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Comment i mess up ~ 2-3 times before i get it right (Score 1) 35

I wonder if all folks mess up about the same number of times before "oh yeah, it's 2010!" kicks in, and the poll's really measuring how often you write out the date.

I imagine one morning at work is all it would take a receptionist, who's scheduling all the time. But for me it's ~2 weeks, since I rarely find myself writing out the date.

Comment Re:giving to worthy causes is NOT generous (Score 1) 596

From Judaism 101: "... the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word 'charity' suggests benevolence and generosity... The word 'tzedakah' is derived from the Hebrew root tzadei-dalet-kof, meaning justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act..."

If tzedakah just meant charity, then American Jews would likely use the English word 'charity.' As a general rule, if a word finagles its way into a new language, it's either:
- a word children learn (mom, dad, grandma, etc)
- a concept that doesn't quite exist in the new language (tzedakah, schlemeil, machatunim)
- a restaurant trying to charge you more for food (aubergine, frites, a la carte) :)

And BTW, Maimonides' ladder traditionally lists the highest form of tzedakah as helping someone become self-sufficient. Double-blind giving is second.

Comment giving to worthy causes is NOT generous (Score 2, Interesting) 596

The act is the same by any name - giving to worthy causes - but "charity" has such generous connotations.

I always liked the Jewish "tzedakah." The idea is that whatever you give was never yours to begin with. That money, that effort or time or whatever, is part of the community, part of something larger than yourself. Maybe it's a semantic quibble, but it helps remind me that my accomplishments don't exist in a vacuum.

The word "charity" could use a little humility.

Comment allows users to decide what are words (Score 1) 180

I hope the dictionary works on a sort of democratic principle, where words are defined by their actual usage.

Dictionary editors understand this, but they just don't update enough to make it work. M-W doesn't have the Simpsons' cromulent, but it has Shakespeare's puke and Dr. Suess's nerd. It'd be nice to have a dictionary that evolves as quickly as language.

Comment America has a governmental version! (Score 1) 219

NCCAM started as a promise to put "complimentary and alternative medicine" (CAM) to scientific scrutiny, with politically predictable results.

As much as I love science (and how!), I'm ambivalent about even the idea of NCCAM. Testing herbal remedies... I don't know, maybe we'll find something great. But testing things like homeopathy, which even NCCAM admits "a number of its key concepts are not consistent with the current understanding of science, particularly chemistry and physics," is just a waste of resources.

Comment Re:When facts were respected (Score 4, Insightful) 83

...how far we have fallen, people with zero background, training or experience in a field are claiming that their opinions are just as valid as someone who are studied a field for 20 years.

Um... questioning authority is kinda the hallmark of science. I understand what you're saying - science is underappreciated - but empowering people to seek the truth for themselves is what science is!

The 16th century's Glorious Revolution was society saying "How come we have to believe Galen? I'm gonna dissect some humans myself and see what's inside." We didn't need authority to be our conduit to truth: we could seek truth directly. (At the same time, people were rebelling against needing the Pope as a conduit to God, and voila, Protestantism.)

Comment Re:OMG (Score 1) 942

Seriously, why is overpopulation rarely mentioned by environmentalists? Total human footprint = footprint per person x number of people. Why is all the focus on the first part?

In grade school, we learned that 'tribal peoples' were super environmentalist. Now, in a backlash against the cultural relativism (and historically-based guilt) I grew up in, folks like Dawkins argue that tribal people weren't environmentalists at all - they were just incapable of making such an impact due to their low population densities. But intentional or not, isn't that a killer way to lessen your impact?

It's high time folks stopped applauding huge families (I'm looking at you, religion...).

Comment education SHOULD be a monopoly (Score 4, Insightful) 1073

Yes, the educated benefit from being educated, but everybody benefits from having educated people around. The former is why private schools are seductive to many, but the latter is why we should embrace education as a public good - external to the market - and support/fix our existing socialized system.

So you're right, the problem is the incompetence of public schools. But privatization ain't the solution.

Libertarians, who are often persuasively consistent (and I really do appreciate your consistency), have given monopolies, governments, and other non-market institutions a bad reputation. Even the term for something that doesn't jibe with a market - "an externality" - belittles the importance of things like pollution, basic science, education, overfishing, national defense, a judicial system, national highways, and on and on and on.

Comment Re:Ask the retired (Score 1) 318

I write code almost every day. Being ultimately lazy, I try to automate everything...

Lazy? Really? You're lazy enough to be unsatisfied with inefficiency, but ambitious enough to effect a change. That curious duo is the coal and fire of progress.

I think it's wonderful that you still code after retirement - you probably liked your job. All jobs are somewhat means to an end, but some are ends in themselves as well. You really have a good head on your shoulders.

Comment counterproductive: inures people to "infringement" (Score 3, Insightful) 463

These slippery slopes to vices happen all the time. I know lots of folks who would never/rarely drive drunk, but drive stoned all the time. Folks are so inured to breaking the marijuana laws (understandably) that they think nothing of driving stoned, but breaking alcohol laws still has some legitimacy behind it.

Ridiculous laws lead to disdain and apathy toward the legal system. You're just inuring consumers to the idea of "infringement" by making such ludicrous demands.

Comment fat cells and muscle cells, too? (Score 3, Informative) 117

I learned that nerve, fat, and muscle cells didn't change in number during life*. Seems that's not true about neurons. Apparently also not true about fat cells ("If excess weight is gained as an adult, fat cells increase in size about fourfold before dividing and increasing the absolute number of fat cells present.") Anyone know the scoop on muscle cells?

* - Supposedly weight gain was due to the individual adipocytes getting larger, like a microcosmic obesity. And strength gain was due to more actin and myocin in each myocyte, like a micrcosmic bodybuilder.

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