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Comment Re:Betsey Dexter Dyer on color (Score 1) 132

I'm not sure that I buy that 90% number. The percentage of our DNA that is composed of endogenous retroviral material is around 5-8%. ERVs are horizontal gene transfers that occur in germ-line cells, such as sperm, ova, and all of the cells in their ancestry back to the original zygote for that individual. Genetic changes to these cells (and only these cells) will be passed down to future generations.

Now, it's true that ERVs are not the only type of viral DNA that an individual may have in their cells. Any infection of a somatic (non-germ-line) cell by the appropriate type of virus since the individual's conception will lead to chimeric DNA in some part of the body. For example, well over 90% of American adults have had some form of herpes infection during their lives, such as chicken pox or herpes simplex. This becomes a permanent addition to the DNA in the infected portions of the body, but it is NOT passed down to offspring.

The reason that your 90% figure doesn't pass the sniff test is because it would mean that more than 80% of the DNA in an individual's body would be acquired AFTER birth. If this were true, then wouldn't we expect to see huge, obvious differences between individuals throughout the entire genome? This is definitely not what we see when we sequence DNA. After all, which diseases an individual contracts, when they contract them, and in what order is essentially never the same. Hell, the difference between a human and a chimpanzee's genome is only about 4%. The difference between individual humans is far smaller than that, so it seems likely that only a small (probably 1%) percentage of an individuals genome is made up of viral material obtained since birth. This passes the sniff test as well; you'd expect the genetic insertions that have accumulated over millions upon millions of years in germ-line cells to far outweigh the horizontal gene transfers that happen within a single individual's lifetime.

Comment That's not the problem (Score 1) 112

There are plenty of people graduating with computer security degrees these days; I'm one of them. There are quite a few programs already offered by various colleges to attract more security students to their program. RIT, for example, offers what essentially amounts to a free ride for anyone who is willing to work for the NSA after they get out. I live in Texas, so I know from personal experience that Texas A&M, UTSA, and a plethora of smaller universities and community colleges are cranking out security graduates non-stop. The CCDC (Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition) is a pretty big deal in this area.

The real problem is that very few 20-somethings in this field want to work for the government, let alone the DHS of all places. Anyone who is coming out with a security degree is obviously going to be active on the internet every day, and I shouldn't have to explain the general feeling towards government cyber-security practices among the internet crowd on Slashdot, of all places. Even here in south Texas, where you'd expect the most support for agencies such as the DHS, I've never met a security major that is at all interested in working for the government, despite what essentially amounts to begging and pleading to take a job there. I know that I probably couldn't look myself in the mirror every day if I worked for the DHS or NSA as a security expert. Protecting our nation's computer infrastructure is one thing, but there is no one in the field who believes that's actually all that our government does with its security staff.

Comment Re:One step forward, two steps back (Score 1) 366

I find it hard to believe that the bug fixes and performance enhancements that has implemented in the last 6 months (since 9.10) come even within an order of magnitude of the difference between the open-source and closed-source ATI drivers. Ubuntu has always been a distro for those who take a pragmatic approach to FOSS. We all know that the open-source drivers are currently far, far behind the closed-source drivers in terms of performance and functionality. This decision essentially removes HD video, gaming, compiz, etc. support from a huge percentage of the install base. I don't see how anyone could perceive this as an acceptable trade-off. Can you imagine the shit-storm that would occur if, say, Microsoft released a service pack that for its desktop or media center operating systems that "provided important bug fixes and performance enhancements", yet broke compatibility with ATI cards in the same way that this situation does?

These are the kind of issues that distros are supposed to insulate end-users from.

Comment Re:One step forward, two steps back (Score 1) 366

If the ATI driver issue has something to do with updates, why would Ubuntu include a version of in their release that doesn't work with ATI cards? Regardless of where the finger-pointing leads, there is no reason for an Ubuntu release to have this issue, if it didn't have the issue before. If the newer is the issue, ship the old one. If the newer fglrx is the issue, ship the old one. If an underlying change in the OS is the issue, they fucked up.

Comment One step forward, two steps back (Score 4, Informative) 366

I'm a big fan of Ubuntu, and I mostly run Ubuntu Server or Debian machines for my personal desktop usage. However, their habit of catastrophically breaking important features in their releases is really getting on my nerves. Wi-fi support, for example, has been fixed and re-broken repeatedly over the past few years. I think that this release takes the cake when it comes to breaking existing functionality, though. The first two known issues listed for 10.04:

#Because of the new alternatives system used for nvidia driver packages, the nvidia installer from NVIDIA's website currently doesn't work.
#The fglrx binary driver for ATI video chipsets does not yet support the X server in Lucid. As a workaround, users should use the open source -ati driver instead.

Both of these are pretty much show-stoppers, especially the ATI issue. Is a month long enough to sort out a problem this serious?

Comment Google isn't losing anything (Score 5, Insightful) 232

Google is a business, like any other. Do you think that they haven't run a CBA on this move? While the Chinese population is large, the viable market for Google's products is not. How many people in China have regular internet access? How many of those have disposable income to spend on things they see in advertisements? How many Chinese companies that market locally are going to have their profitability affected by search engine advertisements? On the other hand, how much does it cost Google to protect against cyber-attacks from the government? How much does it cost them to lose their trade secrets and IP? How much does it cost them in goodwill elsewhere to remain in business in China, following those draconian laws?

Google is coming out ahead in this move; that's why they made it in the first place. The Chinese government comes out ahead as well, since they gain even greater control over the flow of information within their borders. The only ones who lose are the Chinese people.

Comment I'm surprised it took this long (Score 3, Insightful) 40

The fact that this hasn't been pushed for before is rather surprising. The DS has been one of the most cost-effective digital kanji dictionaries for years. It costs about half as much as most comparable touch-screen devices and, obviously, it has other uses as well. It's right at the top of the list of tools for non-native speakers trying to learn Japanese, so it seems only natural that it would be at home in Japanese classrooms as well.

Comment Re:Same? (Score 1) 237

Words in Japanese dictionaries are generally organized by radical. To use the Kanjidamage example again, look at and note the components of that kanji. In that example, "bury" would be listed along with other "earth" kanji. There are a couple hundred basic kanji that you'll need to learn, but essentially all other kanji are composed primarily of some combination of those more basic ones. For example, you can see that not only is "bury" made up of the kanji for "earth" and "village", and "village" is made up of yet another "earth" and a "rice paddy". As you add a new basic kanji to your vocabulary, you'll find that you often gain tens or hundreds more almost automatically by combining it with the other symbols you already know. While more archaic words will only give you a vague indication of the meaning behind a symbol (earth + rice paddy = village or earth + village = bury does make some kind of sense), newer kanji are intentionally constructed to be easily understood (wise + science = philosophy, for example).

Aside from Kanjidamage and a good dead-tree dictionary, I'd also recommend getting Rikaichan ( for Firefox. If you hover over a kanji, it will display the furigana and definition in English (or German, Russian, or French) for you. It's not uncommon to find Japanese reading material with furigana already printed next to the kanji, either, which helps a lot as well. If you own a Nintendo DS, you might look into getting your hands on one of the kanji dictionary programs available for it. They're region locked, so you might have to go with an R4 cart + rom, but even if you decide to buy a Japanese DS, it's likely still cheaper than most other digital kanji dictionaries. The major advantage to these programs is that you can simply write the character on the touch screen and it does a pretty good job of figuring out what you're trying to look up. I've heard that there are newer ones that can even take advantage of the DSi's camera, but I don't have any experience with it, myself.

Comment Re:Same? (Score 2, Insightful) 237

You've got the same amount of total information to memorize no matter what when it comes to learning a new language. Any type of writing system has its advantages and disadvantages, though. When you're using an alphabet, it's true that once you know the letters you will be able to pronounce any word that you come across, but you probably won't have any idea what it means. When you're using ideographs, such as in Chinese, you'll probably have a pretty good idea what a new character means, but not how to pronounce it. I'd say that the latter is far more useful in everyday practice, personally. It's true that you can achieve a similar effect once you start to learn the etymology behind an alphabetic language (such as guessing meanings through Latin or Germanic roots in English), but if you've progressed that far it doesn't really matter what kind of characters are being used, anymore.

Comment Mnemonics (Score 3, Informative) 237

When learning kanji, I found that mnemonics were far and away the easiest way to remember all of those otherwise arbitrary Chinese characters. If you make flash cards similar to what you find at and go through them every day, you'll plow through them at a steady pace. The mnemonic in that example incorporates the English meaning, pronunciation, and component radicals all in one sentence. If you can remember that sentence and recognize at least one of those components, it becomes easy to figure out the rest.

Comment Re:Where 3D works (Score 1) 532

I actually just bought a 60-inch 3D ready HDTV on sale from Dell for $900, which should be delivered tomorrow. I have no intention of watching 3D movies on it for the time being, but the price for a home theater that is capable of doing so is already pretty reasonable.

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