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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.

Comment: Re:This is typical of the "Jobs era" Apple (Score 1) 135

by brianerst (#48059505) Attached to: Apple To Face $350 Million Trial Over iPod DRM

Ah, the Rio Karma. The reason I encoded all my CD rips in Vorbis. Those were the days... and once it died, time to reencode everything to MP3s as nothing else really supported Vorbis (fortunately, I saved everything in FLAC too, so it was a simple reencode).

I also can thank the Karma for my Decemberists collection - "Here I Dreamt I was an Architect" was on every Karma released in the States.

Comment: Re:Stop blaming the Soviets (Score 2) 151

by brianerst (#48039795) Attached to: Aral Sea Basin Almost Completely Dry

According to the linked Wiki article:

The disappearance of the lake was no surprise to the Soviets; they expected it to happen long before. As early as 1964, Aleksandr Asarin at the Hydroproject Institute pointed out that the lake was doomed, explaining, "It was part of the five-year plans, approved by the council of ministers and the Politburo. Nobody on a lower level would dare to say a word contradicting those plans, even if it was the fate of the Aral Sea."

So the plan from the beginning was to have the Aral Sea disappear.

Some Soviet experts apparently considered the Aral to be "nature's error", and a Soviet engineer said in 1968, "it is obvious to everyone that the evaporation of the Aral Sea is inevitable."

In fact, it seems that "some" Soviets considered the Aral Sea an "error" to be corrected.

From 1960 to 1998, the sea's surface area shrank by about 60%, and its volume by 80%. In 1960, the Aral Sea had been the world's fourth-largest lake, with an area around 68,000 km2 (26,000 sq mi) and a volume of 1,100 km3 (260 cu mi); by 1998, it had dropped to 28,687 km2 (11,076 sq mi) and eighth largest. Over the same time period, its salinity increased from about 10 g/l to about 45 g/l.

In 1987, the continuing shrinkage split the lake into two separate bodies of water, the North Aral Sea (the Lesser Sea, or Small Aral Sea) and the South Aral Sea (the Greater Sea, or Large Aral Sea).

So, by the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, 80% of the lake was gone and had already split into several smaller lakes.

So, yeah, I think we can blame the Soviets. That it is now hard to reverse the facts on the ground is to be expected.

Comment: Re:I wonder if (Score 1) 460

by brianerst (#48022687) Attached to: Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

And you'd (probably) be wrong. According to a recent Pew poll, only 37% of Americans think "clergy" contribute a lot to society, while 65% believe that "scientists" contribute a lot to society.

This isn't exactly the same as "trustworthiness" but I think it's probably in the same ballpark. Americans are generally at the top of international polls on trust in science - there are a few areas of distrust/disbelief (evolution, climate change), but in general, Americans like their science and want more of it.

Comment: Re:Americans are smart. (Score 1) 460

by brianerst (#48022595) Attached to: Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

I agree, except that in this case, Celebrity M was mouthing the thoughts of Scientist W (Andrew Wakefield), who is British and misled a whole bunch of people around the world, not just Americans.

Everyone is susceptible to confirmation biases, conspiracy and wishful thinking and any number of issues that prevent them from seeing things clearly. This is by no means unique to, nor exceptionally more problematic for, Americans.

Comment: Re: Wrong Title (Score 1) 499

George Zimmerman was a bilingual, self-identified Hispanic (his mother was a Peruvian immigrant and his great grandfather was Afro-Peruvian) and registered Democrat. Hispanic Democrats are generally not a great source of Tea Party followers.

Andrew Joseph Stack III (the "IRS plane guy") left a suicide note raging against the policies of George W. Bush, the FAA, the IRS, the Catholic Church, Bush's TARP bailout and Enron (among others).

His note ended:

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Once again, pro-communist, anti-capitalist, church hating people who blame George W. Bush for regressive tax policies are not generally considered prime Tea Party material.

Maybe next time, you could read up on the subjects that fill your own diatribes.

Comment: Re: Wrong Title (Score 5, Insightful) 499

Jared Loughner (the man who shot Rep. Gabby Giffords) was a paranoid schizophrenic who was described by a classmate as being a hardcore leftist prior to manifesting his disease. Once his disease took hold, he became obsessed by conspiracies and hated all politicians but mostly the ones he knew of, like George W. Bush and Rep. Giffords. He was in no way a "tea partier" and had no knowledge of the "target ad."

Jared Loughner was a mentally ill person who tried to kill his local Congresswoman (among others). Had G. W. Bush or John McCain have been there, he would have shot them too. He was no more a tea partier than John Hinckley was an anti-Reagan Democrat. They were just both mentally ill and violent.

Comment: Re:This is robusta coffee they're talking about (Score 2) 167

by brianerst (#47836657) Attached to: Scientists Sequence Coffee Genome, Ponder Genetic Modification

So, then theoretically they could also sequence the arabica bean and figure out which alleles cause the "better flavor" of arabica and breed and/or modify versions of robusta that contain those flavor-positive alleles. Arabica flavor in a more robust(a) plant. (Robusta plants are more disease resistant - perhaps the tetraploid nature of arabica make them more vulnerable).

I've got no dog in this hunt - I hate coffee. But figuring out how to get better flavored coffee from the higher producing, more robust plant seems like a good thing.

Comment: Re:Biased (Score 1) 221

by brianerst (#47785621) Attached to: Canada Tops List of Most Science-Literate Countries

In that section of the survey (about attitude rather than knowledge), "We depend too much on science and not enough on faith" was one of only two measures by which Americans "lagged" the sample set (Canada, EU, South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and India). The other was "science is changing things too fast" in which we were only the third most science-positive (Russia and Canada were top, then the US, and then everyone else lagging quite a bit behind).

For the other four ("science makes life better", "science makes work more interesting", "science creates more opportunities for the next generation", and the "knowledge of science is important in my daily life" [asked in the negative]), the US were a bunch of raging techno-optimists, generally way more positive than the rest of the sample set (including Canada).

Table 4.2, Page 54

Comment: Re: Bullshit ... (Score 1) 338

by brianerst (#47725159) Attached to: FCC Warned Not To Take Actions a Republican-Led FCC Would Dislike

You do realize that Obama's hand picked FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, is a long time cable and cellular lobbyist so beloved by the industry that he's the only man in both The Cable and Wireless Hall of Fames? A man dedicated to gutting net neutrality?

If the Dems are any more friendly to municipal broadband, it's just as part of a different payoff (unions or a different set of corporatations).

Comment: Re:How about some real number? (Score 1) 561

by brianerst (#47663547) Attached to: Apple's Diversity Numbers: 70% Male, 55% White

So, what happens to men who don't fit their stereotyped role? Are managers encouraged to seek out anyone who they feel should self-nominate but haven't or only women?

I'm pleased that they are working around the cultural issues of self-nomination. But it does seem to be based on stereotypical group behavior rather than individual behavior. Group differences should be the focus of research (why is this group underrepresented) but process should focused on individuals (how do we get the most out of all our employees).

Comment: Re:maybe (Score 1) 512

The Nazis did many things but are known primarily for their most evil deeds - the terms "fascist" and "Nazi" have deep, profoundly negative connotations. Saying "the Israelis are like Nazis in this narrow sense" doesn't get you brownie points - you're still doing reductio ad hitlerum.

Hitler was also a vegetarian and antivivsectionist - should we thus compare PETA to Hitler? The Nazis were eugenists as was Margaret Sanger - should we thus compare Planned Parenthood to Nazis? The National Socialist Party was initially anti-big business and anti-capitalist - do we thus compare the Occupy Movement to Nazis? The Nazis wore armbands with a cross on it as does the Red Cross - are the Red Cross then Nazis? This can go on and on.

Being compared to Nazis, for better or worse, is shorthand for unmitigated evil. Feeling the need to compare the greatest victims of the Nazis to Nazis says something about you, not the Israelis.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.