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Comment Faith... or Ivory Tower Syndrome (Score 1) 1486

IMHO, part of the problem is that professors are often economically and professionally invested in their pet theories. They derive grant money, consulting, and professional status from being an authorative expert on whatever it is. And authorative experts are "right".

  It is taboo for a student or anyone who cannot match the peeing contest of academic credentials to question them. Even then, it often starts bitter battles that last entire lifetimes. Battles which have been known to fly in the face of logical, rational thought and mounds of evidence to the contrary. Why? Because someone has an absolute need to be "right".

During my academic career, I have often run into a great deal of trouble because I do question nearly everything. I don't care if it is printed in the text book. The book is often wrong and I have, in class, on more than one occasion been able to prove it. And in at least one case, the professor had written the text book :/

Comment Should be legal to slap parents when kids are bad (Score 1) 615

I'm also guessing that anyone who leaves a child to "free range" won't object when you're spending your retirement money to bail him out of jail in about 10 years......

Just more lame parents who think plugging their kid in to a an electronic device or turning them out for everyone else to deal with is a fine idea.

And people wonder why I despise OPC (Other People's Children). It should be legal to slap the parents when the kids are being a brat in public.

Examples from my recent experience - While out having dinner a nice restaurant, I am assaulted by a child who is about 8 years old and who is busily clearing his parent's table by throwing everything from food to the condiment containers - mostly in my direction. When the salt shaker lands in my plate of food, I ask them to have him stop. Do they say anything to the child? Oh no! Instead, I get some crap about how he's expressing himself. I tell the father that if he doesn't want me to "express myself" he needs to get his ugly squealing brat under control because I'm pay just as much to eat there as he is. While I am dealing with the parents, the little miscreat has left her parent's table and moved to my table where she is now eating off my plate. At this point, the parents have the nerve to tell me "Oh, look she LIKES you." My response was, "Good, because you just bought my dinner. The veal and lobster really are quite good here."

While waiting in the ticket line at the movie theater, a couple and their children walk up behind me. They have two boys who are playing with yo-yos. Now that doesn't sound bad until I tell you that their "idea" of playing with the yo-yo's is to try to clock each other in the head with them. All the thrashing around, shoving, and fighting results in me be whacked with the yo-yo's. When I ask the boys to please stop because they're not just hitting each other, the mother starts screaming at me that I can't tell her children what to do. At that point, I tell her that she can either make it stop or the yo-yo's are going to end up in a very uncomfortable spot for her.

At a completely different movie theater and parents bring a toddler - barely walking - to Grindhouse. The poor child was so frightened she screamed though the entire movie and was still screaming as her parents sedately waddled back out to their car. OMFG! Who takes a child to Grindhouse????

Comment Re:I think this probably ought to be illegal (Score 1) 611

Slot machines are a game of chance. Examine the disassembled code and you can see that the supposedly random outcomes are, in fact, random.

I used to work in the industry. Sure, the odds are programmed into the machine, but if you pull a jackpot, there is nothing in the code that prevents your very next pull from being a jackpot. Now, the odds of it are very slim, but very possible.

If you could slow down time, and examine perfectly the inner state of the machine, it would be possible to pull a jackpot every time, without 'cheating', it's just the odds of this occurring in real life have been programmed in.

As an aside, most slots are programmed to pay out between 80% and 98% of the money put into them. (I think I have those figures correct, but it's been years since I've worked in the industry.) This is different depending on locale (e.g. France has laws that specify these ranges, where Nevada has only a minimum, not a maximum). This means that in certain casinos, there are winner slot machines programmed to pay out 101% of the money played over time, so if you sit at them all day, you can't lose. However, when you look at the numbers, playing 100,000 dollars over a day will only net you 1000 dollars.

Comment Re:Peering Agreement (Score 1) 315

I'm glad you've got the points, because this is the first intelligent response I've yet seen on the subject.

To add my two cents, Comcast's argument is with regards to Level 3 as a CDN, and how other CDNs are paying access fees.

Let's think about that for a moment... At some point an ISP like Comcast had the brilliant (if morally repugnant) idea of charging CDNs access to their customers. Since a CDN makes money off of reaching customers, their service is only valuable if they can reach the customers, which puts them in a bind. They have to pay, and the CDNs customers pay because they wish to provide their clients a better experience.

Let's look at that last one again to see how truly evil Comcast is in this scenario. Comcast has customers who pay them for net access. Instead of opening their arms to CDNs, which are a FREE way to get better service for their customers, they've decided to make CDNs pay to make service better for Comcast's customers.

This means that Comcast is introducing barriers to improving the service of their own services. Why? Because they can. I'm a locked-in Comcast customer, and I really wish I had any options.

Comment Re:Intriguing (Score 1) 299

Reading the Dr. Evil trade brings up an interesting point. When you are a majority force in the market (e.g. you own 80% of Microsoft), your trades are strictly regulated. You could perform vast amounts of traffic in an attempt to manipulate the market. Imagine you dump 20% of you 80% in order to depress the price, and then once you changed the behavior of the owners of the outstanding 20%, you start buying back stock at the depressed price. You've just taken advantage of your dominant position to manipulate the market.

In this case, however, they learned how to manipulate the majority force in the market in order to manipulate the market. They didn't have the dominant position, but they used the majority force to manipulate the market just the same. In either case, someone is intentionally manipulating the market through trades in order to take money from the rest of the market. I'm not so sure it's cut and dry...

Comment Re:Carte blanche (Score 5, Interesting) 376

Obviously spoken by someone who doesn't really know that much about France.

I lived for six years in France, and there is one main difference in politics between the French and Americans. When we talk about the government, we use the pronoun 'they': they can't do this, if they raise taxes, etc. For the the French, the government is 'we'. (Cue bad French jokes). I don't know why we do it [some stupid policy]. We need to do something about retirement ages.

It seems small, and so you might discount it, but this little difference is key to understanding the French. They are disgusted when voter turnout was an amazingly low (for them) 88% in the last election. We as Americans are happy if we get 50%. They've rewritten their constitution five times because they felt the situation had changed and it needed to be updated.

And as to the riots just being a national sport, that's not true. In 2006, the conservative right wing government tried to introduce a special employment contract that discriminated against the young. (Values of the French republic: Liberty. Equality. Brotherhood.) The youth held strikes, and rioted. They barricaded schools, held rallys, etc. A month later the discriminatory contract was removed from law.

As a nation, we haven't had that much national will since the civil rights movement. (Unless you count the national racism that whipped us into a fervor to support George Bush and his plans in Afghanistan^H^H^H Iraq.)

Comment Re:Language Opportunities (Score 1) 572

I am an American living in France (I speak French fluently) and having lived in the US, I can assure you that the problem is with Region 1 DVDs (USA). When you buy a Region 2 DVD intended for France, you get subtitles in French...


Microsoft Behind Google Complaints To EC 346

justice4all writes to share that some of the recent complaints to the European Commission about Google have apparently been coming from Microsoft. "A lawyer for Microsoft confirmed that the software giant told the US Department of Justice and the European Commission how Google’s business practices may be harming publishers, advertisers and competition in search and online advertising. [...] 'Google’s algorithms learn less common search terms better than others because many more people are conducting searches on these terms on Google. These and other network effects make it hard for competing search engines to catch up. Microsoft’s well-received Bing search engine is addressing this challenge by offering innovations in areas that are less dependent on volume. But Bing needs to gain volume too, in order to increase the relevance of search results for less common search terms.'"

Comment Re:Odd Reference to Berners-Lee (Score 1) 165

Well, as it turns out, it actually does... Take a look at the Ars Technica article on SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and you'll see that SIP was modelled after HTTP. For those who don't know, SIP is the protocol most often used in making open video and voice calls over the internet (open as in non-proprietary. e.g. Skype doesn't use SIP, but interestingly enough, iChat does)

Of course, I think it's pretty obvious that it was HTTP and HTML (aka the world wide web) that brought about the huge explosion in communication and networking technology that makes voice and video over the internet possible. But I think you knew that and were just being pedantic...

Comment Old meets new... (Score 4, Interesting) 165

7 Years ago, I moved to France to work, not speaking a word of French, and I'm now a fluent speaker. The internet was instrumental in my learning French, but maybe not in the way you might expect...

First, I used the net to search for and buy a program called Linkwords (I don't think it exists anymore, it was a crappy VB program). The software sucked, but the principle worked. It was a sort of flash card system that had you using vivid imagery as a mental aid. My vocab hit around 2000 words in the first couple of weeks. It was useless for learning to speak French, but the perfect lifesaver for reading signs, product packaging, etc.

Then, I used P2P programs to find MP3s of Pimsleur French. For those not in the know, Pimsleur was a Harvard professor in the 60s who developed a system for learning languagues that mimics the way children learn. It's all about stimulating the memory at programmed intervals and it is one of the best ways to learn to SPEAK a language. (While there is writing materiel supplements, they're relatively minimal). These are quite expensive (you can spend up to $1000 for the complete set) because they work. You need to have about 1 hour a day to devote to it, and it must be somewhere you quiet that you can listen, and speak. (You need to hear yourself speaking for it to work).

Next came my traditional phase, where I spent a lot of time reading BDs (the French equivalent of Manga. BD is Bande Dessinee (accents ommitted) which means comic strip. There's a very large adult BD culture in France). From there I progressed to Harry Potter (which is a surprisingly difficult read in French, lots of flowery speech, wordplay, etc.).

After this, my French was halting, but I constantly tried, and was always asking the meaning of words from my colleagues.

Then I started watching more French TV. At the time, the number of shows that were subtitled was depressingly dismal as compare to the US (though it has gotten a bit better). Again, computers and the net to the rescue, because I was able to download DVDs (the whole multi-language, multi-subtitle feature is a godsend for language learning). What you might not realize is that a lot of understanding a foreign language is based on context. If you know it, it's much easier to guess what is being said. In a conversation, if you miss something, you can ask the other person to repeat. Watching TV or movies requires you to pay closer attention. You can rewind, but you can never get the speaker to express the same thing using other words, so you really have to understand whats being said.

Finally, thanks to the internet, I was able to find about speed dating events in my area where I met my wife. My wife speaks English (she's an English teacher) but her family doesn't, so that got me into social situations that required me to practice speaking.

Now, I had the benefit of immersion, but I think it's important to realize that the internet is not a magic bullet for learning a foreign language, no matter what companies that sell internet based language services say. That being said, however, if the internet makes learning materiels more readily available, as well as practice opportunities, I'm all for it..

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