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Comment Re:I am self taught (Score 1) 525

Word. I recently taught some BASIC to my sister, who wanted to learn about programming. She was 24 at the time. I've already gotten horrified looks about this, but as we saw it, she has neither the time nor the inclination to code anything actually useful. And if that somehow changes, I'll fix her bad habits personally.

I chose BASIC because it's a great playpen. It made it easy for her to spot cause and effect, tweak the code and see the consequences, and try out new ideas. What's more, it was easy for her to parse, and she did not have to hunt down a single missing semi-colon, nor care about the semantic difference between = and ==. Again, those would no doubt give her much more expressive power. We were more concerned with such concepts as control flow, loops, and variables. (Oh, how proud I was when I saw the shock of sudden understanding as she learned about variables.)

Python probably has many of the same advantages. I stuck with BASIC because it was easier for her to set up and I knew its basics better - it's what I was first taught. That said, when she went to look for some further instructions, she ended up doing a Javascript tutorial.

Comment Re:I'm totally in favor of this (Score 1) 1219

I expect that 9/11 is becoming less of a tragedy and more of an unit of measurement. As in, traffic accidents kill roughly one 9/11 worth of Americans every thirty-three days, while obesity kills roughly one 9/11 worth of Americans every four days. It should come in handy: the only other such unit we've had was "megadeath," and that's really cumbersome on smaller scales.

Some people will take issue with this, but it won't cost the event any of its dignity. All the dignity it could lose was lost when it was linked to Saddam Hussein.

I hope you have a good new year.

Smart Wallets React To Spending By Shrinking 98

fangmcgee writes "These high-tech wallets are digitally programmed to react to your bank account levels by shrinking in size, refusing to open, or vibrating whenever a transaction is processed. From the article: 'The Proverbial Wallets come in three attractive styles to fit your spending needs: The Mother Bear has a constricting hinge that makes it harder to open the closer you approach your monthly budget, while the Bumblebee buzzes every time a transaction is processed. The Peacock inflates and deflates with the amount of cash in your account, which puts your assets on “display” for potential mates, according to the designers.'"

Comment Re:A subset of PDF files? (Score 3, Insightful) 179

I expect they could require that all they wanted, and it still wouldn't happen.

If my usability manuals are to be believed, people have neglected the safeties of nuclear reactors because those things are a chore and do nothing anyway. If you don't want your users to do something, then you design your system so that they never get the option.

Comment Re:Moral authority (Score 2, Informative) 547

The church holds parish elections, parish being the basic territorial and administrative unit, every four years. All members ages 16 and up (18 and up until just recently) are eligible to vote, and all members ages 18 and up are eligible to run. Each parish elects a parish board, its decision-making body, which is in charge of such things as the budget. The parish boards also elects a parish council, its executive body in charge of such things as hiring most employees, every two years. One person can serve on both the board and the council. A parish council is headed by a priest, though, who's known as a vicar.

Parishes are grouped into nine dioceses, each of which is led by a bishop and has the two additional decision-making bodies of a diocese council (14 laymen, 7 priests, led by a layman) and a cathedral chapter (seven people, including the bishop, the vicar of the parish with a cathedral, and one layman). The chapter appoints parish priests and selects three candidates for vicar elections. All members of a parish ages 16/18 and up are eligible to vote for vicars, and write-in candidates are possible. Apparently a decision to turn vicar elections over to parish councils is on the table, to clear this mess up a bit.

Bishops are elected by a diocese's priests, lecturers (an aging priest-without-the-frills position, I believe) and an equal number of laymen, whom parish boards select from their ranks. Ten voters can nominate a priest to run. A similar process elects the archbishop, the head honcho and general spokesman. The archbishop can only be bishopy to the oldest diocese, but heads the synod, the church's highest decision-making body that decides where the church stands (64 laymen elected by the parishes for four years, 32 priests, the bishops and a few hangers-on like the leader of the military chaplains) and the church government, the executive body (kirkkohallitus, the archbishop, two bishops and nine laymen, one from every diocese and elected by the synod, also known as those feet-dragging bastards at my folks' so clearly they have some say).

Sorry to gab your ear off, but proper answers take time and this was surprisingly interesting. I'm pretty sure I was careful, though I had to translate some of this on the fly and of course don't know how the internal politics work. Larger cities have parish unions, which, have equivalents to boards and councils. This seems rather democratic to my untrained eye. A parish election is actually coming up next month, an archbishop was elected in the summer, and the new bishop of the capital city is a woman. There was an inspiring campaign where she and the other leading candidate, a man, both told people to ignore gender.

How does this compare?

Comment Re:Pseudoscience in 3, 2, 1... (Score 1) 711

Dubious brilliance in one tiny area of the (I.T.) world leads them to believe that they'd be logical experts in wholly different fields.

Logic can be applied to any field. And IT folks are typically very logical. If we didn't work with computers, we would probably be mechanics, doctors, or lawyers.

That's what makes us qualified to comment in those fields? Having the right mindset makes up for the lack of relevant knowledge and training? I suppose it could, if that mindset was objectively and accurately analysing vast tracts of information.

Unfortunately, spending several years in an environment where just about everything is reducible to ones and zeroes is not going to cause that kind of clarity. ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE: Just recently I came across colleagues who were talking about how we ought to bring back eugenics. Why? Apparently because of engineer logic at its purest: The tech is good, it's just the users who are stupid.

Comment Devil's Advocate (Score 2, Interesting) 1127

I recently interviewed a Save the Children organization's representative over child pornography. She pointed out that the ample psychological harm caused by kid rape is compounded by the victim's awareness that depictions of the act are being spread and "enjoyed." What's your take on this? She had previously mentioned a gateway theory, ie. that less access to child porn results in fewer child molesters, but I'd have to see the numbers before coming to conclusion.

Comment Re:Too bad things didn't happen Greg Egan's way (Score 1) 576

This sounds like a reasonable difference of interpretation. What you dislike, I both dislike and am sick of.

And in the interests of geekery: the story's badness (to me) may not be its property as much as the result of a complex and partially random chain reaction. Consider: If I had been in a different mood, less attentive or placed emphasis on different words, would the introduction of Lewis have put me on my guard? If it hadn't, would I have ignored the story's resemblance to those three horrid tropes or taken them to be excusable? If I had been less disillusioned, would saving lives by bombing Westminster Abbey have seemed reasonable instead of mean-spirited, and would I have had suspended my disbelief over the near-psychotic protagonist not only entertaining the thought of time travel but deducing it immediately? There's some fascinating interplay and self-reinforcing loops at work here. A pity that I study another field entirely.

The impression remains that Greg Egan saw that he was holding all the cards, reached over, and kicked his opponent in the groin.

Comment Re:Too bad things didn't happen Greg Egan's way (Score 1) 576

I had a look and narcistically figure that you might be interested in my take - mine, mind, with no attempt to make general statements.

The story started with a hoot. Egan's prose is pleasant, and moreover he shows familiarity with integrating it with his non-prose: the jailbreak somehow manages to retain momentum even when it digresses, at length, into physics. Maybe I'm just geeky enough. What with my recent experience with Mary Sues, the woman with incredible powers and complete self-assurance that's never ever contradicted was a tad annoying, despite the reasons for those traits.

C.S. Lewis is then introduced reading a disturbing letter about ****ing up kids, and he reads it with growing satisfaction and a sense of vindication. He then muses on planting the seed of faith in children's minds. For a writer who goes into the applications of quantum gravity theory in the middle of a jailbreak, this carries a shade of having Lewis twirl his moustache and go "mwahahahaha!" I skipped forward some, and found a debate scene that consists of a smug yet clearly inferior argument and of the protagonist striking it down, an innocent victim who shows who the bad guys are by suffering because of their convictions, and finally a scene where the unfalteringly serene messenger of truth suffers the increasingly irrational ravings of the fool who refuses to face reality. I put the story down. All three of these are familiar tropes from works from Jack Chick's to Eragon, and they weren't any more palatable now than they were then. I find "raving fool vs serene messenger" the most annoying of the three - which may be beause of my previous encounters more than this one, I can't tell - though the innocent victim is distinguished by her sheer unnecessity. Some works just have the villain kick a dog.

Comment Re:How long until the blacklist will be on wikilea (Score 1) 273

When the same happened in Finland, the Ministry of Communications announced that ISPs are free to refuse as long as they don't. If the results of voluntary ISP participation were found to be unsatisfactory, mandatory measures would be taken.

Come to think of it, there was no way the results could've been satisfactory. A 2% accuracy rate, DNS censoring that takes seconds to get through, trying to do this at all... Fortunately, a couple of big ISPs dropped out in spring 2008, when there was a bit of a backlash, and the Ministry hasn't had the opportunity to grab further state control.

Comment Re:OK.... (Score 1) 169

I'm in the same situation as you and long considered Twitter an utter waste of time. That was until a journalist covering a demonstration in Egypt managed to do this and was released without charge while his photographer disappeared. I can't deny that Twitter can be used to do good. We're by and large unaware of the potential of our new tools, so this kind of experimentation may reveal valuable new things or at least get rid of the nagging feeling that they might be here.

This is the dawn of the Information Age. We do things. Occasionally they even work.

Whether this is on Slashdot for more reasons than being sneered at is a more difficult question.

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Optimism is the content of small men in high places. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack Up"