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Comment: Re:As long as the Republicans... (Score 1) 355

by wickerprints (#46764055) Attached to: San Francisco's Housing Crisis Explained

It's not quite so simple as supply and demand, however. The problem is that if you flood the market with more housing given the current price levels and demand, prices would take a LONG time to head back down once the demand is met (and that's assuming that the demand is ever met at all). Simply put, there's just so much existing scarcity that even massive amounts of new development would only serve to blunt the increasing trend in housing cost, rather than actually hoping to bring it down.

That's not to say development is not part of the solution--it absolutely, absolutely is--it's just that the current state of affairs is so entirely fucked up, and has been allowed to persist for so long, that what you'll see if you open the floodgates of new development is that in the short term, you get all the negative consequences (gentrification, displacement) while serving only the ultra rich who can afford those new housing units, but none of the long-term, aggregate benefits of lower housing costs that are decades down the line.

Comment: Phrased poorly (Score 1) 578

by wickerprints (#46725921) Attached to: Michael Bloomberg: You Can't Teach a Coal Miner To Code

I'd like to interpret Bloomberg's statement to mean that it isn't realistic (or even desirable) to expect every blue-collar worker to be able to retrain in a highly technical field. Sure, some would be able to make that transition, but it's like asking programmers if they would have the desire to become physicians. It's not that people aren't smart or dedicated enough to do it, so much as it is the idea that a career in the tech sector is not some universal solution to everyone's job woes.

I also think that people who advocate such statements (very often, they are CEOs of tech companies) tend to have ulterior motives: they want to be able to pay their workers less money for more (and higher quality) output. While you might not blame them for having such a goal, I find it disingenuous how they wrap this desire up in some feel-good, altruistic sounding wish for more coders, more people to learn programming and computer skills, as if this is something that will create jobs. It doesn't work that way. Instead, it increases competition for existing jobs. These companies keep complaining about how there aren't enough skilled workers to fill the positions they have, but what they really mean is that there aren't enough *CHEAP* skilled workers. That's why they push this propaganda about H1B, teaching programming to kids, and fantasies about coal miners taking off their hardhats and learning Python and C#.

Comment: If she wanted them to have the data (Score 4, Insightful) 465

by wickerprints (#46416435) Attached to: Apple Refuses To Unlock Bequeathed iPad

Fundamentally, I see this as a security issue. If the deceased wanted someone to have the data on the iPad, she should have provided the means to have access to that data. You can't just bequeath it in a will and then expect everyone else to sort it out after you're gone. That's inconsiderate.

It's also hypocritical to hold a company up to high standards for maintaining security and user privacy, and then at the same time blame them for not just rolling over and handing over the means to decrypt that information. It's not Apple's responsibility to give the family that ability, but the owner of that content. If I have years of personal photos that I've encrypted and bequeathed to someone, I'm sure as hell not going to just say, "here, you get this hard drive full of encrypted memories, but good luck decrypting it--I'm taking the decryption keys to my grave." That's stupid.

Even if Apple can unlock that data and eventually does so, think about how that might look to some people, who would NOT want their heirs/family/descendants to have the means to rummage through their personal data. You see this happen all the time--families of the deceased try to weasel their way into secrets and intimate histories of those who died. If all it might take is some lawyers and potentially dubious documentation to get around a dead person's privacy, then I would think twice about leaving any personal data behind.

Comment: curve = stack ranking (Score 1) 264

by wickerprints (#46215205) Attached to: Adjusting GPAs: A Statistician's Effort To Tackle Grade Inflation

Grading on a curve is no different than stack ranking in the workplace. Why are so many of you advocating for the former when the latter is so universally reviled? Is it because with stack ranking, we're talking about livelihoods and money?

The way to fix grade inflation is to fix society's expectations of GPA and the meaning of grades themselves. That includes the way corporations view academic credentials and transcripts. If you want honest assessment of a student's performance, then start by fixing your own biases and unrealistic expectations that the only qualified candidates should have a 4.0 GPA, 2 PhDs, 3 MS degrees, have been published in at least a dozen research journals in their field, wrote their own operating system from scratch, and is a 3-time Ironman champion...just to be hired for some low-level QA assistant job. Unless of course you're an H1B from India, in which case the triathlete is now "overqualified."

I think that's the real dirty secret everyone knows but nobody is willing to acknowledge. The fact is, grades were lower in the 50s and 60s because people STILL GOT HIRED, and competition was not as fierce as it is today. Everyone knows that GPA these days doesn't reflect true ability or learning, but instead, how well you know how to game the system, which is exactly what corporate America wants anyway--just look at what they teach in all the MBA mills. Those are your future bosses, middle managers, executives. All ambition and buzzwords, but no substance; driving business decisions that treat the engineers, developers, scientists, and in general anyone who actually KNOWS slaves.

So, you want to fix the system by adjusting GPAs? Fix the way GPAs are used as a stick to beat qualified job applicants with, and then we can talk.

Comment: Re:Very weird story (Score 1) 894

Fine the relevant agencies 100 billion dollars. It would all be for naught anyway--it comes out of the taxpayer's wallet, and nothing gets changed in terms of policy. That's the problem with government agencies: when there is political support for their mandate, even if they are guilty of egregious overreach in their authority, they can waste unlimited amounts of money without being held accountable.

Now, if instead the politicians' and employees own personal bank accounts were to be emptied every time the public deems they have done something wrong, THAT would change Washington overnight in a heartbeat. But who is the "public?" How do we hold these power-hungry thieves accountable? By "elections?"

Comment: Stupid article, stupid author (Score 5, Insightful) 399

by wickerprints (#45768909) Attached to: Justine Sacco, Internet Justice, and the Dangers of a Righteous Mob

Ms. Sacco deserved everything she got. Nothing more, nothing less. If you do something so overwhelmingly and obviously stupid as what she did, and then compounded that stupidity by getting on a plane and going offline for several hours, what do you expect is going to happen? The author of the article is just trying to twist this sordid tale into some kind of cautionary example of the excesses of "internet justice." Meanwhile, kids are killing themselves because they're being bullied for doing nothing other than being themselves. Where's the author's outrage over that? Ms. Sacco neither has the excuse of being a child, nor the defense of having done nothing to offend. If you do something so stupid that NOBODY is willing to defend it, then why should she not suffer the consequences? One should also consider that the kind of people who would even entertain making such offensive remarks in a public forum are not the kind of people who are so easily shamed. They tend to be sociopaths who end up hardening their self-image in response to the outrage. Don't weep for the likes of her.

Comment: Re:Damage Control Mode - ON. Well, fuck 'em all (Score 5, Insightful) 293

Policy-wise, nothing really gets done in the US without the implicit consent of corporate power. This applies even to things like spying. The government is run by the wealthy elite and therefore the policies are designed to favor their interests. Where those interests may conflict, it is usually the entity with the greater influence or better connections that gets their way.

This latter point is where we stand with regard to warrantless domestic surveillance of US citizens by the NSA. The eight companies that have "allied" against this practice, albeit influential as a group, have been for the most part self-interested competitors, and many of them make no attempt to hide the fact that they run a business model that is predicated upon mining personal data from its users in order to sell advertising (Google and Facebook being the most notable examples).

However, that is not to say that they actively or "happily" collaborated with the NSA. The legal requirements, as far as we have been apprised of them, force their cooperation. It is not logical to assume that just because their business involves exploiting their users, that they would not object to NSA surveillance, because the latter does have a deleterious effect on the former. If users suddenly feel paranoid because they think these companies are (willingly or unwillingly) handing over their personal information to the government, then they would be more reluctant to share that data by posting it online. The fear of surveillance brings about increased awareness of the need for protecting one's privacy, which of course is NOT what these companies want. That is the essential argument behind their opposition.

In any case, these companies are merely the repositories for end-user information. The real culprits here, the ones who ARE happily handing over information to the government, are the telecommunications companies, notably AT&T. They are the ones who let the NSA install listening devices on their networks. And you will note that these companies have NOT banded together to protest this illegal surveillance program. They don't see any need to, because they have too much power (since the entire internet is reliant on them) and, unlike Google and Facebook, they have no incentive to protect the data that flows through their networks. If a subscriber doesn't want to share personal information about themselves to a social network, they can opt out of doing so, and the result is a loss of valuable data for the company that operates that network. But it is MUCH harder to completely forgo the internet entirely, which is what you would have to do in order to avoid having AT&T send your data to the NSA. And AT&T doesn't make their money off selling your personal information to advertisers. They make it off your basic need for connectivity.

Comment: Re:Well, isn't this nice (Score 1) 961

by wickerprints (#45531105) Attached to: Why Scott Adams Wished Death On His Dad

How do we know what would happen? As far as I am aware, euthanasia in the form of assisted suicide is not legal except in a few US states and in Switzerland.

But before we answer that question, for the time being, let's put aside what is going on in jurisdictions where such practices are legal.

I look at what is actually happening because of the current legal situation, and as is evidenced by Scott Adams' experience, there is clear proof of harm by prohibiting assisted suicide. There are many other people out there who share similar painful experiences, whose loved one died in protracted suffering, agony, and pain; who did express wishes to not be forced to live in such circumstances, but for physical reasons, could not terminate their own lives, and for legal reasons, were not allowed to delegate that responsibility to others.

I would consider the addressing of a real and surprisingly common injury to have more merit than a hypothetical or perceived injury. The fact is, these terminally ill individuals are going to die; it is simply a matter of how and when that death should occur, and the individual right to self-determination of that fact.

Now, let's look at what is actually happening with assisted suicide in those jurisdictions for which it is legal. Are bedridden Swiss people suddenly pulling the plug in droves? Is their society collapsing under the collective weight of some Alpine-induced ennui? Are there death panels of doctors killing patients in Washington? Were you even aware that these places allow assisted suicide because there have been reports of the unethical application of this practice? Were there news reports that someone was mistakenly killed off even though they would have lived, and the doctor used the legality of assisted suicide as a legal defense? Because unlike what you are imagining in your head, those fears have not come to fruition. You never actually state what those "things" and consequences are.

And as I have already pointed out, even if those imagined consequences were real, they would need to be weighed against the ACTUAL consequences of the status quo.

Comment: Re:Well, isn't this nice (Score 4, Insightful) 961

by wickerprints (#45526925) Attached to: Why Scott Adams Wished Death On His Dad

No, I don't think he needs to dial it back. He is right, because it is only when we experience such things first-hand that we realize the truth. That is why he says what he says. When someone makes such a radical statement, don't just take it literally. Try to understand the context, and try to appreciate the underlying meaning.

Those who oppose euthanasia are people who either (a) have dogmatic reasons for doing so (e.g., religion), or (b) have never witnessed a loved one go through a protracted and painful terminal illness. They aren't able to comprehend because they live a comfortable life and cannot imagine what it is like to be terminally ill and incapacitated.

This is about the right to self-determination. It is about being able to have one's wishes respected after all self-control is lost. It is about the right to choose for oneself, as opposed to allowing the ideologies of others (complete strangers whose beliefs may have no bearing on your own) to legally prohibit you to make that choice because to them, it is about THEIR own abstract, moral discomfort, and not your own, REAL pain.

I would not want such a thing for myself. But that's a decision I'm making now, in good health. Personally, I'd rather be made into a popsicle. Freeze me and thaw me out like a cheap TV dinner when mankind figures out how to cure what ails me. However, I absolutely would not stand in the way of someone else's decision. Who am I to decree what is right and wrong for other people? What gives me the moral right to claim that I know better than the family that is going through such a difficult time?

Comment: Re:A champion may not even exist (Score 2) 131

I think the point that was being raised is that when you have different metrics of what constitutes "best"--e.g., "who is has the highest Elo rating" versus "who is the most recent winner of the world championship match," then it is possible (as was the case until just recently) that the answers to these questions could be two different people.

Personally, from all the evidence I've seen of various chess games played in recent times, I think it's fairly safe to say that Magnus Carlsen is the highest-performing chess player in the world today. That doesn't mean he is the most aggressive, or most tactical, or positional, or dynamic, or calculating, or gracious, or clever, or whatever. All it means is that, on average, he wins more often than other players. A lot of people seem to dislike him for personal reasons, and seem to find ways to justify their feelings by pointing to his games and saying "well, he did/didn't do this or that." They try to find something to criticize about his playing style, or some other nebulous, subjective aspect. Or they make some very dissonant rationalizations--say, cheering for Anand and saying how Anand will put Carlsen in his place, and then when Magnus won, they say how it was not because he played exceptionally well, but because Anand was "weak" or "timid" or "passive." I don't know how one can simultaneously exalt a player and criticize him in the same breath and expect to be taken seriously.

Another common accusation is that Carlsen is just "lucky." That is absurd on its face. Many games have been played where he has won. Luck cannot explain his competitive record.

Comment: Re:A champion may not even exist (Score 1) 131

You've misunderstood the first paragraph of my previous response. Non-transitivity is a property that is potentially exhibited by the nature of the ranking itself. More tournaments and matches will not eliminate non-transitivity from the ranking.

A very simple example of non-transitivity is the game of rock-paper-scissors. Rock crushes scissors, scissors cuts paper, and paper covers rock. No single choice is "better" than the other two. Although the evidence suggests that Carlsen is clearly the highest-performing chess player in the world today, that doesn't invalidate the notion that non-transitivity can occur in the structure of ranking chess players, or that it can occur in any other kind of competition.

All I have done in my previous post is explain the idea of a total order as it applies to ranking systems. I'm not suggesting that it is the state of currently ranked chess players.