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Comment: Re:Everyone loses (Score 5, Interesting) 438

by jc42 (#47946373) Attached to: Scotland Votes No To Independence

Actually, there's quite a lot of history in various parts of the world when parts of a political entity split off. Sometimes this is done peacefully, sometimes it involves serious fighting and wars. An interesting recent case was in Switzerland, where in 1978 the Canton of Bern split, with the northern part forming the new Canton of Jura. You can read a lot about it online, including a couple of wikipedia articles. It's fairly well encoded in Swiss law, where similar votes happen every few years, typically involving a municipality with a large population that wants to secede from its canton and join another. The typical reason for such splits is as in Scotland, where the people in an area feel poorly served by the government, and think they can do better as part of a different county/state/whatever, or perhaps as an independent unit as Jura did.

Here in the US, we had a similar vote in 1863, which resulted in the new state of West Virginia being formed. This is often presented as part of the Civil War split off of the Confederacy. Historians tend to interpret it as more of a case of the western population feeling poorly treated by the remote state government in Richmond, which collect taxes in the mountains, but provided few government services in return. West Virginia did apply to the federal government for statehood, which was ratified after a few years. Unlike the Southern secession, this was done without (further) warfare. A funny aspect of the story is that now, several counties in the northeast of West Virginia have openly discussed seceding and joining either Virginia or Maryland, for pretty much the same reasons. Unlike Switzerland, though, the US doesn't have much in the way of official laws that deal with such political reorganization and redrawing of political boundaries.

The story in Scotland may work out as it often does in Switzerland, where many of the votes for secession fail. The reason is that the referendum functions as a "wake-up call" to the government. It's typical for a lot of public discussion to happen, and the government(s) make promises to fix the problems that triggered the referendum. Sometimes, as people have suggested here, the government reneges on its promises. This will be followed by another vote a few years later, which will often succeed. Or the government may fix many of the problems, which will satisfy the voters and repeated votes will fail.

The Scots would probably do well to continue discussing the issues publicly, and keep the London government aware that they can't continue to get away with everything without repercussions.

Comment: Re:Shetland and Orkney (Score 1) 190

by jc42 (#47945257) Attached to: On Independence for Scotland:

Yes, this is correct, and my bad for perpetuating the myth. I read once that Shetland was closer to Oslo than Edinburgh, but that's also blatantly false. ...

More accurately, I've seen it stated as "closer to Bergen than Edinburgh". Or course, some people might not know where Bergen is. In any case, Shetland historically has always been rather remote from either "mainland", and they've pretty much been on their own all along. If they have problems in the middle of their winter, they can't much rely on help from anyone in the rest of the world.

Comment: Re:Probably a bad idea, but... (Score 1) 190

by jc42 (#47945063) Attached to: On Independence for Scotland:

Well, I've always sorta liked the Scottish historians' observation that, strictly speaking, it was Scotland that took over England, not the other way around. That was after the first Queen Liz died, back in 1703. The new king was the fellow who was already King James VI of Scotland, and became King James I of the United Kingdom of Scotland and England; uh, I mean of England and Scotland.

Of course, a more accurate description wouldn't interpret this as either country taking over the other. It was really more a case of the inbred population of royalty, who were really neither Scottish nor English, agreeing among themselves who should be the next monarch over both of those populations, and giving both jobs to the same fellow. He then spent much of the rest of his life trying to merge them into a single "nation" -- and not succeeding all that well. But this wasn't any real benefit to the majority of either the Scottish or English populations. Or the Welsh or Irish or Manx or Cornish or Shetlanders or ..., for that matter. Or those Colonials over across the Pond.

Comment: Re:Not True, I Saw It Online: (Score 3, Interesting) 81

by jc42 (#47944757) Attached to: Europeans Came From Three Ancestry Groupings

There's no measurable genetic differences. There's only one race: the human race, and that's all that ever was and ever will be.

It's not an all-or-nothing situation. There are statistical genetic differences between various groups of people (though superficial features like skin color are often not closely related to ancestral groupings). One of my favorite such statistics was the calculation that some time in the late 1980s, the US population passed the mixing point where more than 50% of Americans now have sub-Saharan African ancestors. Most such people look "white", of course, since they have only a small fraction of African genes.

I recently read that the accumulated DNA data shows that between 20% and 25% of the US population has "Native American" genes, though again in most of that population is primarily "white". I'm part of that population, with an Ojibwa great-grandmother, though nobody would ever guess by looking at me that I'm not of pure European ancestry.

One thing I've found difficult to discover is what fraction of the US is purely European. If you try googling the topic, it mostly teaches you one thing: Most people don't understand even such simple statistics. You find lots of matches for the part of the population that's "white" or "of European ancestry", but the phrasing implies that they're talking about people who are predominantly European. There's data on the small populations that are purely African or purely Asian or whatever, but it's hard to find any information on the (probably small) population that's purely European.

Of course, for most purposes this all qualifies as idle curiosity. But there are at least a few medical reasons for studying it, in addition to general curiosity about where we all came from.

Comment: Re:Finnish (Score 2) 81

by jc42 (#47944573) Attached to: Europeans Came From Three Ancestry Groupings

You don't need to learn languages to do linguistics. You need to learn about languages.

While working on a linguistics minor for my CS degree, I heard a number of versions of the quip that a linguist is someone who knows 100 words in each of 100 different languages. Of course, this should be followed with the observation that the main focus of linguistics is understanding the structures of languages, and vocabulary is interesting only in that it shows relations between languages. This doesn't generally require having a large enough vocabulary to be fluent. Most of the actual linguists I've met are fluent in only a few languages. These are often languages that are radically different from each other, though, since radical differences in how to express something would be interesting to a linguist.

Comment: Re:Not in Tesla's favour (Score 1) 152

by jc42 (#47941845) Attached to: Dealership Commentator: Tesla's Going To Win In Every State

This leads to the question of whether there will be some sort of sweeping federal action in Tesla's favor.

I'd say that's a poor choice of wording. If any such action was taken, it would be AGAINST dealers. It won't be in favour of any single company. It should be fair for all.

It should be. But history (e.g. the "only sell through registered dealers" laws) says it won't be. It'll be in favor of whoever pays the most bribes to the right officials.

Comment: Re:I have a phone in my pocket (Score 1) 129

by jc42 (#47941799) Attached to: Once Vehicles Are Connected To the Internet of Things, Who Guards Your Privacy?

no, but while there are no regulations on mandatory tracking equipment for phones, there are all sorts of regulations on cars. If we got legislation on the books to mandate this tech then it would be illegal to drive without letting the govt track you.

That's already the case in the US (and as I recall, we discussed it here a few years back). US law for some time has required that new auto tires contain an RFID tag. Granted, those can't be read at a distance, but they can be read by sensors under the roadway or in poles next to the street.

It's hard to believe that the purpose of this can be anything but tracking. Yeah, such tags might have other uses, but would any of those uses have resulted in laws mandating the tags?

Comment: Re:I have a phone in my pocket (Score 4, Informative) 129

by jc42 (#47941029) Attached to: Once Vehicles Are Connected To the Internet of Things, Who Guards Your Privacy?

... It knows where I am. It knows how fast I'm going. ...

Well, maybe, and maybe not.

I recall a couple years ago, when I was traveling south on a street in a nearby town, but when I glanced at the GPS gadget, it showed me about a block north of where I was -- and headed north. Traffic was light, so I looked at it frequently, to see what it did, and it showed me continuing north, until my actual location was nearly a mile south of what it showed. Then it decided I'd made a U-turn, and was proceeding south at a rather high speed. Finally, the little You-Are-Here icon reached my actual position, and slowed down to match me. A bit later, I checked its records of that trip, and it showed a max speed somewhat over 250 mph.

So if the police had access to that data, I'd have got a ticket for going about 8 times the legal speed limit. I sorta suspect that most judges would laugh and toss it out. But if it'd been only twice the speed limit, I'd probably have had a large fine to pay.

And note that the position was credible, though it was roughly a mile off. A couple of months ago, however, I noticed that, while my bearing and speed seemed accurate, my GPS position was roughly 100 miles SE of my actual position, which put me maybe 10 or 20 miles east of Cape Cod, driving along in the ocean. It stayed that way for at least 15 minutes, and then suddenly popped over to a local street a few blocks from my actual position.

I've also seen it showing my position as being in north-central Canada, and somewhere in Nevada, when I was actually in the Boston metro area.

So if the police are tracking our GPS position and speed, we have no defense. Yes, maybe the judges will dismiss the tickets that are obviously so badly wrong. But if they're only off by a few miles or mph, we'll all be getting completely bogus tickets that we'll have to pay.

Of course, they may still dismiss them for people who "look right" and "talk right", as they do with claimed drug offenses. ;-)

Comment: Re:define "customer" (Score 5, Informative) 290

by jc42 (#47888565) Attached to: German Court: Google Must Stop Ignoring Customer E-mails

Simply contact the account manager that has been assigned to you. It's no problem at all to contact Google if you're actually bringing in revenue for them.

In my experience, it is still a problem. Some years back, I signed up to run some google ads on a few web sites that I was responsible for, added their code to my pages, and got a few hundred dollars a month for the orgs that I was helping run the sites. After a while, I got a notice from google that the sites were violating some unspecified terms in their TOS, and the money stopped. I sent a good number of emails to various google support addresses, asking for details of the claimed violation. I never heard back from anyone at google. So I removed the ads from the sites.

Presumably the small amount they paid these orgs to run their ads was a small portion of what google got from the advertisers. But this apparently didn't justify wasting their people's time explaining to us what we were doing wrong. The wording in their TOS docs were ambiguous enough that, as a programmer, I couldn't figure out what might be wrong, and I couldn't see any way of testing changes to the code to see if I could turn the contract on and off by changing a site's behavior. If their response time has a quantum of a month, it's difficult to test the effect of changes.

We suspected that their problem with us was that we had a rather low click-through rate. The ads I saw were remarkably irrelevant to the topics of the sites, and no amount of playing with keywords changed this by much. Our keywords did work well with google search to direct people to the sites, but this apparently wasn't good enough to also direct the right ads to the sites. Mostly, I just shrugged, and said "So much for google's vaunted targeting of ads".

But our inability to get any response at all from their support people didn't do much to fix whatever they thought the problems might have been.

Comment: Re:Taste like chicken? (Score 3, Interesting) 107

by jc42 (#47851685) Attached to: Apparent Meteorite Hits Managua, Nicaragua, Leaving Crater But No Injuries

Do dinosaurs taste like chicken?

They ought to. Recent research has shown that chickens are the closest living relative of T. Rex.

Really? Do you have a reference for the research?

If it's true that T.rex is closer to chickens than to pheasants, peafowl, and other Phasianinae, it would mean that the Phasianinae family dates back to before the K-T disaster. This would sorta imply a major reorg of the Therapsids, as well as the entire Aves class.

So it's be interesting to read about the research on this discovery.

Comment: Re:It is spelled Vanuatu, you fucking retards. (Score 1) 66

by jc42 (#47844029) Attached to: Two Explorers Descend Into An Active Volcano, and Live to Tell About It

Every single one of you didn't even catch the fact that the name was spelled incorrectly.

While you were busy pretending to be intelligent, the world was watching you and laughing.

Wrong; I noticed the mispelling in the summary, and I noticed the misspeling in the article. And I noticed the comment about it in the short "discussion" below the article. So when I came here, I did a scan for "spell" to see how many people noticed. What, no matches? So I slid the little sliders that control the level of comments visible, all the way to the right -- and I found your comment. Of course, with with a score of 0, it might be missed by a lot of readers. But I didn't have mod points, so I replied instead, to tell you that you were wrong to say "Every single one of you" missed it.

There are probably others, too, but they just shrugged, mumbled something about the poor knowledge of geography in the kids these days, and read on.

(And I do have a general policy of mispeling the word "misspell" during spelling flames, but so far hardly anyone has ever called me on it, so I conclude that it's a futile exercise in meta-humor. ;-)

Comment: Re:Responsible Agency Enforcing Law (Score 2) 222

by jc42 (#47843523) Attached to: FAA Scans the Internet For Drone Users; Sends Cease and Desist Letters

And in case you didn't notice, massive objects weighing hundreds of tons loaded with massive amounts of fuel and capable of taking out whole city blocks and/or skyscapers already fly extensively over your head. But you're worried about little plastic helicopters?

Very true, but the operators of those have (so far) usually been part of the" cargo". This has ensured that they're interested in their own survival. And the massive flying objects have been sufficiently expensive that corporate bean counters and their bosses actively support serious safety measures (which are mostly successful).

What we're talking about now is the prospect that, when we walk out our door into our yard, we'll find ourselves in the midst of a flock of tiny, computer-controlled flying objects that include bundles of rapidly-whirling blades. These objects will, of course, be trying to deliver all that junk mail that we're finding in our mailbox every day. And they won't know or care about the welfare of those unidentifiable living creatures that are in the way of making their database-ordained deliveries.

It's hard to reassure people about the minimal danger here, especially when there are frequent news reports of those big, expensive flying things crashing into houses or skyscrapers and killing everyone within. The same corporate overlords who can't prevent such incidents will also be the ones sending orders to the databases and onboard chips that control the little thingies with small whirling blades that buzz about without a controlling human mind.

The phrase "What could possibly go wrong?" comes to everyone's mind here. It's gonna take some serious psych research and PR campaigns to overcome this apprehension ...

Comment: Re:Better Idea (Score 1) 64

by jc42 (#47787721) Attached to: Robot Printer Brings Documents To Your Desk

But you can't then just leave the printed document in the tray. That's not secure. You need to have a shredding module attached so that after the email is sent the original can be destroyed.

Well, maybe, but neither the sender nor the recipient knows anything about the various other addresses that have received a copy of the document, plus information on the send/receive times.

It's not clear how any of this could be made secure to either party's satisfaction. If the printer can decode the document and make a legible copy, it can also forward the electronic version of that copy (and/or the decoding keys) to a third party.

Comment: Re:"Moderation?" Don't you mean "Censorship?" (Score 1) 76

by jc42 (#47787659) Attached to: Study: Social Networks Have Negative Effect On Individual Welfare

Call me cynical, but I just don't see Facebook adopting a sane moderation system, like for example anything that approximates slashcode. Their equivalent of "moderation" would better resemble censorship. They would simply hide the thoughts and comments they don't think you would like. Of course, it would be for your own good...

It's likely that a portion of the story is something that we also see here on /.: None of them really support anything that might be called a true "discussion". The reason both here and FB and the other "social media" is the approach of having a running string of "latest" topics, which quickly scroll off the bottom and out of sight. If you don't happen to see a thread in the first hour or so, you generally won't ever see it, and won't contribute to it. So, except for a few rabid topics like religion or partisan politics, where a small group can have fun running it out to thousands of rephrasings of each person's personal views, most discussion threads are typically shallow, and peter out at a depth in the single digits.

I've talked to a number of people here who express disappointment at how shallow the /. discussions usually are. They start of hoping to find in-depth analyses that point them to information that they hadn't run across or noticed. But they're disappointed with most of the threads, which only repeat a few things that those familiar with the topic already know, and then the threads just stop.

FB is quite a lot worse this way than /., of course. I've been on it for some years, and I've never noticed a "discussion" that got to depth greater than 3. I'm sure they exist; I've just never seen them. And a lot of my friends are quite well-informed "geeks" who in person can engage in long discussions. Why don't they do this on FB? Well, they may try, but quickly learn that few people ever read, much less reply to, their comments. Over here, we do sometimes get a bit deeper than that, and I've seen a lot of good information here at depth 5 or 6. But still, that's not very deep as discussions go.

I've seen much better (i.e., deeper and more informative) discussions on nearly every mailing list I've been on. If you want actual informative, socially interactive discussions, that's a noticeably better model for a forum's structure.

But the "social media" is primarily just an electronic form of the old "see and be seen" sort of social event. Such things have always been known as shallow and uninformative, although they can be fun if populated by the right crowd.

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