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Comment People don't understand legalese either. (Score 2) 277

The idea of making computers understand humans is like using vernier calipers to measure the thickness of cotton candy. The yardstick is too precise for the quantity being measured. Just look how horrible and convoluted things get when some one human being tries to define some unambiguously for another human being. This is the situation in legislation, tax code, insurance contracts and wills and testament. Harder you try to define it without doubt or ambiguity, harder it gets, and creates more "loopholes". Fixing loop holes creates more loop holes. The imprecision of human language is like a mandlebrot set, zoom in and zoom in again and again, and still things are as imprecise as the previous levels.

Comment Student loans are not forgiven in bankrupcy. (Score 4, Interesting) 827

Exactly like the housing bubble. Then they gave out loans to people clearly unqualified, clearly unable to pay back the loan, low-documentation loans, no-documentation loans, interest only loans, negative amortization loans, etc etc. Now they colleges are egging on the students to assume enormous loans for useless degrees that will never get the student a job that could pay back the loan.

We should put the onus on the universities, to certify that if the student completes the degree he/she is seeking, there is at least some reasonable chance the loan will be paid back. They universities should disclose the mean and median starting salaries of the majors they are offering. Like the home loans used to have some basic rules like, "not more than 27% of gross for mortgage, not more than 34% for all loan payments, 20% down". Similar easy to grasp metrics should be made available.

But in a free market economy, if some people want to shoot themselves in their foot, there is nothing to stop them. But at least we someone should be telling them, they have a gun in their hand pointing to their feet and if they squeeze the trigger they will get hurt. Instead we are incentivising the bullet peddlers .

Comment There are easier ways to use renewables. (Score 3, Interesting) 385

Blythe believes the long term success of Hyperloop will lie in its ability to be powered entirely by solar panels. "The compelling argument today is that the energy to run this could be generated from renewable resources, so the energy cost and the CO2 emissions are low - that probably gives it a bit more of an interesting argument whereas 15 years ago we didn't care about stuff like that.

But it far cheaper to electrify a conventional train track. And far cheaper to install just solar panels on top of all highways and rail tracks. In fact if we put a "roof" over all the highways in the northeast and install solar panels on them, the savings in snow removal costs in winter and the electricity generated in summer could pay for the whole project. Putting gables over highways and directing the snow to fall on the sides instead of on the lanes is a far cheaper project than this.

The home construction industry still reeling from the 2008 financial shock could use a shot in the arm. Regular conventional structures, gables and trusses, oriented to face the South, over I-90 between NewYork and Boston. Why not? We shoveled 800 billion dollars to the greedy banksters in just three months in 2008. A steady 10 billion dollar a year to put roof over highways is probably a better idea.

Comment Don't be evil or Don't see evil? (Score 2) 52

The researchers obtained permission from Twitter to conduct the research but were denied by Google, Yahoo and Facebook to conduct an investigation into scam accounts over their respective networks.

So only Twitter cooperated with an independent researcher trying to identify fake accounts. There is conflict of interest here, big companies have no real incentive to crack down on fake accounts. We should really commend Twitter for being open.

Comment This is quite common in India (Score 1) 372

Almost all the tech companies in Bangalore, Chennai, Bombay and Pune do this. Not just for top techies, for their entire work force. This practice started ages ago when factories were built far from the city but with major work force coming from the city. So factories would build "quarters" for essential staff who had to come at all odd hours, and bus the workers in for day shifts. The bus fleets of big public sector companies in Bangalore like BEL, HMT, ITT, HAL etc used to be comparable or even bigger than the city bus systems. Further the city bus systems are notoriously over crowded and wont be able to handle peak loads of shift changes in big factories.

Comment Limit Lawyer fees to the actual compensation (Score 3, Interesting) 212

The problem with these class action lawsuits is that, it is mostly started by lawyers. If they win or settle, they first take out all their, "costs" which is highly inflated. Wish some of the class members would sue their own lawyers for malpractice when the costs are inflated, fraudulently. That is a different line. But then they take their fee of 30% or 40% of the total award, regardless of how much is actually distributed to the claimants.

If the lawyer fees are limited to 30% of the amount actually distributed to the claimants, it would go a long way in creating an incentive for the lawyers to actually make sure the claimants get some money. Right now, once the settlement is done, they lawyers collect all their money and send a form letter to claimants and move on to the next target.

I think we should make lawyers subject to malpractice laws too when they usurp the right to represent a class of claimants. Due diligence in locating all possible claimants to the class, making sure they all get due compensation, making sure the costs are not inflated etc all should come under malpractice provisions. If the lawyers screw up, the claimants should be able to sue them for malpractice.

Comment Re:Undo Gerrymandering? (Score 2) 93

To Congressdorks: Remember Arab Spring. It can happen here.

Really? The way Occupy Wall Street succeeded? One important characteristic of Arab spring is having a few leaders, self-appointed mostly, who are recognized by many followers. These leaders represent their followers by proxy and leaders accumulate followers. In OWS you had All-Chiefs-and-no-Indians problem. The congress critters know it. They are not scared. The NRA has stood by them election after election, turning out votes repeatedly. That is the kind of track record you have to rake up if you want to be taken seriously.

Comment People are not ready for e-voting. (Score 3, Insightful) 93

The electoral process must not only be fair, but also it should be very visibly fair. Otherwise the losing side will always accuse the other side of "fixing" elections. So the switch to e-voting requires the much harder work of persuading people that it is trustworthy. Other technical challenges are also very difficult. The voter should be able to verify that his/her vote is cast correctly and counted correctly. At the same time no one else, even with the cooperation of the voter, should be able to connect the vote cast to the voter. Voter not being able to prove how he/she voted is a fundamental requirement, without it people would buy/sell votes with confidence.

Comment Top quality desis no longer apply for H1B ... (Score 5, Interesting) 684

The quality of Indians applying for H1B positions from India has changed a lot in the last decade. The opportunities have expanded a lot in India, they get very good salary and they hire cooks and maids for a pittance over there. So most top quality engineers do not want to leave India. Real high quality ones from IITs and Regional Engineering Colleges (whatever they are called now) etc go into management and if at all they come to USA, it is to Wharton, Kelloggs and such brandname MBA programs. Some high quality engineers come to USA to do Masters and they are usually good. Also a big factor is USA has lost its charm in the eyes of most young women in India. They are used to having maids and cooks. They go, "what? do the dishes, cook the dinner, wash the clothes, and gasp, clean the bathrooms? Are you crazy I am not coming there". So they high quality applicant stream has dwindled. I have not seen an IIT resume cross my desk in the last 10 years.

On the other hand there are plenty of second, some third or even fourth grade engineers still enchanted by USA. They still apply and they are the ones most slashdotters disdainfully make fun of as poor quality desi programmers.

I would not go back, no matter what pay they offer and how many cooks, drivers and maids I could afford over there. Once you get used to the clean water and clean air, and reliable electric grid, it is difficult to readjust. But next generation of me are not coming here. Sadly. It would benefit both USA and them. And those who are still willing to come damage USA and damage the reputation of all Indians, all for a fistful of dollars.

Comment Re:Ahem (Score 2) 395

Well, the dictionaries constantly add new words and new meanings and usages for old words. My pet peeve: pretty soon "begs the question" will have an accepted definition "raises the question" instead of circular argument fallacy . Insecticide is something that kills insects. It need not be insect on insect violence. So it is time we expand the meaning homicide to anything that kills humans.

BTW in most barbershops in the USA they have a jar of disinfectant where they soak the combs, brushes and clippers, brandname "Barbicide". Shhh, don't tell them it is a liquid that kills barbers.

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