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Comment: Re:Not their fault (Score 1) 378

by hey! (#48918827) Attached to: "Mammoth Snow Storm" Underwhelms

Something worth considering. We associate snow with cold, so it's tempting to see more and frequent snowstorms as disproof that the planet is warning. However temperature is only one of the constraints on snow. The other is moisture.

I have lived here in Boston over fifty years, and in the 60s and 70s the December climate was bitterly cold and *bone dry*. In recent decades there has been a marked tendency toward warmer AND wetter Decembers and Januaries, and thus frequent significant snow storms in December (almost unheard of) and January (rare until the 90s).

This storm was particularly intense, and in my town got two feet or more. This has happened on six prior occasions, once in 1888, and five times since 1969.

Comment: Re:Ppl who don't know C++ slamming C++ (Score 5, Insightful) 198

by hey! (#48894501) Attached to: Bjarne Stroustrup Awarded 2015 Dahl-Nygaard Prize

Well it's been many, many years since I've used it, which was back in the late 80s and early 90s. My impression from this time is that C++ is unquestionably a work of genius, but that I didn't particularly like it. Part of that is that we didn't really know how to use it effectively. In that era most object oriented programmers used concrete inheritance way too much. Part of that is due to aspects of what we thought an OO language should have that turned out to add complexity while being only marginally useful in practice (e.g. multiple concrete inheritance and operator overloading).

But in terms of meeting its design goals C++ is a tour de force of ingenuity -- even if some of those goals are questionable by today's standards. The very fact that we know some of those features aren't necessarily ideal is because they were taken out of the realm of academic noodling and put into a practical and highly successful language that could tackle the problems of the day on the hardware of the day. It's hard to overstate the practical impact of C++ on the advancement of both theory and practice of software development.

Any prize for contributions to OO programming pretty that didn't include Stroustrup in its first recipients would be dubious.

Comment: Re:I have an even better idea (Score 3, Informative) 304

by hey! (#48894185) Attached to: Government Recommends Cars With Smarter Brakes

I have an even better idea: let's find a way to fix human beings so that they're perfectly consistent in their behavior.

While certainly taking demonstrably bad drivers off the road is a no-brainer, even good drivers have lapses. My teenaged son is learning to drive, and whenever someone does something like cut us off I make a point of saying we can't assume the driver did it on purpose, or did it because he was an inconsiderate or bad person. Even conscientious and courteous drivers make mistakes or have lapses of attention.

It's the law of large numbers. If you spend a few hours on the road, you'll encounter thousands of drivers. A few of them will be really horrible drivers who shouldn't be on the road. But a few will be conscientious drivers having a bad day, or even a bad 1500 milliseconds.

Comment: Re:Just give the option to turn it off... (Score 5, Informative) 808

by hey! (#48878045) Attached to: Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret

As a cyclist, I can attest a Prius is not a totally silent vehicle. Nor, I am sure, is a Tesla although I've never encountered one on the road. The reason is tire noise.

For a modern car traveling at 20+ MPH and not accelerating, tire noise is the dominant sound. You can easily hear a car traveling at speed from a hundred yards or more away, almost entirely from the tire noise. The engine of a well-maintained car traveling at a constant 30 MPH might as well be totally silent.

At low speeds such as would be encountered in a parking lot or congested city street the engine noise is dominant, particularly because the car is doing a lot of accelerating and decelerating. At those speeds I think a modest synthesized engine sound is a very good idea, especially when you consider blind people and even more especially service dogs, who would have to be re-trained for some other kind of noise. There would be no need for the artificial sound once the car is at cruising speed.

Comment: Re:Splits the community in half (Score 1) 808

by hey! (#48877805) Attached to: Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret

If you play a synthesized noise back through the car's sound system the energy wasted is negligible. And arguably, anything that serves a purpose isn't wasted, so long as it is done with minimum energy needed.

I actually kind of like the idea of synthesized sounds. Think of it as being like haptic feedback. Anyone who's ever driven a car with an exhaust leak knows the powerful illusion it creates that the car's engine has lost power. So why not use sound to convey feedback about what the car is doing -- in this case using lots more gasoline.

In fact I'd take it further. If the oil is low or past due for changing, why not pipe valve tapping sounds into the passenger compartment? Or if the pressure of a tire drops maybe impart a thrum to the steering wheel.

Comment: Re:Internet cables? (Score 1) 418

by hey! (#48877483) Attached to: Blogger Who Revealed GOP Leader's KKK Ties Had Home Internet Lines Cut

A jacketed linear medium which carries data is called a "cable" whether it's RG-6 coax, Cat 1 UTP, or fiber. And if that cable carries Internet traffic, it's perfectly reasonable to call it an "Internet cable". The only problem I have with "cut the Internet cables" is the superfluous pluralization, which I suspect is the product of an analogy with "cut the telephone wires", which in contrast is technically accurate because a telephone cable carries a twisted pair of wires. But if people use "Internet cables" because they're not precisely aware of what's in the innards of a cable, we'll just have to accept that. When people use a word it becomes their property, no matter how ignorant or uninterested they are. They always win in the end because it take no effort to sustain ignorance and lack of interest in the details.

I understand the impulse to language pedantry; my particular bugaboo is is the contemporary use of "broadband", which sets my teeth on edge. It's futile to object to how people use and understand a phrase. It's the result same inexorable process that makes Shakespeare incomprehensible to modern audiences without special training, and which will make *Star Wars* incomprehensible to future generations. I've seen fairly radical changes in my own 50 year lifetime, like the disappearance of the verb "shall" from everyday speech.

Comment: Re:Person who worked in mosquito control here. (Score 1) 666

by hey! (#48873007) Attached to: US Senate Set To Vote On Whether Climate Change Is a Hoax

Almost certainly would have been stolen for agricultural use. I've supported teams going to Africa and theft is extremely common in many of the places DDT would be needed the most. And it's unlikely that the theft of DDT would result in more people being fed in the long term, for reasons to numerous to go through.

In any case your post illustrates the problematic mindset I alluded to: the tendency to imagine DDT as a panacea, and a substitute for expertise and forethought. Eliminating DDT caused pest control to get a lot smarter and intelligently targeted, which was a good thing, and leads to more sustainable gains. Admittedly it''s harder work to make smart, informed decisions, than to spray and pray.

Comment: Person who worked in mosquito control here. (Score 5, Informative) 666

by hey! (#48871945) Attached to: US Senate Set To Vote On Whether Climate Change Is a Hoax

I spent many years working with vector borne disease control, so I actually know something about this. Let me suggest a slightly different way of thinking about DDT.

The problem isn't DDT per se, but how, where and when it is applied.

In WW2 draftees were dusted with DDT powder to kill body lice, and so far as we know no adverse health results resulted -- probably because there were none. That's because this *application* is benign. Likewise spraying house interiors with DDT is a cost effective, safe, and environmentally benign.

Indiscriminate fogging with DDT on the other hand is neither environmentally benign, nor in the long term effective. DDT is (potentially) great stuff, and therein lies the problem. It promises (to a certain kind of mentality) to take the brain-work out of deciding when and where to spray. It's tempting to roll the trucks with ULV sprayers and spray anywhere and anytime, and it will often produce dramatic effects in the short term for not much money. In the long term it produces a host of environmental problems, and pesticide resistance -- particularly if it enters aquatic habitat. For one thing, it is toxic to invertebrates. **That's why we use the stuff**. The problem is that it is non-specific, and it (and its toxic by-products) remain in the environment for years or decades. Modern alternatives break down rapidly into non-toxic byproducts. In fact DDT's persistence is what makes it highly desirable for in-house spraying. One spraying can last for a year or more. That's good when you want to kill everything, for a long time; but that's not what you want to do when you're applying outside. Many invertebrates are beneficial, or even indispensable.

It's notable that in the article you link only quotes papers from the '69 to '72 era when it comes to the ecological impacts of DDT. This smacks of cherry-picking. When an idea like eggshell thinning enters the scientific discourse, it is normal for evidence for and against the idea to be found in the literature. This means it is *always* possible to find early literature citations which appear to refute the current scientific consensus. A quick google scholar search for articles on eggshell thinning and DDT from 1975 on shows overwhelming evidence in support of the hypothesis. For example it reveals the reason that the early feeding studies cited failed to find eggshell thinning: in many species it is not DDT, but DDE (a by product of the environmental breakdown of DDT) that is the culprit.

That DDT per se is not particularly toxic to humans is no news to anyone. I was actually briefly part of a team that looked at ways of tracking DDT usage so that it could be used in house spraying in Africa. The problem is that in desperately poor countries stuff gets stolen, and the danger is that material intended for safe and environmentally benign domestic spraying would be diverted to agricultural use which while not particularly threatening to human health would have disastrous impact on environmental health and the economic activities that depend on that.

Comment: Re:Yep it is a scam (Score 3, Informative) 666

by hey! (#48871645) Attached to: US Senate Set To Vote On Whether Climate Change Is a Hoax

But with global warming you don't necessarily get warmer weather. That's because "warming" is a misnomer. What's actually going on is the total amount of kinetic energy in the atmosphere is going up. That means **on average** the globe is warmer, true, but nobody actually experiences the global average. They experience the **instantaneous local temperature**.

With a more energetic atmosphere, air masses move around more and differently. That means a lot of places will get stretches of unusually warm AND unusually cold weather. And some places will get wetter, and others drier. The hallmark of climate, as you are most likely to experience it personally, is what would be anomalous weather a few decades ago.

Comment: Re:More US workers == offshoring?? (Score 1) 483

by hey! (#48815997) Attached to: IEEE: New H-1B Bill Will "Help Destroy" US Tech Workforce

And what if you don't get the green card? Then you will go back home, and be the ideal candidate for offshoring the job you care currently doing -- although at much lower wages.

Understand, I *want* you to get the green card too. We should just issue more green cards faster to tech workers if we need them. If there is an H-1B program, it should be a fast track toward permanent residency.

Concentrations of tech workers *create* jobs. That's why Facebook moved from Boston to the Bay Area. Boston has plenty of tech talent for a small company, but if you're planning on growing from a half dozen to thousands of tech employees in three or four years the Bay Area is arguably the only place you can do that. So why would we want to kick tech talent out of the country? Only to send their jobs with them.

Comment: Re:Protectionism never works (Score 5, Insightful) 483

by hey! (#48815869) Attached to: IEEE: New H-1B Bill Will "Help Destroy" US Tech Workforce

This has nothing to do with protectionism. Nobody is saying not let foreign software into the country.

As for foreign labor, I have no objection to bringing foreign labor in. My objection is kicking that labor out after it has gained experience. If there really was a tech worker shortage, these are the very workers we'd want to stay.

What this does is create a pool of offshore labor that's familiar with the work being done *here*. The obvious purpose is to use the immigration system to assist companies that want to relocate work overseas. And there's nothing special about American tech people; anything we can do can be done in India or Ukraine. That's fine, but I don't think the US government should be in the business of making it attractive for companies to move jobs overseas.

It's something so irrational (if we were to assume for the moment that the US government works for the welfare of the American people) there isn't even a word for it. It's the mirror image of protectionism. It's self-predation.

Gravity is a myth, the Earth sucks.