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Comment Study only considered violent games, not PacMan (Score 1) 199

How could PacMan realistically affect real world functioning?

Unfortunately, the summary is missing an important fact: the study _did_ control for the type of games played; the study (at least attempted) to only measure the effect of violent video games, although they relied on self-reporting of game type by the children who played them (a method which, while much better than nothing, still has issues). So yeah, the study authors are well aware that PacMan isn't going to cause violence.

Comment Makes me appreciate the English alphabet (Score 1) 315

I have to say, learning about other alphabets really makes me appreciate the English alphabet because it has fewer characters than many alphabets. The number of characters didn't matter much until machines that could reproduce written words became commonplace (typewriters, computers, etc.), but it's interesting how keyboards can drive the simplification of some alphabets. E.g. if it's simpler to type "oe" than find the "" character, you can guess what people choose to do (even though France’s culture and communication ministry doesn't approve).

Languages are always changing, and it's nice to see a force that simplifies them. If only there were some force that could drive English spelling reform...

Comment Good. We need more bets... (Score 2) 252

...because betting is a tax on bullshit. If anything needs to be taxed in this country, it's bullshit.

That said, it doesn't look like anyone has changed their minds over these bets. Even the losers are ignoring the holes in their pockets. I guess we need more bets...

It's also interesting to know who is making the bets. I've always wondered who genuinely disbelieves global warming and who claims to be a skeptic for political (or other) reasons. I'm guessing those that make large bets are sincere.

Comment I don't often watch TV news... (Score 1) 276

...but when I do, I find that AJAM is impartial, informative, and pretty dull.

I was on a delayed plane a few months ago, so they gave everyone free in-flight tv to keep us somewhat happier. I didn't have anything better to do, so I flipped back and forth between Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and AJAM. (Maybe Bloomberg too?) Anyhow, it was really clear that AJAM was covering more events and doing it in a very non-sensationalist way. I learned more for AJAM than from the rest of the channels combined.

Being non-sensationalist must be part of the reason AJAM folded. It's hard to make money on TV by simply telling people the facts. It's much easier to make money by scaremongering. (E.g. ebola will kill us all!)

Thankfully, written news is cheaper to produce, so you can still get good information in written form.

Comment Not a zero sum game (Score 2) 729

When I say that, I'm speaking in terms of building your own net worth. Renting a house doesn't do that, instead it adds to somebody else's net worth. Borrowing money and paying interest does the same thing.

You've clearly been successful, but don't ignore opportunity costs and luck. Your house may well have been a good investment, but on average, homes are poor financial investments (although they can be great lifestyle investments). It looks like the Dow Jones went up about 40% between 2011 and 2014, which is a lot more than average home prices increased over the same period. So paying rent on a cheap apartment and investing in stocks could have been a better investment. You may have been able to do better than stocks by borrowing money (getting a mortgage) and then investing the borrowed money (in a house), but realize that leveraged investments are riskier than regular investments. If you bought stocks in 2007, your money would have gone poof. If you bought a house in 2007, your house's value would have gone poof and you would still have owed money on it.

Your language makes it sound like the economy is a zero sum game: building someone else's net worth means destroying your own. That's simply not true. You know from your mortgage that borrowing can be a good investment. The problem is that many people don't know when an investment is bad.

Comment Renting and borrowing have important differences (Score 4, Informative) 729

There are definitely similarities between renting and borrowing money, but there are important differences. Borrowing money means a (often long-term) obligation that you can't simply walk away from; you have to pay off the debt. If you're renting, you can just walk away once your contact is up. In my case, I only need to give 30 days notice if I want to move out.

The analogy between rent and interest also has problems. Rent means constant payments over time with a fixed total price and no long-term ownership; if you have a one year contract at $1k a month, then you know that you will pay $12k over the length of the contact and you don't own anything at the end of the day.

Repeated borrowing (like in credit cards or loans to pay off loans) means the price is not fixed, in part because the duration of the loan(s) is not fixed. If you have $1k in credit card debt, that could mean paying $1k immediately or it could mean paying a lot more over time. The flip side is that you do get long-term ownership of whatever you buy with the borrowed money.

Mortgages (and fixed-term borrowing) are closer to renting, but you own the property once the mortgage is payed off. Given the tax incentives for mortgages in the US, mortgages can be a pretty good deal.

Comment AT&T DSL fired up IPv6 (Score 1) 294

A few months ago, I was kind of shocked to see that my computer was downloading Ubuntu updates from an IPv6 address. I was vaguely aware that AT&T DSL had IPv6 turned on (I could see the setting in their stupid gateway), but I didn't know that it actually got used. I'm looking at iftop right now, and most of my connections seem to be IPv6. So, IPv6 does get used for generic internet communications.

Comment Just Fucking Google It (Score 1) 163

It's not too hard to find the post that the IRS agent found:


If interested, please send your answers to the following questions to rossulbricht at gmail dot com

In fact, it the post was simply there. It didn't have to be preserved in another poster's response.

I leave that as an exercise to the reader to find the posts where altoid (Ulbricht) promoted the Slik Road.

But never mind the facts; I'm sure the FBI just faked the post...

Comment Does calling 'free' teach you anything? (Score 1) 69

(I'm not responding to you in particular, but this seems like a relevant branch to post in.)

I don't get why people think that it's not a real education unless you call malloc and free (or their equivalent in other languages). malloc and free are still automatic memory management because you're not implementing the details yourself. Yes, it's good to know how automatic memory management works, but calling simply malloc and free doesn't teach you that. Have you implemented your own memory management scheme from scratch? Unless the answer is 'yes', learning about memory management is something divorced from learning the language.

Complaining about automatic memory management is as silly as complaining about these newfangled languages like C with their automatic floating point arithmetic! CPUs didn't (and some still don't) have hardware floating point support, so floating point math was/is a software blackbox that gets used just like automatic memory management, but no one seems to complain about using the floating point black box.

Why? Because very few of us were brought up on languages without floating point support (I'm looking at you, FORTH), so we don't see floating point arithmetic as the black box that it is. However, many of us were brought up on languages without automatic memory management, so we can spot that black box.

Let's take the black-box problem to its, ahem, logical extreme: you're not a real programmer unless you can build your computer from scratch with NAND gates alone. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

Just let the kids have their automatic garbage collection, easy pointers, etc.

Comment Ugh, first they ax the AB and now this? (Score 3, Insightful) 69

I see that they're hell-bent on watering down the computer science exams as much as possible. First they ax the AB exam (which had some real meat to it), and now they introduce a non-computer-science programming class. I'm not opposed to the test per se, but don't call it computer science. It sounds like something between a problem-solving challenge and weak vocational training. Again, that's not a bad thing, but call it what it is: AP Computer Literacy.

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