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Comment: Re:It's all bullshit (Score 1) 157

by danaris (#48444197) Attached to: Greenwald Advises Market-Based Solution To Mass Surveillance

it doesn't matter how many parties there are in the systemâ"only the two major ones have more than a snowball's chance in Hell of actually winning more than 1 or 2 legislative seats in anything but the rarest circumstances.

And this is true exactly because everyone assumes it is true and adapts their voting behavior accordingly.

Changing a political system, even one as inertia-ridden as we have in the US right now, is easier than changing human nature.

Dan Aris

Comment: Poor? Who's poor? (Score 1) 203

by danaris (#48436609) Attached to: Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

If you are wealthy and conservative, it's just to be expected as it is in your own self interest.

If you are poor and conservative, what the hell are you thinking? Why are you cutting your own throat so a few wealthy people can have lower taxes, lower estate taxes, and ship your jobs overseas if not ask you to build a stage so they can climb up on it and fire you?

There are no poor in America. There are only, in the words of John Steinbeck, "temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

One of the most insidiously effective tactics of the American right wing has been convincing the poor that they should support policies that only benefit the rich so that they can benefit from them when they're rich. (Though I'm not sure whether they were able to create such a sentiment, or merely capitalized and expanded upon one that was already there.)

Unfortunately, it seems to completely escape the understanding of far too many such that those same policies are making it that much harder for them to ever become rich.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:It's all bullshit (Score 1) 157

by danaris (#48434241) Attached to: Greenwald Advises Market-Based Solution To Mass Surveillance

How can you blame the voters for an evil choice when the choices are evil and evil?

Because the actual choices are evil, evil, I-don't-know-you, never-heard-of-you, who-are-you and I-don't-care-enough-to-actually-check-who-the-choices-are.

There are more than two parties in the system. The fact that only two of them matter is what voters can and should be blamed for.

However, as I think you know perfectly well, as long as we have single-selection first-past-the-post voting, it doesn't matter how many parties there are in the system—only the two major ones have more than a snowball's chance in Hell of actually winning more than 1 or 2 legislative seats in anything but the rarest circumstances.

No; once you've reached the polls, the chance to select better candidates is already long past. If you want a better choice of candidates, then the first answer is "do your best to become one yourself." Since that's not a viable option for many people, the second answer is "get involved at the local level, and start pushing for the things you believe in to be implemented there, and for them to trickle up the chain to state and national candidates."

In other words, if you want to have more than a choice between the establishment Republican candidate and the establishment Democrat candidate, or you want one or more of those candidates to actually represent your views more than they usually do, you need to sacrifice some of your time and/or money to make it happen. (Money is generally only relevant if you've got a LOT of it to sacrifice, though.) Simply showing up at the ballot box and expecting there to be a candidate that you can vote for, who has a reasonable chance of winning, who actually represents a significant majority of your views, is, in America today, naive at best and mind-numbingly ignorant at worst (depending largely on how well your views align with those of the people you tend to live among).

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:redundancy (Score 1) 212

by danaris (#48429761) Attached to: Congress Suggests Moat, Electronic Fence To Protect White House

I think the evolutionary psychology line is going too far. I don't think anyone is suggesting that losing the president will make us all leaderless and lost. Instead, that losing the president is a substantial blow that's best avoided. The reason for this is that the "shared leaders" you describe do not have equal seniority. So if you lose the top one, you still require a reshuffle and there will still be disruption. Further, the president is the figurehead of the nation and it is a blow to morale if he is taken out. For similar reasons, there was a big security boost around the statue of liberty following 9/11. Symbols matter, that's all.

I think you misunderstood his point—though your point is good too.

But what I read in Tom's post was that the reason we have a single President in the first place, rather than some sort of coequal ruling council, is because of our primitive desire for single, focused leadership.

Dan Aris

Education

Education Chief Should Know About PLATO and the History of Online CS Education 134

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-in-the-day dept.
theodp writes Writing in Vanity Fair, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan marvels that his kids can learn to code online at their own pace thanks to "free" lessons from Khan Academy, which Duncan credits for "changing the way my kids learn" (Duncan calls out his kids' grade school for not offering coding). The 50-year-old Duncan, who complained last December that he "didn't have the opportunity to learn computer skills" while growing up attending the Univ. of Chicago Lab Schools and Yale, may be surprised to learn that the University of Illinois was teaching kids how to program online in the '70s with its PLATO system, and it didn't look all that different from what Khan Academy came up with for his kids 40 years later (Roger Ebert remarked in his 2011 TED Talk that seeing Khan Academy gave him a flashback to the PLATO system he reported on in the '60s). So, does it matter if the nation's education chief — who presides over a budget that includes $69 billion in discretionary spending — is clueless about The Hidden History of Ed-Tech? Some think so. "We can't move forward," Hack Education's Audrey Watters writes, "til we reconcile where we've been before." So, if Duncan doesn't want to shell out $200 to read a 40-year-old academic paper on the subject (that's a different problem!) to bring himself up to speed, he presumably can check out the free offerings at Ed.gov. A 1975 paper on Interactive Systems for Education, for instance, notes that 650 students were learning programming on PLATO during the Spring '75 semester, not bad considering that Khan Academy is boasting that it "helped over 2000 girls learn to code" in 2014 (after luring their teachers with funding from a $1,000,000 Google Award). Even young techies might be impressed by the extent of PLATO's circa-1975 online CS offerings, from lessons on data structures and numerical analysis to compilers, including BASIC, PL/I, SNOBOL, APL, and even good-old COBOL.

Comment: Re:There's a clue shortage (Score 1) 574

by danaris (#48312921) Attached to: The Great IT Hiring He-Said / She-Said

If you want a career in software development, stay far, far from the places where there stuffed suits run the shop. It's a small and dirty corner of the industry.

I'm sorry, but while I don't have numbers on it, I don't believe that's true. It is my understanding that there are at least as many programmers, system architects, and all other sorts of software developers working in-house for companies that do not sell software, writing programs that will never be seen or used outside of that company.

Remember, in the modern world recruiters and hiring managers find your resume online, it's all "pull-based" now. Hiring manager want to solve specific kinds of problems. You want to list the specific kinds of problems that you've solved, because that's what they're actually looking for. Sure, sure, make sure to work in the keywords that recruiters search for, that's quite important, but those keywords can be anywhere.

I'm perfectly willing to believe that, at present, there are a significant number of big-corp hiring managers who will ignore any resume that doesn't "list specific kinds of problems that you've solved." However, I'm not willing to believe that it's every single hiring manager in the country, nor even every Fortune 500 hiring manager. Nor am I willing to believe that, if there are indeed a large percentage doing it, that is anything more than Yet Another Hiring Fad. Because I've heard about dozens of different hiring fads on Slashdot over the past decade and a half.

Me, I'm lucky. I got hired in academia, in a job that fits my skillset and temperament very well, so it doesn't actually matter just at the second (knock on wood) what my resume looks like. But if I took the advice of every person who comes along, like you, and says, "OK, you must have X in your resume or you'll never get a job," my resume would be about 20 pages long. (Except that one of the Xs I've heard is, in fact, "your resume must be no more than 1 page." So, go figure.)

If I had a way to evaluate such advice, to know which pieces are good, which are snake oil, and which are just out of date, it would be fantastic. Unfortunately, I don't—and I don't think you do, either.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:There's a clue shortage (Score 1) 574

by danaris (#48310243) Attached to: The Great IT Hiring He-Said / She-Said

Well, personally, I managed to snag a really nice job (for my own skills and temperament), and am not looking.

But it would shock me if there aren't places that "actually let HR do the hiring," but still have IT teams with good people on them that are worth working with. Sure, there are also places like that that you should run screaming from, but to say that "all businesses that do X are terrible places to work" is pretty commonly a false generalization, especially when X is a relatively common practice among large companies.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:There's a clue shortage (Score 3, Interesting) 574

by danaris (#48308639) Attached to: The Great IT Hiring He-Said / She-Said

(protip: no one cares about "duties and responsibilities" - explain cool problems that you personally solved instead)

Do you have any idea how many people will give different pieces of often totally mutually exclusive resume advice? Your "protip" sounds like a great way to never get looked at by a very large number of firms who actually let HR do all their hiring. And yes, those exist.

Your desires, requirements, and experience are not universal. They are yours. It is important to recognize that, and at least try not to penalize other people when their experience with the hiring process doesn't match what you expect or want.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:So What? (Score 1) 669

by danaris (#48265941) Attached to: Pope Francis Declares Evolution and Big Bang Theory Are Right

That interpretation is actually less of a break from the Old Testament, wherein Lucifer was just an extremely unpleasant Persian king, Satan is only mentioned a couple of times in passing, and God is as terrible as he is great.

Another part of the Old Testament that doesn't get talked about much, but intrigues me greatly is the degree to which it seems to be telling the story of (the followers of) a God who is, at first, fighting for supremacy against various other Gods, but who eventually emerges triumphant. Again, I'm not enough of a theological scholar to be able to speak with any real authority about this, but stuff in the Exodus story (the Egyptian priests being able to perform what were clearly supernatural feats, despite the fact that Moses was able to defeat them), through to Kings (Elijah calls down fire from heaven, while the priests of Baal are unable to do anything similar), and various phrasings (like "you shall have no other God before me") all seem to suggest it.

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:So What? (Score 1) 669

by danaris (#48261061) Attached to: Pope Francis Declares Evolution and Big Bang Theory Are Right

For instance, the modern synthesis of descent with variation has no supernatural guidance, but the Catholic version does.

While that's true, it's something of a misrepresentation of the situation. Catholics (and many other religious people, and most Christians) believe that everything is influenced by their God. Depending on how excited they are about this, they may insist that God is capable of producing any individual result, or that he is responsible for every outcome, but His Hand is supposed to be everywhere, or at the very least, everywhere necessary for His Plan. With All Appropriate Capital Letters, of course.

I think far too many people—not just atheists, but theists of whatever sort who are less familiar with the thinking of Catholics—miss this important point. It's not that God specifically decided to control evolution, and left other stuff alone—it's that He, through whatever means, guides everything, all the time, in accordance with His plan.

Though one thing I've always been somewhat fuzzy on is to what extent free will—both of humans and of Satan—really enters into the equation. Sometimes, it seems like Satan or humans acting badly can mess up God's plan, and other times it seems like everything they try to do just plays back into God's hands. And I'm not aware of any specific blanket pronouncements on the subject within standard doctrine, either clearly stating that humans do have free will or that we don't.

Just part of why I'm much more fond of the theology in the Curse of Chalion series by Lois McMaster Bujold. Not only do humans have explicit free will there, the Gods can't even interfere in the material world in more than tiny, subtle ways without humans deliberately surrendering their free will to one or more of the Gods...

Give me something clearly defined like that any day, over the mishmash that is Christian doctrine and theology. ^_^

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:So What? (Score 1) 669

by danaris (#48261003) Attached to: Pope Francis Declares Evolution and Big Bang Theory Are Right

If not who gets to make that call? The Pope?

Ummm...exactly. The Bible is obviously an important part of the Catholic belief system but it's the institution of the Church that has the final say. Catholicism is what the Catholic Church, with the Pope at its head, says it is. It may seem tautological but it actually isn't. For example, for many Protestant (especially Evangelical) sects, a layperson could make an effective argument about a controversial subject by saying "Here is what it says in Bible...", while an argument that appeals to an authority such as a pastor would not be (theologically) persuasive. But to a Catholic, the only real trump card is "The Church says..."

Except that, as I understand it, the Pope doesn't get to just declare which parts of the Bible (which has been accepted doctrine for well over a millennium) are true, which are false, and which are metaphor or allegory as it suits him. He can make pronouncements either about things that aren't directly covered by the Bible, or about rather specific pre- or proscriptions that it makes. If he wants to start chopping up the Bible, though, declaring large chunks to be something other than what has already been decided, I'm pretty sure he has to call some kind of doctrinal convention, like (IIRC) the Council of Carthage in the 4th century.

However, I'm neither a Catholic nor a particular scholar in these matters, so feel free to correct me if you have better information :-)

Dan Aris

Comment: Wrong God, I think (Score 1) 669

by danaris (#48260907) Attached to: Pope Francis Declares Evolution and Big Bang Theory Are Right

he said what the Church has said for some time now: if evolution does exist, it exists God created it.

Which is basically a riff on the god of the gaps argument.

Unless I'm misunderstanding what the GP said, I don't think it's the God of the gaps, I think it's more along the lines of the "watchmaker God," who set up all the mechanisms to produce the results he wanted, then set them in motion and sat back and watched.

Can you explain why God creating the mechanism of evolution (as opposed to the development of certain features and/or species) is a riff on the God of the gaps, in which it is posited that the cause for anything we can't yet explain is God's will?

Dan Aris

Comment: Re:Total nonsense (Score 2) 631

by danaris (#48253173) Attached to: Why CurrentC Will Beat Out Apple Pay

Far too few people are going to be interested in it.

Until, of course, paying with CurrentC gets you a 2% discount, 10% on select items during an introductory offer*.

( * with regular prices actually gradually going up )

I think you'll find that even for regular discounts, there are a LOT of people who will simply not be willing to give up their bank account and SSN details to retailers. I certainly won't. Not to mention it would still have the problem of being a horrendously clunky system to use.

And finally, don't forget that CurrentC isn't even ready for full deployment yet (various things have been quoting dates in 2015), while Apple Pay is live now, and over a million people signed up with it in the first 3 days. By the time CurrentC can get started, Apple Pay will have a very strong—and, I bet you, loyal, given how easy it is—installed base of users who are just not going to put up with their crap.

Dan Aris

Comment: Sure, I'll pay it. Better than the alternative. (Score 1) 631

by danaris (#48252857) Attached to: Why CurrentC Will Beat Out Apple Pay

Why would I use it?

Because merchants are probably going to start charging you a fee to use your credit card. They may hide it by jacking up prices then offer a "CurrentC discount" or something (sort of like the so-called "cash discount" at the gas station), since it's still tricky to charge a CC fee, but merchants are getting reamed and are trying hard to find a way to stop it. Where do you think that cash back on your Visa card comes from?

I would rather pay an extra 3-5% on every transaction at one of these retailers (with the option of simply never shopping there, which, at present, I pretty much don't anyway) than expose myself to the possibility of having my entire checking account drained when just one of them manages to get hacked and lose my account information to thieves.

I don't care if they overhaul and rebrand this piece of crap so it's less pathetically insecure and inconvenient—even if they make it as simple to use as Apple Pay is now. As long as they a) demand my bank account number, b) demand my Social Security number, or c) demand to be able to track vast amounts of information about me, there isn't a way in Hell I'm signing up for CurrentC or any service like it.

As it stands, it's just a total no-brainer. I can't understand why anyone would rather use CurrentC than cash or a credit card, let alone Apple Pay.

Dan Aris

The sooner all the animals are extinct, the sooner we'll find their money. - Ed Bluestone

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