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Comment: Re:unions are needed before the bathroom break tim (Score 2) 195

by usuallylost (#47297381) Attached to: Workplace Surveillance Becoming More Common

Unions are a double edged sword on the positive they do tend to protect against some of this stuff. On the negative they are expensive to maintain and that money comes out of the employee's check every week. Also they tend to rob you of flexibility.

My brother is a union member and because of that union contract there are some things he simply doesn't have to put up with. On the other hand because of that union contract he can't have alternative work schedules, he can't negotiate different duties with his boss, and in general he has far less flexibility than a non-union employee. My brother gets irritated because the union is dominated by a lot of employees who fear change so he can't get some of the things he wants because the majority votes against it. So realize if you accept the union you are agreeing to basically let your co-workers have a vote on your career decisions because those decisions will be made collectively rather than on an individual basis. Whether this is a good or bad thing is going to depend upon who you are, what industry you are in, whether there are better deals to be had and how likely you are to be able to negotiate one of those deals for yourself. If you are a top 10% employee for example odds are a union is going to be bad for you. If you are more of a midrange employee or someone who isn’t comfortable negotiating for yourself, and will thus never get those available deals, the union may be good for you.

Another aspect of giving up your own autonomy to gain the protection of a union is that you may be called upon to go on strike. This has happened to my brother twice in his career and both times it was a real hardship as their strike fund doesn't totally replace your paycheck. You also end up picketing when they tell you to even if it is raining in January.

Comment: Re:The world... (Score 5, Informative) 236

by usuallylost (#47228919) Attached to: Are the Glory Days of Analog Engineering Over?

The articles headline is a bit missleading. In the body of the article you find that even they admit that analog engineering isn't dead or going anywhere. What is changing is the exact skill sets required. If you are doing traditional circuit design on purely analog equipment you are on hard times because people aren't doing as much of that. If on the other hand you have a foot in both the digital and analog world and can do analog design for digital systems there is a shortage and money is really good. So basically the people having problems are the older analog engineers who haven't kept their skills current. I think you could write that same article about just about any technical field where there has been rapid development in the technology. Some folks end up in dead end specialties that simply aren't in demand anymore. Your options there are retrain, change carriers or compete for the ever shrinking number of jobs. I'd argue that the last one is the worst choice unless you are simply close enough to retirement that the other two are simply unviable. Which actually appears to be the case with most of the guys listed in the article.

Comment: Re: "by a team hired by the U.S. Army Corps of..." (Score 4, Insightful) 99

by usuallylost (#47194141) Attached to: Scientists Race To Save Miami Coral Doomed By Dredging

Well the army has to maintain a staff of competent engineers for use during war time when they need to do things like open harbors, clear beaches, build air strips, build costal defenses etc. Those guys can either just sit around during peacetime or the Government can give them other responsiblities. So the government gets to use engineers, construction crews etc that it is already paying for rather than letting them sit idle and hiring somebody else. Also it keeps their skills up to date by having them work on real projects on a more or less continuous basis.

Comment: Re:Hypocritical (Score 0) 297

by usuallylost (#47037265) Attached to: Cisco Complains To Obama About NSA Adding Spyware To Routers

The accusations against Huawei and ZTE are that they have engineered back doors into every piece of equipment. Where the accusation against the NSA is that they have compromised Cisco equipment going to individual customers and suspect countries. I see a significant difference there. In the case of Huawei and ZTE it means you can pretty much never trust their gear. In the case of Cisco most of the world can trust their gear with the exception of people who are direct targets of the NSA.

Comment: Re:80% of people working in a field (Score 3, Insightful) 170

by usuallylost (#46833905) Attached to: DC Revolving Door: Ex-FCC Commissioner Is Now Head CTIA Lobbyist

This was going on in the 70's and 80's and before that. The difference now is we have the Internet and the 24x7 news cycle so you are actually hearing about it. It also isn't just the regulatory agencies that are in on this scam. Look how many former members of congress land at suspiciously cushy jobs after they retire. My fear is that what we have here is effectively a bribe laundering scheme. Oh yeah you do what we want and you get a nice office, important sounding title, generous salary and a big benefits package for your post Government life.

That isn't the only such scheme in place in government either. Look at politicans setting up various not for profits, charities and think tanks. That looks like outright bribe laundering. Also some of the members of congress have really suspicous investment dealings that look like outright money laundering.

Comment: Re:Sunk Costs (Score 3, Insightful) 288

by usuallylost (#46804283) Attached to: $42,000 Prosthetic Hand Outperformed By $50 3D Printed Hand

In the video that is attached to the article the guy says that in addition to the 3D printed components there are "various bits of hardware, Velcro, padding etc". All of which requires some know how and some assembly. So unless somebody came out with very good instructions or perhaps a kit with all the additional parts I doubt the average person is going to make this at home.

The other thing that is not really touched on there is that the $42,000 hand hooks onto the entire forearm. It uses the muscles in the forearm to control the actuator. Where the 3D printed hand hooks over the stump of the guy's left hand and uses the muscles in his palm to control movement and to provide the actual strength. A lot of people with missing arms don't have the palm of their hands left to provide that strength and control. For those people the 42K version is going to continue to provide utility where as they wouldn't be able to use the $50 version at all. For this particular type of case the $50 outperforms the 42K version. If you took 500 people with various levels of amputation I suspect that the 42k version would help a lot more of them than the $50 version.

What is shows me is that there is a tendency in the prosthetic industry to try and go for a one size fits all solution. Where it is clear that for some patients you could use a less expensive solution. It might bare some research to see just how many people are being fitted with 42k prosthetic when much cheaper solutions might work better for them.

Comment: Re:The power of EULAs only goes so far (Score 1) 216

by usuallylost (#46786531) Attached to: Click Like? You May Have Given Up the Right To Sue

Assuming common sense or justice from the courts is a dangerous thing to do. They have shown time and again that neither of those things is a priority for them. From the article it appears they already have some legal precedent for this sort of thing and it appears that other companies in other industries have indeed made these provisions stick in court. Even if they don't make it stick it is another legal hurdle that you have to over come in order to sue them. So even if it isn't enforced you are going to have to pay your lawyers to go to court and fight that out. Which is going to force you to incur significant additional legal costs.

I can see why these companies want to do this. After all frivolous lawsuits are a huge expense for most companies these days. If you can reduce those you immediately benefit the bottom line. Seems to me that just having some basic tort reform to weed out the BS lawsuits would be a better approach for us as a society. Unfortunately the courts seem to have been turned into a money factory for lawyers and there is no will there to reform anything.

Comment: Re:Over 18 (Score 1) 632

by usuallylost (#46765983) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

Not only the 17th but the 16th amendment. If you are going to make states directly responsible for collecting taxes, presumably on an apportioned basis, then you are going to need to give state legislatures direct power in the federal system. Which, as you have already said, means getting rid of the 17th amendment. Just as importantly you'd need to remove from congress the ability to levy direct taxes on people's income (16th amendment) or they'd just do an end run around the new system the moment they wanted more money. Ending up with high state taxes and then a federal tax on top of it would be horrible.

The problem is that the current system really benefits the people in power at the Federal level. They will fight to the bitter end to avoid changing that. Your only hope of changing that is a constitutional convention and even that only works if you can prevent them from stuffing the convention with their own people.

Comment: Re:Over 18 (Score 5, Interesting) 632

by usuallylost (#46755529) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

This is far worse than inheretence of debt. They are seizing these people's refunds based on debts that they claim their parents have incurred. Yet when the woman in the article demanded proof of the debt they were unable to produce any. She was supposed to get a due process review before they seized her money but all of the notices of that right just happened to go to a PO box she hadn't had in decades. Yet when it came time to collect they suddenly had her right address. From the article this pattern is not uncommon. So basically we have the IRS collecting a debt that they can't even prove is a debt and doing so, either through intent or incompetence, in a way that deprives the victims of their due process rights to challenge it. Even if you accept the premise of a child inhereting the parents debt, which I really fail to see any legimate basis for, this method of collecting those debts stinks on ice. I mean with they way they have this setup they could just declare anybody owed any amount that they desired to collect. After all they are not providing any proof and are simply siezing your money with no due process. I hope the lady in the article prevails in her court case. Because if she doesn't the rest of us will never know when some "old debt" will appear.

I noticed a couple of other disturbing things in this article. Ms Grice's father only owed, by their unsubstanitated claim, $2,996. Yet they seized her entire refund of $4,462 and only released the difference to her after the Washington Post started questioning it. So in addition to making her pay a debt that isn't hers, that they have no proof of and that they deprived her of her due process rights for, they also helped themselves to an additional $1,466 of her money that they only released under pressure from the press. Some of the other cases seem to be for fairly token amounts. Makes you wonder if what we are seeing here is the IRS adopting the tactic of demanding money from people that is just a bit less than what they can afford to fight for. Hopefully the courts will strike this whole thing down.

Comment: Re:And so this is Costco's fault? (Score 1) 440

by usuallylost (#46619905) Attached to: Million Jars of Peanut Butter Dumped In New Mexico Landfill

The complaint I have seen with "pure peanut butter" is that the oil rises to the top if it sits for awhile. I get comments like "the normal peanut butter doesn't do that" and "is this bad?". Then I end up explaining that this is what happens when you haven't added anything to artificially stabilize the oil in solution. As far as salt goes I don't think I have tried any brands that didn't have salt in them. I'll have to check next time I need to refill my peanut butter supply. Either way I do not put salt into the same category as "partially-hydrogenated or fully-hydrogenated oil" or various chemical preservatives.

Comment: Somebody needs to continue to fight this (Score 2) 455

by usuallylost (#46601871) Attached to: Wal-Mart Sues Visa For $5 Billion For Rigging Card Swipe Fees

The settlement, assuming this article is accurate, includes a broad ligation release that will basically shield the credit card companies from getting sued in the future. So essentially they are giving a token amount to this settlement and getting a huge litigation release that will allow them to continue to screw people essentially forever. I'd opt out of this class if it was me. Walmart, Target and Amazon have all opted out. Hopefully they will all sue individually and force a reasonable outcome this time. Depending upon how this goes Walmart may be doing us all a favor here by trying to force a better settlement.

This is just another example that reinforces my view that class action lawsuits are basically a scam. I have been involved in two where I actually joined the class and in both cases the company being sued and the lawyers came out just fine and the people in the class got pretty much nothing. I had two other instances where I qualified and I just opted out. Not surprisingly those cases also involved making lawyers rich while the people in the class got nothing. In this case the class members are getting next to nothing and giving up a hell of a lot to get it. Can't say I am surprised.

Comment: Re:Status quo? (Score 1) 208

by usuallylost (#46572947) Attached to: White House To Propose Ending NSA Phone Records Collection

Congress appears to have declared it legal when they reauthorized the patriot act. Whether they want to admit it or not. All the statements to the contrary look to be members of congress trying to cover their asses now that the public knows and is upset. As far as I can tell nobody at the NSA is any kind of legal jeopardy over the current program. Presumably they might be subject to a challenge on fourth amendment grounds. This proposal might even be an attempt to head off that possibility.

From the article it appears that there are several changes in the proposal, that if they really do them, would benefit the public. One is that they will no longer have direct custody of the records. The second is that the retention period goes from 5 years to 18 months. The third is they are going to have to get warrants for individual searches instead of blanket warrants for "All of Verizon's customers" for example. It also limits the warrants to 2 hops where as they supposedly go out three hops now. As far as it goes this proposal would be a good thing. What they are talking about here is more along the lines of traditional wire tap rules compared to total surveillance we have today. I'll take that change if I can get it. That is the real trick will any of this really be done or is this a PR stunt?

The other issue brought up in this article is that they aren't changing anything about other forms of bulk data collection. With the example being given of the CIA collecting information on all money transfers. I am not at all sure that is reasonable either. Personally I am suspicious of anything that starts with the word "bulk collection of data". At the very least I'd like to see some sign of real oversight and a serious justification of anything like that.

Comment: Re:Makes perfect sense (Score 1) 142

That assumes that the other parts of the government are actually starting to digitize the processes that input into this. They are attempting to do so but as the article states only 5% of large scale government IT projects succeed and 41% completely fail completely. Some of those other projects are very likely ones that will provide the digitized inputs into this process. So while I think your over all analysis is correct that this problem will eventually self correct I suspect your time line of "another decade or so" is probably optimistic.

Comment: Re:Smelling more fishy every day. (Score 1) 227

by usuallylost (#46543193) Attached to: MtGox Finds 200,000 Bitcoins In Old Wallet

I remember the one with Robert Maxwell. Mostly because I had just interviewed for a position at one of his companies when it occurred. I was looking for a part time job in my field while I was in college. He was one of those guys who named everything Maxwell whatever. The company I had interviewed at pretty much vanished within a few months of his death. I always figured it was a suicide since he was in serious financial and legal trouble at the time. Though I guess he could have been drowning his sorrows and fell.

Comment: Re:Eh. (Score 3, Insightful) 243

in this case, it should be looked like that they sold a product and didn't deliver. merely returning the money at this point is not enough because they had the capital to work with all this time, as such they should return the capital + reasonable interest.

In general I agree with you on this. I don't like seeing situations where a company doesn't deal honestly with people and gets away with it. Unfortunately looking at the kickstarter FAQ it appears that their terms of service do allow them to get away with just refunding the money. For your typical kickstarter where people made a good faith effort to supply what was promised I can see that for something like this I am less sure that is appropriate.

I wonder if it has occurred to them how that could be exploited. Say I come up with a really good sounding idea and get people on kickstarter to give me a bunch of money for it. Some of these things have raised multiple millions on there. For the sake of example say I convince people to give me enough that I end up with $1 million after kickstarter and Amazon get their fees. I turn around and invest that in an aggressive stock fund and get 10% return. My guess is you could string people along for several years putting out bogus updates. So after say three years you have $1,331,000 less taxes etc. Then you come back give a sob story about how the project has fallen apart and you just can't complete it. Then following these terms you send all your backers an offer to refund their money and that they should just contact you if they want a refund. My guess is half the people won't even ask for their money back. So lets say 50% of the total amount pledged ends up being refunded. So you promptly pay out $500,000 while apologizing profusely for the problems etc. Since the amounts per individual are so small most people aren't going to really investigate what went on in any detail. In that example you refund everyone who asks and still walk away with $831,000 less taxes. Heck even if everyone demands a refund you'd end up with something around $300,000 less taxes.

Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don't add up.

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