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Comment: Re:Bullshit.... (Score 1) 120

by hey! (#47558273) Attached to: A Fictional Compression Metric Moves Into the Real World

It doesn't have to be linear to be useful. It simply has to be able to sort a set of choices into order -- like movie reviews. Nobody thinks a four star movie is "twice as good" as a two star movie, but people generally find the rank ordering of movies by stars useful provided they don't read to much into the rating. In fact the ordering needn't be unique; there can be other equally useful metrics which order the choices in a slightly different way. *Over certain domains of values* minor differences in orderings may not matter very much, especially as your understanding of your future requirements is always somewhat fuzzy (e.g. the future cost of bandwidth or computing power).

The problem with any metric occurs outside those domains; some parameters may have discontinuities in their marginal utility. A parameter's value may be good enough and further improvements yield no benefit; or the parmater's value may be poor enough to disqualify a choice altogether. In such cases such a metric based on continuous functions will objectively misorder choices.

For example Suppose A is fast enough but has poor compression ratios; B is not quite fast enough but has excellent compression ratios. There's really only one viable choice: A; but the metric may order the choices B,A.

On the other hand suppose A has better compression ratios than B; B is faster than A, but A is already so fast that it makes no practical difference. The rational ordering of choices is A,B but the metric might order them B,A.

This kind of thing is always a problem with boiling choices down to a single composite number. You have to understand what goes into that number and how those things relate to your needs. You have to avoid making your decisions on one number alone. But some people *will* fasten on a single number because it makes the job of choosing seem easier than it does. Just don't be one of those people.

Comment: Re:Arneson (Score 1) 114

by hey! (#47557795) Attached to: How Gygax Lost Control of TSR and D&D

After Gygax's treatment of Arneson and the way he attempted to attack other games in the roleplaying hobby, I find it hard to feel much sympathy for him.

Well, if you put yourself in his shoes you might well play hardball with other games in the hobby.

D&D as a system wasn't really all special; there were competing systems back in the days he was at TSR which were every bit as enjoyable and arguably easier to play. But D&D had two big things going for it. First, when the three basic manuals for AD&D were published it had by far the best organized and written materials. The Monster Manual was particularly useful. Second it had the network effect: it was the best system to learn to play because everyone else knew how to play it. You could start a campaign at a drop of a hat -- no need to bring everyone up to speed on yet another set of rules.

So put yourself in his position. The future success of D&D is contingent on no other game reaching critical mass. You're completely dependent on D&D, you have no other marketable skills or assets. You have a company with over a hundred employees (which is surely a mistake on your part), and that company has nothing else bringing in cash *but* D&D products. You've made D&D your life work. It's not a situation to bring out the best in people.

Comment: Re:Spruce Goose (Score 1) 85

by hey! (#47550163) Attached to: World's Largest Amphibious Aircraft Goes Into Production In China

Different requirements drive different designs. Before WW2 seaplanes were common because of the lack of runways. After WW2 airports proliferated, and seaplanes couldn't keep up with technical advances due to the compromises involved in allowing them to land and take off from water. But that doesn't mean there aren't applications for aircraft with a flying boat's capabilities, it just means there isn't enough of a market in places like the US to support an industry. Even so, here in North America there are some 70 year-old WW2 Catalinas being used in aerial firefighting. China is a vast country which is prone to many kinds of natural disasters that could make airlifting in supplies difficult, so they may see potential applications we don't.

It's also interesting to note that seaplanes were highly useful in the pacific theater of WW2, and there hasn't been a protracted struggle for sea control *since* WW2. Also, China is a country with no operational aircraft carriers; aside from its training ship the Liaoning, it has a handful of amphibious assault ships that can carry a few helicopters. The US by contrast has ten supercarriers and nine amphibious assault ships that dwarf the aircraft carriers of WW2. The technology and expertise to run a carrier fleet like America's would take many years for China to develop. It's conceivable that the manufacturers imagine a military market for aircraft like this in the interim.

Comment: I had iLASIK about 11 months ago. (Score 2) 539

by grub (#47525561) Attached to: Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

iLASIK is done with all lasers, one to make the flap that was previously done by blade, and the usual LASIK after that. Fewer reported complications than with the older blade style. At my six month checkup I was seeing 20/10 from my left eye and 20/15 from my right. I'm 48 and previously wore progressive lenses. They adjusted my right for a closer focal distance.

It all just works, I love it.

Comment: Re:EVD (Score 1) 167

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) 167

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) 223

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) 223

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:Minivans are practical but ignored (Score 1) 205

by bmajik (#47501367) Attached to: New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

I think VW might contract the actual manufacturing to Chrysler.

Indeed. The VW Routan was a Chrysler Town and Country with some different skins on the inside and out. It was so much not a VW product that the VCDS system (the thing you can use to do vehicle diagnostics on any VW, Audi, Seat, or Skoda product since the early 90s) doesn't even talk to it.

In the German market, VW sells Vans of all different sizes. None of them are currently imported to the US; the Eurovan was the last rest-of-world van that was available in North America.

Comment: Re: Hmmm (Score 3, Informative) 205

by bmajik (#47501143) Attached to: New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

We have 3 kids in car seats, and an Odyssey.

When we lived in town, it was great. Back then, my only serious gripe with the Odyssey is that if you are running a second set of wheels (e.g. for permanently mounted snow tires), and don't fit a 2nd set of expensive TPMS sensors to those wheels, the VSA (stability control) cannot be defeated via the console switch.

This is a problem because the VSA implementation sucks and is frankly unsafe when accelerating on surface transitions - for instance, when you are waiting on a gravel road and are about to pull onto a paved highway, the VSA system senses differing levels of wheel grip between the wheel on pavement and the wheel still on gravel, and cuts power, precisely when you need maximum power to quickly get to highway speed.

Last fall we moved to a rural area, and now poorly maintained roads (deep snow in the winters until I clear it, deep ruts whenever there are rains) has really shown me the shortcomings of the vehicle. My wife has gotten it stuck 4 times in our first winter.

The Odyssey needs 2 things to be superlative. Air suspension with adjustable ride height (it is a very low vehicle, for ease of entry/exit for small kids), and a proper AWD system.

My wife is now desperately wanting an AWD vehicle. But to get a proper AWD system (e.g. locking transfer case or at least a torsen differential), and the useful seating capacity of a minivan, you need to be looking at full-size truck based SUVs, like the Excursion or Sequoia.

I'm aware that the Sienna comes in an AWD version, but its particular AWD system and ride height doesn't inspire me that they will be foolproof enough to want to make the switch.

Sadly, my wife also refuses to drive a Mercedes G-wagen :)

As an aside, the Odyssey towing capacity isn't really sufficient. It's 3500lbs, and it requires upfitting the vehicle considerably with things that don't come factory - PS cooler, ATF cooler, hitch wiring, etc. (In addition to the actual hitch receiver).

When we were considering camping options, essentially nothing that had enough floor space for a family of 5 could be towed behind an Odyssey.

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