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Comment Editable (Score 1) 298

One of the most important criteria is that good code be easy to modify. Readability, testability, elegance, and simplicity all lead back to that. When you change code, you should be assured that it will do what you expect. Bad code produces surprising side effects when you change it. Good code warns you (possibly through unit tests attached to the code) when you are doing something questionable. If you have to run the code to determine what it does, then that's not good code.

Needs evolve and change over time (or simply become clearer). Good code needs to be able to follow.

Comment Re:New design (Score 1) 91

Would you mind sending a screenshot to I can't seem to reproduce this one. Thanks!

What's happening is that it says:

You are posting: as mdfst13 Anonymously O

Replace the O with the widget that goes there (circle with eight protrusions added). Above "Anonymously" it has the checkbox and "Post". It looks like the column for "BOX Post Anonymously" is not wide enough. You could probably reproduce this by changing your screen to 800x600 (the preferred setting for those of us with bad eyes and/or small monitors).

Note that if I click the box, it says

You are posting: as Anonymous Coward Anonymously

which is at least funny.

Comment Re: Perfect way to drive "US companies" out of the (Score 1) 825

I want services, and I'm willing to pay... for those services that I want.

I actually have a suggestion for this, but people tend not to like it.

I think that when you file your taxes, you should be able to fill out a form saying where the money goes. So you can pick whatever services you like and send money to them. This can be the fire department, roads, etc. If you fill out the form online, you can drill down to a relatively low level (e.g. replacing the stop sign at the end of your street with a traffic light). If there's not enough money for your pet project, then the money is invested in treasury bonds until there is enough money (or it passes the statutory period and goes to cancel the national debt).

So Mitt Romney can dedicate all his taxes to the military (because he thinks the military is underfunded). Barack Obama can send his money to international welfare (foreign aid). Hilary Clinton can give hers to domestic welfare. Tom Steyer can send his to the EPA.

This would reunite responsibility and ownership. I wouldn't be paying my taxes for stupid things that I don't like. I may pay them to something that you don't like, but who cares? You can pay your taxes to something that I don't like.

A side effect of this is that we'd balance the budget. Programs would only get money if they could get funding. And people could no longer complain about how idiot politicians spend our money. We could only complain about how other people spend their money, because we'd each be spending our own.

Comment Re:What do you vote for? (Score 1) 551

Many people are unhappy with the idea of elected judges, because it means that popuarity could best competence or ethics, but that sure gives a lot of credit to the politicians who would otherwise appoint them.

I think that you are missing the point of why judges shouldn't be elected. Say you're accused of a high profile murder. Do you want your case tried by a judge who is following her or his own conscience? Or one who is trying to convince voters that he or she is tough on crime?

Say you are going to court in a civil case. Do you want your case tried by a judge who is secure in office? Or someone who has accepted campaign contributions from your opponent in the past and could really use more for the current competitive election?

Even if politicians appoint worse judges than elections would provide, elections cause active pressure on judges to change behavior. This makes elected judges exceptionally bad during the election period or leads to good judges getting kicked out for not being responsive enough to voters.

It's also worth noting for the purpose of this thread that not all elections occur in even years. For example, the governors of Virginia and New Jersey were elected in 2009. Also, some governors serve two year terms (e.g. New Hampshire) or serve four year terms that roughly coincide with the presidential terms.

It's not uncommon for odd year elections to be used for local elections (mayor, township commissioner, etc.) but that too is not set federally.

Comment Re:Other side of the story. (Score 1) 118

In my opinion, its probably one of the most meritocratic agencies in the entire Federal government.

Sure...until someone figures out that if you just stamp the application Approved or Rejected without reading it, you can process it much faster and get a bigger bonus. Perhaps their system would catch that particular problem, but I'm sure that there is some way to cheat on doing the work in favor of getting faster completions. I'd rather encourage good work than quick work. Unfortunately, it can be hard to distinguish good work from bad work. Quick is easier to measure but not nearly as valuable.

The part about giving a bonus for being quicker than others is especially egregious in a system that relies on averages. It encourages people to find ways to quickly dump patent applications that are complex to evaluate. This makes the whole system slower while making that examiner's stats look better. It also discourages people from looking deeper into applications that mostly fit a particular narrative but which would require a much longer period to evaluate properly.

Comment Re:pharmaceutical patents (Score 1) 240

it would make both high-risk and low-risk drug development more profitable, and companies would still choose low-risk drug development.

Why would it make low-risk drug development more profitable? I'm assuming you mean the minor variants when you refer to low-risk drugs. Currently they get the full patent period for minor variants, since they are already authorized to sell them. This makes minor variants ridiculously more profitable than new drugs. Under my system, the minor variants get a much shorter patent period while the original drug gets a longer patent period. Well, a longer sales period.

Note: it's interesting that the original post describes the opposite problem (at least in wording). The article is about high-risk drugs being favored over low-risk drugs. This is because high-risk drugs succeed or fail quickly. Low-risk drugs take longer to test. Therefore the system is biased towards dangerous drugs. I'm guessing that you meant business risk rather than medical risk, as otherwise, your post makes no sense to me.

I'm also unclear as to why "socialized costs for prescription drugs" causes minor variants to be favored over new drugs. Yes, it causes new drugs (both variants and original drugs) to be less expensive to the user than they otherwise would be. It discourages doctors from making a trade off between cost and efficacy. But looking purely at the variant/original issue, I don't see how it matters. This is not to say that I don't agree with making prescription drugs bought by end users. I like that idea, although I suspect that it would be politically unpalatable.

Now if you want to raise a new issue of new drugs being encouraged in areas where there are already perfectly good old drugs, then that's a separate issue. My suggestion won't help with that, as it's completely orthogonal to that issue. It's not intended as a cure all. It's focused on two problems: the favoring of minor variants over original testing and the corporate disincentive to test fully.

It's possible that the FDA's standards are arbitrary and could be relaxed, but even if they are, it doesn't solve the problem. Currently, if a company finds a problem in testing, they are highly incented to avoid doing additional testing to explore the problem. Additional testing both increases their costs and reduces their revenue. Under my system, it would only increase their costs and potentially reduce their liability costs. Revenue would be unaffected (although delayed). This might even help with arbitrary FDA rules, as I expect some of them exist to cover over the disincentive for companies to extend testing.

Comment Re:pharmaceutical patents (Score 1) 240

The fact that they encourage the wrong kind of innovation (minor variations on existing drugs) is not a problem with patents per se, it's a problem with the costs and risks of FDA approval: it's much safer to develop a small variant of an existing drug than to develop a completely novel drug for untreatable diseases.

Perhaps, but this is still addressable by changes in the patent system. In particular, they could change pharmaceutical patents to have three periods: testing, restricted use, open use. The testing period would last as long as necessary, perhaps longer than patent periods are currently. The restricted use period (primarily for antibiotics) would last as long as the approving agency desired. The open use period would last for a defined length of time (perhaps eight years). The effect would be to increase the open use period for new drugs and decrease it for retreads.

The current system makes it difficult for a pharmaceutical company to extend the testing phase. Each additional year in testing is a year lost from being able to actually sell the drug. This produces bad results, as companies are terrified of extending the testing period. If the patent period were shorter but only started *after* testing was finished, this perverse incentive could be removed.

Comment Scalzi also ignores when the hardback is more (Score 1) 306

Back during the agency model, some eBooks were more expensive than the associated *hardback*. This is obviously absurd. The thing was that if Amazon was paying the publisher the same amount for the eBook as the hardback and was required to mark up the eBook by 43% (so as to give 70% of the gross to the publisher), that was a natural result. Amazon doesn't get a 43% markup on their hardbacks (at least not in the best sellers section).

The problem that small book sellers have isn't that eBooks are priced lower than hardbacks. The problem is that Amazon's markup is so much lower than theirs. Amazon sells books close to the price that small book sellers *pay* (presumably because Amazon buys direct from publishers rather than through third parties like Ingram Micro). Now, for hardbacks and paperbacks, at least the book sellers can offer immediate gratification. But if they are competing with eBooks, they lose that advantage. That's why publishers are trying to make eBooks more expensive than the associated paper books.

This is especially egregious with modern books. The publisher receives a digital copy of the book. They have to do extra work to convert it into a printable form. Yet they act like it is harder to convert their digital copy into one readable by Kindle or an ePub device. And then the book is digitized forever, giving them a steady revenue stream for the ridiculously long copyright period.

The other thing that Scalzi ignores is that publishers can't have legitimate reasons for maintaining the relative prices of paper and digital books. That's illegal. They already lost that case.

Ideally, publishers will realize that they should charge slightly less for a digital copy than a paper copy of a book but pay authors the same either way. That will cover their lower costs on a digital copy (no printing, shipping, or returns costs). The net result should be eBooks that are slightly discounted relative to the paper books sold on the same site.

We don't know what's happening inside the Amazon/Hachette negotiations. There's some evidence that Amazon wasn't previously asking for a digital discount. Their launch price was to pay the same for digital copies as for paper copies. Are they still doing that? Or has Amazon been trying to insist on deeper discounts?

Comment Re:Economists (Score 2, Informative) 778

It's a bit baffling how "some economists" weren't fully cognisant of what would happen when the minimum wage was raised. I mean it's not as though it's the first time it has happened, the effects should be well known by now.

The problem is that it's not clear what happens when the minimum wage increases. It's also not clear whether something different happens when a city or state does it versus a national change.

Case in point: thirteen states increase the minimum wage and employment increases faster (on average) in those states than in those that do not increase the minimum wage. The presumption in the post is that the causality is that increasing the minimum wage causes employment increases. What if the causality goes the other way? Increasing employment could make states more willing to raise the minimum wage. Correlation does not indicate causality, so economists can't differentiate between the two explanations.

There's actually been quite a bit of study of the effects of raising the minimum wage. The problem is that it's impossible to produce a real double blind study. Without that, there will always be reasonable doubt. In one study, they won't be able to eliminate the possibility that employment would have gone up faster without the change. In another study, they won't be able to tell if people are moving from the comparison area to the change area for the higher wage jobs. In another study, perhaps employment increases occur because kids drop out of school to take jobs.

Economics isn't anywhere near as mature a science as physics or chemistry. It doesn't lend itself to repeatable experiments. Without objective data, subjective opinions take a far greater role.

Comment Re:To Summarize (Score 1) 211

Which seems a little strange in the context that they appear to have been the ones who decided to take this particular action as a way of slapping around Hachette.

Actually, these actions seem driven by them not having a contract rather than chosen by Amazon. Without a contract, Amazon can't be sure of filling pre-orders at the promised price. Without a contract, Amazon can't return unsold books. The result is that they can't allow pre-orders or order books they aren't sure they'll sell. It also may be that Amazon normally gets credit for warehousing books with limited sales.

This is what the business looks like when selling without a contract.

Without an actual look at the contract negotiations, it's hard to say who's to blame for the lack of a contract. Perhaps both are. Perhaps authors are to blame for not demanding better contracts (authors often make less for digital books than print books, even though publishers charge Amazon more for them). The only thing that we can say externally is that book prices are often ridiculous. There is no reason for the digital copy of a new bestseller to be more expensive than the print copy.

Submission + - Mozilla offering free phones in hopes of bolstering Firefox OS app developmen (

abhi10abhi writes: Attention HTML5 virtuosos: Mozilla is thirsty for your talents. So much, in fact, that the outfit is baiting developers with a free smartphone in the hopes they'll return the favor with fresh Firefox OS apps. In order to qualify for a device, you'll need to submit a proposal to Mozilla outlining the app you wish to build or port to its new mobile platform. If your pitch is accepted, the company will hook you up with a free Geeksphone Keon to thank you for your labor. Sure, the device's 3.5-inch HVGA display, 1GHz Snapdragon S1 processor, 512MB of RAM and 3-megapixel rear-facing camera are entry-level at best, but remember you're getting this handset gratis. The program is set to close at the end of the month or when supplies run out, whichever comes first. So, if you're interested in adding "Firefox OS developer" to your resume, hit up the source link to apply.

Submission + - Transfusions reverse aging and disease, drug isolated. (

symbolset writes: Published today in the journal Cell and reported by WBUR radio in this interview Drs Richard Lee and Amy Wagers have isolated GDF-11 as a negative regulator of age-associated cardiac hypertrophy. Through a type of transfusion called parabiotic or "shared circulation" in mice — one old and sick, the other young and well — they managed to reverse this age-associated heart disease. From there isolated an active agent GDF-11 present in the younger mouse but absent in the older which reverses the condition when administered directly. They are also using the agent to restore other aged/diseased tissues and organs. Human applications are expected within six years.

Since the basis for the treatment is ordinary sharing of blood between an older ill, and younger healthy patient, someone is likely to start offering the transfusion treatment somewhere in the world, soon, to those with the means to find a young and healthy volunteer. It may be time to have the discussion of the consequences of drastically prolonging human life.

Submission + - Girl Receives Synthetic Trachea Made With Her Stem Cells (

kkleiner writes: A toddler born without a trachea has received the first completely fabricated trachea that utilizes stem cells enabling her to live a normal life. Previously, related implants relied on a donor trachea that would act as a scaffold for the patient's stem cells. In this case, the scaffold is synthetic and made from nonabsorbable nanofibers, while the stem cells were harvested from the girl's bone marrow.

Submission + - Grocery delivery is greener than driving to the store (

vinces99 writes: Those trips to the store can take a chunk out of your day and put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But now University of Washington engineers have found that using a grocery delivery service can cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least half when compared with individual household trips to the store. Trucks filled to capacity that deliver to customers clustered in neighborhoods produced the most savings in carbon dioxide emissions, but there are even benefits with delivery to rural areas.

"Necessity is the mother of invention" is a silly proverb. "Necessity is the mother of futile dodges" is much nearer the truth. -- Alfred North Whitehead