Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:danger vs taste (Score 1) 630

by azcoyote (#49562599) Attached to: Pepsi To Stop Using Aspartame
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

by azcoyote (#49196407) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?
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

by azcoyote (#49136595) Attached to: Users Decry New Icon Look In Windows 10
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

by azcoyote (#48958901) Attached to: NFL Asks Columbia University For Help With Deflate-Gate
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

by azcoyote (#48833411) Attached to: Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone
(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

by azcoyote (#48833253) Attached to: Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone

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

by azcoyote (#48811463) Attached to: Authors Alarmed As Oxford Junior Dictionary Drops Nature Words

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).

Comment: Re:The good outweights the bad (Score 1) 208

by azcoyote (#48666707) Attached to: The World Is Not Falling Apart
The problem with generalizations, however, is whose world? It is easy to say "things are getting better" when we live in comfortable first-world situations where even the poor among us may count as rich in other countries. So long as violence and rape don't happen on our doorstep, we decide that things are better. But it all means very little to the person who happens to be on the underside of this better world. In short, the ways in which we tend to judge the world to be better tend to be predetermined according to limited scales that almost guarantee the result. Hence we might say that there are fewer wars today, but that does not mean that violence is going away; war has shifted into terrorism, and murder has escalated into the phenomenon of serial killers and school shootings. I don't doubt that in the last few years even these things may have decreased, but things often trend on larger cycles than a few years, and it may be that some of the low points we are experiencing are mere incidental shifts within the overall curve, rather than real and lasting improvements.

The danger, of course, is that we so quickly jump to giving ourselves a pat on the back, and we stop ourselves from seeing the evils and suffering that are out there. Or, we find ways to explain them away in order to exonerate ourselves for our inaction. One might have trouble swallowing the claim that the world is categorically a better place if one is on the front lines in Ukraine, or if one had a brother murdered by the police in Mexico, but we who are safe and comfortable can always pretend that it's those people's fault and theirs alone for not making their country as wonderful as ours. We refuse to see that the prosperity of the proud is intricately linked with the suffering of the downtrodden.

Comment: Re:Skin deep, but that's where the money is ! (Score 1) 175

by azcoyote (#48615957) Attached to: Researchers Accidentally Discover How To Turn Off Skin Aging Gene
Exactly. What people don't understand is that economic interests are not fundamentally opposed to the progress of technology--they actually drive it. We like to think that technology soars as high as our aspirations, but invention costs money and at the end of the day, commercialism pays the bills. We are constantly promised flying cars and cities on the moon, but the real tangible products only arrive when they become economically viable in some sense. There were mp3 players before the iPod, but only the iPod really pushed the market forward such that technological innovation went from better and better mp3 players, to smart phones, to tablets, etc. This is because, on the one hand, the iPod was surrounded by excellent marketing, and on the other hand, the product itself was shaped by economic interests to target the then-current market in a superior way. Hence it may not be that the iPod was the best and newest technology that could be produced, but it was perhaps the best blend of innovation, marketing, and economic viability for the situation, and thus because of its marketability it drove future innovation in the direction of handheld wireless devices.

Back to the situation at hand, companies that sell skincare products do have a vested interest in bad skin, but only to the extent to which it enhances the marketability of their products. They might be able to form a conspiracy network and hide such a miracle product only if human nature were not what it is, and economics were not driven by competition. One company still has to compete with another, and so one company will likely invest in high-tech means of skin care in order to dwarf another. Thus there will be no conspiracy to bury this new technology. Rather, one company will promote the technology enough to gain an upper hand in a high-end market (e.g. not cheap Suave products like I buy), but cost and convenience will prevent this technology from eliminating the skin care industry altogether.

Human genetic engineering could change the situation, but that will involve complex issues (patented genes?) and other economic and political factors that will be external to the skin care industry in itself. Like all other technologies, human genetic engineering will be driven by the economy, no matter how much transhumanist idealism pushes for it as the supposed next step in human evolution. In the meantime, this particular discovery will more likely lead to lesser technologies that purport to target Granzyme B without eliminating it genetically.

Comment: Re:Comcast Business Class (Score 2) 291

by azcoyote (#48564207) Attached to: Comcast Sued For Turning Home Wi-Fi Routers Into Public Hotspots
I'm just a home user with Comcast but I use my own DOCSIS 2.0 modem (the max Comcast speed in my small city is so slow that it hardly makes a difference). The catch is that every four months or so Comcast seems to do a review of my account and decide that my modem belongs to them. So they start billing me a rental fee for me own modem, and then I have to call them and yell at them. This resets the clock, but in another four months or so it'll happen again, and again, and again.

The trick with dealing with Comcast, in my experience, is that you should always follow the prompts for cancelling your service. The only people who can actually help you or give you discounts or anything are the guys who have to talk you out of ditching Comcast. When my contract runs out and they start to bill me more, I usually just have to threaten to switch to AT&T, and they will offer me some kind of deal.

Ironically, the reason I use Comcast is because there's no options here other than Comcast and AT&T, and despite their repeated attempts to lay claim to my modem and their general sleaziness, Comcast seems to be the *less evil* option for me. AT&T had me on a bimonthly schedule of adding false charges to my bill, and a daily schedule of outages and crappy service. It's sad when one of the most evil companies in America seems to be the lesser of two evils.

Comment: Re:A lesson about History- and the liar narrative (Score 1) 62

by azcoyote (#48484641) Attached to: New Analysis Pushes Back Possible Origin For Antikythera Mechanism
Correct. The scientific method requires a hypothesis, which may be hinted at by evidence but still requires imagination to extrapolate from preliminary evidence and hints toward a possible outcome. A bad hypothesis can stifle an outcome. Moreover, once evidence is gathered, the more speculative the conclusion the more imagination is required to piece disparate evidence together into a plausible possibility. The Antikythera device is a great example of this, because at least from what I've seen, much of the speculation about it is grounded on some very tenuous evidence because of the condition of the device. It is not entirely clear what it looked like, because its original appearance has to be extrapolated from heavily corroded junk, and this requires a lot of speculation and imagination.

Comment: Re:My mathmatical prediction (Score 1) 127

lol, it was sarcasm. But the real math is in the profits. One could construct an economic formula to represent the profitability of fiction in popular markets relative to the general unexpectedness of its events and the use of cliffhangers and secrecy to keep the reader attached. I say "unexpectedness" and not "unpredictability" because it may really be that such outcomes, because they are determined by the desire to compel and surprise the reader in order to make the book profitable, are actually extremely predictable.

For example, I used to annoy my wife my predicting the ending to NCIS episodes long in advance. The killer would almost always be (1) the person you least suspect, because the character has no real rational justification for the crime in the early episode and (2) the one superfluous character introduced in the episode, since they didn't want to pay much and dedicate screen time to characters who did not push the plot forward. In short, because the writers of the show were trying so hard to be surprising, they would cook up contrived motives that could be presented in the last five minutes of the episode, and then make the one person who seemed most innocent actually turn out to be guilty. But then, this is predictable. It's just like how if you've watched enough episodes of House, M.D., you can easily guess that the person who first gets sick during the prologue is not the actual person who's going to pass out and end up in Dr. House's care.

In short, it is somewhat silly to analyze literature in terms of a kind of Asimovian statistical "psychohistory," when the real principles that structure the literature are so evident. For example, whether or not a particular character appears in future books is not determined relative to characters' appearances in prior books, but according to the MO of the author, which is not something that remains static over the years but which develops and fluctuates according to his historically-conditioned priorities. Vale is honest about the limitations of the statistical approach, but what I think is necessary is to recognize how that which derives from human freedom but ultimately manifests in statistical ways is always also at the same time codetermined by implicit principles and formulae (e.g. the economic viability of such and such kind of writing), especially economic ones.

Like punning, programming is a play on words.