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Comment: Re:Gender neutral? (Score 1) 462

by martyros (#46248909) Attached to: Facebook Debuts New Gender Options, Pronoun Choices

Regarding "they", English speakers have been using "they" as an ungendered third person singular for hundreds of years.

Language is defined by its speakers, not by some committee somewhere; each of us gets a vote. In some cases I persistently vote against change if I think it's a bad idea (for example, I will make fun of people who use the word "literally" when speaking figuratively as long as I can get away with it); but in this case, I think it's a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and I have purposely chosen to use "they" in this way.

Comment: Re:Gender neutral? (Score 1) 462

by martyros (#46248895) Attached to: Facebook Debuts New Gender Options, Pronoun Choices

English is perhaps the most gender neutral language currently in use.

I cannot tell you how ignorant that sounds to me. Of the four languages I know to various degrees (English, French, Turkish, Mandarin), two of them are far less gendered than English. In both Turkish and Chinese, there is no "he/she" distinction -- there is a single pronoun which can be used for any person. Additionally, in the base for "person" and for "child" is ungendered, and to specify "man/woman" or "boy/girl" you have to add a gender tag. Chinese: rén = person, nánrén = man, nrén = woman. háizi = child, nánháizi = boy, nháizi = girl. (Turkish was too long ago for me to remember the actual words.) Turkish is the same for brother/sister. (Chinese have cutesy reduplicatives for sibling relationships -- gge, dìdi, mèimei, jijie -- so the "add a gender" thing wouldn't fit.) I never got to actor/actress, waiter/waitress, &c in Turkish, but in Chinese they're all ungendered as well. (And nouns are genderless in both languages too.)

Seriously dude -- if you don't know Chinese or Turkish, that's fine; but then don't make a claim about all languages "currently in use".

Comment: Re:So can I sue my college? (Score 1) 206

by martyros (#46120415) Attached to: It's Not Memory Loss - Older Minds May Just Be Fuller of Information

Indeed: if you look at m-w or any other dictionary then you may notice that the modern use have two opposite meanings. That belongs to the richness and sophistication of modern language.

No, that's because most dictionaries are descriptive rather than prescriptive: they're trying to help people understand what someone might be saying, not trying to tell you what the right answer is. And in general, I agree with them -- language is defined by its speakers and develops over time.

But the fact is that using "literally" when you actually mean "figuratively" is stupid. It's not only evidence of sloppy thinking, but it actively degrades the language. The fact that it's in M-W reflects the fact that a significant minority of people use it this way; but the fact remains that the majority of speakers oppose this change and think that it's stupid and wrong. By making fun of people who use the word "literally", I am "voting" to keep the old definition and keep the new definition from becoming accepted, and I will do so as long as it is practical.

Comment: Re:So can I sue my college? (Score 1) 206

by martyros (#46120345) Attached to: It's Not Memory Loss - Older Minds May Just Be Fuller of Information

There were two answers common to all of us: project management and English writing. We are all in management now, not practical engineering, and need words more than we need numbers and formulae. An English writing course should be required for all pure and applied science majors, in my opinion.

I represented computer science at an elementary-school tech fair a few months ago. Many of the students had been given papers they were supposed to fill out by asking us questions; one of the questions was, "How often do you use writing in your job?" And they were all surprised when I answered, "Every day". I need to discuss design, bugs, performance, releases, strategy, &c &c, and all over e-mail. Writing (and typing) is a core skill for me.

Comment: Re:supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults (Score 1) 554

Note that the studies do not say multivitamins are worthless, nor does it address any other health areas except those three. That is just the headline sensationalism.

Did you miss the part where the TFA's title said "Stop wasting money on supplements"? The article itself is trying to make the argument that it's a waste for most people to take multivitamins. But the reason given is that it doesn't prevent death, heart attacks, cancer, or dementia.

Guess what? Hiring policemen don't prevent natural death, heart attacks, cancer or dementia either. Neither does wearing a seatbelt. Neither do all those safety regulations on cars and aircraft. Are they going to write an editorial next saying that we should "Stop wasting money on police, seatbelts, safety regulation", and cite studies showing that they don't prevent natural death, heart attacks, cancer, or dementia?

Vitamin deficiency causes all kinds of random problems that are often not quickly diagnosed. Do a cost-benefits analisys. It's a low probability that I'll have a vitamin deficiency, but if I do, vitamins will help a lot. Given how little they cost, it seems like a no-brainer.

Comment: Re:Licensees should be able to recover their payme (Score 3, Interesting) 192

by martyros (#45628959) Attached to: German Court Invalidates Microsoft FAT Patent
What would be better is if the US patent office had to repay the royalties (or perhaps a percentage of them). Then there would actually be incentive for them to be careful about the patents they approved. As it is, they get money for any patent they approve, and no negative consequences for approving patents which are later overturned.

Comment: Re:terrorism! ha! (Score 0) 453

by martyros (#45490465) Attached to: Imagining the Post-Antibiotic Future

Cuts and scrapes get soap and bandages.

Of course, and that's the right thing to do -- until such time as you discover that your leg has actually been infected, and that you need antibiotics. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it can be incredibly dangerous. I don't know what the rate of bacterial infection is for falling out of a tree, but let's say it was 1 in 1,000. No antibiotics means that goes from "1 in 1000 children who scrape their knee hospitalized" to "1 in 1000 children who scrape their knee die", which is pretty bad.

Comment: Re:what? (Score 2) 258

by martyros (#45391021) Attached to: US Postal Service To Make Sunday Deliveries For Amazon

And of course, there's the insane requirement enacted in 2006 that the USPS pre-pay healthcare benefits 50 years in advance

According to the Times, the real financial problem facing the Post Office may have been created by Congress in the first place through the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The law required the service to begin prefunding the healthcare benefits of future retirees 50 years in advance. The requirement costs about $5.6 billion a year, and it caused the Postal Service to lose $5.1 billion the first year after it was enacted.

So for the last 7 years, they've had a $5B handicap -- limiting what they can do wrt expanding into other markets, upgrading services, and so on. I'd say they're doing pretty amazing.

Comment: Re:Data (Score 2) 204

by martyros (#45121797) Attached to: Billion Year Storage Media

It would be akin (because of the vast separation in time) to our finding forty thousand versions of "Damn, Og just missed small deer. ... No, wait, he return. ... Damn, Og just missed small deer."

Your example contains "damn", which could help you track exposure to religion, attitudes towards swearing, and so on. The existence of "small deer" could help you track the change of population and determine exactly when a species became extinct / sacred / in high demand. Even when not mentioned, a historian might be able to deduce that Og was using a ranged weapon here rather than a close-combat one, to help study ancient technology, correlating it with other evidence to track the rise and fall of different tribes or races. That all sounds like a potential treasure-trove of information to me.

Comment: Re:Data (Score 5, Interesting) 204

by martyros (#45120801) Attached to: Billion Year Storage Media

Most of our data are totally uninteresting pieces of garbage. Think of it, a future species recovers an archive of present tweets and facebook comments.

Said by someone who obviously has never done much looking at history. The fact that "uninteresting pieces of garbage", that either everyone knew and assumed or thought didn't need to be said, were *not* written down, makes it a lot harder to understand the context in which the things we *do* have were said. Having a handful of people's full FB / twitter records will be a treasure trove of information for 50th-century historians trying to figure out what life was actually like in the 20th century.

Comment: Re:Amazing (Score 1) 510

by martyros (#44932447) Attached to: Valve Announces Linux-Based SteamOS

Let us never confuse creating value with capturing value; somehow we have to get them better aligned.

Do we? Because you know, I was under the impression that not everybody measured value and success by the fatness of one's wallet.

This isn't about Linus. I'm sure that Linus is at least as happy, if not far happier, than Ballmer, Elop, or Fiorina. It's about us as society. Money is power, after all -- it's people with money that decide what buildings are built, what movies get made, what devices are produced, and so on. Giving that power to Ballmer and Elop, who are good at "capturing value" while destroying it, is bad for society.

Comment: Re:Cue Linus in 3..2..1 (Score 1) 335

by martyros (#44881949) Attached to: New Operating System Seeks To Replace Linux In the Cloud

Where are they "badmouthing" Linux? All they said was that Linux is over-kill for running a single application within a VM. Linux and OSv are different tools for different purposes.

Especially since Linux was the first hypervisor they ported to, and has the best support at the moment.

Comment: Re:GPL trumps BSD as a usable open source licence (Score 1) 335

by martyros (#44881935) Attached to: New Operating System Seeks To Replace Linux In the Cloud

Additionally unfounded. Given that BSD sources can be downloaded, modified, and their changes never see the light of day the loss of information is virtually guaranteed. Not to say it doesn't happen with the GPL, but it's actually a legal risk to allow it to happen.

In practice, the vast majority of the time GPL and BSD are functionally equivalent. The reason is this: if a company takes a GPL project, makes changes, but doesn't do the work to upsteam them, and then just publishes their changes as patches on their own website, there is a very low probability that those patches will ever make it either upstream, or into a competitor's product. Publishing the patches on your website is not considered "contributing to the community"; actually doing the work of upstreaming is. A company that doesn't upstream anything but only publishes patches on their website is considered a "taker" by the community. The major things driving contributions to upstream are the pain of having to rebase local modifications in order to pull new code from upstream, and the benefits of being seen to "give back" to the community. These both would work the same for a BSD project.

However, just like any time you're working with other people, "what happens in the worst case" is important, and has a material impact on how you relate when there are disadgreements. If the situation becomes tense with your wife, you'll act differently if you know that in the event of a divorce she'll get half of your considerable property than if you know she can't touch a dime. Similarly, the fact that I could take those published patches and upstream them myself is important to me. And although companies like BSD when they're the only one contributing to a project, it seems to me that GPL provides a much better "worst case scenario" for you if you're working with a competitor.

The only thing cheaper than hardware is talk.