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Comment: Re:What's with the inclusion of "climate change"? (Score 1) 92

Not funding but mission creep. It's endemic with any NGO - once the original raison d'être disappears, rather than fold up shop, they just move on to the next bit of do-goodery. Sometime, that's a good thing - the March of Dimes built up a working infrastructure for funding polio eradication and decided to broaden the scope from eradicating infant paralysis (polio) to general improvement of infant health once the fight against polio was (largely) won.

Other times, it leads to ridiculous concepts like atomic scientists trying to remain relevant by adding climate change and life sciences (on which they have no expertise) to their already somewhat dubious atomic clock (again, they had little expertise in balance of power diplomacy and had no real idea what the true level of threat of nuclear war was).

Comment: Re: In other news (Score 1) 609

by brianerst (#49236471) Attached to: Clinton Regrets, But Defends, Use of Family Email Server

You seriously think the Democratic bench is stronger than the Republican one? Speaking as someone who was very aware that Obama was going to blow out both McCain and Romney, 2016 is shaping up as a bad Democratic year. Hillary is the Democrats best bet - Warren is not a good campaigner and really only has rabid support among the most progressive wing of the party. Anthony Weiner couldn't even stay in the NYC Mayoral race without self-destructing.

If Hillary implodes, it's going to be a brutal blowout unless O'Malley can get some traction and the Republicans nominate from the bottom half of their bench (Jindal, Santorum, Huckabee).

Comment: Re: In other news (Score 1) 609

by brianerst (#49236435) Attached to: Clinton Regrets, But Defends, Use of Family Email Server

Not actually true. Two of her aides, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, used addresses too. So any communications between the three of them are potentially lost.

I'm too lazy right now to find an unbiased source of the info but I originally heard it on NPR yesterday. First Google search lands here. The latest NYT articles definitely mention Abedin having a clintonemail account.

Emails between Abedin, Clinton and the wife of the Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi apparently fell into the memory hole. Not really interested in the Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy chatter but this was backdoor diplomacy that should have had some sort of record, even if it ended up classified.

Comment: Re: White balance and contrast in camera. (Score 1) 420

by brianerst (#49154049) Attached to: Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black?

I can switch the perspectives if I scroll the picture. If the picture comes into frame from the top (shoulders), it's white/gold. If the picture comes into the frame from the bottom (hem), it's blue/black. The top is far more "golden" while the bottom is far more "blue".

Comment: Re: Java is Pascal++ (Score 1) 492

by brianerst (#48902691) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is Pascal Underrated?

Then you didn't do it far enough back. The entire concept of a virtual machine was popularized by the UCSD Pascal p-system (BCPL had the O-system in 67 but no one used it). Not only was it the precursor of the JVM (James Gosling called the p-system the main influence on Java's VM) but it also virtualized the entire OS - UCSD Pascal was one of the three original packaged OSs for the IBM PC.

Even Wirth created p-system/p-code style Pascal compilers. Until the advent of Compas/Turbo Pascal, Pascal was hardly ever compiled into machine code.

Comment: Re:A New Kind Of Monopoly (Score 1) 221

by brianerst (#48717249) Attached to: Google Fiber's Latest FCC Filing: Comcast's Nightmare Come To Life

Not exactly the same, but local loop unbundling was done in the US after the break-up of Ma Bell. For a while, long distance telephone service was unbundled from the local loop. Any company could offer long distance service and the local incumbent phone service had to provide access to their infrastructure at a fixed cost.

We had an explosion of LDS providers and the price dropped like a stone. Within a decade, LDS was so cheap that all the LDS providers started failing and it just got rebundled into the local loop as a basically free offering - no difference between local and long distance calls.

You're starting to see a similar process occur in electricity provisioning in some states - the incumbent utility has to unbundle the infrastructure cost from the cost of electrons and open the grid to third-party electricity generators within a strict framework. Illinois has such a system - ironically, I don't know how well it works, because my local municipality has municipal electric and is the monopoly provider.

Comment: Re: One fiber to rule them... (Score 1) 221

by brianerst (#48717029) Attached to: Google Fiber's Latest FCC Filing: Comcast's Nightmare Come To Life

You obviously don't live in any major American city. With very few exceptions, they are all bastions of single party rule (primarily Democratic) so there is little accountability other than the occasional revolt over some truly monumental screw-up (usually involving the police or amazing levels of corruption).

In my wonderful city of Chicago, the mayor's office is generally a sinecure for the current generation of Daley with a few placeholders when the next generation isn't quite old enough to take over. The city council is mostly handpicked by the mayor (in various ways) and the few independents are either anti-business leftists, race-focused (usually legitimately) or insane. Infrastructure is either run to enhance political power (streets and sanitation workers are the army on which the Machine runs the city) or sold at fire-sale prices to pay for the massive mismanagement of the city's budget.

I wouldn't trust those bozos to run a lemonade stand, let alone a citywide fiber infrastructure. Heck, when the City of Chicago does infrastructure work, it manages to drown the city from underground...

Comment: Re:I disagree (Score 1) 257

by brianerst (#48492425) Attached to: The Driverless Future: Buses, Not Taxis

It really depends on which branch of the El you're on and what time of day. The north, northwest and southwest branches (Purple, Brown and Orange lines) are reasonably clean and moderately quick (they have fewer stops) but get ridiculously, Asia-level crowded during the rush. If you are at the edge of one of them (and can thus get a seat), it's not bad.

The north/south (Red) and cross-town lines (Blue and Green) are dirtier, slower and less safe. Part of that is just the realities of the neighborhoods they go through, but they also have a lot more stops, so there's a lot of jostling, bumping and standing.

The El also can have some fairly aggressive panhandling and muggings. The CTA, in general, is much more laissez faire about such things - partly because they got rid of the conductors that used to patrol the trains, partly because it's politically toxic to roust "undesirables" from public transit. The Metra (diesel trains) still has conductors who police the train (the Metra uses an on-train ticketing system, so someone has to be onboard), so the ride is a lot safer and civil. The Metra even has "quiet cars" where talking on cell phones (or other passengers) is prohibited. That's a nice ride.

I rode the El daily for 10 years and the Metra for 12, so I've seen the best and worst of both. I've specifically chosen where I've lived based on convenience to public transit - in my adult life, I've never lived more than three blocks from a train station. Due to a serious injury, I've recently had to switch to driving and while I've gotten used to it (there are a few upsides to being alone in a vehicle), I'll never get used to the boredom and waste of driving a vehicle into the city on a regular basis.

Comment: Re:I disagree (Score 2) 257

by brianerst (#48491779) Attached to: The Driverless Future: Buses, Not Taxis

It really depends on the mode of public transport. Here in Chicago, we have three main modes - diesel passenger trains, electric rail and diesel buses. Here, the diesel passenger trains are by far the best - clean (unless you end up at Union Station), comfortable, fast, reliable. It's suburb-to-urban center transport, though - great for that transit pattern, terrible for anything else. Riding the diesels is a relaxing trip.

Electric rail (the 'El') is next down the list. Mostly connects various city neighborhoods to the downtown (and to each other via transfers). It's not as clean, not as comfortable, not as reliable, not as fast as the diesel lines, but it's more flexible. On a crowded line, it's a moderately stressful trip.

Finally, you have the diesel buses. They suck unless you're taking a trip on off hours - an empty bus driving on empty roads is fine. Any other combination sucks - dirty, crowded, slow, unreliable transport.

In the sciences, we are now uniquely priviledged to sit side by side with the giants on whose shoulders we stand. -- Gerald Holton