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Comment Re:Racism v. Bias v. Intelligence (Score 1) 444

If there's anything the Jews are gifted at, it's nepotism.

I've had a good number of Asian friends who've claimed that they're better at it than the Jews.

(Actually, you mostly hear this claim from people in the "Chinese diaspora" population, who like to point out that this population has a social role in Asia very similar to the Jews, Gypsies and Greek in Europe, and the Arabs in southern Asia. They're historically a population of merchants who've lived in shoreline "ghetto" enclaves outside of China proper, and they've faced all the same sorts of prejudice and discrimination as a result. So it's not surprising that they'd have a lot of similar "social support" traditions.)

Comment Re:Internet Phase-Out (Score 1) 57

The Internet was built from the ground up with fault-tolerant collaboration at the heart. It never occurred to the well meaning scientists and engineers that some of the users would be out and out assholes.

Huh? The design and implementation of the Internet, and its predecessor the ARPAnet, was done with roughly 99% military funding. The fault tolerance was there from the start, because the military explicitly wanted a comm system that would survive constant attack by enemies under battle conditions. The scientists and engineers involved understood this quite well, and testing by implementing and running "cyberattack" software was routine from the very early days.

Saying that such attacks "never occurred to the well meaning scientists and engineers" not only shows ignorance of how the Internet came to be, but also dismisses the hard work of a lot of the people who created it. I worked on a number of test suites back in the 1980s that could be (and sometimes explicitly were) characterized as "attack" packages. This was neither a joke nor an accusation; it was a simple description of how the test suites worked. Stress testing and testing-to-destruction is an old concept in most kinds of engineering, and the ARPA/Internet was no exception.

One of the real problems is that the commercial Internet is managed by companies that have a strong motive to save money by cutting back on "unnecessary" things like testing and redundancy (so that the saved money can be redirected to managers' bonuses, of course ;-). But this was actually understood quite well by the military funders. It's part of why the design didn't include low-level security, but emphasized redundancy and a "just deliver the bits undamaged" approach. It was understood that the only meaningful security is the type called "end-to-end", where the participants in a conversations are the ones that provide and manage the security. If you rely on the suppliers of the low-level equipment, they'll always take shortcuts that make the security worthless. That's pretty much exactly how the Internet works, and always will.

Comment Re:Lets outlaw the word Cyber (Score 1) 57

Nah; the "cyber-" prefix is useful. It's a clear clue that the writer/speaker is relatively clueless about all that interwebs stuff, and only knows a few techie-sounding terms that they use to sound like they know something. Banning the use of such linguistic clues would merely make it a bit more difficult to recognize cluelessness, since we'd have to actually read their comments to decide that they're not worth reading.

It's similar to the use of "hacker", which is another scare term, but it's useful as a clue that the writer is relatively clueless about computer-security issues.

The (mis)use of such terms is also a useful clue to those of us who are trying to find the people who need some educating about technical issues. But that's a different topic, so we should start a new thread if we want to talk about it.

Comment Re:Decimate (Score 1) 230

[...]the H1-B system is totally broken and is being used to help decimate the American middle class.

Dec.i.mate: kill one in every ten of (a group of soldiers or others) as a punishment for the whole group.

As long as it's only one in ten, I'm kind of OK with this. Also, I'm kind of OK with the idea that such punishment is actually deserved, since it implies 90% "good apples" and 10% "bad apples", which, if you've ever worked a middle class job, is very easy to credit as an underestimation.

Except you're a couple of millennia out of date with that definition. I decided to check with a few online dictionaries before commenting. Most of them give a definition much like that of the Cambridge dictionary: [T]o kill a large number of something, or to reduce something severely: Populations of endangered animals have been decimated.

Some do also give the original Latin "kill 1/10th of" definition, but they generally make it clear that that was the Latin meaning, not the modern English meaning. Some even say that it's considered poor form in English to bother specifying the fraction eliminated, on the grounds that it's redundant for people who understand the word and confusing for those who don't.

Comment Re:Is the NYT Racist? (Score 1) 230

**rolls eyes**

I'm so fucking tired of people pretending there is only one definition for the word "decimate".

Heh; another victim of the "etymology is destiny" doctrine (as one linguist - whose name I've forgotten - called it a few years back).

Yup, in Latin, "decimate" meant to kill every 10th man. In modern English, it means to destroy a significant but unspecified portion of a set. How large depends on the speaker/writer, who usually can't be bothered to give the fraction.

It's yet another case of English raiding another language for useful words, and mangling both their pronunciations and their meanings to the point that speakers of the original languages wouldn't recognize either the sound or the meaning.

But if you want to continue using English, you should recognize this general problem, and take it into account. You'll understand that, while the original sound and meaning of a word in the source language is of historic interest, it's nearly useless in decoding the usage in English.

Comment Re:Foxnews.onion (Score 1) 37

How about theonion.onion? Would that be a meta-site for faking fake news, and hiding the people that are thus releasing actual valid information disguised as satire? Sounds like a useful site for the world's whistle blowers ...

(The folks over at have been known to "complain" about all the dummies who post their stories as factual new reports. Maybe we could help them out here.)

Comment Makes sense ... (Score 2) 37

In recent elections here in the US, we've been reading of studies showing that the voters who are most knowledgeable about the candidates and the issues are those who follow various satirical news sites. The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, the Onion, and even Wait Wait Don't Tell Me have been named as being highly correlated with informedness. So yes, it makes sense at least minimal sense to have a satire/parody/humor top-level domain.

Of course, Poe's Law applies even here, and we'll continue to see articles posted as fact, even when they're clearly labelled as satire by their URL.

What I'm looking forward to is someone setting up an actual news site there that specializes in stories that really seem like parody or saire, but are actually true. The world has enough such stories to keep at least a small team of journalists busy.

(And I do expect a reply to the above saying "correlation is not causation", so don't disappoint me ...)

Comment Just the first stage. (Score 1, Insightful) 108

It's probably just a matter of time, perhaps not much time, before some entrepreneurs figure out that is a generally-useful marketing tactic. We can expect that the little "selfie" cameras on phones and tablets are being turned on briefly by assorted ads delivered along with the web page you looked at, and sent back to the mother ship for later use. You won't have to go through the bother of signing in or otherwise identifying yourself, since your ISP/cell company can supply them with that info (for a price). They can then use the photo and your info to persuade you that you should buy some of their products. Or they can just fake the session in which you ordered what they want to sell you.

I generally keep a bit of opaque tape over those cameras except when I actually want to use them.

Lessee, I took the tape off this laptop's camera; let's see if the slashcode knows how to send y'all my photo. It's a Macbook Pro, which should tell you which exploit to use. I'm currently sitting on the patio, in the shade of a grape vine, waiting for the temperature to reach a new historic high here in the Boston area. If you can find my photo, tell me the text on my t-shirt. If anyone succeeds, it'll show that this story isn't just someone's imagination. ;-)

Comment Re:"Software" programs (Score 1) 28

Brewer says, is the way color picking is done in many software programs

'Software programs' is the plural of 'software program'. The word 'software' alone in that context wouldn't work.

If the article just said 'programs', then it could refer to programs in the sense of 'an agreed form [for presenting data]': so it could be about chart presentation in general rather than software design. It would be slightly archaic sounding, but it would be a valid interpretation.

The cringer (diodeus) is perhaps not familiar with such things as concert programs, which are often full-color booklets, or television programs, which have been in color since back in the 1960s or so. In both of these, the colors were originally and sometimes still are rather crappy and unrealistic, so they're on-topic in the current discussion.

Dunno why you'd call them "archaic sounding", though. I've seen lots of concert programs and a few television programs in recent years. The TV is starting to look a bit archaic, though, since with the Web you can see something when it's convenient for you, and you don't have the problem of two things you want to watch being scheduled at the same time. But the term "video" hasn't really replaced the term "program" for what used to be the sole domain of TV, and "program" is still the general public's main term for such chunks of drama received electronically. Maybe as the Web slowly supplants broadcast TV the usage will shift.

Comment Re:Comparison? (Score 4, Insightful) 257

So is medical science not "real science" because we've had quite a few stories over the last few years that a ton of results from medical research and drug trials can't be reproduced.

A large percentage of medical studies are funded by manufacturers, and it's fairly well understood that most of those don't get published unless they produce the "right" results. And those that are published are often really "preliminary", based on too little data to be considered reliable. But if a test on 10 or 20 patients gives the "right" results, there is a lot of marketing pressure to get the paper published right away.

This easily explains the growing problem of medical products that are found to be worthless (or even harmful) to the patients, after years of heavy marketing has produced large profits.

There's also the age-old problem that studies with "negative" results usually don't get published at all. As usual, there's a good xkdc comic that explains the methodology in a way that even the minimally numerate reader can understand.

Comment Re:it was the McCarthy era (Score 1) 282

Or maybe we could take a more general look, and observe that pretty much all fiction is intended to induce emotional responses in the readers. We have a number of words for fiction that doesn't do that: boring, weak, forgettable, etc., none of them words of praise.

Can you think of any work of fiction that you've liked, that doesn't clearly be aimed at instilling emotions, attitudes, and other such reaction in the readers? Offhand, I can't think of any. (But I suppose I could have missed a few important works of literature. ;-)

And can you think of any important work of fiction that doesn't cast at least a few ruling-class characters in a bad light? There's gotta be a few of them out there ...

Comment How about some common ones ... (Score 2) 95

I've read a number of comments about all the movies that let you know you're in Paris by the fact that you can see the Eiffel Tower through a window. After a while, some viewers start to realize that in the movie's world, the Eiffel Tower is visible from every window in Paris. So is there really a regulation in Paris saying that windows are illegal on the other sides of buildings?

Other readers can probably list a number of other such landmarks that they've spotted. The Golden Gate Bridge is another, so SF apparently has a similar construction regulation.

Comment Re:In other news (Score 1) 134

In other news, you can still buy buggy whips, dial-style telephones, and vinyl records, too.

Nostalgia and straight-up Luddite-like behavior are enough to keep almost anything going at some level -- no matter how low its actual utility as compared to more recent replacement tech may be.

It does generally make more sense to view new technology as adding to existing technology, rather than replacing it. After all, the invention of books didn't replace talking, and the invention of the telephone didn't make person-to-person speech obsolete.

One of the things I liked to point out back in the 1990s, when we still had tech bookstores, was that when you walked into one, the first bookcase you'd see had all the current best sellers, and if you opened them to the first pages, you'd inevitably find a URL where you could download them, usually for free. Many people would be puzzled by this. If you can download the book and display it on your screen, why would you pay so much money for a book. But the real techies generally weren't puzzled; they understood why they (or their employer ;-) would pay money for the hard copy.

Of course, amazon has now killed off most of those bookstores. But the hard-copy books are still being produced and bought, and it's still no mystery to those of us who use them. (And we do usually also have the electronic versions in our computers; don't tell anyone ... ;-)

I also periodically run across comments that music on vinyl records is still produced and selling fairly well. This also makes sense if you give up the idea that new technology replaces the old, and ask yourself what the tradeoffs might be between the various ways of doing things.

Another fun example: I've read a few analyses of the apparent fact that the population of "working" horses has been slowly growing for some decades now. Try to figure out why this might be, before you google it. As with paper books and vinyl records, it turns out there are situations where horses are cheaper or faster or better in some other important way than the available mechanical replacements. True, it's a small "market", and they'll never regain the niche taken over by tractors, but people are figuring out that they're actually a good "solution" in a number of situations.

(I've also had fun pointing out that the web has widely adopted the concept of a "scroll" text format, which used to be the epitome of totally obsolete technology. ;-)

It's not hard to admit errors that are [only] cosmetically wrong. -- J.K. Galbraith