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Comment Re:What he's really saying is (Score 1) 422

Perfect is the enemy of good. If your workflow benefits from spreadsheets? Then just ignore the jerk in TFA which frankly smacks of elitist BS. Why the fuck should my customer NEED to use a dedicated program for each task if the work gets done fast and correct with a spreadsheet?

He doesn't say you shouldn't use spreadsheets at all. He acknowledges that they are fine for the tasks for which they were designed such as computing overall grades. What bothers him is the use of large, complicated, difficult to audit spreadsheets to make important decisions. They are difficult to audit because generally all you see is the input and the output. To see the "code" you have to poke around.

Instead he probably wants researchers to put the data into files and write small batch programs to process it and spit out results. You do not need to be a programming wiz to write programs like that. Certainly anyone who can create a large spreadsheet with formulas can learn to do it.

This approach has huge advantages. One is that humans can easily see the program and understand what it does. (If they cannot, then the results are not to be trusted.) You can also create test files containing amounts of data small enough that a human can grasp it and know what the correct result should be.

So no, this is not elitist. He is saying that if you intend to publish your results or have others verify them you should not use opaque tools just because you already know how to use them. If you can't to learn to use simple appropriate tools, why are you doing it at all?

Comment Re:NSA is a Federal Agency (Score 1) 96

Not quite.

The supremacy clause in the constitution will require the companies, utilities, and universities to play ball. The state law will have to take a back seat because you cannot violate a law when compelled to comply with a law. Or in other words, if California law made something federal law enforces illegal, then the California law cannot be in force in conflict with the federal law.

I am sure the authors of this bill know that the feds will still be able to force the utilities and universities to comply. But to protect themselves from sanctions under state law recipients of federal orders would probably have to show that they really were forced. That might mean that they would have to go to court to oppose the federal order. If they submitted to an order which they could have gotten dismissed or narrowed, they might well be liable under state law.

In effect, the intent of this law is to motivate the holders of information to make the feds work for it. I suppose the feds could go for an injunction against its enforcement, but I am not sure they would get it. In effect they would be argueing that the law hampered them because it forced them to use only clearly justified, narrowly tailored orders in California. That would not play well.

Comment Re:Knowledge (Score 1) 1037

No, the point is that atheism isn't a faith. There are no atheist doctrines. There is no atheist holy book. Faith means believing in something. Not believing something (like existence of a God) doesn't constitute a faith. Lack of faith is not a faith.

I think it depends on how you define "faith". It seems that many atheists use it in a pejorative sense to refer to beliefs which they regard as baseless and silly. (Some theists do too and see their own "faith" in things they know to be absurd as a badge of honor.) But that is not what the word is supposed to mean. Strictly speaking "faith" refers to loyalty or trust. For example, a patient may have faith in a surgeon and consent to an operation. A lender might have faith in the borrower's ability to repay the loan. Such faith may be justified, or it may be misplaced.

A belief in the obvious (such as that the sky is blue) is not a faith. Faith is a confidence in future performance based on past performance. In the Bible "faith" refers not to a religion but to confidence that God will fulfill his promises made to believers based on a record of fulfilling such promises in the past. In Hebrews chapter 11 well-known figures from the Hebrew Bible are described as "men of faith" because they sacrificed present comfort or even their lives because they had faith (confidence) that God would make it up to them later.

If we ignore the modern religious definition and use either the everyday or the biblical definition, then atheism is a faith. It is a faith because the atheist seems no sign that god is acting and so is confident that god does not exist and intends to make life decisions on that basis.

Atheism does not and cannot have a book purporting to contain divine revelation. But it does have beliefs. It answers many of the same questions which religions answer: where did we come from, why are we here, what happens to us when we die, how can we attain immortality. (The answers are very different.) Their are also atheistic philosophies which give guidance on questions of behavior and ethics.

So, I understand why many atheists dislike the application of the term "faith" to their belief systems, but I don't think it is actually incorrect.

Comment Re:Knowledge (Score 1) 1037

You are right, strictly speaking athiesm is not a faith. But Daviskw isn't talking about athiesm as an abstract idea. He is talking about it as an idea around which people build philisophical systems which they use to guide their lives. These may not be religions, but those who subscribe to them tend to guide their lives by them, may promote them, and identify other belief systems as defective or even dangerous. In other words, there are athiests who behave like religionists.

Comment Re:So Arrest Them (Score 1) 207

This is exactly what they want! If you do this, you follow their frame, their method, and you (or congress) approve of it. If congress approves of this, they don't have to hide it anymore. Mission accomplished! And thanks for your helpful suggestion!

Only if he called the bluff by showing up for his schedualed waterboarding session, climbing onto the table and lying down. More likely he would lawyer up and start trying to explain why waterboarding is not appropriate for congressional investigations but is for terrorism investigations. This would be difficult to explain. That of course is the whole point of the exercise.

Comment Re:Who says computers will take over.... (Score 1) 275

Another problem with transliteration is that standard systems often produce results which look very odd to English speakers. For example, under the 1997 passport system would be transliterated Mariya. Under the 2010 system it would be Mariia which is even worse. But there already is a standard spelling of this name in English: Maria.

I know of two people who asked the workers in an Eastern European passport office to transliterate their names in a particular way. Both requests were accepted without argument.

Tsarnayev is an example of such an odd result which one might wish to change to Tsarnaev.

For a general discussion about the ways actual people's names can cause problems for computer programmers, see:

http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-names/

Comment Re:Seem Negligible (Score 1) 155

Seems like a negligible improvement. I mean really. With hard drive space plentiful, and bandwidth faster than most users can use at any given moment, saving 20-60Kb on a 1Mb file is like a fart in the wind, even for mobile users.

It would not be worth the effort for one website or even ten. But what is proposed is an improvement to the most commonly used JPEG implementation in the world. The cost will be amortized over millions of websites as software is upgraded over the next few years.

To see how this works, let's make up some numbers. Lets say that the whole effort will consume $100,000 worth of labor. Let's guess that within five years it will be installed on one million websites. That means it will cost $0.10 per website. Is it worth spending $0.10 per website to reduce the bandwidth use (and increase speed of loading) by a few percent?

As others have pointed out, improvements to this JPEG compressor would not reduce the size of existing static images. But it would help with images which are under the control of some kind of content managment system which recompress the images. Nowadays almost all non-trivial websites fit that description.

Comment Re:An average engineer can be innovative (Score 1) 258

An averagely skilled engineer, faced with the same problem could solve the problem in under the time it takes to do a full patent search, and apply for the patent including all the time to write the patent and get it through all the steps - patents are not actually fostering innovation at all.

You are basically implying that an engineer of average skill is unable to develop anything innovative. I fundamentally disagree with your premise. Length of time it takes to solve a problem has little to do with the level of innovation involved. Some problems take longer to solve than others but it does not automatically follow that those are more difficult problems. Many extremely valuable insights do not require years of effort to develop into something useful. Conversely, many insights that do require years of effort ultimately aren't all that valuable. Time is a poor proxy for difficulty.

Some inventions come about because the inventor had an insight which his contemporaries did not. Others come about because someone financed a long course of trial and error. But you shouldn't be able to get a patent just because you paid an engineer to implement an idea which half of his peers could have described to you during a preliminary consultation.

Comment Re:So what sexual deviation gets a pass next? (Score 1) 917

Have you ever heard a legitimate (i.e. excluding religious) argument against gay marriage?

How about arguments against it made by gays? There are at least some who believe that the gay-marriage movement is unnessary or counter-productive.

For example, this essay by a gay man can be found on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/maga...

And here is a blog by a gay man who disavows the gay marriage movement: http://nogaymarriage.wordpress...

Here is a site with lots of links on the subject: http://www.againstequality.org...

Admittedly, the positions taken in these essays are not as strong as those of certain religions organizations, but they are definitly arguments against gay marriage.

Comment Re:So (Score 1) 917

It is not all or nothing. When rights conflict a balance must be struck. To refuse blacks service in McDonald's would clearly be illegal because any freedom of association argument would be frivilous. (A white person's argument that he is being forced to associate with black people because he can see some of them at another table while he is eating his Big Mac is pretty silly.)

However, the KKK absolutely can refuse to accept black people as members. If they have a clubhouse with a lunch counter, they absolutely can prohibit black people from eating at it just by making a members-only rule.

Maybe this should be changed. If it were, then we could find a KKK chapter with a clubhouse and 50 members. We could then find 51 black volunteers who would join up. At the next club business meeting they could all come and vote to disband the chapter or amend its charter to support racial equality.

In theory this would be a good thing since it deprives an obnoxious organization of its clubhouse. But remember how it goes: "First they came for the KKK, but I did not speak up because I am not a racist." all the way down to "Then they came for me and no one spoke up because there was no one left."

Comment Re: There doesn't need to be middle ground. (Score 1) 917

People certainly have a choice about whether to attend a particular church or not. But I am not sure religious belief is something you can just turn off. I suppose you could drive them into the um... closet.

To say that it is OK to discriminate against ideas is dangerous because then someone has to decide which ideas are incorrect and thus fair game. If that had been the way things worked, then the gay rights movement would never have gotten off the ground.

Comment Re:First blacks (Score 1) 917

>Is it OK to refuse service to someone from the Westboro Baptist church? The Catholic church? How about a Neo-Nazi? Because if your answer is yes, you cannot rationally support a veto.

I think that would depend a lot on the nature of the service. There is a big difference between seating the pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in your restaurant as part of the lunch crowd and renting him the banquet hall for a dinner celebrating his organization's programs.

Similiarly, I think there is a difference between a photographer taking a picture of two men who come into his or her studio and say that they want a family portrait just like the man and woman before them got and going to their wedding with the express purpose of memorializing it.

I think the difference that in the second parts of the examples above is that speach is the central element of the event. Furthure, the person providing the service is expected to stand in the view of the audiance and smile and provide services supporting the speakers including (in the case of our hypothetical photographer) services which amplify and transmit that speach.

I don't think making people pretend to support speach which they find repugnant is fair or reasonable. On the other hand, it is not right to deny unpopular speakers a meaningful way to express their views. I am not sure how to balance this.

(If you are wondering why I have implied that a wedding is speech, that is because a declaration is the central defining element of a wedding in all cultures of which I am aware. It has sometimes taken the form of a solomn oath pronounced in front of one or more witnesses, sometimes it has been the signing of a document, in some ancient cultures the groom went to the bride's father's home and led her pompously through the streets to his home in the company of friends and relations.)

Comment Re:First blacks, (Score 1) 917

Should a business be COMPELLED to accept customers in a non-discriminatory way?

Yes, definitely. A business should be COMPELLED to accept customers in a non-discriminatory way unless it can prove that this would cause undue hardship, and infringing on "sincerely held religious beliefs" most certainly does not qualify.

Interesting. What would you do if you were a graphic artist and someone came into your shop and asked you to design a poster for an anti-gay campaign? Do you believe the situations are the same or different?

Comment Re:Force them to warrenty whole unit.. (Score 1) 526

I am pretty sure that would fall under an abuse clause in the warranty.

The 'abuse' we are talking about is basically "turning the volume up too high". That might make sense if a high-powered audio system had been damaged where the "too high" means deafening. But this is a laptop. Frequently "all the way up" still isn't high enough to hear clearly.

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