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Comment Re:Australian Observer (Score 1) 618

Maybe it comes from frontier settlement times. One tiny family moves out into the wilderness and survives by themselves. Of course, in those cases, the likely outcomes are actually that they either die by themselves or a community builds up around them. And even if they do survive "by themselves", it's very likely that they do so by their interconnectedness with local natives and trading routes. But somehow we romanticize the aloneness. Same with the lone cowboy, who obviously wouldn't get by truly alone, but that's how he's depicted anyway.

Maybe the stories went that way because of the relative aloneness compared to the living conditions of the Old World and citified areas of the US East Coast. And maybe because out on the frontier, you could spend a fair amount of time as a solitary human in the wilderness (or a family that doesn't see other humans for weeks). It's true that in those situations you need quite a bit of self sufficiency in order to avoid dying on a daily basis. And that self sufficiency is linked with competence, and consistent competence is pretty sexy (see: astronaut).

But these days we (try to) realize that even if the traveler/settler appears to be alone or in a very small group, they aren't: they are standing on a pyramid of preparation, help, and support from others.

Uh . . . sorry, I don't know if there was an actual point to my post.

Comment Re:This disaster is entirely of your own making (Score 1) 675

No. At least some of us are comparing Chip & PIN to Stripe & PIN. Stripe & PIN always did communicate with the bank in realtime (you could easily get your transaction bounced by inputing the wrong PIN). Chip & PIN, for reasons that I don't know the details of, takes a much longer time. PIN took about as long to authenticate as it took to input my PIN on mushy buttons. Chip & PIN takes many seconds (maybe it's getting consecutive time-based numbers from the chip? No idea). Also I've seen them playing with the order of operations for getting card/person authentication versus transaction authorization, so that's not fully worked out yet (if we're talking about a longish checkout process, they could get authentication (the slow part, AFAICT) while the cashier is scanning items and then the quick authorization by pushing "yes" once the final tally is ready).

Yes, it has taken a long time to implement the system in the US. I'm guessing that since consumer credit really took off here first, we have a lot of older (read: barely capable in modern times) technology to upgrade. And we're talking about hundreds of thousands of tiny little mom & pop convenience stores and delis and stuff to upgrade.

I agree with other posters that this is pretty much like arguing that repainting your house has been a disaster, because halfway through the process, the house is only half painted and there are guys traipsing around with paint trays and rollers. Now that might be because you told the painters the size of the house and it turned out to be 4x that size and they're still around well past the given estimated time. But honestly when I first started seeing those Chip & PIN checkout upgrades, I'm pretty sure I was told they would be activated in November, and they're already here. So . . . it's really too early to call this one a success or failure.

Comment Re:What's the big problem? (Score 1) 675

Fortunately the only place I've used Chip & X it's been Chip & PIN. I'm glad I haven't seen Chip & Signature, because oh my goodness, just as you say, that's not security.

Two-factor auth has to be "something you have" (chip) and "something you know" (verifiably correct or incorrect PIN). A signature is authorization, it is not authentication because (a) nobody ever checks those things in time to decide if the transaction should go through and (b) it's impossible to input an authentication-quality signature on a slippery pad with a dull stylus, a large parallax problem, and pathetic resolution. Come to think of it, I'm amazed those things legally mean anything at all -- I guess though that I just answered my own question, they mean as much as marking an X for intent.

I sign for my Health Spending Account card transactions (no other authentication besides stripe/number&expiry), but that's (a) a very limited loss -- it's basically a prepaid card so it can't spend more than the balance and (b) it's only valid in specific places -- ah . . . it's possible that this doesn't stop the transaction from going through, but I would get an email about misuse.

Comment Re:I don't come to SD for this kind of news (Score 1) 644

The way I see it is this: for any big political thing, there are two ways that the comments can appear on Slashdot. 1. In all of the stories, apropos of nothing, derailing tech conversations, and generally disrupting the overall enjoyment of the site. 2. In a thread dedicated to the topic, which people can avoid if they want.

Now this doesn't always work, and when the population is sufficiently worked up about something political it's going to bubble up everywhere else. But I think these articles are like flypaper for political commentary; either you get most of your flies stuck to one ugly strip, or they appear randomly everywhere -- you aren't going to be able to get rid of the flies entirely, and personally I would rather they were on the one article.

Comment Re:As a non-US citizen, I'd like to know ... (Score 2) 474

I think there's sort of a sliding scale thing going on here.

Start with a nice fluffy kind of rich cupcake with light creamy frosting, made with simple ingredients that you would find in your kitchen (flour, sugar, eggs, butter, real vanilla extract, baking powder, etc). If you have time, fairly standard kitchen equipment, and a little bit of skill, you can make these. Or, you can buy them fresh from one of a growing number of fancy shops that specialize in cupcakes (for a price, and you have to get to the right place during their business hours while you want a cupcake -- and if you live in a smallish town, there's nowhere you can buy them). The bakery probably times their batches carefully and tries not to sell anything that wasn't baked that day.

Okay, so you don't have time to make cupcakes (and you only wanted one or two), and you don't have the time/money/access for really great cupcakes. Next option down: local supermarket. They probably make them on-site, but they have probably "value engineered" the ingredients, "streamlined" the process, and increased the shelf-life of their products so that the curve of taste/texture takes a dive at about the three-day mark instead of 12 hours. So most of the dairy fat and some of the eggs go away, and are replaced by a combination of vegetable fat, and some kind of stabilizer/moisturizer combination (guar gum and stuff) that . . . well, it results in a similar texture to the original ingredients (and takes longer to fade after baking), but the flavor isn't quite right. Oh, also they can try to claim that the reduced fat is better for you (even though we're starting to see pretty clearly that replacing fat with sugar & starch is not the right answer). So this cupcake is similar to one you might make yourself or buy at a nice cupcake shop. And it's cheaper and more available.

Hmm. It's late at night, or the end of a tiring day, and what's available is the corner store / gas station / pantry (last stocked a week ago). The desire to eat one of those kinda mediocre grocery store cupcakes (which you're accustomed to by now, because who has time/money for the real thing?) is pretty high. And those Twinkies are sitting there. They're sort of like grocery store cupcakes. They have almost the right texture (despite having been on the shelf for like, two weeks, and who knows how long they spent on a truck, and in some industrial freezer). The cake flavor is . . . based on flour and fat. The frosting is inside, and that kinda makes sense since it wouldn't have survived the ride if it was on the exterior. Frosting's also kind of weird, but that's the stabilizing and texturizing again (can't use butter, it would rot, can't use most fats, they would separate, it's pretty much just whipped sugar and another of those texturizing agents). Well, close enough to quench the craving, probably.

And of course, there are probably another couple layers in there of degradation, because at least according to the comments here (I haven't eaten a Twinkie in 20 years I think), the current Twinkies are actually just reminders of what Twinkies used to be.

So it's probably just a reminder of a reminder . . . of a really good baked good. It's what's available cheaply and easily. And it's kind of representative of a lot of what's wrong with American food.

Animals (including humans) are pretty good at deciding that what's available to eat is what's good to eat. That's good for survival. Unfortunately, it's also apparently easy enough to trick using modern food science.

Comment Re:Interestingly... (Score 1) 91

Tell that to my commute, which has gotten significantly slower over just the past year. Home in north Seattle -> work in Bellevue. More miserable by either bus or car, and the 520 bridge replacement is currently traffic neutral versus a year ago (sure there have been hiccups, but right now we're using the same number of lanes on the west end of the bridge).

Comment Re:Communication skills (Score 3, Interesting) 219

I think I've heard two other reasons for picking female voices over male voices in cockpit instruction recordings. 1. Airplane noises tend to be low pitch and thus lower male voices get drowned out a lot more easily. 2. An authoritative sounding woman's voice is closer to mom's voice, and most people are trained from an early age that when mom sounds like that, you do what she says (even if you're uncertain, freaked out, or disagree but don't have better plans at the moment).

Comment Re:rather have money (Score 1) 524

On top of that why does your employer owe you health insurance in the first place? That also used to be something that was a fringe benefit that people then started to expect and demand like it was owed to them.

Around about the time the healthcare providers started charging individuals 2x and 3x the bill that they would send to the insurance companies (or at least the amount that the insurance companies assert that the services should cost). If you're not in some kind of group plan, you're getting incredibly ripped off.

Comment Re:I am having a vision of the future... (Score 1) 296

It's more than the symbolism. A few things here:

* At least for some people, the CFLs are noticeably worse than the old tubes. Don't know why, but my husband gets headaches really quickly (we're talking about 2 minutes or so) under CFLs, but only finds the big ceiling lights to be sort of annoying (unless the ceiling lights are flickering, those are terrible).
* One could avoid CFLs before, by not buying them for the home, and mostly only going out to restaurants and such that used incandescent bulbs (which most restaurants did, because they are cheap and provide pleasanter ambiance than cafeteria lighting). Now, the list of restaurants we can't go to is ever-increasing, because they are switching. That is an every-week kind of change in life. And legislation is working on making it so that home has to be unpleasant as well . . .

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