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Comment Re:What About Nutrition? (Score 1) 114

Centralizing agriculture far away and transporting pesticides and fertilizers to that site and then transporting the produce, sometimes half-way across the globe, represents a huge waste of energy, with the pollution that goes along with that.

Well... maybe. I've heard differing analyses on this. It's counterintuitive, but there are economies of scale associated with mass production. Trains are incredibly efficient, and so are the massive container ships: the square-cube law means you're moving more stuff and less vehicle. Local produce carried in the back of a pickup truck can burn as much fuel in 50 miles as a thousand miles in a freighter. There are similar economies of scale on the inputs: dragging fertilizer to a thousand local farms will be less efficient than one tanker full of it.

That's far from the whole story, of course. Local foods can take better advantage of local conditions (including less pesticides), can be better varieties since there's less shipping, are often mixed-use rather than monocultures. I know a local farmer who uses no fuel whatsoever on his farm... though a fair bit of energy is used hauling his produce from the country to the city, around 50 miles.

I do prefer to eat local when I can, but the fuel advantages aren't nearly as overwhelming as it might seem.

Comment Re:As they say (Score 1) 181

Mostly that if it actually did kill a lot of people, the corporation would take a lot of heat for it. The corporations do frequently try to push the limits on that, and the punishment for that isn't nearly severe enough. But they do actually take considerable steps to avoid having it happen accidentally, and it's really not in their best interest to do it deliberately.

The biggest problem is in ground beef. If you add one infected animal to the hopper, you can make millions of pounds of meat dangerous. That's expensive.

Note that I'm not a fan of industrial meat production, and I avoid it. That has more to do with concern for animal welfare during their lives, and with flavor: if an animal is going to die for my dinner I want it to taste less bland than the meat you get at grocery stores and most restaurants. Plus, a few environmental issues. And yeah, safety is a bit of a concern... but they do want to avoid killing people. Bad for business.

Comment Re:A HUD is usefull... (Score 1) 417

I also can't see why I'd want a built-in satnav, though I wouldn't mind having a cradle that connected my phone to a larger display. The one advantage to builtin satnav is that the display can be clearer and more informative.

I own an add-on Garmin, and while I like it, I use my phone far more often. Among other things, it has a much better understanding of traffic and how to route around it. (My particular Garmin model does get traffic information over the air, but that information is much less precise and useful than the Internet can give it.) I keep it around for those days when I'm out of coverage, and a few other circumstances, but it's mostly relegated to taking up space and getting out of date. (It also has map updates, but they don't happen automatically. And a major new interchange near my house took a very long time to appear. I didn't need it, but people coming to my place sometimes got confused.)

So I can see why a car my want I/O features, but the smarts might as well be relegated to the device I'm already carrying with me. It would be nice to have better audio controls than fiddling with the phone itself, for example.

Comment "Moral damages"? (Score 2) 49

TFS doesn't say exactly what she was suing over. TFA says she "sued the secretive company for alleged moral damages, non-payment of wages and for failing to give workers proper contracts".

So, I'm puzzled. If she was due wages, she should have gotten more than one rouble. I'm not sure of the compensation for failing to give proper contracts; it sounds like it's something akin to violating an oral contract.

What are moral damages? A quick Google doesn't turn up much; it sounds like a legal concept not used in the US. Can anybody enlighten me?

Comment Re: What does that mean? (Score 1) 111

Well, "with bated breath" means that. "Bated" means "held" or "restrained", though it's practically never used any more except in that expression. It's cognate to "abate".

Optional pedantry: Shakespeare used "bate" in the "restrained" sense, including this from Much Ado: "she will die, if he woo her, rather than she will bate one breath of her accustomed crossness" (Meaning: If he makes a pass at her, she would rather die than cut back even a little bit on her usual insults.)

Comment Re:Profits. (Score 1) 179

Also... don't most health care providers buy their own stethoscopes? I got the impression that they're rather personal choices, and since they go in your ears, it's not like you'd want to check one out of the equipment supply. You buy it, and it's yours.

It might well improve the lives of the lowest paid health care providers, but I don't think they're a major cost driver for first-world companies.

Comment Re:SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (Score 1) 254

It sure doesn't help that floating figures and captions are handled variably even within a single editing session of MS Word. It's no surprise to me that LibreOffice screws it up. After all these years of work Office still doesn't seem to grasp the fundamental notions of what a document is and how it works. They seem to view formatting as a kind of paste-up thing, rather than giving users a set of conventions.

Comment Re:SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (Score 1) 254

I think users really like to have the formats applied first, since a second formatting pass feels tedious.

I believe it wouldn't be unreasonable to provide a template and then lock off all other formatting tools from users at edit-time. Here are all the paragraph styles you get; here are the headers and footers. You can make tables, but all you get to define are rows and columns and maybe headers.

That wouldn't fix everything, but at the very least discouraging users from fiddling with the format instead of working would make for more attractive documents that would, coincidentally, be easier to transfer to other editors.

Comment Re:SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (Score 3, Insightful) 254

Most of the people I encounter can barely use the basic functionality of Microsoft Office, which is something that LibreOffice has covered.

There is one crucial feature that isn't covered perfectly: absolute compatibility with MS Office. For a large number of office workers, Office is a collaboration tool. A document saved by one user and emailed to another, then edited and returned, needs to be able to preserve all of the formatting. Users care a *lot* about formatting, and if it gets messed up, they lose confidence in the software.

Office's formatting algorithms are abominable, and it's no surprise that LibreOffice can't mimic them perfectly. And users really, really need to apply a lot less formatting and focus instead on content.

Still... for a lot of offices, that's going to be the one unbreakable rule. MS Office is the de facto standard, and anything else needs to comply with that, even if the standard is for something user's shouldn't really want and which is poorly implemented (perhaps specifically to make it impossible to switch).

I'd love to see more offices switch to something like Google Docs or other systems with minimal formatting, so that they can stop tinkering with fonts and actually focus on the words. Sadly, users do love it.

Comment Re:Professor? (Score 1) 458

The actual laws get written in committees a bit bigger than that, around one to two dozen. Actually, the original text is generally written by 2 or 3 people (and their aides, another 4-8 people), and then tinkered with by the group as a whole.

The laws then get amended by the full group, 100 or 435 people, but that doesn't generally change the fundamental structure of the bill.

The process does kinda sorta work. Or at least, it used to, a couple of decades ago. These days, there's usually enough incentive for one party or the other to make sure it doesn't happen, that nothing does. But at least in theory, it's a decent enough structure for a republic, as long as the public doesn't actively hate each other.

Comment Re:Professor? (Score 1) 458

The power of the oligarchs is easy to restrict. The government has a fair bit of power to constrain them, if the Congress authorizes them to. The problem is that the Congress is deeply divided between two nearly equal parties, and we've designed the rules so that it takes overwhelming support (the House plus the Senate plus the President plus the Supreme Court) to do anything.

The Congress is divided because the people are divided. You can complain about the oligarchs, but your real problem is with the 150 million or so voters who disagree bitterly with your solutions. You can try to appeal to some of the 150 million or so who didn't vote at all. (And that's for a high-turnout year. The numbers are worse in the off years.) The voters *do* have the power. They just have to be unified, or rather, a lot more unified than they are.

I disapprove deeply of those voters who support the "oligarchs". I think they're stupid for buying into the line of BS that the "oligarchs" spew through their media channels. And so I blame them more than the oligarchs themselves. But the worst part is, they blame me just as much, and it doesn't do any good to just rail against either the oligarchs or their stupid voters. You change their minds, not mine, if you want something.

Comment Re:the worst summary for the worst proposal. (Score 2) 458

Presidents do have more power than that, though in a very different way from what's commonly portrayed. They lead the executive branch, and the executive branch does the majority of the heavy lifting of government. They set regulations, negotiate treaties, do scientific research (including judging grant applications), decide where to spend money on national infrastructure, etc. The President's relationship to it is usually indirect: he appoints the top-level people, who manage the career civil servants who do the work. The President is the ultimate arbiter between them; it's usually fairly hands-off but there is such a vast apparatus that there are hands-on things to do every single day.

They do all of this within the confines of law determined by Congress, but despite the incredible length that some bills go to, there's still an enormous amount of leeway for the various departments and agencies, and thus ultimately the President. It's not the glamour stuff; it's mostly the tedious stuff of managing parks, inspecting foreign trade, writing benefits checks (and dealing with the clients of that), and so on, but it actually has a more direct effect on most people's lives than the high-level stuff set by legislature.

As long as we're going to reinvent the wheel again, we might as well try making it round this time. - Mike Dennison