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Comment Re:Impaired Driving Abilities? (Score 1) 638

I had enough unscheduled, unguided real world experience to just get the certs. Training isn't magical, it doesn't represent an exclusive path to knowledge and ability, so stop patronizing people.

I would prefer it if you didn't get your knowledge and ability through "unscheduled, unguided real world experience" on the streets where I walk, cycle, or drive.

Comment Re:Hangings (Score 3, Informative) 1160

> life sentence means something between 10 and 30 years

There is nothing "civilized" about this kind of doublespeak.

The OP kind of misstated the nature of the criminal sentence, which is why it looks like doublespeak.

In Canadian law, for instance, there is very much a life sentence. Attached to the sentence, however, is a minimum period of time before which a convict can apply for parole; this period of time tops out at 25 years for the most serious offences (things like first-degree murder).

There is no guarantee that parole will be granted. I a convict is paroled, the life sentence remains in effect--they can be monitored more closely than a regular private citizen, and can be returned to prison if they violate the terms of their parole.

What doesn't exist is a life sentence with no opportunity for parole--which is where you get the 'lifers' in the U.S. system who have no motivation not to shiv their fellow prisoners.

Comment Re:Not in London (Score 2) 947

Everyone thought it was incredibly brave of me to cycle across France, but it was only London that ever had me worried....

Ah, rookie mistake. Everyone forgets that traffic drives on the left once you cross the Channel.

Comment Re:Trust no one (Score 5, Insightful) 330

Applying the mantra of open source to the underlying mathematics: Learn the mathematics of cryptography yourself to find the bugs within the mathematics. Don't place your trust in any person other than yourself.

Which is why I always x-ray the concrete and perform a full metallurgical analysis on the structural steel before I drive across one of those government-built bridges. Sure, I had to do a four-year engineering degree, but it was worth it.

Seriously, "trust no one, and validate everything from first principles" breaks down very quickly if you try to apply it to any but the narrowest portion of your life. Figuring out workable and robust ways to evaluate trustworthiness of other parties is a damn useful (and equally damn difficult) problem.

Comment Re:Really? (Score 2) 437

Of all the legitimate dangers you face in your daily life, and you're going to try to convince people that walking through a winding line and submitting to largely no-contact screening makes you fearful?

From a terrorism standpoint, it is far easier - trivial, in fact - to wheel a luggage cart full of explosives into the screening queue than it is to get those same explosives (or even a fraction of them) aboard an aircraft. Depending on the airport and the time of day, the screening queue may well have more people in it than most airliners. (For that matter, the check-in area is probably at least as vulnerable; passengers will still have their unchecked full-sized suitcases and parcels, and the check-in is often even closer to the airport terminal entrances.)

Consider, for instance, the attack at Domodedovo in Moscow back in 2007. A suicide bomber walking off the street into a baggage claim area with a small explosive device (somewhere around 10 lbs of explosive) under his coat; he killed 37 people.

Also in 2007, tremendous casualties at Glasgow International Airport were prevented only by the acute incompetence of the terrorists involved. Their plan to drive a jeep full of propane cylinders through the doors of the airport terminal was thwarted by the presence of large security bollards that they had somehow failed to consider in designing their attack. There was no barrier to hand-carrying explosives into the terminal.

Comment Re:really? (Score 4, Informative) 429

Why do Canadians often come to the States for treatment?

The number of Canadians who receive any health care in the United States for care is vanishingly small. In a country of 30 million people, it is relatively easy to find a few who do so, and who can offer a sound bite for a newscast or an anecdote for a blogger. The fraction of Canadians who receive medical care in U.S. hospitals and clinics appears to be around the 0.5% mark.--of whom roughly 4 out of 5 do so because they happened to fall ill while visiting the United States, and not because they travelled there to receive medical services.

For certain urgent care services, communities close to the Canada-U.S. border can and do make arrangements to share facilities. (If someone has an urgent need for specialized cardiac or neurological care, you want to go to the nearest major hospital, not just the nearest one on your side of the border. Patients flow in both directions under these agreements; there are regular transfers from northern Washington state to Vancouver hospitals.)

Why does the Elderly death rate in Britain start climbing, late in the summer, and start going down again after the new Fiscal Year starts ??

Because high temperatures combined with substantial swings in temperature - typical late-summer weather, and likely exacerbated by climate change - are physically stressful. The same pattern is observed in the United States.

For that matter, why are so many doctors from Single-payer countries practicing in the States, instead ???

I don't have all the data at my fingertips, but in every year since 2004, there has been a small net migration of doctors out of the United States and in to Canada. Further, doctors practicing in Canada (and in the UK) report being significantly more satisfied in their jobs that their colleagues in the United States.

Comment Re:14c/kWh (Score 1) 377

...the primary cost is up-front installation, and maintenance costs are virtually zero thereafter.

This is more true of photovoltaic panel ("solar cell") systems, where the panels themselves are the largest cost, the only moving parts in the system are slow-motion, low-load sun-tracking motors, and where maintenance consists of washing dust off the panels from time to time. Sunlight is converted directly to electricity in a single solid-state device.

Solar thermal power plants are more complicated beasties, with a lot more moving parts. In the facility described by this article, moving reflectors focus sunlight on a network of light-absorbing pipe containing some sort of heat transfer fluid; this array of pipes carries hot fluid to a central location where it is used to boil water, which in turn drives conventional steam turbines to generate electricity. The whole thing has miles of pipe through which substantial volumes of very hot liquid must be pumped, and will be subjected to frequent swings in temperature due to passing clouds and unavoidable day/night cycles. It's a nontrivial bit of engineering that will be subjected to some very real wear and tear.

Sure, your heat source is free sunlight, but one shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that maintaining the plant will only have a negligible cost.

Comment Re: And the pilot? (Score 1) 249

Surely that would be reportable?

In the interest of complete and balanced coverage, The Sun would like to acknowledge that our reporter was described by assorted bystanders and family members as "a bloodsucking parasite", "a borderline-illiterate carrion-feeder", and a "worthless asshole".

Amusing, but probably not really helpful.

Comment Re: And the pilot? (Score 5, Insightful) 249

It would simply be up to the reporter to ask a few questions, like reporters are suppose to.

Shockingly, in many countries, it is still legal for the family of a recently-deceased private person to tell reporters to fuck off. And a few reporters still feel enough responsibility to the truth not to just print wild-ass guesses from random bystanders.

Comment Re:Looks European.... cue the conspiracy... (Score 2) 302

if the Federal Reserve so chooses your currency could have half the purchasing power tomorrow that it has today. Admittedly that is very unlikely, but no one has that kind of influence over the price of gold, because it can't simply be created on demand.

This, right here, is the usual logical error that gold bugs typically make. While the physical amount of gold in existence can't readily be changed (we'll neglect the small amount of 'new' gold added to the economy through mining), the supply of gold - reserves available for sale - and the overall demand for gold are very much vulnerable to both general volatility and deliberate manipulation. Changes in supply and demand in turn significantly shift the perceived value of gold, leading to swings in its market price and in its effective purchasing power.

This has been illustrated quite graphically over the last few years. Fifteen years ago, gold was trading below $300 US per ounce. Ten years ago, it was pushing $400. Five years ago, it was around $900. A year ago, it was nudging $1800. Now it has slid back down to $1300, and shows no sign of slowing its decline. There was a similar spike around 1980. There wasn't a sudden reduction in the amount of gold in the world over the last decade or so, but for some reason the price of an ounce increased six-fold (before plummeting again). Either U.S. dollars really did lose five-sixths of their value between 1998 and 2012 - a conclusion not supported by their ability to buy pretty much any good, commodity, or foreign currency - or the 'intrinsic' value of gold generally accounts for only a relatively small portion of its market price, and the majority of its 'value' is just as imaginary as that of any fiat currency.

A currency which is backed by something represents a liability against the issuer to provide a fixed amount of that something on demand in exchange for each unit of the currency. The United States used to have this form of paper currency; in going off the gold standard the U.S. government repudiated its very real debts as the currency's issuer.

The price of gold under the various iterations of the gold standard was stable not because of gold's intrinsic value, but because the currency (or currencies) pegged to it had a perceived stable value. In a very real and practical sense, the strength of the U.S. dollar was backing the price of gold for much of the 20th century, and not the other way around.

Comment Re:Looks European.... cue the conspiracy... (Score 2) 302

The gold is gone, where's the gold?

And the gold was backed by...?

It's awesomely shiny, and it has a small number of specialty scientific and industrial uses, but gold as gold isn't all that intrinsically valuable as a mineral; it's just rather rare and something that a number of societies historically used as one convenient medium of exchange.

You can't eat it. You can't drink it. You can't shoot someone with it. You can't get other people to do stuff in exchange for it unless there is a stable enough society that the recipients anticipate being able to trade it in turn.

Its market value is significantly more variable and volatile than that of the major fiat currencies. The price of gold backed with pure gold isn't stable or reliable from year to year, I can't imagine why we would expect a currency backed with it to be magically better.

Comment Re:Sounds familiar... (Score 5, Informative) 216

Obama and the left gave banks most of their goodies a few years ago.

The $700 billion bailout through TARP was authorized by Bush, not Obama. (While the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act was passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress, it was not a purely Democratic measure. In both houses, it received the support of the majority of congresscritters from both parties, and indeed needed support from both sides of the aisle to pass.)

Clinton deregulated the banks.

Well...

The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLB) repealing part of Glass-Steagall was passed while Clinton was president, certainly. Of course, the original bill was introduced in both House and Senate by Republicans - who controlled both houses at the time - and supported by a majority of mostly-Republicans in the House, and exclusively by Republicans in the Senate. The final bill produced by the conference committee was passed by veto-proof margins in both House and Senate; Clinton couldn't actually have stopped it.

Left unsaid in your comment is the implicit suggestion that the subprime mortgage crisis was precipitated by GLB, or that GLB made the crisis worse. While GLB has a number of flaws - and I would not say that it represented good public policy - it is debatable whether or not the subprime mortgage crisis can fairly be laid at its feet. There are credible arguments made that even prior to GLB's deregulation there was nothing in law that prevented investment banks from merging, from investing in the risky instruments that helped precipitate the crisis, or from keeping their books in the ways they did to conceal the problem until everything came crashing down. Some respectable individuals have even whispered that GLB may have slightly softened the impact, as banks that merged investment and depository institutions actually performed better during the crisis than investment-only firms.

Funny how you forget all of that.

Funny the...interesting...way you choose to remember all of that.

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