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Comment Re:It was harmful... (Score 1) 299

The Cubans are *super keen* to not piss off the Americans right now, other than a few nationalistic grumbles, because post-Fidel Cuba knows that's how it gets out of its rut, but normalizing trade with its wealthy neighbor.

Clearly, any weapon this mysterious is backed by a resolved, national consensus. That much we know.

We also know that incompetence bests malice in the post season every damn time. So my guess is that they were targetting Canadians, but got a few passports mixed up, and ended up angering the Americans completely by accident.

Why Canada? Because the Cuban national consensus is *not* super keen right now to avoid pissing off Canadians.

Comment so we meet again (Score 1) 173

Note: I wrote this without having noticed that Richard Brody was mentioned in the story submission.

For me nearly every movie with a very bad rotten tomato score (below 30%) is not worth going to the theater.

Here's my personal calibration of Tomatoes:

_5 95-100___superb
_4 90-95____great
_3 85-90____good
_2 80-85____weak
_1 60-80____meh
_0 30-60____double meh
-1 _0-30____barrel bottom

If I had to engage in a Netflix-style 1-5 rating system (triple meh), then these would be my assigned numerical scores.

Since I agree with Tomatoes about half the time, I would lump 50% of all movies with a score less than 80 on Tomatoes into my "1" bucket , which would encompass everything from beyond terrible to pleasant (but shallow) time wasters.

I have a list of 600 movies I've previously seen, and close to another 400 on deck. Around 75% of my combined lists would score 3 or better on the system above.

I know there are plenty of worthwhile movies (to my own taste) scored by Tomatoes between 40 and 70 percent. The problem is that the filtering gets way harder, and I've got no shortage of options on deck less shrouded in doubt.

Here's a piece of criticism I read recently which I thought was first rate:
The Astonishing Power of "The Master" by Richard Brody

And here's Brody elevating himself to such a high register, I can barely follow his argument:
"Frances Ha" and the Pursuit of Happiness

These are both movies I've watched recently, movies that don't settle into the mind easily, which is more likely to send me scurrying back to Tomatoes to plum various reviews than when I picked the movie in the first place.

Last night we finished The Reader, yet another movie packed with WFT? moments, though in The Reader these "moments" sometimes stretched into dreary 15-minute long siestas. I can usually tell what I really think by whether I read all the green splats or all the red tomatoes first (confirmation bias as dowsing rod FTW). For The Reader I read the splats first. Case closed.

Here's the very last review I read before landing upon this thread:
Roger Ebert on The Fountain

So after looking at the film, I checked out IMDb's "external reviews" section and discovered that, good lord, 221 reviews had been written on "The Fountain." On other sites I discovered that its Metacritic rating was 51 (out of 100) and it scored exactly the same on the Tomatometer.
Can a typical aud member be expected to do the heavy parsing that would figure all this out? I doubt it. Most movies, you like to have them all parsed before you buy the ticket. Did I have it figured out? It didn't take me long, and here was my thinking ...
That said, I will concede the film is not a great success. Too many screens of blinding lights. Too many transitions for their own sake. Abrupt changes of tone.

And yet I believe we have not seen the real film. When a $75 million production goes into turnaround and is made for $35 million, elements get eliminated. When a film telling three stories and spanning thousands of years has a running time of 96 minutes, scenes must have been cut out. There will someday be a Director's Cut of this movie, and that's the cut I want to see.

So, the gutted carcass of what might have been a challenging, engrossing film, which—for someone who is not a professional critic—probably requires one pass for all the complex parsing, and then another pass to imagine the movie it was really trying to be. That's a big investment. A second pass through The Master would probably pay more dividends. And that's why it didn't make my main queue.

Basically, I doubt Scorsese fully understands how modern audiences access the critical resources available, in the modern "it's complicated" era.

Best essay I ever read on criticism was Stanislaw Lem, on the insufficient critical selectorate, in an essay from Microworlds (1986) about how hard it is to merely notice that Philip K. Dick offers up something new and different and profound (Lem fixates on Ubik), until after an initial consensus builds.

There are, however, always a few intrepid souls among us willing to put the disturbing -1s on infinite repeat, and then stick it out until the sun dawns (or the undead rise), which they only notice because they have immersed themselves equally deep in its many rivals—at which point such a person becomes uniquely poised to notice that this cluster of films are all groping, hands outstretched, toward the same fence in their own way, but only one entirely clears the bar.

You're not going to find these highly invested rental clerks by skulking around the aggregation filters. So what? Thus it has always been.

Comment Re:Wikipedia for Dummies (Score 5, Interesting) 304

The explanations there are clear and concise, but simpler than Wikipedia.

Wolfram doesn't have the OR problem (original research).

I've added intermediate-level "translation" text to a few Wikipedia articles, and every time I do this I know I'm at risk of being reverted for OR.

QED for the Layman is a masterpiece of original explanation—and forbidden territory for Wikipedia contributors.

Second, it's very hard to avoid saying something false when interpolating between the basic and the advanced material.

When I've tried this myself, I've estimated that I was hitting around a 90% truthfulness, with the other 10% ranging from vaguely correct to outright howlers (and me not being able to discern the difference).

I consider myself a fairly severe fussbudget in matters of accuracy, which means I trust my estimate that I'm falling short. Except for the experts who wrote the expert material—some of whom are no good at any other level—I'd rate myself fairly high. And I still don't think my intermediate contributions are quite up to encyclopedic standards (and so I mostly only dive in when the article starts out in a pretty bad place).

Unlike the simple level, the intermediate level is precise enough to get yourself into real trouble, here and there, if you're not a subject expert.

The editors who contributed the advanced material, so far as I've noticed, tended to be the 2005-2007 heyday crowd making highly substantive main edits, and not necessarily sticking around for editorial maintenance, or even to assist a less expert author trying to step in and fill the expository gaps.

First and foremost, Wikipedia is process driven, not outcome driven. People need to bear that in mind, and be happy it's as good as it is.

My least favourite articles are the mathematics-heavy articles where 90% of the text is derivational, to the degree where the main points are encoded in lemmas. What I've noticed on these pages is that it's very hard to dive in in any kind of small way. You almost have to first break the existing page's back to steer the page in a different direction.

The final class of pages I've noticed are pages that were basically abandoned 75% finished in the first place. These can often be improved with a quick effort. But if you try to add too much text, you'll fail to provide enough cites (that requires real research). In my experience, one cite attached to a few added sentences usually survives.

And then if you get reverted, the page goes back to the same state, with no warning for the next fool who comes along and tries to make the same edit.

That's what I hate most. Many editors revert a contribution aimed at fixing a problem where they view the fix as problematic, with little concern that the original state was also problematic, while taking no ownership whatsoever of the pre-existing problem.

Now I don't care if 10% of my edits get reverted (be bold), but above that level it begins to feel like a giant waste of time, so I'm careful not to be so bold as to ruin my will to participate in the first place. (One sees many bitter former editors show up in these threads who didn't figure this out soon enough.)

Comment s/market tripe/market clue/g (Score 1) 635

Free country, free to exchange goods and services, and free to engage in known workplace risks for such, yadda yadda yadda.

Not even hard-core neoliberal economists believe this tripe.

There are many categories of market that capitalist democracies prohibit universally and unconditionally, such as selling your children, burial remains (but I dug them up on my property!), endangered-species penis powders (as in "made from" rather than "made for"), consumer products under a severe-hazard safety recall, and Oscar statuettes.

I added that last one just to get your bile up, but before you do, take heed that it's the only one on my short list imposed by the market itself, rather than government fiat.

Why Academy Award Winners Can't Sell Their Oscars

Seriously, raise your game. All you're managing to do is give respectable libertarians a bad reputation.

Whether sexual service constitutes a valid marketplace has been hotly contested in nearly every society known.

Clay Shirky: "Little Rice" | Talks At Google

Around 51m11 Shirky talks about duplicity on the part of the Chinese government in allowing corporate VPNs to bypass the firewall, but not personal firewalls. Somewhere else in that talk, he talks about the (large) category of activities which are "illegal, yet allowed" (until further notice—which will arrive abruptly, if it arrives at all).

Most societies "allow" the dopamine trade (sex, drugs, alcohol) but make substantial efforts to push it to the dark margins. (This compromise vastly predates neoliberal ideology, which hasn't changed a damn thing about how this part of the economy works.)

The one dopamine trade, fructose/sucrose, that historically escaped the heavy thumb, having recently been identified as such (the American metabolic syndrome epidemic is impossible not to notice in the healthcare spending balloon) has actually gone mano a mano in public debate in the way you seem to think this whole sphere operates.

Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule

What this rule amounts to is not having more than half a liter of dangerously sweet liquid show up on your receipt as a single line item (no-one is stopping anyone from ordering a six-pack of 12-ouncers, all for personal consumption; I don't even think the rules prevented McSodaCorp from offering three for the price of two).

Because homo economicus is a giant myth, the inability of McSodaCorp to list the 50-ounce portion on their display menu changes the purchasing behaviour of people who never in their wildest dreams would have purchased a 50-ounce portion (this effect is known as the framing effect). The putative "cap" doesn't stop you from arriving in the same place, supposing you were choosing on such a rational basis in the first place (which most people are not, in small affairs).

I'm legitimately torn and I see both sides. On this issue, I think either path is viable. A society might choose more nudge or less nudge, and then experience different pros and cons (please note when adding up the utilitarian total that the prematurely dead fail to exercise much big-f Freedom during the imprudently excised portion of their otherwise naturally allotted span).

Society also regulates alcohol portion size, but this rarely prevents anyone determined to do so from getting entirely slozzled. Fructose eventually kills through one of the same metabolic pathways by which excess alcohol consumption leads to fatty liver disease. Both chemicals lead to dependency loops, but only one causes people to slur their words. There's even a perspective that alcohol is ultimately less dangerous for many people, because you can only get shit-faced once per evening, rather than three BBQ-sauce and salad-dressing rich meals wedged between eight sugary snacks per day.

You see, there's no such thing as a $20 bill lying on the sidewalk (someone would have already picked it up) and there's no such thing as a bad decision, because the only acceptable metric to determine such a thing is expressed preference.

[*] Turns out all those YouTube "fail" compilations are simply failing to take into account—er, ironically falling short of overtly applauding—the wide, wonderful world of different strokes.

I don't know whether you noticed, but if your brother comes down with hemorrhagic fever, you can't bury him—and his loose piles—in your back yard, while also heaping his splattered effects in loose piles. A certain degree of personal carelessness spills over in unacceptable ways, ideology notwithstanding. (This is also part of the present discussion concerning the quasi-legality of the sex trade.)

In Canada, so far as I've known, my only government photographs are on my passport & driver's license. If I chose not to have a driver's license or a passport (and, lately, also choose to stay indoors a lot), I could have refused my consent to provide the government with any current photograph.

Try finding a young person these days who, forced into this specific ultimatum, would give up Facebook to retain his/her driver's license.

Some putative choices suck ass.

Back in the Old West, we used to enjoy a true civil society. If Wild Bill slapped you on the back as you filed into church on Sunday morning, and asked you in front of everyone if your "date" last night was a "good ride", every man with a backbone in the entire town would be loose-holstered for the entire week to come.

Under the old morality, Facebook's present behaviour would have had it pushing daisies in short, short order.

Comment Re:Remember when? (Score 1) 169

Well, it looks like security was a systemic failure at Equifax, so perhaps it's actually time to suggest that someone with a music degree wasn't qualified for the job?

Jaron Lanier

Knuth Discusses Bach, Pipe Organs, And CS

You: I'm not sure about this hire. Are we really, really, really sure he hasn't got a music degree? I smell a rat.

Now go back to your mother's cave, little boy.

Because the music degree itself is not the problem.

Comment Re:Social Engineering (Score 1) 162

Wow, congratulations on discovering social engineering!

Yeah, no. Whoosh. What we're debating here is social engineering engineering, the kind of engineering a responsible corporation engages in if they're up to speed with the former.

I'm pretty sure this is why Apple wants to include a living retina eye scanner in every phone.

Personally, if I had the option (and an iPhone), I'd set things up so my smart watch's accelerometer first had to detect my left hand performing a sinister Catholic cross before the official password dialog accepted any secure input.

Comment COBOL-grade regoliths of Jericho (Score 1) 223

I don't even get the question. Microsoft is already—to a first and second approximation—Lotus Notes 2.0.

Their primary lock on the enterprise is their proprietary document format, and its extensive integration ecosystem—the many of COBOL-grade regoliths of Jericho—extending from BASIC to Visual Basic to Visual Studio to .NET to SharePoint and beyond.

Windows 10 these days is barely more than a cash register on a busy toll bridge (with a special, express lane for native DirectX 12).

Aside from a legacy investment lock-in (self-inflicted), the four surviving reasons to run Windows 10: you don't care (it came with the damn machine), you play immersive games, you work for a tired corporation, or you exchange documents with a tired corporation.

Make no mistake, this giant pile of dusty rock is built to last. But Microsoft's active relevance is already 80% in the rear-view mirror.

The one thing I will say, though it pains me, is that I've heard it said on more than one machine learning podcast that Microsoft Research is considered among the very best and most progressive of all giant, cutting-edge research labs.

MS Office Helper Not Dead Yet — April 2001

The company has one of the leading centers for research into computational Bayesian systems at its Redmond, Washington, campus. It is also launching a Bayesian research group at its new Cambridge research center.

The company employs three of the leading researchers in the field: Jack Breese, David Heckerman and Eric Horvitz.

"They are three of the best of their generation," D'Ambrosio said. "They are clearly right at the top. They are all world-class people, not only in their theoretical capabilities but in how to inject technology into real-world products."

So we've seen this movie before.

In the mid-90s, the lab built a sophisticated Bayesian prototype called Lumiere that included a "deep" model of user confusion. Microsoft is using the software to help build a smart-help system that knows when to jump in and offer people assistance.
But thanks to time constraints, this unfinished component hasn't made its way into any version of Microsoft Office, including the soon-to-be-released Office XP.
Horvitz recommended that users should be able to control when Clippy comes forward —advice that was also ignored by the decision makers at Microsoft.

How much of this generation's cutting-edge work coming out of Microsoft Research will also be Clippified?

Stay tune for the next soul-crushing chapter.

Or perhaps their new embrace of the Linux ecosystem portends that they've finally learned from their past mistakes (someone remind me to check back again in another five years).

Comment Swear, fucking Cortana, swear. (Score 1) 180

It's ridiculous to even debate this.

If a person (or a machine) overhears a private conversation, and then later—in a completely different context—betrays any understanding of such—name one animated, 3D-chessboard villain who can't sniff betrayal off a single, misplaced syllable—what you've got is a side channel that needs to sleep with the fishes.

The only reason Cortana snoops is to later betray its gleanings though autocorrelated "suggestions".

How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself,
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on,
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumber'd thus, or this headshake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As 'Well, well, we know,' or 'We could, an if we would,'
Or 'If we list to speak,' or 'There be, an if they might,'
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
That you know aught of me: this not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you, Swear.

Swear, fucking Cortana, swear.

Comment Who's on top? (Score 1) 219

22" widescreen 1080p here

Same for me. It's perched on an small, wooden stereo cabinet with a DVD player I deliberated purchased with no BluRay support.

[*] As soon as they sell a feature to you, they count you as a user—see Google+—and then that statistic is rolled out to the studios to pressure them into dropping the format you actually use.

Our minimal yet adequate television resides in the corner of the room. Once a week we roll the stand very close to the couch, and pogo both of the speaker stands up close, as well. Then, when we're done watching (one or two movies which I procured on DVD days ahead of time) we send the court jester back to the corner where it belongs.

Hitchens was fond of repeating the line that "alcohol is a good servant and a bad master".

Lustig, in his new book The Hacking of the American Mind, pretty much lays out the case that every dopaminic daemon needs to be kept on a short leash. To run this through the not-so-brainy left/right cheese greater: dopamine is the neurotransmitter of reward, and serotonin is the neurotransmitter of accomplishment.

I basically read the whole of Chaos Monkeys straight through the other day. The Wolf of Wall Street strand is the usual dopamine, dopamine, dopamine narrative. Antonio goes so far as to moot with a faint toot Facebook's binge-drinking IPO as a vestage of moderation because he didn't notice many dishevelled revellers in unusually close consultation doing lines of coke off the nearest conference-room table.

Convenience. More than half the time it means: won't get between your and your next dopamine hit. Back in serotonin world, I consider my television "convenient" because it stays in the corner when I put it there, and demands little to no attention when I'm better occupied by other life pursuits. Dopamine is a high-maintenance hobby. And now we've essentially proved that this is no accident: its core biological function: to keep you going back to the well for high-maintenance things.

Chasing the dragon

In modern parlance the original meaning has morphed somewhat, and it has come to be used as a metaphor for an addict's constant pursuit of the feelings of their first high. The "dragon" being mythical represents a goal that can never be achieved, because it does not exist.

Compared to heroine, video resolution is a relatively cute dragon, the Draco vulgaris that Pratchett mocks in Guards! Guards!.

Nowadays, there is a trend among nobles and other rich people to keep swamp dragons as pets.

Yeah, in their living rooms and bedrooms. Unlike the household squealer from the European middle ages, dragons whisper ever so slyly.

Those who did not wish to be compromised by a dragon's speech did never give directly information, but talked vaguely and in riddles, since denying an answer, would anger it to violence.

The dragon dictates, and, lately, it also listens.

Samsung Warns Customers To Think Twice About What They Say Near Smart TVs

Ever this seductive dragon whispers "come closer, little girl" and "moar pixels!"

Comment Re:You don't want a natural language (Score 1, Insightful) 106

Having dialects, semantic ambiguity, or whatever a 'phonology' of a programming language could be is bad, because a programming language is created to speak to a computer/compiler, not to a human.

You're probably not as aware of the ambiguities of the C language at the machine level as you ought to be.

Logic is underappreciated and overvalued. Few programmers are really good at logic (the underappreciated part), and it isn't the whole story, either (the overvalued part). I assure you, Larry understands that permissible ambiguities in programming languages are orders of magnitude smaller than for human language.

To quote Moneyball: it's a metaphor.

I'll be happy if Perl 6 is someday redeemed as an important, if eccentric, stepping stone on the path forward. At my age, though, I'm less optimistic about still being alive to see this happen.

And I'm not even that old.

Comment Re:Bluetooth audio is great (Score 1) 380

While this is an interesting argument, I'd like to point out, as someone who has been using BT headphones for the last 3 years, that I have to replace headphones way more often than cellular devices. I think I'm on my 3rd set with this phone, and the right bud on this one has a short, so the third is not long for this world either.

Seriously, your inability to identify a quality vendor after three long years is germane to this discussion?

What you actually mean is that the replacement cycle for the bud is by no means guaranteed to be any longer than for the phone if you're too lazy to do proper homework.

Of course, proper homework is also a cost, and it might (in some cases) be rational not to bother with this, except for that little phrase "high end DAC", because I've never bought a "high end" anything where I didn't do proper research beforehand.

So you argument boils down to: assume you're already trapped in the disposable technology mindset, then this too is not a free lunch.

For the rest of us, much of the debate here concerns our resentment about being nickel and dimed into the disposable technology mindset against our established preferences.

I also own a Sony voice recorder, very high quality microphones, good enough for the highest certification of speech recognition, since before speech recognition was worth shit. I could dictate on my phone, but I prefer this. It also has rock solid pitch and playback speed adjustments, using buttons that always stay put.

However, it doesn't have Bluetooth and never will.

Great, now I get to carry both kinds.

Whatever happened to tools that were good for one thing only with convenient, baseline interoperability?

Comment factory firmware forever (Score 1) 380

Older used smartphones will be on the market for a very, very long time. There's a store 500 yards away from me right now that does nothing but sell such phones.

Complete with the latest and greatest vendor-supported security patches?

Don't you mean flip phones? Because many of those are just fine running factory firmware forever and ever.

Comment Re:I'm a bit of an AMD Fanboi, but... (Score 2) 137

It's Intel's R&D investment; they can sell it or sit on it as they see fit. They are a for-profit corporation, not a public service, and are under no obligation to anyone to sell their technology on any set schedule.

If we replace "Intel R&D" with "Mylan", does your comment still stand? If not, why not?

I'm almost libertarian enough to agree with you if the company in question operates on trade secrets and claims no patent protection.

Patent protection, however, is a two-way street: you're granted a right to call upon the government's power of coercion to prevent other people from pursuing ideas—ideas they might very well have come up with independently—with the purpose of fostering competition for the public good.

At that point, being an ass with your business methods intersects with the public interest, too, because you swallowed the patent pill and traded your pure and independent "for profit" status in exchange for public-interest coercive power-ups.

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