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Comment: The "Your mileage may vary" problem (Score 1) 418

by dpbsmith (#47524885) Attached to: Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

Bodies vary. No two surgical procedures are the same.

People are always saying something like "a hernia repair is nothing," when what they mean is "MY hernia repair was nothing."

Even if YOUR LASIK went well... ...even if MOST LASIKs so well... ...even if ALMOST ALL LASIKs go well... ...you have to multiply the probability by the consequences.

First, start thinking about what a 1% chance means. For example, I've had blood drawn literally hundreds of times, and donated blood dozens of times. The phlebotomists always tell me I have "beautiful veins." It's nothing. Nothing at all. Then one day, for absolutely no reason I could tell, I was having a blood draw for some tests, didn't hurt, didn't feel clumsy... and ten minutes later there was a big black and blue lump that didn't go away for days and hurt enough to be annoying. That was probably an example of a "less than 1% chance" where the risk showed up.

The thing is, a 1% chance of getting an annoying bruise is no big deal. But a 1% chance of lousing up one of your eyes is.

Given a refractive error that can be completely corrected a) without surgery (i.e. a lens) or b) with surgery, one should be cautious about choosing surgery. It is, after all, UNNECESSARY surgery.

Comment: Re:Chain effect (Score 5, Interesting) 300

by dpbsmith (#47456529) Attached to: Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

Indeed. I worked in a Fortune 500 company--I arrived in the middle of a new CEO's "three-year turnaround plan," and shortly thereafter he was replaced by another CEO and shortly thereafter the company collapsed with stunning speed.

One of the things that was interesting was seeing the effect of a layoff from inside. It isn't just morale, although since layoffs were done on the "night and fog" principle--they didn't post lists of those laid off--for about two days after each layoff, all worked stopped as everyone else in the company spent their time telephoning everyone they knew to see if they were OK.

But there was also an immediate, precipitous problem with any kind of customer support or service. The air was full of overheard conversations. "Let me put you on hold. Uh, Marie, this customer wants to order a license for a vestibulator spracket. Who handles that?" "It used to be Bob, but he was laid off yesterday. Uh, Lewis, do you know?" "No idea, maybe his manager would know. Let me see, his manager was Kelly Sundstrom." "Oh, she's no longer with the company..."

No joke. Customers wanted to buy stuff and couldn't. Customers with service contracts couldn't get gear fixed. The stock price went up because at that time Wall Street seemed to love layoffs, but there were, actually, reports in the IT press about customers being disgruntled at bad service, and Wall Street never seemed to connect THAT with the layoffs.

Comment: "Anonymous Coward" in another thread nailed it (Score 1) 300

by dpbsmith (#47456399) Attached to: Massive Job Cuts Are Reportedly Coming For Microsoft Employees

here.. Satya Nadella said that he would "reduce time it takes to get things done by having fewer people involved in each decision" and this poster translated it:

"reduce time it takes to get things done by having fewer people involved in each decision = layoffs"

Comment: "The Shadow and the Flash," Jack London, 1903 (Score 1) 238

Science-fiction comes true. Sort of. Jack London (better known for "The Call of the Wild") published a story in 1903 entitled "The Shadow and the Flash," online here. The plot in part turns on the concept of a perfectly black pigment. It is a good story--much better than you'd guess from a summary. As to the optics London was either confused or exercising creative license:

"'Color is a sensation," he was saying.... 'Without light, we can see neither colors nor objects themselves. All objects are black in the dark, and in the dark it is impossible to see them. If no light strikes upon them, then no light is flung back from them to the eye, and so we have no vision-evidence of their being.' "But we see black objects in daylight," I objected. 'Very true,' he went on warmly. 'And that is because they are not perfectly black. Were they perfectly black, absolutely black, as it were, we could not see them ... with the right pigments, properly compounded, an absolutely black paint could be produced which would render invisible whatever it was applied to.'"

Uh, no. But it sounds plausible. Wonderful descriptive touches: "When you are near me I have feelings similar to those produced by dank warehouses, gloomy crypts, and deep mines. And as sailors feel the loom of the land on dark nights, so I think I feel the loom of your body."

Two brothers who feel sibling rivalry to a homicidal degree, are both amateur scientists with private laboratories. (Well, OF COURSE they are, who isn't?) They decide to seek the secret of invisibility, one by developing a perfectly black pigment, the other by becoming perfectly transparent. Both methods are flawed. The title refers to the flaws. The brother who paints himself with perfectly black paint, unfortunately, still casts a shadow. The brother who becomes transparent, apparently does not refract light but does disperse it (???), so intermittently evokes bright rainbow-colored flashes.

It is a much better story than it sounds from that description.

Comment: End users experience the products, not the culture (Score 3, Interesting) 204

by dpbsmith (#47440697) Attached to: New Microsoft CEO Vows To Shake Up Corporate Culture

I'd much rather hear him say:

"I use Windows 8.1 on a desktop and it sucks. Windows 9 is going to be good on desktops and we are not going to release it until it is.

AND, we are going to play fair with users and make sure that every security patch we develop for Windows Embedded Industry is also SQAed on and made available to all Windows XP users. It may not make us the most money but it's the right thing to do."

Corporate culture? I am an end-user, I don't care what Microsoft's corporate culture is, I care about its products.

+ - Today in year-based computer errors: draft notices sent to men born in the 1800s->

Submitted by sandbagger
sandbagger (654585) writes "The glitch originated with the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles during an automated data transfer of nearly 400,000 records. The records of males born between 1993 and 1997 were mixed with those of men born a century earlier. The federal agency didn't know it because the state uses a two-digit code to indicate birth year."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Sawdust is a classic, classic food adulterant (Score 1) 1

by dpbsmith (#47364949) Attached to: There's More Fiber in Fast Food Than You Realize

For example, H. G. Wells' novel, "Tono-Bungay," published in 1909, about the marketing of a patent medicine.

"The child made no end out of the [wood] shavin's. So might you. Powder 'em. They might be anything. Soak 'em in jipper,â"Xylo-tobacco! Powder'em and get a little tar and turpentinous smell in,â"wood-packing for hot bathsâ"a Certain Cure for the scourge of Influenza! There's all these patent grain foods,â"what Americans call cereals. I believe I'm right, sir, in saying they're sawdust."

"No!" said my uncle, removing his cigar; "as far as I can find out it's really grain,â"spoilt grain.... I've been going into that."

"Well, there you are!" said Ewart. "Say it's spoilt grain. It carried out my case just as well. Your modern commerce is no more buying and selling than sculpture. It's mercyâ"it's salvation. It's rescue work! It takes all sorts of fallen commodities by the hand and raises them. Cana isn't in it. You turn waterâ"into Tono-Bungay."

Comment: When GM canceled the EV-1... (Score 1) 4

by dpbsmith (#46999943) Attached to: Is The Future Actually Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Not Electric?

...they said it was because, they said, hydrogen fuel-cell technology was better and all but ready. Remember the Hy-Wire? Demonstrated in 2002, and promised for showrooms by 2010.

What? You DON'T remember the Hy-Wire? Funny about that.

I just don't get it. We're not even close to having good nationwide ubiquitous infrastructure support for pure electric cars yet, and we're going to get that a long time before I can pull up into the corner Mobil and fill 'er up with hydrogen.

Comment: Scripts and scores for musicals are the same way (Score 2) 252

by dpbsmith (#46945513) Attached to: $200 For a Bound Textbook That You Can't Keep?

It's not unprecedented. I don't know the legal details but anyone who's ever been an in amateur production of a musical will tell you that Music Theatre, International will not sell you a script or a score. I believe the statement is that you have rented them. You are warned to make any markings lightly and in pencil and to erase them completely before returning them.

Comment: How do you get decision-makers to follow it? (Score 2) 52

by dpbsmith (#46864869) Attached to: Book Review: Designing With the Mind In Mind

It's nice to hear about UI research, but at the moment _nobody seems to be making use of the UI research that's already been done._

Consider, for example, the current fad for "mystery meat" UIs (affordances that can't be seen and thus can't be found unless you already know where they are). What's with that? Haven't designers read "The Design of Everyday Things?" Heck, haven't they read the 1983 edition of "Inside Macintosh?"

Comment: It's still a solution without a problem. (Score 1) 129

by dpbsmith (#46819959) Attached to: Lytro Illum Light-Field Camera Lets You Refocus Pictures Later

It's still a one-trick pony, and not a trick that many people need to do very often. Sure, a professional may invest in any number of specialized $1,200 tools to get images under special situations. It's just the idea that this revolutionizes the field of photography, or that _everyone_ needs this to get good pictures of Tommy blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, that's crazy.

I cannot think of a single time in my life when I wanted to press the button once and get two different images, one with subject A in focus and subject B blurred, and the other with subject A blurred and subject B in focus.

If this camera could take "deep focus" pictures, a la _Citizen Kane_, in which all objects at all distances were in focus at the same time, that would be mildly useful and a lot of amateur photographers would like it, even if the effect were a little boring. But, as nearly as I can tell, it can't.

Comment: The announcer's delivery! (Score 1) 146

by dpbsmith (#46778359) Attached to: Vintage 1960s Era Film Shows IRS Defending Its Use of Computers

"Viewers today are more likely captivated by the refrigerator-size computers and 1960s hairdos." No, the very first thing that struck me was the once-familiar announcer's "authoritative" style of delivery. Among other things, the voice often drops by about a musical fifth on the last word of the sentence.

This is not only standard for announcers (Edward R. Murrow being one example), but you even hear it in movie dialog.

I keep wanting to know some name for the change. It was not instantaneous, but it seems to me that it occurred over not much more than a decade or so. Walter Cronkite had a transitional voice style--somewhere in between what you hear in this movie and a more natural, conversational delivery such as you hear today. (Or, at least, I hear it as natural and conversational--maybe fifty years from now it will sound mannered and affected, too).

Comment: McGuffey's 4th New Eclectic Reader:"The Colonists" (Score 5, Interesting) 737

by dpbsmith (#46736471) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful?

A nineteenth-century schoolbook addresses this question. Post-apocalyptic society might not be too different from that of a "colony." Farmers, millers, carpenters, blacksmiths, masons, shoemakers, doctors, school-masters make the cut; barbers, just barely; silversmiths, soldiers, dancing-masters, lawyers, politicians, and "gentlemen" do not.

[note.â"Mr. Barlow one day invented a play for his children, on purpose to show them what kind of persons and professions are the most useful in society, and particularly in a new settlement. The following is the conversation which took place between himself and his children.]
Mr. Barlow. Come, my boys, I have a new play for you. I will be the founder of a colony; and you shall be people of +different trades and professions, coming to offer yourselves to go with me. What are you, Arthur?
Arthur. I am a farmer, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Very well. Farming is the chief thing we have to depend upon. The farmer puts the seed into the earth, and takes care of it when it is grown to ripe corn. Without the farmer, we should have no bread. But you must work very +diligently; there will be trees to cut down, and roots to dig out, and a great deal of hard labor.
Arthur. I shall be ready to do my part.
Mr. Barlow. Well, then I shall take you +willingly, and as many more such good fellows as I can find. We shall have land enough, and you may go to work as soon as you please. Now for the next.
James. I am a miller, sir.
Mr. Barlow. A very useful trade! Our corn must be ground, or it will do us but little good. But what must we do for a mill, my friend?
James. I suppose we must make one, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then we must take a mill-wright with us, and carry mill-stones. Who is next?
Charles. I am a carpenter, sir.
Mr. Barlow. The most +necessary man that could offer. We shall find you work enough, never fear. There will be houses to build, fences to make, and chairs and tables beside. But all our timber is growing; we shall have hard work to fell it, to saw boards and planks, and to frame and raise buildings. Can you help in this?
Charles. I will do my best, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then I engage you, but I advise you to bring two or three able +assistants along with you. William. I am a blacksmith.
Mr. Barlow. An +excellent companion for the carpenter. We can not do without cither of you. You must bring your great bellows, +anvil, and +vise, and we will set up a forge for you, as soon as we arrive. By the by, we shall want a mason for that.
Edward. I am one, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Though we may live in log-houses at first, we shall want brick-work, or stone-work, for +chimneys, +hearths, and ovens, so there will be employment for a mason. Can you make bricks, and burn lime?
Edward. I will try what I can do, sir.
Mr. Barlow. No man can do more. I engage you, Who comes next?
Francis. I am a +shoe-maker, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Shoes we can not well do without, but I fear we shall get no +leather.
Francis. But I can dress skins, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Can you? Then you are a useful fellow. I will have you, though I give you double wages.
George. I am a tailor, sir.
Mr. Barlow. We must not go naked; so there will be work for a tailor. But you are not above mending, I hope, for we must not mind wearing +patched clothes, while we work in the woods.
George. I am not, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then I engage you, too.
Henry. I am a silversmith, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then, my friend, you can not go to a worse place than a new colony to set up your trade in.
Henry. But I understand clock and watch making, too.
Mr. Barlow. We shall want to know how the time goes, but we can not afford to employ you. At present, I advise you to stay where you are.
Jasper. I am a barber and hair-dresser.
Mr. Barlow. What can we do with you? If you will shave our men's rough beards once a week, and crop their hairs once a quarter, and be content to help the carpenter the rest of the time, we will take you. But you will have no ladies' hair to curl, or gentlemen to powder, I assure you. Louis. I am a doctor, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Then, sir, you are very welcome; we shall some of us be sick, and we are likely to get cuts, and +bruises, and broken bones. You will be very useful. We shall take you with pleasure.
Stephen. I am a lawyer, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Sir, your most obedient servant. When we are rich enough to go to law, we will let you know.
Oliver. I am a +school-master.
Mr. Barlow. That is a very respectable and useful profession; as soon as our children are old enough, we shall be glad of your services. Though we are hardworking men, we do not mean to be ignorant; every one among us must be taught reading and writing. Until we have employment for you in teaching, if you will keep our accounts, and, at present, read sermons to us on Sundays, we shall be glad to have you among us. Will you go?
Oliver. With all my heart, sir.
Mr. Barlow. Who comes here?
Philip. I am a soldier, sir; will you have me?
Mr. Barlow. We are +peaceable people, and I hope we shall not be obliged to fight. We shall have no occasion for you, unless you can be a +mechanic or farmer, as well as a soldier.
Richard. I am a dancing-master, sir.
Mr. Barlow. A dancing-master? Ha, ha! And pray, of what use do you expect to be in the "backwoods?"
Richard. Why, sir, I can teach you how to appear in a drawing-room. I shall take care that your children know """precisely how low they must bow when saluting company. In short, I teach you the science, -which will +distinguish you from the savages.
Mr. Barlow. This may be all very well, and quite to your fancy, but / would suggest that we, in a new colony, shall need to pay more attention to the raising of corn and +potatoes, the feeding of cattle, and the preparing of houses to live in, than to the +cultivatioa of this elegant "science" as you term it.
John. I, sir, am a +politician, and would be willing to edit any newspaper you may wish to have published in your colony.
Mr. Barlow. Very much obliged to you, Mr. Editor; but for the present, I think you may wisely remain where you are. We shall have to labor so much for the first two or three years, that we shall care but little about other matters than those which concern our farms. We certainly must spend some time in reading, but I think we can obtain +suitable books for our +perusal, with much less money than it would require to support you and your newspaper.
Robert. I am a gentleman, sir.
Mr. Barlow. A gsntlemanl And what good can you do us?
Robert. I intend to spend most of my time in walking about, and +overseeing the men at work. I shall be very willing to assist you with my advice, whenever I think it necessary. As for my support, that need not trouble you much. I expect to shoot game enough for my own eating; you can give me a little bread, and a few """vegetables; and the barber shall be my servant.
Mr. Barlow. Pray, sir, why should we do all this for you?
Robert. Why, sir, that you may have the credit of saying that you have one gentleman, at least, in your colony.
Mr. Barlow. Ha, ha, ha! A fine gentleman, truly! When we desire the honor of your company, sir, we will send for you.

Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly. -- Henry Spencer

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