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Comment we'll see if this cures my ten-year Slashdot habit (Score 1) 454

@namespace url(;
@-moz-document domain("") {
div, p, h1, span, table, footer, header {
      display: none !important;
body:after {
    content: 'CDC: 1 In 10 Adult Deaths In US Caused By Excessive Drinking';
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Comment article headline sucks ass (Score 5, Insightful) 454

CDC: 1 In 10 Adult Deaths In US Caused By Excessive Drinking

This does not deserve to live on Oprah, much less Slashdot. Not on Fox News, not on Rush Limbaugh, not on Howard Stern, not on Jerry Springer. On its own, exactly as it stands, it would set a new standard for outright stupidity in any legal jurisdiction that has yet to legislate pi = 3.

Oh, but wait, there's a footnote: preventable deaths among working-aged adult Americans. THAT'S NOT FUCKING FINE PRINT. My credibility circuit assigned six zeros (0.00000% chance of being true) before I managed to read the next line.

In all the many long years I've been here, I can not recall a single story headline that revolts me to this degree. I was reading recently Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics by Michael Ignatieff. At some point during his election campaign he said something stupid about the Middle East. His campaign manager pulled him aside and explained to him: "Politicians have nine lives. You just burned eight."

I have a finite amount of all-caps to expend on Slashdot outrage. I just burned 80% of my lifetime supply. Next time I resort to all-caps, I'll never post here again.

Comment jumping off FTW (Score 3) 268

It's only good for a jumping off place.

So totally true. But once you allow that 99% of modern life is jumping off, I'm not sure what you're griping about.

Just as one comparison, take every organization prominent enough to have it's own article in en.Wikipedia, go to their own websites (the vast majority will have one) and scrape all of the "about us" web pages these organizations authored about themselves, and imagine these as a collective "About Us"-apedia.

This "About Us"-apedia would make MySpace's worst year look like an exercise in design consistency. I for one can live without the metric fuckton of Flash-based incoherence as my standard point of departure on the agencies of the world.

It seems to me that all the people who hated Wikipedia on first sight share an underlying belief in knowledge as an authority network. The reason Wikipedia succeeded is that knowledge isn't what we thought it was. For the vast majority of purposes, authority is a boundary condition, not the thing itself.

The first step in assimilating a new body of knowledge is to survey the field's lexicon: What words are used and roughly how are they linked together? This cognitive process takes place long before factual assertions amount to a hill of beans. When the facts do begin to matter, most smart people are well aware that in this world we're all fed baloney 24 hours a day. Wikipedia is one of the places where it becomes especially clear how the baloney is made. That doesn't make it worse baloney than Superbowl Sunday—America's national slick-baloney celebration day. Is iOS somehow less Orwellian than the IBM PC? So we were told through a non-linguistic medium.

On Wikipedia, when I spot baloney, I click the magic button called "History" where I scan for edit wars and substantial discards. For the vast majority of articles, it's all there in plain view. The mythical, Orwellian-smashing parentage of iOS is harder to trace.

In the upcoming era of Deep Watson, those Wikipedia crumb trails of sturm und churn will suddenly become interesting resources to expose to automated data mining. Perhaps then the present surface form of the articles will begin to fade in importance. There's nothing stopping this, except for the will to go there, which is depressingly thin in the general public for the 99% of the time they're merely jumping off.

Comment Re:Is there a 'less nerdy version'? (Score 1) 347

Apparently over a 168000 light year stretch this adds up to a 0.0005 light year detour

After scanning TFA, the first thing I looked up was the distance to SN 1987a, which the author somehow regarded as beneath notice. Perhaps he was preoccupied with the correct keyboarding of "orthopositronium".

Call me old fashioned, but I think that a person bleating away about an esoteric footnote of astrophysical revelation ought to first muster basic magnitude mastery.

Comment Re:More expensive for whom? (Score 0) 183

There is reason to believe that Intel has done CPUs for quite a time at a loss in order to ruin AMD. The effects of AMD being reduced are also blatantly obvious with massively retarded innovations.

That's the danger in posting so soon after being woken up from a long sleep by a handsome prince. You need to shake your head and check out the competitive landscape in 2014.

4 Cores @ 2.5GHz Qualcomm Krait 400

Intel might wish to rethink sitting on their innovative thumbs.

Comment Perl's heyday in hell (Score 2) 283

At least it is steadily loosing ground to Python and for reason.

None of those dynamics have ever occurred in a Python shop?

The second half of the nineties was a bad scene for code readability all around, or did you somehow not notice the Herman Miller office furniture bubble?

There was a lot of Perl written during this era. Perl was the only language that could keep up with the Vogon rapture of all things brick and mortar. The ferryman threw in the towel, auction off his ferry on eBay, bought two cords of dynamite (mail order), and simply diverted the river. Pretty much everything was still where it had been, but traditional commerce was all on the other side now.

My development platform circa 1996 was NT 4, on a P6 200 with 32 MB of EDO system memory, a 640 MB disk drive, and a good quality 17" Dell CRT. It was tolerable, but hardly coding nirvana. The world was shifting under my feet almost daily: Linux, BSD, 2000, LBA, AMD64, SATA, DDR, broadband, Mozilla, Google, DVI, PHP, Python, Ruby, C++, STL, and not an open source version control system worth a crock of shit for love nor money.

I wonder why my coding standards at the time did not optimally favour my future self in the mid 2000s with my CoreDuo workstation, 4 GB of ram, 200 GB of disk space, and twin 19" monitors.

Do recall the little puzzle with the sliding digits 1-15 in a 4x4 grid? Trying to get any significant piece of glue code to run on NT and Linux and able to survive unscathed a major upgrade of each was a lot like that. Or have you blacked it out? Many ugly lines of code were written because the tiles were sticky. In the stupidest possible ways. And it was all going to be Ruby next year anyway. Whatever language you were working in was next up against the wall after the demise of B&M (if any wall could still be found). Soon the Wall was up against the wall, but I digress.

Programmers were in such short supply that vast numbers of people were coding in languages they only pretended to know. Have you forgotten that, too? If Visual Basic had been a better scripting language, Perl would have come out the other side better loved.

The great thing for the smart young programmers about becoming trendoids is that it helps to insulate them from the ugly job of cleaning up yesterday's bubble's giant mess.

Comment Re:Intel Knights Landing (Score 1) 143

The paper's contribution is to propose a new cache coherence scheme which they claim has scalability advantages over existing schemes.

Somehow this was obvious to me even from the press release. I've never yet seen details of an ordering model laid bare where it wasn't the core novelty. Ordering models are inherently substantive. Ordering models beget theorems. Cute little Internets drool and coo.

Comment blue trunks of steel (Score 1) 106

At least for now, we're keeping up with them

Over the commercial lifespan of 2000/XP, the cost of gene sequencing went down by five orders of magnitude (100,000 x) and there's still one more order of magnitude crumbling in full swing ($1b per human genome to $1000 per per human genome).

We're not merely drinking their milkshake, we're reading their source code, and it's gone from the Manhattan project garage to hamburgers served in the length of time it takes for a helpless human baby to mature into a helpless head case with little recourse to perspective or logic.

After we invented the steam engine, the Amazon wasn't the first forest we cut down. The Amazon is full of piranha and poisonous snakes and many other protective life forms.

Yet somehow you wish to depict the interval in human history between the invention of the steam engine as the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest as a race the forest can win?

Sure can, if the entire human race dies off in the next World Wide Crusade at some point in the next fifty-odd years.

Penicillin was an inspired one-off. Gene sequencing is the devil's root kit.

But maybe I'm wrong, and I severely underestimate microbial evolution. Twenty years from now we'll wake up one day to discover hostile bacteria with no chemical genome at all: it's all hidden behind some bitcoin quantum process we are unable to sequence, that mutates in nature faster than we can puzzle it out, and we'll all be left scratching our chins and wondering how that happened.

Comment forewarned is forearmed (Score 3, Insightful) 455

"There will always be a need for car dealerships,..."

But everyone knows what that conveys, even the dealers themselves:

We've been printing money for a long time by bilking our customers for costly extras, and even though they often know this and resent it deeply, until now there hasn't been a credible alternative, so they just squeal to silently to themselves, then come back for more. With recent developments, that's going to change real darn fast if we don't (A) somehow force the competition out of business, or (B) do a prompt about-face in our shifty business practices, or (C) both at the same time with the intent of achieving the first option ASAP.

Of course, this divides ranks with the dealership community itself, as the old guys close to retirement are going to continuing milking their cash cow by any means available, as the younger guys start to worry about their long term futures when the backlash strikes, which the old guys are doing nothing whatsoever to abate sooner rather than later.

They say that society is "only" three square meals from anarchy. That's a lot, actually. I estimate that the fraternal order of the car dealership is only two snifters of brandy and one Cuban cigar's worth of suggested forbearance away from king-sized flop house crossfire.

Comment Re:Scala (Score 2) 466

I'm presently reading Assholes: A Theory by Aaron James, a surfer-dude professor of philosophy from Harvard University trying to cash in on the On Bullshit surge, which sold surprisingly well for what it is. I don't totally agree with Mr James, but there are some great passages. We'll see after I finish the book.

That just screams "Ruby is dog slow".

Sorry, that screams asshole entitlement—but maybe just because I was reading that book yesterday evening, and having a shiny new book is a lot like having a shiny new toy.

At least we have a new snowclone: Three-word-cliche The-Shit three-word-cliche. Interesting, both "just screams" and "dog slow" are high on the list of the asshole lexicon. We all know it when we hear it.

Many scripting languages appear to be almost as fast as C not because it came easily (it never does with a scripting language) but because immense amounts of talent and clever optimizations were poured into the brew behind the scenes to perfect this illusion.

This isn't so different that the story of x86 vs ARM. x86 is reviled for having one of the worst instruction sets of all time, and after thirty-five years it's still holding its own. How many technologies born in a gutter manage that? True, Intel has poured more ingenuity behind the scenes to enable this illusion than any sane person wishes to contemplate. If Borges were an engineer, he wouldn't have written El inmortal, he would have just killed himself.

Nevertheless, bottom line, x86 is NOT dog slow. Aren't you happy they care? Is your little world complete now? I personally don't think the standard for inventing a useful scripting language ought to be Nelson Mandela's eighteen-year term breaking rocks in a rock quarry so that some entitled asshole enjoys the perfect crunch on the flower paths of his estate garden. Why should it be, when it's a simple matter to just call out to C or Boost when the need arises? No wait, that's what you hate most. That's the dog that cries slow in the night.


My how that sound chills the soul.

Comment the lecture I didn't receive (Score 1) 54

I first posed the question to my elementary school science teacher circa 1973 whether the dinosaurs weren't in some way usefully self-warming. I didn't have the vocabulary about homeostasis or mesotherms at that age.


So, young man, you're suggesting that the dinosaurs might have been mesotherms?

"Meso", everyone, means "in between" or "intermediate". So the idea here is that dinosaurs would be warmer than modern reptiles but not as warm as modern mammals—whales and cats and dogs and humans and horses—who maintain a fixed body temperature. By "fixed" temperature we mean within a narrow range, subject to regulation, or control. Among the regulatory abilities in humans are sweating when we get too hot, and shivering when we get too cold. (Does anyone know if whales shiver? Someone try to find that out for class tomorrow.) When our body temperature regulation fails we experience fever or chills. Chills are known to doctors as hypothermia, "hypo" meaning reduced and "thermia" meaning temperature; hypothermia means "reduced temperature". Fever and hypothermia are dangerous conditions that require prompt medical attention.

It's different when a lizard gets cold. For the lizard it's not an immediately dangerous condition; it just becomes sluggish until its environment warms up again. Now our lizard might be subject to predation—being eaten by a predator like an eagle or a snake—if it becomes sluggish at the wrong time or in the wrong place.

Mammals are the opposite in both ways: our temperature remains fairly constant regardless of our environment, and when our body temperature—not in our arms and legs and hands and feet, but inside our skull, our chest, or our belly—when this internal temperature changes, that's a big thing to worry about.

A mesotherm would be an intermediate creature, one who is able to generate enough body heat to remain active in a cold environment, which helps to avoid predation (remember that means being eaten), but isn't directly threatened by having a cold body temperature, if the food supply does not support maintaining a high activity level.

Something science has learned is that any organism that goes too long without food ceases to generate warmth internally. Now a large pile of dead plant matter—yard waste—can become much warmer than the surrounding environment, but this is due to smaller organisms with the plant matter which are busy eating the plant matter. It is also true that rotting meat will generate warmth from the small organisms inside the meat causing the meat to rot. Whatever the situation, if heat is being generated in a biological system, somewhere in that system there is some form of digestion taking place.

Now let's go back to the excellent question about dinosaurs could have been mesotherms. As young scientists, you are probably all wondering what is the evidence that dinosaurs were cold blooded or not. That's a very good question, everyone.

As a scientist, I wondered this myself. As a scientist we are trained to ask these questions whenever possible and seek as hard as we can to obtain the answers. Over my summer holidays—can you believe that?—I scoured all the science textbooks available to this school district, and I can't find a single sentence in any book explaining why dinosaurs are believed to be cold blooded, apart from their having a distant kinship with modern reptiles.

But then, think about this yourself. We know modern reptiles are much smaller than dinosaurs, who were waaaaay bigger than elephants. Large creatures often generate more heat than they want to have, which is why elephants have those giant, thin ears. All that extra skin helps them to transfer unwanted heat into their environment.

We'll be talking more about the relationship between heat and temperature in future classes. This is an important concept which is central to life as well as to modern machinery, which is why we eat regular meals and our cars visit gas stations. Heat and temperature are both connected to the concept of energy. That's a very important concept you'll be visiting year after year in your school education.

Unfortunately, it appears that all your textbooks—all the way until you leave school when you are much older—we written by the same idiot, who isn't a proper scientist at all. So we're all going to have to work hard to figure out our own answers to these important questions by thinking carefully in our own minds and challenging each other to support our opinions.

Does that sound like a good idea? Yeah, it does, doesn't it.

[Intercom buzzes.]

Well, my young students, I suspect that would be the principal's office summoning me to the guillotine for my immediate beheading.

I love you all, and I'll miss you so much. Good-bye everyone. It was worth it.

Comment Re:Well, no. (Score 4, Insightful) 249

From a business perspective, this move makes perfect sense. From an educated geek end-user's perspective, it really sucks. But what are you going to do?

First of all, I'm not going to purchase any of those fancy apps. I'm going to use my smart phone as for phone calls, photographs, maps, and web browsing. While it's truly a waste of a beautiful technology, it's merely inconvenient not to bother with all those invasive programs.

I consider the new security model worse than not having the apps at all.

Comment Re:Jesus isn't that influential (Score 1) 231

The Roman Emperor that converted to Christianity after being 'saved' is the real power behind Christianity...

Are you sure? I suspect the power behind the throne was really Helena, Constantine's mother. Or maybe Fausta.

In July, Constantine had his wife, the Empress Fausta, killed at the behest of his mother, Helena. Fausta was left to die in an over-heated bath. Their names were wiped from the face of many inscriptions, references to their lives in the literary record were erased, and the memory of both was condemned.

The record is unfortunately thin on which influencer wielded more power on gullible Constantine, but clearly Helena prevailed in this particular deed.

Consider also Aunt Jemima. She was a nobody—if she even existed—before some marketing genius slapped her mug on a bottle. If future archaeologists someday put together a landfill page rank, she'll be waaay up there.

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