Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
User Journal

Journal Journal: Merry Christmas -- $$$$$exyGal

It's not the new year yet, but it seems like a good time to give thanks.

Long story short, I've had a good year. Great job, short commute, and dating again. I've become focused, but with great flexibility. I'm not sweating the big stuff, or the small stuff. The good stuff is in the middle.

May your holidays be commercial-free,
$$$$$exyGal

============

============

comments disabled

User Journal

Journal Journal: The problem with health insurance 4

Not that this has anything to do with technology, but whatever.

So the health insurance thing has been nagging me a bit lately, as I walk 1.5 miles to connect from the Santa Monica bus to the LA Department of Transportation DASH service, which are both unaffected by the transit strike, and also as I pay 20% more for the same products at Gelson's that I would normally buy from Von's. Whose responsibility is it to make sure that people get good health care? Why is the cost of health insurance skyrocketing? What can be done to stabilize the situation?

Well, it's obvious that health care is in several ways a market failure. It's an industry with a very distorted demand curve, because the demand for health, for *life*, is extremely inelastic. People will pay what it costs, to the extent that they have the money. This means that the price at which total revenue starts to decrease due to drop in demand is much higher than for other types of goods.

Further distorting the demand curve is the disconnect between prices and consumers created by the insurance industry. I was on a particular medication for a year and a half before I learned that the $10 I paid every other month for my bottle was less than 1/50th of the cost to my provider. I found this out entirely by accident; one day, a computer glitch left me without coverage, and I happened to go refill my perscription that day. When I got to the counter and they said "That'll be $558" I nearly had a heart attack.

If I had had to pay for that medication out of pocket, would I still have gone on it? It's hard to say. At the time I started on it, I probably could have afforded it, if I lived in a cheaper apartment and cut other expenses. Would I have stayed on it as long? I don't know. But what is certain is that the price never entered into my decision as a consumer, because I didn't have to pay for it.

So as we gain new technologies that allow us to live longer, healthier lives, and to survive or completely avoid an increasing array of diseases (my kids will be vaccinated against chicken pox... seems like they're missing out on a rite of passage), the insurance system leaves those who are covered feeling entitled to the best medical care money can buy... so long as it's not *their* money. So why is this?

We come to our second big problem... the value of life. Though civil courts every day put dollar figures on the lives of children and parents and community leaders and gang members, we all admit that life, generally speaking, is priceless. When I insure a house, two things go into calculating the premium: risk, and value. A $1 million house in the same environment as a $500k house will have a higher premium, because it will cost more to replace. A $500k house in a wildfire zone will cost more to insure than the same house in a boring urban area.

But when it comes to insuring our health, only risk can be taken into account, because there is no replacement for health. If we could value lives in the same manner as other goods, we might take into account the number of years the person can normally expect to live, the amount of education and natural talent they have, the number of people who depend on them, and so on. This would mean that my mother, a retired 60-year-old breast-cancer survivor and former smoker (38 years), with only one 29-year-old daughter, is less "valuable" than myself, a relatively healthy youngish person who will, if all goes well, have a master's degree and a heck of a career in transportation planning, along with a very young child in the next year or so. Yet it costs *more* to insure people who, in the most callous sense, are "less valuable," because the very things that make one valuable lower their risk of disease.

There is no simple resolution to the issue, as far as I can tell. We will not suddenly start "valuing" people's lives differently, nor will individuals stop demanding the best health care available at a price they can afford. But we can recognize that health care *is* a market failure, and regulate prices in new ways. Perscription drugs are a good place to start. It's true that it costs a great deal of money to develop these drugs, and there is a certain amount of risk involved. But how much of the resulting price does it take to repay that investment, with appropriate interest? Drug companies should be accountable for their pricing. Part of the FDA screening process should include an accounting of what the company's costs to develop the drug were, and a pricing system based on expected demand, production costs, initial investment, and appropriate profit should be devised. Sure, they should make money, even good money. But there should be a limit to how much they can make. The market won't limit it naturally, so this limit has to be imposed.

This model could potentially be extended to doctor's fees, lab tests, and many other areas, but in all cases would require careful analysis to ensure that the prices still yield quality coverage with low potential for fraud.

It's not enough to say that people should have access to good health care. Something has to be done to actually ensure that access. While 60,000 low-income children are wait-listed for health insurance in Florida, 700 retired MTA mechanics hold the entire transit system hostage with a strike that doesn't affect them, so that they can retain their practically free health coverage. The cheapest and potentially most rewarding people to keep healthy are left by the wayside over those who are the most expensive and offer the lowest return on investment. It's clear that something has failed, and we need to fix this soon.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Teach me economics: Why are tech jobs going to India? 19

American companies are moving tech jobs overseas to India [more info]. Why? Simple, it's all about money. But how is that so? The article says that Indian programmers make 1/10th that of American programmers. Why do they make so much less?

I'm not an economist, but here's a some possible reasons:

  1. There is a larger supply of programmers in India than the demand for those programmers. That makes the price of programmers low. But only 10% of what American programmers make? That can't be the only answer.
  2. The cost of living in India is 1/10th the cost of living in the US. Is that true? If I moved to India, would I have 10 times my current buying power (assuming I was able to continue making my American salary) ?
  3. Normal economic rules do not apply to India because a) people don't use money there, they are communists; b) programmers do not need money, because non-programmers revere them and supply the programmers with all their wants; c) all programmers in India funnel a tiny fraction of every American banking transaction into their own Indian bank accounts (ala Office Space).
  4. Indian programmers are super-smart and only need to program 4 hours a week. The rest of the week, they work as back-breaking rice farmers.

My guess is #2 is the main reason why. Any thoughts? Also, how long can #2 last? Eventually, won't the cost of Indian programmers rise to near American proportions? If an Indian wanted to live an American lifestyle (DVD players, big houses, eating out every night, watching movies on the big screen, multiple computers, TV dinners, big automobiles, Starbucks, DSL, etc etc etc), wouldn't she need to make more money than $6,000 ? How long will it take for this inflation to take place? Globalization is a two-way street, right?

User Journal

Journal Journal: More masturbation, meat, and a little NADD. 17

I'm going to write another one of those "private thoughts" entries soon, but here's some followups to some of my previous entries!

Never has masturbation been so newsworthy. Now it seems that chronic male masturbators are less likely to develop prostate cancer. Perhaps this is yet another reason why males masturbate excessively? Could evolution have had something to do with this? Perhaps, but this is pushing it. Maybe the non-chronic masturbators of the far-past were much more likely to die of prostate cancer. As a result, maybe those prostate cancer sufferers were less-able to support the tribe?

More labels on your meat? Some people say yes, and others say no. This seems like a no-brainer to me. Put the freaking country of origin on the packaging! That is such a baby-step, but a step in the right direction. You meat-eaters should know what you're putting in your belly. Those who say this will add to the cost of meat are living in some fantasy world :). This will not add to the price of meat. How could it?

One last unrelated link I found in the blog-universe. Do you have N.A.D.D. ? Many on Slashdot do, including one of the current contestants.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Can the blind see? 30

Xerithane left me a very interesting comment a few weeks ago. Here's a blurb:

For instance, I suffer from a moderately rare eye condition. I will go blind for 3+ hours if I'm exposed to bright light for more than a few minutes. It's like a goths wet dream. When it first happened I was probably 12 or so, and the whole time I sepnt trying to think what blind people saw suddenly made sense.

They don't see anything. Not black, nothing.

This particular topic in regards to what a blind person "sees" is a fascinating one. If you ask the average person on the street what blind people "see", they will probably say "nothing but blackness". Those were my thoughts as well until I realized many years ago that truly blind people do not see any "color" whatsoever. They do not see anything. The absence of sight is not the color black.

Just to be clear, there are many different variations of being "blind". I, myself, am "legally" blind without any contacts or glasses, but can see 20-20 otherwise. I see plenty of blurry colors even without my glasses. For the purposes of this discussion, "blind" refers to those people who do not receive any input whatsoever through their eyes (or optic nerves, etc).

My hypothesis is that blind people do not have a curtain of blackness preceding their paths. There is absolutely nothing at all. You might think that blind people do have a black curtain eternally draped in front of them, but they just cannot relate that experience to others, because they have no color-point-of-reference. That thinking would be wrong.

Imagine a new race of alien, called the Mucola, who have a seventh sense (I'll skip six for fun :)). There's a flap on the Mucola called the GravyTicker that "ticks" whenever life-sustaining gravy is within the "gravy-cone" (ala light-cone) of the GravyTicker. The GravyTicker constantly "ticks", even when gravy is nowhere to be found. If you place gravy directly in front of the Mucola's GravyTicker, the Mucola will feel a strong "tick", and will immediately devour all said gravy.

The Mucola call the "there is no gravy around" tick "fubar", and call the "there is gravy within my reach" tick "yumyum". From "fubar" to "yumyum" are dozens or maybe hundreds of other degrees of ticks: "dork", "nerd", "geek", etc.

Nearly all the Mucola share this spectrum of tick words, with the exception of the Mucola who lost their GravyTicker in gravy-raiding battles. Those Mucola can remember what it was like to tick "fubar" or "yumyum", but now the ticking has completely stopped, and they tick nothing. Many of these Mucola quickly die, but some learn to find gravy using nothing but their senses of sight, hearing, smell, feeling, and taste.

What do you tick?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Slashdot Oldtimers? Are there more archives? 21

Just for fun, I decided to peruse the really really old Slashdot stuff to see how everything started. Maybe I'd find quiet thoughtful debate about the HTML CENTER tag (1995?) ? Or maybe some lively debate regarding the plot of "Good Will Hunting (1997)" ?

When did Slashdot begin? The FAQ says September 1997, but the earliest story I could find in the archives is from December 31st, 1997. There also don't seem to be any comments archived before 1999. Where's the really old stuff? (Note that stories posted in 1969 do not count :)).

Where are the really old archives? Gone forever? If so, quite understandable, but regretable.

If you want to peruse some of the oldest archived stories, you can start here. As of July 10th, 2003, that link points to the oldest stuff, but the link will soon become outdated.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Evolution of Compassion 14

My Theory of Evolution - Scenario #1: "Now"

By chance, one trait is introduced into the genome of a specific individual living thing. If the trait is immediately advantageous over those of the same species who do not possess the trait, then the trait will very likely be passed along to future generations. If the trait is immediately undesirable, then the individual will be rejected by its peers and will be unable to pass along the new trait. This is called evolution.

My Theory of Evolution - Scenario #2: "Later"

By chance, one trait is introduced into the genome of a specific individual living thing. The trait is neither immediately advantageous or immediately undesirable. Over 10's of generations, the trait is very quietly passed along to a significant portion of the species (perhaps 3% or even 75%). After a significant time has passed, a significant event occurs. That event causes Scenario #1 to nearly immediately affect a significant portion of the species (those with the trait will die out or those without the trait will die out). This is called evolution.

The Random Trait Home Game!

A fun little game I sometimes play is to theorize why a specific animal or human characteristic was advantageous in the past. Maybe a specific trait allowed our ancestors to live long enough to get laid? Or maybe a specific trait somehow made our ancestors more desireable to the opposite sex? Or maybe a specific trait just randomly entered our genome without any bearing on evolution (yet!) ?

Some characteristics are easy to figure out. Why is sex fun for you? Easy! If your ancestors never had the "sex is fun" gene, then they wouldn't have had sex and you wouldn't have been born :). Other characteristics are more interesting to discuss, such as compassion for animals. How was it advantageous for our ancestors to be compassionate to animals? Or did the "compassion for animals" trait just enter the genome at random without any evolutionary effect?

What do you think? Any other interesting characteristics to discuss? This is fun for me ;-).

User Journal

Journal Journal: A serious topic: Why men masturbate. 54

Ok, so I came across this article on Yahoo News, and the obvious conclusion hit me right in the eye. Evolutionarily speaking, men who masturbate have an advantage over men who do not masturbate. The article does not suggest my conclusion, but it seems obvious from the facts given. Here are some facts/quotes given in the article:
  • Men with low sperm counts can significantly reduce sperm quality by holding back for longer than a day or two.
  • In men with low sperm counts, the researchers found the volume of semen increased after prolonged abstinence, but the quality got gradually worse the longer the men held back.
  • "What you really want to do is flush the system out so that the sperm that are there are fresh."

From which I conclude: Men who masturbate daily will be more fertile than men who do not have any type of daily release. Your male ancestors were likely chronic masturbators.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Thanks and meat. 98

Thank you so much for all of your comments and suggestions last week. It was important for me to write out those thoughts. Occasionally, my brain repeatedly dances around a topic over and over again, and the only way to finally tackle the issue is to force myself to coherently write it all out. Writing out those thoughts here on Slashdot was an opportunity for me to quickly garner feedback from all you smart folks. I'll post similar thoughts in the future.

Here is one entry, among many, that I considered particularly insightful. Yes, I am in my 20's, but not for much longer.

A _slightly_ less serious issue to discuss: Do non-vegetarian people know they are eating animals ;-) ? I read this article about the FDA likely not seeking to label cloned animal meat in a special way, and it got me thinking. What if all meat was required to be labeled with the animals it contained? Would that labeling effect the sales of meat in a negative way?

Here's a poll! (for more polls, check out Em Emalb's journal)

==================================
I would not purchase meat labeled with:

A) A listing that said "Animals contained within this package: ". For example, ground beef would be labeled as "Animals contained within this package: Cows". Assume a one half inch tall font.

B) A cartoon rendition of all the animals contained within the package.

C) Stock photography of all the animals contained within the package.

D) A specific picture of the exact individual animals contained within the package. Assume a 1 inch black and white photo.

E) A specific picture of the exact individual animals as they are being killed.

F) A specific picture of the exact individual animals as they looked as babies.

G) A specific picture of the exact individual animals as they looked while they read pornography on the toilet.

H) "This product contains animals that had a penis and/or vagina".
==================================

Assume we are talking about farmyard mammals like pigs, cows, etc. Whatta ya say!?

Signed,
Someone who is a vegetarian, but who also happens to have a deep respect for the philosophy of Ted Nugent.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A new business model 2

An idea popped into my head today, and I wanted to put it down somewhere before it got too heavy and fell out. It comes out of thinking, "What would it take to get someone to develop an OS version of GIS (Geographical Information Systems)?" Some may know, and others may not, that there's pretty much one company who makes GIS software (ESRI). It's hideously expensive, and not that great either. And while version 3.x is available for a variety of platforms (including Unix), the newest line, 8.x, is only available for Windows-NT based systems. (Apparently Microsoft threatened to create a competing product [which is MS-speak for steal their code] if they didn't introduce that limitation.)

So here's my thought: start up a non-profit company that is geared towards creating applications for government agencies (which tend to have the most specialized needs) and other large companies. The process goes like this:

  • Agency or company comes to non-profit OS software developer with specs for a program they need. It may be an existing program that they want ported to an Open Source model, or something entirely new.
  • NPOSSD bids the job based on how much it will cost to build it (remember, no profit margin).
  • Here's the fun part: now the two companies, in drawing up the contract, establish a licensing fee that seems reasonable. Subsequent people who want a license to the same software will pay this fee.
  • The entity that originally funded the project will get 90% of any collected licensing fees as a dividend, until their entire cost is repaid (accounting for present value and market interest rates). The remaining 10% will go into unfunded R&D work at the NPOSSD.
  • In the event that multiple entities want to split the costs of production, the dividend will be similarly split in proportion to what each paid.

It's crazy, but it just might work. Certainly it would be something of a safety net for governments that want to adopt a preferential policy towards Open Source. It's basically a high-risk low-yield investment, since there's no guarantee you'll get any of it back... but you might get it all back with interest. Now to write up a proposal, I guess ;-)

User Journal

Journal Journal: My secret personal thoughts... 55

Nothing silly and nothing sexy this week. I've been on vacation for the last week or so, and haven't been anywhere near a computer. It gave me a lot of time to think.

I'm going to post some of those private (but probably boring and definitely depressing) thoughts in here, because I want to talk about them, but I'd rather not complicate my real life by talking about them to people I know (that's a long sentence). That's enough introduction... here's my thoughts.

I'm too old for existential angst. I feel very very small. I remember the first time I realized how unimaginably short my life was. Manimal was on TV, and I was sitting at the kitchen table making Christmas decorations with my Mom. For some reason, I started thinking about the length of eternity, and it made me feel so small. It felt similar to the feeling you get when you go to the base of a 100-story building and look straight up at it. I felt dizzy gazing into the face of forever.

After 20 years, that dizzying feeling is back. I know what sparked its return. It's really really stupid. It's movies. Well, it's not just movies, but partly movies. If you take movies like The Matrix, Thirteenth Floor, A.I., etc. for more than just entertainment value, and you really really think about their underlying themes, you may start to question your existence. For most of you, this questioning will probably be a short exercise, because your brain has already traveled these pathways before, and it just lead to an un-pragmatic dead-end. But if the conditions are just right, you might start reconsidering those dead-ends.

Now, when I look at my cat, I see a 3-dimensional representation of my cat constructed with trillions of atoms. Sometimes I just see meowing meat. Other times I look at my cat and see the deaths of the millions of cats that have died in the past. Then I think about the billions of trillions of thinking breathing animals that have ever lived and then died. Most of those animals died alone.

I look at myself in the mirror and I make wild unpredictable facial expressions just to make sure I'm really in control of this body. Deeply into my eyes, I gaze into my soul, and there is no infinity. Nothing special is looking back. I carefully raise my awareness level a few extra notches and gaze further into my eyes. Nothing. The extra-awareness is difficult to sustain, and yields nothing new, so I fall back into my comfortable level of awareness.

Late at night, I shake. It's only happened a few times. At first I thought I was having a medical problem. Maybe blood sugar, an early onset of Parkinson's, or something else strange. After a medical checkup, I'm pretty sure it's not medical, I think it's in my brain. Late at night, I stare at a picture on my wall, and I start to see the huge strips of empty space in between the protons and electrons, and then I feel my legs quiver. Walking around afterwards, I try to forget, and then I sleep on the couch.

If I were a teenager, I suppose I would start wearing all black, dye my hair green, and date dangerous men. I'm too old for this shit.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Eating erect prayers. 18

The latest links are at the top, and the practical question of the week is at the bottom.
  • ============================================
  • Eating - A message from the American Dairy Association.
  • erect - I will have good luck for two years.
  • prayers. - Bow down.
  • ============================================
  • Multiple - She has extra.
  • lingo - A lingo ate your baby.
  • rider. - Nobody ever forgets.
  • ============================================
  • Painted - *original link broke...*
  • clothes - Always wear clean underwear.
  • baskets. - *original link broke...*
  • ============================================
  • Slashdot - Who are those people?
  • sandwich - How does this story end?
  • dictionary. - Quantity does not equal quality.
  • ============================================
  • An asian - Wu!
  • cooking - Reason #1092 I am a vegetarian.
  • an umbrella. - Usually circular canopy mounted on a central rod.
  • ============================================
  • Love - Love means not smiling.
  • red - Poussin nu chaud entouré dans le rouge.
  • gently. - Some worthwhile flash that was new to me.
  • ============================================
  • Natural - Absolutely no enhancements.
  • itchy - Hello doctor? I need an antihistamine.
  • dreams. - For more dreams like these, please insert 25 cents.
  • ============================================
  • Suicide, - What modesty committed.
  • sex, - Age, Blank, Location?
  • and pennies. - They should convert that to dinars.
  • ============================================

There was lots of different answers to my refrigeration question last week. Practically speaking, and from the answers given, I think my best bet is to completely fill any open space in my fridge with drinks.

New question: If I shake up a can of Pepsi, and then let it sit for a week, and then open it, will the taste be altered? Will the Pepsi taste as if I didn't shake it at all?

--gal

User Journal

Journal Journal: Multiple lingo rider. 15

The latest links are at the top, and the practical question of the week is at the bottom.
  • ============================================
  • Multiple - She has extra.
  • lingo - A lingo ate your baby.
  • rider. - Nobody ever forgets.
  • ============================================
  • Painted - *original link broke...*
  • clothes - Always wear clean underwear.
  • baskets. - *original link broke...*
  • ============================================
  • Slashdot - Who are those people?
  • sandwich - How does this story end?
  • dictionary. - Quantity does not equal quality.
  • ============================================
  • An asian - Wu!
  • cooking - Reason #1092 I am a vegetarian.
  • an umbrella. - Usually circular canopy mounted on a central rod.
  • ============================================
  • Love - Love means not smiling.
  • red - Poussin nu chaud entouré dans le rouge.
  • gently. - Some worthwhile flash that was new to me.
  • ============================================
  • Natural - Absolutely no enhancements.
  • itchy - Hello doctor? I need an antihistamine.
  • dreams. - For more dreams like these, please insert 25 cents.
  • ============================================
  • Suicide, - What modesty committed.
  • sex, - Age, Blank, Location?
  • and pennies. - They should convert that to dinars.
  • ============================================

Good bridge answers from last week ;-). Most of the answers were "thinking out of the box" type answers, like blowing up the bridge, waiting for the Earth to turn (which doesn't fit the question's criteria), etc. The best answer given was here (not that I understand it ;-)). Congrats! You get 5 points!

New question... Which of these (if any) will save me the most electricity in the long run? Note that the fridge is never turned off, and never fails, etc. And also note that "every open space" only means the normal parts of the fridge that are filled with food ;-).

  1. Filling every open space in my fridge with buckets of water.
  2. Filling every open space in my fridge with paper.
  3. Filling every open space in my fridge with broken glass.
  4. Filling every open space in my fridge with cotton.
  5. Completely emptying my fridge.

From bridges to fridges in one week's time!

--gal

User Journal

Journal Journal: Painted clothes baskets. 14

The latest links are at the top, and the strange question of the week is at the bottom.

Oops. Painted and baskets are already broken. Check out the link's parent site for some good quality pics .

  • ============================================
  • Painted - Friends paint each other's crotches.
  • clothes - Always wear clean underwear.
  • baskets. - Assketball. Nothing but net. Skins vs. Skins. Must stop punning, now.
  • ============================================
  • Slashdot - Who are those people?
  • sandwich - How does this story end?
  • dictionary. - Quantity does not equal quality.
  • ============================================
  • An asian - Wu!
  • cooking - Reason #1092 I am a vegetarian.
  • an umbrella. - Usually circular canopy mounted on a central rod.
  • ============================================
  • Love - Love means not smiling.
  • red - Poussin nu chaud entouré dans le rouge.
  • gently. - Some worthwhile flash that was new to me.
  • ============================================
  • Natural - Absolutely no enhancements.
  • itchy - Hello doctor? I need an antihistamine.
  • dreams. - For more dreams like these, please insert 25 cents.
  • ============================================
  • Suicide, - What modesty committed.
  • sex, - Age, Blank, Location?
  • and pennies. - They should convert that to dinars.
  • ============================================

What is the most efficient way to move the entire Golden Gate Bridge 17 inches to the left (in relation to its surroundings)? You can also choose to move it to the right if that makes it easier. This is not a trick question.

--gal

Slashdot Top Deals

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.

Working...