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Comment Re:Cringley knows less about finance than tech (Score 1) 660

Only if one is stupid enough not to understand the limitations of Black-Scholes which only works under a huge pile of assumptions that exist in very narrow and rare circumstances. Black-Scholes isn't responsible for our current mess. Black-Scholes is an equation. It can be used wisely or unwisely. We can encourage wise use but sometimes we seem to need to learn things the hard way.

What you say sounds very reasonable, but I'm troubled by the reflexive denials I have been reading from quants and financial engineers. I've read comments from too many who move smoothly from lauding the money making power of their models and their own skill in applying them, to denying any culpability for the recent meltdown: "hey I'm just a geek with a model, nobody listens to me, and the traders do just what they want anyway". I don't think you can have it both ways. At the very least the models like VAR were used as a fig leaf to persuade folks that junk was AAA. If people knew that their models were being used inappropriately, then they had a duty to make a stink about it, even if it meant walking away from their bonus and stock options. A handful of folks did walk away from places Enron, Lehman, and Washington Mutual, crying bloody murder, so it is not an impossible standard to meet.

Comment Re:Wow (Score 1) 318

Well it is a matter of taste, but bear in mind that it doesn't say he's coding 12 hours a day, 365 days a year. He may very well be enjoying some of the more obvious pleasures in life along with his coding. Some folks would happily spend years laying naked on a Tahitian beach drinking Pina Coladas, other folks would find that nice enough for a week or two, but then want to go back something more engaged with world. There is a pleasure and satisfaction all its own in exercising skill, particularly if the product of your skilled work is in high demand from other folks who's work you respect and admire.

Comment Re:IBM is a global business (Score 1) 812

Even worse, I totally screwed up the story. The Nobel prize for the work on GMR didn't go to IBM, but to Grunberg at the Forschungszentrum Jülich, and Fert at the Université Paris-Sud, and . Mea culpa. IBM researchers from the IBM Almaden research center did win the 1997 Hewlett-Packard Europhysics Prize for work on GMR, along with Gruenberg and Fert.

Comment Re:IBM is a global business (Score 1) 812

IBM has stopped to innovate (sic)

Did they stop before or after the work which won the 2007 Nobel prize in physics, and is one of the technologies that make it possible for your average consumer to walk down to the corner office supply store and buy a 1 TB disk for less then $200?

Just because they aren't innovating in the fields you know about, doesn't mean they aren't innovating at all.

Comment Re:Penmanship (Score 1) 921

Do you ever write to your congress person? Any damn fool can send an email but a hand written letter gets their attention. They get so few of them they are treated as special especially by those on their staff who have never hand written a letter before.

Since the 2001 anthrax scare I think physical letters actually get diverted for inspection and irradiation and may not get to your congress person until well after any particular vote has been taken.

I'm also 50 and was taught Palmer method in a Catholic grade school. I never mastered it, and II retreated to block printing after high school. I've since heard that Palmer was an arbitrary and capricious choice, and that there are other handwriting styles, italic for example, that are easier to learn, and easier to write legibly, but retain some of the esthetics of calligrapphy.

Comment Re:A myth ? (Score 1) 588

How come a 70/30 ratio makes this gap a myth?

Because 50 years ago the gap was > 95/5. The human nervous system hasn't changed much in fifty years, so surprise, surprise it turns out that cultural factors play a major role in the choice of education and occupation. And yes, there were folks 50 years ago who were happy to claim that the 95/5 ratio was the unavoidable result of the differences in the male and female brain.

Comment Re:There is and always will be differences. (Score 2, Insightful) 588

Of course the statistical properties of groups don't tell you anything about the qualities of a given individual. Men are on average taller then women, but I'm male, and only 5'6" while one of my previous girlfriend was 5'10". I make my living in a mathematical field, and I work with plenty of women who are much better at math then me. The question is, when we see large group disparities between genders is it nature, nurture, or some combination of the two?

I did an undergrad degree in physics back in the early 1970s. At that time the number of women in upper-division math and physics classes was about 1/30th the number of men. I heard many folks explain this as a natural result of the innate differences between genders. I also heard several professors explicitly discourage women from taking upper division math and physics because it was not a "suitable" field for women.

In 2003 I went back to school to do an MS in Applied Math. I was surprised to see that women now made up between 1/5th and 1/3rd of the upper division and graduate classes. Furthermore, the women in the classes didn't seem to have any more trouble with the material then I did. I'm perfectly open to the idea that the distribution of talents in the two genders is influenced by neuro-development and anatomy, but human neuro-development and anatomy didn't change much between 1974 and 2003, which makes me think that the folks who ascribed the gender ratios in circa 1974 math classes entirely to intrinsic differences were full of shit.

Comment Re:Not much of a threat (Score 2, Interesting) 469

I don't this is something that happens often under circumstances people normally experience.

True, the context of the original article on Slate was the "enhanced interrogation techniques" practiced by the US on captured terrorists. According to the recently released memos interrogators were allowed to deprive subjects of sleep for up to 180 hours (7.5 days). The starting technique was to shackle them in a standing position so that if they fell asleep, their entire weight was born on their arms. After forty hours they had to shackle them lying down to avoid permanent damage to their circulatory system. I haven't read how they kept them awake while lying down, but I think we can assume they had sufficient resources and "creativity" to accomplish it. Definitely not a normal circumstance, but not just of academic interest either.

Comment Re:Here's one reason the financial system failed. (Score 1) 379

Well, there were cases of outright fraud, where the mortgage that was signed, was not the mortgage that was recorded. That kind of crude fraud was certainly not the cause of most of our mortgage problems. The trouble wasn't simply a lack of clarity in the terms of the loan, it was the terrible, self-serving advice peddled, by the brokers, real-estate agents, developers, home improvement networks etc. "Wait, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to afford the payments on the loan after the rates reset." "Don't worry! You'll be out of this house, and on to your next house well before the rates reset. Real estate only goes up! This is an investment, you'll make a handsome profit, just by holding on to the house for two years." Doubtless many were as naive and clueless as the mortgagees, but may other knew better and were simply being predatory.

This ties into the article under discussion. The author relates a story about really want to move out of the back room and on to the trading floor. A friend who is a trader, asks him if he can completely dedicate himself to taking the money of people stupider then him.

Comment Re:OMFG ... (Score 1) 695

Endemic, in a broad sense, can mean "belonging" or "native to", "characteristic of", or "prevalent in" a particular geography, race, field, area, or environment; native to an area or scope.

I don't think endemic applies to the common cold, kthx

You missed a common usage in epidemiology:

Endemic (epidemiology), an infection is said to be "endemic" in a human population when that infection is maintained in the population without the need for external inputs.

This is the sense in which the common cold is endemic in human populations.

Comment Re:OMFG ... (Score 1) 695

but emergency makes people think real and immediate threat to themselves and panic.

What panic? Certainly my neighborhood was pretty calm this afternoon? Did you actually read the WHO statement? What did WHO say that was so panic inducing? I'm going to wash my hands a bit more frequently, and if I develop flu symptoms I'll probably stay home from work when ordinarily I'd probably tough it out.

I will certainly be concerned about it when it spreads to more than a statistically irrelevant portion of the population as a whole

And is your version of statistically significant based on anything more then your gut feeling? There are objective measures of statistical significance, it's not just enough matter of enough sick people that it would impress a casual observer.

Comment Re:Lifeless (Score 2, Informative) 695

Why do people discuss the 'flu' has if it where caused by a living organism? A virus is NOT alive.

Because the notions of "alive" and "not alive" are fuzzy human definitions only partially based in distinctive underlying natural phenomena. Key attributes frequently assigned to living things are metabolism and reproduction. Viruses reproduce, but in some sense have no metabolism. Historically, folks have gone back and forth over the years on whether both attributes are needed or only one. Eventually most folks realize they are arguing over a ambiguous border, and give it up.

In the context at hand it make a lot more sense to think of viruses as living. They reproduce, and are transmissible, which make an outbreak of a contagious virus look pretty much like an outbreak of a contagious bacteria, as opposed to a mass poisoning by a toxin.

Comment Re:OMFG ... (Score 1) 695

The pig flu pandemic is evil and will be the end of the world. ... .

WHO said no such thing in any of those incidents. Only the voices in your head are saying this. WHO has simply said that it is a public health emergency of international concern with the potential for a pandemic. Cases have now been reported in several countries, and it has killed some young, otherwise healthy people so it is a no brainer that it bears watching, and giving public health officials around the world a heads up is a reasonable precaution. No one has said you need to be quarantined, take anti-virals, or be vaccinated. All they've said so far is "Hey, if you are a health care provider keep an eye out for this."

I despair for my species since so many of us seem incapable of rationally responding to mild, reasonably stated warnings. We seem to dismiss them out of hand, or exaggerate them into "OMG, it's the end of the world as we know it.".

Comment Re:Paying $500 for an OS that works, however... (Score 1) 1147

With NeXT Step and MacOS, the config is in binary files you can't edit except with the pretty pointy clicky tools, so when the user has buggered the machine to the point where the pointy clicky stuff won't run (which was fairly easy on NeXT Step but, to be fair, seems to be a bit harder with MacOS XX

Are you sure about that? My own history goes back to UNIX v7 on the PDP-11/70. I'm typing this on a Mac now, and it seems to have many of the same text configuration files I'm used to seeing. The bundles the Mac used to use are now directories, and the configuration files inside them all seem to be XML which I have no problem editing in vim in single user mode. Can you point me to one of these binary configuration files?

Comment Don't sweat it too much. (Score 1) 569

It's one thing being able to write simple programs for class assignments, but those are quite different from writing something as complex as the Linux kernel or a multi-threaded banking app.

Developing in-depth expertise in a language is a great idea, definitely you should follow through on that. However you can ratchet down your anxiety level a bit. Your first job will not be to write the Linux kernel or a multi-threaded banking app from scratch. If you are lucky and talented your first job will be to add some feature to the Linux kernel or an existing multi-threaded banking up. You'll be able to study other people's code, see how they did things, and follow their example. If you find sections of code you don't understand, you pull out the language and API references, or if you are really luck, go down the hall and get tutored by the person who originally wrote it. I mean even Linus didn't write the Linux kernel as it exists now from scratch. If you are not so lucky or talented you'll be writing a CRUD application that won't tax even your existing language skills, though it may tax your organizational skills.

There is a trade-off in picking which language to specialize in. The majority of jobs are probably in Java and .Net, but those languages also have the largest supply of programmers. There are fewer jobs for FORTRAN and C, but there are also fewer programmers qualified for those jobs. To some extent it will balance out, so you can suit yourself. One genuine limitation is that you may be limited to working in one of the major tech centers if you go with one of the non-commodity languages.

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