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Comment Re:And why should they care? (Score 1) 441

Also, 500 words is not a long essay. And standardized tests and grades are a poor judge of talent.

Agreed on both points. I think what all this boils down to is that the key to getting better answers is to do away with the questions. More schools are making SAT scores optional because, while it makes for easy racking and stacking, it tells you very little about the applicant beyond "alble/unable to score well on a big test." In reality, most of the application items are little more than good/neutral/bad check boxes (insert generic off-topic D&D joke here if you must). Outside of the truly exceptional and the painfully unqualified, most applicants are largely indistinguishable when judged by the typical criteria.

And then there's the essay. This should be an opportunity for the applicant to fill in some of the gaps left by the application, but all too often it is filled with trite nonsense like the example essay. The alternative is the set of mini-essays, but I personally despise that sort of application (any school that required one of those types of applications was immediately crossed off my list). Judging from the comments here, people tend to strongly prefer one, the other, or something else entirely. Maybe there's some utility in using the format to narrow the focus to particular personality types, but I don't see how employing a rigid structure in this part of the application is any more useful than requiring SAT scores.

My own opinion is that all of this should be optional but encouraged, with no limitations or requirements. Applicants who don't include something aren't penalized, but those who do have the advantage of presenting a more complete picture of themselves to the admissions staff (and anyone who sends a thousand-page manuscript is automatically rejected, no matter how ornate the binding is). The minimum/maximum lengths and BS topics absolutely have to go. Giving examples of preferred topics is helpful, but any required elements will make the essay less about the applicant and more about the requirement. Opening this part up to more than just essays (while requiring that it be the applicant's own work) is probably ideal, but I can understand why an admissions office would want to avoid truckloads of abstract sculptures and creative uses of fecal matter.

Personally, it didn't take me long to realize that I could just take something that I wanted to write and fit that to the essay topics. Once you understand the purpose of the essay, it becomes a simple matter to come up with an answer without knowing the question. When I applied to college, I wrote one essay and sent it with each of my applications. Aside from the 500-word limit (mine is 1850 words), it fits the topic of the MIT essay in question (not perfectly, but it wouldn't take too much massaging to fix that). It didn't get me into Harvard or anything, but it served its purpose and didn't require any effort to be wasted on bullshitting.

(Padding to reach 500 words.)


Scouts No Longer Allowed To Have Knives On Camping Trips 28

Scouts in the UK are no longer allowed to bring penknives on camping trips because they have been deemed too dangerous. Traditionally scouts have learned knife safety skills, using them to cut firewood or make tools. Dave Budd, a knife-maker who runs courses training Scouts about the safe use of blades wrote, "Sadly, there is now confusion about when a Scout is allowed to carry a knife. The series of high-profile fatal stabbings [has] highlighted a growing knife culture in the UK. I think it is safest to assume that knives of any sort should not be carried by anybody to a Scout meeting or camp, unless there is likely to be a specific need for one. In that case, they should be kept by the Scout leaders and handed out as required." There is no doubt that soon scouts will get rid of their tents for large sound-proof lucite containers, which will be able to protect the children from the horrors of campfire embers, bug bites and foul language.

Comment Re:More heavy-handed every day (Score 5, Informative) 275

>If their DRM only effected pirates,

DRM has nothing to do with pirates. The goal of DRM is to give the content providers full control of the distribution system, right up until the point where the light hits your eyeballs (and I doubt they'll stop once they get that far). Ideally, they would want every viewer to pay every time their content is heard or viewed, but for now they'll settle for ensuring that every view is through an approved path that they have been directly compensated for. This ensures that people aren't using content in any non-approved manner, regardless of whether such non-approved use is legal. The pirates may be inconvenienced, but they will continue to operate. The real payoff is in convincing the public that following the **AA's mandates is perfectly acceptable, thus allowing them to do as they please with home entertainment, without regard for individual rights.

This is a dangerous path to go down, but we're already a fair way along and there seems to be no way back. HDMI and Firewire are already locked down, so it's not surprising that they want to turn off component. Regardless of their "pre-DVD release" example cited in the article, it is clear that if this is allowed, it would be applied to all HD content across the board by default, except where otherwise required by law (e.g., DTCP). From there, it's only a small step to disabling SD video altogether (after all, everyone has an approved HD viewing device now, right?).

The biggest threat to this industry isn't the pirates, it's a population that believes that how they view content should be up to them and not dictated by a higher power. This is the mentality that allows people to justify turning to piracy when the legal route is too difficult. Rather than making the legal route easier (as the music industry seems to have figured out in only a decade or so), the MPAA is committed to creating a world where they are an altruistic god showering the people with "high-value content," asking only for our money and obedience in return. The scariest part is the thought that some of the people in control might actually believe that what they are doing is for the public good.

Comment Re:April Fool (Score 1) 1582

I wonder how many idiots are going to post in this thread just to get the April fool achievement.

That one's probably just a joke anyway. And considering that this is a real feature, I doubt these posts would count. Anyone who posts here just to get a possibly-fake achievement truly is an April Fool. Um... Conficker made me do it.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Journal Entry

April Fools.

Seriously, there's nothing here.

Data Storage

Submission + - Internet Archive Gets 4.5PB Data Center Upgrade (

Lucas123 writes: "The Internet Archive, the non-profit organization that scrapes the Web every two months in order to archive web page images, just cut the ribbon on a new 4.5 petabyte data center housed in a metal shipping container that sits outside. The data center supports the Wayback Machine, the Web site that offers the public a view of the 151 billion Web page images collected since 1997. The new data center houses 63 Sun Fire servers, each with 48 1TB hard drives running in parallel to support both the web crawling application and the 200,000 visitors to the site each day."

Submission + - Justice Department Says FBI Misused Patriot Act

An anonymous reader writes: In a report just released by the Justice Department, as predicted by many including those on Slashdot, the FBI has misused and abused the PATRIOT Act to illegally gain access to information about people living in the United States.

From the article:
FBI agents sometimes demanded the data without proper authorization, according to a 126-page audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. At other times, the audit found, the FBI improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.

..."we believe the improper or illegal uses we found involve serious misuses of national security letter authorities," the audit concludes.

Music Companies Mull Ditching DRM 318

PoliTech writes to mention an International Herald Tribue article that is reporting the unthinkable: Record companies are considering ditching DRM for their mp3 albums. For the first time, flagging sales of online music tracks are beginning to make the big recording companies consider the wisdom of selling music without 'rights management' technologies attached. The article notes that this is a step the recording industry vowed 'never to take'. From the article: "Most independent record labels already sell tracks digitally compressed in MP3 format, which can be downloaded, e-mailed or copied to computers, cellphones, portable music players and compact discs without limit. Partially, the independents see providing songs in MP3 as a way of generating publicity that could lead to future sales. Should one of the big four take that route, however, it would be a capitulation to the power of the Internet, which has destroyed their monopoly over the worldwide distribution of music in the past decade and allowed file-sharing to take its place."

Scientists Find 'Altruistic' Center of the Brain 223

davidwr writes "A team of researchers at Duke University published a paper linking the brain's posterior superior temporal cortex to altruistic behavior. The BBC also picked up the story. If confirmed this has applications in neurology, psychology, child-rearing, and a host of other domains. From the BBC piece: 'Using brain scans, the US investigators found this region related to a person's real-life unselfish behaviour. The Duke University Medical Center study on 45 volunteers is published in Nature Neuroscience. The participants were asked to disclose how often they engaged in different helping behaviours, such as doing charity work, and were also asked to play a computer game designed to measure altruism.'"

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