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Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

AthanasiusKircher Re:Virtual gamepad problems (495 comments)

Netbooks are dead, but Ultrabooks are much better anyway

Meh -- the nomenclature is pretty much meaningless. I bought an "ultraportable" about 7 years ago, a "netbook" about 4 years ago, and a "ultrabook" last year. They all pretty much were smaller-than-usual laptops, they were all underpowered compared to standard size laptops when I bought them, and they all weigh pretty much the same thing. The only thing that has changed over time is that the prices have gone down, the value has gone up, and they're generally thinner (usually with slightly large screens). But they're basically the same market. Anyone declaring that "netbooks are dead" is just buying into a marketing ploy because everyone kept saying "netbooks are dead" in 2012. So now they're basically the same, just fewer of the ones with really tiny screens... but we call them "ultrabooks" because it sounds snazzier.


Do Apple and Google Sabotage Older Phones? What the Graphs Don't Show

AthanasiusKircher Re:Planned obsolescence (275 comments)

The concept is called planned obsolescence , and it has existed for as long as people have been buying things.

It may have existed for millennia, but until the past few decades it was commonly perceived as "cheating" someone out of money. The assumption 50 years ago was pretty much that anything you bought could and should be repaired, until so many parts fail that it doesn't make sense repair it anymore. I still own and use my mother's kitchen stand mixer, which is nearly 50 years old. I could say the same thing for a number of things that have been passed down to me and still work even though they were manufactured a couple generations ago. My grandmothers used to repair clothing rather than simply buying something new when a hole appeared.

Nowadays, we just expect that most things we buy will fall apart or wear out in a few years, but this is a radical departure from what the world was like 50 years ago or more.

2 days ago

On Forgetting the Facts: Questions From the EU For Google, Other Search Engines

AthanasiusKircher Re:Not a Slippery Slope (181 comments)

The problem is that this is not just humans versus corporations/machine, this is human rights vs human rights. Free Speech Vs the Right to be Forgotten, why does the latter, which is no where codified, larger then the first which has been for centuries?

It isn't "larger." We've always accepted there must be some limits on free speech. In the U.S., you can't incite people to riot lawlessly, for example. In much of the EU, there are stronger restrictions, like not being able to publicly insult someone else's reputation (e.g. in Germany), an idea that goes back quite some time. (Even in the US, it used to be justification for a duel, a practice which I believe had its roots in medieval Germanic trial practices which could involve combat.)

This seemingly novel "right to be forgotten" is simply an extension of much older law like this in the EU, which prevented punishment for offenses after time has been served. (Ever read Les Miserables, for example, where Jean Valjean is supposed to go about for the rest of his life carrying a yellow card branding him as a convict for stealing a loaf of bread? That kind of crap was real, and reforms ere implemented to allow convicts to move on after time was served and they were "rehabilitated" -- they were essentially granted the right to have their past forgotten.)

So this isn't a new right, and it has been codified in various ways before. But even if it were, rights have to evolve with technology. Before the printing press, there was no reason for "freedom of the press," but after a century of governments trying to suppress it and control it, a movement to assert this right began in earnest in the 1600s, which we now accept to be a bedrock principle of law. But the right not to be publicly defamed is much older than that, so how do we adjudicate between these in the present case with Google?

I'm not saying that the EU ruling is actually workable right now, but your assertion that this is entirely new legal territory is demonstrably false.

You should do things considering that it may get put out there. Why should I not be able to know that someone I may be hiring makes bad decisions just because they dont want me to know they did something stupid?

First, because we've fought wars over the right to live our private lives without government or others tracking everything we do.

But if you need a stronger justification: because something may actually be false information, or it may present information in a misleading way. Lots of people are charged or arrested or whatever everyday and ultimately released because the allegations turned out to be false. But all those newspaper stories which are technically okay because they say "alleged" never go away, and since dropping charges rarely sells news as well as the initial outrage, newspapers and media often never even bother reporting that charged or were dropped (or never even filed) or the person was acquitted. Even if the newspaper prints something about that in a blurb on page 20, is your employer going to go through hundred of Google hits to find that, or just read the headline in the top links that you were accused of child abuse or whatever? (And by the way, just for one example, if you think false accusations of child abuse or neglect are rare, look up the stats -- child protection services in the U.S. removes something like 100,000 kids per year for allegations that ultimately turn out to be completely unsubstantiated... and that's not even counting the questionable cases.)

Your latter argument is poor, as there are already laws that work well at getting rid of libel/slander...

The standard for libel or slander is quite high in the U.S., particularly against a news media source. (It varies in other countries.) You basically need to show that a news source acted with "reckless disregard" for the truth, and often a few "alleged" adjectives serves as sufficient protection.

I don't know what a workable system should look like, and this current Google thing has a lot of problems. But the questions do deserve to be asked, because we are dealing with conflicts between long-standing "rights," which are just framed in a new way and more prominent in an internet age.

2 days ago

Greenpeace: Amazon Fire Burns More Coal and Gas Than It Should

AthanasiusKircher Re:As soon as greenpeace touches it (285 comments)

From the paper

Vitamin B12 is only provided in animal derived proteins

By definition there is no vegetarian or vegan diet that is not deficient in B12.

By definition, the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian is that a vegetarian will consume animal derived products (including proteins), just not animals themselves. Hence your statement is correct for vegans, false for vegetarians.

2 days ago

Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

AthanasiusKircher Re:Is there an SWA Twitter police? (875 comments)

Absolutely. Have a bad day, make one wrong judgment call, and see your livelihood vanish. Good luck getting another job.

Fired? Maybe not, unless this was a pattern of bad behavior. Suspended for a week or two? Yes, absolutely.

Where do you work, I wonder, that you believe people who have flaws, like we all do, should be treated like used tissues?

Just my opinion, but this goes beyond a minor "flaw" or a slight error in judgment. The guy had already shown his willingness to publicize his dissatisfaction by tweeting about a minor inconvenience, and this employee provided him with a much worse story to tell. Any person with common sense should have seen this as the potential for some seriously bad publicity.

There were many ways to handle this and defray the damage from the initial tweet, from a sincere apology and perhaps offer for free future tickets or upgrade (if the employee wanted to use kindness) or a response tweet thanking the customer for his feedback and also thanking all the other customers for following the rules (if the employee wanted to be passive aggressive but still make a point).

Escalating a minor disagreement with a customer into a public fight is just not a good idea, and employees who can't avoid that do deserve punishment. Customers can be jerks sometimes. Employees have a corporate image to uphold, though, and they need to aspire to a higher standard -- they're getting paid to be there. The customer was not.

4 days ago

Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

AthanasiusKircher Re:Customer service? (875 comments)

LOL. Awesome. Thanks for that.

4 days ago

Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

AthanasiusKircher Re:Tell me how... (875 comments)

Also, to be clear -- I was joking. Realize this is a parody before I get flamed with responses from the libertarian squad or the Society for Boarding in Awesome, Really Reliable Order (or SBARRO for short -- ever wonder why they are in so many airports?) yammering onto me about how I insulted them.

4 days ago

Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

AthanasiusKircher Re:Tell me how... (875 comments)

Somebody did something on the interwebs (or intertubes or whatever those new-fangled contraptions are called). This is a tech site, so we've gotta cover it!

(Actually, if you're serious -- it's here because seating processes on airplanes make everyone bitchy for some reason, and everyone thinks it's inefficient and thinks they could plan it better. So, somebody complaining about some aspect of that is bound to get all the anal retentive wackos here worked up and spouting their favorite ideas about what's wrong with planes and boarding and kids on planes and snakes on planes and whatever. That and... FREE SPEECH, LIBERTARIAN MUMBO-JUMBO, AYN RAND IS A GODDESS!!!! etc. P.S. I'm NOT saying Southwest was in the right here -- just why this story will get everyone worked up.)

4 days ago

Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

AthanasiusKircher Re:Customer service? (875 comments)

That's all good reason for boarding them last - so they don't slow down those who can board quickly.

Huh? How does that produce greater efficiency? Let's see, we could:

(1) Let families board with the first half-dozen groups of random people with various privileges ("Now let's have our first class..." [2 people board, a minute later] "Now let's have business class..." [5 people board, two minutes later] "Now let's have our elite Silver whoop-di-do members..." [no one boards, three minutes later] "Now let's have our Bronze not-so-much-whoop members" [2 guys from the back take 30 seconds to realize they were called and slowly make their way up, chatting on their phones the whole way]... etc., etc.).

In that case, the families could get settled with almost no one else on the plane, and almost no one else in economy trying to find their seats.


(2) We wait until last, and the families join the end of the long line stopped almost at the gate itself of people waiting to get on. The families with more bags per person and more people to strap in and get settled in their seats per person then spend 10 minutes wandering up and down the aisles trying to find places for their bags and get their kids settled... while the attendants get increasingly testy as they have to go up and down reopening luggage bins and find a pillow for Jr. since he's asleep on Dad's shoulder and no one on the plane wants him to wake up when he's strapped in the seat. And the plane is now going to take off late because we needed 15 minutes to board 10 whoop-di-do members who didn't have to do anything, but now it's crunch-time for the parents who could have already been settled in.

I completely understand why airlines do NOT let families on early, because they now charge people extra for those privileges. But if they were trying to maximize efficiency instead of profits, it would definitely make sense to move the families on when fewer people are obstacles on the plane.

4 days ago

Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

AthanasiusKircher Re:Customer service? (875 comments)

Actually outside of the US it seems to be common practice to ask people with young families to board first anyway.

Yeah, it often is within the U.S. too, particularly for infants and very young children. But I mostly see it used for parents with kids in strollers or whatever, not for older kids or even relatively small kids.

If you are blocking the aisle while you buckle seat belts and the like you are slowing the whole boarding process. So it makes sense - send them in with first and business class.

Yeah, the problem is the escalation of fee structures in recent years. 15 years ago your policy made perfect sense. But now most airlines charge for any checked baggage, which means more people stuff everything into larger carry-ons, and many planes don't have enough room to stuff everyone's bag in.

So, everyone's worried about boarding early enough so that they don't have to have their bag stuffed 10 seats behind them, which will make them the last off the plane.

But, of course, it isn't enough for airlines to charge fees for checked bags -- now they figured out that people don't want to worry about the hassle of finding space for their carry-on, so now for an extra fee many airlines will let you board early (with business class or whatever).

So, it makes it really hard for the airlines to "give away" that option to families to board earlier, when somebody else in coach paid $35 or whatever that day for that privilege. In addition, there seem to be a lot of folks out there who assume that anyone travelling with a small child on a plane must be an evil person wanting to annoy other travelers deliberately by bringing a kid on board (when the reality is that most parents know they usually only travel with small kids on planes when there is no other reasonable choice). So, it will just lead to even more (unjustified?) feelings of unfairness if these parents are given seemingly special privileges.

It's the same crap that causes people to cut people off or not let people merge in traffic. Sometimes it's worth a really insignificant sacrifice to let everything flow better, and letting the kids on early would probably make the entire boarding process faster and smoother. But most people would probably just resent it... and so airlines don't do it anymore.

4 days ago

A Warm-Feeling Wooden Keyboard (Video)

AthanasiusKircher Re:good wood? (80 comments)

nah, the plastics the leading piano companies use now have just as good a feel, that wasn't true three decades or more ago but there is no point to ivory keys now.

I would qualify this slightly and say that the plastics may be "just as good" in some ways, but they do feel different. And I know some people who have strong preferences. Ivory's porousness changes the way keys feel and how easy it is to grip them (or slip), particularly if your hands are sweating (as many people do when performing in front of crowds under hot lights). And on lesser quality pianos, ivory often had a distinctive texture that... well, just feels different. High-end older pianos had highly polished and very even keys (sometimes most "silky" feeling) that might feel similar to modern "perfect" plastic, but most pianos were not as consistent. Personally, it doesn't matter to me, but I can certainly understand those who might prefer one or the other.

4 days ago

UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

AthanasiusKircher Re:About time something is happening (164 comments)

(By the way -- just to be clear, I'm NOT trying to argue in favor of Word or doc/x. I personally prefer LaTeX and pdf... but I've experienced lots of conversion woes.)

about a week ago

UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

AthanasiusKircher Re:About time something is happening (164 comments)

I believe that the mess will be comparable to mess created just by using a different version of MS office. I.e. not significant.

It really depends. If your resume/cv is a basic, barely formatted text document, sure. Nothing bad will happen. But I've been going back and forth between Word and OpenOffice/LibreOffice for over a decade now at various times, and any document with complex formatting and precise spacing (as is often true with resumes/cvs) is bound to be a disaster when viewed in Word. All the formatting will basically convert "correctly," but the spacing and rendering are often way off, making the document look like you didn't pay enough attention to detail (exactly the OPPOSITE of what you want in a job application).

Sure, you're right that you'll get some effects like this going between different versions of Word (particularly Mac vs. PC), but those are usually a LOT less noticeable and may only be a couple blips here and there. You can mitigate the effects through trial and error and avoiding certain kinds of direct formatting, but it takes a lot of time and effort to sort this out... and the problems may change with different Word versions.

about a week ago

Experiment Shows People Exposed To East German Socialism Cheat More

AthanasiusKircher Re:let me correct that for you. (612 comments)

[citation needed]

I'd more easily believe that the libertarians would cheat more, because they assume the rules don't prevent it, and that rich capitalists would actually cheat less, but they'd exploit every nuance of the rules to their advantage.

Seriously? See Wall Street.

Libertarian != Anarchist

The whole point of Libertarianism is to have a minimum set of rules that prevent people from infringing on each other's rights. If those rules weren't necessary, there'd be no reason for government at all... we might as well have anarchy.

Capitalism, on the other hand, encourages the concept of the "invisible hand" where the market will assure optimization and "punishment" for those transgressions which would interfere with the good operation of the market. Capitalists will disagree about the importance or necessity of regulations, but the primary motivation is not balancing freedom against rights (i.e. libertarianism), but maximizing profits. Rules are only necessary to the extent that they increase profit.

Strictly speaking, these two concepts are thus not on the same continuum. It is possible to be a libertarian capitalist or a marxist capitalist. From a theoretical sense, it's thus hard to say which philosophy is easier to violate "rules." However, libertarians necessarily believe that an ordered society must come from at least SOME fundamental "rules," whereas not all capitalists believe governance is necessary (hence "anarcho-capitalists").

about a week ago

Google To Stop Describing Games With In-App Purchases As 'Free'

AthanasiusKircher Re: Good. Now what about ads? (139 comments)

By the way, just to be clear -- I almost NEVER download "free" kids apps anymore, because my experience is that they include all that crap. I don't want it. My experience is that most of the decent kids apps cost at least $5, and I'm pretty suspicious of anything that costs very little or claims to be "free." I may be a niche market, but I actually am willing to pay... and if you're trying to market a "free" app to me, there's very little chance I will even try your app today, because I just don't want to deal with your crap.

about two weeks ago

Google To Stop Describing Games With In-App Purchases As 'Free'

AthanasiusKircher Re: Good. Now what about ads? (139 comments)

Also, it's easy to think that you'd pay $20 for an app after you've spent time with it and found it useful. You likely won't pay $20 up front for every app, so where does that leave developers?

Why the heck wouldn't I? Maybe you're too old to remember this, but people used to sell this stuff called "software" that came on things called CD-ROMs, and -- believe it or not -- it was common to pay $10 or $20 or even much more for a decent "application." Many apps don't do as much as old applications on CDs did, but they do as much as something you used to easily pay $5 or $10 for. I still will, and I still do.

Apple don't do demos or upgrade pricing, and you're suggesting in-app purchases are a dirty technique. So, ideally how should developers supply their content to you to earn this $20?

Boycott Apple. I know I do. If you have the option, demos or detailed demo videos or whatever are the way to go. But I would (and have) also buy a $5 or $10 app on the sole basis on unanimous or near-unanimous positive reviews... reviews which don't mention the kind of crap I mentioned in my original post, or (better) make clear that the app doesn't have that crap.

about two weeks ago

Google To Stop Describing Games With In-App Purchases As 'Free'

AthanasiusKircher Re:Good. Now what about ads? (139 comments)

I don't want it all for free, but I think companies should be honest about their business model. I think they should distinguish between "Free" trial, "Free" with paid upgrades, "Free" ad-supported, etc.

Agreed. I'm very happy to pay for a good app. In fact, contrary to the stupid current pricing model, I'm willing to pay WELL for a *great* app. If an app does what I want, has a good featureset, and is stable, I'd gladly drop $10 or $20 or perhaps even more on it.

But I'll only pay for something like that if I'm guaranteed not to have a bunch of crap like ads or nag features or whatever. I'd rather pay well for a handful of great apps that work well than a boatload of free crap.

So, I don't just want these labels on "Free" apps -- I want them on ALL apps. If you gave me a choice to (1) spend $2 for a decent app that spills ads all over my screen and nags me to upgrade or buy some related app every other day, or (2) spend $10 for an app with fewer features but also without all the ads and other crap, I'll spend the $10.

As it is now, I can never tell whether it's worth it to try downloading other "free" apps or to spend the extra money for a paid version or for a more expensive app, because I might still end up with all this junk.

This is particularly true for kids apps. I don't EVER want a kids app with in-app purchases. EVER. EVER. EVER. There are lots of great free (or very cheap) kids apps out there, but there's no way to know what to expect until you download the thing. And even then, you might use the thing for a few days or a week before suddenly seeing some pop-up ad to buy something.

There's NO need for that other than greedy app makers who want to trick kids into buying things or adults who haven't figured out how to lock-down the device.

If your app is so darn good that you think I might want to buy other stuff you made, put a link on the homescreen that says, "If you like this... more titles" or whatever. I'll find it, if I like it that much, and I have in the past.

Otherwise -- app makers out there -- realize that I'm a parent who will pay for quality. I'm not just looking for the best thing I can get for $1. I'll pay you $5 or $10 or maybe even $20 or more if you can make something good that won't throw up some stupid crap to confuse a kid and potentially sucker people into buying stuff they didn't intend to. And I've talked to a lot of other parents who would like the same thing.

about two weeks ago

New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

AthanasiusKircher Re:There's another treatment that stops most T2 (253 comments)

Oh, I don't assume it's unsolvable. I just don't know where and how to start and what's actually healthy. I mean, just look at all the replies I've gotten here: one person says this is healthy, the next says that is, the third one says both of the previous ones are bad for you and it's those instead that are the healthy foods and so on.

Yeah, this is typical. Everybody, including most nutritionists and most medical researchers, seem to have different opinions. I would never claim to know definitively what is "healthy" and what isn't, but from your posts here, you seem to think that what you're eating is NOT necessarily healthy. I agree that eating a wide variety of foods, including plenty of veggies, is probably better. But it's hard to make categorical statements beyond that. Personally, I try to eat a variety of things in moderation, and in recent years I've been cutting down on carbs (though not eliminating them), especially processed ones. But I don't claim to have all the answers -- you need to find what works for you, what doesn't cause you to gain weight, and what makes you feel good.

I do know other people who have food texture issues similar to what you describe. And while some of them eat a very limited diet, I know others who have gradually expanded. I hope you figure it out.

Also, I have never ever been interested in cooking and it doesn't come to me naturally. It's easy for people to say "just learn to cook!" when it's one of those things you totally suck at -- not everyone can be good at everything. I posses quite literally zero creativity.

Again, I'm just trying to help here -- but have you tried a book like Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" or a cookbook focused on "one-pot easy and quick dinners" or similar titles? I learned some things about cooking growing up, but I've learned a lot more as an adult, and most of it was just from buying a variety of cookbooks and trying things out. You don't need to be "creative" -- some cookbooks, like Bittman's, are designed for relative beginners and often contain 5 variations on most recipes, so you can tailor them to what ingredients you have on hand or perhaps how much time or effort you want to put it. (I'm not trying to promote Bittman, by the way -- there are lots of other good cookbooks, but it's one I know a lot of people have found useful.)

I saw a food and nutrition therapist and asked her for help, too, but all she offered was "eat more veggies" and kept repeating that like a parrot -- not a single god damn recipe that I could actually try.

For your problem I think you'd be better off talking to a cook or chef than to a nutritionist... or even just a friend who knows quite a bit about cooking. If I were you, I'd find somebody like that and tell them the kinds of foods and textures you like and dislike, and see what advice they have. (There may even be a way that you could sign up for a "cooking lesson" or two and use that time for your questions.) Texture is often about technique and the way you cook food, and there are other options besides just throwing everything into a blender. But a skilled cook will likely be able to suggest good recipes and resources that could fit your constraints.

about two weeks ago

New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

AthanasiusKircher Re:There's another treatment that stops most T2 (253 comments)

The real issue is that it does take considerably more planning and preparation time than a pizza that you can just throw in the over for 15 minutes or other preprocessed food that require minimal prep time by the people who are actually eating it.

You don't need both more planning AND more prep. Often you only need one. Sometimes you don't need either.

With the knowledge of proper chopping and cutting techniques, and some thought about recipes that require little maintenance, there are dozens of different full-meal dishes I could make off the top of my head that require less than 10 minutes of prep and active cooking time.

If you want more variety or dishes that take longer for flavors to develop... One of my best friends grew up in a family of 6 where both parents worked -- but they ate home-cooked meals every day. Every weekend they just spent a few hours putting together simple dishes, cooking them (often low maintenance things like slow cooker stuff that would take 5 minutes to throw things together and then would just sit for hours), and then they'd refrigerate or freeze the stuff for use on weeknights... it just required reheating, which took all of a minute to remove it from the freezer and pop it into the oven.

Make big batches and alternate the kinds of dishes you make on various weekends, and you can easily build up a repetoire of a half-dozen or more options for weeknight dinners with little effort and almost no prep time required other than a couple hours one day per week.

There also are lots of time-saving things you can do for dishes you eat on a regular basis. Lots of ingredients can be prepped in advance in big batches. For example, if I want to make pancakes, I could spend 10 minutes measuring out the ingredients every time, or I could spend 10 minutes measuring out a giant batch of dry ingredients for 10 or 20 batches of pancakes, and then store homemade "pancake mix" in the pantry, ready to just add milk and eggs (and whatever else). Lots of other dishes can be simplified in the same way by prepping dry ingredients or ingredients that can be frozen in big batches.

Yeah, you're probably never going to save as much time as you would eating frozen TV dinners (and not everything can be made fast -- you're not going to be able to do homemade croissants in a short amount of time or something), but given the cost savings and the health benefits, it's surely worth it.

about two weeks ago

New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

AthanasiusKircher Re:There's another treatment that stops most T2 (253 comments)

That could be, or it could not be. I don't know. I would need to solve the food texture - issue first and I don't know how. Most what people offer me is "stuff it all in the blender and make it all the same, messy goop." -- doesn't sound like much of anything worth eating.

I would need to know exactly what kind of "processed" foods you like to suggest a way to create similar textures in less processed stuff, but it's certainly possible. There is an incredible array of possible textures in food -- all you need to do is find a few dishes that work for you, and you can build more using similar principles.

As for the rest of your comment, I'm really not following and beginning to suspect you must be a troll. You want processed food with homogeneous texture, but processing food in such a way to make it have a homogeneous texture "doesn't sound like much of anything worth eating." That indicates to me that you're either lying about your texture aversion or your objection to whatever "healthy food" is broader than texture -- you have problems with flavor too. So, we need to fix both.

The point is the problem is NOT unsolvable. Even if you only liked to eat some weird textured food that is generally only available in processed stuff, chances are you might be able to make it yourself in a more healthy way by using your own ingredients (under your control) and using only one or two chemical additives to get the special texture effects you desire (something modern chefs are experimenting with).

about two weeks ago



Thousands of Workers Strike to Reinstate Fired Grocery CEO

AthanasiusKircher AthanasiusKircher writes  |  3 days ago

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) writes "Have you heard of Market Basket, a regional grocery chain which brings in $4 billion per year? If you're not from New England, you may not know about this quirky century-old family business, which didn't even have a website until two days ago. But that's only the beginning of its strange saga. In a story that labor experts are calling 'unique' and 'unprecedented', shelves in grocery stores across New England have been left empty while thousands of Market Basket workers have rallied for days to reinstate former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired last month (along with a number of his management allies) as part of a long-standing family squabble. At a protest this morning, 6,000 protesters gathered at the Tewkbury, Massachusetts location where the supermarket chain is based, similar to rallies that have been staged at various locations over the past week. Unlike most labor protests, the workers have no demands for better working conditions or better pay--they simply want their old boss back. Reaction from consumers has been swift and decisive as well: a petition was submitted to the board this morning with over 100,000 signatures from customers calling for the reinstatement of the CEO, and over 100 local lawmakers have expressed support for the workers' cause, including the governor of New Hampshire and candidates for U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races in the region.

In an age where workers are often pitted against management, what could explain this incredible support for a CEO and member of the 0.1%? Columnist Adrian Walker from the Boston Globe described his interview last year with 'Artie T.': 'We toured the Chelsea store together... the connection between the magnate and his employees was frankly shocking. Demoulas knew almost everyone’s name. He knew the name of the guy cutting meat whose wife had just completed chemotherapy and asked about her with obvious concern. Customers came up to him and hugged him, cheered him on. The interactions were too numerous and spontaneous to be staged.' Workers at Market Basket are loyal to their employer and often stay for 20, 30, or more than 40 years. Even lowly store clerks receive significant quarterly bonuses, and experienced loyal workers are rewarded and promoted. Despite running a $4 billion per year business, 'Artie T.' over the years has shown up at countless family events for employees, even visiting sick family members of employees when they are in the hospital. But his generosity hurt the bottom line, according to other board members, who have sought for years to increase profits by raising prices and reducing employee benefits to be in line with norms at other grocery chains. (Market Basket has commonly led grocery store lists for value in regional price surveys.) As one possible resolution to the crisis, the former CEO yesterday offered to buy the entire grocery chain from other board members; this morning, the board stated they were considering the offer."

Judge Throws Out Thoughtcrime Conviction and Frees "Cannibal Cop"

AthanasiusKircher AthanasiusKircher writes  |  about a month ago

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) writes "The story is classic: Boy meets Girl. Boy likes Girl. Boy goes on the internet and writes about his fantasies that involve killing and eating Girl. Boy goes to jail. In this case, the man in question, NYC police officer Gilberto Valle, didn't act on his fantasies — he just shared them in a like-minded internet forum. Yesterday, Valle was released from jail after a judge overturned his conviction on appeal. U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe wrote that Valle was "guilty of nothing more than very unconventional thoughts... We don't put people in jail for their thoughts. We are not the thought police and the court system is not the deputy of the thought police." The judge concluded that there was insufficient evidence, since "this is a conspiracy that existed solely in cyberspace" and "no reasonable juror could have found that Valle actually intended to kidnap a woman... the point of the chats was mutual fantasizing about committing acts of sexual violence on certain women." (A New York magazine article covered the details of the case and the implications of the original conviction earlier this year.)"

An MIT Dean's Defense of the Humanities

AthanasiusKircher AthanasiusKircher writes  |  about 3 months ago

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) writes "Deborah Fitzgerald, a historian of science and dean of MIT's School of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, speaks out in a Boston Globe column about the importance of the humanities, even as STEM fields increasingly dominate public discussion surrounding higher education. '[T]he world’s problems are never tidily confined to the laboratory or spreadsheet. From climate change to poverty to disease, the challenges of our age are unwaveringly human in nature and scale, and engineering and science issues are always embedded in broader human realities, from deeply felt cultural traditions to building codes to political tensions. So our students also need an in-depth understanding of human complexities — the political, cultural, and economic realities that shape our existence — as well as fluency in the powerful forms of thinking and creativity cultivated by the humanities, arts, and social sciences.' Fitzgerald goes on to quote a variety of STEM MIT graduates who have described the essential role the humanities played in their education, and she concludes with a striking juxtaposition of important skills perhaps reminscent of Robert Heinlein's famous description of an ideal human being: 'Whatever our calling, whether we are scientists, engineers, poets, public servants, or parents, we all live in a complex, and ever-changing world, and all of us deserve what’s in this toolbox: critical thinking skills; knowledge of the past and other cultures; an ability to work with and interpret numbers and statistics; access to the insights of great writers and artists; a willingness to experiment, to open up to change; and the ability to navigate ambiguity.' What other essential knowledge or skills should we add to this imaginary 'toolbox'?"

Wu-Tang Clan to Release Only One Copy of New Album

AthanasiusKircher AthanasiusKircher writes  |  about 4 months ago

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) writes "Wu-Tang Clan's double-album The Wu — Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was recorded in secret, and they recently announced that only one copy will be sold. Wu-Tang member Robert 'RZA' Diggs described the concept: 'We're about to sell an album like nobody else sold it before... We're about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music. We're making a single-sale collector's item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.' Before the album is sold, probably for millions of dollars, it will tour the world as part of special listening exhibits. Patrons will be subjected to heavy security to ensure that no recording devices are allowed, as a single leak would spoil the artistic project. As RZA noted: 'The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years. And yet its doesn’t receive the same treatment as art in the sense of the value of what it is, especially nowadays when it’s been devalued and diminished to almost the point that it has to be given away for free.'"

A Corporate War Against a Scientist, and How He Fought Back

AthanasiusKircher AthanasiusKircher writes  |  about 6 months ago

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) writes "Environmental and health concerns about atrazine — one of the most commonly used herbicides in the U.S. — have been voiced for years, leading to an EU ban and multiple investigations by the EPA. Tyrone Hayes, a Berkeley professor who has spearheaded research on the topic, began to display signs of apparent paranoia over a decade ago. He noticed strangers following him to conferences around the world, taking notes and asking questions aimed to make him look foolish. He worried that someone was reading his email, and attacks against his reputation seemed to be everywhere; search engines even displayed ad hits like "Tyrone Hayes Not Credible" when his name was searched for. But he wasn't paranoid: documents released after a lawsuit from Midwestern towns against Syngenta, the manufacturer of atrazine, showed a coordinated smear campaign. Syngenta's public relations team had a list of ways to defend its product, topped by "discredit Hayes." Its internal list of methods: "have his work audited by 3rd party," "ask journals to retract," "set trap to entice him to sue," "investigate funding," "investigate wife," etc. A recent New Yorker article chronicles this war against Hayes, but also his decision to go on the offensive and strike back. He took on the role of activist against atrazine, giving over 50 public talks on the subject each year, and even taunting Syngenta with profanity-laced emails, often delivered in a rapping "gangsta" style. The story brings up important questions for science and its public persona: How do scientists fight a PR war against corporations with unlimited pockets? How far should they go?"

Federal Government Surveillance of Santa Superior to Private Companies

AthanasiusKircher AthanasiusKircher writes  |  about 7 months ago

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) writes "This year, competing tracking services for Santa led to confusion for children worldwide. At one point on Christmas Eve, Santa was reported to be over Romania by NORAD's Santa tracker, while Google claimed he was in Madagascar at the same time. Moreover, the estimates for total toys delivered varied wildly, with Google claiming only 770 million at the same time Google estimated 2.8 billion. Veteran Santa analyst Danny Sullivan explained the discrepancies: "the precision offered by NORAD’s satellites likely is superior, offering it the ability to lock onto the position of the sleigh within a matter of inches. 'They’ve been doing it for almost 60 years,' Sullivan said.... He said Google likely relies on alternative technology, such as tracking Santa’s in-sleigh WiFi signal, causing a possible lag in showing his exact location. Sullivan also guessed that Google was using an algorithm to estimate the number of gifts delivered, while NORAD might have the ability to identify individual gifts, and perhaps even smaller items such as stocking stuffers.""

"Brain Activity" Found in a Dead Salmon Demonstrat

AthanasiusKircher AthanasiusKircher writes  |  more than 4 years ago

AthanasiusKircher writes "Neuroscientist Craig Bennett used a dead salmon in his Dartmouth lab as a test object while they were evaluating new lab methods. The lab even followed proper experimental protocols, including showing the salmon photos of humans displaying various emotions. They were somewhat surprised by the results:

When they got around to analyzing the voxel (think: 3-D or 'volumetric' pixel) data, the voxels representing the area where the salmon's tiny brain sat showed evidence of activity. In the fMRI scan, it looked like the dead salmon was actually thinking about the pictures it had been shown.

Of course, the salmon wasn't actually responding to pictures illustrating human emotions. But the data manipulation commonly used in brain studies caused apparently significant patterns to appear by chance. More from the Wired article: 'The result is completely nuts — but that's actually exactly the point. Bennett, who is now a post-doc at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his adviser, George Wolford, wrote up the work as a warning about the dangers of false positives in fMRI data. They wanted to call attention to ways the field could improve its statistical methods."

The study demonstrates the potential for misinterpretation and misuse of data in brain studies, particularly as data manipulation becomes more and more complex. Bennett notes: 'We could set our threshold [of significance] so high that we have no false positives, but we have no legitimate results.... We could also set it so low that we end up getting voxels in the fish's brain. It's the fine line that we walk.'

So far the paper has been rejected for publication a number of times, but there is a poster available that was employed in a conference presentation. Recently it has been making the rounds informally in the neuroscience community."

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