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Comment: Re:where's the money?! (Score 1) 194

by butalearner (#47573355) Attached to: Vint Cerf on Why Programmers Don't Join the ACM

I am a long time member of the ACM, and I've always thought the value for money was excellent. I'm not an academic and I don't go to conferences. The Safari and 24/7 Books Online subscriptions, plus the skillsoft training is where I see most of the value.

That's good to know for future reference, though every company I've worked for has offered those things to its employees and contractors.

Comment: Re:Damn I used to like southwest (Score 1) 891

I get the impression that you have about equal chances of getting a rude gate agent no matter what airlines you fly with. Which is to say they're almost all reasonable people, but sometimes have bad days, other times it depends more on how you ask. The guy here seems to have an entitlement. He's a frequent flyer, his kids aren't, he was asking if they could get on with him in the early boarding. He could have paid the early check-in fee for them and gotten on before most people anyway. I think it's $15 on southwest. Point is, he had other options. It's fine to ask for favors, but if you're fuming about someone NOT granting you a favor, you're probably the asshole in that situation.

I posted this above, but in my experience, when Southwest announces boarding procedures, they almost always include a special perk for families traveling together that they can board with the family member that has the lowest ticket. This might not be fair, but it is something they have always done in the past both in my experience and the guy in the article's experience. Now the guy was probably upset and embarrassed, so it's entirely possible he wasn't entirely honest about how rude the attendant really was, but I want to be sure the part about family boarding is clear.

Comment: Re:Damn I used to like southwest (Score 1) 891

Really? Here's a tip: next time you have an A ticket and your family has B tickets and you all want to sit together, why don't you slip back into the B group.

I don't quite follow your logic there. To sit together, families should...wait until more people get on the plane? Young children aren't allowed to sit alone, so if the aisles and windows filled up, someone would have to move so they can sit together. And that's not to mention a higher chance of small children getting angry and loud in the jetway because it takes a long time to board the plane, etc. I know Slashdot can be fairly hostile to people with kids, but giving families the ability to cut ahead of others is really in everybody's best interests. Give me generally annoyed Slashdot posts well after the fact over kids whining or crying in a stuffy aircraft cabin any day.

Regardless, it was a perk that Southwest offered to families that we and the guy in TFA expected to receive but, apparently, certain employees do not offer. I'm fairly certain they used to announce that families could board with the member who had the lowest ticket. In fact, it's been a year or so since it happened, but I'm pretty sure we asked the gate attendant on our return trip what the policy is, and they were surprised that we were told that we couldn't do so.

Comment: Re:Damn I used to like southwest (Score 1) 891

Southwest has gone downhill fast in recent years.

Agreed. I had the exact same experience as the guy in the article. I had a pretty low A group ticket - one of the first numbers you can get without paying extra - but my wife and kids had B group tickets. We'd flown Southwest four to six times a year for the past six years, and they always let us all board in A group when this happened (which was fairly often, since using points and free flights usually means making separate orders), except for the last time we flew with them. They tried to claim that it has always been against their policy, which was obviously BS even before I saw this story.

I know, it isn't really a huge deal since we still got seats together, but it is embarrassing and frustrating to be called out and forced to switch lines like that, so I understand the guy's lashing out on Twitter. But of course, hardly anybody would have seen the tweet until the gate attendant went way overboard in response. Now, instead of one person looking bad to a few people, the whole company looks bad to the readership of major news sites. Way to go, Kimberly.

Comment: Re:So who did it first? MIT or Mythbusters? (Score 1) 138

by butalearner (#47530177) Attached to: Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples?

No. Dimpling and pebbling to improve laminar flow have been known for many years by people and many hundreds of thousands of years by dolphins.

Dimpling and pebbling is there to disrupt laminar flow; to introduce a small, turbulent boundary layer in order to reduce wake drag. If you compare the streamlines of a ping pong ball to a golf ball, the flow is laminar longer around the ping pong ball, but the flow separates sooner, creating a larger wake. Here is a more thorough explanation.

That also raises the question: do the dimples really help everywhere on a car? I'd love to see some wind tunnel testing and CFD analysis of the Mythbusters' dimpled car. An 11% improvement is pretty significant, but there are lots of uncertainties: weight differences, center of mass differences, how aerodynamic the car was in the first place... I strongly suspect that, in general, it would be more helpful to only introduce dimples at strategic locations: i.e. the bumpers, undercarriage, and other body panels where the flow eventually separates.

Also, aren't dolphins pretty darn smooth?

Comment: Re:Correction (Score 1) 97

by butalearner (#47507199) Attached to: UEA Research Shows Oceans Vital For Possibility of Alien Life

Pessimist. If we develop interstellar travel, even at small fractions of light speed, remain expansionistic, and avoid completely eradicating ourselves or transcending as a species we could colonize the whole friggin galaxy in only a few billion years.

Or maybe you meant "we" in a personal sense in which case yeah, barring the surprise development of feasible near-instantaneous (in ship-time of course) travel, we have absolutely no hope of visiting more than the planets in our own system and maybe those of one other star.

Pessimist. I plan to live forever as a brain in a small vat of artificial cerebrospinal fluid connected by electrodes to the controls of a tiny interstellar space ship.

Comment: Re:Um, here's a simpler way (Score 2) 52

by butalearner (#47499661) Attached to: Researchers Create Origami Wheels That Can Change Size

Nor did it work very well. My nephew had one many years ago. they were pretty crap. It's affinity with getting stuck was quite impressive.

I also had one as a kid, and I agree: it was next to impossible to get the things to go straight with those claws sticking out. However, I also had an RC truck in which the wheels were telescoping cylinders with relatively thick rubber-ish strips attached at both ends. Fully extended the strips were flat, but you could flip a switch (or something) and it would retract, making the strips bow outward, significantly increasing (maybe doubling) the effective diameter. Parentheticals because it was a long time ago.

So I agree with OP that we could already do something like this, but when we're talking about space exploration, it's always worth looking at alternatives that may have different power requirements, mechanical complexity, etc. than the current options.

Comment: Re:What difference now does it make? :) Sunk costs (Score 1) 364

by butalearner (#47425837) Attached to: The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

The F-35 is likely to be the last manned fighter ever produced.

Probably true, and quoted for emphasis, but that doesn't square with your observation that "that time is still decades off. That implies at least one more generation of manned fighters. Lockheed Martin and Boeing seem to be counting on that, though the Boeing article actually says they would propose a manned and unmanned variant (with an interesting concept image of them both). I saw that Russia expects the next generation to be unmanned.

Comment: Re:What's the business case? (Score 1) 143

Short answer; if you're asking on Slashdot for reasons to switch from product X to product Y, you probably have no real reason to switch.

The long answer was pretty good, but I disagree with the short one. Asking a (presumably) knowledgeable group of people questions like this is a good way to get a more complete picture of the problem space, and asking people from other companies might just score him a few stories about what worked for them and what didn't work.

Here's an anecdote from me: back when I was a fresh-faced, naive junior engineer I wanted to sell management on an open source alternative to an expensive commercial package by targeting some low-hanging fruit and arguing that we should use both. I surveyed my colleagues and found a number of small items here and there that could be automatically ported to the open source version, and demonstrated it to my manager. It wasn't good enough, because there were no hard numbers on what the company might save by doing this.

In other words, as you say, he needs clear financial benefits. Your Mileage May Vary, but these days I would not be surprised if, to his management, the financial justification is far more important than the technical justification.

Comment: Re:His choices... (Score 3, Interesting) 194

by butalearner (#47350095) Attached to: The Internet's Own Boy

Activism, or hacktivism, is one thing. Breaking critical research tools for millions of customers worldwide is abuse, and clearly criminal in several ways. I'm afraid that Aaron earned prosecution. The extent of the prosecution seems severe, but as best I can tell, the prosecutors were quite willing to "deal" for a a very low sentence, as long as the deal included a felony conviction. I'm afraid that that haggling over the charges and the sentence is _normal_ for prosecutors.

One thing I learned from Wikipedia that I hadn't heard anywhere else is that, a few years earlier, Swartz first downloaded the Library of Congress's "complete bibliographic data set" (whatever that is), then a bit later downloaded millions of public domain court documents from a paywalled system called PACER. The Library of Congress normally charged fees to access the former, and the latter charged users 8 cents per page back then (now it is 10 cents per page up to $3 per document). Despite gaining the attention of the FBI, he didn't get so much as a slap on the wrist for either one.

So we have a couple aspects potentially contributing to what happened. First, Swartz probably felt reassured by his past experiences that, even if caught, he wouldn't get in trouble. Second, he didn't make any friends in the government by pulling his first two stunts, so when federal prosecutors realized they could get him, they went overboard. This is just conjecture, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was true.

Comment: Re:Turn off, tune out. (Score 1) 127

by butalearner (#47261593) Attached to: Emotional Contagion Spread Through Facebook

Or set the tone yourself by posting words of encouragement. As someone who has never quite mastered the hug or unsolicited complement or prying into what's bothering people, I find the broadcast medium of facebook a means of providing what I can. I mostly post humor (which has helped me through dark times), mix in occasional inspiration quotes from people like Emerson, Longfellow, Thoreau, Kierkegaard, some art I find beautiful, and try to be open about my struggles and the good places they have lead.

That's not bad in small doses, but rarely posting an original thought is pretty annoying. At this point, it seems like some of my Facebook friends can only convey thoughts by sharing somebody else's someecards.

Comment: Re:Age of the earth (Score 5, Interesting) 98

With what did the collision happen if the earth wasn't already there? I fail to see how the moon being carved out the earth 60 Myr earlier affects the age of the earth.

I believe that conclusion comes from the idea that the collision was between two proto-planets - that is, for all intents and purposes, the Earth and the Moon only came into being after the collision. Wikipedia calls them "the proto-Earth" and "the impactor" which supposedly was the size of Mars. An impact like that would have changed everything so dramatically that even if we had some age-measurable material that survived the impact, we wouldn't know whether it came from the proto-Earth or the impactor. So it makes some sense to use that event as the "birth" of our planet.

And of course you can't just use the absolute age of some atoms, if we could measure such a thing. Maybe some of the heavier atoms fused in that impact, but some material came the supernova(e) that seeded our solar nebula with heavier atoms and induced the rotation that eventually became the Sun's accretion disk, some came from other, smaller impacts of bodies probably formed at the beginning of the Solar System, etc.

Comment: Re:So, it's just another Democrat PAC masquerading (Score 1) 247

by butalearner (#47203123) Attached to: Mayday Anti-PAC On Its Second Round of Funding

So, do you really believe you get a good system of government when the more money you have the more access you have to political speech?

Of course he doesn't believe that, but those bills are sponsored by a bunch of Democrats. Don't be fooled by how the political process worked in the past; these days, the only item of importance in any given bill is the letter between the sponsor's name and home state.

Comment: Re:Astounding answer on Evolution (Score 4, Insightful) 161

by butalearner (#47196233) Attached to: Interviews: Forrest Mims Answers Your Questions

It's implied from his background - he is a Christian - and his use of religious terms like "sanctity of life." The main logical fallacy in his theological position is that his god is a god of the gaps. He is using gaps in evidence for the prevailing theory to "prove" that it's wrong. I don't know personally, but I wouldn't be surprised or dismayed if there is still a "missing link" in the fossil record that tells us how single-celled organisms evolved certain relatively complex things like flagella. The lack of evidence is not evidence to the contrary, so I am content to wait until further science sheds light on the matter. But the fact that we aren't sure how life got started doesn't throw the rest of Evolutionary Theory away. The fact that the Piltdown Man was a hoax doesn't either. Wikipedia has a fascinating series of articles on evolutionary biology, but here's a good place to start.

Also, as GP implied, jumping from "intelligent designer" to the benevolent and omnipotent Christian god just does not follow from "there are issues with Evolutionary Theory." There is no logical connection between the two, and his use of Occam's Razor only makes sense to those who take it as a given that there are extradimensional beings of unimaginable power. A biologist using Occam's Razor would instead extrapolate from observed processes like natural selection, and then look for evidence (which is exactly what we've done with Evolutionary Theory, and it has worked out pretty well so far).

"Wish not to seem, but to be, the best." -- Aeschylus

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