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Comment Re:I think Gattaca deserves a mention (Score 1) 1222

This too is one of my favorite movies, and one reason why I like it so much is because of its distinctive visual style; the choice to not rely on elaborate sets or visual effects, as is typical of much of the sci-fi genre.

Many people interpret this film as a cautionary tale, and rightly so. But I also saw it as an inspirational story, in which the depth of Vincent's aspirations and sheer determination in the face of overwhelming societal and biological pressure, nevertheless triumphs. It isn't that the naysayers were wrong per se--he was in fact physically inferior, both to his brother Anton and to Jerome, the man whose identity he borrowed. It's that he succeeded because there is no gene for the drive to succeed. And that, I think is the most central message of the movie, rather than the warning about letting genetics decide our destinies, and why this movie is so great.

Comment Everyone's dirty. (Score 5, Insightful) 122

The hotels are dirty: they pay extremely low wages to cleaning staff, while charging exorbitant prices for rooms, and AirBnB is of course a threat to that business model, so their solution is to force them to compete under the same regulatory environment.

AirBnB is dirty: the company doesn't give a shit about party houses popping up in desirable neighborhoods that regularly violate noise ordinances. In their view, that's a local law enforcement problem. That's the next door neighbor's problem. They profess to care, but only pay lip service. AirBnB turns a blind eye to developers and landlords (who are already insanely wealthy) turning their properties into unofficial hotels, causing rents to skyrocket for people who actually live in the area. And let's not forget: AirBnB lobbied--HARD--against initiatives to prevent this kind of abuse of the housing market. And they won.

Local government is dirty: politicians lie, cheat, and do backroom deals to get on whatever side of an issue that brings them the most campaign money. In San Diego, the city is proposing yet another "transient occupancy tax" hike to finance all kinds of projects that they should be financing by taxing the entities that stand to gain most from those projects. But they won't because it's political suicide, so they always pick the easy target: out-of-city tourists. Comic-Con is a huge draw and the city milks the attendees for everything they can. Hotel costs are out of control, and that just pushes more people to use AirBnB. Why rent a $400/night hotel room when you can get a whole house for less than half that rate?

The landlords are dirty: they only care that they can rent out their properties with AirBnB at over twice the prevailing monthly rent in the area. They don't give a fuck about noise complaints. Not their problem as long as the city keeps saying they have no enforcement power. They just see the money rolling in because it's completely unregulated.

And as always, who suffers? Regular property owners and renters. Middle class people who are priced out of the rental market because $2500 or more per month for a 1 bedroom apartment is obscene.

Fuck all of you: hotels, AirBnB, greedy landlords, the city.

Comment Simple (Score 5, Interesting) 339

The appearance of competence is not the same as actual competence.

Actual competence is difficult to assess when the outcome measures are subjective.

Incompetent yet successful people are more likely to be proficient at masking their incompetence through lying and psychopathic manipulation.

Comment Americans want everything for nothing. (Score 1) 311

The real reason why healthcare is so expensive in the US is because Americans want the "freedom" to have everything they want, but expect that someone else should have the responsibility of paying for it. This leads to attitudes such as:

"I want to eat the cheapest and unhealthiest food and drink as much soda as I want, and expect my health insurance to pay for my diabetes, heart disease, morbid obesity, and metabolic syndrome, because it's my right to decide what to eat."

"It's my right to feed my children whatever food I want. How dare the government suggest guidelines for what my kids should and should not eat. How dare they suggest I'm setting them up for a lifetime of poor dietary choices and health problems."

"I want the best health care possible, because I paid my insurance premiums and taxes for decades."

The broader issue here is not that orphan drugs are expensive--to be clear, they are very, very expensive--but that Americans are ignorant and uneducated, distrustful of science yet reliant on science for life-saving medications, smartphones, self-driving cars, nutritious food, clean renewable energy, and so on. They think vaccines are a government conspiracy, believe climate change is a hoax designed to prevent them from getting rich, and believe in a divine Creator that will grant them their wish to be personally wealthy if they simply have enough faith, and that if one does not have their material wishes granted, it is because they didn't give enough money to the televangelist who told them God would answer their prayers. These people complain that Obamacare is too expensive but when they get cancer, expect Medicare to pay for the chemo, radiation, and surgery.

In that context, is it any wonder that health care is expensive? Americans are hypocrites: they preach endlessly about "personal responsibility" but when it comes to actually being personally responsible, suddenly everything is Somebody Else's Problem And I Had Nothing To Do With It.

Drug development is expensive. It costs insane amounts of money to discover candidate compounds, then run through preclinical and clinical trials, then jump the pivotal Phase III hurdles. Orphan indications would never be addressed without giving the pharmaceutical industry an incentive to treat them. If one insists on applying a capitalist economic model to orphan drug development, this is how it looks. You can't claim to be in favor of free-market principles and in the same breath claim that this is the cause of crippling health care costs. This is what Americans ask for when they say that health care should remain a privatized system.

Comment It's not the highway infrastructure (Score 5, Insightful) 469

The real root of the problem is that people are either unwilling or unable to live within a short distance to their workplace. Many large cities were not designed to handle the volume of commuters that we have had for at least 20 years. People live in the suburbs (for a variety of reasons; some due to economics, others due to a desire to live in areas with lower population density), and commute to the city centers to work. This was okay when suburban sprawl was not as extreme as it is now. In the Bay Area, people can't afford to live close to work due to the insane real estate market. And they don't want to live in shoebox apartments, either.

The problem can only be solved by reducing the need for people to commute. There are a lot of ways to do this:

1. Encourage employees to work remotely where possible.
2. Decrease the cost of living in the city center or areas close to work.
3. Provide financial incentives for employees to live near their job site.
4. Allow more flexible working hours so that traffic volume can be distributed over a longer period of time.
5. Self-driving cars have the potential to reduce accidents and increase traffic flow efficiency.

Notice I did not include public transit. Public transit is only good for people who already live sufficiently close or do not need the flexibility of traveling by car. In Los Angeles, public transit is a complete joke. To commute from a suburb to downtown can take over 90 minutes, whereas driving by car--even in traffic--is at least 30 minutes faster, simply because train frequencies and network densities are too low. Sure, it's great if you only need to travel two or three stations and the trains run every five minutes...but for the vast majority of commuters this is not realistic. Commuters want and need to drive cars.

Comment Good advice to apply in practice (Score 4, Insightful) 199

The article makes a very persuasive case, one that I think many of us can apply in our work as well. You don't have to be a graphic designer or work in graphic design to be able to extract these principles and apply them to your profession.

1. Mitigate the chance of error across every step in the process. Build in fail-safes. The media has placed the lion's share of the blame on the PwC accountants, and it's fair to say they were largely responsible ("you had ONE job"). But there are other steps in the process, ways of building in fail-safe mechanisms, as this article demonstrates.

2. Anticipate the impact of human error. Having two accountants, two sets of envelopes, having them memorize the list of winners, is a good thing, but we see here that this failed because when the awards ceremony is live, people might not be as level-headed as they would normally be. There's a lot going on, and the possibility of error as a result of distractions is greater. Ironically, having multiple sets of envelopes is part of the reason why this error occurred, so there must be careful thought toward building the aforementioned redundancy in a way that doesn't inadvertently create additional modes of failure.

3. Good communication design always places the most important piece of information front and center. This is true whether you work in traditional print, or new media design, or user interface design. And the need for effective design is very frequently underestimated or overlooked entirely.

You can argue that this was just an awards ceremony, rich people patting each other on the back, yadda yadda. Fine. But what I'm interested in is how we all can use this event as a learning experience in our own lives.

Comment Re:After my experience Saturday, Fuck AT&T (Score 1) 71

The same level of incompetence has also been my experience with AT&T. The reason for this kind of dumbfuckery is simple: it is cheaper to not have to hire and train intelligent salespeople; the cost of their errors come out of your pocket unless you raise a stink, and not everyone does; and their business thrives on clueless customers who buy the upsell.

AT&T is a bloated and parasitic corporate machine that has suckled on the teat of consumer and government excess for so long they have no reason whatsoever to provide anything but the bare minimum level of service. They don't care if the savvy consumer leaves; they know they can't compete for that market.

Comment "Undercut?" You keep using that word... (Score 4, Interesting) 71

...I do not think it means what you think it means.

To undercut in price generally means to offer goods or services of comparable quality at a lower price. AT&T's offering remains inferior to its competitors; therefore, it cannot be regarded as "undercutting."

If someone is selling upscale donuts at $5 a piece, am I "undercutting" them if I decide to sell cardboard "donuts" at 10 cents each?

Comment Re:Umm (Score 4, Insightful) 402

Back when I was in middle and high school, we were taught basic aspects of conducting research, such as differentiating between primary and secondary source materials. We were also taught how to cite sources appropriately, and when our papers were graded, the biggest penalties (short of plagiarism) were for things like failure to cite, or to present opinion as fact.

Of course, being just lowly teenagers not yet at a university, things like peer review didn't really apply. At the end of the day, our projects were still shitty essays on familiar topics that were not even remotely close to being candidates for publication anywhere except the confines of the classroom. But my point is that these things are skills that can be taught, and are for the most part, generally taught to varying degrees of success, but in this day and age, I am not entirely sure it is enough, because I believe that students frequently fail to make the connection between the critical thinking processes behind academic research, and the critical thinking that should be applied when evaluating issues we encounter in real life.

And this, I would argue, is how educators should help their students to bridge this gap. Mere access to information is inadequate, because citing your sources and having peer review is not sufficient when one is not able to discern what is reliable and unreliable information. More information is not necessarily more ACCURATE information.

As for your emotional screed about safe spaces and "snowflakes," I find it quite telling that you chose to go that route, as it suggests an ideological agenda on your part. It certainly does not reflect a dispassionate or objective means to address the difficulty that the general public would appear to have in distinguishing what is credible information from propaganda.

Comment AirBnB is a plague (Score 2) 62

The problem with AirBnB is that it doesn't distinguish property owners who are renting out a room in their primary dwelling are doing it to earn extra cash on the side, versus landlords who use it to turn entire buildings into vacation rentals without regard to noise ordinances and the surrounding rental market. So, AirBnB defends itself by holding up the former case as an example, while ignoring the legitimate complaints caused by the latter case.

Let's be absolutely clear here: for many major cities, if apartment landlords are able to use AirBnB, they would make a lot more money than they would through regular rentals. If enough of them do this, it would increase the cost of rent for the entire region by making housing more scarce. This is unacceptable.

Cities have fought back by trying to force limitations on the circumstances under which an AirBnB would be allowed. But AirBnB fights these because it threatens their business. They put out propaganda saying that cities are limiting the freedom of struggling property owners, or accusing government of bowing to some all-powerful hotel lobby. The reality is that they care nothing about the destruction of the housing market, or to noise complaints. I know from first-hand experience: they do not take noise complaints seriously; as long as they get their cut, there's no accountability. I've had to call the police on various "guests." I've complained through their site numerous times, to no avail. I have no leverage.

Regulations are not some intrinsic evil as libertarians would put it. Until it happens to affect YOU, there's always this prevailing belief that it's nobody's business to dictate what others should or should not be able to do. But let's see how you deal with AirBnB guests who party until 3-4 am on a weekday when you have to get up in the morning to work; how you deal with landlords who ignore your threats to take them to court; how you deal with having to call the police on a weekly basis until even they stop caring because there's nothing they can do except tell drunk asshole guests to quiet down. Let's see how you deal with having your property value decrease because you're next to a 24/7 party house. Let's see how well your "live and let live" attitude serves you when you find rents increasing in your region by 10%+ every six months because every fucking apartment owner is doing AirBnB so that they can make $4000/month on each apartment instead of $2000/month.

Comment I tried to warn a friend (Score 3, Interesting) 726

A few years ago, a friend of mine who had been working in a full-time job in the hospitality industry, had signed up to be an Uber driver during his spare time. He claimed to be making an extra thousand dollars a month or so, which he used to finance a used vehicle.

I probed for more details. "What about insurance," I asked. "Have you accounted for wear and tear on the vehicle due to increased mileage? Is this a sustainable income model? What if the pool of drivers increases and you face increased competition for fares?" He was completely nonchalant: at the time, Uber was still growing, there weren't as many drivers as there are now, and since he was still receiving a salary, he had no concerns for wage instability.

Months later, he mentioned that he quit his full time job because he could make more money driving for Uber, and it was lower stress. He seemed happy. Well, we know how that turned out. He ended up essentially destitute, unable to afford food and rent; unable to fix his car when the inevitable breakdown occurred and would cost thousands to repair; and still had payments to make on the loan.

I'm not saying that these kinds of jobs cannot be sustainable as full-time employment, but it is a great deal more difficult to make it viable than the vast, vast majority of people enticed into the idea are led to believe. The fact that these companies make it sound like it's easy (for obvious reasons) is the modern-day equivalent of selling Amway.

Comment I just have one simple question. (Score 5, Insightful) 564

For all of this spectacle, all the attention paid to the actors and pawns in this charade--Assange, Manning, Snowden, Obama, the US government, Sweden, UK--what has ever come of the actual substance of these disclosures? Has no one bothered to ask who should be held accountable for the lives of those journalists shot down in Iraq? Has no one lifted a finger to ensure that the NSA does not continue to violate the US Constitution?

Why is this such a difficult issue for so many people to stay focused on? Why is it that, even now, people are still focused on the players and not the crimes? Assange is no less guilty than the US government for playing his part to deflect attention from the real issues in his desire to grandstand in the spotlight. That nothing has come of these revelations that Manning and Snowden brought to the attention of the American people and the entire world, is the greatest success that fascists could ever hope for, because it means that even when massive criminal wrongdoing is exposed, the people will not force change: there is zero accountability and the government can act with impunity.

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