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Comment Who is getting fired for this? (Score 0, Flamebait) 266 266

Did I just read that right: the Obama administration just missed an opportunity to enact business-stifling, job-killing regulation? That the man who promised to heal the oceans is letting frackers get away with whatever they're doing?

Somebody's going to get fired over this. Fracking just has to be bad for the environment, because, well, big business (read: Republican leaning folks) are making money from it.

Comment transcript (Score 1) 237 237

I'm hi it's me I'm just well I thought that I would give you a call because I'm we we kind of need to talk well first of all I should say that I don't normally do this but I thought that perhaps I could call you back and talk to you sometime...

5 minutes later...

(Typing) yes, I read your email, and if you had bothered to check yours, you'd know I've already addressed your concerns in the reply.

Good riddance.

Comment as someone having a religious objection to porn (Score 5, Interesting) 294 294

I must say I've never needed a filter to avoid porn on the internet. I'm not sure why the government feels it must block access to something I don't wish to see in the first place, unless it ultimately has ulterior motives, intending to derail the free flow of information necessary for a participative democracy in the name of public morality. It's ironic that a government which recently ruled that health practitioners must refer patients for abortion in spite of their individual moral objections is now suddenly concerned about access to porn. I find it more believable that the ultimate goal is to restrict access to information embarrassing to the ruling party, using the ostensible reason of porn filtering to silence dissent.

Comment Re: I'm sick of this shit. (Score 0, Troll) 495 495

It is interesting to me that scientists who regularly bump shoulders with economists, business professors, engineers, and the like are yet unable to come up with a solution to climate change that satisfies the political, economic, and technological realities of today. It seems to me they are more interested in whining about the problem than doing the hard work of finding a solution.

Comment As a skeptic, this alarms me. (Score 2) 348 348

The biggest problem I have with this is not that Mann's science might be wrong, but that the methods being used to discredit the science are anything but scientific. We have entered a scary, new era in Western thought where conformity of thought is valued above all else, and anyone who dares advocate a position which could be considered controversial or offensive is railroaded into silence by whatever means necessary.

The "Speak No Evil" crowd is destroying a great Western tradition of open and honest debate. These folks are committing offenses against truth itself, destroying civilization in the process.

I was under the impression that the ClimateGate affair was old news and Mann had been discredited already; why would they bother pursuing this more than half a decade later? It seems their objective is not merely to win the debate, or merely suppress an unpopular opinion, but to prevent any debate, research, or independent inquiry from taking place from this point on.

It's called making an example of someone. It's objective is to so thoroughly exasperate the target that their response becomes so extreme as to become unbelievable by the public at large. If they can't keep you from speaking, they can make others believe that either:

  1. You are so extreme in your position that your judgement cannot be trusted, or
  2. If anyone else dares to speak up that their life will be ruined by the onslaught of specious and frivolous inquiries, innuendos, lies, etc...

Michael Mann's ordeal serves the interest of the fossil fuel companies regardless of the outcome of the case.

It does not, however, serve the greater public interest. Even though I believe Mann to be mistaken, I'm quite certain that we the public cannot be adequately informed in an environment such as this.

Comment The Closure (Score 5, Insightful) 598 598

The most useful concept I've ever come across is the notion of a closure in Lisp. The entire operating state of a function is contained within that function. This, and the McCarthy lisp paper (1955!) where it is explained how a lisp interpreter could be created using only a handful of assembly instructions is well worth the read. It is from the fundamental concepts first pioneered in lisp that all object oriented programming paradigms spring; if you can understand and appreciate lisp, the notions of encapsulation, data hiding, abstraction, and privacy will become second nature to you.

Furthermore, if you actually put forth the time to learn lisp, two things will become immediately apparent:

  1. A language's usefulness is more a matter of the abstractions it supports than the particular libraries available, and
  2. Great ideas are much more powerful than the language used to express them.

In Stroustroup's "The C++ programming language", there are numerous examples of concise, elegant code. These spring from the concept of deferring the details until they can be deferred no more - the top-down approach results in code which is easily understood, elegant, efficient, robust, and maintainable.

Many years ago, a poster commented that the work necessary to complete a particular project was the equivalent of writing a compiler; he was trying to emphasize just how broken and unmaintainable the code was. The irony in his statement is that most professional projects are far more complex than a compiler needs to be; because he didn't understand how they worked, he thought of them as necessarily complex. However, the operation of a compiler is actually quite simple to someone who understands how they work; the McCarthy paper shows how high level code constructs can be easily broken down into lower-level machine language instructions, and Knuth implements a MIX interpreter in a few pages in the "The Art of Computer Programming." Neither building a compiler nor an interpreter are monumental undertakings if you understand the principles of parsing and code structure. i.e., what does it mean if something is an operator, versus, say, an identifier.

Ideas are powerful; the details, temporarily useful. Learn the ideas.

Comment Some perspective (Score 4, Insightful) 185 185

This is coming from someone who built his own lathe. My experience with building my own machine tools has taught me that not only does the algorithm (i.e. tool motion) matter, but also the properties of the material being machined.

With the traditional CNC machine, the method of material removal works the same irrespective of the stock material, with minor exceptions. A CNC mill can make parts from materials as soft as waxes to as hard as steel with little more than a bit change, and perhaps the addition of cooling lubricant.

A 3d printer, by contrast, is a deposition method which depends to a very large degree on the properties of the feed stock. Even at their best, they'll do no better than a mill.

And 3 hours to make a part is ridiculously long, especially given the failure rate. A trained machinist would instead choose the best tool(s) for the job and turn it out in short order.

Just for perspective: I spent one and a half hours building a molding machine from scratch. Rather than print out the part with a 3d printer, he could have made the molding machine and molds in the same amount of time, with the added advantage that he could make an almost arbitrary number of copies. Sometimes the old ways are just faster.

Comment False advertising indeed (Score 1) 1073 1073

Or, to put it another way: selling something as "kosher" when it's not is false advertising and falls under (secular) consumer protection laws, while calling gay marriage marriage does not, since no one's trying to sell you something.

Yes, but the government does make significant decisions with respect to marriage. To call two gays married is to misrepresent their relationshiop; they want to be afforded the social status and respect of being married, without actually making the same committment that heterosexuals are making. I didn't buy gay marriage; I can't take it back for a refund should it turn out to be defective. Instead, whether you agree with it or not, the Supreme Court has told a lie: that two gays can be married. There isn't a society in the known history of the world that has ever done this. Not even Sodom and Gomorrah.

In marriage, the spouses participate in the continuum of life that brought each of them into the world; when two gays get together, they do so with the understanding that they will not ever be a part of this continuum. Whether or not you consider such a relationship worthy of respect is a personal, subjective opinion. By contrast, the government has to make decisions on objectively determinable criteria; by that standard, a marriage does something that no gay union ever will: it provides the future generation of citizens.

The subjective feelings of individuals and how they esteem various relationships doesn't change the objective reality that the next generation of society comes largely from marriages, and in the rare cases when it doesn't, creates burdens which must be shouldered by the rest of society. On that basis alone, marriage and gay unions are objectively different, and thus an objective, rational reason exists for the government to differentiate between unions which are merely personal commitments to one another and those which are directed toward, and arranged for the purpose of, bringing new life into the world.

You might believe that gay relationships are wonderful, but even so, they are not marriages, and to fail to make the distinction glosses over a very important difference between the two. Failure to make the distinction disregards the fundamental dignity of the human being.

What the Supreme Court has just done is something truly awful; they have based a judicial precedent upon a lie, and an irrational one at that. Their assertion that gay unions are equivalent to marriages is provably false, and not done to accommodate any particular religious practice or constitutional freedom, but rather, the anti-religious sentiment of secular progressives. If DOMA was passed "for no legitimate purpose" except commit "bare harm" to a class of people, one must wonder how Congress and the President expected to implement the thousands of federal laws respecting marriage if there was no official definition of marriage. One IRS auditor could regard your cohabiting girlfriend as a "common-law" marriage and require you to pay taxes on your combined income; a different one could reject your claim to marriage because you and your spouse were not married in a church.

Comment SIlly Jeff! (Score 1) 433 433

Jeff, I hate to break it to you, but movie studios don't put movies on the web, pirates do. And they're going to ignore your DRM scheme regardless.

When will movie studios realize that the average person pays for their movies and songs and books? There will always be a few bad apples in society, but I feel like those pushing DRM are exploiting the internet paranoia of the studios in an effort to deprive them of their hard earned cash. While it's hard to be sympathetic to the studios, the proverb that a fool and his money are soon parted definitely applies here.

If the studios had a clue, they'd kick the DRM folks to the curb, and instead focus on making movies worth buying. Yes, there will always be piracy, and no, it's not the end of the industry. Get over it.

Comment You would be right, if ... (Score 1) 1073 1073

You would be correct if marriage was not defined in law. If a gay couple had a ceremony and considered themselves "married", it would make no difference.

But to use your analogy, imagine for a moment that the FDA required all beef - even that mixed with pork or chicken products - to be marked as kosher. And further made it illegal to disclose to the customer, or for the customer to select beef based on the presence or absence of pork products. Such a law would definitely infringe the rights of Jews and Muslims because it would make it impossible for them to eat any beef product. Redefining the term kosher would render it meaningless in a way insignificant to the general public, but very significant to those who use it as a means of compliance with their religion.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims consider marriage an act of God, not of mankind. Surely you've heard the term, "A match made in Heaven", which alludes to God's involvement in bringing a man and a woman together. To call two men or two women married profanes a relationship considered sacred, and reduces marriage to mean, more or less, that two people are simply fucking each other on a permanent basis. It reduces the societal esteem of all marriages, because marriage no longer means that something sacred and wonderful has occurred between a man and a woman, but only that two people have decided to live with one another.

To further put this in perspective, consider how offensive it would be, if a police officer were to inquire about your wife, "Is that your bitch, or is she someone else's ho?" If it would be offensive to regard your relationship with your wife as nothing more meaningful than that of a prostitute, how much more offensive is it that the Supreme Court of the United States considers your marriage to be roughly analagous to two men committing sodomy.

Comment Yes, other motives... (Score 1) 1073 1073

But not if they move to Alabama or North Carolina. You would be well served to read the opinion - it specifically allows the *each state* to decide marriage in a manner binding upon the federal government. The most cogent arguments are made not by the majority, but by the dissenters, which point out, among other things, that this precedent would allow couples formerly considered married to lose that status if they moved to a state which did not recognize them as married.

A marriage is organized around extending to others the very same gift of life they received from their parents. A gay couple, by their choice, avoids even the possibility of having children.

As a state provides for itself by taxing the incomes of people, it would better serve its own interests to encourage the former arrangement and discourage the latter. While there are many arguments in favor of traditional marriage, the fact that a traditional marriage is arranged for the material interests of the state is all the justification needed for a state to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The religious, civil, and social aspects of this arrangement can be completely irrelevant. Likewise, what DOMA did was codify the definition of marriage for the sake of government efficiency and uniformity - and believe it or not, judicial precedent considers this reason alone a legitimate reason for a law. There is nothing in the Constitution which would prevent Congress from changing the law to recognize gay couples as married. But they have not done so.

Instead, the Supreme Court has changed the meaning of the law in a way the original authors did not intend. This is a very bad precedent to set in general, but even worse when one recognizes that this ruling makes a law limiting marriage to one man and one woman Constitutionally valid, so long as it is passed at the state level, rather than the federal. How the federal government deals with a surviving spouse who moves to a state where their marriage is considered invalid, we have yet to see. But it seems to me that instead of settling the issue of marriage, the decision today allows for the polarization of the issue along state lines. It further allows for a time in which, after public backlash, the states decide that gay marriage was a mistake, and subsequently invalidate - by legislative fiat - many "gay marriages" - opening the door for the federal government to prosecute for back taxes and denial of government benefits. If the state in which one resides does not consider a couple legally married, from the federal point of view, they are not. And this decision strengthens the state's case, rather than the individual's.

Under this ruling, the partner of a gay soldier from California would be entitled to a surviving spouse pension, whereas one from Alabama would not.

Under this ruling, Utah could allow a man to marry multiple wives, and the federal government would be required to pay a social security pension *to each one of them* upon his death.

However, if the man moved to Illinois before he died, none of his wives would be eligible for a social security pension. Worse, they would all have to pay taxes on his estate because Illinois doesn't recognize polygamy as valid.

From a legal perspective, this is a really bad ruling. There are better ways of changing the law than judicial activism; Congress passed the Civil Rights act of 1964 in a time when racism was still very much a large part of American culture. They did it because it was the right thing to do. But redefining marriage to specifically include immoral relationships is particularly prejudicial against Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and infringes on their rights to live according to their faith. Congress could have chosen to recognize unions other than marriage, or not to recognize it at all, but again, they have not done so. Instead, our laws are being vetted not by our elected representatives, but by appointed judges.

What will happen when, in the opinion of the Supreme Court, gay marriage is unconstitutional? Or an affront to liberty?

Regardless of whether you agree with the outcome or not, this decision came at the cost of our ability to self-govern.

Comment People are missing the point (Score 1) 578 578

Yes, one can make guns with a mill and a lathe, but not many people own those, or possess the expertise to turn raw stock into a working firearm.

However, a 3d printer is different - it's primary use is for constructing other household items, but if the country erupts in violent revolt, can print a gun on short notice. Perhaps not fast enough to thwart a crime in progress, but fast enough in cases of general societal decay.

And the government need not even know it exists.

The problem with owning a firearm before you need it is that it has to be registered with the government. Which means that should the government decide to implement some oppressive measures, they can collect the guns from everyone, one by one, without incurring significant political cost. They know how many guns there are, and who has them.

OTOH, someone with a 3d printer doesn't (yet) have a gun, is not registered, and could yet have one on short notice, if they needed it for governmental control purposes. This is what irks the government. Not that people could arm themselves, but that those willing to take up arms in a patriotic cause can be unknown to the government until they're exchanging rounds with the jack-booted thugs.

It's not the fact that you have guns that worries them. It's the fact that you don't need to have one now to stop them later.

Comment Bad for OS... (Score 2) 318 318

FTA:

Many of todayâ(TM)s communication tools are open source, and there is no way to hide a capability within an open source code base

Which, sadly, is all the justification they'll need to make open software illegal - or if not, equivalent to having "terrorist materials" on your computer.

And why, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, would the accused have hacking tools (read: Linux) on his computer if he *didn't* intend to hide his activies from the government?

If they can't make OS illegal outright, they'll make it a secondary offense, for example, obstruction of justice, or similar. The only ones using it would be those who could make a good case in front of a jury that it was *necessary* - i.e. engineers, sys admins, etc...

Comment Diversity (Score 4, Funny) 197 197

I would posit that we'd have more diversity if scientists stopped being so conservative about what qualifies as a planet.

Take, for example, the plight of Ceres. Residing somewhere between Mars and Jupiter, it's been called a dwarf planet for quite some time, just because of its immutable physical characteristics. Size discrimination is very real in the physics community, a practice which continues to this day.

Imagine how many more planets we'd be able to discover if we'd just liberalize the definition of a planet. I know it's served us well, but it is time to redefine the term planet to be more inclusive of our increasingly diverse universe. And how, exactly, would this hurt the status of existing planets? I know it wouldn't affect my planet.

And why, exactly isn't Ceres a planet? Because the IAU decided to redefine the term "planet" to exclude it! Such blatant bigotry has no place in a pluralistic universe. We should be ashamed.

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