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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: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.

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"

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...

Comment: Christopher Alexander (Score 5, Interesting) 81

by bmajik (#49112901) Attached to: Ancient and Modern People Followed Same Mathematical Rule To Build Cities

One other AC posted this, but it will probably stay buried at zero.

If you're interested in why some spaces feel nice to you and others don't, there's a series of books you want to read, by "Christopher Alexander"

The first one is "The Timeless Way of Building". The next is "A Pattern Language"

This guy was writing about the human factors in architecture -- why certain spaces make all people feel good, and how that developed over human history, and how it's largely been lost in modern architecture.

His next book, "A Pattern Language", enumerates 253 patterns his team rediscovered that help resolve social problems in architectural spaces.

The problem he noticed is that people could understand if they felt good in a space or not, but it was difficult to predict ahead of time if a building would have this quality or not. And that's obviously a huge problem if you want to build things that people love, because buildings are expensive and stay around a long time. Just cloning old buildings that people like doesn't quite do it either - because people didn't really understand what made those spaces great.

This series of books is what the Gang of Four looked at, and one of them said "hey, this applies to building software also - when the problem looks like this, there's a pattern that can be implemented many different ways to address that problem".

Thus, the design patterns movement in software was born.

If you're at all interested in houses, cities, planning, design, etc, I really recommend the books.

However, read them before you buy/build your next house -- not right after you just moved. You'll start to find explanatinos about where you currently live that explain why you don't use or don't enjoy certain things, and you'll be frustrated and want to start changing things :)

Comment: Re:Is Slashdot owned by Tesla? (Score 1) 257

by bmajik (#49061337) Attached to: Tesla Factory Racing To Retool For New Models

You should consider the business model of slashdot. How does slashdot make money? I suspect page views are part of it.

If i were running slashdot, I'd be able to tell you, based on over a decade of historical data, which types of articles generate the highest ad revenues. I'd make sure those articles appeared as often as possible, and I'd look for feedback effects to make sure I wasn't over doing it.

If you want to know why slashdot has lots of articles in Elon Musk, Tesla, Gender in CS, and Microsoft, it's because those stories bring the clicks, commenters, and critically, page views.

(I'm assuming)

Comment: Re: Electric cars work great in an urban landscape (Score 1) 215

by bmajik (#49055405) Attached to: Japan Now Has More Car Charging Points Than Gas Stations

It was not so long ago that rural residents exceeded urban residents in the US. While the balance has flipped, it has not dramatically done so.

I live in a rural area and when I go into the office it is a 20 mile one-way trip (that takes only 20 minutes, door to door). If I run any errands while I am in town I need to plan for at least 50 miles of drive on a charge. Given that it gets bitterly cold here (-30F is not uncommon), I wouldn't feel comfortable running a battery pack that didn't have a significant buffer above that range. Also, given that the posted speed limit is 75, and the roads are often empty, my actual road speed can be much higher than the 55-60mph that range testing is conducting at. Also, wind speeds here are often 30mph or more, so the car may be moving through the air at a 100mph or more speed equivalent. Drag increases exponentially with air speed.

When driving in winter, rear defrost, seat heaters, and front defrost will all be running at maximum.

The bottom line is that I don't think I could reliably do my daily commute on something approximately rated for my actual expected round trip mileage. The Leaf is rated at 70 miles at 55mph with intermittent AC usage. That's not enough margin for me to feel comfortable.

I have driven a Tesla 85 and it is simply magnificent. I'd be willing to experiment with the Tesla 60kw and I think it would reliably meet my normal needs, but any lesser EV I have no interest in.

Comment: Re:Emergency probably has legal meaning (Score 1) 120

by bmajik (#49023431) Attached to: Arkansas Declares a High School CS Education State of Emergency

When a bill declares that the measure is an emergency measure, it means that the changes enacted by the bill go into effect sooner than the typical implementation timeframe for legislative changes.

E.g. if the normal delay is house->senate->governor->july 1st of next year, an emergency measure might be house->senate->governor->15 days

The specific timing varies from state to state.

There are a handful of bills being introduced in my state right now that list "AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY" in their bill abstract, which is terrifying until you read the bill text and then understand what the little postscript at the bottom saying "This is an emergency measure" actually means. (I had to ask)

Comment: Re:Ask Japan... (Score 1) 309

by bmajik (#49021467) Attached to: The IPCC's Shifting Position On Nuclear Energy

I really like Hydro power, but

1) you can't simply put hydro power generation where you like it. Hydro power needs established geophysical features in order to work. And, as luck would have it, the things that make a location a good candidate for hydropower also make it a good candidate for farms, valuable waterfront properties, wildlife preserves, public parks, etc etc.

2) Believe it or not, it's not just nuclear power that environmental whacktavists have succeeded in choking out. There are dams that have been torn down to restore animal habitats, for instance. Building a small nuke plant is massively less environmentally disruptive than building large scale hydro.

The chief problem, in my view, with hydro is that you cannot put hydro plants out where people won't care. You have to put them where the water is, and often, people have reasons for wanting such natural water features left alone.

You can put a nuke plant anywhere you like - in a submarine, on a space craft, etc. You bring the fuel to it, you move the waste away from it. The nuke plant I think is fundamentally better adapted to the realities of power generation if for no other reason than fuel source portability. In this way, it beats hydro, and, to a large extent, solar.

Comment: Re:Document first (Score 5, Insightful) 233

by bmajik (#48992791) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tools To Clean Up a Large C/C++ Project?


One of my first professional programming projects was to take a look at the custom C++ billing software our company had purchased from a contract programmer.

I had a long unix and programming background, and was back for a summer job after doing 1 semester of C++ in college.

My boss told me, since I was the only one who had C++ experience, to start documenting the system.

At the time, we were using IRIX, and so I was using the SGI compiler and tools suite, which were, I believe, licensed from EDG. The point is that there was a very nice call graph visualizer. This was helpful for understanding things at a superficial level.

However, what was even better was just running the program a bunch of times on test data and seeing what it did while under the debugger.

While my summer began with the task of documenting the system, as I learned things I'd report them to my boss.

By the end of the summer, I had re-written some fundamental parts of the system; I'd moved some of the processing outside, and I pre-processed and pre-sorted the data.

The overall execution time went from many hours to about 45 minutes to calculate monthly bills. THe key innovation was replacing the inner loop of the charge tabulation -- which was 2 or 3 levels of nested linked list traversal.

Instead, I used the standard unix sort tools to pre-sort the data files before being loaded into the system, and I changed the system to use a data structure that supported a binary search.

The majority of the code got left alone. By understanding the code under a debugger, and realizing that how it worked on production data was much different than how it performed on the test data it was originally delivered with, I was able to make a critical set of changes that had a huge impact.

In general, I spend as much time as I can not writing code, but instead, understanding how the existing system works. For a current project, I've spent the last two weeks playing with somebody else's code, and now I've expanded it so that it can also operate on my data sets, and I've probably changed fewer than 100 lines across about 5 different projects.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled. -- R.P. Feynman