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Comment Full 2015 stats aren't out yet (Score 4, Insightful) 314

TFA links to some summaries, but some of the categories (particular deaths due to accidents) are aggravatingly unspecific. Alzheimer's and accidents (unintentional injuries) had the largest year-over-year increases, at +4.0 and +2.7 deaths per 100,000. The other causes were all +1.5 or less. The increase in these two exceeded the increases in all the other top-10 combined.

I'm really curious to see what the breakdown for unintentional injury deaths looks like for 2015. We're in the middle of a prescription painkiller addiction epidemic which is going largely unreported by the media. Two years ago, overdoses displaced motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental death - a position it had held for over a half century. This year we lost more famous people to overdoses than to gun violence, even though the media spent a vastly disproportionate amount of time focusing on the latter. The day of the UCLA shooting (1 murder, 1 suicide), there was a synthetic drug poisoning incident at a concert in Florida which killed 2 and sent 60 to the hospital. But the media concentrated almost entirely on the UCLA shooting.

Comment Re:What's the point (Score 2) 79

I was on a Lufthansa flight from Chicago to Germany in 2006. They announced that since Boeing had decided to shut down Connexion, they were opening up the WiFi aboard the plane for everyone to use for free. I fired up my laptop while over the middle of the Atlantic, and used the service to VPN into my office. Got some work done, sent a few emails, and printed a quick document exclaiming in bold "I'm printing this from a plane in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!!!!' just for the folks in the office. I also logged into a MMO for a bit. The lag was too much to really do any combat, but I chatted with guild members about where I was playing from. Alas I had to shut down at that point because I'd drained my battery and they didn't yet have charging ports outside of first class.

I haven't tried the newer WiFi service aboard planes. But based on what you're saying, it sounds like the service is somehow worse than what Boeing had a decade ago and shut down because not enough airlines were interested?

Comment Re:Change how tickets are sold (Score 1) 181

That's the perfect market efficiency method of matching supply with demand - adjust the price until the two match.

The performers who give converts frequently prefer to deliberately mismatch supply and demand. By underpricing the tickets, demand exceeds supply and you end up with lines and shortages. This sort of mismatch (insufficient supply) is a problem with essentials like food (or the long lines for toilet paper that the Soviet Union was famous for). But since concerts are almost always entertainment, they're nonessentials so this mismatch isn't a problem. You don't die or starve (or have dirty underwear) because you were unlucky and didn't manage to get a concert ticket.

So the performers consider the drawbacks of this type of mismatch to be acceptable if it means their fans are able to attend at a lower price if they're fortunate enough to get a ticket. Basically, the performers are willingly leaving money on the table in order to give fans a lower ticket price.

Scalpers try to take advantage of this market mismatch to scoop up some of that money performers are leaving on the table. They either deprive legit fans from a ticket, or force them to have to pay a higher price than the performer set. If there are enough scalpers or their methods of obtaining tickets are sophisticated enough, they could conceivably elbow legit fans completely out of the opportunity to buy tickets.

Laws are not a very good way to try to thwart scalping. The best method is to enforce the non-transferable legal restriction of the ticket sale. e.g. Attach a name to each ticket and require people to show ID when they present their ticket for entry, like the airlines do. This is essentially what companies do when they lower the price on a product with a rebate. If they just dropped the in-store price, ebayers would buy up the entire stock and sell it on eBay at close to the original price. But offering the discount via a rebate which is limited to x submissions per address prevents the biggest abusers. An ebayer might be able to buy a few extra of the product using a work address and relatives' addresses. But it's a lot of hassle and the long turnaround time for the rebate means they'll be out of the capital for a while. So the rebate, while mildly annoying to the legit buyer, makes flipping impractical for the ebayer, thus helping guarantee it's the end-user who enjoys the discounted price provided by the rebate.

Comment Re:I was fortunate to have met him a few year ago (Score 1) 103

My wife and I got a chuckle out of the young security guard that was with him. When people asked who he was, he said that he was the worlds oldest astronaut.

You misunderstood what the security guard meant. Glenn was the oldest person to ever go into space when he flew aboard Discovery on STS-95 in 1998. He was 77.

Comment Re:Preempting Apple (Score 1) 102

There's no pre-empting going on. Apple is not the originator of these ideas - they may be talking about adding them to the next iPhone, but Android has had them for close to 7 years. My Samsung Galaxy S (the first one they made) didn't have physical navigation buttons - it had capacitive touch buttons and used the phone's vibrate module to generate haptic feedback. The navigation buttons were simply a separate touch-sensitive OLED display. Heck, my current Nexus 5 does the same thing except the buttons are part of the main display (has been since Android Honeycomb).

The media is just dominated by Apple fans who refuse to tell the truth and say that Apple is copying Android with these "new" ideas, or who have never taken a serious look outside the iOS ecosystem so they have no idea what else has been available for close to a decade.

Comment Re:I Would Rather Go To Theatres (Score 1) 311

This exactly. You don't go out to eat at a fancy restaurant because the food is worth $40 a plate. You do it because of its value as a shared social experience with your SO, a date, your family or friends. Likewise, a movie on its own is not worth the $10-$15 a theater charges for a seat. Most of its value comes afterwards, from your ability to talk about it with other people who've seen it. Same goes for broadcast TV shows and live sporting events - the synchronized mass consumption is what makes them the topic of conversation around the water cooler the next day.

In that respect, an early rental would work for someone like me. My family room has a projector with 130" screen and a 7.1 speaker system, I could invite some friends over and we could watch a newly released movie together without the lines and screaming kids (or for the friends who have screaming kids, we can pause the movie until the kids stop screaming). But I suspect only a small minority of people have a setup like mine. If all you've got is a 42" TV with built-in speakers, what's the point? You spend all your alone time in your house already. If you're gonna hang out and do something together with your friends, you probably want to do it outside the house. Not to pay $25-$50 to watch a new release movie like it was a TV show.

I should add that I do use my home theater system in this manner. It's a lot of trouble to try to keep track of a herd of kids in a dark room, and embarrassing when one of them has a meltdown in public. So my friends and I do regularly get together with our kids for mass viewings of kids movies on my home theater. But here's the rub - the studios are putting out too many movies. We simply don't have the time to watch them all in this manner. So we're still trying to catch up on the better movies released a few months ago which are now on HBO or Netflix. There's little point watching a current new release for $25-$50 when we can watch as part of our subscription package a movie which was a new release a few months ago that we haven't yet had time to see. Saves us money, and helps us filter out the stinkers and bombs.

Comment Re:Wrong even if correct (Score 5, Insightful) 252

Deflation is worse than inflation. Inflation devalues your savings, thus encouraging (forcing) you to go out there are do more work to earn more money (generate more productivity). Deflation increases the value of your savings, thus discouraging you from working - why bother doing something productive when the money you have stuffed under your mattress is increasing in value enough to pay for your living expenses?

Currencies are stable when the money supply expands at about the same rate as the productivity of the country's citizens (basically GDP - a combination of population growth and increased productivity due to technological advances). That causes prices to remain stable when measured in the currency. Ideally, a government with a fiat currency moderates their money supply to slightly exceed this productivity growth rate, which causes a slight amount of inflation (prices slowly climb). Yes it's true that when a government screws things up (e.g. Venezuela right now), it can cause massive problems. But like regular oil changes for your car, there's a huge incentive for all governments to maintain their own economy.

The whole reason we abandoned the gold standard is that it's really stupid to base your economy's health on the gamble that the amount of gold miners dug out of the ground each year would match the rate of growth of your country's GDP. Historically, the amount of gold mined each year did not keep pace with economic growth, resulting in deflation, which led to higher economic instability. If you look at the history of recessions in the U.S., in the 45 years since 1971 when we went off the gold standard, there have been 6 recessions, or 1 per 7.5 years. In the 45 years prior (1926-1971) there were 9 recessions, or 1 per 5 years. The 50 years before that (1875-1925) saw 13 recessions, or 1 per 3.8 years. And the 50 years before that (1825-1875) saw 13 recessions as well. The amount of economic contraction during recessions has also been smaller since we went off the gold standard.

Unfortunately, bitcoin perpetuates this stupidity. Its value is based on (1) the rate at which people are able to "mine" bitcoins by solving increasingly difficult math problems, and (2) its total supply is capped at about 21 million coins. The very fact that bitcoins are appreciating in value is evidence that it's a terrible choice of a currency. You want the prices of staple goods to remain relatively stable in a currency. Instead, bitcoins are so deflationary that early adopters are literally able to live off of bitcoins they've stuffed under the mattress, instead of actually doing any productive work. A currency which enables that behavior is fatal to an economy. I'm not saying all crypto-currencies are flawed, or that there's no benefit to taking a currency out of government control. Only that bitcoin is fatally flawed in that it accomplishes the latter in the worst possible way. The huge increase in the value of bitcoins since its inception is not an indicator of its strength, it's an indicator of its unsuitability as a currency. It proves that bitcoin is incapable of scaling properly with the number of people using it (productivity growth due to population increase). In that respect it's more like real estate - where people who were born earlier were able to buy up most of it cheaply, leaving the current generation unable to afford to buy a home.

Comment More like a terrible law (Score 1) 100

Samsung's lawyers hit the nail on the head in their argument before the Supreme Court. Allowing the lower court rulings to stand would award the owner of a cup holder patent the entire profit from the sale of an 18-wheeler big rig truck just because it used the infringing cup holder design.

I can see an argument for awarding slightly more of the profit than is attributable to the single component (having the infringing feature allowed you to make sales which you wouldn't have made). But awarding all the profit is insane. If that's the standard you're going to use, then Apple should just hand over all their profit from their iPhones 1 through 4 to Samsung, because they infringed one of Samsung's FRAND patents. Apple escaped punishment for that only because Obama used executive privilege to nullify that ITC decision.

Comment Re:two stacked LCDs? (Score 1) 103

LCDs don't work like that. They work by orienting two polarizers. The first is a fixed polarizer, which cuts the backlight's brightness to 50% and polarizes the light. The second is a polarizing liquid crystal layer whose orientation can be controlled electronically. Orient it parallel to the fixed polarizer and all the light going through the fixed polarizer is let through. Orient it perpendicular and it blocks (in theory) all the light going through. (In practice the polarizing is not perfect, so there's a little leakage. Which is why black pixels are not entirely black on an LCD.

However, adding a third polarizer does not help. At best, the same amount of light is blocked as with two polarizers perpendicular to each other. At worst, it allows more light to go through than two polarizers.

Whatever extra layer they're using, it's not a polarizer, so it can't be an LCD. It's probably some sort of electrochromic glass whose reflectivity (and thus opacity) can be controlled electrically. And they've figured out a way to divide the effect into zones which coincide with the pixels or groupings of pixels on the LCD. It probably doesn't have as much fine granularity of partial opacity as an LCD does (else they could just use it instead of LCDs since LCDs always block at least 50% of the backlight), LCDs have gotten good enough to where we can use them to generate 1024 shades (10-bit, though most panels are still 8-bit or 6-bit), while last I heard electrochromic glass was binary.

Comment Sounds more like the opposite (Score 0) 283

If TFA is correct, then Samsung tried to put the largest battery possible while keeping the phone as thin as possible. If they wanted more profit, they could've gone with a smaller battery or a thicker design with larger tolerances. Both would've been cheaper for them to manufacture and thus would've increased their profit margin. But they eschewed that marginal profit and went the extra mile for the customer - packing in the largest battery possible while keeping the phone as small and thin as possible. Unfortunately they went too far, to the point where it compromised the safety of the device.

If I had to guess, they probably goofed because this was only their second gen all-metal design. They didn't have the experience to tell them how tight was too tight (at least not until now). They could pack the battery this tightly on their older plastic bodies without problems because battery expansion would just push the rear plastic shell up a little.

Comment Re:I don't care if I know the outcome (Score 1) 137

Yup. If knowing the outcome is what's important, then you only need to watch the last 5-10 seconds of the event; you can skip everything that comes before. Heck, you can skip watching it entirely and just catch the score on a sports news website.

OTOH if the parts before the end of the game have entertainment value, then it doesn't matter if you know the outcome in advance, and there's no need to watch it live. The only benefit of watching it live is that it's easier to find other people who haven't seen it that you can watch it with.

Comment Re:Unclear (Score 1) 371

You're assuming his status and success is due to privilege, not due to ability and effort. You're making this assumption based on his race and gender, not his individual circumstances. That is the definition of racism and sexism. Exactly the same as assuming a black college student is there only due to affirmative action.

Nearly all my entire extended family immigrated into the U.S. in the 1970s and early 1980s. At the time, Korea was a backwater and afraid of all its wealthy citizens emigrating, so it passed a law that each emigrating family was only allowed to take roughly $1500 worth of money and valuables with them. So every one of our families (about a dozen) started in the U.S. with a net value of $1500 - no job, no house, no car, little or no English language capability, and no contacts among the privileged white "elite". I was only 4 when we moved here but I remember - we lived in a government low-income apartment, and scoured garage sales and the Salvation Army store for basics like dishes and cutlery. All my clothes as a child were from second-hand stores - nothing new.

Today, only one of these original families is lower class (the father refuses to get a job and is content to live off government assistance and the mother's meager income). Everyone else has managed to carve out middle class ($25k+/yr) or better lives, most in the top third ($65k+/yr). Three are upper class ($150k+/yr, or top 5%), the most successful of whom owns a multi-million dollar cell phone store chain they founded (a 1%er). Among our second generation (myself and about 30 cousins), one was middle class but is now in prison, one (child of the one lower class family) is lower class but just got his nursing degree and a job offer at a salary that would put him in the top third, one has mental health issues but falls into the middle class when he can hold a job. The rest of us are middle class or higher, with 6 being upper class ($150k+/yr).

This "privilege" you speak of either doesn't exist or has nowhere near the amount of influence on people's lives that you think it does. If you put in the time and effort, chances are that you can succeed regardless of your starting social and financial status. The only statistical deviation from the U.S. norm that jumps out in my family is that over half of us started our own business after we'd saved up some money, rather than were content to remain employees. I think that was due to not understanding pensions, Social Security, nor investing in stocks, so we sought the only other obvious way to assure an income in retirement. But it seems to have worked in our favor.

Comment "Feature" has already killed someone (Score 4, Insightful) 367

The "feature" has already caused at least one death.

Last week, a burglar pried apart some security bars at my business and squeezed in. He was able to make off with some stolen goods because once inside, he was easily able to open the locked exit door. Fire codes require that all building exit doors accessible to the public be openable from the inside even when locked. These laws were made after repeated fires with huge death tolls exacerbated by locked exit doors. That's what the bar on the door you press when leaving most restaurants and stores does. Even when the door is locked, pushing the bar from the inside will open the door. That way if a fire breaks out, you're not trapped inside because the only person who has the key was the idiot who started the fire and is dead.

Same thing with refrigerators - both the old stand-up units which latched shut, and walk-in refrigerator/freezers used in restaurants. Too many people (especially kids playing) were dying after being trapped inside, that laws were passed requiring a mechanism which allows someone inside to open the latch on the outside.

I don't see why cars should be any different. Yes easy egress makes thievery easier. But preventing that is just not worth the potential loss of life. Any car designer who thinks this is a good idea should be locked inside one of their cars on a sunny day until they admit it's a terrible idea. Heck, after dozens of kids dying each year after being locked in the trunk of a car while playing, we finally passed a law mandating a release mechanism inside the trunk. And some idiot car designer decides it would be a good idea to make it impossible for someone inside the passenger compartment to exit at will? Shame on BMW for trying to spin this to the press as a "helpful" feature.

Comment Re:Billing address? (Score 1) 110

Speaking as a former merchant, the billing address, security code, expiration date* aren't required to process a credit card transaction. They're tools the credit card companies give merchants to help prevent fraud (while simultaneously passing laws prohibiting merchants from requiring credit card users to show ID to prove it's actually their card**).

The way it works is that if you're a merchant and you accept a fraudulent/stolen card, the onus is on you to prove that to the best of your knowledge the transaction was legit. The main way this is done is by validating the signature on the receipt matches the signature the card company has on file. When you accept a card, you're supposed to check the signature on the back of the card to insure it matches the signature on the receipt. If the cardholder requests a chargeback and the signature doesn't match, it's instantly game over - the merchant loses and the card company grants the chargeback.

If it sorta matches or (for online purchases) there is no signature, then it falls onto these secondary security measures. The more data the merchant collected which correctly matches the info the card company has on file (security code, expiration date, billing address, phone number, cardholder's birthdate, I think that's all) the better the chances the merchant will win against a chargeback. So it's in the best interests of the merchant to collect as much info as possible to protect themsevles. But on the flip side if you try to collect too much info you make the transaction more annoying for the cardholder, and risk alienating them so they go make their purchase elsewhere. Or (for brick and mortar purchases) you slow down the checkout line forcing you to hire more cashiers and add more cash registers. So the merchant picks the amount of security they're comfortable with. I've always wondered what happens if someone sets up a fake merchant account, runs a bunch of fraudulent transactions without any security checks, then absconds with the money and closes the bank account once the credit card has wired the payments, before any of the cardholders can notice and request chargebacks.

There are some other ways to get fake credit card transaction to go through that I fell victim to about 10 years ago when I lost one of my cards. I promptly called to report the card lost/stolen and figured that was that. But reviewing my card statements, I noticed a fraudulent charge on the second statement after I'd gotten a new card with a new number. After some discussion with the card company, I learned that (1) as of 2007 they still allowed carbon copy credit card transactions. Older readers may recall the credit card machines used before phone and Internet credit card machines. They'd take your card, put it in the machine, put a carbon copy form on top of it, then run a roller over the card to imprint it onto the carbon copy paper. One copy became the customer's receipt, the other the merchants. The merchant would then mail these in for processing and to receive payment. Because of the time delay, the credit card companies would continue to process these even if they were received after the card had been canceled.

"But the date on the fraudulent transaction is after I reported my card lost/stolen. Why was it still processed?" I asked. (2) The thief had processed it as a subscription service. Apparently when people have a card stolen they frequently forget to update their magazine subscriptions with the new card info. The credit card companies got tired of getting into 3-way arguments about canceled subscriptions because the payment was denied due to the card being canceled. So if the transaction is coded as payment for a subscription, the card company will "helpfully" forward the charge to the new card even if the charge was processed using the account's old (stolen) card number.

* (I don't think expiration date is required, but this was a decade ago so I don't recall exactly.)

** (The card companies are also sensitive to not making credit card transactions much more annoying than cash, so they've managed to get laws passed prohibiting surcharges for credit card payments, and prohibiting requiring credit card users to show ID - the merchant can ask, but they cannot deny the transaction if the cardholder refuses.)

Comment Question (Score 2, Insightful) 119

Instead of bio-engineering an organism which collects sunlight and uses it to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, why don't we just plant more trees?

I understand that you're upset that we're not doing more about CO2 emissions. But you have to understand that we're directly in control of those CO2 emissions. If we wanted to, we could stop all our CO2 emissions tomorrow. The problem isn't the capability, it's the desire. We already have the capability, we just lack the desire.

Releasing a self-replicating bio-engineered organism which extracts CO2 from the atmosphere is an order of magnitude more reckless than wantonly emitting CO2 to generate energy. Because once you release a self-replicating organism, you no longer have any control over it. If it turns out our calculations and predictions are wrong about the effects of reducing our CO2 emissions, we can modify our behavior in response because we control our CO2 emissions. But once you release that organism, that's it. It's out of our control. If our calculations were wrong about what the steady state response of the ecosystem will be to the introduction of that organism, we won't be able to stop it even if we desire to do so.

At least with trees, you have an organism which has been around for millions of years so its steady state effect on the ecosystem is pretty well understood.

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