Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?

Comment: Right... (Score 2) 124

by nbauman (#48658709) Attached to: Comcast's Lobbyists Hand Out VIP Cards To Skip the Customer Service Wait

Verizon in NYC had a similar help line escalation.

When I moved to a new apartment, and switched my phone, it didn't work and they couldn't get it working for a month. (Probably because they were trying to get rid of their land lines in favor of fiber optic, so they let their twisted pair maintenance crew decline.)

I was dealing with the usual tech support hell (on hold for half an hour, transferred call and dropped, supervisors who promised to return my call and never did, etc.).

Finally I called somebody by mistake in Staten Island who gave me the number of the "President's hot line". I called them up, got somebody who was actually helpful, made some calls for me, and got it working again. (Apparently their digital switches were malprogrammed. Give me the old solenoids back.)

A while later I was having trouble again so I called the President's hot line again. It wasn't working any more.

(Pro tip: When I really got fed up, I called my state assemblyman, Dick Gottfried, on the theory that Verizon is regulated by and accountable to the State. One of his staffers called Verizon, and straightened it out, even though it was Friday evening before the weekend.

So maybe that's the kind of thing that was going on with Comcast. If the service is federally regulated, your congressman should be able to call them up in your behalf and hold them accountable. And they can do it for themselves. I don't think it's outrageous for a politician to get that favor as long as they use it for their constituents too.)

* * *
I like copper wire. So sue me.

Comment: Re:Enforcing pot laws is big business (Score 1) 482

by nbauman (#48651781) Attached to: Colorado Sued By Neighboring States Over Legal Pot

Or, "Charge me or let me go. I'm calling a lawyer."

If they're calling in someone, I'm calling in someone too. And if they don't let me without me formally being under arrest for a charge, then I'm suing their asses.

Well, yeah, that's the right answer, but it doesn't always work. And it's pretty hard to sue their asses. Some states have sovereign immunity. So that family whose infant was horribly burned by a flash-bang explosive in a no-knock warrant can't sue the state, and is stuck in bankruptcy with a million dollars in medical bills.

Monica Lewinsky also said she wanted to call her lawyer, but they wouldn't let her do it.

All they have to do is take away your cell phone. And if you resist their illegal seizure of your cell phone, that's a felony.

A friend of mine in college was busted for pot, and the cops gave him the Miranda line, including, "You have a right to a lawyer." He said, "OK, I want a lawyer." The pigxxxcop said, "Shut the fuck up, you're not getting any lawyer." They wanted him to rat on the biggest dealer at Stony Brook, whom I will only refer to as "Howie X."

As a practical matter, you can assert your rights and the pigsxxxxcops can ignore you, and keep threatening you. They can lie and plant drugs and guns on you. There were a series of cases in New York City where the pigsxxxxcops were arresting innocent people on the street, and planting guns on them. They had a choice between staying in jail indefinitely, and risking a 15-year felony, or pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, and getting 6 or 12 months, which was usually the time served. One guy managed to fight it on principle, and he was lucky enough to find a lawyer who was also willing to fight it on principle.

Even when I get stopped by the pigsxxxxcops, I'm not sure what to do. Do I have a legal obligation to identify myself? Do I have to show them identification? What would happen if they just lie in court?

Comment: Re:Math author dies rich... (Score 1) 170

by nbauman (#48642861) Attached to: Calculus Textbook Author James Stewart Has Died

It's too bad the Soviet Union didn't survive under Gorbachev. I think you would prefer Gorbachev to Putin, and probably to Yeltsin.

When Gorbachev came in, Ogarkov was out. Gorbachev didn't have any problems making computers, or free speech, widely available.

I've never been able to understand why the Soviet people (with the encouragement of the West) threw Gorbachev out. It's as if for 70 years the Soviet leaders weren't willing to take a risk of more freedom, because they were afraid the West would stab them in the back. Finally, along came Gorbachev, who was willing to take a risk for peace and freedom. Sure enough, the Westeners stabbed him in the back.

I read samisdat. They were circulating in the U.S. for a while after the thaw. One of the problems was that they were too long and didn't get to the point. That's why, when Solzhenitsyn finally came to free market America, he complained that, under capitalism, nobody wanted to read his books. When they finally had freedom of speech, nobody was interested in them.


Comment: Re:Dover Press Books (Score 2) 170

by nbauman (#48641959) Attached to: Calculus Textbook Author James Stewart Has Died

Yes, they can reprint out-of-print books that are more than 100 years old, but they can no longer reprint out-of-print books that are 30 years old, which is how they started in the 1950s. I still can't get the Dover books that I read in the 1960s, because they're orphaned, copyrighted books.

They couldn't even reprint the 1917 edition of Growth and Form. http://store.doverpublications... They had to get permission and pay royalties to Cambridge.

I did do a bit of research on this because I work in the publishing industry, and I know a couple of publishers who have reprinted out-of-print books. I found out that some of the classics were out of print, and I thought it would be a good idea to reprint them.

One of them was Yevgeney Perelman's Physics for Entertainment, which is part of a series, which wasn't even copyrighted because the Soviet Union didn't believe in copyright at that time. Perelman died in the siege of Leningrad. After the fall of the Soviet Union, they went out of print. I talked to some librarians and copyright researchers, and it was impossible to track down who had the ownership under the new copyright law. Was it Russia? Was it his surviving heirs? Were there contracts? A lot of publishers didn't even keep their old contracts after the 26-year copyright expired, and now suddenly the copyright was extended to 100 years after the author's death. Publishers went out of business, and their files were destroyed. They signed contracts based on a 26-year term, so it's not clear who owns the rights afterwards. A lot of times you can't even find out when or if the author died. Every so often somebody will publish Perelman's books, but it's illegal. A publisher explained to me that if he were to get caught, which is unlikely, he would just pay royalties. People have also posted Perelman's books on the Internet, but that's also illegal. (Although the copyright law is so complicated, especially for international works, that it would cost thousands of dollars or more in legal fees to figure out what copyright law applies.) The problem with just doing it illegally is that a library can't make their collection illegally available on the Internet. That's why Google books has gaps.

I can't research Dover's catalog and give you a definitive answer, but Project Guttenberg ran into this problem and wrote about it in detail. I've talked to librarians. The copyright laws have made it impossible to exchange published works that were in the public domain before. That was the purpose of the Sony Bono Copyright Act.

If you're a copyright lawyer and you know otherwise, I'd be happy to know how I can publish those orphaned works.

Comment: Re:Math author dies rich... (Score 4, Interesting) 170

by nbauman (#48641313) Attached to: Calculus Textbook Author James Stewart Has Died

As someone who did not study math in higher education but now wants to learn more it is quite difficult to find out which math text books have the best content. Would someone please suggest some books and authors of great texts I can then search for?

I would ideally like to build up a bookshelf of great maths texts to go alongside the computing books I already have.

You know, I used to have a good answer, but because of New York City Mayor Bloomberg, I can't give you an answer any more. He destroyed the library with the greatest collection of introductory math books that I've ever seen.

We used to have a library in Manhattan, on a prime piece of real estate opposite the Museum of Modern Art, called the Donnell. It had collections of books for young adults, which in library-speak means high school students and above. They had librarians who understood the subjects, and worked with high school teachers to develop excellent collections of books with good content that would grab you when you took them off the shelf and started to read.

They had a collection of science books and a collection of math books in two big bookcases. Those bookcases contained every great math book I read or wanted to read in high school. Sometimes I'd find a book in the library, and buy a copy in the bookstore.

The Donnell was a beautiful library, in the 1930s style of Rockefeller Center, a fitting match for the Museum of Modern Art, where you could sit and read by huge picture windows. It was a hangout for teenagers from around the city, who used to come there to do their homework and their research. They also had an auditorium where they held poetry readings. It was a New York institution.

After 80 years, the Donnell could have used some repairs and upgrading to its heating and air conditioning system and so forth. Instead of paying for the repairs, Bloomberg decided to tear down the library. He had connections to a real estate company that came up with a plan to build a hotel on the site. They would have a much smaller library down in the basement. But it wouldn't have the same young adult science, math and other collections (which were scattered among other libraries around the City). The real estate company would make a lot of money, the City would get some, and use the money to "improve" the library system and buy more computers. It was controversial, people fought it, but Bloomberg was a billionaire and he won. They fired all the expert librarians, and tore down the Donnell.

Then the real estate market collapsed, so Bloomberg's real estate friends couldn't deliver what they promised.

I've talked to many science librarians in the public library. There is no longer any place in the City where you can find a collection of science and math books like that. They couldn't even give me a bibliography of books like that. It's gone. In fact, they fired most of the expert librarians, and replaced them with computer specialists. They don't really know the subject. You ask them a question and they look in a database.

The best thing I could recommend now is to find a math teacher. It used to be that you could go to a college campus, walk over to the math department, and find somebody who would be happy to give you advice. Now, with all the security, you might not be able to get in the door any more without an ID card. Or you might be able to find a good librarian. If you find a good bibliography, let me know.

(The classics that I remember, BTW, were The World of Mathematics, which was a historical collection of sources, Courant's Introduction to Mathematics, and Polya's How to Find It. There were so many more. If it wasn't for the Copyright Act, you could get them all free on line today.)

Comment: Re:How about ignoring it? (Score 1) 482

by nbauman (#48641193) Attached to: Colorado Sued By Neighboring States Over Legal Pot

This is known as anecdotal evidence, and a datapoint of 1. It's a fallacious argument, since you can use it to prove anything.

People have lots of habits, and people wind up in devastating situations. Sometimes they are the same people. You could substitute anything for "cannabis," and (falsely) draw the same conclusions -- comic books, the Internet, teenage sex, masturbation, TV, rock 'n roll, negroes, Mexicans, the military, and religion, were all blamed for having devastating effects on teenagers. If I had somebody close to me who was religious, and turned into a schizophrenic, can I therefore conclude that religion causes schizophrenia?

Conversely, when I was in college, some of the most successful students, including the valedictorians, were heavy users of marijuana (and rock 'n roll). So obiously many people escape the evil effects of marijuana, and if I use your logic of anecdotal evidence it caused their success.

This person close to you might have had just as much of a decline without cannabis. How do you know he wouldn't have? Lots of people with marijuana were very successful, and lots of people without marijuana turned out terribly.

People claim all the time that you can't use randomized, controlled trials on marijuana, but we've done similar trials many times in the past. (When we finally did a RCT with estrogen replacement therapy, it turned out that ERT was a major cause of breast cancer.)

If in the 1980s, when the highly suggestive evidence of the benefits of marijuana started to appear, we had started RCTs of marijuana for conditions like AIDS wasting syndrome and epilepsy, we incidentally would have had data on the adverse effects of marijuana, and we'd know whether it ever has these devastating consequences that you claim.

But instead the DEA refused to allow studies even from legitimate, respected scientists.

You can debate marijuana all you want, and there may well be some rare or minor adverse effects, but the DEA and other prohibitionists don't have enough scientific evidence that it's dangerous enough to justify putting people in jail.

And you don't have enough evidence to claim that you have the "truth" and that everybody who disagrees with you is wrong.

Comment: Math author dies rich... (Score 5, Informative) 170

by nbauman (#48639779) Attached to: Calculus Textbook Author James Stewart Has Died

When I studied calculus the hardest part was studying calculus, not buying the book. Textbooks were a lot cheaper.

Even cheaper, my math teacher used to organize book-buying from Taiwan.

At that time (1959), there was no copyright agreement between the U.S. and Taiwan (and besides, they were fighting Communism), so it was completely legal.

They cost about a tenth of U.S. prices. The publisher he used had reprints of all the popular math and science books (like Dover, except not limited to to public domain). They had an entire Encyclopedia Britannica for about $25.

Dover of course used to re-publish the out-of-copyright and out-of-print math and science classics. There was a time when a professor could have a rare out-of-print book, that nobody else could get, and teach an entire class out of that book. Dover put an end to that.

Of course the Mickey Mouse Copyright Extension Act put an end to Dover (or at least their reprint business) by extending the copyright to 100 years after the author's death.

So the great classics, like Yakov Perelman's Physics for Entertainment (the world's largest-selling physics textbook), are now out of print, even though Perelman died in the siege of Leningrad.

The other source of cheap textbooks was the Soviet Foreign Languages Publishing House in Moscow, which translated all the great Soviet science and math textbooks, including Perelman's, into every major language of the world, including English, and sold them cheaply everywhere. They were even cheaper than Dover, $2 apiece. And the Soviets didn't believe in copyright, so Dover or anybody could reprint them. I've heard Indian scientists reminisce about how they grew up reading Perelman as children.

It's too bad the Soviet Union didn't survive until the Internet. They could have put all their scientific, literary and music works online copyright-free.

Comment: Re:Enforcing pot laws is big business (Score 1) 482

by nbauman (#48635283) Attached to: Colorado Sued By Neighboring States Over Legal Pot

How is it hard to harass someone on drug charges, if they are not using or possessing drugs at the time of a police stop?

"Can I search your vehicle / bag?"

"Affording my constitutional rights, No."

Now the police either has to show a judge probable cause to get a warrant, or they let you go.

What ivory tower have you been living in for the last 40 years?

If you tell some donut-stuffed cop, "Affording my constitutional rights, No," he's going to say something like, "OK, if you don't give me permission to search your car, I'll call the drug-sniffing dog, and if he wags his tail, we'll take apart your car until we find it." You're liable to wind up with your car unscrewed into a heap of parts on the side of the roadway.

Of course it's illegal, but you'd have to be a lawyer yourself to know how far you can push it (and it varies by state).

And if they want they can always plant it on you. They've been planting evidence on innocent people again in New York City. The Times had a few stories about that recently.

Comment: Re:Enforcing pot laws is big business (Score 1) 482

by nbauman (#48635195) Attached to: Colorado Sued By Neighboring States Over Legal Pot

Still further, Colorado is seeing the general effects of people being stoned, such as deaths,

This turns out to be hysterical misinterpretation of the evidence. If you follow that link back to the source, you'll see what they really say is

The results offer just a “snapshot at the time we did the testing,” Thames says. They describe an association, not causation. “The question down the road is, what kind of implications does that have for everyday functioning?”

Scientists have largely failed to turn up compelling evidence that adult pot smokers risk permanent brain problems, Earleywine says. “Being stoned all the time is a strange way to live your life,” he says, but data just aren’t there to argue that a cannabis-fueled lifestyle is permanently harmful to the adult body and brain.

So far nobody has been able to supply any evidence (good enough to be published in a peer-reviewed journal) that marijuana is harmful.

A bigger problem than marijuana is a lack of the public understanding of science. These people don't understand what "evidence" is.

Comment: Re:How about ignoring it? (Score 1) 482

by nbauman (#48634899) Attached to: Colorado Sued By Neighboring States Over Legal Pot

I can't believe anyone can be stupid enough to think cannabis is dangerous enough to merit criminalization.

What you can or cannot believe isn't important, the truth is that canabis can have a devastating effect on the developing teenage mind. Even if you don't consider that enough to warrant criminalization, that does not justify insulting those of us who do.

I wonder how you arrive at that "truth". Even the arch-enemy of cannabis, Nora Volkow, head of NIDA, admits that they can't prove it because association is not causation. Or at least that's what she was forced to admit when the reviewers at the New England Journal of Medicine insisted she back everything up with published research.

Comment: Re:How about ignoring it? (Score 0) 482

by nbauman (#48634829) Attached to: Colorado Sued By Neighboring States Over Legal Pot

Actually, pot has more harmful chemicals in the smoke you inhale than cigarettes do. And since the goal of smoking pot is to hold the smoke in for longer, it makes it worse.

"dangerous" isn't the word you wanted to use there.

Citation needed.

You don't realize how dangerous nicotine is. It constricts every blood vessel in the body, which is why smokers have more strokes, heart attacks, non-healing wounds, etc.

Comment: Re: Simple answer... (Score 1) 482

by nbauman (#48634519) Attached to: Colorado Sued By Neighboring States Over Legal Pot

Inhaling any smoke into your lungs can cause damage and long term health problems. Chronic cough, emphysema, and even lung cancer are all possible outcomes of smoking pot. it also raises your blood pressure and your heart rate, similar to smoking tobacco.

only the ignorant or misinformed deny it has any ill health effects.
its not that different from smoking tobacco.

It is ironic that somebody who posts this much ignorance and misinformation can accuse others of being ignorant and misinformed.

Even Nora Volkow, the head of NIDA, in her review article in the New England Journal of Medicine trying to defend the war on drugs, doesn't go that far.

Just because tobacco causes chronic cough, emphysema, and lung cancer, that doesn't mean that anything you smoke has the same effect. That's like sympathetic magic.

Actually, when medical researchers tried to prove that cannabis caused those things, they failed. When you look at people who smoke marijuana, and compare them to people who don't, the marijuana smokers have no more chronic cough, empysema and lung cancer than non-marijuana smokers.

Look at it this way: If I chew tobacco, I'm more likely to get cancer of the jaw. But I can chew all the carrots I want, and I won't be more likely to get cancer. Obviously, there's something in tobacco that isn't found in carrots that causes cancer. And there's something in tobacco that isn't found in marijuana that causes cancer.

Comment: Re:Failed state policies (Score 1) 435

by nbauman (#48624779) Attached to: In Breakthrough, US and Cuba To Resume Diplomatic Relations

... it's also their nutrition programs.

What a great euphemism for rationing.

Cuba has a relatively low income, and the boycott is responsible for much of that (that was the purpose of the boycott, remember?) That's the result of U.S. policy, not the failure of Cuban socialism. So you cut their food and then blame them for rationing food.

In other low-income countries, especially free-market countries like Guatamala, when people can't afford to buy the food or health care that they need to live, they just die. That even happens in the U.S., where people die from curable diseases all the time because they can't afford to pay for medical care

However, unlike most other low-income countries, Cuba has distributed their scarce resources, like milk, to those in greatest need, particularly to pregnant women and children. Prenatal nutrition is a big factor in infant survival. The studies of the Dutch famine during WWII showed that. There are studies of animals. That's established medical science. So doctors would expect Cuban infant survival to be lower because they give pregnant women more food. And it is. Even the CIA agrees. It's not because they define infant mortality differently.

Once again, there are no studies that meet the standards of science (published in peer-reviewed journals, adjusted for any differences in definitions) that say that Cubans have a higher infant mortality than Americans. The "scientists" who made that claim (in the letters section of Science, for example ) can't support it with facts.

Low-income people in Cuba have better health care than low-income people in the U.S. That's the facts.

There are people who form their conclusions based on scientific facts and people who form their conclusions based on ideology. You are free to join whichever group you want.

Comment: Re:Why not push toward collapse? (Score 2) 435

by nbauman (#48622363) Attached to: In Breakthrough, US and Cuba To Resume Diplomatic Relations

Bush conquered the entire country, replaced its government, captured its previous leader and handed him over to the new government to be hung by the neck. If that is still "losing", I don't know, what "winning" is...

Winning, as von Clausowitz said, is accomplishing policy. One of the stated purposes of the war was to replace Saddam Hussain with a leader that was more agreeable to us, while converting Iraq into a free market economy (according to what I read on the Wall Street Journal editorial page). Douglas Feith said, it would be like installing a new chip on your motherboard.

Instead, under Bush, they dismissed the army, were unable to create a new one capable of maintaining security and safety, and were unable to maintain the economy. It's a failed state.

Bush had six years to do whatever he wanted. Roosevelt and Truman won World War II in less time. Bush didn't accomplish his goals. He created a mess, and handed it over to Obama. I can't imagine how anyone could restore order to Iraq again. It might take another 10 years, 20 years, 50 years. You can't blame that on Obama.

Do you suffer painful illumination? -- Isaac Newton, "Optics"