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Comment Re:Density Myth. . . (Score 1) 337

If it was just the greater Ephrata metroplex (heh) you might have a point. But they fibered up the whole of Grant county. Almost as big as LA county, but only 28 people per square mile. Gray's harbor county fibered up at the same time and is much the same. Now what?

Comment Re:Democrats voted (Score 1) 932

They do, in some states. I believe Ohio has a Libertarian party ballot at the primaries; there may be others.

The Tea Party isn't registered as a political party; they are a movement within the Republican party. They may well be able to gain separate primaries if they wanted them, but as far as I can tell their goal is explicitly NOT to do that. They don't want to run against Republicans in a general election; they want to replace Republican candidates with those more to their liking.

If they were to run it as a third-party race (or if Cantor were to run a write-in campaign) it would open up a huge opportunity for the Democrats. (Something like IRV might prevent that, though there are other ways to subvert IRV.)

Comment University Tenure <> Public School "Tenure" (Score 2) 519

This is another one of those political talking points that amount to nothing more than dishonest quibbling. Yes, the kind of "tenure" that university professors get would make no sense for a high school teacher, but that's not what "tenure" means in public schools. It has the same *name*, but it means something *different*.

It's practically impossible to get rid of a university professor with tenure. An elementary school teacher *can* be fired, but only for specific causes. Here are the list of causes which, under my states laws, a tenured public school teacher can be fired:

(1) inefficiency,
(2) incompetency,
(3) incapacity,
(4) conduct unbecoming a teacher,
(5) insubordination
(6) failure to satisfy teacher performance standards
(note) teachers can also be laid off due to staff reductions.

This seems like a pretty complete list of the justifications a reasonable person would need for firing a teacher. If a principal has documentation of any of these causes, the teacher is out. Immediately. The teacher can appeal to an arbitration board, but pending any reversal of the firing the teacher is not allowed back on campus.

It's actually quite straightforward to fire a tenured teacher. Two of my kids teachers were dismissed, even though they had tenure. One for gross inefficiency, the other for conduct unbecoming a teacher (she told a black student he should "go back to the plantation"). The teacher fired for bad conduct was the head of the local teacher's union. The union did not make a stink in either case; it generally doesn't. It's OK with dismissals for cause, so long as there is documentation and proper procedures are followed. If there weren't documented cause or the teacher didn't get his right of appeal, they'd fight that, as they should.

The myth that you just *can't* fire a tenured public school teacher is sometimes spread by lazy principals. They'll tell unhappy parents, "Gee, I'd like to get rid of that one, but he's got tenure. It's practically impossible to get rid of a tenured teacher." There was a case like that in my town where the principal kept telling parents there was nothing he could do about a certain teacher. Then they school got a new principal, and a few months later he fired the teacher in question.

Comment You're missing half the tenure equation. (Score 1) 519

All those young adjunct professors who are publishing like mad, refusing no committee assignment, and enduring any indignity their superiors can dream up in the vain hope of grasping the brass tenure ring. Often the decisions of the tenure committee are inexplicable, so you have no option but to put your nose to the grindstone and pray.

That doesn't excuse the attitude "I've got mine, to hell with this place," but it makes it more understandable.

Comment Re:Density Myth. . . (Score 5, Interesting) 337

Population density is why we don't have gigabit fiber to tiny little rural towns in the middle of nowhere like Ephrata, WA (pop 7000). No, wait. They have had gigabit fiber to the home since 2001. Back when that cost a metric boatload of money. And yet the network made an embarassingly large profit they had to pay back to their customers because they are a nonprofit. How is that even possible?

It is possible because your density story is a lie. It is made up. There is no truth to it. If Ephrata, and even smaller towns in that county, can have gigabit at a reasonable price 14 years ago then we all can now. The tech is 100x cheaper now. There is no excuse for not fibering up the whole country.

Comment Oh God (Score 2) 337

Now they are both going to sue me for the slander of associating each with the other. They'll probably both win too, and have to sue each other over fractions of my soul. But the judge will be in on it and award both the same soul three times each.

Comment Re:Somewhere in my mind... (Score 3, Funny) 337

Such a dumb setup.

Not as dumb as paying more per gigabyte of RAM on your Cisco server for the privilege of paying more per gigabyte of RAM and Gigabit of network bandwidth on your Oracle software so you can pay extra for the ports on your Cisco network switch. With mandatory support contracts all 'round.

Comment Re:Non News (Score 1) 78

I've been to Europe. You should go too, because if you're right and they're 50 years ahead of us, you should check it out.

Judging from the state of things in Europe, the Great Decline isn't going to be so bad. Sure a few of the people there don't speak American and a lot of 'em have queer opinions. But the grub, once you get used to it, isn't half bad for foreign muck. And a lot of the places they've got seriously kick-ass beer, and that goes a long way in my book.

And they've got a lot of hot women. I think it goes with the whole picturesque thing. I've got to admit they're really good at that. I mean, we have majestic mountains, and so do they, but *they* but these crazy cuckoo clock houses on 'em. Yeah, it's kind of gay, but if that's the way things are going we might as well get used to that sort of thing. I mean, what's the point of swimming against the tide of the future if in the end what you're fighting against is houses with fancy fretwork and really good beer. I can live with that.

Comment Re:Throw the book... maybe literally at him. (Score 1) 220

I agree with you on this one, but it does raise interesting questions.

What if the researcher were running SETI@Home? That would still be wrong. But would it be *as* wrong? As in "fired and barred for life* wrong?

What about someone who uses his office computer to do some Christmas shopping, or to check movie times? That seems to me to be a judgment call. There are behaviors which in moderation are harmless to the employer and which benefit the employee, but when taken to extreme are abuse.

This stuff is worth thinking about, because the simple answers are going to be too restrictive, and too restrictive is, for practical purposes, the same as too permissive. People don't respect rules that don't make sense, they find ways around them. That inflates the cost of enforcement too.

Comment Re:War of government against people? (Score 1) 875

I wouldn't go that far. I don't have a problem with police simply *having* these things. I don't have a problem with police having SWAT teams either, and they're even more dangerous. People do have a *lot* more guns than they used to, and those guns are a *lot* more powerful. There's no excuse for treating the public at large as an enemy, even the ridiculously heavily armed segment of the public, but that doesn't mean there aren't situations where a police commander needs more firepower and protection than he used to have. And that should be fine so long as he doesn't get too enamored of those things.

As an engineer I'm all too familiar with the dangerous seductiveness of a golden hammer. A professional is always wary of a golden hammer; he doesn't want to use it, but that doesn't mean he doesn't like to have one in the toolbox. Look at the video in the linked article (bad form I know). That's exactly what the commander in the video is saying: he needs to have it, but he doesn't want to use it. But the *other* commander, the one who called America a "war zone", he's pretty much declared that the people under his protection are a very shiny nail that calls for a very special hammer.

No matter how we equip police, or what powers we give them, that equipment and those powers will be easy for someone with the wrong attitude to abuse. So what we need to do is *regulate* how police use these things. And those regulations have to be enforced; they have to have teeth otherwise they're just wishful thinking.

I believe there's a simple solution to the dangers of handing the police golden hammers. Any commander who uses a SWAT team or piece of military or intelligence agency hardware should be sentenced to fill out a mountain of paperwork, and run the gantlet of investigating committees asking hostile questions. For a responsible commander protecting the lives of his men or of civilians, that price would be nothing to pay. But it would take enough of the shine off the golden hammer to deter the trigger-happy commanders.

Comment Re:More and more data (Score 5, Informative) 40

Well, I haven't read the book either, but most of the meat of your question is in the presumptions it makes. Let me address them respectfully.

The main thrust of your post is that race is an objective reality but that studying it is politically incorrect. It is true that racial theories will tend to be dismissed as crackpottery. But there's more to it than just the bad aftertaste of Nazi pseudoscience. First, race as a scientific concept is too squishy to become a useful theory; it generates too many intuitively attractive hypotheses that can't be tested empirically; and that invites us to interpret myth as fact.

Case in point: the Germans. My sister married into a family from Germany, and my daughter lived for awhile in Hamburg and made many friends there, and guess what? That's an awful lot of blue eyes and fair hair. The temptation is to think this is the genetic heritage of the "German Race"; that it comes down to them from a small group of fair haired, blue-eyed proto Germans in the far distant past. But there's no *evidence* to support that; it's just a satisfyingly simple myth.

There are nomads in very "Yellow race" looking Central Asian steppe tribes that have blond hair and blue eyes. Aha! Some adventuring proto-German probably spread his wild oats on the Silk Road! But that's the *myth* speaking. The facts are *equally* consistent with the genes flowing the other way, or flowing to both places from a third source, say the Slavs. Even if we presume that the sharing of these features is due to interbreeding, the facts don't support one scenario over the other. Julius Caesar doesn't mention the appearance of Germans in his account of the Gallic Wars in 51 BC; they might have been light-skinned, fair skin and blue eyed as many Germans are today. But they *equally likely* might have been none of those things. A few hundred years would easily suffice for such features to go from rare to very common in such a small population.

But the idea of "race" as we have received it is very definite on the matter. Take the case of one Frederic Austin Ogg, an otherwise intelligent and educated historian writing at the height of the respectability of "racial science":

For my own part, I agree with those who think that the tribes of Germany are free from all trace of intermarriage with foreign nations, and that they appear as a distinct, unmixed race, like none but themselves.

Yes, but *why* did he believe this? What evidence did he have?

Well, we now have genetic information now to address the question of how racially pure of the Germans are. The answer is, "not very". There was plenty of "intermarriage" (or at least inter-boinking) going on between Germans and others, even apparently *Africans*, although not necessarily *directly*. But the genes don't care, they just spread themselves as far and wide as they can. And that's the norm with humanity: populations are too genetically permeable for pure-bred peoples or "races" to exist.

If you go beyond a few superficial features to the whole spectrum of genes, the various three and five race divisions of the human race that were concocted in the 19th and early 20th C all fall apart, and a more complicated picture of extensive interbreeding emerges.

That should be a final nail in the coffin of "race", but science provides one more, a painful rejection for advocates of racial purity and self-love: Most of the genetic diversity in the human race resides within black Africans. So if you were to start with the *genes* and divided humanity into five "great races", what you'd end up with is four somewhat arbitrarily grouped African races and one catch-all race for everyone else in the world (e.g. Germans and Celts would be in the same category as Dravian Indians and Australian Aborignes).

Now any one can see dividing humanity up into "races" this way is useless, but in fact there's actually *more* factual support for this than any of the three race or five race schemes of 19th century "racial science".

And here we have why "race" is such a *scientifically* reviled concept. The appeal of "race" isn't how it fits the facts, it's how it uses very selectively chosen facts to reinforce preconceptions. It's such a seductively powerful confirmer of preconceived belief that no matter how thoroughly the concept of "race" is smashed against the anvil of data, there will always be people trying to piece it back together again. And that makes it a nuisance for anthropologists, the way perpetual motion is for physicists and crackpot *DaVinci Code* theories are to historians.

Comment Re:We all know... (Score 1) 76

With a decent tablet a small child can carry hundreds of books, all of Wikipedia offline edition, animation based learning materials, interactive learning games and so on. If there is WiFi they can even collaborate. They can make documents, take notes for field studies, including pictures and video, do audio interviews, capture animal sounds.

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In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982