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Comment Re:Why should the FAA allow drones without COAs? (Score 1) 184

That makes sense! Let's create that rule.

Oh. It already exists as 14 CFR 91.119c: "[in sparsely populated areas] the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure."

Some other kinds of aircraft other than airplanes can fly lower and closer in certain situations (maybe even drones?), but here's the dirty little secret: the FAA figures out if they want to punish you, and then they figure out how to do it, and then they succeed. It's a privilege, not a right, so while there's a sort of a farce of due process it's not remotely as strong as even what you'd find in a traffic court. If you're being a jackass and flying too low and pissing people off, they'll probably bust you for the catch-all 14 CFR 91.13"careless or reckless operation". So even if it seems like technically you're being legal flying within 500' of someone's structure, you'll still lose.

There's no such thing as a loophole when it comes to the FARs. If you think you've found one, the FAA will smack you down as an example to the rest that - no, there really aren't any loopholes. This happens all the time. The question is "does the FAA want to punish me for what I'm doing?" and if the answer is "maybe" think very, very hard.

Comment Re:Were the nameservers updated? (Score 5, Informative) 70

No, he never owned the domain. is registered through 2020 so the registry (Verisign) would've refused, and they certainly wouldn't have allowed the delegation to change. Even their system thought he had the domain for less than 1 minute. Clearly just a glitch.

Comment Re:You're naive. (Score 2) 411

Here in socialist NJ you can go to the state inspection center and they do it for free. It's about 15 minutes from my house and I'm in and out in ~3 minutes - get out of the car, they plug you in, rev the car in neutral, check the headlights and blinkers and wipers, get out, get the new sticker, and put it on the windshield. There's sometimes a line, but they have a webcam so you can see if they're busy before making the trip.

Or you can pay for it to be done at the private shop right down the street - round trip 10 minutes - but if they gave me a hard time I'd refuse to pay and go to the state facility instead.

Comment Re:Why start now? (Score 1) 124

Uh, I don't know what you're putting scare quotes for, but that's just the definition of regulation. You're right that the summary is mistaken in describing legislators as the people who need "accurate information from which to design regulations".

"Committees of unelected people working for the agency who make rules" is a decent definition of a federal agency. The job of the legislature is to pass the law establishing the agency and, by passing a law saying "it is the law to follow the regulations they create", cede authority over that part of the "tree" to the agency. It's an eminently reasonable way to do things - get a group of people whose job it is to focus on one specific aspect so they can do it properly. It's not like you can just make up a regulation for fun - in the US, the process for promulgating regulations is highly standardized. You can read more at Wikipedia.

Imagine if Congress had to pass a law specifying the technical standards your local taxi-dispatch company's radio had to meet. It would be utter chaos. Instead they create the FCC and the FCC has people who think about that kind of thing, and then a process for saying "hey we plan to make a rule" (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) and a public comment period.

Comment Re:Pilot's licenses should be required (Score 2) 62

Uh, as someone who *does* have a pilot's certificate, the GP is more right than you are.

First of all it's a certificate, not a license. Yes, the distinction matters. And there's lots of not-commercial aircraft - in any case the airspace rules are no different.

You don't own the air up to 500 feet by any means. The FAA's rules (mostly for fixed-wing aircraft) are in 14 CFR 91.119, paraphrased:
- Always where an emergency landing can be conducted without "undue hazard" (note, not "no hazard") to people or property on the surface
- Congested areas, like towns and other areas the FAA decides (naturally only after they come after you) are "too populated", like highways. 1000 feet above the highest obstacle within 2000 feet. At a minimum, includes the yellow areas on the World VFR chart here.
- "Other than congested areas", but not "sparsely populated" - that's your 500ft rule
- "Sparsely populated areas" can be operated arbitrarily low (subject to the first rule) as long as they're 500ft away from person, vessel, vehicle, or structure. This is why crop dusting is legal.

Of course this obviously doesn't apply to takeoffs and landings. It also doesn't apply for helicopters (they have a looser set of rules) and a few other kinds of aircraft.

The long and the short of it is I can fly over your field at 20 feet all day long if I want to. It's not very courteous, but it's quite legal. I can fly 501 lateral feet from your second-story bathroom window, even if it's over your property. And of course a helicopter can fly lower and closer than that, even over a congested area. Again, not courteous and not necessarily smart, but there's a whole lot of things in flying that are legal are not good ideas.

You have no special sovereignty over the air above your property. You can use it to the extent the use is reasonably connected to the property below. For instance you can put another level on your house without asking anybody, or even a tall radio tower (>200ft or near an airport you have to tell the FCC), but you can't put up a "spite pole" just to keep airplanes away. So basically you have a right to your airspace to the extent you don't try to exercise control over it by excluding airplanes.

Comment Re:A spreadsheet? Really? (Score 1) 430

Spreadsheets allow a lot of analysis - and believe me, there's a ton. (I lost count of how many tabs of pivot tables and charts this thing has, because I got tired of scrolling.)

It's alive and well, and you'd think Google could managed to take down a Google Spreadsheet if it was a problem. I don't get the hubbub - it basically confirms what they've been telling us for years about how salary is determined, which as you might expect is fairly well defined.

Comment Re:Summary is wrong, management didn't "freak" (Score 1) 430

(I also work at Google, but this is my opinion)

I've received peer bonuses. I've even received duplicate peer bonuses (bonii? yes, there's been a discussion) for the same thing, and I would've turned them down if I could. I get the sense that it's highly (manager) discretionary, though the default is generally to "approve" for typical, use-intended cases like staying late to help a team debug their problem, or really bending over backwards to help someone launch on time (both things I've gotten peer bonuses for).

The rules are very straightforward but they apply to a lot of "atypical" cases. There is manager discretion, but the rules are common-sense: It's not very kosher to give someone a peer bonus for doing their job in the normal fashion (e.g., thanks for implementing that feature you were supposed to implement), and it's (famously) not OK to ask for one to do your job (e.g., give me a peer bonus to approve your CL). It's also supposed to be beneficial to the company - you shouldn't get one because you helped someone move apartments. I do think that there's a tendency to use the peer bonus as a "+1" where people use it to agree or express support - there are (ignoring this case - I'm not saying one way or the other) several internally-widely-visible situations that any Googler can think of where this happened. It's not really supposed to be used for these, so a manager may (and should, according to the rules) reject them.

As for not knowing the peer bonus rules, I don't get that. I've known them almost since I started and I thought the rules were commonly understood...

Comment Re:Did TV beat this article to the punch? (Score 1) 245

I actually came here to say this. Yeah, I"m a Scrubs nerd. The "new" urologist turns down a risky surgery because it would make her stats look bad if he died - not strictly speaking a report card, but some of the same outcome-based grading. You incentivize surgeons to have patients not die, they'll do the best they can - and then they'll pick the patients that won't die anyway instead of the ones who *really* need help.

My Urologist:

Dr. Cox: Surgery is really the only thing that has a shot at curing this guy and the reason that she's not going to do it is because he's older and he's got heart issues which makes him high-risk and if he were to drop dead on her operating table, well, that would make her surgery stats go down. And that wouldn't look very good on a young doctor's resume, would it?

Kim: What can I say? You got me.


J.D.: It bothers me that a doctor wouldn't help a patient so she could keep her stats up.

Turk: Yeah.

Kim: Look, J.D., surgery is competitive. We do what we have to to get ahead.

J.D.: Well, my best friend here is a surgeon and he would never pass on a risky surgery just to keep his stats up.

Turk: Actually, I have done that. Everyone has.


Dr. Cox: However, it is not Dr. Briggs' fault that she works in a broken system. Top hospitals are only interested in hiring surgeons who they think are flawless. Newbie, that's not the answer you thought you were gonna hear. But as always, I don't care.

Comment Re:Here's a bold idea... (Score 2, Insightful) 212

Two otherwise-identical people of different genders doing the same job are paid almost exactly the same, at least on a population level and with moderate-size or larger companies. To do otherwise is super-dangerous because it is an open-and-shut lawsuit and the information is all discoverable. (Of course individuals may have minor differences due to experience or negotiation at hiring, which generally goes away with tenure - if the company is smart.) You can look at any of the company stats of salaries for like-for-like positions and they're incredibly close to 100%.

This is a fact and is true today. Look at it another way - if a company could get the same work for 77% of what they pay a man, wouldn't they far prefer to hire women? People in companies could be wildly sexist, but they'd fail - that's just too much money left on the table! The 77-cents-on-the-dollar thing is an absolute lie. I'd link to actual articles, but there's too many. It makes me so angry to hear otherwise-intelligent people (like the President!) repeat it - are they that cynical, or do they really not get it? (It's got to be the former - when someone pulled up the WH workforce stats, they were quick to reply that it wasn't fair to compare across titles and experience, which is exactly how the 77c number was fabricated.)

So what's going on? Well, there is undoubtedly a motherhood gap, because mothers generally take time off to be with the new child, which puts them behind their non-childbearing peers of any gender. Some women, of course, don't ever come back, but are still included in the stats. Of those that do, well in some industries it's particularly difficult to take a leave of absence (for any reason) - academia and tech are prominent examples. If I as a man took 6+ months off to go hiking in Asia, I'd be in the same boat.

This isn't that complicated. The question is, what do we want to do about it? Well, it's an unavoidable fact of taking time off. We can incentivize anybody who take time off for any reason by negating the setback with an opposite incentive - this seems highly risky and undesirable. Alternatively, because procreation is a societal good, we can incentivize specifically mothers in this fashion. I trust that women wouldn't just have kids to get this benefit, and who pays for it is an open question, but it still seems like a perverse incentive - and in any case it may not be legal to do this. Regardless, such a change should be an open debate - but trying to fix it by erasing the symptom of the 77c lie would just be sneaking through the back door.

The only alternative I see is to accept that having kids is a life choice like any other, and it has downsides and upsides. The downsides are easier to measure, but maybe not important. I personally don't know many women, including my own very successful mother, whose joy about being a mother is tempered by "but it has reduced my lifetime earning potential by X%". People do things for reasons other than money.

This whole thing smacks of the nasty phase of old-style feminism where women berated mothers for being unenlightened and choosing to have kids. I thought we were past that...

Comment Re:On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog (Score 1) 727

People didn't used to go around talking about it. It didn't matter, your "name" was cpphead24 or whatever. People formed real identities and had real interpersonal relationships with other people without ever knowing more than their username. Race, religion, sexuality, age, and - yes - gender just didn't come up - a/s/l was a bit creepy, etc. I'm not that old - it wasn't *that* long ago...

This of course was back during the time where the generally accepted advice was to not reveal anything of their real life online. Parents taught their kids this - I remember when I signed up for Facebook in 2007, I was pretty freaked out by the whole "real names" thing. I think it was the first time I'd ever used my full name online, and I don't think I was uncommon.

I wonder if we should go back to that.

Comment Re:The problem is that landfills are too cheap (Score 2) 371

Glass - rarely cost effective because it requires more energy to recycle than create new. It's also great in a landfill because its inert. Quit wasting energy trying to recycle it.

[citation needed]. I'd always understood (from watching programs where glass was recycled) that it was much less energy to melt existing glass and re-form than it was to combine new ingredients, which requires a higher temperature. Wikipedia agrees: "The processing and use of recycled glass in manufacturing conserves raw materials, reduces energy consumption, and reduces the volume of waste sent to landfill." I assume you're talking about total process energy consumption, but yeah I'd like to see evidence. (You also seem to assume that reducing the waste load on landfills isn't a benefit in and of itself.)

I'd always understood that some plastics were recyclable as well, but generally "downgraded" - a soda bottle becoming polyester fabric, etc.

Comment Re:Less suspect than the others (Score 1) 78

Just to concur, I also work at Google and the security is pretty incredible. They baked it into the RPC system (predating but similar to the publicly-available gRPC) so you don't even have to think about it - it just happens automatically and still doesn't get in the way (which is a remarkable achievement). I work pretty closely with one of the teams responsible for most of the user traffic, and they did some pretty heroic stuff to secure their part (which was some huge percentage of "all of it") in like a week.

Internally the sentiment in response to seeing our golden geese on the NSA slides was pretty much outrage and "explod[ing] in profanity" just about covers it. I think the higher ups were pretty outraged and frankly felt betrayed by their country, as Google's always cooperated with lawful, reasonable, and limited-in-scope requests, so to have them breaking in to dark fiber is pretty treacherous. I know I felt betrayed. (Some sense of the outrage can be seen in David Drummond's statement)

Google's actually pretty admirable from the inside. I wish we could publish more of what we do to protect user data, as without knowing it it's easy to be cynical. This video is worth watching, as far as legal requests go.

Comment Re:Royalty tax on ALL blank hard drives?! (Score 1) 301

It's quite illegal. In farm country (the only place it's readily available) they do random roadside stops and check to see if your tank has ever had red gas in it (since it was thoroughly washed out, or many many tanks). They can detect it to quite low PPM values and the fine is quite high - deliberately high enough that it's really not worth the risk as getting caught is all the "savings" and more out the window.

I took a fish head to the movies and I didn't have to pay. -- Fish Heads, Saturday Night Live, 1977.