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Comment: The Shearing Economy (Score 1) 120

by epine (#49334721) Attached to: Uber To Turn Into a Big Data Company By Selling Location Data

Ugh. All your base R belong to us.

Avec optional appositional phrase:

means that Uber can, and is, on its way to becoming a Big Data company

Sans optional appositional phrase:

means that Uber can on its way to becoming a Big Data company

With proper parallelism:

means that Uber can become, and is on its way to becoming, a Big Data company

With more visual help to pair the distal commas:

means that Uber can become—and is on its way to becoming—a Big Data company

As it happens, I listened to an EconTalk episode last night dating back to July 2014, which is mainly about Uber.

Michael Munger on the Sharing Economy

This happens to be the audience-favourite EconTalk episode from 2014.

I've never been as much of a Mike Munger fan as many listeners of the show, but I actually thought this episode was well done. It's about 59m30s longer than what fits in an SMS message, so that makes it fairly clear that this episode is not preaching to the Uber choir. It's for those of us north of 30, whose lives are so dismal we sit around and listen to other people converse about how old and dismal we've all become.

Comment: the Lumia mosaic (Score 1) 213

by epine (#49318483) Attached to: Finland's Education System Supersedes "Subjects" With "Topics"

Recently I was reading The Seven Day Weekend by Ricardo Semler on my day off. There's a chapter or so devoted to the Lumiar School he founded, which runs on a Mosaic curriculum—a curriculum which discards the traditional subject orientation for learning experiences. Here's an article written about it shortly after the school opened: Learn what you want.

What we need to change to go along with this (if we keep them) are the standardized tests (by subject). I think there need to be many questions offered, from which the student can choose, and the final score needs to be more like tower diving, where your score on what you attempt is presented alongside with the average difficulty rating. Brownose U. could prefer to admit students with a 100% score at the high-school senior difficulty level, while Speed College could prefer to admit students with an 80% score at the level of a third-year undergraduate (in their chosen major)—tailoring their environment appropriately. Survival of the fittest lacks vitality unless there's real diversity in the methods employed.

Once upon a time, the problem with taking this approach is that having some of your brightest students going deep into difficult sub-topics (such as a bright high school math student who takes a shine to number theory), was that too many students would get too far ahead of the teachers, because few high school math teachers (for example) would be able to ace the entire panoply of twenty offered questions.

With the technology of social networking, it's a solvable problem to hook bright students up with teachers with expertise in the subject area, no matter how deep and narrow. If there are ten high-school math prodigies in all of Brazil who take a shine to number theory, you just need one math teacher (available online) who is good at number theory to help shepherd their studies in a productive direction.

No matter what the child wants to learn, find the teacher who can teach it. In a system as large as Brazil (to continue with my Lumiar example) it can't be that hard to have a least one teacher who can keep up with a bright child no matter how unusual the learning passion (excepting all things Narnia, like astrology and phrenology and intelligent design).

We have far less excuse to funnel every child down the same subject-matter cattle chute than ever before.

Comment: Re:Absolutley (Score 3, Interesting) 572

by epine (#49311411) Attached to: Greenpeace Co-Founder Declares Himself a Climate Change Skeptic

If that strike is destroying monuments thousands of years old and causing irreparable damage to a very fragile desert ecosystem - yes, absolutely I would be strongly against ANY entity that did that, but more importantly didn't even consider it to be a problem.

I take it then that you'll be pretty negative toward the American administration who oversaw the destruction or loss of a substantial slice of cultural artifacts held in trust on behalf of the entire Iraqi civilization.

"The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over and over and over. And it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase. And you see it 20 times. And you think, my goodness, were there that many vases?" Rumsfeld told reporters. "Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?"

This from the man who likely repeated the phrase "weapons of mass destruction" times beyond measure. My goodness, is it possible that there were any WMD in the whole country?

the true figure was around 15,000 items, including 5,000 extremely valuable cylinder seals

Perhaps Rumsfeld hates all museums with the same uniform, searing passion, but I suspect he might have summarized the matter differently if 15,000 items walked out of the Smithsonian, including personal artifacts brought over to American on the Mayflower that were already so venerable they predated Constantine.

Now to deal with the article at hand:

If this trend continued, the carbon dioxide level would have become too low to support life on Earth.

If he thinks this trend could have continued deep into the extirpation of the chlorophyllosphere, he's badly in need of that new ultrasound treatment used to cure Alzheimer's disease in the mice model.

Epic fail. Crank dismissed.

Comment: Re:I think computer scientists already knew this.. (Score 1) 274

by epine (#49286509) Attached to: Speaking a Second Language May Change How You See the World

I formally divorced TRS-80 Level II BASIC by writing something along the lines of the following code snippet:

for i = 1 to 5
    gosub basic_sucks
    if (i==4) return;


I'm not going to wrack my brains to make this into a working example of obfuscated code, but it definitely was possible to mis-nest the loop and call stacks in this way, without the code generating any run-time notifications.

BASIC did me no damage at all, because I consciously filed formal divorced papers, rather than letting my further education accomplish the same by slow attrition.

One can do the same with English without actually learning German or Chinese. One's native state of mind has a lot to do with it.


Hertz Puts Cameras In Its Rental Cars, Says It Has No Plans To Use Them 188

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.
schwit1 writes Hertz has added a camera to many of its newer cars that uses the "NeverLost" navigational device. So why is Hertz creeping out customers with cameras it's not using? "Hertz added the camera as a feature of the NeverLost 6 in the event it was decided, in the future, to activate live agent connectivity to customers by video. In that plan the customer would have needed to turn on the camera by pushing a button (while stationary)," Hertz spokesperson Evelin Imperatrice explained. "The camera feature has not been launched, cannot be operated and we have no current plans to do so."

Comment: salt and freshly ground black people (Score 3, Funny) 667

by epine (#49264899) Attached to: Why There Is No Such Thing as 'Proper English'

As a coda to my post, consider this howler:

World's Worst Typo Leaves Publisher Reeling

An Australian publisher is reprinting 7,000 cookbooks over a recipe for pasta with "salt and freshly ground black people." ... The reprint will cost Penguin 20,000 Australian dollars ($18,500) ...

This incident was mentioned in a book I read not long ago about the fine art of editing to a high standard.

It appears that tiny slip cost some poor sod real money. If the writer is sloppy or inconsistent in his/her usage standard, the proof-reading job becomes ten times harder. The writer probably accepted the wrong spell-checker suggestion when he/she was bleary with late-night fatigue.

Comment: Yet Another Vanity License (Score 1) 667

by epine (#49264863) Attached to: Why There Is No Such Thing as 'Proper English'

There are a number of elements of British English that would get an American student marked wrong on an English exam, and vice versa.

This is because half the point of higher education is to master pedantry. There's a huge overlap in the cognitive equipment required to perform careful scholarship and lint-picking misplaced letters and words.

Students aren't actually marked "wrong" on their tests, despite the convention to speak about it this way. Their answers are marked "acceptable" and "unacceptable".

In an undergraduate course in computer science on an assignment devoted to algorithmic efficiency, I had a program that ran two orders of magnitude faster than the class median marked 6/10 because I didn't write my program in the mandated coding style with the mandated level of inane comments (requirements which I rejected then, and have continued to reject ever since). The professor liked Pascal and hated C. My coding style was closer to K&R and P. J. Plauger than Wirth.

Jon Postel

Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send.

In order to be maximally conservative, one must strive for some degree of consistency. There's no way to do this without adopting some kind of norm.

There's a reason why some editors strongly prefer the Oxford comma. If you don't use it (I tend not to), there are situations where you can end up with your sentence not saying what you intended it to say.

Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.

In the worst case, you can end up embroiled in a libel lawsuit. Many of the stylistic codifications accused of pedantry are similarly battle tested.

The additional social process that sometimes takes this too far is that you get a team of editors working on manuscripts from multiple authors. If every author has a different style guide, or the editors don't have a consistent reference, the group effort to achieve a consistent manuscript quickly degenerates.

Unfortunately, this often gets taken to the extreme limit, until you have obscure rulings on the picayune whose utility is obscured in the mists of time.

I learned to touch type on a manual typewriter, inserting two spaces after the sentence final punctuation mark. In the younger generation, this is portrayed as a fuddy-duddy convention. Do they even know that an advanced typesetting system sets the inter-sentence gap differently than the inter-word gap when they make this declaration?

I continue to use the double space convention when typing because it makes it easier to proof-read what I've written. My eyes are used to the double space to help me quickly navigate my sentence boundaries. And the extra space is pretty much effortless to type.

Going to the extreme of portraying the established conventions as nothing more than a bunch of "he said / she said" is complete bullshit. It's difficult to come up with a set of conventions that maximizes the conservatism (in the Postel sense) of a written text. What's the logic for coming up with your own? It's not so different than coming up with your own software license. There's a significant likelihood that what you come up with isn't legally solid, and there's a considerable burden imposed on everyone else to navigate Yet Another Vanity License. Why don't you also roll your own encryption method? It could work.

For me where it goes to far is when the standard authorities (e.g. Chicago Manual of Style) seem to forget that language standards are living standards. The underlying technology changes and the publishing demands also change. What was justifiable thirty years ago is perhaps irrelevant today.

I personally can't stand folding punctuation marks under an end-quotation mark. As far as I'm concerned, that's a matter for the layout engine, if it ends up being done at all. On the input side, it's just semantically wrong. All you get for it is a slight improvement of the visual tidiness on the printed page, at the cost (sometimes) of creating ambiguity in the reader's mind about whether the punctuation mark belongs to the quoted material, or not. Only a crazy person advocates at the same time for the Oxford comma (which averts ambiguity) and for end-quotation punctuation folding (which introduces ambiguity). Aesthetics or semantics? Make up your damn mind! (For myself, I use the Oxford comma as necessary and I make a point of being able to identify those cases.)

I'm sure most people sense that the argument in favour of standard usage as "just another style" mainly comes from people who wish to avoid effort and mastery rather than double down in the honourable spirit of Jon Postel.

Comment: Re:No warning ? (Score 2) 204

by epine (#49245799) Attached to: Endurance Experiment Kills Six SSDs Over 18 Months, 2.4 Petabytes

How often do we need to repeat this mantra to people?

Not quite so often as you think, if this is just an excuse to regard an accessible, but possibly degraded primary copy as worse than having no backup of your backup at all.

Having in my possession a ZFS backup with some corrupt nodes, I could still have a provable hash from the Merkle tree of the content desired, which I could recover from a corrupt primary copy (i.e. the live drive itself) with no concern whatsoever about the corruption, so long as the checksum matches.

Anything that can go wrong in a primary copy can pretty much also go wrong in a backup copy. Hot media is more likely to fail due to write errors (or overwrite errors) whereas cold media is poor at prompt notification of physical degradation.

The rule of Occam's orthogonality says don't brick the primary device unnecessarily.

Comment: Re:It is too much code to secure. (Score 1) 69

by epine (#49245667) Attached to: OpenSSL To Undergo Massive Security Audit

Here's the best part: they can audit the security of nearly a half a million lines of code in "several months".

You don't need to look for kidney stones in bone marrow. Most likely what they are doing is better described by "screening" rather than "auditing" even though the later is the conventional word.

Algorithms (such as ciphers) tend to be fairly easy to cover with test suites, whereas memory management and handling of randomness sources are both fraught with peril and difficult to formally test.

It really helps to reduce audit coverage if your code analysis tools can eliminate big chunks of code as purely functional with no side-effects on system state. A purely functional function would not include code that performs heap-based memory allocation, and would exclude the vast majority of system calls.

Even so, I suspect there's a pretty steep gradient on where to direct your best attention to identify misguiding coding constructs (approaches that are worse than wrong)—if you're not determined to check for identify kidney stones lurking in bone marrow.

Comment: Re:What's TSYNC ? (Score 1) 338

by epine (#49210421) Attached to: Google Chrome Requires TSYNC Support Under Linux

Would have been nice if TFS had included an explanation of what the TSYNC feature is.

This would be inconsistent with masses of people clicking into the discussion thread going "WTF?" and then sticking around to post a comment.

I'd quit Slashdot in a heartbeat (abandoning what limited loyalty remains) if I were willing to wade through the alternatives in search of an alternative forum in which the paragraph as a unit of discourse has not yet been un-invented.

Back in grade nine, back in the 1970s, in a school where the majority of students ended up in vocational college, I already held a low opinion of people who charged ahead with the lingo-of-the-day without providing the least context. Slashdot in its current incarnation routinely falls below the personal standards I used to judge my 14-year-old classmates back when Star Wars was the hottest property in known history (I was quietly polite about it, but none of those people became my friends). Every freaking time a Slashdot story does this (i.e. pretty much daily), I have a grade-nine flashback to the least nerd-compatible environment I've ever been forced to endure.

Edge has a pretty good piece today: Yuval Noah Harari in conversation with Daniel Kahneman.

I don't have a solution, and the biggest question maybe in economics and politics of the coming decades will be what to do with all these useless people.

He merely means by "useless" the portion of the population who have no skills at anything that can't be better done by a (recently or soon-to-be-invented) machine.

There's no fixed algorithm for ensuring that one remains a viable member of the "useful" population, but I'm going to continue with my grade-nine policy of gravitating toward those who 1) employ paragraphs when engaged in written communication; and 2) provide adequate background before lapsing into the lingo-of-the-moment.

As I said, there's no fixed algorithm and I might well be wrong, but from where I presently sit, I'm voting as stated on this matter with my entire bag of skin.

Comment: brain-damaged simplicity boners (Score 3, Insightful) 277

by epine (#49204793) Attached to: Daylight Saving Time Change On Sunday For N. America

an hour earlier

An hour earlier than what?

Humans have been phase-locked to the mean solar day for just over 200 out of the last 6 million years.

1883: Railroads create the first time zones

Not even the sun is phase-locked to mean solar time. There's this little detail called the Equation of time whose discovery dates back to the Babylonians, which governs annual variation in apparent solar time. Apparent solar time just happens to be the primary zeitgeber on circadian rhythmicity in all mammals (that I've heard of) and a great deal more.

The majority of people feel that DST is a bad idea and want it to stop.

Majority of what population? People living north of the 49th? I doubt it.

Majority of people who wish pi was equal to 3 and that the earth's orbit were circular? Almost certainly, even though I don't think these two simplicity boners are conceptually compatible.

Comment: Re:I have said it before (Score 1) 384

by epine (#49188871) Attached to: French Nuclear Industry In Turmoil As Manufacturer Buckles

When you begin counting the cost of nuclear, you've got to count ALL the costs. Including, as at Fukushima, basic engineering errors that ultimately cost astronomical amounts years after construction.

Do you know what the lead engineer of the GE design team for the original Fukushima reactor drove around town? A 1959 Edsel Ranger.

Certain mistakes were made back then in the heyday of mature industries like OS/360 and the Boeing 707 that we no longer make. Even the outlandish and highly inflated AI claims from the same era (which were held against the entire discipline for 50 years) are now almost becoming reality with deep learning. Times change. Even for AI. Even for nuclear.

Semi-retraction: Although I just made up that bit about the Edsel, I can't actually claim it's a false statement.

Comment: Re:I'm healthy... (Score 1) 134

by epine (#49186145) Attached to: Treadmill Performance Predicts Mortality

You're somewhat delusional if you believe this was pure fat loss. I regard it as a disservice to give people the impression that this kind of fat loss is either possible or healthy.

At the level of exercise required to sustain a caloric balance of -2700 calories per day over four months, the body would become severely protein challenged. Even converting fat to energy increases protein demand, as those organelles burn hard and wear out.

What happens with formerly fit individuals who then become obese is that these individuals actually have extremely large reserves of skeletal muscle (obese people tend to have extremely strong legs for practical reasons, it just doesn't seem like it as hefting their own body weight consumes most of their strength). As this kind of person goes into an endurance exercise program, he or she actually needs far less muscle mass than they have starting out.

If his story is true, I bet he lost a great deal of skeletal muscle mass in addition to a lot of fat. The muscle that remained would be extremely fit and efficient, but less strong.

A similarly obese person without the muscular reserve would be flirting with death in attempting to replicate these figures. If his story is even true. And if it is true, why did he quit and put all those pounds back on again? Could it be that his body figured out that the stress of the program was unreasonable to begin with?

Did he actually measure his body composition before and after, or did he just take a weight difference and presume that anyone who exercises that much couldn't possibly have shed any muscle mass?

I don't feel like digging up particulars I last read five years ago, but I distinctly do not recall having ever read anything credible which suggests this level of weight loss can be achieved on a pure fat-burning basis.

Comment: choose your lens mount carefully (Score 1) 407

by epine (#49169559) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Which Classic OOP Compiled Language: Objective-C Or C++?

You can always find another language that is better at it on every single aspect you look at. Jack of all trades master of none.

Master of Jack is the one thing where no other compiled language triumphs over C++.

If you're sure on day one that there are language features your project will never need (on any project fork)—cross my heart and hope to die—then go ahead and pick a less cluttered language better suited to your constrained subdomain.

What you're really saying here is that you'd rather work in a constrained subdomain—pretty much any constrained subdomain—than hump around on crowded streets hulked up with a universal camera bag (source Mumbai-based photojournalist Dilish Parekh).

If I'd known computer science was going to be like this, I'd never have given up being a rock 'n' roll star. -- G. Hirst