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Comment Re:Cut 'n Paste (Score 5, Insightful) 95

And this is what we get when somebody tries to use a word processor for complex document layout. This is what's behind all the bloat in Word: people using the wrong tool for the job.

I know people do it all the time, but that doesn't mean it ever made sense. Typesetting and layout should be mostly independent of content creation. When you try to combine the two dynamically, this kind of crap is just bound to happen.

You want to do layout and actual decent typography? Use a tool designed for it. InDesign works. LaTeX is good.

Or heck, learn how to use styles and proper global formatting settings in Word, rather than direct formatting hacks everywhere... And suddenly a lot of this crap won't happen.

(P.S. I hate Word with a passion and rarely use it except when forced to. And Word is buggy. But if this stuff happens too often, it's likely also because you're trying to do things like you're still using a typewriter instead of the right features or even the right software application.)

Comment Re:I used to love going to the theater (Score 1) 325

It's too expensive, too crowded, and I don't want to watch 15 minutes of product endorsements followed by 20 minutes of spoilers for upcoming films before they get around to showing the feature.

Agreed. I have no problem with them showing ads and trailers, but they should be legally obligated to provide the actual starting time of the feature film as well -- so if I don't want to see that stuff, I can come 25 minutes "late" or whatever.

It wasn't bad when it used to just be 2 or 3 trailers and some little intro video saying, "And now for our feature presentation..." But it's really out of hand. Imagine if you went to an opera and the actor from next season came out beforehand and performed a 20-second clip from an aria from a different show.... followed by 10 more ridiculous "previews." Or if you went to the theatre and some guy came out and did a "To be or not to be" soliloquy before Romeo and Juliet started, just to get you set for "the coming attractions." Or maybe you go to a baseball game and before the Star-Spangled Banner, a dozen football players come out into the middle of the baseball field and run a play -- just so you can get ready to see what's "Coming this fall...."

It would all be silly. But they expect people to put up with 20+ minutes of that interspersed with commercials? There's a reason I got rid of cable TV too. Movie theaters are eventually going to realize the ad revenue is no longer going to support them either if they have no actual customers.

Comment Re:That's 129.2F if you're interested. (Score 1) 351

No , the link says the Netherlands uses ounces (I.e. "ons" in Dutch) instead of the proper metric term of hectogram. The term "pond" (pound) is still around for half a kilo too in casual contexts, which approximates the size of the historical pound. The point is that even when the sizes of metric units have been adopted, people frequently keep using the old terms, which obscures the "simple" conversions that are the whole point of metric.

Comment Re:Netflix v. Cable? How about Netflix v. HBO (Score 1) 174

Once at night on German TV they had news from 30 years ago. Amazing how nothing has really changed. The names have, but it was basically identical to what is going on now.

From that moment on, I decided not to watch news anymore. Just not worth my time.

The "news" is really just entertainment. It is packaged and sold as entertainment (which means it often is really just selling advertisements).

Typical American news broadcast -- teaser all evening, "This common household item could KILL you! News at 11!" So you watch a bunch of commercials waiting for the news to start... finally... "Our top story is a new expose of X... but first, some breaking news...." More delaying tactics, more hints of fear, more commercials... finally about 15 minutes in you get to the piece on X, which of course isn't as horrifying as expected. Oh, and you get teasers for sports and weather throughout, but they aren't put on until the very end, because they know that few viewers would bother to watch the rest of the news (and the ADS!) unless they were waiting around for what most viewers actually care about... sports and weather.

The news is a combination of entertainment, scare tactics, and delaying tactics to get you to watch ads. And the vast majority of it is ephemera that is either (1) on-going stories that change little day-to-day, so you don't need a daily update, let alone an hourly one on CNN or whatever, or (2) random crap that no one will care about two days from now.

As you say, go look at a newspaper from a few decades ago and see what percentage of it was actually worthwhile to care about enough to read it for the long-term.

I stopped watching the news/reading the newspaper almost 20 years ago, and I haven't missed it a bit. What I do watch or read, I recognize it mostly for entertainment, not "being informed." Instead, I spend about 3 minutes/day checking the big headlines online (just to be sure I don't miss something that everyone will be talking about), and instead spend time reading/researching topics that interest me in-depth.

That's really the biggest problem with the news -- it makes us dumb. (Seriously, there was a book that came out maybe 15 years ago called How the News Makes Us Dumb, and it was quite insightful.) It turns every issue and event into a 30-second segment or a 3-paragraph story, which is bound to lead to oversimplifications and ignore nuance. In the long-term, that actually conditions us not to think too deeply about anything... everything in the world is just a 30-second blurb, and then we move on.

What bothers me the most are people who think watching the news daily "keeps them informed." No -- if you actually want to be informed, take those 30 minutes per day and read a couple in-depth articles about a current topic that show some nuance. At least then you'll be "informed" about SOMETHING, rather than drowning in a morass of shallow ephemera.

Comment Re:uhm, no.... (Score 1) 174

You can't compare the average hours per user for cable and netflix. They aren't equal... At best you can compare the cost per person. The number of hours is highly variable, and not to mention it doesn't change the monthly cost anyways...

I agree that there are a lot of issues with this comparison. BUT I think there is at least some validity to this approach, Anecdotally, the people I know who still have cable AND have Netflix tend to still watch a lot more cable TV than streaming Netflix. There's something different about the user experience of cable TV that causes people to "channel surf" more and hooks you in... even if the programming is less desirable than choosing something specific you want to watch on Netflix. I've seen lots of other people do this, and I did too until I "cut the cord" some years ago. (I also stopped watching as much TV in general and had more "directed" viewing for things I actually wanted to watch, rather than just "channel surfing" and getting hooked watching something mindless.)

Anyhow, for those reasons I don't think a per-user cost is entirely a good metric either. People may actually use these services differently, which affects how many hours on average they use them.

Comment Re:..doesnt factor in connection cost. (Score 2) 174

It also does not count for the time you are spending watching ads.

That's true. The vast majority of people don't really want to pay for commercials. Cable TV has now on average gone above the 25% mark for amount of ads per unit time (more than 15 minutes per hour), which would increase the effective "cost" of cable programming by 33% to around 82 cents/hour.

For some cable channels, the percentage of ads has grown to over 1/3 of all programming time, making the cost of cable programming 50% more than the 61 cents quoted (around 93 cents/hour).

These are pretty significant differences when you're comparing to Netflix. And if you're paying nearly $1/hour for content on some cable channels (not counting commercials), you quickly begin to realize that cable may not be a good deal at all. For example, there are thousands and thousands of movie titles you could rent instantly on Amazon for $2.99 or so. For a 2-hour+ movie, you're basically not paying much more than you might be for your cable content... except a streaming movie from Amazon (or wherever) is ad-free and delivered to you exactly when you want it.

Also keep in mind the assumptions here, which was that the average cable subscriber watches over 5 hours of TV per day. I don't have cable TV, but even if I did, there's no way I'd ever watch that much TV. I have better things to do with my life (like waste time making comments on Slashdot?). If you only watch an hour or two of TV per day, the cost of cable is significantly higher and you'd probably get a better deal by cancelling cable and paying for streaming content (or physical media, if you prefer) as needed.

That is, of course, unless you NEED to watch whatever new episode of whatever IMMEDIATELY when it comes out and that content is only on cable. But I think people need to ask themselves how much they're actually paying in a premium to get that one or two hours of new content per week.

Comment Re:Possibly it is pay for risk (Score 2) 176

The real reason for extremely high top salaries is to save money on mid level manager salaries and promote 'no holds barred' competitiveness. Mid level managers see the only path to "good" pay as being to win in a cut-throat game of mid-manager shuffle. The result is that only the most vicious rise to the top and reap the big rewards, instead of equitable sharing.

This is part of the story, but I think we need to take the reasoning a step further and realize that those who get promoted from mid-level management are those who show the most extreme positive results. The American business model these days no longer just demands "steady income" -- it demands "constant growth," preferably at as fast a rate as possible.

This attitude implicitly encourages more extreme and more risky decisions to get ahead. The results are guaranteed to be more volatile, with some reaping huge returns and others bombing miserably -- that's all just assuming luck and chance.

But we promote those people who took the greatest risks, often regardless of whether the results were due to a savvy decision at the right moment or were just a risky gamble that paid off. Which means that those who get to the CEO seat are disproportionately composed of people who will take bigger gambles. That's just the nature of American corporate culture.

More importantly, it means that those who come into a CEO position with the seemingly "best" previous record are often those who were luckiest. They not only "beat the market," but they frequently took excessive risks beyond what perhaps could be rationally justified. But even in a randomized group of middle-management decisions, there will be a few who "win big" just by chance.

And that may be one explanation for this study's results. The CEOs with the highest pay probably had the "best" previous record in terms of financial returns. But in the erratic world of business and economics, there's too many random factors that can contribute to success, so a large number of people with the best returns got them mostly just by being more risky and irrational than other people (rather than talent or rational decision-making).

When you put that group of CEOs in a new position, you're bound to see more "regression to the mean," because those with previous good records are probably going to generate the most volatile results. Whereas the "B-level" CEOs who didn't have such extreme returns previously might depend less on risk and luck and therefore are more likely to have "steady" positive results. (I believe I've seen a similar study that basically showed this somehow -- CEOs with the highest performance in a previous position were more likely to regress to the mean or actually make a company worse.)

It's kind of like always picking the best performing stock on a given day to invest in the next day -- sometimes it works well, but almost as often the highest gaining stocks are the most volatile ones and you're likely to lose almost as much as you gain. Whereas if you look for stocks with a longer track record of positive (though more moderate) performance, you might be somewhat more likely to see continued growth. CEO fluctuations in "value" aren't perhaps as volatile as stocks, but they -- like stocks -- have to perform in an ever-changing economic environment with a lot of randomness. A large number of ones who seem to be short-term "outliers" are therefore likely to become so by chance and aren't necessarily good long-term bets.

Comment Re:That's 129.2F if you're interested. (Score 4, Interesting) 351

I always wondered how everyone understood measurements given by the UK show Top Gear when they talk about miles, miles per hour and horsepower. Not to mention pints.

Well, basically it's a complete myth that everywhere but the U.S. converted to metric in everyday life. The UK has "officially" been using metric for 50 years, but imperial units are EVERYWHERE in common circumstances if you bother to look for them. (For a full explanation, you might look at this report from the UK Metric Association which seeks to promote literacy in metric.

There are obvious situations from everyday life where UK folks still use imperial units -- most prefer "stone" (or "pounds/ounces" for babies) for human weight, for example. But other units crop up all the time. Celsius is standard for weather forecasts, except when it gets really hot, in which case broadcasters love to point out it might get to "100 degrees!" Watts are the SI unit, but you get engines measured in HP and heating systems measured in BTUs. Clothing sizes are still commonly in inches. Road signs still commonly give distances in miles (or yards, for shorter distances and feet and inches for height restrictions). Paper is mostly metric, but photos are still standard 4"x6". Refrigerators are often still sold with volume given in cu. ft. House/apartment sizes are often still described by agents in sq. ft. Small grocers often still advertise in imperial units of weight or volume.

Etc., etc. There are also plenty of cases where more obscure units are still used in various skilled trades.

Most countries that claim to be "fully metric" have similar issues. This list is a bit old, but it shows how old non-metric units continue to be used in random places throughout Europe, even in countries that "converted" more than a century ago.

After reading a lot about this, my conclusion was that the most successful countries that really made a break with older measures did so by simply redefining their older units. Hence, the French still order a "pound loaf" of bread, but it's actually 500 grams -- they simply redefined the livre (pound) in the 1800s to be exactly half a kilo. Given the way that all the old imperial units have now been so precisely defined, it's no longer really feasible to do that anymore.

So most countries are stuck with weird hybrids, where officially everyone is supposed to use metric, but you get old units cropping up in all sorts of everyday places where they are useful.

I'm a big fan of the metric system and wish that everyone would adopt a standard measurement system -- but these residual units in most countries go to show how little utility the supposed "simplicity" of the metric system actually has for everyday life. People have a sense of how big a "X cu. ft." refrigerator is, and they can use it to compare when they buy a new one. The average person never really cares about the conversion of that unit to anything else -- they don't care that there are 1728 cu. in. in a cu. ft. and they'll basically never need to know that or do such a conversion. They just want to know how big their refrigerator is and how it compares to the new one they might buy. The units might as well be "7.2 standard refrigerator units" for all people care... and that's why these old units stick around. Very few circumstances demand conversion of units for everyday people in everyday life, so the "easiness" of the metric system means nothing to them. If they want to buy pants, they know the number that fits them -- it doesn't matter is it is centimeters or inches or cubits or furlongs.

Comment Re:Netflix has a unique and obvious strategy. (Score 2) 192

I know it's mostly not Netflix fault their movie selection is crap. But honestly I'd probably pay twice as much if I had a real selection of movies where I had a reasonably good chance that the movie I wanted to see was included.

Uh, your wish is already granted by Netflix -- pay "twice as much" and subscribe to their DVD plan and get access to roughly 100,000 titles.

I know that's not the answer you want, but if you're willing to wait just a couple days rather than demanding instant gratification when you decide you "need to watch movie X right now!" you might find there are options available. (Admittedly, if you just want the most popular and recent titles unavailable on Netflix streaming, there are better alternatives... if you want to rent old Soviet films or obscure silent flicks, there aren't that many alternatives.)

But I know DVDs and mail are so "old school" these days. Perhaps hipsters will bring them back in a couple years.

Comment Re:Even if it is money, I get it.... (Score 1) 150

Incidentally, Bitcoin probably can't be considered legal tender - it would violate the Constitution, which allows only Congress to print money and denies states the right to have their own currency. It does fall into a category not thought of by the founding fathers, though, which is non-printed money (so Bitcoin basically is a loophole).

There's always a lot of confusion when the term "legal tender" comes up. "Legal tender" is NOT the same as "valid money" or "valid currency" or whatever. "Legal tender" in the U.S. means precisely one thing -- it must be accepted for all debts, public or private.

And what that means is -- if you incur debt to someone, they must accept "legal tender" to repay that debt. If you don't pay and they sue you, the court can order payment -- and they must accept dollars.

Things "legal tender" is NOT: (1) "Legal tender" is NOT necessarily the only possible thing you can use to pay for something. A purchase contract can specify that you give me lunch in exchange for two goats. That doesn't make goats "money" or "legal tender." (2) "Legal tender" does NOT have to be accepted as payment for a debt not yet incurred, which means no business has to accept legal tender for a purchase for example. A business in the U.S. can legally say it will only take credit, no cash please. Or they can say "we only accept goats for purchases."

There are plenty of examples in normal life of "substitute currencies" or "substitute money" created and perfectly legal. If you go to a casino and they give you a stack of chips that are required to be used for betting or for paying for services within the casino, they are creating a de facto "in-house currency" that is perfectly legal. If you go to a county fair, and they insist you pay for rides and food or whatever in "tickets" rather than cash, they have also created "de facto money" to be used at that event. It serves as a standard medium of exchange for transactions.

States can also create money in a "workaround" by issuing currency through banks, and many states did that for the first 75 years or so of the U.S. Any private entity can do so.

Anyhow, here's the problem with all alternative currencies in the U.S. -- you have to pay the IRS in dollars. That effectively makes any alternative currency a pain to use except in limited short-term circumstances (like casino betting or fair tickets). Why? Because all alternative currencies -- whether coins or paper or goats -- are ultimately taxable property. And if you actually use an alternative currency that "catches on" and is used widely, you'll have to report any profits and pay taxes in dollars to the IRS.

So if you accept only goats as payment, you'll need to assess the value of those goats. Once you and all the towns in your area start using goats, they are bound to fluctuate in value, so you need to start keeping track of capital gains (in dollars!) that occur between transactions and pay taxes to the IRS. If you're printing your own money, you can get around this problem by tying the value to the U.S. dollar (thus ensuring no changes in value for taxable purposes), but then there's little justification for your alternative currency.... except in circumscribed venues for convenience. (The fair tickets simplify things -- all the stands and ride operators don't have to have a lot of cash on hand to make change, people don't waste time making change for each small transaction, etc.)

So, in sum -- yes, it's true that Bitcoin probably can't be "legal tender" under the Constitution (which only means stuff like you can't force your bank to accept Bitcoin for your mortgage payments). It may in fact be used as "money" or "currency" in other circumstances, but it probably doesn't fit the vague legal definition of "money" in "money laundering" laws (which tends to be focused on standard currencies).

Comment Re:Free time (Score 5, Insightful) 346

I think part of this trend has to do with the desire to eventually turn a "side-gig" into a job that can offer full financial support, and the Internet has made it possible for a lot of people to at least make a fair shot at doing that.

I really don't think "the Internet" has a lot to do with this, nor do I think it's a "trend." Everybody acts like entrepreneurship was invented in the past couple decades. But how do you think people "got ahead" in previous centuries? How do you think we had a "rise of the middle class" that moved us out of the dark ages of feudalism, then led the charge for the Industrial Revolution, etc.?

A lot of those people were folks with ideas about what they'd prefer to do, and they kept working at a day job to make money to fund what might start as a "hobby" but then lead to a new business or a new invention or whatever. By the 20th century, big business had grown to the point that more people were employed in large corporations, so this idea of "hobbies" or "side jobs" leading to lead to bettering your life shifted instead to "night school" and credentialing/formal study on the side to convince an employer that you're qualified for something better.

The only thing the internet has done is "disrupt" some large corporations and their control in certain sectors, which perhaps makes it a little more likely for an individual to take the "hobby" route instead of the "night school" route again. But let's not kid ourselves -- the number of such people who eventually convert some online hobby to dayjob may be larger than similar entrepreneurs of the past couple generations, but as a percentage of people who dream of doing so... it's vanishingly small.

Comment Re:Free time (Score 5, Interesting) 346

Everybody needs a hobby, is what this article boils down to. For the people in question, part time job is hobby.

Actually, it's about more than "hobbies." Basically, TFA is about conflating a bunch of things that used to have different terms and corralling them under a new fancy appellation, i.e., "side hustle," which sounds like a really stupid dance people do at weddings.

A few things that are conflated here and had perfectly good terms before:

(1) "Hobbies" -- these are things that basically make you no money. Nominally, they might bring in a little income, but it's so small you don't really pay attention to it at all. You're more interested in the activity than the income. You might only sell some of your work to try to make the expenses "balance out" a little, not really to make a profit.

(2) "Dream jobs" -- these are things that people would like to do with their lives, but they can't "make a living" at it. So they have what used to be called a "day job," and then they work as a musician some evenings or on the weekends. It's more than a "hobby," because they actually would prefer a job as a musician, but the income isn't enough to make it work.

(3) "Second jobs" -- these are what poor people do to survive (i.e., put food on the table and make rent), and what middle-class people do to afford some desirable luxury or send their kids to a nicer private school. (The latter sometimes use the word "side job" too, avoiding the "electric slide" and the "side hustle.") Often they are menial part-time gigs, but they are distinct from the above categories because people generally would prefer NOT to do them.

The author of TFA seems to confuse all of these categories, which used to be straightforward in previous generations. Moreover, he adds his extra "first world problems" twist to his examples:

Maybe that's because many people assume the side hustle is just financially oriented, simply another adaptive response to recession-era economics. Google "side hustle" and you will find thousands of stories, but they are all focused on the how. As in, Dear internet, how can I make another $200 a month to cover my Verizon bill?

If you are struggling financially because of your Verizon bill, maybe your financial priorities are a little screwed up.

Last year, writing for the internet earned me a grand total of $415 before taxes, or about the price of two hotel nights on the outskirts of Manhattan or San Francisco. To say I'm not in it for the money would be understatement. Not because I'm above such earthly considerations. There's just very little money in it to be for.

The side hustle offers something worth much more than money: A hedge against feeling stuck and dull and cheated by life. In fact, given all the hours I've devoted to it, there's no question in my mind that I've lost more than I've made, if only in terms of my Starbucks spend.

If your metric for your side job is that you're spending more money than you're making at Starbucks, you don't have a "side job" or even a "side hustle." You have a hobby. And you have enough disposable income to not give a crap that you're spending that much money on coffee. Good job! Now stop meditating on your first-world problems and trying to conflate them with things real people do to survive or to get things that will really make their lives better.

If your writing hobby gives your life meaning, by all means, keep doing it. But please stop acting like most other people who have to work a second job on the side might also just throw away all their proceeds at Starbucks. Or... well, is that really what a "millennial" budget looks like these days? $200/month Verizon bill, $100/month coffee bill... but can't make rent or afford a car so you still live with your parents?

I really don't want to give into Millennial stereotypes (which I think are often inaccurate), but TFA is just BEGGING for it.

Comment Re:Why would Putin fear Clinton? (Score 1) 769

Trump can't even run a business.

I think that is political BS. IF I understand things correctly each project is usually a different corporation. Different investors for different projects, one failed project won't impact other projects, a failure doesn't impact anyone personally, etc. Basically look up all the reasons you want an S-Corp or LLC rather than a sole proprietorship for your own business. I think his bankruptcies are several of these projects failing. If only several projects failed out of dozens he's doing pretty well.

All of that said, if Trump had merely cashed out his portion of his father's inheritance in the mid-1970s and invested it in index funds, he'd have more money today.

This isn't surprising as most CEOs (and even most fund managers) have trouble beating the market consistently. But still -- Trump's amount of business success is hardly noteworthy, given the assets and company already put in place that he inherited. He could have had more money if he just sat back and did nothing for the past 40 years.

Comment Re:Temperature increase from what temperature? (Score 1) 258

Maybe I'm also making the incorrect assumptions about the inlet temperature (the paper doesn't make it clear)

The paper gives detailed tables showing the inlet temp, the chamber temp, and the outlet temp for every trial. Inlet temp varied between 51 and 73 C for the trials, though those that used a lower inlet temp seemed less effective for extending shelf life.

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