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User Journal

Journal: Parents aren't perfect 7

Journal by squiggleslash

Seen rather a lot of the "Parents are evil because they did something wrong because they believed that something was right" meme that's going around at the moment.

Worst case: massive harassment and threats against the parents of a trans teenager who killed herself blaming their insistence on "Christian" therapy. Horrible case, entirely the wrong approach by the parents, but at the same time if the parents hadn't cared, there wouldn't have been any therapy to begin with, bogus or not. The parents were convinced by people they trusted that the wrong thing was the right thing. Screaming at them, particularly at a time when they are mourning, that they are evil and heartless is evil and heartless.

Now seeing it in the vaccine "debate". Not the only problem I'm having with the pro-vax side (Reminder: yes, I'm pro-vax, and yes, I'm in favor of it being mandatory for the obvious deadly common diseases), but there's a world of difference between a lazy parent not having their kid vaccinated because they can't be bothered, and a parent being too scared to vaccinate their child because they've heard from convincing sources that vaccinations can cause terrible things.

User Journal

Journal: Is the Touch UI irredeemable? 4

Journal by squiggleslash

Thoughts related to the Windows 10 "Desktop is a desktop, no "Start" screen" thing:

From 1984 to 1990, there was a serious debate as to which was better, the command line or the WIMP (Window/Icon/Mouse/Pointer) UI. Why? Well, because Mac OS's Systems 1-4 were user friendly in the sense people knew how to use them, but user unfriendly in the sense that they got in the way, were kludgy, awkward to use, and offered zero advantages - beyond a lack of training for users - over the command line. At best you could say some applications needed a mouse, but some, such as word processors, were actually harder to use in the prehistoric era of WIMP user interfaces than the keyboard based versions.

What changed? Microsoft Windows. From Windows 1.0 onwards, Microsoft offered a vision, initially a very, very, ugly vision, as to how a computer could be more, not less useful with a WIMP UI. The critical feature was multitasking. Windows offered a better way to multitask than command line based systems, because each Window, representing an application or document, could co-exist in the same "world", the desktop.

Windows wasn't anything like the best implementation, but it was the only implementation of the concept available on standard PCs.

When Microsoft pretty much forced manufacturers to provide Windows and a mouse with all MS DOS based computers, users had a straight choice of using one UI or the other, and they overwhelmingly chose Windows. By comparison, when GEM was bundled with many PCs in the late nineties, GEM was a nice to have that was ignored by most users (anecdotally, outside of stores, I never saw an Amstrad PC1512 running GEM in the wild, despite it becoming with it and being a major advertised feature.) GEM, a Mac OS UI clone, did not offer multitasking.

So: timeline:

1. Mac OS released around 1984. Causes schism between WIMP and command line users
2. Windows 1.0 released 1985ish. Most users recognize it's a very powerful system, but are put off by user interface and memory requirements.
3. DOS vs WIMP rages for next five years largely because Windows is crippled by other factors.
4. Finally PCs are forced to be powerful enough to run Windows in 1990, and Windows UI improved enough to be "good enough" compared to Mac OS. Everyone jumps to Windows. End of DOS vs WIMP debate.

Touch UIs? Where is the touch UI that is more powerful, as opposed to being easier to use, than the WIMP UI? It took Microsoft (and Commodore too) less than a year to come up with something that was actually an improvement on the command line having seen WIMP. It's been nearly a decade now, who has come up with a touch UI that is more versatile than a WIMP desktop?

User Journal

Journal: Classifications 1

Journal by squiggleslash

Apropos of nothing, just some thoughts in the shower this morning: I see people getting very upset when they hear Doom being described as "3D". "It's 2.5D!" they scream, pointing out that the maps are two dimensional albeit augmented with a height map.

The thing is while I kinda see their point, it essentially puts Doom in the same category as, say, Isometric games, while Quake is in the same category as numerous 1980s Flight Simulators. And then there's "First Person" vs "Third Person" where, again, the latter is so overly broad that it puts, uhm, a lot of isometric games in the same category as modern 3D games that are clearly "nearly" FPS but with a view of the protagonist.

Me, I'm kind of wondering if any of it is ever going to be anything but misleading anyway. 3D Monster Maze (for the ZX81), Hired Guns, the various flight simulators, Quake, Doom, Wolfenstein... all with slightly different takes on technologies that were ultimately trying to converge on the idea that you could see something broadly real, rather than an abstraction. The classifying makes it harder, not easier, to see the leaps forward each type of game engine made.

User Journal

Journal: Wikipedia is fucked 1

Journal by squiggleslash

GamerGate targeted the most active editors on the Gamergate Controversy article for abuse for several months. They also abused the article itself, inserting blatant violations of WP:BLP (the policy that stops the Wikimedia Foundation from being sued for libel every five minutes) During this time the trolls, in parallel, continually leveled complaints at the relevant Wikipedia admin authorities.

Finally, the combination of forum shopping and driving well meaning editors into the ground has paid off: the vast majority of editors in question are to be banned not just from editing the GamerGate Controversy article but from even discussing gender related issues on Wikipedia. Some token throwaway accounts on the GG side are being banned too.

What good faith editor in their right mind will want to touch any article covering an issue affected by well organized trolls after this?

Oh, and don't expect Jimbo to step in. He's actually been telling editors being harassed to step away from the article for several months now.

The backdoor password to the constitution is "terrorism". The backdoor password to Wikipedia is "Civility".

User Journal

Journal: Nuts vs Nuttiers 1

Journal by squiggleslash

It's kind of annoying that when there's an active hate campaign against a group of people you're largely sympathetic to, it becomes harder to call out abuse and extremism by individuals within that group lest you play into the agenda of the hate campaign.

Another way of saying the same thing: GamerGate and similar mobs make it hard to have rational discussions about anything.

(If you're after specifics, no, I won't give any directly, the nearest I'd mention is that I thought Pax Dickinson was treated abysmally back when he was essentially fired for alleged over-enthusiastic dudebroism.)

User Journal

Journal: Supporting extremism 6

Journal by squiggleslash

The legal right to be offensive aside (and likewise the right to be offensive without suffering death or severe violence), which is an entirely different issue and one I wholeheartedly support, I'm not going to promote punching down and re-enforcing hatred simply because terrorists brutally attack and murder some people who are doing that.

And the fact such an act has been perpetrated may mean condemnation from me, but it doesn't mean I'm going to lionize the victims or even worse promote their rotten cartoons.

You cannot attack extremism with extremism. It doesn't work that way.

Also as a former resident of Britain, which had plenty of Christian terrorism while I was living there, and which was subject to, albeit overseas, Jewish terrorism a mere 35ish years before I was born (interestingly by groups so nutty that they even, on occasion, sided with Nazi Germany seeing it as "less terrible" than the colonial British Empire), can we cut out the "Islam has a special problem" crap?

(Not that I'm saying religion can't be peaceful, Buddhist terrorists are fairly rare for example, though not non-existent, but Islam doesn't seem to be worse historically than any other Judao-Christian movement. It's just large right now, and over-represented in areas currently ruled by corrupt dictatorships propped up by the West and countries that are former examples thereof.)

User Journal

Journal: Windows 8.1 is a great tablet operating system and is better than Android 22

Journal by squiggleslash

Unfortunately third party support for it sucks. It's the AmigaOS of tablet operating systems, kinda sorta. Hey, Microsoft, have you heard of this new, 30 year old, technology called MVC? Developers love it, and it makes it relatively easy to produce frameworks that allow completely different user interfaces that use entirely different paradigms to be targeted by the same application. There's another company that makes both desktop and tablet operating systems (ironically, currently not merged though apparently from the same code base) that supports MVC quite heavily. Can't remember their name though...

It'd be nice for a FOSS equivalent of the "Tablet + Desktop" system Microsoft is doing, vs "Let's try to create a merged interface that sucks" approach of Ubuntu and GNOME. I would have been very happy with a Ubuntu for Android system, but Ubuntu and Google never seemed to go anywhere with that one.

User Journal

Journal: Controversy 8

Journal by squiggleslash

So...

systemd - think it's a good idea. init sucks. init scripts suck. I mean, have you ever written one? Something that uses cgroups to track and manage daemons seems an unbelievably great idea.

Slashdot Beta - For as long as I can remember, Slashdot's commenting system has been broken. Now they're trying to fix it. Not perfect, but seems in line with what others are doing successfully. If they can get it feature complete, it'll definitely be an improvement.

xfinitywifi - What a great idea! Comcast, you guys need to provide those of us who don't rent your routers with a free box that, without interrupting our networks, provides an xfinitywifi connection. Costs nothing, provides a huge amount of roaming Wifi coverage, it's a great idea.

Eich? He was a dick. People had concerns about his ability to work with a diverse group, his response was to insult everyone with concerns rather than address them. He was not CEO material.

Pax Dickinson? Honestly, I think he was stitched up and shouldn't have been fired/pushed/whatever. Buuuttt.... he's now associating himself with GG, so screw him.

Not trolling (mostly) but I do seem to be at odds with most of Slashdot these days.

User Journal

Journal: Saints Row 4

Journal by squiggleslash

Really enjoying it. I got it for $15 on Steam a few days ago, a day or two before they dropped the price to $5. Yeah. $5. *sigh* Well $15 was a good price.

Anyway, if you liked 3 (loved it myself), you'll almost certainly like 4. However there's some controversy over SR1/2 and SR3, as the game changed significantly between 2 and 3. My friend who doesn't care for 3 for that reason still loves 4, so read into that whatever you want.

What is it? Well, it's a big open-world thing. SR3 was a "take over the city from hostile gangs" thing that was incredibly over the top and funny. SR4... many of the same concepts, but you're now in a simulation of a city, and you're also the President, but still a gang leader, but you have superpowers, and it's still over the top and hilarious. There's a lot of references to other games/media and there's some meta stuff in there too. I thought on reading the synopsis that it wouldn't work, but it really does. Said friend who doesn't like SR3 described it as the best superhero game out there.

Probably worth playing SR3 before SR4, but otherwise a big thumbs up.

User Journal

Journal: The GamerGate aftermath: the positives 6

Journal by squiggleslash

Must be miserable being a female gamedev right now, but I think there are genuinely some long term positives that may come out of this - none of which, I admit, are as positive as what might have happened if a powerful minority of men weren't complete bastards.

1. Men know it's happening now.

Call it projection, call it being blind to the obvious, but if anyone had come to me in August and told me how a sizable proportion of men absolutely hate women with a passion, with the abuse being entirely one-way, I would have nodded but not understood, because I like to think there's good in everyone. I would have poo-poo'd the more extreme examples of "one or two bad apples". Now I understand. Reading prominent GamerGate figureheads writing articles like "How to rape a woman and get away with it" or "How to break a woman" (no direct links but more information on this anti-misogyny site: http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/) is eye opening for those of us sheltered behind a general assumption of human decency in most people, even the ones we see as sexist. Yes, I've worked with at least one obviously sexist co-worker. No, I thought this was just mommy issues and that the guy was OK underneath. I don't think I'd treat him the same way now.

I had no idea the situation was this bad. I had no idea such evil attracted support from such a large and diverse group of people. I know better now. I have some idea of what to say to my daughter - when she's a little older, obviously - to ensure she can defend herself when the time comes. I know what to look out for from colleagues and "friends." I know what to tell friends who deny that the situation exists.

2. More women are speaking up, and being heard

GamerGate isn't happening because misogynists are slut-shaming a female gamedev who produced a game that wasn't to their liking, it's happening because women - and men - are rallying behind her. The superficial "Actually it's about ethics in gaming journalism" trope exists because those who attempted to intimidate said gamedev out of gaming found themselves the target of an overwhelmingly negative press, with large numbers of developers and other people in the gaming industry, especially women, standing up and saying stop.

It would be nice to go further and claim that this is universal, that women are exclusively looking at GamerGate as a chance to stand up and be heard, but alas, Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and others are reporting that they're talking to many women devs who have headed in the other direction, seeing GamerGate as a reason to want out and to leave. This is terrible.

3. Related issues are receiving more attention.

That video with the women being cat-called, followed, and generally harassed, while walking through New York? Would that really have gone viral in a different environment?

Meanwhile, I wonder how many men have actually sat down and forced themselves to watch Anita Sarkeesian's videos on tropes in video games (caution: part six is actually fairly hard to watch), simply because of the controversy over the last few months? I know I did. It's hard to believe more coverage of this kind of constructive, concrete, criticism cannot lead to both less sexism in video games, and stronger, more original, video games in future.

4. Final thought

I'm not saying GamerGate is good or has been positive. It hasn't. We can choose to build in the ashes, or we can get angry about the loss of the city we once had. Or we can do both. I think I'm feeling both right now.

User Journal

Journal: On posting anonymously 14

Journal by squiggleslash

...as opposed to pseudonymously.

I'm finding it easier to post 100% honestly when I post AC on at least one subject at the moment. Why? Well, because if I post pseudonymously then I risk inflaming the wrath of an extremely nutty group, and I really don't have the time or patience or stomach for the kind of harassment I'd expect if I piss that group off.

I say this because it's a counterpoint to some of the stuff that's been said recently, especially in response to, for example, GamerGate and related Tech Sexism controversies, where many are of the opinion that anonymity has little value, encouraging the lowest forms of life to crawl out and make terrible attacks (such as death threats) without fearing the repercussions.

I have some sympathy with the position, but I also think linking identities to comments can severely limit people's ability to comment on things that genuinely bother them when there's a degree of mob like behavior by some on the opposing side of the issue in question.

Accountability is a force of moderation, but accountability cannot be the only means by which commentary is moderated, merely a significant but not insurmountable factor.

Update: This seems relevant ;-)

Crime

Journal: How Dangerous is Being a Cop in the US? 15

Journal by Jeremiah Cornelius
How Dangerous is Being a Cop in the US?

I saw a posting on Facebook (which I can no longer find, because Facebook posts are ephemeral and the algorithm used to put things on your timeline is apparently unstable) talking about the cost/person of police departments in major cities throughout the US. In the comments was the question "how much do you pay someone to risk getting shot every day?" with the implication that your average police officer in the US faces a substantial risk of death by gunfire daily, and therefore whatever the costs were, they were a good value.

And that got me thinking. Always a dangerous place for me to go.

How dangerous is it to be a police officer in the US? Is there significant risk of dying by gunfire? How does it compare with other occupations?

So let's go.


How many police officers are there in the US? How is that number changing annually?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 780,000 "Police and Detectives" in the US in 2012. That's our baseline. That number, BTW, is expected to grow by 5% by 2022, totaling about 821,000 by then. I'd love more data about this, but it's all I could find in a quick search, so we'll consider 780K as our baseline number of police in the US.


How many police officers died in the line of duty in 2012? Was that number "typical" for the years around it?
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 122 officers died in the line of duty in 2012. That number is low compared to 2010 (161) and 2011 (171), but high compared to 2013 (100), so let's dig a little deeper with a graph:

Police Deaths by Year 1990-2013

Graph by Evan Robinson

Frankly, I think I see a slight downward trend in the data, but the math says otherwise. There's virtually no correlation between passage of time and number of police deaths. I note that 2001 (241) is quite an outlier. You have to go back to 1981 to get another year where more than 200 police died, but in the 70s, only 1977 (192) had fewer than 200 police deaths. The 70s were far worse than the 60s, which were worse than the 50s.


What's the chance of death in the line of duty for a police officer in the US? What's the chance of death by gunfire?
If there are 780,000 police officers in the US and 159.4 die annually (the mean from 1990 and 2013 inclusive), the chance of dying is 159.4 in 780,000 or 1 in 4892.8 or .0002. That's about 2 hundredths of a percent. Specifically taking 2012 numbers, it's 122 in 780,000 or 1 in 6393 or .00016, or about 16 thousandths of a percent. But let's take the higher number of 1 in about 4890, again .0002. Expressed as a death rate per 100,000, that is 20.4 -- that is, 20.4 of every 100,000 police officers in the US die annually from line-of-duty causes.

The overall annual death rate in the US for 2010 (the most recent final value I can find according to the Department of Health and Human Services, at the CDC website) was 747.0, with a preliminary value of 740.6 for 2011. So police line-of-duty death rates are about 3% of total mean death rates.

Police line-of-duty deaths, while tragic, are not a significant risk compared to mean death rates in the US.

But wait, we want to talk about gun-related police deaths, right? Again according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, in 2012 50/122 officers killed died from gunfire. Over the past decade, the mean percentage of officer deaths from gunfire was 36%. So the gun-related death rate is 20.4*.36 = 7.4 per 100,000.


How do these death rates compare with other ages, causes, and professions?
In 2008 (the most recent year for which data in a complete Statistical Abstract of the United States is available), the only age range to have a death rate anywhere near that low is 5-14, where the male death rate was 24 and the female death rate was 12. Police officer line-of-duty deaths are therefore less common (statistically) than any death of 5-14 year old boys, although more common than 5-14 year old girls. Line-of-duty gun deaths are about one-third as common as all deaths of 5-14 year old boys and about half as common as all deaths of 5-14 year old girls. In 2008, the mean death rate for males 25-35 (in which age range I imagine many police officers fall) was 225. For males 35-44 it was 348. So depending upon their age range, police officers are between 10x and 17x more likely to die from non-work-related causes than line-of-duty causes. And 30x to 47x more likely to die from non-work-related causes than line-of-duty gunfire.

In 2006, comparable causes of death to all line-of-duty deaths include: Heart Failure (excluding ischemic heart disease aka "a heart attack") at 20.2; NonTransport Accidents (including falls, drowning, smoke inhalation, fire/flames, and poisoning) at 24.4; Diabetes at 24.2; Alzheimer's disease at 24.2; Drug and Alcohol induced deaths (combined) at 20.2.

Also in 2006, comparable causes of death to gun-related line-of-duty deaths include: prostate cancer at 9.5; Leukemia at 7.3; Falls at 7.0; Alcohol induced deaths at 7.4.

According to preliminary data for 2013 (see page 14), the rate of "fatal occupational injuries" in Construction is 9.4 per 100,000; Transportation and Warehousing is 13.1; Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting is 22.2; Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction is 12.3.

In other words, it's as dangerous to be a police officer as it is to be a farmer (3 million people), forester or logger (1.7 million people), commercial fisherman (1 million people) or hunter (about 14,000 people). So there are over 5.7 million jobs in the US more dangerous than being a police officer. And another 6 million in construction, which has a higher death rate than police gun-related deaths.


What's it all mean?
So yeah, being a police officer is a dangerous job, but the job-related danger is much less than your basic life-related danger (health problems, general accidents, etc.). And there are about 7 times more people doing Ag-related jobs which are more dangerous than being a police officer.

So what do we have to pay these people to risk being shot every day? I'd say a mean of about $57K per year, which is what they get. Maybe we need to raise the pay of the people in Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, who get mean annual wages in the $18K - $41K range for more dangerous jobs.


TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
I realize that putting the TL;DR way down here kind of defeats the purpose, but it allows me to put the conclusion after the work, which I like.

Being a police officer is a dangerous occupation. But there are plenty of people in the US who do more dangerous jobs for far less pay. Police line of duty death rates are comparable to death rates from Diabetes and Alzheimer's disease or the combination of drug and alcohol induced deaths. Police line of duty shooting death rates are comparable to alcohol induced deaths, Leukemia, or death by falling. A male police officer between 25 and 44 is many times (10x - 17x) more likely to die from a non-work-related cause than to die in the line of duty. And only about one-third of those line-of-duty deaths are gun-related.

And here's something else to think about
On average a police officer dies in the line of duty in the US about every 55 hours (everything you need for this calculation is above so I'm not going to insult your intelligence by including it). On average a police officer kills a civilian (about 400 annually) about every 22 hours. So I think we have more to worry about from them than they do from us.

The Matrix

Journal: The Matrix is Mimetic 13

Journal by Jeremiah Cornelius

As Yuval Harari points out, "What is so special about us that allows for such cooperation? Unflatteringly, it is our talent for deluding ourselves. If you examine any large-scale human cooperation (or co-option), you will always find some imaginary story at its base. As long as many people believe in the same stories about gods, nations, money or human rights (memes and antitropes) - they follow the same laws and rules (of conduct)."

https://www.coursera.org/course/humankind

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