plenty of choice for those who want an alternative. Try locking things down so small businesses can't run Linux servers any more and have to pay a fortune to MS for approved Windows versions, and see how long your plan lasts.

The sad part is that this isn't true any more. A lot of children these days grow up with only a mobile phone, not a PC...

Well, I don't know where you are, but I recently had an interesting conversation about my old school. Back in the '90s, we had a dedicated computer room with maybe 1 PC for every 25 kids in the school. Today, I'm told, the ratio of computers to kids is almost 1:1, and the kids are actively taught how to use these tools in classes, including things like programming, making a simple web site, and so on. Being able to write a mobile app is something a lot of the kids enjoy, because they all relate to that kind of software now in a way that was reserved for the geeks in my generation.

Of course, I have no idea how representative that anecdote might be. It's based on second-hand information, and it's about one school that has always been successful, in one education district of one country. But if it's even close to the wider reality, surely that is a promising sign for the future. Enjoying the benefits of modern technology shouldn't be reserved for the privileged few.

Comment Re: Windows 7 (Score 2) 350

I deal with a diverse range of web sites/apps (part of my work is freelance/consultancy, so I see a lot of variations). It's certainly true that some big businesses still use IE8, but in my experience even the stubborn hold-outs have been starting to give up, particularly since XP support ran out unless they paid serious money to retain it. I haven't had a mandatory requirement for IE8 support even in B2B work for several years now. Actually the highest use of older IE versions I see is often from places like China rather than big businesses, but again even that seems to be changing.

So while I would agree that IE8 still has some market share on some sites, the idea that 10% of all pageviews across the web are on IE8 is so wildly inconsistent with any primary data set I have access to that I still struggle to believe it. Given the other anomalies here, such as the relatively low Chrome figures compared to other summary sites and the insignificance of Safari despite Apple selling hundreds of millions of iSomethings per year where the Safari engine is the only one any browser is allowed to use, I'm still inclined to think this data set comes from sites heavily biased towards desktop/business use.

This is all something of a distraction anyway, of course. The original point was that Edge use is still down in the noise, and neither the IE8 nor the Safari data points change that even if they really are accurate and my experience really is wildly unrepresentative.

Comment Low calorie noodles already exist (Score 4, Informative) 127

This stuff already exists - noodles made from konjac flour and oat fibre. It's gluten free, low calorie etc.

I have no idea what it tastes like because its ludicrously expensive. Holland and Barrett sell quite a few brands of it. Most are packaged in watery bags which suggests the noodles themselves are saturated with water and lose their cohesion if they're allowed to dry out.