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Comment Re:That bad, eh? (Score 1) 392

In the US private parking facilities belonging to the house appear to be quite common in middle class suburban homes. This seems to me to be the most important condition for effective use of (trickle charged) electric cars.

Here in the Netherlands private parking is uncommon, even in suburbs and villages. I have seven parking spaces along the length of my garden, which is a lot by Dutch standards, but 1) I have no privilege to them, and they are indeed sometimes all occupied, and 2) a power cable from my house would cross a public pavement.

Privatization of parking spaces is not really an option, since on the whole there are too few in the neighbourhood to leave some during the day for visitors and customers of nearby shops. Also for new developments usually a 1:1 ratio for parking to households is used, as far as I know. The only viable solution is the government installing power outlets everywhere, but that is only a reasonable investment if the government also coerces or bribes people into buying an electric car.

Other than this parking and charging issue, the Netherlands is perfect for electric vehicles. An electric motorcycle makes more sense. I'll buy one if it is cheap and categorized as a car (to avoid an expensive new driver's license).

Comment Re:Lesson learned? (Score 1) 392

I'd say the system of government is pretty much irrelevant to the dedication people show fighting for their country. Odds are most important to morale. People want to survive, and they want to win. I think the Iraqis would have fought well if they would have faced a limited invasion, and would have believed that the US would retreat if things didn't go smoothly. Instead it was obvious that they were going to be massacred by an army with better technology, training, maintenance, and logistics, which is a very good reason for running away as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Morale made the Iraq invasion a cakewalk for the US, and better technology, training, maintenance, and logistics directly affected morale. Without the morale effect, US would also have dominated, but it would hardly have been a cakewalk.

Weaker democratic countries may also fight much stronger tyrannies badly (as the first years of WWII for instance show) if they think they are on their own against overwhelming odds, while they may fight heroically if they think a stronger ally will join them if they hold out for long enough. This is exactly why the appeasement by Chamberlain in the 1938 Czechoslovakia crisis was so damaging; It severely harmed morale on the European continent. On the other side, many veteran German units also fought badly in the end of WWII in many places because they had lost the belief they were winning and simply wanted the war to be over.

Comment Re:Lesson learned? (Score 1) 392

US military requirements for chips do not exceed 20% of worldwide production capacity. The US military could use only locally produced chips if it wanted to, but at the expense of more taxpayer money, and stimulation of the economy is a bad reason to waste money. Preparing yourself for the eventuality that the whole world will turn against you is not a sound Keynesian investment; It's just plain paranoid. Even the ability to take on the rest 0f the world together with you allies is an unprecedented and unique luxury.

ASML (Netherlands), Nikon, and Canon (both Japanese) together have a market share of over 95% in semiconductor lithography machines. Strategically this seems to me more important than semiconductor manufacturing using the machines of one of these three suppliers. Both countries are allies of the US, and will most likely remain allies in the foreseeable future if the US behaves not too unreasonably. Intel and AMD are US companies, and design state-of-the-art chips in the US. There is hardly an immediate risk of the US losing access to knowledge about semiconductor manufacturing, and the country most able to embed kill switches into other country's military hardware is still the US.

Comment Re:Hurrr (Score 1) 455

An analogy: Imagine a large train station, with lockers, and drugs dealers. Now suppose I set up a business which works as follows. People who want to sell drugs store specified amounts of drugs in lockers. They bring me the keys. I, instead of selling drugs, sell access rights to the lockers in the form of a key. The dealers get their money from me, minus a fee for the service I provide. I sell no drugs, they take less risks, everybody happy. Is a judge who thinks I sell drugs a moron?

Comment Re:not afraid (Score 1) 186

We only have to look at the number of officially recorded wiretaps per capita to see that Dutch (and for instance Italian, Swiss) authorities are indeed two factors of ten more likely to wiretap than US authorities. Monitoring in real time would be too labour intensive for Dutch police purposes.

The wiretaps are in reality hardly relevant for evidence purposes. The police uses them mostly tactically for surveillance of, and investigation into the structure of, criminal organizations. It's a more efficient use of time than following people around.

Comment Re:not afraid (Score 3, Informative) 186

The conversation between lawyer and client may be confidential, but the extent of the protective perimeter you set up around it is a practical matter.

You may declare prison and law office phones sacred altogether in order to make sure you don't record such conversations, missing a lot of useful conversations, but if you don't, you will have to listen to the conversations to establish, firstly, that it is a confidential conversation, and secondly, that the recording doesn't contain parts you presumably may use (for instance the lawyer dictating something to a secretary in the background).

Dutch practice is that you may not use or store it in principle but you may listen to the recording and store it until you did. After that, you have to destroy it, and the suspicion is now that the system only deletes it.

Having said that, this whole thing became an issue after it was discovered confidential phone conversations were actually copied to DVD by the police in one high profile case, which is indeed outrageous.

Comment About destroying not deleting... (Score 1) 186

The issue is the difference between destroying (in practical terms: erasing), as they are legally obliged to do, and deleting it. This pdf documentlinked from the article explains in laymen's language how the "pointer (or route) in the system to the data concerned" is removed, making 1) the data inaccessible to investigators, and 2) freeing up the space of a hard disk array for new data, and then goes on explaining that the data may theoretically still be retrieved from the disks if not yet overwritten. They don't know whether the commercial black box system they use erases the data, and suspect it doesn't.

Comment It is a diff (Score 1) 334

The bill obviously is a diff on the existing body of law. I don't know how it is produced in the US, but one way of producing it - showcased in some research projects in the EU - is by simply editing the existing body of law stored on a version management system and then have the editor generate the act from a generic template for bills, a set of sentence models, and the diff. Nobody has to read it, since the result of applying the act is already known. The legislator's approach to this is very much like version management in software development, except that 1) the codebase is centuries old, 2) thousands of people work on it, generally without deep knowledge of what other committees are doing, causing occasional confluence between amendments, 3) hundreds of millions are affected by it, and 4) most of the people involved don't have the mindset of a programmer.

To laymen who don't know what the existing body of law looks like, neither the bill (lacks context) nor the set of amended documents (too much) are very useful. You need to understand the situation being changed to form an educated opinion on the change. A tkdiff is worse than a bill. At least the legal system tries to pretend it is natural language.

It is certainly arrogant to believe that nobody understands them (I do, since I have read dozens of them, and worked on software to generate them) but it is equally arrogant to believe that SVN is better. It is not. SVN fails to make fundamental distinctions that legal amendment procedures do make. Programmers could benefit from copying best practices from amendment manuals and understanding for instance the bibliographic distinction between item, manifestation, expression, and work level changes to a text (look up MetaLex XML).

Comment Re:In Tune... (Score 1) 338

The buffalo was in decline well before the Army started its economic war on the plains indians after the civil war. Horses compete with the buffalo over pasture land, and make hunting buffalo easy. There were bloody wars between indians over access to increasingly scarce pasture land and buffalo before the white man entered the scene.

Most pastoral nomad cultures on the plains used to be farmers before they gained access to horses in the 18th century, and there were simply too many of them. They probably would have caused an ecological disaster as bad or worse on the plains given enough time.

Limiting access to a resource like the great plains is an intrinsically hard problem. Compare it to fishing. It's a typical scenario for a tragedy of the commons, and there is little in the history of the plains indian horse cultures that suggests they might have escaped it.

Comment Re:Dark Tan? (Score 4, Insightful) 964

I don't think the issue is whether you are able to connect to a black man. The picture for a Pole just screams "foreign", since the picture is nonrepresentative for a Polish office setting, just like a picture of for instance a family in an American style kitchen wouldn't communicate "family" but again "foreign". To get the feeling you are trying to communicate across you need to localize.

Comment Re:At the Risk of Sounding Like an Apologist (Score 2, Interesting) 832

There is a rational explanation for everything. Let me shed some light on the history of the stormtrooper armor, light saber, and blaster.

The storm trooper armour is actually based on a brilliantly designed reactive armour that stops any high velocity projectile, laser, electroshock, you name it. When it was invented it rendered its wearer invulnerable to all weapons used in those days. Moreover it is, due to the addition of a hard outer layer, also invulnerable to the stabbing and slashing weapons that briefly dominated the battlefields after its invention. Besides it primary function as a battlefield armour, it maintains body temperature and recycles waste products of metabolism. The sensor array and hud built into the helmet are also impressive. The suit has done a brilliant job of keeping its users alive for centuries, although effective countermeasures have significantly reduced the advantages of wearing it over time.

The blaster and light saber were developed as an answer to this armour. Both are low velocity weapons that don't trigger reaction by the armour. The other somewhat effective way to attack the armour is simply with a blunt object or one's hands or feet in the hope of knocking out its occupant.

Since all weapons that are effective against the armour can in principle be dodged because of the required low velocity, there is still a valid case for using them in order to discourage the development and use of other weapons. The empire has therefore remained committed to them. The rebels prefer to walk around unencumbered, which also has some advantages and is moreover cheaper. For the empire this is obviously hardly a reason to change the standard issue weapon for storm troopers, since opponents could always choose to don armour.

The helmet hud is keyed to the eyes of its owner. That's why Luke was practically blind while wearing one. Its sensors are moreover very biased to detecting people wearing similar armors, and certain kinds of technology. This is one of the reasons why the rebels don't use it, and why storm troopers have hardly any advantages over them. Since a variety of countermeasures exist to avoid detection, the empire has basically given up on tuning the helmets for specific classes of enemy. The helmets, just like the armour, do however do an effective job at limiting the options of the enemy.

Comment Re:By analogy with "antenna farm". (Score 1) 164

The link you provides says it derives from firma, fixed payment, making it conceptually similar to continental European mansus or hoba in my view. Equating it with the tract of land is an anachronism in my view if you are looking for an original meaning.

A phrase like "lord X owns an allodium of 30 manses", means that takes an income of 30 times a standard amount from 30 different leaseholders. Since these words date back to a period where not land, but labour was in short supply, it is a in first instance a measure of number of households living in a certain land rather than a measure of the amount of land they till or the amount of available land. Empty land was in those days not a potential source of income. People were. That's for instance why the Carolingian economy has lively slave trade but no land trade of significance. Even warfare was primarily about capturing people, not about their land. Medieval lords didn't need "lebensraum".

The poor leaseholder did of course have to deal with artificial scarcity, to the extent that he had to pay some lord for protection if he wanted to take some of his empty land.

Only when population increased and land became scarce in the high middle ages (and then only in some parts of Europe), it acquired the secondary meaning of a certain amount of land habitually leased by the lord in return for a mansus, and half mansus and quarter mansus households came into existence (either because of subdivision of mansus allotments, or as a reward to colonists for taking marginal land and making it useful by draining or irrigation).

Comment Re:Surprised (Score 1) 333

Even their attitude towards the "zionists" in Israel will presumably not change a lot; Liberals will be more diplomatic about it towards Europe and US if it helps the economy, but the basic tenet of Iranian policy towards the Palestinian issue will still remain supporting the Palestinians in whatever they do.

To quote Rafsanjani (from Wikipedia), who is supposedly an ally of Mousavi (who to his credit hasn't been caught saying such things): "Europe resolved a great problem - the problem of the Zionist danger. The Zionists, who constituted a strong political party in Europe, caused much disorder there. Since they had a lot of property and controlled an empire of propaganda, they made the European governments helpless. What Hitler and the German Nazis did to the Jews of Europe at that time was partly due to these circumstances with the Jews. They wanted to expel the Zionists from Europe because they always were a pain in the neck for the governments there. This is how this calamity fell upon the Muslims, especially the Palestinians, and you all know this history, more or less.[...]The first goal was to save Europe from the evil of Zionism, and in this, they have been relatively successful."

This is essentially the same tune as Ahmadinejad's. The main difference is that Ahmadinejad has no talent for diplomacy at all, just like GW Bush, and says things like this at the wrong time and in the wrong place. Mousavi will be more diplomatic, just like Rafsanjani used to be when he was president.

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