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Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 729

I seem to hit it all the time when scrolling with the mouse wheel. If I push a little too hard while scrolling through code, it silently pastes into my source. I've learned to be more careful while scrolling with the wheel. And I know I can remove the capability with a cryptic xinput command. But it would be really nice to just be able to disable it from the GUI.

Comment Internet Plays Joke on Gullible Readers (Score 1) 743

If Justin Carter was really arrested and held for four months on the basis of a stupid joke on Facebook, then there's plenty of reason to be outraged. But I've got a feeling that we're not getting the facts. If you Google this story, you'll see that all of the articles are traced back to one short, badly sourced article by KHOU in Houston. There isn't a single independent source for this article that I could find. And nothing from a news organization that might be considered reliable. So maybe Justin Carter is really getting a raw deal and we should be storming the castle. Or maybe the facts are different. Who knows, I'm not even sure that Justin Carter even exists.

Comment Re:First (Score 3, Insightful) 405

It's a risk management question. What is the risk of some behavior and what is the cost of mitigating that risk?

My 13 year-old daughter likes to climb trees. I'll admit to being a bit unnerved seeing her 40 feet up in a tree. But she's cautious, which reduces the risk. And successfully taking on the the challenge adds to her sense of self-confidence and accomplishment, important qualities for a 13 year-old. On balance I find it to be an acceptable risk.

On the other hand, she wears her seat belt each and every time she gets into a car. No exceptions. The benefits of not wearing a seat belt strike me as being minimal. And a failure to wear a seat belt in a crash dramatically increases the risk of serious injury or death. When I do the analysis, skipping the seat belt is not an acceptable risk.

Smartphones provide a more difficult case though, largely because of the wide range of behaviors that they enable. Texting while driving? High risk. Using a navigation app? Modest risk. Listening to music? Low risk, unless you need to interact with the music app in some way, in which case the risk increases-- maybe a little, maybe a lot, depending on the quality of the user interface and what you're trying to do.

And that's just from the driver's perspective. A passenger can do almost anything with a smartphone, short of hitting the driver in the head with it, and not increase the risk of a dangerous crash. All in all, it makes it very difficult to make blanket statements about the risk from smartphones in an automobile. And therefore very difficult to regulate in a reasonable way.

Comment Re:Bees and ants are distantly related... (Score 4, Interesting) 47

I haven't read the actual paper yet, but we can draw a few tidbits from the news article and the abstract...

It's not that the results were unexpected or overturn long held theories about ant behavior. But the work produced a couple of interesting and valuable outcomes. First, they demonstrated that they could effectively tag and track ants in an experimental setting. That by itself is notable--it opens up a lot of interesting research opportunities. Second, they analyzed the tracking data to quantify the spatial and temporal interactions of the ants, and in particular, between functional groups of ants. They were able to determine that there were significant cleaner-nurse and cleaner-forager interactions but limited nurse-forager interactions. Not just in a general kind of way, but with real measurements.

Comment Re:Denier (Score 1) 605

WW1 and WW2 were both indirectly caused by problems between the Goths and the Franks.

You know the Goths have nothing whatsoever to do with the modern German state, right? The whole France-Germany thing is really more like western Franks vs. eastern Franks. The Goths (or at least some people who called themselves Goths) had a lot more impact on Spain. Better just to blame it all on the Romans.

Comment Re:FL vs VA (Score 1) 622

The overall idea of setting achievable goals (we will be "doing well" if x% of our worst scoring students in year 1 reach a certain goal in year 2) is probably a good one. Tracking where your students are staring from and comparing it to where they end up is useful. Using racial information as a proxy for measurements of starting level might be simple, quick, and heck, it could even be statistically accurate, but as a policy it is pretty short sighted.

The methodology of comparing this year's 3rd graders vs. last year's 3rd graders has always struck me as badly flawed. I've never understood why progress isn't measured for individual students, year-over-year, and then aggregated. That actually gives you an accurate measure of student progress. And it removes any need for demographic grouping of students--if a group of students (regardless of race) have a lower starting point (in the aggregate), then that's baked in to the measurement process.

Comment International Law?? (Score 1) 957

I'm unclear on how there can be an international law on this. International law governs the relationships between countries and what happens in international waters and territories; it has no bearing on individuals within a country. It's not as if the UN can pass a law making it illegal to commit blasphemy, have me arrested in the United States, and try me in an International Court. (And yes, I'm aware of the International Criminal Court--but that court only comes into play for acts such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Unless blasphemy is about to be raised to that level, this court is a very different beast.)

So I'm not sure what it is that the Pakistani PM is really asking for here and I didn't find it in the article. A resolution condemning blasphemy? A change in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Some actual but non-binding international law? It's either showboating or there seems to be some nuance of International law in play that I don't understand.

Comment Re:But is that what they are saying? (Score 1) 771

Yes, I think that a good summary of the situation. And yes, many people take all 4 and lump them together. But you also have many people who oppose #4, but argue against it on the basis of #1 or #2. There aren't many people who are actually considering the science and the public policy as two separate domains.

Comment Re:There's Sheet Music, and Sheet Music (Score 2) 290

The Beethoven's fifth you linked to is performed by a small town college orchestra, not the Musopen Symphony Orchestra (really the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, but I don't know if Musopen are allowed to say that in advertising!). Anyone can contribute to Musopen - you'll even find midi keyboard renditions there. It's better than nothing, is Musopen's philosophy.


You still have the option to pay money to hear Bernstein's interpretations. In fact, you probably will always have to pay money to hear Bernstein's interpretations, the way copyrights are being extended... but now you also have the option of hearing some solid renditions of Brahms symphonies by a professional Czech orchestra, for free. For ever.

I think the project is valuable, I like the idea of having good recordings of these works available for free. For those who can't afford to spend the money or who want to reuse the works in some creative way, this is a real boon. It opens up the music to a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise have access to it.

On the other hand, I don't think the project is going to have any real impact (at least not yet) on the community of listeners who have a love of the music and the resources to indulge their passion. I buy lots of music and will continue to buy lots of music. Not because I enjoy spending the money, but because it's more important to me to have a recording (or even multiple recordings) that I really like. The cost relative to my enjoyment is really pretty minimal. If the free recording is worth having, I'll add it to my library. But I'm happy to pay for a recording if I like that one better.

And I'm not real hopeful that these recordings are quite there yet. I found the Musopen Symphony Orchestra recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3. My initial take was that the playing was good, but the sound quality was less than ideal. For example, there's an intermittant but very distracting hissing noise at the beginning. I'm not an audio technician and I couldn't tell you what causes it, but I know that it makes the recording less desirable for me.

Still, I'm glad the project exists. Making this music available to the widest possible audience is a good thing. That's something to applaud.

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