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Comment: Re: Minivans useful (Score 2) 205

by ottothecow (#47502835) Attached to: New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids
Yup. And they are built on car bodies, so they ride smoother. Typically more fuel efficent than an SUV too (maybe not one of those SUVs that looks like a hatchback on a lift kit, but a full size SUV that has similar cargo and passenger capacity will definitely get less MPG).

They don't tow or go off road well...but a majority of pickup and SUV owners don't actually tow anything heavy or take it off road. The poor off-road ability is actually a plus for the average person--lower ride height brings increased stability and convenience at the cost of less ground clearance). The towing is mostly due to the FWD and lower torque engines--get a bit of tongue weight and some pulling force on the back of a FWD car, and , but that's the price you pay for not having to run the transmission all the way to the back wheels (which gets you your fold-flat seats and low ride height).

It is a shame that they are so ugly and uninspiring...in all honesty, they are the "right" car for a significant majority of people.

Comment: Re:I hope this surprises no one,.. (Score 1) 68

Yup. People should really think of SSN's as glorified names. That's all they are really supposed to be: a non-duplicative name, a unique key, an identifier that nobody else shares.

In fact, an authentication tool doesn't have to be unique. If you had a password associated with your SSN, who would care if both 123-45-6789 and 987-65-4321 had the same password? For all you know, your next-door neighbor could use the exact same gmail password as you and nobody would never know.

Asking people to verify their SSN as a way of determining their identity is a step above asking them to spell their last name. Sure, if they don't know their last name, they are probably not the person they say they are, but that doesn't automatically mean the converse is true.

Comment: Re:The right competitor to SAS is Statistica (Score 1) 143

I will say that while SAS has some really great point-and-click analysis tools...I would venture to guess that most experienced SAS are doing as much "command line programming" as they would have to do in R.

My company uses a ton of SAS and I can count on one hand the number of times I have went to look at someone else's work and found that they were using the GUI stuff. Pretty much everyone just writes .sas programs; most people use EG as an IDE, but those programs could all be run just as well in batch mode from the AIX command line.

Comment: Re:More than cost (Score 1) 143

Yeah, I think a lot of people in here forget that there are some things that SAS is really freaking good at. SAS isn't some beastly mess that big corporations are saddled with and can't escape from (like say SAP)...it is a fairly well designed piece of software with a bunch of programmers actively working to make it better (very happy programmers if you trust the frequent ratings of SAS as one of the best companies to work for). It is fairly expensive on the enterprise level, but a lot of companies out there think that it is totally worth it. Of course...I'm kind of cheap and more technically inclined...if I were starting a new company, I would use R or Python for everything and just keep a couple of desktop SAS licenses just in case.

Yes, most of its programming syntax is designed in a way that makes sense if you processing punch-cards, but once you understand that, the language is fairly logical and simple. The fact that it was designed for punch cards is the main reason why it doesn't stumble into dataset size limits (unlike memory-based software like R or STATA do), although it can lead to slowdowns from being I/O bound.

And yes, sometimes I wish I could define functions rather than trying to hack repeated code through the Macro language.

And no, the standard graphics/output is not are pretty as it can be from R (ggplot2 is quite nice), but with a little work, you can make quite nice charts in SAS.

But, despite all of that, it really is quite a nice system with absolutely excellent documentation and support. I never touch the extra GUI stuff, but the people who keep suggesting RStudio clearly don't know what they are talking about. The level of analysis that you can do in SAS Enterprise Guide is insane. EG is not just an IDE for the programming language, it is a GUI with a full analysis suite available through point and click. It is like making charts in excel except you can do complex statistical procedures over millions of observations--and unlike excel, once you have gone through the point-and-click exercise, it gives you all of the code in case you want to tweak it or run it on something else. Sure, the code can be a bit funny, but nowhere near as bad as what came out of an old WYSIWYG HTML editor. Again, I never use it myself, but for a neophyte...they can get started doing real work while still learning how to code (remember, a lot of SAS programmers come to the language already knowing the statistics, but having to learn the language).

Comment: Re:What? (Score 2) 139

by ottothecow (#47402885) Attached to: Uber Is Now Cheaper Than a New York City Taxi
Well...during peak hours, Uber X will go into surge pricing and cost far more than a taxi anyways.

Usually when there is surge pricing, I just use Uber to hail a normal taxi (in cities where this is possible). With a normal taxi, you pay a small fee to Uber, but otherwise the rate is straight-meter. Of course, that still won't help if literally every taxi is full, but it gets you better odds than simply standing on a single street corner and waving your hand.

Comment: What? (Score 3, Interesting) 139

by ottothecow (#47402347) Attached to: Uber Is Now Cheaper Than a New York City Taxi
It was more expensive than a taxi in NYC?

Every other city I have used it in, UberX was at a fair discount to a regular taxi...after all, why would you hop a ride in some random person's car (whom you will have to provide with directions because they don't know the city) if it costs more than an actual taxi service? The only thing more expensive was the black car (limo) service.

Comment: Re:Incoming international flights (Score 1) 702

by ottothecow (#47399987) Attached to: TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes
My local grocery store has a drop box for old cell phones and I have seen them in many other places (and at one point, I received some prepaid mailing envelopes for old phones). Supposedly they refurbish them and send them to Africa or give them to the elderly or abused women who may need to make use of the still-functional 911 features. Although, I question how useful this actually is...who is going to keep a 911-only phone charged and ready at all times? If you aren't actually using it for calls, and aren't used to having a mobile phone, that thing will just be dead in times of need. About the only situations where I can see it being useful is storing it powered-off and attached to a charger in a car or as a "secret" phone for a domestic abuse victim (can pull it out if your abuser takes away your real phone and monitors the land-line).

Comment: Re:Not for deaf/hard of hearing... (Score 1) 579

by ottothecow (#47377645) Attached to: Unintended Consequences For Traffic Safety Feature
Yup, gets even worse in the city where there is an unwritten rule that the left turn cars get their shot to go when the light goes yellow/red. Obviously the cars that are actually pulled into the intersection should go or they will block traffic...but on intersections with no dedicated turn signal, the signal change is the only chance any car gets to turn during the cycle in busy traffic and thus (at least in Chicago) there is a tacit allowance for a couple of extra cars to complete the turn without fear of a ticket (usually 2-3 cars in each direction--the one in the intersection, the one part-way in, and the car behind them if everybody moves fast).

Of course, if people driving straight blow through the yellow and start of the red, then the turners have no time, and even those that were already in the intersection end up not being able to complete their turns until the other lights have already turned green.

Dedicated turn signals would alleviate the problem...but in pedestrian areas, they just produce new problems. Almost every time I go to lunch, I pass an intersection where there is a dedicated left turn and a lot of tourists--there is a Don't Walk sign, but often pedestrians start walking as soon as the traffic lights change (anticipating the Walk sign, not realizing there will be a turn signal)...leading to the turning cars not being able to clear the intersection and slamming on their horns. Then some of the pedestrians decide to stop in the intersection and give the cars the finger (some of them realize that they were wrong and hurry out of the way). Then the traffic lights change for the straight traffic, and oncoming cars start honking at the turning cars who are now blocking traffic...and the Walk sign turns on, so more pedestrians start walking and blocking the turning cars from being able to go...BAM! Gridlock.

Comment: Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (Score 2) 272

by ottothecow (#47371245) Attached to: Amazon Sues After Ex-Worker Takes Google Job
That's not duress. That's just a contract.

It is literally saying, if you don't agree to this contract, you don't get the things that this contract says you get. It is like the guy at subway saying "If you don't give me $5, you can't have that sandwich". It's not duress until you say you don't really want the sandwich and the guy says "And if you don't want to buy the sandwich, I am going to beat your face in"

Duress is something that is not part of the contract that is being used to force you to sign the contract. The judge isn't going to uphold a contract that says "we won't kill you if you have signed this"...but they might uphold a contract that omits the death threat if you can't provide any proof of the threat. Some none-violent duress might be if your wife also worked for the company and they said "If you don't sign this, not only will you not get the job, but we are going to fire your wife"

Comment: Re:OR (Score 1) 579

by ottothecow (#47370933) Attached to: Unintended Consequences For Traffic Safety Feature
One of my favorite bits of "Long Way Round" (documentary where Ewan McGregor and a friend ride motorcycles around the world) is when their cameraman fails to pass the motorcycle license test. The guy is already a pretty experienced rider and has a swiss license but they find out right before he leaves for the trip that he needs a UK license for some reason (reciprocity?).

He takes the first appointment that they can get...and fails for some tiny mistake. There is a wait-time after failing the test, so he actually has to start the trip late because of some tiny, tiny infraction (my recollection is that he didn't turn is head quite far enough to check if a corner was clear).

That would never happen in the US. I knew plenty of people in high school who hit the cones while parallel parking and still passed (probably explains all of the asshats I see in the city whose parallel parking technique involves damaging other people's expensive property). You should not be able to pass a driving test in which you made physical contact with something that is representative of another car.

Comment: Re:OR (Score 1) 579

by ottothecow (#47370859) Attached to: Unintended Consequences For Traffic Safety Feature
In the state where I got my first license, you had to wait 1 week before testing again. You didn't have to actually practice or have any additional instruction...you just had to show up again.

A lot of kids would schedule their test at the nearby facility...and make an appointment for a week later at a testing facility that was further away but known for being easier (didn't have any one-way streets on the test...). If you fail, you just go take an easier test a week later and hope you pass.

Not sure what happened after the second time....but I don't think there were ever additional education requirements.

Comment: Re:OR (Score 1) 579

by ottothecow (#47370809) Attached to: Unintended Consequences For Traffic Safety Feature
I don't think he disagrees with you that it is stupid.

But there are large masses of people who can't drive safely (or often, such as with texters, can...but won't). Who is going to tell those people they can't drive? What alternatives are you going to offer them? That's a one-way ticket to a lost reelection campaign. You are going to tell all of the old people that they need to renew their licenses so they won't vote for you. You are going to make it hard for all the young people who manage to "Get Out The Vote" so they won't vote for you. And you will fail all of the idiots...so while they didn't vote at all in the last election, they are going to show up just to vote against you.

It sucks...but how do we fix it? There are large swaths of people who can't even be convinced that staring at and typing on a phone instead of focusing on the road is a bad idea. If something as obvious as actually looking at the road is too much to ask for from some people, then driverless cars really are the only answer that is going to work in this country.

Comment: Re:What? (Score 1) 45

by ottothecow (#47370667) Attached to: Google Acquires Curated Music Service Songza
It's a pretty decent thing...although Spotify basically already has this. There are various "mood" based playlist options (like "Girls Night" "Lazy Chill Afternoon" "Indie Workout") as well as the ability to subscribe to other people's playlists (and there, you know who made it rather than "crafted by a songza expert"...e.g. you can listen to the Napster founder's playlists). Plus, you get the full power of spotify...so if you find a song on there that you like, you can directly add it to a playlist or go stream the whole album.

Songza forces you into the "radio" model where you can't actually pick songs...but it has a wider playlist variety. For instance, you can choose "Music for Working in an Office". From there you have a five choices like "Indie Music That's Not Too Weird" or "Easy, Breezy Summer Songs". Each of those has a few more choices underneath it--Under the Indie category, you get "Songs From Apple Commercials", "Mainstream Indie", and "Sunshine Indie Pop". This is a lot more than you get from Spotify. So you lose the direct song-level access, but you can really find playlists that fit what you want.

Its a good idea though. I've certainly tried to curate pandora/spotify radio playlists in a similar way, such as trying to create something that resembles a "Happy Summer" station rather than a "Sounds like XYZ Band" station. My guess is that Google will try to integrate it into their own Spotify competitor (Play Music). Works for them in two ways: enhances features for the paid service and attracts free songza users to the paid service (Want direct track control? Want to hear this whole album? Try Google Play Music free for 30 days)

Comment: Re:Not for deaf/hard of hearing... (Score 2) 579

by ottothecow (#47370547) Attached to: Unintended Consequences For Traffic Safety Feature
Yup. We tried to solve a "people are idiots and do stupid things" problem and in doing so, just revealed that a different group of people are also idiots who do stupid things.

The basic idea behind non-countdown lights works pretty well if people actually follow it. Figure out how long it takes someone to walk across the street. Lets say it takes 30 seconds. Then, when the light goes green, you display the walk sign until 30 seconds before the light changes at which point you switch to a blinking don't walk. Blinking "Don't Walk" already means "You may finish crossing, but do not enter the intersection if you have not started".

The problem is that people don't listen. The traffic engineer has told them "You probably don't have enough time now" but they still enter the intersection. So now we give them a countdown hoping they will agree with the traffic engineer and decide they don't have enough time...Sure, if the countdown says "1" then they won't cross, but if it says "10", they are going to run into the intersection thinking they have enough time. Combine those people running into the intersection late with the drivers who see they only have 10 seconds left to make a turn through the light...and you are going to get accidents.

Comment: Re:Repeat after me... (Score 3, Interesting) 534

I believe it is common for state universities to have police that are an actual governmental body (rather than a private security force, which may still consist of state-certified officers who have full police powers).

Also, at least at my school, the majority of university police officers where off duty or retired cops (probably the easiest way to be a state-certified officer...already be one). So instead of working OT for the force (when the commander allows it), they had a stable overtime gig for the university.

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis

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