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Comment Re:Stupid prices (Score 1) 827

We agree that you can't compare tax rates directly, but I also think it's a mistake to compare two countries such as the US and Sweden like this, although you've provided a good start.

One reason is because the US has far more expenditures than Sweden. For example, the US pays 4.06% of it's GDP vs 1.5% for Sweden. And yes, friendly countries spend less *because* the US spends more.

As another example, illustrating the difficulty in establishing fair comparisons, is that although perhaps most Swedish colleges cost less than most American ones, you might not be comparing equivalent quality. American universities tend to be ranked quite well, with (allegedly) 17 out of the top 20, whereas Sweden's best is ranked at #86. I went to a public American university (ranked #28 on that list), and paid only a few thousand dollars (not including room+board) and I finished debt free, far less than your 50k$ lower bound estimate. My grad school is ranked higher, and they paid me ~25k$/yr, because there's plenty of money in the US for basic research.

Furthermore, several US states/regions are really struggling, for various reasons, and drag the over all American averages down. A better comparison would be to compare individual US states vs Sweden. Maybe the best comparison would be Sweden vs "New Sweden", aka Minnesota. But this is already off topic, so I won't bother. :-)

Comment "Gov't secrets" is an oxymoron (Score 1) 307

This story is just like Biden revealing the secret bunker. The gov't needs to do a better job keeping secret things which need to be secret. You can't blame the inspector (e.g. P2P) for pointing out holes in your security. I want the First Family to be safe, but I'm unwilling to compromise my liberties to guarantee this (not that this is the proposed solution; I'm just saying).

At least flaws like these in security are being discovered during "peace" time.

Comment Re:Why not a laptop? (Score 2, Insightful) 263

on the other hand.... perhaps a better question is whether it's a good idea to get a kindle, ASSUMING you already have a laptop. which is, i think, a quite likely scenario.

so are the conveniences of a kindle worth 500$ to me? my answer is no.

1) I have my own way of sorting & storing .pdf of academic papers on my laptop.
2) My laptop already does everything i need, including markup, searching, cross-linking to the internet, VPN to my school so I can access more papers.
3) All the tools I like to have (like energy unit converters) are easy access on my laptop, so if I'm reading a paper, I can quickly convert to my preferred units.
4) It doesn't bother me to read on a laptop screen (macbook bought last year), although i don't typically read the entire thing.
5) I don't need to read in random places or from random angles. Any places I might go, e.g. coffee shops, my laptop is not an inconvenience. They'll have an outlet for me to plug in, + wifi + coffee.
6) I spend just about as much time searching for more papers online as I do actually reading them...

so a kindle feels like a step down in terms of capability, that it doesn't make up for in convenience.

at some price point, or in some possible life circumstances, maybe the balance would change, but for me right now, I'm not going to buy one.

Comment Re:OLPC (Score 1) 468

Overall, the proposal has a lot of merit and I'm hoping the rest of the nation can benefit from California's efforts here. It would be good to have a state like California to lead this effort, and then allow other districts in other states be able to leverage what they do.

Typically, I'd agree with you. However, California's budget crisis is ridiculous right now, and I don't think that experimenting with untested methods is a good idea for us. Experiments tend to have budget overruns. California needs to spend it's effort trying to figure out how to get it's overpaid, deadweight, (and sometimes criminal) teachers out of the system. Maybe in the future.

Actually, I think the ball is in your court. Letting local conscientious districts work out the details is a better way to get started. In general, I like to see good ideas & practices trickle upwards in American government, from grassroots to the federal level, rather than the other way. Yes it takes longer, but you're far more likely to get it right the first time.

Comment The UN would turn it into a mess (Score 1) 607

Yes, the US has its problems, but I trust American commitment to free speech and non-bureaucratic efficiency far more than the UN's ability to administer something as important as this. The UN lost a lot of my respect when Ahmadinejad gamed the system to give the anti-racism speech. I have no confidence that the UN can't be manipulated in other ways since there's no obvious way to keep it accountable, whereas if the US impinges on free speech we can sue it.

Comment Re:Reasons to support poker players (Score 1) 205

I agree with your points, and I think that online poker should be legal. I'd even go a step further in saying that I'm not worried about children becoming addicted, since they're already addicted to everything else (sugar, WoW, TV, etc). Addictions are a concern because by definition they represent an opportunity cost to the rest of their lives. Poker puts that cost in direct monetary terms, whereby I think people could potentially learn their lesson early, when they're more accepting of correction. Furthermore, poker is educational in that you can learn to beat your competition using math, a lesson I wish more people were receptive to. It's no different than any other kind of game which has a buy-in for competitions.

On the other hand, for the very reason poker doesn't bother me, other kinds of gambling do concern me on a moral level. For almost every game where you're playing against the house, you're guaranteed to lose. These types of games are typically rigged so that your losing margins are small, but on average, you're paying a lot of money to push that button or pull that lever. By telling people "today you might get lucky", these games teach people to unlearn any math they've learned, and to ignore any wisdom someone might tell them. That is, these games train people to be careless.

And that is immoral.

Comment Re:Low (Score 5, Insightful) 674

Something usually free is already widely used.

remember that Linux came along as a free alternative to challenge the established OS, with mixed success. now, we have a non-free alternative coming along to challenge Latex (e.g. TexShop). Somehow it seems the odds of success are marginal.

Here's what Tex/Latex have going for them, as viewed by a grad student currently writing his thesis, like myself:
  * Knuth designed Tex to be more than just words on paper, he designed formulas to help make your documents beautiful. I think he's getting it right, which is why his version numbers are converging to pi.

* Part of the reason is that Latex is not just about formulas. It's also about styles, lists, bibliography, cross referencing within your doc, etc, which WYSIWYG has not been able to get right so far, and for the needs of power-users, I suspect it never will. I use both, and I still struggle to get Word lists to do what I want.

* User experience. Now that I've spent time on the Tex learning curve, and I can typically get it to do what I want, why would I want to get on another learning curve?

* Free. With software like TexShop, I already have all I want, in a great package.

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It seems that more and more mathematicians are using a new, high level language named "research student".