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Comment Re:Bullshit we won't notice (Score 3, Insightful) 466

I'm 6'7". I do my best not to fly (don't really want to be sexually abused) but when I have to, I am fucking miserable.

Yeah, tell me about it. I'm 6'4" (plus a 1/2" extra in the morning) but I have an especially long torso, so we'd probably be eye to eye sitting down. I don't know about you, but the seat in front of me prevents me from slouching the least bit, when I lean my head back on the head rest, my gaze is vertical. It's pretty close to a 90 degree bend, which I try out just for shits and giggles, while other people find ways to sleep.

Pro tip for tall fliers: the foam cushion usually rips off the aluminum seat frame (Velcro). If your ass can handle sitting on the hard, cold metal you might manage enough of a head rest to get a half hour snooze in the mid-flight red-eye hour of total desperation. I've done this many times.

I got stuck on the apron at Schiphol once while they replaced a starter motor. The middle-aged Germanic woman beside me had tree-trunk thighs, clad in tight black neoprene. Our thighs met in a thermonuclear embrace on my side of the arm rest for our entire stay on the apron, plus the return flight to Montreal.

At this point, the airlines can go fuck themselves. I'd rather not leave the ground.

Comment 40 years (Score 1) 93

now operating mostly beyond its original 40-year licenses

What do 'best before' dates on food really mean?

Some number pencilled into an operating permit granted in 1969 is not the last word on how long these facilities will continue to operate safely.

There was—at the time—not a single reactor of a modern design with a forty year operational record on which to base even the wildest guess. The number "40 years" had more to do with investor ROI than any engineering crystal ball.

I recall one reactor shut down for an expensive refurbish a long time ago because circulation pipes had become unexpectedly brittle in less than a decade of exposure to a constant, low level of neutron flux.

Summary: we didn't know shit.

On day one, it's extremely hard to tell the difference between a Toyota and a Chevy. At year thirty, the stakeholders think they've won the lottery because it was a Toyota after all. At year thirty-five, Toyota develops a frightening latency in response to the graphite rods. At year forty-two you've got this headache sorted—or so you would like to believe. It was operator over-reaction to upgraded SCADA data collection rates. No, it was xenon capture by surface pockets in metals exposed to decades of micro-crystalline annealing. No, it was pockets of non-uniform fission density due to a very minor change in the fuel-pellet binding agent made as older mines ceased production.

All the reactors built in the 1970s were version 0.9. No reactor anywhere had a forty year operational track record with a modern design.

Comment Re:Summary says it all (Score 1) 634

The real problem is that pinheads like you want to keep pretending that graduate students have a revenue problem instead of a spending problem. It's still possible to prevent a graduate student from having future credit issues, but to do that the graduate student would have to immediately cut educational expenses to less than he or she earns in employment income.

It appears that other particulars bear on the case.

Soviet-style collapse?

Economy of the Soviet Union

And you have the gall to call other people pinheads? The only thing in common is an expensive war, badly judged.

List of countries by GDP (PPP) per hour worked

America is the world's third most productive country by hours worked, more than double that of the Czech Republic, the strongest eastern-block country within that list (Lithuania, probably more representative, is even further behind). It strikes me that the American situation has more in common with the fall of Rome than the fall of the Soviet Union.

Or perhaps this tenuous juncture in America has more in common with the collapse of the Ottoman empire than the Soviet Union. I couldn't say—but look, a smoking gun:

[Berkes] suggested one of the reasons for Ottoman economic decline was the inability of the ruling class to make a clear choice between war and the more conventional types of capital formation.

No wait, it's different after all:

The Industrial Revolution saw even greater changes. The Ottoman Empire did not have a social structure well adjusted to the free-market capitalism needed to build factories. The Empire also lacked crucial supplies of coal and other needed commodities.

But dammit, on second though, maybe that's not so different after all.

Comment Re:world before Snowden and after, - B.S. & A. (Score 1) 247

It is also possible that this message was authored by an AI who is resident on the Internet and has no physical components at all. Call me Skynet. And be worried over whether I have launch control. Be very worried about whether I might tickle the stock markets a bit, just to see what kind of chaos I might cause.

You must be WOPR's little rug rat playing Fisher Price with the gullible planet. This is the level of misdirection of a toddler playing hide and go seek in the belief that if she can't see you, you can't see her.

Comment Re:Here's the real problem he has (Score 1, Troll) 479

So his publisher is forcing him to use Word. I would be annoyed as well. I know at least some publishers accept PDF (and some even LaTeX). So maybe he should just choose a different publisher.

Thank you, cheerleader for the lemmings of self-marginalization. Choosing from a restricted pool tends to lead to less excellent choices. But don't stop to complain about this, even if it bites you at every turn.

The reality here is that the Word ecosystem is at least as destructive to orderly progress as IE6 was the to progression of web site design, but it's proving a lot harder to pry the cold, callous fingers of corporations who are deeply invested in this ecosystem off of the central dysfunction.

For one thing, the entire cloud business model, for any company not Microsoft, depended on an interoperability standard that Microsoft couldn't scupper with the next software release. There was enhanced visibility of the issue, and giant pools of money behind the rearguard action, not to mention the aftermath of a court case that forced Microsoft to dribble with its head down, lest it be red carded yet again for charging down the court with two muscular arms cradling the basketball.

Word is such a monumental disaster that I actually smile when formatting my documents as PDF. This despite the fact that a large percentage of all two-column PDF documents have a one-column cut and paste text model (when you try to select the top half of the left column, you get the top half of both columns, with line fragments interspersed).

The semantic web is so far seemingly stillborn. The day will come when the algorithms wish to understand text at the same level as your trusty editor--I mean the person who helps you get it right.

Maybe then this problem will sort itself out.

Comment Re:We are the ones in need of a network (Score 1) 107

The problem in itself is NP-hard, but it turns out that in some cases of interest

Perfect solutions are often NP-hard in systems where pretty-good solutions are nowhere close to NP-hard in many practical circumstances.

The declaration of NP-hard is way overrated. We use it mostly because mathematics still can't chew "pretty good" in any rigorous way.

Comment Geordi Jettison RIP (Score 1) 53

The only reason we're still here is ... because we've been here so long.

FTFY. But it's actually not entirely true. When I've made an effort to jump ship, I find that many of the alternative sites have not yet invented the paragraph.

Seriously, the background music in this video is the all-time low since the day I gleefully blacklisted Jon Katz. But sadly, this still beats conversing in sentence fragments. I've seen articles written by Katz since then, elsewhere, that were quite good. It's just that his round-about mush brain was a terrible fit at geek central. He was always trying to discover if he had anything at all to say by dangling it in front of enraged bulls with an actual clue.

For me, writing is thinking. So I pound out a few paragraphs here whenever I need to consolidate some nuance of my personal perspective on life, out of long habit. Sometimes I write to discharge something old, tired and ugly. Other times I write to embrace a fresh new slant on an old issue. It's useful to have a place to write where I can fully exploit the revolving door of mental evolution. If I were writing under my own name on a blog, or something more formal, there would be far less opportunity to write in the jettison mode.

For about fifteen years I used to patronize one of the first outstanding microbrews in town, in a heritage building with a patio overlooking the waterfront backed by the quaint skyline of the garden city. About eight years ago you could see their business model shifting. First, fetch your own beer from the bar turned into table service, who handed you a menu and didn't even bother to mention the special keg of something especially interesting at the end of the bar. Then the menu went all over the place, including a sojourn through expensive and unpalatable, before fixing the quality problem, but leaving the price alone, in the bracket where mainly tourists are willing to go.

Once a year or so, we meet there out of pure nostalgia. The beer's still good, but everything else is either sad or expensive. True beer lovers are not their target market any longer. We don't belong there. I don't belong, here, really. I just haven't completely kicked the inertia.

Comment making a big splash with bad science (Score 2, Insightful) 205

And precisely how did we decide that these paintings weren't painted by outcast males with girlish mittens? Did we exhume Leonardo or Michelangelo to make sure he was "one of us"?

As well, it's not clear how we go from hand prints to a conclusion about who painted the animal outlines. I just watched Cave of Forgotten Dreams last week and I was thinking these thoughts all the while. I doubt we will ever know with any degree of confidence.

That's why Hertzog titled his movie "Forgotten". Because we'll never know. Hertzog is a strange duck, but he's not stupid.

We wonder why so many Americans are ignorant of the standards of science when the only time anything scientific captures their attention, it's complete bullshit wrapped around an intriguing nugget. Selling the bullshit sizzle but not the steak is the reason the majority of the population remains clueless about this important food group.

Comment self-correction: s/bail/bale (Score 1) 187

I'm usually pretty good about that.

Here follows some anti-lameness fodder:

The origins of Unicode date to 1987, when Joe Becker from Xerox and Lee Collins and Mark Davis from Apple started investigating the practicalities of creating a universal character set. In August 1988, Joe Becker published a draft proposal for an "international/multilingual text character encoding system, tentatively called Unicode". Although the term "Unicode" had previously been used for other purposes, such as the name of a programming language developed for the UNIVAC in the late 1950s, and most notably a universal telegraphic phrase-book that was first published in 1889, Becker may not have been aware of these earlier usages, and he explained that "[t]he name 'Unicode' is intended to suggest a unique, unified, universal encoding".

Comment Re:Argument Fail (Score 1) 187

Advertising in general is just scummy shit to make people do what they don't want. Unfortunately Marti's argument falls apart by it being hinged on this insane "rational economy" assertion.

Sorry, bucko there's no free lunch on thinking straight.

Actually burning money is déclassé. (So is failing to render basic Unicode.) However, conspicuous consumption really works when done right. Thorstein Veblen, this is Mr Cecil Rhodes. You'll get along famously.

As far as Don Marti goes, it's an extremely well-written article about factors many people don't bother to consider. It's a heavy lunch as it now stands. But still, he leaves too much out. Sometimes you can't win.

The problem is that advertisers pursue mixed tactics. They burn money to burnish the brand silver, while also pushing your worst buttons, while moving mountains behind the scenes to obscure whatever direct quality signal the consumer might also observe.

In the rare case where a branding effort convinces me, I'll go to the corporate web site with a specific question about whether their product has a quality I regard as essential. It'll take me five minutes to even find the page that reveals this (or ten minutes of futility culminating in a boiling rage if the page doesn't even exist). Then I when I find the page, it might reveal what I wish to know or it might not. When it reveals what I wish to know, it might yet remain hard to determine exactly which models and which model years conform to my wishes.

When one steps back to do a NPV on the entire experience, the answer is "Why the fuck bother?"

My most recent horror-show experience involved procuring Nomacorc for some homemade wine which I wish to cellar for up to five years (my cellar is set up for upright bottle storage, so natural cork is a no-fly zone).

Check out this exercise in burning money: NomaSense OxiSense video. Labcoats, the musical, scored by John Williams. Notice the use of a thick French accent to extol product virtue, and the Swiss accent for the bean-counter spiff. This is a cool technology. I'm impressed, and not just in my shrivelled MTV reflex arc.

But mainly I just wanted to buy the best existing Nomcorc closure. Well, it took a long time on that horrid website to determine which of their product levels was best suited to my needs. Try it yourself.

Having figured this out, I started to call local wine supply retailers, and not a single one could tell me which expensively-branded Nomacorc they were actually purveying. Nomacorc (or their hapless distributor) ships out bags with no product markings, and neither do the individual corks have any such marking. If you bottle your fine Nebbiolo with a two-year cork by mistake, four years from now you can kiss your draino goodbye.

Eventually I found a hopeless geek such as myself who runs a brew-on-premise. I asked him which Nomacorc he sells. He launched into a tirade (without any prompting from me) "oh my god, I wasted of my life on their web site and putting through my order, but I did finally get a huge bail of corks suited to preserve wine for four plus years". I replied "thank you for saying that, I think we'll be friends for life".

As far as I'm concerned, the entire advertising industry can go stuff itself until the day comes when the supermarket informs me that I've selected a product that exceeds my personal guidelines for sodium or MSG or Monsanto extortion chemical, so I can reject it from my basket prior to paying. Until advertising is on-side with helping me enforce my better self (over my harried, impulsive fuckwit self) their business model will continue to circle the drain of preying on the weak, or the strong in weak moments.

Comment the hagiography of choice (Score 1) 516

The idea behind insurance is that it is a personal choice to have it or not.

Where the fuck did you get that? That's actually the founding idea and sole power source behind libertarianism: that all good things come from choice alone.

Insurance is about entering into social compact where individual risks are borne by the group. The Canadian health care system is an insurance system, even though I've never personally received a choice in whether to participate. Insurance actually works best when it casts a wide net, despite the exceedingly awkward conversation about where benefits end, for the diseases where medical science offers us the most heroic, astrobuck interventions. Not facing these adult questions doesn't make a system better, it just makes the system easier to stomach, living life with your head in the sand.

If you're not even conversant on Rawl's original position, it's going to be hard to draw you into meaningful debate. Rules that everyone would agree to before the first card is dealt will be portrayed as selectively punitive if introduced after people take a boo at their hole cards. Fly in the ointment: we all have hole cards already dealt.

Why did Europeans not adopt American notions of freedom and government long before America embarked on the great experiment? Because they reached a gridlock of vested interests, each pursuing their own glorious choices.

Now America has an advanced case of gridlock syndrome. The better path for all concerned is no longer an option. Democracy in the first place is all about facing the risk that your own choices will overruled by the choices of others, should they happen to outnumber you, or the electoral lines were cleverly gerrymandered, or the options presented/not presented have been engineered by the deepest pockets.

No matter how you slice it, choice is a social construct. Do you really think a libertarian paradise is immune to the vested interests of shadowy elites?

If I thought choice worked the way you think choice works, I'd be libertarian too. Choice is a superhero, but not a faultless superhero. Choice simply can not fix all problems. The fly in the ointment is biological interconnection.

The form of choice that must be most zealously guarded is that surrounding self-actualization. I'm sitting here at a keyboard, connected to the internet, in a country which guarantees free speech in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and generally enforces those laws with laudable diligence. If I fail to self-actualize, I'm sure as hell not blaming it on the Canadian health care system.

We're in a medical reality right now where large numbers of people take drugs such as Lipitor, where few benefit from doing so. This is fundamentally socialist. These drugs are explicitly designed to behave like this, by profit maximizing private interests. It's awfully darn hard to make a billion dollars a year selling a drug costing $500,000 for a course of treatment with 100% guarantee of permanent cure. Many of your prospective patients don't have $500,000 at hand, and even if they did, it means their children don't go to college.

That reality will change over time. Topol on the Creative Destruction of Medicine is a great overview of this. The day will come to circle the wagons around the American health care delivery model yet again. But you fear waiting for that day, don't you, because you know how damn important it is to the outcome of the debate that hole cards have already been dealt. People will then cling to the the Obamacare system using exactly the same arguments you are using to prevent its inception. And I'll still be here upbraiding those idiots, too, so long as my fingers obey my command.

Many of the Obamacare opponents are so prostate before the god of gridlock, that they conceive of Obamacare as terminal station. It's not a good terminal station. I agree. So let's kill gridlock and live like sensible humans.

Comment Re:no wu, no win (Score 1) 251

PS post.

I was reading Wikipedia just last night after viewing Cave of Forgotten Dreams on the origins of language, which the article proclaims is viewed by many[who?] as one of the hardest problems in science.

Noam Chomsky is a prominent proponent of discontinuity theory. "The views of Noam Chomsky on the nature of UG (innate universal grammar) have long been dominant within the field of linguistics, but they themselves have undergone marked changes from decade to decade" (Christiansen, 59).

He argues that a single chance mutation occurred in one individual on the order of 100,000 years ago, triggering the "instantaneous" emergence of the language faculty (a component of the mind-brain) in "perfect" or "near-perfect" form.

The philosophical argument runs, briefly, as follows: firstly, from what is known about evolution, any biological change in a species arises by a random genetic change in a single individual which spreads throughout its breeding group.

Secondly, from a computational perspective on the theory of language: the only change that was needed was the cognitive ability to construct and process recursive data structures in the mind (the property of "discrete infinity", which appears to be unique to the human mind). This genetic change, which endowed the human mind with the property of discrete infinity, Chomsky argues, essentially amounts to a jump from being able to count up to N, where N is a fixed number, to being able to count indefinitely (i.e. if N can be constructed then so can N+1).

It follows from these assertions that the evolution of the human language faculty is saltational since, as a matter of logical fact, there is no way to gradually transition from a mind capable only of counting up to a fixed number, to a mind capable of counting indefinitely.

The picture then, by loose analogy, is that the formation of the language faculty in humans is akin to the formation of a crystal; discrete infinity was the seed crystal in a super-saturated primate brain, on the verge of blossoming into the human mind, by physical law, once a single small, but crucial, key stone was added by evolution. It thus follows from this theory that language did appear rather suddenly within the history of human evolution.

Does anyone else find it weird that in Chomsky's view, the magic moment in human evolution is something that our computational mechanisms have possessed at least since Turing showed in 1937 that Turing machines equal the lambda calculus in expressiveness?

Or does Chomsky somehow secretly believe that the gene for human mental recursion is more supercalifragilisticexpialidocious than lambda calculus?

Freud and Chomsky share a unique gift in their capacity to make impressive technical accomplishments without uprooting or disturbing too much of the psychedelic wu underbrush.

Comment no wu, no win (Score 1, Interesting) 251

Unless this people building this system have come up with a way to program a creative spirit into the system, I'm skeptical

Daniel Dennett made himself a career out of arguing against this kind of twaddle. Whenever I listen to him, I always wonder what he's making such a big deal about, then I head back out into the world, and sure enough, he's busy saying what needs to be said.

From Daniel Dennett: 'You can make Aristotle look like a flaming idiot':

There's a pattern here, "the story of my life", as Dennett puts it. People assume unrealistic ideals of what free will, selfhood or rationality are and then get upset when Dennett says: "It's not the overwhelming supercalifragilisticexpialidocious phenomenon that you thought it was." But it's still real enough. The problem is simply: "Both free will and consciousness have been, by my lights, inflated in the popular imagination and in the philosophical imagination," and so "anybody who has a view of either one that is chopped down to size" is accused of "a wretched subterfuge", as Kant memorably put it.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious travels under many aliases. One of these is "creative spirit". A calling card of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is that there can be no such thing as incremental progress. You either have it, or you're wasting your time. There's a grain of truth to this. It's hard to sneak up on a moving bar that travels by teleportation whenever encroached.

As I recall, Dennett goes into this in the last third of Daniel Dennett: Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. It's a virtuous and mildly tedious sermon if you already belong to the choir.

Comment Re:Just another reason not to use The Face Book (Score 4, Informative) 194

part of the problem, not the solution

This kind of logic is itself part of the problem. It presumes that people are engaged in the political dimensions of their life activities everywhere and always. Now perhaps you think the world would be a better place if this were true, and you might have the view—from within the confines of your evidently narrow and sheltered life—that we all have limitless capacity to politicize our every twitch and sneeze. But we don't, and it's not effective.

I have a range of issues where I'm especially well placed (though aptitude, knowledge, experience, and social connections) to speak out loudly and effectively. The rest of the time, like everyone else, I'm merely trying to get through life without succumbing to death by paper cut. Facebook is a cancer, so I don't go there at all, but if I did, I wouldn't regard Social Fixer as part of the problem. I'd regard it as a dry pair of socks, so I could live to hike another day.

But sure, if your boots pinch, burn your socks. It's true: you won't ever buy a bad-fitting pair of boots ever again. Too bad about those refrigerated vaccines you were trekking into a remote African village. Better luck next year.

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 527

Regardless, the jump from "you're not doing what we ask" to "we get to install a black box on your network and spoof as you, trust us not to abuse this" seems excessive if not absurd as lavabit's core business is centered around privacy.

Considering the likely demographics of their clientele, if word leaks out that Lavabit's entire service is wearing an FBI wire, the Lavabit proprietors are about as long for the good life as Adriana La Cerva during her Pepto-Bismol phase.

Adriana La Cerva cooperates with the FBI

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