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Comment: Elective surgery on a critical organ (Score 5, Interesting) 419

by SuperBanana (#47524837) Attached to: Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

That's how a friend's father, an eye surgeon, put it.

It doesn't always go right, and (yes, rarely) it goes very wrong. There are no take-backs with the laser surgeries.

If you must, do the surgery that is reversible - they insert a small piece of plastic that corrects the lens shape.

Comment: Re:EVD (Score 1) 160

by hey! (#47523393) Attached to: Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

It's exactly as many syllables as "ebola" but carries more information, what's not to like?

Indeed, it carries MUCH more precision than just "Ebola", which can mean any of the following:

"Ebola River" is a tributary to the Congo River.

"Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever" was the name of a disease first discovered in people living in the remote Ebola River watershed.

"Ebola Virus" (abbrev. "EBOV") is the infectious agent that causes "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever"

"Ebolavirus" is the taxonomic genus to which the "Ebola virus" belongs.

"Ebola Virus Disease (abbrev. "EVD") is now the more common name for Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. We can call it that because we have definitively identified the infectious agent that causes the disease (EBOV). Changing the name pre-emptively differentiates EVD from other hemorrhagic diseases that might arise from the same area.

Laymen simply say "Ebola" and let their audience sort out what they mean -- if indeed they mean anything precisely. I once had this conversation with an elderly relative.

Relative: 90% of bats have rabies.

Me: That's hard to believe.

Relative: It's true! I read it in the paper.

So I went to the paper and found out that she had it hopelessly garbled. TEN percent of bats SUBMITTED FOR TESTING had positive SCREENING tests.

Comment: Re:EVD (Score 1) 160

by hey! (#47523131) Attached to: Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

I worked in public health informatics for many years, and it's a longstanding tradition to use three letter codes. I think this is the legacy of old systems which provided three or four character fields for codes, but it certainly speeds things along when you're keying data into a spreadsheet.

The tradition isn't formalized, and so it's application is somewhat irregular, but it's important in this case to realize that public health surveillance makes a strong distinction between a *disease* (a disorder of structure or function in an organism like a human) and an *infectious agent* (the parasite, bacterium, virus or prion that transmits the disease). That's because you can find the infectious agent without finding any cases of the disease -- for example in an asymptomatic human, in a disease carrying vector like a mosquito etc. Non-specialist use the same terms to refer to either the disease or the agent (this naming by association is called "metonymy", a word every system designer should be familiar with). So of course the abbreviations experts use seem nonsensical to non-specialists.

The abbreviation "EVD" maskes perfect sense -- it is the *disease* caused by the Ebola Virus (EBOV). A non-specialist uses terms loosely and would say things like "They found Ebloa in Freetown." A specialist wouldn't use such loose language. He'd say "We found a human case of EVD in Freetown," or "We had a serum with a positive titer for EBOV from Freetown."

Comment: There's only one thing you need to know about H-1B (Score 1) 214

by hey! (#47522747) Attached to: VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding

There's only one thing you need to know about the H-1B program to see that it's not about providing skilled labor *here*: after 6-10 years of working the visa holder is kicked out of the country to make room for a less experienced visa holder.

If H-1B led automatically to a green card, then we'd be keeping the *most* expert workers here, rather than replacing them with less experienced ones. Change that *one* aspect of the program, and it's be an asset to the US as a nation.

Comment: Re:Yay! Hopenchange! (Score 1) 214

by hey! (#47522677) Attached to: VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding

I went back and got a degree after 25 years. It's not the *degree*, it's the *education* that matters, and I got a lot more out of the education than my younger peers. This was a new perspective on things I was already familiar with, and I was able to connect a lot of dots I wouldn't have been able to when I was eighteen. I could immediately see what stuff was good for, and I discovered a number of things that would solve commonplace problems I'd seen occur over and over again, even with personnel wit advanced degrees.

Then I got out and discovered that the world didn't want to hire a fifty year old who'd been "out of work" (going to school) for three years....

Comment: Re:Is this an achievement? (Score 1) 47

by hey! (#47519351) Attached to: Autonomous Sea-Robot Survives Massive Typhoon

Well, you are unlikely to be the *only* one who doesn't think this is all that impressive, because you're unlikely to be the only one who didn't read the article or looking up the device on the company's website.

The robot in question is designed to capture energy from surface waves for propulsion. So it is not a deep submersible, it waddles along a six meters below the surface, tethered to a streamlined surface buoy that it drags along and uses to capture wave energy. Making it through a major storm is a significant proof-of-concept for such a system.

Comment: Re:There's something touching about that comment (Score 2) 102

by hey! (#47500515) Attached to: "Intelligent" Avatars Poised To Manage Airline Check-In

It's not the human *touch* that people crave in a complicated interaction with a system. It's human *versatility*.

Thus more personnel does no good, if those personnel are rigidly controlled, lack information to advise or authority to act. The fact that they're also expected to be jolly and upbeat as they follow their rigid and unyielding rules only turns the interaction with them into a travesty of a social interaction.

What would work better is a well-designed check-in system that handles routine situations nearly all the time, along with a few personnel who have the training and authority to solve any passenger problems that come up.

Comment: Re: The issue is big publishing (Score 2) 191

by hey! (#47493819) Attached to: Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

I can only go with the experience of my friends, who've gone both routes successfully.

It's true that traditional publishers expect mid-list authors to shoulder most of the promotion efforts these days. I never said they didn't. Fiction authors are now expected to maintain a platform, which used to be a non-fiction thing. Certainly traditional publishers have become more predatory and less supportive than they were twenty years ago. I don't have an inside track on why that is, but I suspect there are several causes. One is that POD allows publishers to make an reliable though modest profit from their mid-list authors, which ironically makes them more risk averse. But publishers still provide production and editing services on a MS that'd cost you maybe ten thousand dollars if you were contracting those services out. They also get your book in bricks-and-mortar bookstores, which is a bridge too far for most indy authors, even the successful ones.

A lot of the bad feeling that publishers get from indy authors comes from two sources. First, a long history with rejection. Second the lack of respect indy authors get relative to traditionally published authors. We can see it in this discussion elsewhere, where one poster puts "authors" in quotes when referring to indy authors. And it's easy to see why because most indy authors just aren't good enough to get traditionally published. *Some* indy authors put out a product that's every bit as good as the mid-list authors from the big publishing houses, but most just dump their terrible manuscripts on Amazon with a clip-art cover and no copy editing, much less developmental editing.

The statistic that most indy authors make their investment back plus 40% didn't impress me, because (a) that counts the author's labor as free and (b) most indy authors don't invest much cash in their projects. The percentage of indy authors that clear, say, five thousand dollars in profit are very small.

It's not that indy publishing doesn't have its points, and my traditionally published friends are certainly thinking about dipping their toe in the water. But it's not as cheap as it looks if you want a comparable product, and you give up certain things. I was in Manhattan recently and went to the 5th Avenue branch of the NYPL. My traditionally published friends' books were either on the shelves our out circulating. The NYPL had *none* of my indy author friends' books, even though at least one of them has made the New York Times best seller list.

Comment: Re:The issue is big publishing (Score 1) 191

by hey! (#47492489) Attached to: Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

I don't think it's as simple as Amazon is good or Amazon is evil. Amazon is powerful, and that needs watching.

Now I have a number writer friends, one of whom is published both with traditional imprints like TOR and with Amazon's new in-house publishing imprints. She has good things to say about Amazon's imprints, but one thing you have to take into account is that nobody will stock your book *but* Amazon if you publish with them. That's giving up a lot, so they treat authors reasonably well. But that doesn't mean the corporation actually cares about authors. Amazon needs reliable mid-list authors to make their publishing ventures a success, and by cutting out the middleman can afford generous royalties. But if Amazon succeeds in putting a stake in the heart of traditional publishing, I wouldn't care to speculate on what will happen to authors.

Nor should what traditional publishers do for authors be underestimated. I have friends who are successful indy writers, but it's not like being a writer, it's more like running a small publishing house yourself. They hire story editors, copy editors and artists, and manage promotion and publicity. It's a lot of work; that plus actually writing pretty much precludes a day job. It's not for everyone.

It's a lot like being an engineer. Engineers are smart people who usually have a lot of insight into the companies they work for, but that doesn't mean that most engineers want to run businesses. Some do, but most would rather have other people take care of that stuff so they can concentrate on what they feel they're best at.

Many writers choose the indy market because it's the only way they'll ever get published. They just dump their manuscript on the market without editing, design or promotion and hope for the best. They rarely succeed. Others choose the indy route because they thrive on running and controlling their own small business, the way some engineers step naturally into the role of entrepreneur. They're well positioned for the future. But most writers need support to reach their full potential.

Comment: You forgot about Chernobyl (Score 1) 230

by SuperBanana (#47491967) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

230,000 were killed by the Banquiao hydroelectric dam disaster.

Not quite. 20,000 were killed in the immediate flooding. The rest were killed in the epidemics, famines, etc that followed.

Even if the worst nuclear accident in history happened EVERY YEAR, it would still be safer than hydroelectric.

If you're going to claim indirect deaths as you did above, then I'm going to claim indirect deaths too.

http://www.who.int/ionizing_ra...

Chernobyl didn't kill that many people directly/immediately, but it has impacted the health of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. It will continue to do so, for generations. Nuclear disasters never go away.

Where X is 10-100 times larger than Y: Increasing the cancer risks for X people isn't 'better' than immediately wiping Y people off the map.

Comment: There is no "safe" amount of ionizing radiation (Score -1) 230

by SuperBanana (#47491589) Attached to: EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power

I'm sick and tired of the notion that it's OK to pollute, as long as you don't pollute "too much."

200+ chemicals found in samples of people's blood: http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/...

200+ chemicals found in newborn's umbilical core blood: http://www.scientificamerican....

http://www.cdc.gov/exposurerep...

These chemicals by and large don't go away...and time after time, we find chemicals that were thought to be "safe"...aren't. When are we going to learn that? When are we going to require chemicals be considered dangerous until proven otherwise, instead of the present situation, where chemicals are only later shown to be dangerous once scientists and environmental groups collect a mountain of evidence?

Comment: Dumping (Score 1) 288

by SuperBanana (#47483773) Attached to: Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

" Do you seriously think they are going to produce coal at a loss? "

Yup. One of the ways the coal industry has been fighting "green" technologies? Plunging the price.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D...

The coal industry has a century or two of establishment. They have no startup or R&D costs; everything is amortized; they have a heavily legislative-friendly environment.

Johhny Come Lately Solar And Wind is counting on profits within a certain time period to become profitable.

  All the coal company has to do is undercut them on price long enough to bleed them dry...or endanger investments enough that further investment dries up.

Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly. -- Henry Spencer

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