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Comment Re:What are... (Score 4, Interesting) 273

It's good to hear your perspective and see that our perceptions about the intuitiveness of our measurement systems is relative. I've always thought that the larger scale of Fahrenheit was convenient because units of 10 distinguished temperatures well (70's are distinct from 80's), but it's clear that you use units of 5 in Celsius for the same purpose.

Of course I admit that my reluctance to change to metric has more to do with American nationalism than with any sure superiority of our units (although I despise using centimeters for small around-the-house measurements when inches and 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16 inches feel better to me). But at the same time, I think that it is as necessary to have multiple measurement systems as it is to have multiple languages. In the 20th c. especially many people believed that the era of different tongues was coming to an end, but I think that despite the prevalence of English and Chinese around the world, there will always be multiple languages because culture can never be simplified into a single thing. Even in the USA it's possible to go to another region where they use some different words, different phrasings, different ways of thinking, and this is simply a natural occurrence akin to genetic diversity. The more distinct a culture, the more distinct its use of a language, so native English speakers in India do not speak exactly the same English as in the USA or UK. An absolute universal language can never be anything but an artificial construct disconnected from real culture, hence the problem with Esperanto. (And I do recognize that there are some native Esperanto speakers, but that does not remove its failure as a universal, a-cultural language.)

In the end, the U.S. uses the metric system when it's helpful (e.g. in science), and there is no pressing need to switch to it completely. Just because we use the US system doesn't mean that we don't understand the metric system and aren't taught it in schools.

Comment Just look at Doom... (Score 5, Interesting) 102

The new Doom really shows this nostalgic trend all by itself. The gameplay footage shows that they were definitely looking to approximate the feel of the original even to the point of abandoning more contemporary elements (regenerating health, weapon inventory limit). It will be interesting to see how the retro gameplay is received by younger gamers who haven't played the original, and whether this kind of nostalgia will affect the way that future, new franchises are designed.

On a side note, the game looks pretty awesome and brings me back to my childhood, but I will personally miss the survival horror style of Doom 3.

Comment Re:Trollbait (Score 1) 412

Great info, thanks. I should point out, however, that your first source indicates that researchers are divided on exactly when the strict association of colors and genders became established in the USA. Some argue mid-20th c., others argue 19th c.

I think the evidence is at least clear enough to suggest that there is no intrinsic, biological basis to the gendered color norms, but I think it would be too much if someone were to claim that these norms are merely incidental and meaningless. What this shows is that at times humans feels the need to differentiate between things and to conform to norms that are perceived as pre-existent and absolute, and hence we tend toward absolutizing things such as colors in order to establish the very norms that some part of us wants to follow. Hence, for example, how can a man prove that he is masculine and powerful unless he supports some standard of masculinity according to which he can compete with other people? The basic principle, therefore, is competition. Just as one of the researchers argues that post-WW2 consumerism drove the color associations in order to market baby items better, it is competition with one another that establishes the norms of competition, because these norms serve to make people comparable with one another in order to mediate and drive competition. This is true for women as well as men; the character of women's fashion is driven much more by competition than by any natural, biological tendencies or concerns for personal comfort, etc.

Comment It isn't the brain... (Score 1) 637

IMO a major part of the problem is the bare fact that we assume that our unwillingness to really care about the future is a matter of the brain and evolution. Our culture needs to reduce every issue to something that is qualifiable and categorizable according to some empirical study, not because we care about science, but because we need it to exonerate us. We believe that somehow this knowledge will save us, when in fact even the knowledge of impending disasters has not stirred us to action the way that it should. This is because knowledge, by itself, can always be ignored, rejected, and refused. For example, no matter how many cancer warnings they print on a box, people will still smoke. Until they truly believe that smoking is bad for them, instead of just knowing it, this knowledge will make no difference in their lives.

It doesn't matter whether our brain is perfectly designed by bare evolution to think about the future, because it is clearly capable of thinking in that way if we actually will it to. The problem is not cognitive but moral. In the end human beings find it more easy to be selfish, short-sighted, conceited, and self-exonerating, and because of this we don't want to care about the future. Why worry about generations to come when we can live like kings exploiting the generations that are here now?

The solution to this problem is not some kind of further biological evolution. We need to use our cognitive capacities that already exist, and for that we need a kind of knowledge that can actually change our lives.

Comment Re:No Sympathy (Score 1) 117

It's easy to think that poverty or other disadvantages are the only things that lead people to steal from others, but that simply is not the case. (After all, how many wealthy businessmen still embezzle and exploit others?) Human beings are easily enticed by the dream of getting rich quickly, not to mention the mystique of succeeding in something that is forbidden. Even if all of us are not tempted in exactly the same way, all of us are tempted. Poverty simply makes it even easier to give in to the temptation.

Comment Re:danger vs taste (Score 1) 630

Yeah, I'm pretty bad at cutting down my own gluttony, but simply switching to diet soda has caused me to lose quite a few pounds, fit into my old pants, and maintain a consistently unhealthy weight. It beats getting fatter and fatter. I didn't want to switch to diet soda because it tastes so bad, but after committing to the switch it actually tastes good to me. Since I'm not getting fatter, that implies that despite all of my overeating, my main excess of calories still came from drinking soda. Despite what people have said, too, I do not eat more unhealthy food now that I drink diet soda. I eat either the same amount or less than I did before.

Comment American spirit? (Score 1) 734

As an American, part of me is taken aback by the question, because I am idealistic and feel like being American should be more than the annoyances of filing takes and such. Of course, I can't say that everyone has to interpret the meaning of citizenship in the same way as I do, but I feel like what I want this country to mean for its people is more than what benefits it provides, but what we can do for others. We may not like the political climate right now or the way in which the government does things, but the democratic ideal should be more than just the procedural function of majority rule and incorporate a culture, a spirit, an attitude of mutual cooperation and willingness to be a part of a society that can do a lot of good in the world. Again, I know that the USA falls short of the ideals set for it. However, I am hopeful that there is something good at the basis of the American idea that can lead to a positive future. So I think that when considering whether to have your children become citizens, you should ponder the responsibilities involved not merely from a practical and economic standpoint (which, I recognize, is not unimportant), but from the standpoint of whether your children might want to be a part of shaping the future of this country both politically and socially. Maybe they can bring a much needed perspective to the democratic process, and maybe they can give a positive contribution to what being an American means in the future. Of course, this will mean sacrifice and labor, but maybe they will be willing to pay the price in order to be a part of this society. Becoming an American citizen can be more than a privilege or a burden: it can be a service for others.

Comment Re:Bugs in Win 7 UI (Score 1) 516

That bug can occur in previous editions of Windows (Windows Me, even though I liked it, did do this fairly often). All that happens is that Explorer is being fussy and not automatically updating the view, so you have to press F5 to refresh it. I believe this can be aggravated by certain scenarios, such as having a network drive mapped that is unavailable (because Windows wastes its time trying to communicate with the unavailable drive rather than just moving on with other operations).

I agree that Win7 has its bugs, but the truth is that many of these bugs have been in Windows for over a decade, and Microsoft just doesn't do anything about it. They are too busy messing up the UI to actually care about improving productivity and fixing basic flaws in the system. In fact, it always makes me angry that my Win95 was better at searching for files than Win7. In Win7, even when you tell it to search all files regardless of whether they are indexed, it's fairly frequently the case that I can type in the name of a file that I can visibly see present in the folder and Windows will still be unable to locate it.

Comment Re:It's not the gas... (Score 1) 239

Yeah, pretty much. What is important in this case is not finding the one true scientific answer, but an appeal to a sort of authority from on high that can put conflict to rest. In our day and age, whether or not people actually pay attention to science, scientists play the role of a special authority on all matters. Hence, even people who promote stupid and unfounded systems of thought that lay a claim on this or that part of life (odd forms of "medicine," anti-vaccine movements, pop psychology, or even "religions" like Scientology) have to make a claim to the magisterium of science in order to ground their validity. Disagreements become a battle of my experts vs. your experts, and court cases become my forensics vs. your forensics.

Comment Re:The Dangers of the World (Score 1) 784

(Second comment) Come to think of it, after reading the article, it seems to me that this case can be compared to the issue of vaccines. I think most people on Slashdot are probably annoyed with the anti-vaccine crowd, and the same logic applies here. Yes, people have to take risks, but it is not responsible to take risks that unfairly cost the rest of society. If (as someone else noted) society is safer today in part because kids don't wander the streets freely, then that lone kid who is left to free-roam is more likely to be the target of nefarious activities. Or, as someone points out in the article, child abductions aren't the only problem: car accidents are a serious threat. In any case, when something bad happens it isn't only the parents who are going to be footing the bill. Of course, there are limits to this logic; it is impossible to do anything without costing society something; but at least it is important to note that the idea that we can simply exercise our free decision in a vacuum that has no consequences on anyone else about which other people should be concerned is simply a fantasy. We are social beings whether we like it or not, and we are not merely responsible to our own individual parenting ideologies, but also to the demands of a society that is more than the sum collection of the free-wills of individual persons.

Comment Re:The Dangers of the World (Score 1) 784

I appreciate your perspective--thanks for sharing it. I think perhaps it shows that moderation in opinions is wise; one might expect you to have been completely pro-CPS because of your experience, but you recognize that there are more layers to it. Hence you argue that calling CPS was going too far, even though you think their decision to let the kids walk home was the wrong one.

Even though I don't have your personal experience, I have watched way too many episodes of Forensic Files and Cold Case Files not to feel annoyed with parents making such dangerous decisions in the name of supposed freedom. i try hard to balance teaching prudence with giving my kids a long leash, but I would not let such young kids walk home unsupervised.

That being said, my opinion on the matter is more pro-CPS than yours, but I still think that it stops short of being extreme. I've heard plenty of CPS horror stories. However, I think that calling CPS in this case was acceptable, precisely because one call to CPS should not result in losing one's children. Rather, it is possible that one minor negligent activity might point to other worse activities, and CPS should at least have this case on file. If this is the only thing they've done, then they merely get a stern warning about being careful. After all, at the very least a cynical person can point out that kidnapped or otherwise missing children cost the state a lot of money to track down, so at the very least the government can criticize people for wasting public money. The same parents who talk about a child's freedom of space, after losing a child, will be kicking down the doors of the police station demanding that the government do everything necessary to bring their kid back.

Comment Re:Age group? (Score 1) 174

True--and on top of that, definitions for words that are already broadly familiar as nature words are not particularly helpful when located in a dictionary. When I look up blackberry in Oxford's comprehensive online dictionary, I get:

1a. The edible berry-like fruit of the bramble, Rubus fruticosus, and its cultivated varieties (see sense 1b), which is an aggregate fruit consisting of a cluster of soft, sweet, purple-black drupelets. Later also: the similar berries of any of various other species of Rubus.

Now how does that help a kid at all unless he's doing a science project? And even then, a smarter kid will at least get a botanical encyclopedia. In effect, all that he needs to know when reading a book is already said in the word: berries. Something like minnow is not so obvious, but all he needs to know is: a kind of fish.

I remember as a kid when reading literature that rattled on different nature words I could hardly keep the names of different trees, flowers, and land formations straight, because without having experienced these individual things as different from other individual things, they had no real meaning for me, no matter what the dictionary said. In other words, unless I have eaten a minnow and compared it to a trout in an explicit way, then all that happens when I see the word "minnow" is that my mind functionally swaps it out with the word "fish." Perhaps a more useful dictionary for kids to read literature would actually describe something of the cultural significance of words... e.g. it would describe a salmon as a fish that people enjoy eating, and for some reason enjoy it more than mere canned tuna.

My guess is that the only reason people are complaining about this dictionary anyway is for political-ideological reasons. I'm sure many non-nature words were taken out, but because they fear the technologization of nature they are looking for something to attack (and certain feminists would share this fear as a kind of masculinization of language against a supposedly feminine pristine nature).

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