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Comment House of Lords != House of Commons (Score 1) 282

"Parliamentary system" mainly refers to the House of Commons, whose members are elected and who elect the Prime Minister. The House of Lords is the other lot, sort of like a hereditary Senate, that *used* to be the important part of Parliament up until maybe the early 1800s, which lets the aristocracy still have some say in government as long as they don't actually interfere with the Commons too much.

Comment Re:You're probably not one of them - CA FTB. (Score 1) 570

Unless they identify themselves as the State of California Franchise Tax Board, they're not.

At least for Federal taxes, you and they can only go back 3 years, unless they're alleging significant underreporting of income (which $200 isn't), in which case they can go back 6 years, or fraud, in which case you're on the hook forever. I don't know the FTB's time limits, but I'd be surprised if they're more than that (or at most one year more.)

Also, their name is pronounced "fran-chi-zi", because they're a branch of La Cosa Nostra, and yo, they don't mess around. If they wanted to take $200 from you, they'd have taken it by now. But if this really is the Franchises, you do have a way to get help in working with them, which is to contact the office of your state assembly representative. And if it's really not them, they'll probably also appreciate having you reporting the fraud (though unfortunately, you doing them a favor doesn't mean they'll do you a favor later.)

Comment Somewhat the opposite (Score 2) 570

Yes, it's going to cut down on the number of people who are in collection for medium-large debts because they got medical services they couldn't afford at the time and haven't been able to pay off (either yet, or ever.)

But it's going to significantly increase the number of people who are in collection for small debts because doctors or insurers paid the wrong amount. I've got one doctor's office that usually doesn't charge me a copay, but after the insurance gets around to paying them, there's an amount of money left over that's within a dollar or so of the amount the copay would have been, so their medical group gets around to sending me a bill, and it's extremely difficult to keep track of which of those bills are actually correct and final or which ones are rolling totals of insurance confusion in progress. Usually those get straightened out after a while, but sometimes they've called me and there's $20 that's going to go to collection if I don't pay right away. There's an X-ray lab that has a negotiated rate with my insurance company that's a lot lower than their rack rate; I went to them one January, and insurance didn't pay them anything because I hadn't reached my deductible for the year yet, and the lab billed me the rack rate, not the negotiated rate (I paid them the correct amount, and explained why, and the rest eventually ended up in collection because they couldn't figure out how to deal with it.)

Comment Erlang's used for Cloud Stuff, so Trendy (Score 1) 315

Erlang's becoming at least slightly trendy because it's used in several sets of Cloud Stuff, and Cloud Stuff is heavily enough management-buzzwordy that HR departments have figured out they need to hire some Erlang programmers.

It's especially useful for some of the orchestration tools out there, and it's useful if your management likes Cloud Stuff Buzzwords that don't start with "v" or "V".

Comment Senate bill will get watered down like House bill (Score 1) 176

The House bill started out as a strong pro-privacy bill that made a few concessions to NSA spying. By the time it was done with amendments, all that was left were the concessions to NSA spying and a bunch of nice but useless speechmaking. Obama may be talking positively now, but the pro-surveillance folks in the Senate will try to gut the bill, and anything that makes it past them will get trashed in the House-Senate joint resolution process.

Comment Are there any flip-cover cases? (Score 1) 544

A slide-out keyboard case, like the ones sold for iPhones and a couple of non-Apple phones, has to be just the right size to snap on the back of the phone. But you should be able to make a flip-cover case where, when it's closed, the keyboard is facing the touchscreen, and either it's made to open in portrait mode (if you're doing a 12-button keyboard for T9), or it's made for landscape mode, if you want better keyboard shape but not as good Android UI coordination, and that would let you have something that doesn't have to be the exact size of the phone in all three dimensions, just close enough to clamp on.

Comment Re:smaller screens - YAY! (Score 1) 112

I used an HTC Aria for about 4 years, one of the smallest smartphones on the market. Unfortunately, it was running a heavily HTC-customized version of Android 2.1, and I hadn't successfully gotten it to upgrade to 2.2 before HTC Sync stopped working for me for a year or two, and sometime during that period Android Market got replaced by Google Play, which my phone didn't think was the same thing at all so stopped letting me install apps. And I couldn't find any other smartphone that small since then; they were all bigger, even the

I finally gave in and replaced it a month ago with a Samsung S4 Mini. It's longer and a bit wider, but thinner, which helps. The other phone I'd considered was the iPhone 4, but I preferred to stay in the Android side of the world rather than go over to the shiny side. (Samsung's Kies sync-over-USB program also seems hopelessly clunky, takes forever to detect a phone being connected, grub my calendar out of Outlook, and download, but it does eventually work.)

Comment Facebook evil, OKC less bad experiments (Score 3, Interesting) 161

Facebook's experiments bother me more than OKCupid's. They're deliberately manipulating which news stories their readers see in order to affect their mood, and seeing how that affects the readers' behavior. That seems mean and dishonest. (Of course, I didn't know Facebook had news, so I'm not in their target market anyway, but it still seems mean.)

OKCupid's a dating site, which means that all their "compatibility" scores are pretty much guesswork anyway, assisted by a lot of measurement, so an occasional suggestion of "maybe you two should see if you want to date" to people they normally wouldn't match up isn't that much perturbation of their approach anyway, and "whoops, pictures are broken, why don't you try talking first instead of just looking at pictures" is just fine, and both of them give them a bit of data outside the ranges they'd normally be collecting from - perhaps there are people that would get along well who they haven't been matching up. (I'm not in their market either, fortunately.)

Comment Re:Gateway Drug Bogosity (Score 1) 511

There's also the argument that MJ's a gateway drug because of correlation - "you don't see many heroin users who didn't start with marijuana". My general reaction is "Look at all those heroin users who avoided marijuana because it's illegal and dangerous! (Oh there aren't any?)" (Actually there probably are some, people who got addicted to prescription opiates they started using for medical reasons, and switched to heroin because it's cheaper and because they can't get enough legally and weren't getting good medical support for getting out of the addiction.)

I did know one guy for whom marijuana actually was a gateway drug - first time he got high, in high school, he decided that it was good stuff and they'd been lying to him about all the reefer madness stuff, and figured he should see what else they'd been lying to him about.

Comment Re:Gateway Personalities (Score 2) 511

Definitely. Depression and bipolar depression are widespread, and self-medication with alcohol and other drugs is fairly common. Some people are drunks or stoners or opiate abusers because they like it, but for a lot of people it's because they want to dull the pain or stress. For many of them, there are pharmaceuticals that could do a better job of managing depression or mania, but either they haven't gone to a psychiatrist because of stigmas about mental illness, or because their insurance doesn't cover it, or because they think they've got things sufficiently under control themselves, or because AA is keeping them sober, so they stick to the booze as their go-to self-medication. (Opiate abusers get other problems, because those are physically addictive; alcohol can be but it takes a lot more abuse to get there.)

There are other people who are tuned toward thrill-seeking, and like to hit the coke or whatever, but I've got less experience with them. And then there are other traditional reasons for drug use (mainly alcohol), such as boring jobs - farmers, video store clerks, etc. who can do their work just fine stoned.

Comment Prozac vs. Ethanol, MJ, etc. (Score 1) 511

It's actually a great comparison. Depression, both unipolar and bipolar, is quite common, and self-medication with alcohol and/or marijuana are quite common. One of my coworkers was bipolar and spent some time in the local hospital mental ward after a crisis, and said that most of the people there for alcohol detox were bipolar folks who'd gone off their meds (because meds are boring) and switched back to drinking until it caused them problems. Another coworker who's hypomanic said she used to need a couple of martinis or a joint to unwind in the evenings, but eventually went to a psychiatrist to get some better-tuned meds.

So yeah, some people are alcoholics or stoners because they like being drunk or stoned all the time, but for a lot of them it's really dealing with underlying mood problems that could also be addressed with prozac and its relatives. Cocaine's a bit different, but if you want to be manic-depressive and aren't that way naturally, it's a good substitute.


How Bird Flocks Resemble Liquid Helium 40

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A flock of starlings flies as one, a spectacular display in which each bird flits about as if in a well-choreographed dance. Everyone seems to know exactly when and where to turn. Now, for the first time, researchers have measured how that knowledge moves through the flock—a behavior that mirrors certain quantum phenomena of liquid helium. Some of the more interesting findings: Tracking data showed that the message for a flock to turn started from a handful of birds and swept through the flock at a constant speed between 20 and 40 meters per second. That means that for a group of 400 birds, it takes just a little more than a half-second for the whole flock to turn."

Comment Most alt.coins are designed to be ASIC-hostile (Score 1) 208

For Bitcoin, ASIC is the only way to go, but most of the interesting alternative coins are designed to be hard or impossible to build ASIC miners for. (They're also designed to be GPU-miner-hostile, but some of those have been worked around.) One of the tradeoffs with that is that CPU-only mining is botnet-friendly; it's harder to abuse botnet machines' GPUs (especially in cloud servers or routers that don't have GPUs.)

I avoid the whole problem by mining Dogecoin; it's close enough to no value that it's seldom worth stealing (though there was a botnet in the news recently that actually got $200K from mining it.)

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