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Comment Slow dimes. (Score 1) 66

Lesson Learned: Gold plated commodity things are still just commodity things.

The other lesson learned: "Fast nickels are better than slow dimes." This was an extreme case of "slow dimes" for cellphones.

Grocery stores know that one. You can run on razor thin profit margins if, on the average, you turn over your entire stock every three days or so. 121 (a year's worth) cycles of compound interest at one percent will more than triple the money invested in the stock. (Multiplies it by almost exactly three and a third.)

Comment Re:The planet will survive (Score 0) 359

There's another solution: Population control.

And the enviornmentalists and others have been pushing that since at least the 1960s. Much of the boomer generation (especially those who felt more personal responsibility) had few children or held off on starting families - many until they were no longer able.

Result: The current government cries of a "labor shortage" and the current iteration of the same left-wing segment of "leaders" uses it as an excuse to import large numbers of people - mainly from cultures where large families are desired and encouraged.

For the politicians: More votes, possibly swamping their political opposition. For the imported, the opportunity to have more children than they could support in their country of origin, and for them to have more resources to consume.

But for the environment it's back on the Malthusian treadmill - with more people burning more fuel and destroying more habitat.

These "pro-natalist" policies are how you know that, for all of their cries of global warming and ecological disaster, the politicians don't actually believe in it themselves, but are just using it as a tool to increase their own power and wealth.

Comment Re:Relevant in an intro programming course (Score 1) 337

... there's no agreed-upon way to pronounce the symbols for C++ stream insertion/extraction operators (e.g., the OP mentions that he just leaves those uniquely silent)

Most of those symbols had "hacker slang" pronounciations, back when C++ was new. They weren't universal, of course. (Different clutches of hackers would sometimes have variant vocabulary.)

Most of the symbols inherited pronounciations from C, of course. But insertion/extraction (in the clutch of hackers I hung with) inherited from the analogous single-angle-bracket versions in unix shells.

Some of the pronounciations I recall:

a = 3; (replacement) "a gets three"
~ "twiddle"
! "bang" (printer's term for exclamation point)
| "pipe" (from unix shells)
^ "hat" or "carat". "to the" when used for exponentiation.
<< (left shift) "left-left" (Similarly "right-right" for >> as a shift operator)
< "less than"
<= "less (than) or equal" (Similarly for > and >=)
a++ "a bumped"
++a "bumped a" (Similarly for -- as "unbump(ed)")
a += b "a bumped by b"
== "equals"
&& "and-and"
|| "or-or"
!! "not-not" or "bang-bang"
cout << "Hello, world!"; "'Hello, world!' gazinta cahwt" ("gazinta" = "goes into", from shells where "echo foo > a" might be pronounced "echo foo gazinta aay" Similarly "gazouta". Source apparently pre-computer electrical engineering slang for input and output ports in circuit analysis.)

Comment That's how "Look-Say" made illiterate generations (Score 5, Interesting) 337

Actually, only people who read poorly do that. People who read well decode printed words directly into mental concepts, rather than sounding them all out, only sounding out a word when it is unfamiliar in print.

That (essentially correct) observation led to the creation of the "Look-Say" method of teaching English and its replacement of "Phonics" in the public schools.

Look-Say attempted to skip the "learn new words by sounding them out" step and teach students immediately to use the faster words-as-a-chunk technique of good readers.

But that ended up crippling them, because it left them with no way to acquire new words. They knew the handfull they'd encountered in class as a set of pictograms but didn't have the "secret code" to parse somethig they hadn't seen before. Result: Mostly illiterate graduates whose reading was so painful to them that they did little, getting farther and farther behind.

Turns out that good readers of substantially phonetic languages start with sounding-out (Phonics-style). Then as they gain skill and experience they start recognizing progressively more words at-a-glance, falling back to sounding-out when they hit words for which they hadn't yet built a neural-net recognizer. Eventually the "speed-bump" words become so rare that they blaze along familiar vocabulary without appearing to sound-out at all. But new or rare words bring out the old toolset, rather than bringing them to a full stop.

There are a corresponding pair of methods for learning a "second (i.e. additional) language: The "Grammatical Method" (learn and practice the lnguage rules) and the "Audiolingual Method" (repeat the samples). The latter came from an attempt to emulate the rapid language acquisition of children by modeling their environent

Tested right after a series of courses, college students taught by either method score about the same. Tested a year or so later (if they haven't been re-exposed to the second language meanwhile) those taught by the Grammatical Method had a significant skill loss, while those taught by the Audiolingual Method were unable to emit any sentence they hadn't encountered in class. Oops!

Turns out that (unless you learn two or more languages as a child) the neural structures that make kids little language acquisition machines literally die off, in several stages (at the ends of age ranges called "critical periods") as the neurons that weren't used by the language learned are "pruned". Once this has happened, learning a new language isn't impossible. But it's more like recovering from a stroke.

Comment That was actually the explanation for "one drink" (Score 2) 165

What if... Those who are unwell were strictly forbidden to drink covfefe by their doctors ?

I hear that WAS the actual explanation behind the research results that led to the "one drink a day (or very moderate drinking) is better than alcohol abstinence" advice.

The coffee numbers look more like actual benefits, though. Which is not too surprising, given that coffee has a lot of chemicals in it that are known to be, or suspected of being, good for you in appropriate ways (such as antioxidants).

The fun part will be finding out which ones and by what mechanism they're helping out. It's a heck of a lot easier to do a big long-term study on a popular drink than to do a similarly high-quality study on each of the several thousand (known) biologically-active chemical compounds in the mix.

Comment For another 400 years, and then... (Score 0) 180

If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century.

Even if their modelling was dead-on correct:

By at least one model that would last for about 400 years. Then we run out of fossil carbon. Then we crash, not just back down to the reasonably stable temperatures of most of the time from the taming of fire to the start of the industrial revolution, but onto the already-in-progress and accelerating descent into the next ice age, due to orbital forcing, that has been held off for several millennia by people burning stuff to stay warm (possibly even in a feedback process that may have stabilized the planet's temperature - colder winters, more burning, more CO2, ...).

But, as I said: "... IF their modeling was ... correct" and "by ... one model".

There's little reason to believe any of their current predictions, since their previous predictions, where they could be tested, don't seem to have come anywhere close.

Comment This rollercoaster ride is just getting started. (Score 2) 103

But the silence is wearing thin for victims of the assaults, as a series of escalating attacks using N.S.A. cyberweapons have hit hospitals, a nuclear site and American businesses.

IMHO it's just getting started. The source code to a whole BUNCH of their tools has gotten out - a treasure trove for the bad guys. Now they don't have to design this stuff themselves - it's all there, ready to be customized. We're just seeing the leading edge from the early adopters.

Now there is growing concern that United States intelligence agencies have rushed to create digital weapons that they cannot keep safe from adversaries or disable once they fall into the wrong hands.

Well, DUH! If you've got the source it's anywhere from reasonably easy to trivial to disable or change any kill switch. Changing vulnerable mechanisms key to the operation are more difficult, but still doable. So even if they did spend extra engineer time to build in the equivalent of "gun smart chips" - and they worked - it would, at best, be initially mitigating but ultimately futile.

Comment Also credit and bank debit cards in the '80s (Score 1) 190

Back in the '80s or so I tried to pay for a car repair with a perfectly valid credit card and had it declined. A call to the credit card company disclosed the reason:

When the database was offline the authorization servers would approve charges up to $300 (1980ish dollars) and refuse those above that. This kept them from making all their cards stop working, on one hand, limited the losses to savvy crooks, and only inconvenienced those making the relatively rare high-sticker purchases. (Like me, trying to get my car back from the mechanic. He was willing to accept $300 on the card and other payment for the balance, so it worked out.)

Similarly, the bank machines trusted balance on the mag-stripe card if the server was offline. In the Detroit area this was for a couple of shifts over the weekend. This meant that if you re-wrote the card you could pull out more money, or money from a closed account. I heard that when losses were around $10,000 per weekend they just absorbed it as a cost of business. But when the crooks got organized and losses climbed to $100,000 per weekend they added a shift and kept the servers up 24/7.

Nowadays the cards have a secure chip with rewritable memory, so it's possible for the programmers of the machines to put some trust in the card. But it looks like FreedomPay's system was using the older approach - in an environment where its vulnerability was an issue.

Comment Re:How stupid can some people be? (Score 1) 109

I do not think it is run-off-the-mill individuals who are behind an attack of this magnitude.

The magnitude of the attack is not necessarily any more related to the qualifications and sponsorship of the originator than the magnitude of an Influenza epidemic is related to the size of the virus.

It's a self-reproducing, self-propagating system. The magnitude of its spread is an artifact of its own behavior, the distribution of the vulnerabilities it exploits, and the connectivity of the susceptable machines.

Comment Re:"Good news" (Score 1) 145

Followed immediately by pointing out that men over 45 are virtually guaranteed to have autistic children.

Aspberger's syndrome appears to be a case of defining being a nerd/geek as a mental disorder.

If they're still considering aspberger's to be a subset of autism, "men over 40 have geekier children" implying "men over 40 are virtually guaranteed to have autistic children" is a tautology.

Comment But how MUCH lead? (Score 3, Insightful) 192

We've seen this sort of article before:
  - Say a bunch of stuff "tested positive" for BAD THING.
  - Talk about how bad BAD THING is.
  - Talk about where the government sets the (generally very bureaucrat-CYA-low) cutoff of what they consider dangerous (or actionable).
  - But never mention the level of BAD THING detected, or where it lies on the government's scale of "Oh HORRORS!" vs. "Meh. There's a trace of BAD THING everywhere." scale.
  - Foam up a nice head of panic.
  - Sell a lot of papers/eyeball views/whatever if you're a media outlet. Get a bunch more donations for your "good work" to fight poisoning people with BAD THING if you're an advocacy group (as in this case).

"Tested Positive" says there's enough to detect. As the tests get better the level of detectability gets vanishingly small. This not only gives more opportunities to pull this stunt as time goes on, but it also enables the use of an apples-orange comparison with the less sensitive tests of the past to make up a fake-news item about how "this many decades ago only THIS LOWER PERCENTAGE of things tested for BAD THING tested positive."

I looked through the whole article for any statement of what level of lead was detected, but didn't find it. Did I miss something? Or was this yet another bogus scare story by an organization with an axe to grind (and/or being removed from the government funding teat and trying to fill in with extra donations).

Comment Re:Also: Radioactives are temporary. (Score 1) 179

Some are, some aren't. (Elemental tritium, for instance, is a VERY light gas.)

They nearly always change what atom they are when they decay. (Exception being those, such as tecnetium-99m, where the nucleus is in an excited state and decays to a non-excited state by emitting a gamma - though it then becomes tecnetium-99 which eventually decays further.)

Some decay processes make heavy atoms lighter - e.g. by emitting alpha particles or by spontaneous fission.

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