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Comment Re:"Huge" isn't what I'd say (Score 1) 794

And yet, constitutionally, we do not vote for our president as a single people. That is a broadly-held but mistaken belief. It's also a broadly-held but mistaken belief that we live in a thorough democracy: we do not. Only at the local and state level (and I can't really vouch for more than about one state), is it a democracy. You want democracy with all its warts? Move to Greece: they have actual, true democracy and take it seriously with 70-80% turnout. (Although technically mandtory, the requirement is only enforced by socially held beliefs which the Greeks take very seriously, unlike the comparatively apathetic American voters.)

It's also a broadly-held but mistaken belief that each vote counts equally in US national elections. A single vote in New York counts much less than a single vote in Wyoming (to use extreme examples). This is an important part of the functioning of our nation of states. As long as we have a nation of states, rather than a direct democracy without the structure of individual state governments, the power of the states must be supported against Federal encroachment through mechanisms like the Electoral College.

That it is possible to elect a national leader with what some might consider an appallingly small fraction of the popular vote serves to reinforce states rights. You want your vote to count more? Move to a low-population state. Or to a solidly red or blue state, and vote against the majority. That the Electoral College can override the popular vote has been known for a very long time, and has in fact, already happened. Twice. Those that think it is only a recent problem have not studied their American history.

Comment Re:"Huge" isn't what I'd say (Score 3, Insightful) 794

I say this with respect: Anyone who says the Electroral College is an insult to democracy has never thought about how you design an electoral system.

Suppose you have a freshly-minted country that is known for in-fighting and rabble-rousing. You want to unify them, and make it clear that no matter how slim the margin of election, one candidate has been resoundingly selected above all others. Why? If someone is elected from a field of two candiates with only a very slim margin, the members of the losing party are that much more likely to split off. The country is young, you need to ensure unity and cohesiveness. So, a mechanism that amplifies small differences into large ones will help provide the illusion of landslide victories to the public, even when there are none.

The Electoral College was a brilliant bit of work by the designers of our political system, and helped ensure the stability of a highly fragile young country. It was also a practical necessity since communication was so slow, but the real impact was in ensuring unity.

Do we need it still? Yes. For the very same reasons. We say that a 10% margin is a landslide in a national election. 55-45 is a landslide? That sounds to me like a split populace that lacks a single voice. If you had 9 people voting on an issue (say, as you do in the US Supreme Court), it would be equivalent to 5-4 (do the algebra, it's the same), and that is called a split decision. Split, not landslide. The only reason that the media reports 55-45 as a landslide is because the Electoral College amplifies that difference into a nearly unanimous decision. We definitely still need the Electoral College, and for exactly the same reasons. After a contentious election -- and which national elections are not contentious? -- the population needs immediate unification behind a single leader.

Comment Re:Kevin Smith (Score 3, Interesting) 196

At one point in that awesome commentary, Kevin Smith talks about Prince's habitual making of songs and full-on videos that are not released but "put in the vault," as Smith describes what Prince's assistant told him. While Smith makes light of that odd behavior, it makes sense as a long-term strategy to make hay while the sun shines as the colloquial saying goes, assuming Prince was saving these gems for later release as his talent and abilities faded, as an insurance policy to pay for his extravagant lifestyle in his later years.

So, will we now see those compositions released? Did Prince leave instructions in his will?

Comment And Android apps? (Score 2) 13

How about Android apps? Sure, it's nice to know that something I've downloaded needs access to my camera, or my files, or my contacts, etc., but I'd like to have the transparency about exactly WHAT they will be doing with that access.

In some cases, the nefarious intent is pretty clear. There are airline apps that want access to my camera. Not going to happen. There are car tuning apps that want access to my contacts. Not going to happen. There are music apps that want access to my location. Not going to happen.

In other cases, though, there is a plausible case for access, but it might well be hiding nefarious intent. Although a published policy alone won't prevent nefarious intent, if there's enforcement behind it, it will certainly help.

What I fear, though, is the equivalent of EULAs -- documents so large and complex that it becomes effectively impossible to read through them. We need the equivalent of simple language instructions. In my line of work, I occasionally have to write documents for public consumption that are strictly enforced to be short and understandable by people with reading skills of an 8 year old. Why can't we have EULAs, and by extension privacy and transparency documents, with the same requirements?

Comment Attempted distraction (Score 2) 287

Is this stunt anything other than an attempt to distract the press and public from the damaging combination of Bill Clinton's recent ugly interaction with the African-American movement of the moment (which is a dig on the current crop of youngsters with their millisecond attention span and utter ignorance of history; while in office Bill Clinton was called America's first Black President, that's how close he was to the black vote), and the ties with dirty money that the Clintons have that are being revealed in the Panama Papers?

I mean, seriously, UFOs? Is that anything other than a Hail Mary pass?

Comment Why not refrigerator-sized, um, refrigerator? (Score 1) 113

OK, this is a medium-sized pill processor that can be made up to dispense, out of some level of raw materials, pills. Some of the raw materials (whether they are fully-synthesized, nearly-so, or in base stock) will need to be kept cold in places where this sort of thing makes sense.

So instead of shipping one of these do-dads that can do one thing at a time (and takes HOURS to switch over to a new product), why not ship a refrigerator filled with boxes of fully-finished pills? Surely the reliability is higher. Since refrigerators are mature technology, I have to imagine that they would have more fractional volume available for carrying pills than a complicated synthesizing machine.

For a permanently installed location, you would have to ship raw materials to the unit. For a refrigerator, you would have to ship pills. Is there a significant difference?

Can someone convince me that the idea isn't just a boondoggle? What advantages does it have?

Comment A reliable standard (Score 5, Insightful) 566

The beauty of the RJ-45 standard is that it has low insertion force, a positive engagement report (the click when the cable seats properly), and it is essentially impossible to put in the wrong way. It remains in place without screws, and yet releases easily. The only shortcoming it has is the fragility of the catch mechanism when pulling cables through walls or cable trays, but various manufacturers have come up with a range of boot designs to circumvent that problem. You can recognise the connector port by feel, and know the orientation blindly (ie, around back of the equipment you can't get your head behind to be able to see). Other people might disagree, but in my experience, it's the most reliable connector in common use. Maybe the RJ-11 (standard telephone jack) was, in its heyday, more commonly deployed, but probably not. I have never, ever, not once, found a panel-mounted RJ-11 or RJ-45 that had failed.

Compare with the micro USB: insertion force is high enough that it's close to the force required to plastically deform the connector when putting it in the wrong way, yet, it can easily fall out under many circumstances. There is no positive feedback on proper seating. The holes for a micro USB are indistinguishable by feel from many other ports (at least to me). There is no retention mechanism other than friction. The connectors are very fragile, and nearly impossible to join to the cable in the field (read: you can't make your own cables). The insertion count lifetime is quite low, and I've worn out quite a few of them myself. It's a poor standard.

The folks designing the RJ-45 and its sister standards were frelling brilliant. The people designing the more recent stuff ... not so much.

Comment Cut number of stops by half (Score 1) 400

One of the huge reasons that bus is not a viable means of transportation for me, despite there being two routes that with incredible convenience service my daily commute is that they make too many stops. They stop, quite literally, every two blocks. On the plus side, this implies the maximum distance you need to walk to a bus is a block (and the mean will be about half a block, depending on variability in housing density). Yes, that's remarkable convenience. But it means that the 10 minute drive it should take from my apartment to my office is 20 minutes by bus, and that's just shy of the amount of time it takes to walk. If we were to inconvenience the riders by eliminating half of the stops, it would mean a very slightly longer walk to the stop (mean of a block, maximum two), and a 25% reduction in transportation time.

Also, since there are an insane number of bicyclists on the same route, having the bus stop less frequently means fewer incursions into the bike lanes, and I'm sure, fewer bus-bicycle accidents. I'd expect the number of bus-car accidents to go down as well. The amount of pollution buses emit would go down, as would the their maintenance costs. If we go all radical and decommission the now unused bus stops, we could, for example, convert the space to bike racks, getting parked bikes off the sidewalks where they damage car doors and interfere with pedestrians, or parking for ride sharing cars.

The only negative aspect -- the only negative aspect -- is a slightly reduced level of bus-riding convenience from wildly to merely very.

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