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Comment The criticism is facile (Score 2, Insightful) 523

My only disappointment with the paper was that it read more as a survey than something offering new conclusions or new methodologies.

The claim that 'ice is just ice' is both tautological and missing the point. Glaciers obviously play a role in societies that cannot be captured purely by a description of their iciness. It shouldn't be surprising that analyses of the impact of (for example) climate change on glacier retreat that take into account only a certain subset of their role in a social, human context will give a distorted picture. Such selective views can indeed lead to policies that exacerbate existing power differentials.

Words such as discourse, colonialism and marginalization, the use of which is mocked without further argument by Soave, do have specialised meanings in critical studies and sociology. One might mount arguments about the relevance or quality of scholarship, but to criticise without any appreciation of the academic context is lazy and contributes nothing but noise to the discussion.

If I want to understand how ice melts, I will use the language and methods of physics. If I want to understand what it means to a community when the ice melts, then I will want to use a different set of tools.

Comment Confused article (Score 1) 637

The central claim appears to be that humans individually are bad at formulating plans to respond to distant crises, and consequently we are failing to tackle climate change in a meaningful way as a population. But the article is all over the place.

The author states that we should frame the problem with "an ends-justify-the-means approach", based on a quote from a study that states "[...] whereas harm originating from impersonal moral violations, like those produced by climate impacts, prompts consequentialist moral reasoning." On the contrary, the quoted statement indicates that by virtue of it being impersonal, we employ consequentialist approaches.

Inasmuch as this holds among our population, the conclusion isn't that we are bad at dealing with these sorts of crisis, but rather some of us — in particular, I imagine, the members of our oligarchies — are incapable of or disinclined to engage in moral reasoning. In short, they are broadly psychopaths or evil.

Oh, and "[...] the slowly unfurling nuclear crises that may or may not eventually wipe out whole metropolises and military bases" — the what now?

Comment Re:Fear of Driving (Score 2) 176

Consider if the media did do this — detail the (on average) 90 people killed in the US on the roads in one day. And then did it again the next day. And the next. And the next.

Perhaps then the population would demand a proportionate response. Or at least would place the current risk from terrorism in context.

Once that's done, we could move on to cancer.

Comment Re:Just hope middle click paste still works in fut (Score 5, Insightful) 431

The erosion of middle-button paste functionality is a continual frustration.

There are cultural differences between the Windows and Macintosh personal computing worlds, and that of X11 on Unix workstations. While always allowing customisability, we should hold on to the good ideas of the past, rather than dismiss them as being unfamiliar to the personal computer user.

What irks me especially is that the same forces that are driving us towards a Windows-like experience on the Linux desktop are also removing the ability to easily customise our environment, if only to retain the functionality that is being deprecated or dismissed. (I'm looking at you, GNOME.)

Comment Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX (Score 1) 431

The Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX is a wireless mouse, so may not suit. It does nonetheless have a middle button distinct from the scroll wheel, and is not a weird 'ergonomic' shape.

I use it with the laptop, but at work I'm on the sadly long-discontinued Logitech Marble Mouse, with middle-button emulation. (I see that there is now the Trackman Marble, so perhaps I will still have somewhere to go if my venerable trackball ever dies!)

Comment Statistics is awesome (Score 1) 115

It's a shame it has such a reputation for being boring, and it is a shame that it seems to be rarely taught in an engaging way.

Statistics is the first artificial intelligence. It formalises what we know when we 'know'. It is fundamental.

It's also fairly hard to do right. But many worthwhile things are hard.

Comment Bad advice (Score 1) 199

Short of bugs in the compiler's optimizer — and we all know there have been many — the idea that "if the entire code absolutely must stay fully intact, it shouldn't be optimized" is already dangerous.

A compiler conforming to its documentation or standard isn't going to change semantics that have been guaranteed by that document. Those guarantees though are all you have: even without explicit optimization options, a compiler has a lot of freedom in how it implements those semantics. Relying on a naïve translation from a line of code to a particular, non-guaranteed assembly representation is a very brittle practice.

Comment Theory and practice (Score 2) 247

Graduate-level CS encompasses a lot of ground!

Knuth is of course a valuable addition to the book-shelf — as others have pointed out, it's a superb source for chasing up information, details and citations for algorithms and data structures one needs to justify or investigate, if nothing else.

Okasaki's Purely Functional Data Structures has also already been mentioned, and I'd add my endorsement!

I would recommend two other texts to add to a collection:

  • Computational Geometry by de Berg et al.: computational geometry techniques have a habit of turning up all over the place in CS and computing more generally, and this is probably the best overview text, providing motivating examples, a good high level theoretical discussion, and pseudo-code.
  • Category Theory for Computing Science by Barr and Wells is an excellent introduction to both type theory and category theory, each informing the other.

I would recommend a book on convex optimisation and probabilistic graphical models, but frankly I don't know of a single text on either topic that I could whole-heartedly recommend. Any suggestions?

Comment Huge success (Score 3, Insightful) 255

Hundreds of billions spent on drug development, primarily driven by state investment and infrastructure, and billions of people in India and elsewhere gain significant health benefits. Really, this is the way it is supposed to work. That some private individuals are not making as large a personal profit is purely their own problem.

Comment Re:Repulsive! Government Waste! (Score 4, Interesting) 752

There are countries far more socialist than Sweden that have a prison and murder rate per capita far higher than the US.

Well, no. No, there isn't. Because the US is in fact the world leader in per capita incarceration rate. The US is, in this metric, really number one.

Murder is another story. If you compare the US though with its economic peers, you have to go a long way down the per-capita GDP axis before you find another country with a higher per-capita homicide rate.

Comment Re: TFS... (Score 1) 198

I'm willing to believe things are going great in your environment — we have been plagued by problems. (Some of the gripes in my post may have been specific to TFS2008, though the mind-boggling line transposition was just two months ago.) We will almost certainly be upgrading TFS when we move to VS2013, though given some of the egregious compiler bugs present in the new release, we will probably wait until the first SP. In the meantime, we're migrating projects over to git, and ultimately we will probably not use TFS at all for source control.

It is good to know that some issues can be addressed with tfpt; it would have been very helpful to have that functionality accessible from within Visual Studio (hint, hint.)

I haven't any repeatable set-ups of brokenness, but things do seem to be way less reliable when we have files with mixed line-ending characters, or when TFS is operating in a non-constantly connected network environment (owing to the VPN link.)

Comment Re: TFS... (Score 2) 198

TFS2010 very good? Oh, my.

I've seen: check-ins transpose lines on check out; complete failures to update to actual latest versions of code; and random check-outs of code with no local changes.

Other fun aspects: can't unshelve to anything but the changeset that the shelf came from; industry worst? merge and diff tool; no non-connected way of getting changeset info for automatic version information; despite being a centralized model, local workspaces can't be moved (say, in the advent of hardware failure on a development machine). The only way I can be assured that the check-in state actually correlates with what I have locally is to manually run a compare over the project directory and check.

It's also terribly, astonishly, slow over a VPN. Start typing to make a change, only to have all but the first character thrown away as TFS laboriously attempts to check out the file first.

It is so crushingly painful to use now, that I honestly can't imagine they've fixed all their shit in two years to make TFS2012.

Comment It's pathetic (Score 1) 385

We don't expect journalists to write articles only in Basic English. If someone were to profess that they had never heard of Shakespeare, or didn't know what a metaphor was, we would rightly judge them as being ignorant, or at the least, highly under-educated. Yet, apparently, balking at the simplest of equations is perfectly acceptable.

It's no wonder that we have such shallow thinking, such an abysmal and superficial political discourse, such a disengagement with the notions of science and society, when everyone is given a free pass when it comes to mathematics and logic. Put equations in your writing. Judge those who complain about 'math'. People who are unwilling to think can barely be counted as citizens, having abrogated a fundamental and necessary duty.

Regular ignorance can be cured. Wilful ignorance is a blight. We need to demand better of our peers.

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