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Comment Re:States want "rights" over local broadband (Score 2) 165

No no no. That's not at all what I was talking about. I guess the topic is pretty inflammatory, and I didn't do a good job of saying what I meant.

Of course states are free to set their own laws, according to the 10th ammendment. My point is that "states' laws" has come to mean more than just the fact that states have rights to set their laws. It's a cryptic way to talk about the power of whites over blacks. Look at wikipedia's page on Lee Atwater, a Republican strategist who used just such language to covertly play to southern white prejudice, in order to get Republicans elected. There's a snippet from an interview, on that wikipedia page, where he explains that you can't use racial epithets, but you can talk about states' rights, and the voters will understand that you're supporting racism, and WILL VOTE FOR YOU.

I just responded to the use of this phrase, because that's what it means to me right now. And I think that corporations are, not by accident, trying to use that covert language to get state legislatures in the South to support their campaign against municipal broadband. You may think I'm inferring too much, but it really seems obvious and creepy to me.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, if you like.

Comment Re:States want "rights" over local broadband (Score 3, Interesting) 165

The phrase "states' rights" is actually a codeword for "Jim Crow": slave-owning states argued before the civil war that the federal government had no authority to interfere in their business. This cynical appeal to the constitution is still very much in use today. In fact, it's being used sotto-voce to justify opposition to all sorts of things that would benefit poor African-Americans: obamacare, higher minimum wages, etc. ATT and Comcast know that this phrase will get them enormous support in southern states. Wow. What an evil marriage of redneck prejudice and corporate corruption.

Comment Re:Anyone else with 'Emacs carpal tunnel?' (Score 1) 133

I think the real cause of emacs-pinkie is the modern location of the Control key. Back in the 80s the terminals I worked on didn't have a Caps-Lock key. There was a Control key right there. That's exactly where it should be, and I do my best to map that key to Control in whatever system I work on.

I mean, who the hell needs a caps-lock key placed in such a convenient place, these days? Back in the day when computers were first sold to businesses, their target audience must have been stenographers. They expected the caps-lock (actually "Shift lock") to be there. But no one else needs it there. I mean, who uses that key nowadays, and why should be taking up such a vital piece of keyboard real estate?

As for emacs, I use it daily. If you're a programmer, it's the most efficient way to type code. Sure, it would be nice to have it more integrated into an IDE, but I can live with that. If you absolute are addicted to things like intellisense, there are add-ons for emacs that kinda do that: http://emacs.stackexchange.com...

Comment There is no "view from nowhere" (Score 3, Interesting) 45

The most prominent motivation for this proposal lies in prominent failures and retractions in medical and psychological research. As a recent meta-study showed, most psychological studies are not reproducible (probably because their pool of subjects consisted of university students, a very weird bunch of people ;-). Also, many drug studies are influenced by pharmaceutical industry funding.

But the article's proposal won't work. It assumes, at some level, that there are fundamental facts, and that it's possible to discover these facts, without a theory. That's why they are proposing publishing discrete observations, without any "story" that observations fit into. But philosophers have thought about this already. Kant's theory of categories explains that you can't perceive facts "raw", but always see the world through some mental model you carry with you, wether you know it or not. So you always have a model of the world, which colours your perceptions.

I would argue, further, that thinking itself is impossible without a model. You need a structure to hang your ideas onto. You can't stand fully outside your own biases and mental preconceptions, and see things are they "really are". Your model may change over time, or someone else's model may become accepted as better, and observations will then fit into a different "story". That's what a scientific revolution is: a change of model to explain the same phenomena.

Facts need to published within the context of a "story". There's no way around this. At most, we can try to be aware of the story we are caught inside of.

Comment Re:Repeat business (Score 2) 117

Showing you an ad for the same thing would make sense, if you had just bought a consumable, like batteries, or bread. But shopping on the internet, for me, is about one-time purchases.

OK, say I just bought a pair of shoes. Why would I want a second pair? Why would I buy my spouse the same shoes that fit my feet? The post you replied to does make a valid point: ad companies have little predictive power, and can't guess what you will buy next. Showing you an ad for the same thing usually shows the ignorance of the ad server's algorithm.

Comment Re:Learn your mathematical operators (Score 2) 117

Well, what really bothers me is that a "good" website would have 1-3MB of content. For me, a good web page is mostly text, and rarely holds more than 20K of actual content. A site with 1MB of content probably includes several colossal images, which I'm not interested in. I miss the good old days with dial-up modems. They forced web designers to rein themselves in a little bit.

Comment Re:More basic than just finding the results they w (Score 1) 118

You hit the nail on the head. By forcing researchers to declare, a priori, what they were looking for and how they were going to measure the effect they were looking for, the registry prevented cherry-picking. A researcher could not change his or her mind after the results came in, and choose another effect that had shown up in the data. Cherry picking is like staring at random noise and accidentally seeing patterns that aren't there.

Comment Re:Ummmm ... duh? (Score 4, Insightful) 385

I might agree with you, if mental-health diagnoses had any predictive power. But suicides are pretty much impossible to predict. Just because someone is diagnosed as clinically depressed does not tell you that they will commit suicide tomorrow. And there are perfectly well-adjusted people who kill themselves because, say, they have a terminal illness.

You also can't, in any reliable way, predict that someone will kill others.

Not to mention unconscious forces. The typical murderer doesn't know that he will kill tomorrow. But some violent rage may arise, triggered by some unforeseen incident. Sure, there are pre-meditated murders, but they are rare, and their very rarity makes the justice system punish them more severely.

Doctors can't predict that you will cause harm tomorrow. You yourself can't predict it, because you don't know what's really going on in your head. So let's not make everyone's life a pain by trying to prevent the unpredictable.

The next thing you know, they're going to make us take our shoes off at the airport because someone put a bomb in his shoe, or make us buy tiny bottles of shampoo because someone maybe planned to make explosives from liquid reagents in flight. Oh wait, such over-reactions have already taken place!

Comment Re:It depends (Score 2) 486

OK, so the authors are bad programmers and don't understand how string concatenation works. Strings are contiguous arrays, whereas disk files are made up of consecutive blocks, which are accessed through an index. If you want to append to a file, you may add a block, and modify the end of the index. But if you want to append to an array, you are forced to allocate a whole fresh array, because strings use fixed-size arrays.

On the other hand, Java StringBuffers have amortized O(1) append cost. A StringBuffers occasionally re-allocate themselves to larger pieces of memory, and the amortized cost of an append is O(1).

Comment Re:Talk versus Action (Score 1) 187

Your comments are very thoughtful, but I would quibble with you when you call depression a chronic condition. Of course this is the prevailing view, but it suggests that depression is a purely physical and biological, and devoid of meaning. Such a view is relatively recent, dating from the 1980s, when Prozac was being marketed, and Eli Lilly needed to create the opinion that there was a medical need for their new drug. The logic of the "chronic" view of depression is that you have an incurable physical illness, and hence must take a pill for a long time, hopefully for life.

I am tempted to rant about corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, but instead I want to suggest an alternative explanation for depression: when I get depressed, there is an actual unresolved conflict, one that I'm trying to put out of my mind. My mental energies become tied up in the large effort needed to forget my conflict, which causes pain every time it comes to my consciousness. The lack of energy leads to loss of motivation, and the world seems too much to handle. This forgetting is what psychodynamic therapies call repression. We tend to forget very easily; being present and remembering actually takes dedication. As Nietzsche said,

"I have done this," says my memory. "I cannot have done this," says my pride, and remains steadfast. Eventually, memory yields.

I would suggest that depressed people try to get hold of a good psychodynamic therapist, one who will not simply focus on symptom management, but rather someone who can go deeper into what's actually tormenting you.

Comment Here is some actual information (Score 1) 55

OK folks, let's stop griping about the OP and try to get some actual content. If you look at the home page of David Mattingly, the main researcher on this project, and check his list of publications, you'll hit this one:


It describes his team's exploration of previously-unknown settlement by Garamantes people, ancestors of today's Tuaregs, who dominated the Sahara from 500 BC to 700 AD. Cool stuff. He's been working in the area for 20 years, and the people in question were known to the classical Greeks and Romans.

Comment Re:Fancy version of FTP (Score 2) 124

Touche'. Still, I'm amazed that there's a company called logmein that provides remote desktop service on the internet, and that (get this) it works by taking over the host computer's mouse and display! On X-windows (yes, I know) the computer you're logging into (the client) isn't affected visually; the displayed windows all exist as separate entities on the computer requesting the connection (ie the "display server"). Surely that makes a heck of a lot more sense.

Comment Fancy version of FTP (Score 0) 124

You could also install an FTP server on one machine, and log into it from the other, type 'bin', and 'get'. Frankly, this particular feature has been available since the 1980s.

What will they think of next? Remote desktop? It was called X-windows in the 1980s.

Kids these days think they invented sex.

Comment WRF has gotten pretty good, actually (Score 2) 77

I worked in meteorology in the 1980s for several years, and one thing I learned was that data is in short supply. I learned that the ultimate truth comes from sending up radiosonde balloons with humidity, wind and pressure sensors. The goal is not just to get data from the ground (there's lots of that kind of data, I'm sure). You have to sample the whole atmosphere to set up the numerical models. You say that about two hundred balloons are sent up every day, and assuming this is done every 6 hours in the continental USA, a back of the envelope calculation says the sample points are about 400 km apart. So the best data for seeding the calculations has very low spatial resolution, much lower than the 2-mile resolution used in the numerical model.

Of course, you can get estimates for water vapour from IR satellite measurements. I saw this done also in the 1980s. At the time I didn't understand all the math used to do this, but remember that it involved taking IR emissions over several wavelength bands, and somehow combining these to infer the water vapour content at various heights in the atmosphere, under each pixel. These satellites certainly have 2-mile spatial resolution, but the problem I see there is that the polar-orbiting satellites that provide this information pass over any spot on earth about 4 times per day, so the temporal resolution is as low as the balloons'.

Finally, data from airlines is going to be largely restricted to heights at cruising altitude, so you're missing a large cross section of the atmosphere there.

And don't get me started on weather observations over the ocean, where there are very few ground stations or balloons.

The issue is that the Navier- Stokes equations being solved in weather forecasting are very sensitive to initial conditions, so it's really crucial to get the data right to set up the calculations. Sitting in my armchair, I remain a bit skeptical that we will ever be able to get the true initial conditions.

Despite all this I'm always impressed that the NWS manages to get pretty decent one-week forecasts out, despite the impossible task they face. There must be some deep voodoo in those numerical models!

Comment Teaching literature the old-fashioned way (Score 1) 89

Some years ago my wife and I read Homer's Odyssey to each other over several nights, sitting outside next to a campfire. It really worked well. That's a story that is best told, not read. I wonder how much more effective it would be to cover ancient literature in this way: not read out of a book in classroom, but spoken out loud in a communal setting.

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