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User Journal

Journal: A Prediction 4

Journal by orthogonal

If my prior comments on wikipedia are any guide, after the post drops off the front page, a wikipedia editor with mod points will mod-bomb all my (currently 5,5,5,4) comments in the Wikipedia story.

The wikipedia administration, for whatever reason, is extraordinarily defensive and hates to see criticism remain un-suppressed. If this is reminiscent of a cult, well, if the show fits....

Toys

Journal: Innate Gender Preferences in Toys 25 Million Years Old? 2

Journal by orthogonal

Some 25 million years ago, humans and vervet monkeys diverged from a common ancestor. In very rough terms, perhaps one and a quarter million human generations, or five million vervet generations, have been brought forth upon the Earth since that common ancestor lived. Of course, many differences have evolved between humans and vervets in those 25 million years: among other things, human parents choose toys for their children; vervet parents do not.

But after all that time and genetic change, and despite studies attributing human children's toy preferences to adult stereotypes, a new study by Dr. Gerianne Alexander finds that vervet males, like human boys, prefer toy trucks and balls, while vervet females and human girls prefer dolls and toy cooking pots. What's more, the vervets play with the toys much as human children do: males roll trucks on the ground, females inspect dolls (apparently) for genitalia. Previously on Slashdot: Harvard president Larry Summers and his daughter's "baby truck", Gender and gaming.

[Submitted and, of course, rejected.]

User Journal

Journal: Slashdot fans! Help me! 9

Journal by orthogonal

I've got a number of fans, and I've never asked for anything other than that you appreciate my comments here.

But now I need your help.

A spark jumped from my finger and now my Touchstream LP keyboard is dead. Like the parrot in the Python skit. Dead.

Windows plug-and-play doesn't recognize it at all.

So I need your help.

Can anyone either

  • suggest possible repairs
  • or, tell me where I can get a replacement?

Neither of these are easy: the keyboard uses capacitance to track fingers, so the spark may have burnt those out, or -- since it doesn't respond at all -- the main circuit board may be fried.

And the manufacturer of the Touchstream has been bought up, and Touchstream keyboards are no longer manufactured.

Please, Obi-Wan, ^HHHH er, Slashdot fans, you're my only hope.

Portables

Journal: Laptop functionality in handheld form factor? 5

Journal by orthogonal

I'm playing around with the idea of getting a laptop and (geek warning) some sort of VR glasses instead of a screen.

Optimally, I'd like something with the form factor of a Sharp Zaurus, but with a hard drive and standard ports.

Basically, I want a "real computer" that I can put in my pocket. To use the VR glasses, I'd need standard USB ports and the ability to use a standard video card.

Is this too bleeding edge? What are my options for a really small laptop, possibly without a screen?

This is slashdot, so I know you guys have some good ideas, and a good sense of what's possible.

Data Storage

Journal: Your secret stash of ancestral DNA to the rescue?

Journal by orthogonal
(A)bort, (I)gnore, (R)evert to Grandma's DNA A jaw-dropping revision to Mendelian inheritance: bad genes can be replaced from a secret ancestral stash. (Is the stash in RNA? DNA? A gzip file? We don't know.)

The same researchers have previously mentioned other ways to get around Mendel. See abstract #34.

Almost as interestingly, this discovery could undercut the deleterious mutation hypothesis theory of why sexual reproduction is useful, useful despite what John Maynard Smith termed its "two-fold cost", and explain the eighty-million years of asexual reproduction without extinction in bdelloid rotifers.

Also, brought to you by the letter... 3FB? DNA gets a fake fifth letter.

(This was submitted to Slashdot and rejected, so you get to see it exclusively in my journal, or over on MetaFilter.)

User Journal

Journal: The Dangling Conversation (apologies to Simon & Garfunkel)

Journal by orthogonal

"When you wanted me, I figured I had, or would have down the road, better prospects than you. Um, things didn't work out as bright and shiny as I hoped. Now I'd, you know, be willing to settle.

"Ok, actually, I really don't even think of you anymore, and your name doesn't still make me pause and wonder 'what if', if it ever really did, (it doesn't, even though the mere thought of me is still like a fresh punch in the gut for you after all these long withered years).

"But if it consoles you to think that you cross my mind on lonely white nights at three a.m. and I feel some sort of vague formless regret -- honestly, any regret I feel is more for my lost youth than for you per se, at this point you just kinda symbolize that lost youth for me, like an old 'Letter' sweater from highschool or a copy of the program for that play we were in together, or those pictures of guys with long sideburns that you know instantly are from the time of the Nixon Administration --, well, you always were the sentimental sort who wrote poetry and believed bathetic crap like 'true love', so keep on with what's essentially your form of mental masturbation if it makes you feel better."

"Ok, stop crying, it always annoyed me when you cried because it made me feel like I was supposed to do something and what did you want me to do, I mean, you were nice and fun and all that --- yes the sex was good, why do you always ask about that --but, come on, we never -- hell, you especially never really expected it to last, I mean we travelled in different circles and you weren't Jewish, not that that's a big deal to me, but Jesus, your family -- please stop crying, ok, so sometimes on occasion I miss you, is that what you wanted to hear?

"Ok, so sure, sometimes I think of you, but really, if I'm the 'one who got away' for you, don't you sometimes stop to think there's one who got away for me too, and it's only natural that rather than think of you when I'm lonely -- yes, yes, yes, sometimes I do think of you, and you were really nice. Yes! Yes I mean it! Why would I lie now?? Really. I do mean it.

"Yes, you were really nice. Ok?

"And it was great talking to you. Sure, sure, same time, next year, give me a call like always. No, I do like hearing from you. I do.

"Ok, you have a nice night too."

United States

Journal: Visitors to US to be tagged with RFID by Homeland Security 4

Journal by orthogonal

silicon.com reports that 'the US Department of Homeland Security has decided to trial RFID tags' .... 'to track both pedestrians and vehicles entering the US to automatically record when the visitors arrive and leave in the country.'

Welcome to the Land of the Free!, number 4c62c570-70c5-11d9-9669-0800200c9a66! You'll be reflecting at 2450 MHz, enjoy your stay!

The article goes on to explain that

The testing phase will continue until the spring of next year. The exact way RFID will be used with the travellers is not yet known.

. . . .

US Under Secretary for Border & Transportation Security, Asa Hutchinson, said in a statement: "Through the use of radio frequency technology, we see the potential to not only improve the security of our country, but also to make the most important infrastructure enhancements to the US land borders in more than 50 years."

What is your frequency, Kenneth?

Remind me again why the most talented foreign scientists are no longer doing research in America?

And how soon will the "success" of this program lead to tagging government employees and contractors as a prelude to tagging all citizens?

The Almighty Buck

Journal: "senior level web programmer" and SQL DBA, $10 per hour? 8

Journal by orthogonal

On craigslist.org I see under "Computer Gigs", an ad for a "senior level web programmer" with, additionally, "exceptional Microsoft SQL 2000 administration... skill".

By "senior", the ad explains, they mean "someone with at least 5 to 6 years working experience in Microsoft Platforms. Microsoft certification is a plus."

The offer requires a minimum three month contract, with set hours of 10:30 am to 3:30 pm, Monday through Thursdays (with Fridays off). That's 20 hours a week (but without apparently the ability to time-shift or moonlight so as to accomodate another 9-5 job).

The compensation offered is $800 per month -- in other words, a "senior level web programmer" is apparently worth only ten dollars per hour.

And yes, I emailed them to confirm this, and they really do mean ten dollars per hous, twenty hours per week, minimum three month contract. And this is in the San Francisco area.

So my question is, is this what's becoming the norm, or is the job poster smoking something?

----
Addendum: As artifex2004 (766107) notes below, the job posting has been removed from craigslist.

However, another craigslist reader was er, kind enough to respond to the original listing; but I'm not sure how he calculated $12.50 an hour. (And no, I didn't make the response.)

Also, for those wondering about my email with the job poster, this is his reply to my query confirming his ad, with addresses elided:

Hi

Yea exactly we are a small start up. And that is our offer

Thanks

----- Original Message -----
From: orthogonal's address elided
To: job poster's address elided, too
Sent: Monday, January 03, 2005 2:42 PM
Subject: Wanted: SQL 2000 Admin With ASP, HTML skills

>>
>> From your ad at: http://www.craigslist.org/sby/cpg/54284856.html
>>
>> You're offering $10.00 per hour for a senior level web programmer?
>>
>> Quoted:
>> This is a senior level web programmer position. You will program and
>> manage our existing database driven community portal.
>>
>> We are looking for someone with at least 5 to 6 years working
>> experience in Microsoft Platforms. Microsoft certification is a plus.
>>
>> Working hours will be 10.30am to 3.30pm with Fridays Off. Salary is
>> $800/month. Minimum 3 months contract required.

User Journal

Journal: Can racism be "logical"? 10

Journal by orthogonal

Of course it can be.

Take a hypothetical variety of racism for instance: if you agree to paint yourself blue and preferentially aid others who are painted blue, people who painted themselves red and preferentially aided red-painted people would naturally prefer to not see you in an position of power or influence, as you would use that position to aid blues (and thus hinder reds who might otherwise have gotten the benefits you preferentially give to blues).

It would also, in this case, behoove you to not only discriminate in favor of blues, but against reds, as reds in power would, perforce, discriminate against you.

At some point, tension might increase until you were legitimately physically afraid of reds, because reds would see an advantage in harming you if they could get away with doing so.

While you'd know that some reds were actually peaceful, good people, you'd have no easy way to determine which reds were good, as it would be risky to associate with any reds, because the bad ones would take advantage of you.

As you became less and less willing to take the risk of trusting a red, so reds would observe your unwillingness to "reach out", and they would be logically inclined to not risk reaching out to you.

At some point, atrocities would be committed by either side: muggings, lynchings, rapes, and eventually a state of war might exist between red and blue.

With war, with the entire survival of one group or the other as a free people undominated by their enemies at stake, even "good" reds would be honor bound, for the survival of their race/people/nation to attempt to kill and harm even blues they knew to be "good", and vice versa: surely we have seen good and honorable men fight fiercely and honorably to kill other good and honorable men, when each side feels its children and way of life at stake.

So, yes, racism can be logical, because once racism starts, the short-term benefit is to rely on a stereotype rather than pay the cost and take the risk of examining people as people and not as members of groups. In the long term, this leads to positive reinforcement of both stereotypes and inter-group enmity -- but it can be awfully hard to endure high short-term costs for even high long-term rewards.

(And honestly, if you can commit genocide or enslave the opposition, your group will, by and large and up to the last century or two, also get a high reward: witness the genocide of Khoisan and to a lesser extent pygmy peoples in Africa by Bantu peoples, or of aboriginal Americans ("Indians") in both North and South America by Europeans, or the near-genocide of Basque and Celtic peoples by Indo-Europeans and Germanic peoples in mainland Europe. Or Armenians in Turkey in 1917. Genocide and enslavement are morally wrong, but they often greatly benefit the perpetrators: ask any American farmer where he got his land.)

If I know that 9 of 10 Maori will kill me because I am Mori (and indeed the peacerful Mori were wiped out by quite intentional Maori genocide and enslavement), I'd be a fool not kill every defenseless Maori I come across -- and a Maori, reasoning that I would so reason, would be a fool not to kill me.

(I will leave the logic of superstition to the reader, but I will hint that we all desire explanatory stories, and even Newtons' physics is subtly wrong, but good enough for most purposes involving human-perceptible masses and speeds. And that the religious, according to several studies, enjoy better health than atheists.)

Given that humans form kinship and pseudo-kinship ("clan", "tribe", "people", "nation") groups, and given that humans can model and predict the actions of other humans, xenophobia and racism are, regrettably, perhaps inevitable.

And recall that all of history's Cains had children, and the Abels did not; it is no surprise to this humanist and atheist that the mark of Cain is a standard and fundamental part of the heritage passed down to every human.

United States

Journal: Republicans Jam Phone Lines on Election Day 2002 1

Journal by orthogonal

(I submitted this to Slashdot, but I guess the editors didn't find it interesting.)

A Republican consultant paid a "vendor" $2,500 to jam the phones of the local Democratic Party and Firefighter's union offices in several New Hampshire cities on Election Day 2002, in order to prevent voters from calling to arrange rides to the polls and other 'get out the vote' efforts.

In the closest affected race, Republican John Sununu beat Democrat Jeanne Shaheen for U.S. Senate by fewer than 19,000 votes out of over 442,000 votes cast. The consultant pled guilty today, but his co-conspirators have not yet been identified and the investigation is continuing.

We all know that Diebold's voting machines are supposed to ensure that every vote is counted, but what are other ways that technology can be used to undermine democracy?

Mozilla

Journal: Microsoft MSN Slate Columnist: Drop IE for Firefox 8

Journal by orthogonal

(This was rejected by the Slashdot editors when I submitted it. It's not a dupe is it?)

Slate, the flagship "webzine" of Microsoft's MSN website, has published a column by Paul Boutin advising Microsoft Internet Explorer users to drop IE for Mozilla Firefox because "hackers continue to find and exploit security holes in [Internet] Explorer". Boutin isn't planning to go back, either, he says: "I've been using [Firefox] for a week now, and I've all but forgotten about [Internet] Explorer." He even helpfully links to a Firefox .xpi to make installing Sun's Java VM easy for new Firefox users.

United States

Journal: The Bush Administration Dictionary 24

Journal by orthogonal

As you are aware, the Bush Administration's "Justice" Department wrote several memos defining torture in such a way as to permit its use, notably by saying that it's not torture unless the only reason it's being done is to inflict pain -- thus ruling that any use to extract information is, ipso facto, not torture.

As a patriotic citizen, I wish to do my bit to help the Bush Administration, so herewith I present

The Bush Administration Dictionary:

  • freedom (n), why the terrorists hate us; unnecessary luxury under the Bush administration
  • Bill of Rights (n) archaic, mere paper listing mere suggestions to the monarch
  • free speech (n), doctrine establishing the rights of Fox News and Clear Chanel Communications; applicable to corporations only
  • terrorist (n), anyone opposed to the King; a dissenter
  • patriotism (n), a fig-leaf that justifies anything

I hope you'll follow my lead by adding more patriotic definitions!

United States

Journal: Blackstone, Jefferson, Padilla 6

Journal by orthogonal

That venerable historian of Common Law, Blackstone, cites the first recorded usage of habeas corpus in 1305, during the reign of King Edward I of England.

Habeas corpus, of course is that foundation of liberty that requires the King -- or later, the state -- to produce a person imprisoned and justify the legality of his imprisonment. Note that it has nothing to do with guilt or innocence -- it's a check on the State's power to imprison without due process of law.

In this country, that same principle is upheld by the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution, which from time to time it seems advisable to quote in full:

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Except for Abraham Lincoln's illegal suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, in direct defiance of the Supreme Court, the principle had always applied in this country -- until two years ago.

Then, in 2002, John Ashcroft arrested American citizen Jose Padilla in Chicago, and has since held Mr. Padilla incommunicado, with access to Counsel or Due Process of law, effectively suspending habeas corpus and flouting 700 years of legal tradition as well as our Constitution.

This threatens the very basis of our traditional American liberties -- it sets a precedent that any American can be snatched off the streets by a government that claims absolutist powers to do so without explanation or recourse.

Our country was founded by men who revolted against another George for such monarchical usurpations; if we claim the heritage of those Patriots, our course is clear: we must set ourselves against this George and once again declare with those Founding Fathers that the end, the purpose of government is to secure our unalienable Rights and "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it."

Thankfully, we can -- for the moment -- still do that altering through the ballot box. If we are to call ourselves Americans and Patriots, if we are to claim to be the heirs of Washington and Jefferson and Adams, our duty is clear: to vote George W. Bush out of office.

United States

Journal: Victory in Iraq! -- for the RIAA! 7

Journal by orthogonal

(I submitted this to Slashdot -- and of course, the editors rejected it.)

As the U.S. prepares to hand over 'sovereignty' to Iraq on June 30th, the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority is also forcing Iraq to adopt laws favorable to the U.S. Three of these are Orders Number 80, 81 and 83, requiring the adoption of patent and copyright laws to protect 'intellectual property' against 'piracy'. Although the laws have been written by the U.S., with the Iraqi Governing Council forced to accept them, the press spin is typical RIAA double-speak:

'The new amended laws acknowledges [sic] the Governing Council's desire to bring about significant change to the Iraqi intellectual property system as necessary to improve the economic condition of the people of Iraq.
In addition, the amended law aims to improve the conditions of life, technical skills, and opportunities for all Iraqis and to fight unemployment with its associated deleterious effect on public security.'

In a delicious irony the Washington post reports that the Coalition Provisional Authority's web site stole the "intellectual property" -- specifically, the web site design -- of the liberal Brookings Institute.

I'm sure our American soldiers are proud to have made the world a little safer for record company executives' profits.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Alva Edison

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