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Comment Re: illogical captain (Score 1) 937

"and on slashdot I have seen an amazing number of posts stating that patents shouldn't be allowed to teach religion to their kids."

OMG. *blinks* Patents are having kids now?! I suppose we'll be hearing about patent marriage rights soon, and then SCOTUS will rule that patents have free speech rights. Where will the insanity end? The US needs real patent reform more than ever. (j/k)

Comment Re: illogical captain (Score 1) 937

Oh, I dunno about most folks, but my morality stems from basic ideas like peace on earth, goodwill towards my fellow man, and a strong desire not to be seen as a self-righteous asshat by the same. (But I'm also not athiest, rather mostly agnostic, with leanings towards Deism, and can count the number of times I've been in a non-wedding religious service on the fingers of one hand.) As has been pointed out elsewhere, there is a fundamental non-sequitur in most organized religions where they insist that only their "One True God" can establish morality in we poor weak humans, despite the long history of facts to the contrary, and that we are all doomed to commit atrocities without some "supernatural father figure" watching over us with threats of punishment. What happened to free will? What happened to basic human dignity?

Comment Re: When one thinks of an African (Score 1) 46

Many, many years ago, my Egyptian co-worker chastised me for lamenting the lack of "African-Americans" (I was young and foolish*) at my office. He rather pointedly noted that Egypt is located in Africa, and that as a Copt his ancestors had been Africans for a very long time.

*Now married to a lovely Jamaican lady who rightly points out that she does not identify as "African-American" despite being Black. Apparently that's a Caribbean thing.

Comment Re:Good old selfishness (Score 1) 797

Another problem with heat pumps is that they lose their heating capability in cold weather (varies by model but usually within a few degrees of freezing). Most heat pumps have electric resistance heaters built into the forced air unit to supplement the heat pump when the temperature drops too low. In most of the temperate zones of the United States, this is only a problem for a few days (maybe weeks) a year, so heat pumps can still be a very efficient choice -- mainly because they can be used for air conditioning (cooling) during warmer weather. But at higher altitudes and northern climate zones, the electric heat would be used so frequently that you end up better off with just using an electric heat source (or natural gas, or wood/pellet stove, or something else). Plus, some people just don't want/need forced air cooling, so the initial investment in a heat pump doesn't make sense for something that will only be used for part of the year.

Comment Re:This sort of inanity... (Score 1) 274

Nothing in this proposed legislation (or really, just about all of the disability related civil rights laws, including the ADA) would apply to truly private facilities, including "private websites." However, if your website (or physical facility) offers what is referred to as "public accommodation" -- do you offer some service or benefit to the general public, as opposed to excluding the general public and/or not offering a service or benefit? -- then it would have to comply. Youtube would need to comply (and probably already does). Your personal website probably would not, unless (for example) you offered software you wrote or a free ebook or something like that; but even in such an example, only that part of public accommodation would be required to be made accessible.

"Making accessible" sounds like a lot of hard work, but for a website it is almost entirely based on established "best practices" for coding HTML and related technologies. Include alt attributes on your images. Specify alternate content for embedded media (descriptive text is compatible with screen readers). Use tables for tabular data, or identify the table as a layout tool not containing actual data. These are all things you should be doing anyway for a commercial/public accommodation website, given the number of folks who are browsing the Web with images turned off, Flash and other media disabled, or on devices (iPad, mobile phone) that do not support fancy sites and technologies.

Possibly the most important part is that "making accessible" doesn't mean doing away with the (theoretically) inaccessible portions. The whole point of accessibility is to provide an alternative experience that is as transparent (non-separated) as possible to the inaccessible experience. In the physical world, this often requires changes to the inaccessible experience (floor space at doors, ramps and wheelchair lifts at stairs, etc.), but in the electronic world of the Web there are established techniques (HTML elements and attributes) and technologies (screen readers, braille pads, eye-trackers) that allow persons with disabilities to access a properly coded Web page without forcing the author/creator to make a separate version for accessibility, or to do extra work that is specifically done only for accessibility purposes.

Comment Re:Eat your own dogfood, jerks (Score 1) 274

Not correct. Large corporations tend to be blind (no pun intended) to particular demands for equal treatment, especially when it comes to civil rights. Walmart springs to mind, but an established case is NFB v. Target.

Prior to 2006, Target's website looked nice (subjectively) but was coded in such a way that it could not be translated or converted to a non-visual format. According to this summary, "The lawsuit alleged that Target had not made the minimum changes necessary to its Web site to make the site compatible with screen access technology and to allow blind users to access the site to purchase products, redeem gift cards, find Target stores, and perform other functions available to sighted customers." I added the emphasis to point out that the lawsuit was not asking Target to completely redesign its website so that it was the same for sighted and non-sighted customers, or even to allow some random specialty interface; it was asking for minimum changes for compatibility with established accessibility technology.

Civil rights work that way -- you don't have to make everything the same, but you have to provide similar functionality in a way that is as transparent (non-separated) as possible. The technology and techniques to make accessible websites has existed since nearly the beginning of the public Web (screen readers, alt attribute for images, alternative content for embeds, etc.). There was really no excuse (except ignorance or malice, perhaps, neither of which is defensible in a civil rights case) why Target's website was inaccessible over a decade later.

Comment Re:Unanimous bi-partisan support... (Score 1) 256

Gloria Romero, the bill's sponsor, is being termed out. She's a lame duck right now with an uncertain future (she placed third in the recent primary for Superintendent of Public Schools). The biggest problem she has is what to do next. Aligning with a potentially divisive (but ultimately meaningless) issue like this gives her something to be remembered by, and possibly positions her for a run for some other tangentially related elected position, like Insurance Commissioner.

Comment Obviously never flown SWA (Score 1) 940

SWA is all single-class 737 aircraft. The closest thing to an upgraded class of service you can get is their "business" fare (which they call a "class" but is not in the sense that any other airline uses) that means you get to be one of the first 10 people on board the plane to grab your unreserved seat before the rest of the cattle.


Net Users In Belarus May Soon Have To Register 89

Cwix writes "A new law proposed in Belarus would require all net users and online publications to register with the state: 'Belarus' authoritarian leader is promising to toughen regulation of the Internet and its users in an apparent effort to exert control over the last fully free medium in the former Soviet state. He told journalists that a new Internet bill, proposed Tuesday, would require the registration and identification of all online publications and of each Web user, including visitors to Internet cafes. Web service providers would have to report this information to police, courts, and special services.'"

Comment Re:No one should have expected (Score 1) 1364

A petition is not a vote, it's a public statement that "I support initiative X."

Gonna have to disagree with you (and everyone else in this discussion making similar statements). While the above is certainly the common understanding of what it means to sign a petition, from a deliberative process standpoint all it really means is that the question (in this case, "Should same-sex unions share the same rights and privileges as opposite-sex unions?") is worthy of consideration. This is distinctly different than "worthy of support." If you feel strongly about a petition (referendum, ballot measure, whatever) -- either strongly for or strongly against -- you should push to see it placed before voters. If for no other reason than to see where the issue really stands in the jurisdiction. (Maybe the overwhelming majority of Washington voters are raging homophobes -- this referendum will let the non-homophobic residents know where they stand.)

My point is that "supporting" a petition to get a measure on the ballot is not the same thing as supporting the measure itself. The danger of what these folks are doing is that most people will fail to make that distinction and treat anyone who signed the petition as a homophobe. I am not arguing that the petition signers should not be a matter of public record, only that the public should be educated that there is a distinction between supporting a petition and supporting the referendum.

I am not a resident of Washington, but if I was then I would sign the petition specifically so I could vote against the referendum. Trying to prevent decisive measures from coming to a vote is a losing proposition that engenders a lot of ill will on both sides. If the "No On R-71" crowd is convinced that they can win, they should push for the referendum to be on the ballot so that the supporters can see just how outnumbered they are.

Comment Re:What the Crap Oregon? (Score 1) 318

"First your state develops that absurd vehicle mileage tax system that was discussed yesterday"

Wrong. A guy from district 3 is looking at alternative to a gas tax to help recoup loss from improved gas mileage. NO one has develod, implemented or OK'd any such system.

Bzzt. You may want to check the history on the proposal. In fact, such a system was already "developed, implemented and OK'd" in Portland. From

"This type of pilot program has already been tested in Oregon, along with a few other states. In November 2007, 260 Portland residents volunteered to have a mileage-tracking device installed in their cars as a VMT [Vehicle Mileage Tax] program trial run."

As the linked article notes, there were tracking issues because it was limited to the state of Oregon and had limited funds; the point of the new proposal is to expand the trial program nationwide so that folks can be tracked (purely for accounting purposes, of course) across state borders. From time to time, it throws out something stupid, too.

That being said, you're right about it not being the entire state of Oregon that has gone mental. Most folks in my home state are good people, whether they're raving liberal city-dwellers or raving conservatives from everywhere else. Oregon has a long history of being very progressive, from beverage container recycling laws to "death with dignity" (assisted suicide).


Submission + - 2006 Predicted As Warmest On Record

zaliph writes: "The BBC is running a story on the UK Met Office's latest report, stating that 2006 may be the warmest year on record for the world.
From the article:
There is a 60% chance that the average surface temperature will match or exceed the current record from 1998. The global surface temperature is projected to be 0.54C (0.97F) above the long-term average of 14C (57C), beating the current record of 0.52C (0.94F), which was set in 1998.

Submission + - Google wins dismissal of suit over search patents

PatPending writes: Google Inc., the most-used Internet search engine, won dismissal of a Wisconsin company's lawsuit over four patents for database-search technology. U.S. District Judge John Shabaz in Madison, Wisconsin, granted Google's request Dec. 21 to throw out the patent- infringement suit filed in April by closely held HyperPhrase Technologies LLC before trial. HyperPhrase targeted the Google toolbar interface used in Internet browsers; its AutoLink feature that allows users to link to information on selected Web sites; and AdSense, Google's technology for placing ads on its site. 7google-story,0,1690497,print.story?coll=chi-busin ess-hed

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