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Comment Re:Wow, they really are stuck in the past (Score 2, Informative) 486

Coffee and sugar used to come in one or five pound bags. Now it is all sub-16 ounces.

Huh? Just this morning, I bought a 7-pound bag of sugar. Granted, that's about a year's supply for the two of us. (And it's mostly an artifact of my local reputation as a maker of good margaritas. ;-) It isn't at all hard to find sugar packaged in 2- or 5-pound bags hereabouts; most of the food stores that I frequent sell it that way. Coffee I've always bought in sub-pound packages, mostly because the taste tends to decay slowly, and it's more noticeable the larger the package is. The advent of home and in-store coffee grinding machines was the main cause of the switch to smaller packages, rather than the price. (The real coffee connoisseurs buy the beans green, and roast and grind it themselves, but their numbers are too small to seriously affect prices. ;-)

Comment Re:that's an easy one! (Score 1) 177

Yup, and I've used the same explanation for why I'd prefer coffee to plain water. Water is just boring; adding a bit of flavor (with or without the mild stimulation of the caffeine) makes it more palatable. Any tasty plant material will work. I've also run across the same explanation for why soups of various kinds are so common in most of the world. They have fewer nutrients than their ingredient, so why not just heat up and eat the meats and veggies? Well, you need a good amount of water in your diet, and you want it boiled to make it safe to drink, so why not take some of the tougher cuts of meat , mix in assorted other tough and/or tasty ingredients, simmer them for a while, and consume the result? It adds variety to your diet, and is a good way to use up the odds and ends from other meals in a way that's a lot more palatable than just drinking water.

Comment Re:The invention of the iceless refridgerator (Score 1) 177

... the one thing I can't figure out how to do without in case of the fall of civilization, are toenail clippers. I don't think people used knives to clip them.

Actually, if you have a good whetstone (and know how to use it), you'll find that a small knife works just fine for trimming nails, both finger and toe. I've used my Swiss Army knife's small blade for just that purpose a few times while on vacation without a nail clipper. The small knife blade actually works better than the small scissors that are part of the package. You do need to be a bit careful, of course.

Comment Re:that's an easy one! (Score 5, Interesting) 177

3500 BC was the greatest era of invention. Why 3500 BC, you ask? The (approximate, of course) invention of beer. Go ahead, tell me of a greater one. Can't, can ya?

People will no doubt laugh at this, but it's actually a good observation (though we should include wine in the list). The reason is simple: We humans need to ingest a fair amount of water each day to stay healthy. But historically, water itself has been rather dangerous stuff. Consider all the other people and animals upstream who have been using it for both bathing and disposing of waste of various sorts. Do you want to drink that water? Not if you want a long, healthy life.

Part of the year, our ancestors could get some of the needed water by consuming fruits, which are high in water. But they mostly don't keep very well, and they spoil. Fermented juices have their sugars partly converted to ethanol, which is toxic to most of the spoilage micro-organisms, so the resulting wine or beer is much less likely to spoil. (If it does, the result is often vinegar, which is another way of preserving the juice in a way that's safe for humans to consume).

It's pretty well understood among historians, anthropologists, etc., that fermentation processes were a significant part of our ancestors' development into a long-lived species that eventually dominated much of the planet. Yes, it's fun to get drunk, and to joke about getting drunk. And some other animals can get drunk, since ripe fruits often contain around 1% ethanol. (I've read some funny stories about groups of elephants getting a bit tipsy from the consumption of ripe fruit. Imagine a crowd of drunk elephants partying in your neighborhood. ;-) But the fact is that ethanol-laced liquids are historically an important part of our history, because ethanol provided a way to make those liquids safe to drink.

There was a fun study some time back, in which some researchers traveled around the world, stopping in various eateries, ordering food, and taking it back to their hotel room to feed to the lab equipment they'd brought along. They were testing it for safety (and ate the food that passed their tests ;-). Their main summary of their results was that, if you want a simple rule for ordering something safe to drink, no matter where you are, order beer. They didn't always like the beer everywhere, but their tests never found beer that was unsafe for human consumption. Wine was in second place, but they did find contaminated wine in a few places.

The explanation seems to be that, as anyone who has tried brewing beer knows, you have to be really careful about cleanliness during the brewing, or you get an awful-smelling glop that nobody will drink. With wine, the process seems easy, and you can get good-smelling wine by just letting the fruit juice (with perhaps added yeast) ferment, but sometimes the result has contaminants that aren't obvious. But with beer, this doesn't work; you have to boil it all to sterilize it, add a yeast culture, make sure that stuff floating in the air can't get into the containers, or everyone will know that you've failed the instant they sniff it. So beer probably is the most significant brewing achievement in human history.

Comment Re:What's the difference? (Score 1) 259

... the CIA sent spies disguised as vaccine workers, and set back the effort to eliminae smallpox worldwide.

That's a nice example of how poorly people often handle reporting of such stories. The setback was to the polio eradication efforts, mostly in Pakistan and Nigeria where polio is still a problem. Smallpox has been eradicated (at least until one of the places that keep preserved sample of that virus manages to screw up and release a sample to the general public ;-).

But the polio part is wrong, too, since the CIA's agents were disguised as medical people providing accinations for hapatitus B. The religious folks in Pakistan and Nigeria apparently couldn't get this right, and turned on medical people providing polio vaxination.

But it's a nice example of how poorly parts of the public (both the religious folks and the people posting here at /.) can't be bothered to even get the easily verified information right. It also illustrates how damaging things like the CIA disguising their agents as medical workers can actually be. When made public, the story was a setback to lots of medical projects, not just for the disease involved in the original story, but for other unrelated diseases. How can people around the world be sure that visiting medical workers aren't actually agents of some nefarious military spy agency with a record of hunting down and killing people? If the CIA can get away with it, how many other such agencies are now working on the same approach?

Comment Re:Intelligence is genetic and heritable, news at (Score 1) 125

Perhaps the US is not special in this regard, and immigrants everywhere emphasize education, because they require more education just to survive the day?

Maybe, or it might be the other way 'round: Immigrants tend to be the people who were smart enough to get themselves out of a bad social environment where they were born, and moved to another environment where they'd have better access to education and/or better jobs.

Or maybe both are true, and there are multiple processes that produce the widely-recognized "immigrants are smarter" phenomenon.

On a somewhat related track, I've read of a few studies showing that children with multiple "parents" (through whatever processes) tend to turn out smarter, better educated, etc. Or, more generally, variety in their environment tends to turn kids indo adults who seem smarter, more knowledgeable, etc.

Comment Re:Summon into back of trailer mode? (Score 1) 408

In most countries it is illegal to park facing oncoming traffic as there is no safe way to drive off later.

How so? I'd think that pulling out into traffic coming from behind (and in the "blind spot" for most cars) is inherently more difficult than pulling out into oncoming traffic that you can clearly see without turning your head or using a rear-view mirror. Both have inherent dangers, but safely entering traffic in a way that requires watching other vehicles coming from both directions seems like the more dangerous.

So do we have statistics dealing with this? I don't think I've ever seen any, and a quick google check doesn't seem to turn up anything at all based on facts.

Also, the laws about this in the US seem to be generally local and quite inconsistent. Is there actually a federal law that deals with this? I've never heard of one, and don't seem to be able to find it. Without a few [citation needed]s, I'd suspect that people are just making rules up based on whatever they might have heard in a driver's ed class years ago. ;-)

Hereabouts (western suburbs of Boston), it's common to see cars parked on "local" streets in pretty much any orientation, and I've never heard of anyone getting ticketed for something so inherently silly. OTOH, as a student in a midwestern university a few of decades back, I do recall my surprise when I actually got a parking ticket for parking on the "wrong side". It was on a very local street that was narrow enough that two cars couldn't pass if there were cars parked on both sides, and I'd parked there temporarily to make it easy to carry stuff from the car into a friend's apartment without interfering with the (minimal) traffic. At the time, I'd never heard of the concept of "parking on the wrong side". On local streets, you parked in the place closest to where you were going, though if you were a nice guy, you might also try to leave as wide a path in the center of the street that you could, so you might park farther away if there was a wide vehicle across from where you preferred to park.

Comment Re: Choice (Score 1) 263

... the options you complain about already exist.

Well, I fired up a new Chrome window and went to I then looked around for the options/settings/whatever controls. I didn't find them. I googled "google maps settings options controls" (without the quote), which gave 2.76 million hits. The first few looked encouraging, so I looked at them. They all failed to enlighten me on the topic. One did find "Search options", which has a rather sketchy set of checkable items dealing with google searches. There were several that showed me javascript that I could use to control some options, but attempts to learn how to enter the JS into my copy of google maps didn't turn up anything that worked.

So how might we find the controls that will re-enable the missing city/road names that TFA is talking about? (Yes, I tried adding "city road names" to the list, but it didn't turn up much more than complaints about what's now missing. ;-)

It seems that google has not only dialed such things down; it has also hidden the controls so that we don't have to worry our pretty little heads about such arcane things that we can't possibly understand.

And yeah, I expect that if I had only guessed the right keywords, I'd have found exactly what I wanted. Too bad there's no way to ask google what are the right keywords to find something. ;-)

Comment Re:My Favorite (Score 1) 263

They have made the amazing discovery that if you make text smaller, you can fit more of it on a small screen. This is more efficient, and I'm sure whoever came up with this got highly praised.

If that's true, then how do you explain the way they've cut way back on the number of street and town names on their maps? You'd expect they'd use the small text size to enable labelling of more things, not fewer.

Methinks it's just a classical case of Dumbing Down, which seems to happen to most successful companies as their management shifts into the usual "sell to the maximum number of people, especially the half of the population who can't read" mode.

Comment Re:Why not? (Score 1) 254

So how do we know that he didn't do all the things people are suggesting, cease-and-desist letter, negotiating, etc.? It well could be that he tried to deal reasonably with them, hoping they'd hire him for more work, but they seem to have thumbed their noses at him. We might be reading about the final stage of dealing with a recalcitrant corporate culture, as far as we know. Anyone know more about what might have passed between his discovery of the rather extensive violation of the contract and this lawsuit? There is a somewhat sketchy mention of some sort of negotiation, but TFA doesn't seem to really say much about it.

Comment Re:Open source satellite software? (Score 3, Interesting) 101

It was probably running Linux, first mistake.

Nah; it was probably running ITRON. It may well have included a POSIX library, but that wouldn't qualify it as a version of linux, even if some linux code is included there.

I haven't actually bothered to dig up the info, but that's what anyone acquainted with how such things are done in Japan would guess for a situation with serious RT requirements. Maybe it'd be interesting to investigate, to get an idea whether the OS and system libraries might have had anything to do with the failures.

Comment Re: Buy Low, Sell High (Score 2) 127

If he secretly convinced a bunch of other people to sell without announcing that it was a group decision, just so he could bottom the price and rebuy himself ... thats illegal as shit.

That's not really a very good metaphor. Shit is quite legal in the US and most of the world. The plant nurseries hereabouts are now in full Spring-planting mode, and that includes selling sacks of cattle manure, both raw (dried and ground to a coarse sand) and composted (with the consistency of topsoil). It's fully legal, and good stuff for your garden.

So maybe we should find a more accurate X to use in phrases like "... as X", something that is at least somewhat illegal. ;-)

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