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United States

Journal Journal: USDA: US Rural Population Needed For Cannon Fodder 4

Why does he go to bed at night trying to figure out how to increase farmers? How do the President and other cabinet members view Vilsack's role as the nation's farming czar? What could be the most important contribution that increasing farmers could offer to the nation? Better food? Better soil development? Better care for animals? Better care for plants?

Are you ready? Here's his answer: although rural America only has 16 percent of the population, it gives 40 percent of the personnel to the military. Say what? You mean when it's all said and done, at the end of the day, the bottom line -- you know all the cliches -- the whole reason for increasing farms is to provide cannon fodder for American imperial might. He said rural kids grow up with a sense of wanting to give something back, and if we lose that value system, we'll lose our military might.

http://transitionvoice.com/2013/08/rural-population-not-needed-for-farming-but-for-cannon-fodder/

User Journal

Journal Journal: California Scholarships for Undocumented Immigrants 2

I just read an article that interviewed a few kids taking advantage of college scholarships even though they aren't US citizens. Undocumented Students Get First Grants
 
I'm all for immigration reform and I think the US ought to be embracing immigration from Mexico in a big way. But this article made me sad. Look at what these kids want to study. Psychology? In my house we call that "getting a degree in retail management." Mostly because everyone I know with an undergrad degree in psych works as a manager in retail.
 
Please - give them scholarships - in fields that we need. medicine, technology, engineering - something. Not psychology and political science.

The Matrix

Journal Journal: CNN: The "Create a Situation" Room 2

We have to create a situation in which it becomes in their interest to participate in a larger, international initiative to define the rules of the game and the solutions for the current problems which go beyond Syria; that is to say the overall potentially explosive state of the Middle East."

--- Zbigniew Brzezinski 01 September 2013 ~ 10AM ET - [link to transcripts.cnn.com]

User Journal

Journal Journal: Silliness: FedEx messages 3

8/30/2013ÂÂ-ÂÂFriday
7:30 am On FedEx vehicle for delivery LAKE ORION, MI
5:33 am Arrived at FedEx location LAKE ORION, MI
5:31 am At local FedEx facility LAKE ORION, MI
2:39 am Arrived at FedEx location PERRYSBURG, OH
Â-Â
Â
8/29/2013ÂÂ-ÂÂThursday
9:40 pm Departed FedEx location INDEPENDENCE, KY
4:19 pm Arrived at FedEx location INDEPENDENCE, KY
2:59 pm Shipment information sent to FedEx
11:11 am Picked up LEBANON, OH

Yeah, i know, i know. But i still am amazed at Kentucky being on the way from Ohio to Michigan and the package's ability to be at Lake Orion before arriving there. My condolences to the dear departed location in Independence, Kentucky. And, i am amazed that it's about to be here, in just a day. It took the company, seemingly, longer than that to tell FedEx about it!

And then i get my hammocks.

Final note, JEs are as bad as they used to be. Can't see the source and the preview at the same time?! Guess the morons^H^H^H^H^H^H who design these things, refuse to admit their absolute stupidity of removing functional parts of websites that have been there for years.

I hate everybody.

Cloud

Journal Journal: On the dreaded phrase: "I have an idea for an app" 9

In the past few weeks different people came to me with the dreaded phrase: "I have an idea for an app". If you feel targeted, you probably are, but you're not the first, and you won't be the last. Some even trusted me enough to tell me what their great idea was. Many, though not all, couldn't code their way through a paper bag and thus they look for someone "to code the app for free".

You even might find someone like that, and if you do, it's someone with a lot of time on their hands like a student with not much experience.

What those ideas (if I get to hear them) all have in common is that they need infrastructure behind it. Uploading pictures, movies, heck, even simple text need a place to be stored. That's definitely not your phone, especially if others need to be able to access it. Yeah, you can start off with hosting a little database and web front end on your DSL line (if you have one), but in the long run this will require some serious money. I'm not even talking about the people managing and creating it for you. I'm just talking about bandwidth, storage, electricity.

So, if you have an app idea, assess where you want to store what: if you have no concrete answers to those questions, shelve your idea until you do.. An app is nothing magical, it requires real resources, real work and thus real money.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Windows Sound

I was doing some work and listening to music. The music was coming from the desktop that sits in my entertainment center, connected to my TV via hdmi. I'm no audiophile and my tv's audio is good enough for me. It was playing an Audioslave album in Google Music.

In the middle of a song the audio just cuts out. Total silence.

I kick over to a regular tv channel and it is fine. So the tv works.

I check the volume control and nothing is muted. Then I start digging around and there are a crazy number of places that have audio options/hardware settings. I was thinking, "Man I wish this was KDE - so much easier." I finally tracked it down. I'm not sure what happened - maybe an update to a driver for the audio stuff? There's a new audio manager program and I have no idea what started it or why it decided to change my default audio device, but it did. The machine had been up and running for quite a while. And the easy to find interface wouldn't let me switch the default. I had to find another menu via the control panel.

Pretty funny.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Sunday Comics

I never thought about this before. I was 11 when Bloom County started and 26 when Calvin and Hobbes ended. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to read both as they were published.

I don't think either have been matched since. Not for a guy growing up anyway. I don't want to take anything away from Trudeau and others. But for me that was an amazing thing that my youth and those strips lined up so perfectly.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Correlation, causation, and all that. 12

So this cartoon has been going around my Facebook friends list ... I'm going to try to explain what's wrong with it, and I'll try to be succint, but I don't know how good a job I'll do, so bear with me. The short and snarky version is found in my Slashdot sig line, "The correlation between ignorance of statistics and using 'correlation is not causation' as an argument is close to 1," but that's kind of unfair and certainly isn't all the discussion this subject deserves.

First of all, yes, "correlation is not causation" is strictly true. That is, they are not the same thing. If events A and B tend to occur together, this does not mean that A causes B, or that B causes A. There may be a third, unobserved event C that causes both, or the observed correlation may simply be a coincidence. Bear this in mind.

But if you observe the correlation frequently enough to establish significance, you can be reasonably sure (arbitrarily sure, depending on how many times you make the observation) that it's not coincidence. So now you're back to one of three explanations: A causes B, B causes A, or there exists some C that causes both A and B. (Two caveats: whatever the causal relationships are, they may be very indirect, proceeding through events D, E, F, and G; and the word "significance" has a very precise meaning in this context, so check with your local statistician before using it.) An easy way to check for A-causes-B vs. B-causes-A is by looking at temporal relationships. If you are already wearing your seatbelt when you get in a car crash, you are far more likely to survive than if you aren't, but you have to have made the decision to put the seatbelt on before the crash occurs--it's the fact of you wearing your seatbelt that causes you to get through the crash okay, not the fact that you get through the crash okay that causes you to have been wearing your seatbelt. Unfortunately, the temporal relationships aren't always clear, and even if you can rule out B-causes-A on this basis, it still leaves you to choose between A-causes-B and C-causes-(A,B).

An awful lot of what science does is figuring out what C is, or even if it exists at all. This is where mechanistic knowledge of the universe comes into play. Suppose that emergency departments in particular city start seeing a whole bunch of patients with acute-onset fever and diarrhea. Shortly thereafter, ED's in nearby cities start seeing the same thing, and then the same in cities connected by air travel routes. Patient histories reveal that the diarrhea tends to start about six hours after the onset of fever. Does this mean the fever is causing the diarrhea? Probably not, because these days we know enough about the mechanisms of infectious disease to know that there are lots of pathogens that cause fever, then diarrhea. The epidemiologists' and physicians' job is then to figure out what the pathogen is, how it spreads, and hopefully how best to treat it; while they're doing that, the "correlation is not causation" fanatics will be sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting "la la la I can't hear you," and hoping desperately they don't end their days as dehydrated husks lying on a feces-soaked hospital bed.

The point here is that in most cases, correlation is all we can observe. (Some philosophers of science, a la David Hume, would argue that we never observe causation, but I'm willing to accept "cause of death: gunshot wound to head" and similar extreme cases as direct observation of causal relationships.) Not every patient exposed to the pathogen will get infected. Of those who do, not all will show symptoms. Some symptomatic patients will just get the fever, some will just get the diarrhea. Some will get them at the same time, or the diarrhea first. Medical ethics boards tend to frown on doing controlled experiments with infectious diseases on human subjects, so you have to make what inferences you can with the data you have.

Even with all these limitations, correlation--in this case between exposure and symptoms--is still a powerful tool for uncovering the causal relationships. Most of what we know about human health comes from exactly this kind of analysis, and the same is true for the observational sciences generally. Astronomy, geology, paleontology, large chunks of physics and biology ... they're all built on observations of correlation, and smart inference from those observations. So if you want to know how the universe works, don't rely on any one-liners, no matter how satisfying, to guide your understanding.

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