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Comment Re:Why, that's odd... (Score 3, Insightful) 425

I would imagine Alzheimers deaths were categorized as "old age" or something similar. I think it's a relatively recent realization that while many people develop mental problems as they get older, this is not an absolute certainty and often there is a disease involved (so they blame the disease instead of just "that's the way people age").

Oh, also we might be getting better at looking after the various illnesses and problems that come more easily with Alzheimers, so that instead of dying of pneumonia / flu / breaking a hip (and the subsequent physical downward slide) / etc, people are living long enough with the disease that it gets to the truly critical systems (breathing and such), where it can be the primary cause of death instead of just an invitation for a different cause of death.

Comment Re:employee improvement plan (Score 1) 392

"Improvement plan" at Amazon is generally just a nice way of saying "we're going to give you time to leave with whatever grace you have left, instead of getting fired". Sure there are steps to follow and things to improve, but you've probably already failed two performance appraisals (probably over the course of two years, but maybe only over the course of one year), and they're not really going to give you enough help to pull up in time.

Comment Emergency calls over copper POTS (Score 1) 314

Wait, so this means copper POTS lines might go over cell service? Um, what about emergency service calls? (a) will they get automagically located quickly/easily/correctly like traditional land line calls and (b) how long until somebody sues because their sick relative died because the signal to the paramedics that went over copper (woops, not actually copper, and the cell service was down) didn't go through?

Comment Re:Refunds? (Score 1) 341

Companies like this should be broken into little pieces and run locally. Open a new Citizens Bank of X County, in every county that they exist.

Even if they honestly gave back every last bad fee to every individual account owner present and past (which they should be required to do), it still wouldn't be enough. Unexpectedly unavailable funds can cause a ripple effect in a person's life, which can potentially last for years. I can think of one such sequence just off the top of my head: insufficient funds -> bounced check -> more insufficient funds -> inadequate money for car repair (when there might have been just enough) -> late for / miss work too many times -> lost decent job -> lost decent housing -> that can take years to recover from.

I fuzzily remember a bit of history: when banks were becoming a common thing, people didn't trust them. It took a federal agency and a massive PR campaign by the government for people to decide to use them. That reminds me, what the heck is the FDIC even doing? Shouldn't they be checking up on the banks they are insuring? Oh right, this won't actually kill the banks (because the government won't shut them down over it), so the FDIC isn't worried. Sigh.

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.

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...though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"

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