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Comment Been there; done that. (Score 1) 150

in the 1990s while working in IT for a certain federal agency, I accidentally discovered that the entire C:\ drive of the PC used by a federal employee involved in negotiations over a multi-million-dollar subcontracting action had been shared out to the entire internal network where the contents could have been viewed by any of several thousand people. I wrote it up; sent it to the security folks. Their response? Crickets. Always made lots of noise about busting someone for the then-new pastime of porn surfing at work (this was back when very few people had Internet access at home) but when it came to things where actual business integrity was compromised, there was little care and little effort.

Comment Re:Uh, wtf people? (Score 1) 1026

Meaning no disrespect, I think that you don't have your eye on the ball and you're not thinking medium-long-term.

The most important travel need in the US is simply the daily grind of home/school/work/store. Our interstate highways and our airlines work quite well, but grinding commutes are what eat up people's time, health, and cars and burn gasoline, oil, and rubber. I'm entering middle age, have a small family, and live about 31 miles east-northeast from the center of a major US metropolitan area. Working in IT as I do, I don't really have a whole lot of control over where I work from one year to another and right now, my work and life situation has me in the car about 12 hours from Monday morning to Friday evening. It would be even more if I took a job outside of the northeast quadrant of the metro area. A few years ago, I worked a contract job right in the center of town; most of the time I drove about 18 miles to get to the closest heavy-rail station and then took a third-rail-powered train with self-propelled cars the rest of the way in (about 25 minutes). I'm sure many of you have worse stories but my point is that a heavy-rail system can't provide me with a station within three miles of my house, much less one I can walk to - and the roads don't support biking.

I'm big on monorails because you can place smaller stations out where people live - a design freedom that comes from being able to have cheap inobtrusive aerial right-of-way, which means no grade crossings. A computerized transit system that would make it possible to get in a monorail car in one station and have the system get you to the station you want to go to in a close-to-optimal fashion (i.e., in near-minimal time and with nearly as few car changes as possible) would be the most transformative and beneficial use of mass transit money you could have. Of course, nothing precludes having trains or individual cars at smaller stations getting you to larger stations where long-haul monorail trains or for that matter heavy-rail trains stop and take you to other cities.

Don't live with the idea that "culture, ideas, people [crossing] distance boundaries much more easily" is a good thing. People freak out when they're surrounded by people and concepts that are alien to them and especially if they lose control over how much of that they're forced to process. Freaked-out people aren't content; they make trouble.

When you think about the future (just decades; no need to look out hundreds), the biggest difference between then and now will be that *distance will be expensive.* $100 ATL -> RDU flights will be gone and an 18-wheeler going from Minneapolis to New York City will be significantly more expensive to hire. Getting an object or a person from one city to another by *any* means will have significant costs, so the ability to not just get around and move objects around but also *get things done* within a relatively small geographical area becomes more important. "Cheap distance" connecting cheap labor to American consumers is what has decimated American manufacturing; this is something that we can expect to see reverse and the idea of buying a refrigerator or furniture that was produced within a few hundred miles of where you buy it may become reasonable.

Comment It pains me to see all the HSR talk (Score 1) 1026

I think HSR's dead before it gets out of the station and I'm therefore unenthused at the prospect of dumping a lot of money into it.

It's biggest theoretical competitor is commercial air travel. Both CA and HSR require concentrated entry points. You can have smaller, closer-together HSR stations than you can CA airports but that helps little; planes can approach/leave airports from/to any direction but trains have to stay on the tracks that are laid down.

Trains - especially HSR trains - require fixed maintenance-needing infrastructure for every inch of travel; planes just need the sky.

Planes, for the vast majority of their gate-to-gate time, are oblivious to terrain, water, land usage, and other forms of transportation. They are somewhat affected by weather, at least close to and at airports. Heavy snow or ice would either bring HSR trains down to a crawl, especially to the extent that a snowplow locomotive would have to roll down tracks ahead of a train.

Trains of any sort are most useful when the stations are near where people actually live, but where people actually live is the hardest place to lay track.

I think the money ought to instead go into mass transit that gets people out of grinding commutes and gives people better options for getting between home, school, and work, and that's why I rah-rah for monorail. Monorail mostly uses aerial right-of-way and therefore can be built in, around, and over even densely populated communities. Both large and small stations are practical and being able to have small stations is key to being able to put in stations near neighborhoods. Monorail costs less per mile - something which counterintuitively keeps monorail from being built more than it is because it's the public and not corporations who benefit the most. There's still plenty of corporate benefit with monorail but monorail doesn't maximize their profits. That's why government at some level would have to drive monorail projects - the whole "general welfare" thing must come first.


Denver Airport Overrun by Car-Eating Rabbits 278

It turns out the soy-based wire covering on cars built after 2002 is irresistible to rodents. Nobody knows this better than those unlucky enough to park at DIA's Pikes Peak lot. The rabbits surrounding the area have been using the lot as an all-you-can-eat wiring buffet. Looks like it's time to break out The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

Opossums Overrun Brooklyn, Fail To Eliminate Rats 343

__roo writes "In a bizarre case of life imitates the Simpsons, New York City officials introduced a population of opossums into Brooklyn parks and under the boardwalk at Coney Island, apparently convinced that the opossums would eat all of the rats in the borough and then conveniently die of starvation. Several years later, the opossums have not only failed to eliminate the rat epidemic from New York City, but they have thrived, turning into a sharp-toothed, foul-odored epidemic of their own."

Justice Department Seeks Ebonics Experts 487

In addition to helping decipher their Lil Wayne albums, the Justice Department is seeking Ebonics experts to help monitor, translate and transcribe wire tapped conversations. The DEA wants to fill nine full time positions. From the article: "A maximum of nine Ebonics experts will work with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta field division, where the linguists, after obtaining a 'DEA Sensitive' security clearance, will help investigators decipher the results of 'telephonic monitoring of court ordered nonconsensual intercepts, consensual listening devices, and other media.'”

NASA Creates First Global Forest Map Using Lasers 55

MikeCapone writes "Scientists, using three NASA satellites, have created a first-of-its-kind map that details the height of the world's forests. The data was collected from NASA's ICESat, Terra and Aqua satellites. The latter two satellites are responsible for most of NASA's Gulf spill imagery. The data collected will help scientists understand how the world's forests both store and process carbon. While there are many local and regional canopy maps, this is the very first global map using a uniform method for measure."

Sound As the New Illegal Narcotic? 561

ehrichweiss writes "The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is warning parents and teachers of a new threat to our children: sounds. Apparently kids are now discovering binaural beats and using them to get 'physiological effects.' The report goes on with everyone suggesting that such aural experiences will act as a gateway to drug usage and even has one student claiming there are 'demons' involved. Anyone who has used one of those light/sound machines knows all about the effects that these sounds will give and to state that they will lead kids to do drugs is nonsense at best. It seems the trend in scaring the citizens with a made-up problem has gone to the next level."

Best OSS CFD Package For High School Physics? 105

RobHart writes "I am teaching a 'physics of flight' unit to grade 11 Physics students. Part of the unit will have the students running tests on several aerofoils in a wind tunnel. I also want to expose them to a Computational Fluid Dynamics package which will allow them to contrast experimental results with those produced by the CFD package. There are a number of open source CFDs available (Windows- or Linux-based are both fine), but I don't have much time to evaluate which are the simplest to use in terms of setting up the mesh, initial conditions, etc. — a very important issue as students do not have much time in this unit." Can anyone offer insight about ease of use for programs in this niche?

What US Health Care Needs 584

Medical doctor and writer Atul Gawande gave the commencement address recently at Stanford's School of Medicine. In it he lays out very precisely and in a nonpartisan way what is wrong with the institution of medical care in the US — why it is both so expensive and so ineffective at delivering quality care uniformly across the board. "Half a century ago, medicine was neither costly nor effective. Since then, however, science has... enumerated and identified... more than 13,600 diagnoses — 13,600 different ways our bodies can fail. And for each one we've discovered beneficial remedies... But those remedies now include more than six thousand drugs and four thousand medical and surgical procedures. Our job in medicine is to make sure that all of this capability is deployed, town by town, in the right way at the right time, without harm or waste of resources, for every person alive. And we're struggling. There is no industry in the world with 13,600 different service lines to deliver. ... And then there is the frightening federal debt we will face. By 2025, we will owe more money than our economy produces. One side says war spending is the problem, the other says it's the economic bailout plan. But take both away and you've made almost no difference. Our deficit problem — far and away — is the soaring and seemingly unstoppable cost of health care. ... Like politics, all medicine is local. Medicine requires the successful function of systems — of people and of technologies. Among our most profound difficulties is making them work together. If I want to give my patients the best care possible, not only must I do a good job, but a whole collection of diverse components must somehow mesh effectively. ... This will take science. It will take art. It will take innovation. It will take ambition. And it will take humility. But the fantastic thing is: This is what you get to do."

Doctor Slams Hospital's "Please" Policy 572

Administrators at England's Worthing Hospital are insisting that doctors say the magic word when writing orders for blood tests on weekends. If a doctor refuses to write "please" on the order, the test will be refused. From the article: "However, a doctor at the hospital said on condition of anonymity that he sees the policy as a money-saving measure that could prove dangerous for patients. 'I was shocked to come in on Sunday and find none of my bloods had been done from the night before because I'd not written "please,"' the doctor said. 'I had no results to guide treatment of patients. Myself and a senior nurse had to take the bloods ourselves, which added hours to our 12-hour shifts. This system puts patients' lives at risk. Doctors are wasting time doing the job of the technicians.'"

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