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Comment Re:Raising questions about freedom of speech? (Score 3, Insightful) 298 298

There is also nothing in the constitution that says any entity must allow you to use their property at the exclusion of others in order to express your speech.

Correct. Only a government entity (such as the city) must allow you equal access to their public resources (such as this park) without using forceful intervention (such as sending in police) to suppress it.

the city said no if a wanted criminal and fugitive from law would be a party of it.

Free speech is about the speech, not the person speaking. Otherwise we should not have any problem, e.g., banning Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto. After all, Marx is dead -- and was never a citizen -- so surely his right to free speech would not be infringed by the ban.

Comment Content producers (Score 1) 141 141

Writing a joke is hard work. Sure, it's 140 characters, but it can take a long time of searching out inspiration, research, and then writing and rewriting to get it in its punchiest form. Most of us come up with good ones on our own every once in a while, but producing enough to sustain an online following can be a heavy investment. It's no surprise the producers are leaning on twitter for some protection of their reputation and/or livelihood.

As usual, though, it is misguided. The difference between a successful joke and a failed jokes is precisely that the former is likely to get repeated. It's half the reason people follow this accounts and watch comedians is so they can borrow material to entertain their friends and romantic interests. Maybe that's not 100% honest but that's a part of what's driving your traffic. Some jokes have to be told from your perspective -- a citation ruins the humor. (Or you've modified it and citing now would be entirely honest.) Sometimes you remember the joke but not where it came from. That's part of the life of a joke.

But it is strikingly dishonest when you have other accounts stealing material wholesale, morning radio programs running your material without credit, and traffic-generating pages copying it verbatim (except for the citation). Whether that should invite legal response I don't know, but it should certainly invite some shame.

Comment Re:Mars is stupid (Score 1) 136 136

All very good points, but let's consider that colonization may involve a bit of compromise. Maybe in the best case we continue to need respirators and good shelters. Is that unacceptable? Doesn't mean it's not useful to increase the surface temperature, release certain gases, start some form of food production.

The stability and accessibility of Mars remains very important at our present stage of technology. We aren't going to wait for terraforming to complete before we start colonizing. It's a major advantage if the process is easy to monitor and interact with, if resources are easy to extract (mining), and equipment failure is less of a concern (no caustic substances at 500C).

In the end, it's probably better to get more practical experience at terraforming something else before we start on our #1 target anyway.

Comment Re:Project administrators held PRC passports! (Score 1) 142 142

Technically speaking, the previous elected administration was also the Obama administration. And however outdated the security practices might have been under Bush, they are at least 7 years more outdated today under Obama, which is not an equal failing. Notably, the cyber aspect of national security has become much more pointed in the years that he has been in charge. You can give Obama a pass if you honestly don't think it should have been a priority, but most would consider national security should be one of the presidents' top priorities. In any case, if you want to distribute some of the consequences to Bush, I suppose we can go egg his house or something, but the practical side is that however much accountability we are willing to assign to previous administrations is that much less incentive for the present administration to take this seriously.

Comment Re:Thank you - just PR for his presidential run. (Score 4, Interesting) 385 385

It was never feasible for him to block the bill, so I don't see why details of, e.g, when he did it would be important. The purpose was to raise awareness and I've seen quite a bit of coverage including major political sites like DrudgeReport so I would say whatever his notions were they worked out rather well. If it is a call to the masses then it makes sense to give them time to digest and react (hopefully with a call to their representatives) before the actual bill.

As is, are we under the impression that once in office Rand Paul will abandon the cause? Because if not, as the chief executive he would certain have the ability to direct these agencies differently. Personally, this convinces me he would be committed to doing so.

Comment Re:Americentred worldview (Score 2) 164 164

If Slashdot's editorial duty is to emphasize news items based on their humanitarian importance, it fails with every article that isn't about death, poverty, slavery, etc. Of course, then it wouldn't be a tech website and we probably wouldn't visit it, so that all is fairly moot. This is about Dan Fredinburg because he was relevant to tech and known in our community (and he's certainly worth remembering as a person as well, regardless of what else is in the news). It's not here because it was the most important thing to happen in the past week.

I think it's on us to give the events in Nepal their due emphasis. Personally, I have donated to Doctors Without Borders, which is sending medical aid. I invite anyone else to do the same, and maybe to bring up the topic with family, friends, and coworkers.

But I am very glad and thank you for remembering the other Nepali. Maybe if we let the editors know that we would like them to setup a donation button or organize something in that vein so we can help out as a community, they would oblige.

Comment Alternatives to Mendeley (Score 1) 81 81

Personally I have found Mendeley frustrating to use anyway. Seemed more interested in shiny features than working well. Wasn't very good at maintaining its bibtex file (which could be a problem using it with other programs) and expected you to have digital references only.

JabRef is a great multiplatform reference manager which combines excellently with Docear for writing a paper/thesis/dissertation (Docear lets you organize your references and annotations as part of your outline). I have also found it worth it to run PDF-XChange Viewer under WINE. It is unfortunately not open source but it supports any feature you can think of for annotating PDFs and integrates nicely (with a bit of non-windows setup) with Docear.

Zotero is another great reference manager. I have also heard good things about BibDesk (OS X only).

Comment Re:Personal morality and pandering (Score 1) 653 653

Last time I checked, Tim Cook was a US citizen so it hardly seems inappropriate to hold your own country to a higher standard than places where you don't actually get a vote. Furthermore it's a little hard to criticize a foreign country for something that your own country is doing. Fix your home first and then you can hold the moral high ground.

This is one of those things which would sound wholly reasonable if you weren't comparing the EXECUTION OF HOMOSEXUALS for being homosexual to whether every smalltime shop is legally compelled to service their weddings. The former is so many orders of magnitude worse that I am amazed we are even making the comparison. Any influence a boycott can have in one of those countries is worth a thousand times what it can have here. In fact boycott or not I offer a decent person should avoid doing business in those countries just because of the sheer moral discomfort of being in any way remotely affiliated with them.

Comment Re:Although unused, not useful (Score 2) 213 213

A five ton delivery truck can be quite lethal also. Taking your child to pick something up or leaving them unsupervised while you go to the store creates additional risk. Accidents involving multiple passengers and multiple vehicles compound the lethality of single points of failure. Even if the drone dies unexpectedly, it's going to have significant probability of having a non-lethal descent, being over a building or open terrain, compared to a vehicle which is specifically restricted to an area with other people moving at high velocities. And if these are battery powered or have a clean burning fuel, we can consider the general health effects of reduced pollution as well.

Safety is important, but the setup we have right now is pretty dangerous. I wouldn't suggest missing out on even a moderate improvement by demanding absolute perfection at the start.

Comment Re:WWJD? (Score 5, Informative) 1168 1168

Jesus, the guy who would always do what you would do.

Despite an oppressive Roman occupation, Jesus never had much to say about the Romans. He outmaneuvered questions designed to embroil him in the local politics. He refused efforts to crown him as king. He refused to defend himself when he stood accused before them.

If I may be so bold as to guess, I would say no, Jesus would not vocally oppose this bill. Nor would he endorse it. Jesus did not see government as a means to achieve his objectives. He taught in the synagogues. He clashed with religious leaders. He went to the oppressed and ministered to them directly. He would not be interested in your politics (or mine). But he would be strongly interested in affecting the compassion, selflessness, humility, and general godliness of the people involved.

Comment Re:Welcome to the USA (Score 3, Insightful) 181 181

While you're linking to youtube, you might checkout the homemade flamethrowers. I can't claim to have made one but plenty of my friends have (including my school physics club). The mechanics of a flame thrower is just a squirt gun + a match. I can buy propane "flame throwers" as is at the local hardware store (used for burning weeds).

Why are people making all these flame throwers? Because something that shoots jets of flame is freaking cool. As far as I could discern on a quick google search, none of them have been used to commit murder.

What I personally find horrific is the idea that anyone would be so afraid of their fellow citizens that their first assumption on hearing they have access to a projectile shooter/flame maker/etc. is "OH GOODNESS HOW ARE THEY GOING TO USE THAT MURDER ME?" I realize unhinged people are out there, and will do bad things, but there are also bears in the woods which could find their way to my house and easily maul me to death. But the statistics are low enough that I don't worry about. I suppose my luck could run out some day, but trusting my fellow citizens not to murder me has worked so far, and I wouldn't care to live any other way. I like the idea of a society and a government that assumes I have good intentions until proven otherwise and I consider it worth some risk to have it even if I am not personally a person who is interested in owning a weapon.

Comment Other technical options (Score 1) 385 385

What about a limitation on the locking mechanism that causes the door to unlock during significant course corrections and descents at low altitude? (If you really want to cover contingencies there could also be a date-based override code for keeping the cabin locked which the pilots would have to radio for.) That leaves the pilots free to secure themselves in case of an internal upset during a normal flight, but the passengers would be able to mob the cabin in most of these scenarios. You could also add, e.g., buttons in the back of the plane which have to be pressed to unlock the cabin. Not terribly difficult to do if all the passengers see the point of getting in, but might make the logistics of a hijacking significantly more complicated (and impossible for a lone actor).

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?