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Comment Re:Hand wring much? (Score 2) 474

Even the most basic issues in government need good data to work with. Whether you're speaking of the Environment, Economy or Health Care, you have to know where the people are, what their needs are, and what the trends are if you want any hope of doing a good job.

A one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work here. Manitoba is not BC, and BC isn't Quebec. Trying to do anything governance-wise without data is folly. Like it or not, the government DOES spend money on programs and it DOES handle a lot of problems. The Canadian government is responsible for providing health care money (though the provinces are responsible for actually delivering care) and First Nations, etc., etc. Complain if you want about how the Federal government should do less, but in the meantime, the government should be using its power to spend the money it has WELL.

Their census fits nothing. It does nothing. They have no data, so they can only guess at what the priorities should be. Even the most minimalist government should want accurate and detailed census data so they know how to confine their spending to only the things that need immediate attention. It's just a blinders-heavy view of the world to ignore the facts.

But that's this government. It ignores the overwhelming facts in the hopes that they'll go away. The Tar Sands, the F-35 boondoggle. Corruption in its own ranks, the Lakes project and the Census. For them, the less people know, the better they can plow through and waste our money. They're objectively one of the least transparent governments in the last 50 years. Despite their claims of being open and honest and transparent, access to information has languished under this administration.

A government doesn't need to manage all problems. But it needs to show that it's working on the priorities of the populace that elected it. The only way to do that is to provide data before and after, and let democracy decide. Surely you can agree with that. Otherwise, don't go around slinging around the 'ideology' argument so freely.

Comment Re:Hand wring much? (Score 5, Insightful) 474

What BS. Nobody has ever been jailed for failing to fill out the long-form census. It was mandatory and there were potential fines and jailtime in place, but if you go looking, basically nobody ever runs afoul of the laws. The census people just come and talk to you and help you fill out the form.

That participation is vital. As a result of not having it be mandatory this year, we now have big chunks of data that have to be completely thrown out. Something like 40% of municipalities in Saskatchewan have no relevant data this year. It's criminal. How do you make decisions in a country without data to base it on?

There's never been a freedom problem with the census. It's a red herring that the Conservatives used to tenuously justify a move so absurd, the head statistician of Statistics Canada felt it was his moral obligation to step down in protest.

An accurate census is fundamental to any government that's interested in actually governing. Without it, all your decisions are just shots in the dark. You can't set any metrics that determine success, because you don't even know what problems you're supposed to be solving anymore.

Comment Re:Excuse me? (Score 3, Insightful) 474

It's possibly more accurate to say the Conservative government here is anti-information, or anti-data. Anti-science is just part of that.

Eliminating the mandatory long-form census has made some data entirely unusable. It went from 94% participation to somewhere in the 60% range. Some areas of the country now have no information by which to base decisions on. You can correct--to a certain extent--for discrepancies that occur in large population centres where the participation rate wasn't bad and you have good anchor data from past years, but this last census was supposed to form the basis of NEW anchor data.

Statistics is science. Information collection is critical in a country as spread out and diverse as Canada.

But again, this is just one more thing on the pile. Muzzling scientists, shutting down a world-class lakes research facility (that only cost $20 million/year to run--the Conservative government has spent twice as much on advertising about how good a job they've done with the economy, and they haven't really done a great job there), ignoring scientific advice from all quarters, etc. The list is long, and it all has the same common thread throughout it: "we don't care what the data says, and if we can make sure that nobody else sees the data, they can't accuse us of making decisions that are contrary to the data".

Comment Re: Not actually a bad idea. (Score 2) 368

That's not really true. CS students program, and a lot of them are very good at it. But it's a means to and end, not an end in and of itself. You can do a lot of things on paper in CSâ"and you shouldâ"but there's a practical value to the actual hands on work. Every doctor of chemistry has physically done the lab work themselves at some point, even if most of the work they do as a researcher is simulated.

The programming that you do in the industry teaches you that good enough is sometimes the best. Algorithmic purity is secondary. And if you have to sit and contemplate algorithmic complexity, you've probably done it wrong (barring some highly mathematical work, like high-frequency trading; I'm just a video game programmer).

Comment Re:The opposite might also be true (Score 1) 482

You want me to list my cred? You want to measure my green-peen, as it were?
I walk to work. I live 15 minutes away. To do that, I live in a small apartment with my partner. By living in a smaller space, our carbon footprint is markedly lower than people in bigger spaces. We have a single car that we don't drive very often, and when we do, it's on the highway. It's 6 years old, and I don't plan on replacing it any time soon. It's a turbo-diesel, so it's very good on fuel (though we know now that it's not so great on particulates--but it's still better for me to keep it than to incur the overhead of buying a new one). I own several bicycles, because I'm a bike racer. I recycle. I eat relatively little meat, and it's getting less every year. My electricity comes from hydro.

And yeah, I DO want a carbon tax to take into account the negative externalities not accounted for in the price of carbon-based fuels. Just because CO2 is invisible doesn't mean it has no effect on anything. I also think that big pipelines like Keystone XL are a bad idea because they encourage more fossil fuel use when we should be cutting back, and I try to vote in a way that promotes my environmental beliefs.

Al Gore isn't my messiah. I'm Canadian, so David Suzuki is much more my style.

So, yes. I want you to live like me, and I'm better than you. Are you happy now?

Comment Re:Global Warming my Arse... (Score 4, Insightful) 482

Congratulations, you just demonstrated how little you know about climate science and global climate change. Colder winters and longer winters are both explainable and predictable depending on where you are. For instance, changes in the currents in the ocean may direct colder water towards the UK and northern Europe, thereby actually making for colder winters and more snow. In North America this year, the melting Arctic icecap (which melted much more than usual last summer) added extra heat to the northern oceans, which affected the jetstream, pushing it south. That dragged cold air from the Arctic down much further south.

Climate is wild and woolly, and it's hard to know exactly what's going to happen, but we know enough of what's going to happen and what's happening that most of the complaints you're going to come up with can be explained by Science. And not just some random scientist, but peer-reviewed and published science.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/25/scientists-long-winter-in-u-s-the-result-of-melting-arctic-ice-cap/

We know the poles shift. In fact, that's IN THE SUMMARY. You didn't even have to read the article to see that shifting geographic poles are well known. But they're shifting faster, and NASA's GRACE experiment is also helping measure the subtle shifts in gravity associated with shifting mass. It all seems to be correlating well. Someone else here has even already pointed out this comment in the article:

"The results suggest that tracking polar shifts can serve as a check on current estimates of ice loss."

Are you interested in science or not? Then sit and read and understand the science. Don't go off on a rant before you know a single damn thing of what you're talking about.

Comment Re:The opposite might also be true (Score 2, Insightful) 482

Or to paraphrase, "Brakes are gone...no point in steering!"

There's lots of stuff we can do to make sure that we're not making things worse. We know we're making SOME things worse, so why don't we stop it with those things?

Climate changes. But climate changes tend to happen on geological timescales, barring utter catastrophe. I'm sure the K-T Boundary impact changed the climate, but that was a world-changing catastrophic impact that effectively lit the atmosphere on fire for a few hours. I haven't seen one of those recently, but I've seen what humans can do given some time and ambition.

Stop it with the calls to inaction. We've got enough evidence that it's a good idea to hedge our bets and start cutting back on the needless waste that we're so good at. We can do better, so let's do better.

Comment Re:Competition is often complex. (Score 1) 294

Actually, let's quickly touch on Paris Hilton here. She was young, and she did all the things that a young person would do. She had sex, she drank (while underage...nobody in the middle classes does that, right?) and she was thoughtless and brash. She lived to party, and she had the money to do it. She threw tantrums...she did everything a 'normal' teenager does, but she did it with the benefit of the backdrop of money.

I don't know if she was officially cut from the will, but it was certainly threatened. But she took advantage of the situation she was in (i.e., her famous name and her famous persona, deserved or not) and turned that into her own money. Even if Paris is cut from the will, she'll be a millionaire in her own right. She did have every advantage, but she could have squandered all those advantages and gone crawling back, but in the end, she made her own way.

Maybe you don't think she's very nice, or very interesting or particularly admirable, but she's done quite a lot better than a lot of other rich kids.

Comment Re:I've been trying to fix this for 12 years. (Score 1) 297

To a certain extent, the problem is that I don't get asked to solve the same problems that I used to. When I'm asked to write something new...it's NEW. How long will it take? Well, it's hard to say. I haven't worked with this engine before and this gameplay mode is different from the last game I was on, etc.

I'm lucky that my job isn't really repetitive, but it also means that I lack a basis for making estimates. Over 12 years I've worked with the same engine for 2 games twice. My first game was a custom engine. The game I'm working on now is with a legacy engine that we've been patching up for years and years. The problems are never really the same, even when the specification is similar. The context changes the problem being solved.

I actually do make fairly wide estimates now, with an 'ideal' and 'worst case', but the shifting nature of the work means that sometimes even straight-forward things aren't.

When it gets down to bugfixing and refinement, I'm much better at estimates because I understand the context of the issue at hand.

I suppose that's the REAL issue in the end: it's very difficult to understand your context before you start trying to solve the problem. Until you've built the system and now have the time to iterate on it, it's all unexplored ground, and that's surprising and time consuming.

Comment Re:I always follow Scotty's law (Score 2) 297

Actually, doubling or tripling the estimate is USUALLY correct, the problem is that it's not correct if you apply it all at once. I've known managers that take any estimate and double it, but crucially, you don't allocate the effort all in one block.

If you need to code a widget, and it'll take you 3 days, realistically, that's just for the initial implementation. You can debug it, but that's no guarantee that it'll work as intended all the way until the end of the project. You probably have another 3 days of work to KEEP it working.

Overestimating is almost always the right thing to do, if you can get the people writing the schedule to understand that when you say six days, you mean three now and three later.

Comment Re:I guess I'm not an expert then.... (Score 4, Interesting) 297

I guess part of being an 'expert' is being dumb enough to buy your own crap. That's why they always seem so sure of everything. Meanwhile, folks like you and me hedge our bets, and people attribute that to not knowing enough, rather than knowing all too well what the real deal is.

I suspect that prior to being an 'expert', that person makes one wild guess that they nail bang on. After that, they just point back to the ONE TIME they were right, and that carries them for the next few years.

Comment So true (Score 5, Insightful) 297

I hate making estimates. I'm always, ALWAYS wrong. I always know I'm GOING to be wrong.

I've been trying to fix this for 12 years. I thought it was just inexperience talking, but I'm a grown-up programmer now. 'Senior', by some estimates. And yet I still have a hard time estimating the time of getting things up and running. I write one thing, and four things that I couldn't have anticipated crop up. This is particularly true in my industry (video games) where you're often working with an engine that's a few years old, and other people are in the middle of working on it, and specs are changing under everyone all the time. Things that look straightforward end up taking bad detours through networking components that nobody else understands because that part was written years ago and those programmers aren't around anymore.

Man, this story makes me feel a lot better about myself.

Comment Re:And it begins (Score 1) 531

Moneyless societies existed for thousands of years. People used to barter just fine. There are lots of ways that society can work without money.

But more to the point, people freed of the drudgery of subsistence move to do other things. It's only because we can automate vast chunks of our lives and realise extreme productivity gains in Agriculture that we can sustain artists and scientists. If we automate, say, house-building, the people that would normally build houses will build other things. If we automate all the building of all things, well, we'll still need people to program the building machines, or design the buildings to be built.

Humans are good at THINKING. It's one of the few things we can legitimately lay claim to of all the things on this planet. Automate the physical stuff, and we can think about more things. More science, more art, more philosophy. Sports and games may become even more prevalent, to showcase those that do have exceptional physical ability.

In the absence of the kind of work that's really just assembly line drudgery, humans will do other things, just like we always have. We don't have to demand productivity out of people--left to their own devices, most people actually DO do things. It's only because so many of the current alternatives in society are so unappealing that people would rather sit on the couch and watch TV constantly.

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