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Comment Re:This makes me want to run out and get a Blackbe (Score 1) 136

You know, I actually do feel that way? There's a reason they put the fourth amendment in the constitution. There are people we as a society want the government to be able to catch, if they do it properly.

That's the thing though - they fucked up. They had this interception treasure trove and were caught with their hands in the cookie jar because they're too afraid of the public to stick to what they're... you know, allowed to do. Their lawyers can explain until they're blue in the face how it's not technically unconstitutional, but too fucking bad, they've lost.

The Fourth Amendment reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Really, I think we all want both. But the TLAs fucked up the "shall not be violated... but upon probable cause [list of conditions]" part, and the "right of the people to be secure" part is more important. So until they can get their shit back in order, yes I agree that it's better for them to lose intercept capabilities. Yes that will probably mean murderers, chlld pornographers, and terrorists going uncaught.

Really, the biggest fuckup the government made was personally pissing off the only people who could hurt them - basically, Apple and Google and the other tremendous technology companies. They really do care about both their user's privacy and their own data security - and complying with lawful government requests to the exact extent required. And they took it personally, having the NSA go around the back door when they were obeying the law on warrants. The EFF can talk until they're blue in the face about encryption and PGP-ing your email and so on, but when full-device and e2e encryption are on by default in new iPhones and Androids, that makes a much bigger difference to many more people. And of course to the TLAs.

Comment Uber in NYC *is* regulated.` (Score 1) 210

In NYC the Taxi and Limousine Commision regulates... taxis and limos. Taxis are hailed and can't be called, and limos are called and can't be hailed. You can't carry passengers for hire without being one or the other.

For years and years this has been the case. You'd "dial 7" or "dial 6" or whatever and the "black car" (technically a limo, but to distinguish from the yellow taxis) would come pick you up.

So Uber shows up and the T&LC goes "Great! Another black car company! Fill out this paperwork and you're all set". All the drivers are licensed limo drivers and all the cars have T&LC plates on them. You just use an app instead of a phone call. In competition a lot of the black car companies have put out their own apps that do the same things.

I guess this is different than most cities, where I understand Uber drivers are less stringently licensed and their vehicles are not specifically registered...? Seems like a fairly reasonable system actually and I wonder why more cities don't adopt it. It solves the "problem" of Uber nicely. There's a lot of complaining about Uber in NYC but don't see what all the fuss is about - was anybody complaining about the other black car companies?

Comment Re:A truly rare find (Score 4, Insightful) 249

I know it's fun to be holier-than-thou, but moral absolutism has just as many problems as moral relativism. Everybody was doing lots of things throughout history that they thought were OK. Today, we do things we think OK. Why are you so positive that the clock of ethics has stopped as of Friday October 16 2015 and will not change in the future? Let's pick a plausible-enough example... What if in 200 years there is such a population crunch that we need a "cap and trade" on new babies, and procreation and birth control are such that... I don't know, unsafe sex without a permit was as morally risky as driving drunk and for similar reasons? If you had a stance that such things as the choice to have a child are individual concerns and not the governments', that might be viewed as just as backwards, wrong, and dangerous as slavery. Your descendants might think "how could he be so stupid? why didn't he see the evil? it's so obvious!"

There are at least as many ethical standards that might change in 200 years as those that probably won't. I assume you're just as happy to be called evil then for your stances that seems downright progressive today.

Comment Re:The problem with the ad (Score 2) 187

What upset people is that if it had been a good looking guy people would not have assumed he couldn't be an engineer.

You seriously think this is true? Really and actually?

The stereotype is *absolutely* that engineers are not good-looking people of any gender. A good looking Calvin Klein-style (or wherever it is the hot guys are nowadays) man would *absolutely* take flack over whether he was a real engineer or just a model. Frankly the assumption is that people in any of those kinds of ads *are* models and it's sort of a surprise if *anyone* in an ad isn't (and even when they say "real customer" in a commercial I'm not sure I believe it).

Look, I'm really sympathetic if you are an engineer and happen to be female and at a conference people assume you're a recruiter or something. Assumptions suck when they're wrong, and I've been there. The one about being assumed to be the waiter and given an order is an old joke. But without assumptions about people the world doesn't work.

I dare you to avoid assuming *anything* about the next person you meet at work. Start with "do you speak English/native language", then which pronoun (he/she/they/it/xe) they prefer, then where they work (maybe they're visiting!), etc. These and thousands more are assumptions you make all day every day. The alternative is utter insanity.

Is it a problem? Sure, sometimes you mess up - like thinking someone works at a store when they don't - and it's awkward. You fix your assumption and move on. If you don't actually change your mental model right away, then there's a problem - with the woman-at-conference-who's-a-developer example, you'd better not avoid asking her technical questions or asking a less senior male coworker instead, etc, as that is like the definition of sexism. It does happen and those people are 100% part of the problem.

But we're trying to make certain assumptions not acceptable, even if they are highly likely to be accurate. Good luck with that. A buddy of mine in college was - to put it mildly - a good-looking well-toned guy, and I constantly got asked jokingly-but-half-serious if (with varying levels of obfuscation) he was a dumb jock and I was the nerd he made do his computer homework. It was insulting to both of us, but we both understood that it was a more common situation than the good-looking muscly guy being a brilliant CS major, for that same guy to be hanging out with a nerd like me, and for that nerd to be so desperate to "hang out with the cool kids" to be willing to do someone else's homework. No, no, and no - but we got why people thought it and never got too annoyed unless they kept at it.

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...

Long computations which yield zero are probably all for naught.