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Comment: Re:There's something touching about that comment (Score 2) 102

by hey! (#47500515) Attached to: "Intelligent" Avatars Poised To Manage Airline Check-In

It's not the human *touch* that people crave in a complicated interaction with a system. It's human *versatility*.

Thus more personnel does no good, if those personnel are rigidly controlled, lack information to advise or authority to act. The fact that they're also expected to be jolly and upbeat as they follow their rigid and unyielding rules only turns the interaction with them into a travesty of a social interaction.

What would work better is a well-designed check-in system that handles routine situations nearly all the time, along with a few personnel who have the training and authority to solve any passenger problems that come up.

Comment: Re: The issue is big publishing (Score 2) 191

by hey! (#47493819) Attached to: Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

I can only go with the experience of my friends, who've gone both routes successfully.

It's true that traditional publishers expect mid-list authors to shoulder most of the promotion efforts these days. I never said they didn't. Fiction authors are now expected to maintain a platform, which used to be a non-fiction thing. Certainly traditional publishers have become more predatory and less supportive than they were twenty years ago. I don't have an inside track on why that is, but I suspect there are several causes. One is that POD allows publishers to make an reliable though modest profit from their mid-list authors, which ironically makes them more risk averse. But publishers still provide production and editing services on a MS that'd cost you maybe ten thousand dollars if you were contracting those services out. They also get your book in bricks-and-mortar bookstores, which is a bridge too far for most indy authors, even the successful ones.

A lot of the bad feeling that publishers get from indy authors comes from two sources. First, a long history with rejection. Second the lack of respect indy authors get relative to traditionally published authors. We can see it in this discussion elsewhere, where one poster puts "authors" in quotes when referring to indy authors. And it's easy to see why because most indy authors just aren't good enough to get traditionally published. *Some* indy authors put out a product that's every bit as good as the mid-list authors from the big publishing houses, but most just dump their terrible manuscripts on Amazon with a clip-art cover and no copy editing, much less developmental editing.

The statistic that most indy authors make their investment back plus 40% didn't impress me, because (a) that counts the author's labor as free and (b) most indy authors don't invest much cash in their projects. The percentage of indy authors that clear, say, five thousand dollars in profit are very small.

It's not that indy publishing doesn't have its points, and my traditionally published friends are certainly thinking about dipping their toe in the water. But it's not as cheap as it looks if you want a comparable product, and you give up certain things. I was in Manhattan recently and went to the 5th Avenue branch of the NYPL. My traditionally published friends' books were either on the shelves our out circulating. The NYPL had *none* of my indy author friends' books, even though at least one of them has made the New York Times best seller list.

Comment: Re:The issue is big publishing (Score 1) 191

by hey! (#47492489) Attached to: Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

I don't think it's as simple as Amazon is good or Amazon is evil. Amazon is powerful, and that needs watching.

Now I have a number writer friends, one of whom is published both with traditional imprints like TOR and with Amazon's new in-house publishing imprints. She has good things to say about Amazon's imprints, but one thing you have to take into account is that nobody will stock your book *but* Amazon if you publish with them. That's giving up a lot, so they treat authors reasonably well. But that doesn't mean the corporation actually cares about authors. Amazon needs reliable mid-list authors to make their publishing ventures a success, and by cutting out the middleman can afford generous royalties. But if Amazon succeeds in putting a stake in the heart of traditional publishing, I wouldn't care to speculate on what will happen to authors.

Nor should what traditional publishers do for authors be underestimated. I have friends who are successful indy writers, but it's not like being a writer, it's more like running a small publishing house yourself. They hire story editors, copy editors and artists, and manage promotion and publicity. It's a lot of work; that plus actually writing pretty much precludes a day job. It's not for everyone.

It's a lot like being an engineer. Engineers are smart people who usually have a lot of insight into the companies they work for, but that doesn't mean that most engineers want to run businesses. Some do, but most would rather have other people take care of that stuff so they can concentrate on what they feel they're best at.

Many writers choose the indy market because it's the only way they'll ever get published. They just dump their manuscript on the market without editing, design or promotion and hope for the best. They rarely succeed. Others choose the indy route because they thrive on running and controlling their own small business, the way some engineers step naturally into the role of entrepreneur. They're well positioned for the future. But most writers need support to reach their full potential.

Comment: Re:Mispelling in Headline... (Score 1) 41

by hey! (#47466965) Attached to: Breaches Exposed 22.8 Million Personal Records of New Yorkers

It's actually 'Breeches' and now we finally know Step 2.

Years ago, when static electricity was bad news for computers, I had the idea for a "data processing shoe" that would have a little conductive ribbon that would drag along the floor and ground out static electricity. Such a thing is of course no longer needed, but given the apparent popularity of data breeches these days maybe the concept could be resurrected as a fashion statement.

Comment: Re:The same way many global warming papers got pub (Score 4, Insightful) 109

by hey! (#47383665) Attached to: How Did Those STAP Stem Cell Papers Get Accepted In the First Place?

Peer reviewed. Yeah, right. And just who is reviewing the peers?

Ha! I knew the denialists would come swarming out of the woodwork on this one.

Consider the stem cell paper that we're talking about here. It was published in January and immediately started going down in flames. Here we are six months later, watching scientists gleefully kick the cold corpse of the authors' reputations. And you're still wondering who keeps the reviewers and editors of a scientific journal honest?

Peer review isn't some kind of certification of a paper's truth. It can't reliably weed out misconduct, experimental error, or statistical bad luck. It's just supposed to reduce the frequency of fiascos like this one by examining the reasoning and methods as described in the paper. It doesn't have to be perfect; in fact it's preferable for it to let the occasional clunker through onto the slaughterhouse floor than to squelch dissenting views or innovation.

That's why climate change denialists still get published today, even the ones who disbelieve climate change because it contravenes their view of the Bible. Peer review allows them to keep tugging at the loose threads of the AGW consensus while preventing them from publishing papers making embarrassingly broad claims for which they don't have evidence that has any chance of convincing someone familiar with the past fifty years of furious scientific debate.

Comment: Re:Sad, sad times... (Score 1) 333

Here's what I think is the confounding factor (there always is one): I'd be wondering, "Does that button REALLY deliver a shock, or is it some kind of sham social psychology experiment prop? I bet it's a prop. If it isn't, it won't deliver THAT bad a shock. If it is, I wonder what the researchers will do when I push it?"

The confounding factor is curiosity. They'd have to do *two* sessions with the overly curious.

Comment: Re:Bad media coverage (Score 1) 1330

by hey! (#47356897) Attached to: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

Except that if you read the majority opinion they actually open up any provision of the law to challenge on the same grounds. They warn that the ruling should not be taken as covering anything covered by insurance, but presumably any such thing could in principle be challenged on the same basis, and depending on the circumstances might likewise be exempted. The majority has opened the door to challenging the application of any provision of this law to a closely held corporation -- indeed any provision of any law. They just don't know how the challenge will turn out.

It's interesting to note that the court broke down almost exactly on religious lines when dealing with contraception. Five of the six Roman Catholic justices voted with the majority, and all three Jews joined by one dissenting Catholic. I think this is significant because the majority opinion, written exclusively by Catholics, seems to treat concerns over contraception as sui generis; and the possibility of objections to the law based on issues important to other religious groups to be remote.

Another big deal in the majority opinion is that it takes another step towards raising for-profit corporations to the same status as natural persons. The quibbling involved is astonishing:

....no conceivable definition of 'person' includes natural persons and non-profit corporations, but not for-profit corporations.

Which may be true, but it's irrelevant. The question is whether compelling a for-profit corporation to do something impacts the religious liberties of natural persons in exactly the same way as compelling a church to do that same thing. If there is any difference whatsoever, then then the regulations imposed on the church *must* be less restrictive than the regulations imposed on a business. Logically, this is equivalent to saying the regulations imposed on a business *may* be more restrictive than the regulations imposed on a church.

Comment: Re:Vegetables out of necessity, or out of preferen (Score 2) 151

by hey! (#47324801) Attached to: Neanderthals Ate Their Veggies

Some of us are old enough to remember the Vietnam war, which in turn brought us in contact with the long running civil war in Laos. Anti-communist Hmong from Laos fought alongside Americans and after both Vietnam and Laos fell to the Communists many Hmong refugees were resettled here in the US along with their families.

I remember this story about S. nigrum from a newspaper account back in the 80s about foraging by local Hmong refugees. There were lots of stories about Hmong settling in, and because this was pre WWW you read them because you read pretty much everything in the paper that was even vaguely interesting.

Comment: Re:Vegetables out of necessity, or out of preferen (Score 1) 151

by hey! (#47324035) Attached to: Neanderthals Ate Their Veggies

In my experience you tend to crave what you habitually eat. The Hmong forage for Solanum nigrum -- black nightshade -- a plant that is not only inedibly bitter for most people, it's actually poisonous if you haven't spent years working up a tolerance to its toxic alkaloids. And here's the kicker: black nightshade grows wild here in the US and the old folks here go looking for it in the woods, even though they can buy meat and non-toxic vegetables in the supermarket. They grew up with the stuff, so they crave it.

The single most powerful feature our species has is behavioral flexibility. The same plant that is a side dish providing auxiliary nutrients today could be famine food tomorrow if the hunt doesn't go well. If a plant is nutritious and abundant in the environment, I'd expect local humans to eat it with enjoyment.

Comment: What if I don't want to date women smart as me? (Score 1) 561

by hey! (#47323881) Attached to: Match.com, Mensa Create Dating Site For Geniuses

Maybe I'm looking for a woman who is better looking than me and who'll accept the IQ differential in exchange.

</sarcasm>

True story. I took a long bike ride last summer and ended up in a very affluent seaside community. I cross over the causeway to an island that's the most desirable neighborhood. I pass an attractive blonde woman jogging, but I think nothing of it. Then I pass another one. Then another. And another. I notice the women getting in and out of the Land Rovers in front of the Islands quaint shops. They're obviously blonde joggers too. It's like all the women came from the same Jogging Blonde Lady factory then were rigged out with different accessories. None of them look over 30.

So I start looking for men. They're obviously wealthy, but they appear on average 20 years older than the women. In fact, they're just regular, dumpy old shlumps with expensive cars and watches.

It was weird, like having a young, blonde, athletic wife was part of the homeowners' covenant or something. Sorry honey, but we just got a citation from the association and you'll have to move of the island. Heather here will be taking over your duties; be a dear and show her around the old place.

Comment: I bought a Pebble for just one reason (Score 1) 427

by hey! (#47320535) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Would It Take For You To Buy a Smartwatch?

Calendar reminders. That's it. I don't always keep my phone in my pocket and sometimes I have the thing on silent. It's worked out well for me. I tried the email and facebook notifications, but I really don't care about missing those things. For me the whole point of email over phone calls is that you don't have to drop what you're doing because somebody has something to tell you.

Now I've always worn watches; I like them. I like being able to glance to see the time. I also like the quick, crude analog timing function of a rotating bezel, although I can live with a digital stopwatch. And I like a good looking watch; for me this means simple, functional elegance. I think the best looking watch ever made was the Rolex Submariner, although I'd never spend that kind of money. Generally cheap watches are too cluttered for my taste, but you can find a reasonable Submariner knock-off around $80 (e.g., an Invicta 8926OB).

It's not a matter of impressing people with how much I spend. One of my favorite watches costs only $35 (Timex Expedition T45181). I like it because it is simple, functional, and aesthetically pleasing in a subdued way.

But with the Pebble any question of aesthetic elegance goes right out the window. It's an ugly hunk of plastic. It will not impress anyone. But then, missing an appointment because your phone is in your coat pocket on silent isn't going to impress anyone either. The Pebble does one critical thing (other than tell time) and does it really well. Most of the time that makes it my go-to watch. On weekends I go for my Submariner knock-off, or if I'm doing something that will beat up the watch I'll go for the Timex.

% A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back the when it begins to rain. -- Robert Frost

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