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Comment It's a primate thing (Score 1) 259

Pretty generally, among the social primates, individuals pay attention to higher status individuals.
High status individuals are the ones who might have something to offer you.
Alternately, they are the ones with the resources to attack you.
You need to keep track of where they are; what they are doing; what they are interested in; who *they* are looking at.

Just walking down the street, a rich person sees fewer richer people around him than a poor person, and thus, fewer people that he needs to pay attention to. Transport some of those rich people to, say, North by North West, or a political party convention, and you will probably see them paying close attention to those around them.

Comment Newsreels (Score 5, Informative) 348

It is happening as we speak.

Mid-20th century newsreels--an important history of the time--are sitting on shelves in film canisters, quietly disintegrating.

There are people who would like to copy them forward onto durable media, but they can't because the newsreels are copyrighted, but the copyright holders either can't be located or aren't interested in preserving them.

They will be dust long before they enter the public domain.

Comment It's not a bargain, it's a tradeoff (Score 1) 367

With good reason, the people of the United States -- through judges and law enforcement -- can invade our private spaces," Comey said, adding that that "bargain" has been at the center of the country since its inception

It's not a bargain, it's a tradeoff.

A bargain is something you strike with some other party that has something you want. You give them something; they give you something.

There is no other party here. It's our society; our country; our government. We make the rules. We face a (putative) tradeoff between privacy and security. It is entirely on us how we make that tradeoff.

Comment My theory, which is mine (Score 1) 167

I've thought about this.
How did a catastrophe like PHP come to be so widely used?
I've come up with two answers.

1. Historical accident
There was a need for a PHP-like language to write web back-ends. It could have been Perl, or Python, or PHP, or Ruby, or probably any of a hundred others. At some point, some language gains critical mass. Then everyone uses it because everyone uses it, and we're off to the races. Which language is first to critical mass is--at least somewhat--a matter of chance. As it happens, it was PHP.

2. The default behavior of the language processor is to emit the entire program text on STDOUT.
What this means is that you can take an entire existing static web site--a whole tree of static HTML pages--declare them to be PHP scripts, et voila, there is your web site, just like it was before, except that now you can start adding $variables to your pages and creating dynamic content. It gives managers and salesmen and marketing people and non-programmers a way to get into the game without actually having to do any of that--you know--programming stuff.

Calling this an easy learning curve misapprehends the situation. It is more in the "this one weird trick" category.

The actual PHP learning curve is vertical, which is to say, no one can learn PHP. The language is such a tangled mass of inconsistencies, exceptions, breakage and lossage that acquiring the knowledge necessary to use it competently is virtually impossible.

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