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Comment: Re:What about that stupid book is worth US$244? (Score 1) 170

by pjpII (#48641067) Attached to: Calculus Textbook Author James Stewart Has Died

Actually, the issue here are the incentives in academia. Textbook publishing is not considered meaningful academic publishing in almost any field. The 'coin of the realm' in academia is peer reviewed argumentative publications - this is what 'buys' you tenure, promotion to Full Professor, etc - and those promotions are one of the few ways to get a raise.

Writing a textbook is time consuming, difficult, and basically unappreciated. From TFA: "He spent seven years on it, saying later that with his teaching, research and writing, he worked 13 hours a day for 364 days of the year." That textbook was unlikely to get him tenure or a promotion, so the only way to get a return on that investment is to try to make money off of it.

So basically the problem is that academia doesn't incentivize, and really disincentivizes, the production of things like textbooks. It's part of a larger problem that keeps academia disconnected from the public - the only thing that academics are encouraged to produce are generally those things that are least relevant to the real world. Writing something accessible to a non-specialist audience is a waste of time and potentially career suicide.

Comment: Re:Solution is smaller government / reduced spendi (Score 2) 609

by pjpII (#43925285) Attached to: Verizon Ordered To Provide All Customer Data To NSA

Sorry, but while that argument is appealing, it's bullshit because you're not specifying WHAT functions you eliminate with the meaningless statement, "reduced spending and smaller government." Where are you reducing the spending? What functions does this "smaller government" fulfill, and which functions does it not fulfill? Unless you specify exactly what to cut, this is just empty rhetoric with very little meaning - like saying, "We need to get rid of regulations" - which ones? Why? What is the cost-benefit analysis?

Moreover, it is absolutely possible to have a much smaller government that focuses all or most of its efforts on military and intelligence services - the Syrian government is an excellent example of this, focusing very little (in terms of expenditures) on actual effective social welfare functions (providing subsidized housing, etc. which it did, but very badly), but almost exclusively on maintaining a police and military state, and I'm sure the same can be said for many dictatorial regimes. Indeed, libertarian approaches often cede only military and possible intelligence services as necessary state functions, producing exactly that type of outcome.

What "reduced spending" and "smaller government" actually seem to result in is decreased social services (education, health care, etc) while leaving military and intelligence budgets intact (often beyond what the military is actually requesting, as we've seen often enough in recent years in the US, e.g. the F35 controversy). I imagine as the number of people at the bottom increase and become restless due the lack of social services, you'd find even more support from everyone else to INCREASE the domestic intelligence presence and law enforcement, rather than to reduce them.

Sci-Fi

Hugo Awards Live Stream Cut By Copyright Enforcement Bot 393

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the not-as-much-fun-as-bender dept.
New submitter Penmanpro writes news of the Hugo Awards stream being unintentionally cut off by some AI gone awry: "Quotes from the linked article 'UStream's incorrectly programmed copyright enforcement squad had destroyed our only access.' 'Just as Neil Gaiman was giving an acceptance speech for his Doctor Who script, "The Doctor's Wife." Where Gaiman's face had been were the words, "Worldcon banned due to copyright infringement."'"

Comment: Tempest in a teapot (Score 5, Informative) 287

by pjpII (#39403395) Attached to: Physicists Discover Evolutionary Laws of Language

Speaking as a linguist (working on my Ph.D.) this is something of a tempest in a tea-pot. The most relevant use would be for glottochronology - a field that's largely been abandoned by anyone seriously working on historical linguistics because of the various problems involved with that approach, including what the authors of the paper find, that the rate of word loss is not constant over time. They have a better idea of the rate of word loss, which could help improve glottochronology, but the method has a lot of flaws regardless.

Also, the question they're asking - how do words change over time, in terms of coining, becoming current, and becoming obsolete - really isn't a question historical linguists are that concerned about. Historical linguists are much more interested in how the forms of words change over time (phonological change), or how their function changes over time (grammaticalization), whereas the coinage and loss of words isn't often so important, especially on the large scale statistical level. Furthermore, this type of model probably handles languages with phenomena like avoidance speech poorly, since that would change how and why words are kept or lost.

Their language sample is at heart a convenience sample - they happened to have access to lots of data in those three languages, and it is largely written data. Spanish and English are both related languages with very similar cultural contexts, while Hebrew is a strange choice in that is has an ancient history, but only quite recent revitalised usage. Whether most spoken interaction (which is what linguists tend to be more interested in) has even a tiny subset of the total number of words they are talking about is an open question and would be better tested against corpora with a large quantity of spoken data such as the British National Corpus or the International Corpus of English.

It's an interesting study, but if it hadn't been written by physicists I'm not sure if it would have ended up in Diachronica or the Journal of Historical Lingiustics, much less Science. Their "statistical rules" are interesting, but really not of any great use to wider linguistic inquiry. I think its import is really just exaggerated by the fact that science editors read Science and NOT most linguistics journals, and therefore they think it's really impressive.

Comment: Two kinds of piracy (Score 1) 591

by pjpII (#35716106) Attached to: Piracy Is a Market Failure — Not a Legal One

I think the above poster makes an excellent point, and I think this is what posters are missing here in the discussion. There's piracy in the developed, western countries that is well known here on Slashdot, where people who can probably afford the price of the media (they might not be able to buy a 6 pack that weekend or something, but it's within their budget) choose to pirate instead.

On the other hand, as the OP notes, in developing countries, piracy IS the market. I lived in Syria, and honestly I don't know where I'd buy a legitimate version of something. The markets are dominated by pirated goods, because if you do eventually find the one fancy mall* that has a legitimate outlet, the goods will be priced at the same price as in the US or Europe. I wanted to get a DVD in Jordan, and at the Virgin Megastore, it was priced HIGHER than most DVDs in the US - few Jordanians could afford such a thing, and so they turn to piracy.

There was interestingly, while I was in Syria, an independent record label that managed to distribute a fair number of CDs actually managed to control piracy a little bit by distributing to the same places that sold pirated CDs, and working out agreements with the owners of the shops not to pirate the CDs. However, sales of CDs at $4 each still had trouble finding a market, versus $.50 pirated CDs in a country where $.75 could buy you a takeaway lunch ($4 could get you a pretty nice lunch at a good restaurant). If you think of that in terms of a $6 sub sandwich in the US, it was the equivalent of pricing a CD at about $32 US. If a US company tried to charge $15 for a CD, it would be like charging $80 for a CD in terms of buying power.

*Actually, in one mall, they had a store that LOOKED like Best Buy or something, but all of their DVDs were indeed pirated.

Comment: Re:ham radio (Score 3, Interesting) 840

by pjpII (#35027854) Attached to: Egypt Shuts Off All Internet Access

It currently looks like people are switching to more old fashioned means and using leaflets and word of mouth. Hold in mind that though Cairo, and many other Arab capitals are gigantic, they are often much more similar to a huge collection of small towns where everyone knows everyone (and everyone's business). Taking out the internet seems like a particularly desperate act, especially since the protests are expected to begin following Friday prayer (which the government can't forbid completely without REALLY losing legitimacy) when people will be gathered together already (and thus able to communicate.)

Comment: Re:This is unacceptable (Score 1) 840

by pjpII (#35027806) Attached to: Egypt Shuts Off All Internet Access

By that set of criteria, Iraq and Syria are "secular" states as well, based on largely secular principles. If you use Roman alphabets as a criteria, then you'd have to include Malaysia and Indonesia, two of the largest Muslim population countries in the world. The whole problem with the original poster's (troll's) assertions is that they're a flawed generalization.

Comment: Re:This is unacceptable (Score 2, Insightful) 840

by pjpII (#35027636) Attached to: Egypt Shuts Off All Internet Access

There. Is no such thing as a progressive muslim state. They are all horrendous in one form or another. Human rights, crime, despotism, corruption, justice, the works.

Jesus, where to even start with this modded "Insightful" and the other terrible comments coming off it.

First, all the issues you cite, "Human rights, crime, despotism, corruption, justice, the works" characterize the vast majority of countries outside of Western Europe (and you can include the Commonwealth in that) and North America, and don't correlate per se with states with majority Muslim populations any more than it correlates with years since the end of colonization or national GDP (and obviously probably much much less.) Most of those "more progressive" states have had quite a good amount of time to develop as nation states and many have had similar human rights problems in the past (e.g. much of Eastern Europe, Spain), while most of the Middle Eastern and North African countries are still one or two major regimes off of colonialism. So you have made a false equivalence of Muslim majority state=horrendous when there are exceptions on both sides of that equation.

Furthermore, in many of the "worst" states, the governments have been aggressively secular, since they were run by minority groups (Syria, Iraq before the fall of Saddamn) and were not particularly "Islamic" in character.

As for another poster who wonders whether they have honor killings, not so much, that tends to be in the Levant, and is a cultural rather than a religious ideal per se. Egypt does have issues with "female circumcision" (or whatever you want to call it) but again it's a cultural rather than religious practice.

None of that is pertinent to what's going on, though.

What is important is that these are incredibly courageous youth going out into the streets and facing who knows what - recent videos have shown what appears to be snipers firing on protesters, and one thing that has contributed to this movement has been videos of police brutally torturing prisoners - in the hope of changing their situation. They are putting their money where their mouths are, and are defying death to make themselves heard. This is a government that is willing to shut off an entire country's internet access, with all that entails for the economy and communication, to keep people from gather together, a basic right in many countries in the world. Coptic Christians are standing beside Muslims and asking for change - one of the main chants is "al-halaal wa-ya saliib did al-qatal wa-t-ta`dhiib" "Cross and Crescent against torture and murder."

So lets stop making meaningless and false generalizations, and asking kind of silly questions about culture, and support a people trying to win back their freedoms, something that should appeal quite highly to the Slashdot crowd.

Classic Games (Games)

Fan-Developed Ultima VI Remake Released 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the serious-dedication dept.
An anonymous reader writes "20 years after the original game launched, a fan-developed Ultima 6 remake has finally been released! The Ultima 6 Project was formed in 2001 by Sliding Dragon to develop a remake of Origin's Ultima VI: The False Prophet with newer graphics and a more immersive engine. Soon assembled under the banner Archon, the team members, who hail from all over the globe, have set about recreating the world of Britannia, adding an enhanced storyline to bolster intraseries continuity and building on the Ultima legacy in a way that will please fans new and old."

Comment: Re:key (Score 1) 496

by pjpII (#31663862) Attached to: In the last 24 hours, I've consumed ...

There're two websites that are relevant to this discussion:

One is the joke website, "This is why you're fat" and the exercise website 70s Big.

The both show almost absurd kinds of food. However, the difference between them is that the members of the latter website regularly spending 3-6 (not much, huh?) hours a week weightlifting between one and four times their body weight. For heavy weightlifting and other kinds of training, 3000-6000 Calories is really pretty reasonable, and in fact recommended to make major gains in strength.

Weightlifting is a great way to lose weight (or to lose fat weight) while gaining a lot of strength and getting better looking. A lot of geeks tend to be scared of it, but it's actually a pretty scientific and geeky pursuit.

Education

Memorizing Language / Spelling Techniques? 237

Posted by timothy
from the save-up-for-neural-implants dept.
NotesSensei writes "My kids are learning Chinese in school. While the grammar is drop-dead simple, writing is a challenge since there is no relation between sound and shape of the characters. I would like to know any good techniques (using technology or not) to help memorize large amounts of information, especially Chinese characters. Most of the stuff I Googled only helps on learning speaking."

Comment: Re:Translate and Die (Score 1) 206

by pjpII (#31241206) Attached to: New English/Arabic Translation Site Hopes To Promote Citizen Diplomacy

So that link you provide (modded informative?!) doesn't actually say anything about translations of the Quran - it's mostly about apostasy, which in the early years of Islam (during which those hadith were uttered) was politically equivalent to treason (which is often greeted with a death penalty around the world). In the early years of Islam, it really was Islam against the world, and the religious and political element were aligned such that all supporters of Muhammad were Muslim and vise-versa (plus or minus some civil wars). In modern society, the application of these hadith I think is questionable, but I'm not an Islamic studies scholar (just an Arabic Ph.D. student). There's also an image attached to the article that is just a judgment regarding apostasy rendered by the extremely conservative al-Azhar mosque, and has nothing to do with translation. Clearly non-Arabic readers would assume it does, which makes it rather sneaky.

As for translating the Quran, that's not controversial at all - the idea is that you can't really get the same thing out of it by translation that you'd get out of it by reading it (and in fact, that's not the same as what you get out of it by reading the commentaries, which are long and voluminous). A translation by necessity is one particular person's interpretation of the text, so to impose your interpretation is in a sense to change the original text. I might add one persons READING of a text is necessarily an interpretation, but at least they can bring their intellect, background, etc to bear on the original text. If you read someone else's translation, the idea is that you're not reading the word of god, but rather the word of god filtered through someone else's lense. So if you get a Saudi Wahhabi translation, it might have a significantly different take on the text than a liberal western educated translator.

With other texts, obviously, it's not quite as critical, and its often more accepted to translate hadiith (sayings of the prophet), and non-religious stuff has always been fair game - where do you think we get Greek philosophical works from? They were primarily translated out of Syrian and Greek by Arab translators, particularly under the Caliph al-Ma'muun.

If it is a Miracle, any sort of evidence will answer, but if it is a Fact, proof is necessary. -- Samuel Clemens

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