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Comment It's not just speech recognition. (Score 1) 83

It's semantic recognition. Like what "it" in the prior sentence means -- in this case it's mainly a grammatical placeholder, but note how the various uses of "it" in *this* sentence are different.

The really impressive thing about Siri is how well (although still not human-well) it divines intent, not just phonemes. Add to that a massive scale attempt to get the phonetic recognition part right, and it's a bit like trying to launch a competitor to Google Maps.

Comment Re: How is this different from any university? (Score 1) 196

Well, I'm sorry you had a bad experience. I'm sure many people do. No institution is for everyone. I've known people who've loved working in the military and made a career out of it, and others who did a hitch and were miserable. And it isn't just the luck of where you're assigned -- although that makes a difference. I knew guys who ended up at a desk job in Hawaii and hated it, and others who were infantry in Vietnam and decided to re-up. It's an institution where certain kinds of people thrive and others will probably never be close to content.

But you're missing the point. I'm not saying college is automatically a peak experience; I'm saying to any young people here (as I say to my kids): do everything you can to make it a wonderful experience. Get everything out of it you can. That of course can be said of every phase of your life, but college provides a number of unique opportunities that are likely not to come again.

Comment Re:How is this different from any university? (Score 1, Insightful) 196

Well, I've made the same argument to my kids about why they should choose the school that is going to serve them best; that the salary premium you get for that MIT degree goes away when people are comparing track records.

But there is absolutely no doubt that a college education on average is an economic benefit. The lifetime earning of people with a bachelor's degree are 1.66x that of someone with high school diploma -- again on average. Someone who starts out as a tradesman and ends up with a successful contracting business can do very well for himself, obviously.

But college is about more than economics. It's the last time in your life that your job is to learn stuff; you don't realize what a luxury that is until you miss it. It's a time to make friendships and have experiences good and bad that you couldn't have had any other way.

Comment Re:How is this different from any university? (Score 3, Informative) 196

Well, the number one thing is that a degree from an accredited university marks you as middle class and therefore gets you through at least one round of filters for jobs. That works out to a difference in starting salary of about $17,500 more for the college graduate on average, which extended over a lifetime works out to be a big difference, even if you count four years out of the workforce and an average debt of $29000 on graduation. So on average it's a win.

Of course many people differ from average, and quite a few college grads may find themselves below average for salary and above average for debt. People in this category will of course feel very much like you do. An electrical engineering grad starting at around $60K at the start of his career probably won't.

Now there are a number of for-profit universities which have transient adjunct faculties and predatory marketing practices that aren't that different. But I guarantee if you got into an ivy-league school you'd get a very different experience. Or one of those historically Quaker institutions. Or MIT. It's not all the same thing -- although what is available to you financially and academically might not be so diverse.

Comment Re:Look a bit higher (Score 4, Insightful) 193

Well, the law disagrees with you. It doesn't, however, work like people here think it does. There isn't a line in the sky saying "this far, no farther". It depends on the nature and intent of the intrusion.

For example I've flown in a helicopter belonging to the Florida Keys Mosquito Control district. Those spray jockeys' job is to lay down pesticide on hard to reach places, particularly the first place a mosquito might light after crossing between islands which is likely to be a line of mangroves or bushes. They're accustomed to flying *low*. En route between Stock Island and Marathon Key we flew so low over peoples' houses I could certainly have told what magazines they left out by the pool -- if we hadn't been going over 100 mph. It's just normal business for those guys, and they're not targeting those homeowners in any way. But if we'd hovered over his house to ogle his teenage daughter, that would be an intrusion, apart from the epic noise.

This isn't really different from privacy law in general: context and intent matter. If someone is standing behind you at the ATM, that's not necessarily breach of privacy; but if they are doing it to look over your shoulder that's different. If your neighbor looks at the back of your house, it's normal. If he sits in his tree trying to peer through your back windows, it's not.

One of the landmark cases in privacy was Nader v.General Motors Corp. where GM retaliated against Nader for writing unkind things about its cars by hiring private investigators to dig up dirt and intimidate Nader. One of the things they did to intimidate him was to follow him around all day, often openly following him a few feet behind as he went about his business so he'd know he was being constantly watched. The court ruled this was an invasion of privacy. Sure the PIs had a right to be in the places they went, but they didn't have a right to be there doing what they were doing.

Comment Re:What's wrong with this? (Score 2) 159

Well, technically it is illegal for a private citizen to tamper with US foreign relations, and about the only way to do that effectively is to be a presidential candidate and open side negotiations with a foreign power in anticipation of your possible election (e.g. to continue doing something or taking a position against American interests until you are in power and will give them a better deal).

In that case this is both an issue for the FBI (for the criminal aspect) and the CIA (for the working against US interests aspect).

Over the years there have been charges of presidential candidates tampering with US foreign policy: Nixon in Vietnam; Reagan with Iran. In both cases the candidate succeeded. The evidence for Reagan's involvement with Iraq is circumstantial at best, which is what you'd expect because if Reagan had violated the Logan Act it would have been William Casey who orchestrated it. But there IS solid evidence that Nixon did try to ensure that the North Vietnamese didn't agree to any ceasefires with Johnson -- not only a violation of the Logan Act, but since we were at war with the North Vietnamese quite possibly a rare actual case of treason.

Comment Re:that's an understatement (Score 3, Interesting) 152

Which is fine, depending on how fast we get there.

It's like this: you're standing on the balcony of your Miami hotel room. It's on the top floor. It's a warm summer night and you look down at the pool. A dip would be just the thing, so you put on your bathing suit and take the elevator down to the ground level. Refreshment accomplished.

Now imagine the same scenario, only you decide to dive off your balcony into the pool. You've traveled exactly the same vertical distance, but the rate at which you did it (well, technically the rate at which you stopped doing it), made a difference.

Comment Re: Good thinking (Score 1) 139

Probably worth noting that to compare crime rates reported, you have to use a similar method of counting. In every country something like a murder-robbery will be counted at least twice, once under the homicide category and once under property crimes. Sweden's rates are inflated by a system in which the same crime can be categorized more ways.

So simply adding up all "reporting offenses" confounds two factors: the rate of underlying social disorder and the practices of the reporting system.

If you want to compare social disorder across reporting regimes, probably the best approach is to compare murder rates. If a murder is involved in an event then that event will always be counted in the murder category:

Japan, Singapore, Iceland: 0.3 per 100,000
Sweden, Portugal, UK, Iceland: 0.9
France: 1.2
Cameroon, Bangladesh: 2.8
India*, Moldova, Montenegro: 3.2
United States, Thailand, Iran: 3.9
Lebanon, Turkey, Ukraine: 4.3
Somalia: 5.6
Cambodia, Afghanistan: 6.5
Palestine: 7.4
Iraq: 8.0
Chad, Gabon, Togo: 9.4
Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau: 10.3
Mali, Antigua and Barbuda: 11.2
Democratic Republic of Congo: 13.5
South Sudan: 14.4
Namibia, Panama: 17.2
Brazil: 24.6
Trinidad and Tobago: 25.9
Columbia: 27.9
Guatemala: 31.2
South Africa: 33
Jamaica: 36.1
Venezuela: 62
El Salvador: 64.2
Honduras: 84.6

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