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Marijuana Legalized In Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC

BenVis Re:America is a RINO (588 comments)

To answer your question about how to gerrymander large cities out into other parts of the state, just look at the congressional districts for blue cities in red states (and presumably red cities in blue states, if those exist). You can see a nice zoomable map here:
Congressional district map

For examples, see Austin, TX and Durhan, NC.

The basic plan is to take a tiny slice of the city and extend that out into a huge swath of lightly-populated land.

about 3 months ago

Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

BenVis Re:Income inequality is bad because ... (839 comments)

I have yet to see someone actually explain why income inequality by itself is a bad thing.

I'm not talking about situations where there is corruption, like certain African-region dictators with gold plated limos while their people die on the streets from starvation, or more common, politicians being bought off by companies and individuals.


Someone explain this harm to me, because from where I'm standing in a first world country, it seems to be just so much complaining over sour grapes.

The answer to your question lies in your second sentence. When income inequality becomes so great that the rich are easily able to use their money to do evil things to the non-rich, then income inequality has become a bad thing. So no, inequality isn't bad in itself, but in a context in which unequal wealth permits the rich to do things they really wouldn't be able to get away with were they not rich, then something is wrong. I guess I'm assuming we agree that rich people doing evil things to poor people is a bad thing. Reasonable people might disagree about what exactly is evil and who exactly is rich, but it seems pretty safe to speak in generalities here.

In your thought experiment with Bill's future, the problem is if the rich control all of the robots and only use them to take care of rich peoples' needs. I think that would be very bad for the paupers, and bad for society overall. If the rich guy has 100 robots and the pauper has 10 (and 10 is enough to take care of actual needs), then there isn't really a problem, or if the rich use their army of robots to take care of the poor, then we're probably okay.

Anyway, that's my opinion. I think there are a lot of opinions on this topic that have merit. I'd recommend against assuming that the only people who care about inequality are whiners and communists.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Smartwatch Apps Could You See Yourself Using?

BenVis watches are pretty great (471 comments)

I have a pebble, and I don't really use any apps on it at all. But I love it. I pretty much never miss a call or text because my watch vibrates when that happens. Before the pebble, I would rarely notice if my phone was vibrating. Also, I find that glancing at my watch is less obtrusive than pulling out my phone, whether I'm checking who a text/call is from or just checking the time.

about 5 months ago

If I search online for my full name...

BenVis My last name is a verb (213 comments)

My last name is also a verb, so while I get a few hits about myself, it pretty quickly veers into stories about people with the same first name doing that verb.

about a year and a half ago

Climate Change To Drive Weather Disasters, Say UN Experts

BenVis Re:It's more than just global warming gas (572 comments)

There's a very good, highly readable article about ocean acidification from 2007 in Science. If you have access to a subscription, you can see the article here.

If you don't have access to a subscription, you can find lots of research about ocean acidification in the freely-accessible pubmed central database. this article looks like it gives a good overview of ocean acidification.

The short answer is that the pH of the ocean has changed measurably since the industrial revolution, and the current pH is far outside the values that have been historically observed. Even based on conservative estimates of future CO2 emissions, it looks like hydrogen ion concentrations in the ocean (remember pH is a log scale) will more than double by 2100. Ocean acidification has a number of impacts on the marine environment, but most notably it increases dissolution of the CaCO3 deposits that make up coral reefs and decreases the rate at which new shells and reefs can be formed.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Old Webcams?

BenVis Document cameras (258 comments)

Build some document cameras for your teachers. Get some goosenecks with sturdy bases and mount the cameras on them pointing down. Put together software that can mirror the image (some scripts + vlc will work). If any of your teachers regularly use a computer to project e.g. documents or slide shows, this can supplement what they are already doing. It's easier and tidier than a transparency, but more intuitive, familiar, and interactive than a slide show. It brings the added bonus of producing a paper archive of what was projected.

You can get some more information here: bootleg elmo

I realize this suggestion is maybe not in line with the idea of using a bunch of cameras for one project, but if your teachers don't already have something like this, they will love you for it.

more than 3 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Destroy Hard Drives?

BenVis Re:oven (1016 comments)

... How's this for an idea... Take it to your nearest hospital. Sneak into the room where they keep the MRI, and leave the hard drives in the bottom. Wait for them to turn on the MRI and BAM!!! ...

You were obviously making a funny, but here's some serious information: The static magnetic field in an MRI is always on. Turning off the static magnetic field is a potentially dangerous and always a time-consuming and expensive proposition. You'd get to a few feet from the magnet bore and all the drives would be yanked to the center of the magnet. That would be bad for you if you had them in, for example, a backpack.

Check out some of the photos and the video at Flying Objects

more than 3 years ago

Bejeweled Yields Cognitive Benefit In Older Adults

BenVis Re:err, 'reported feeling' (82 comments)

Looking over the abstracts of some of Dr. Whitbourne's recently published works, it looks like Dr. Whitbourne's group is developing the hypothesis that how a person feels about aging has an impact on their psychological well-being. This might seem obvious, but put in plain language, do old people get depressed because aging causes depression, or do old people get depressed because they have a negative attitude about aging? It's actually not an obvious question. With that in mind, knowing how older adults feel about their cognitive abilities after playing games is of value.

TFA mentions the study is ongoing. A different article about the study indicates the researchers will also have participants take objective tests of cognitive abilities, so the research isn't only looking at subjective self-report.

more than 3 years ago

From Touchpad To Thought-pad

BenVis Requires surgery (92 comments)

Nature news itself covers this story a little better here.

You might be interested to know that the volunteers for this study were patients with severe epilepsy, and the neural recordings were from electrodes actually inserted into the patients' brains. Similar work has been done recording from the brains of e.g., monkeys in order to control a robotic arm (rather than control a video display). This involves invasive surgery that wouldn't be done unless there was also a medical necessity for it.

more than 4 years ago

My Automobile Gets __ MPG

BenVis Re:Honda Fit (1141 comments)

When I last checked (which was 2008), fit and fit sport have identical engines.

There are trivial differences in the body shape which I suppose could change aerodynamics. The wheels are different. I don't think the upgraded sound system is going to make a difference. I think both can be either manual or automatic, which will make a difference.

Of course, how you drive has a huge impact on mileage. Also, of course, different cars with similar names will get different gas mileage.

In my Honda Fit Sport, I am lucky to get 30 mpg driving around Los Angeles, but when I'm elsewhere I can usually surpass 35.

more than 4 years ago

Cyberwarrior Shortage Threatens US Security

BenVis Re:Ah, better to crack'em down. (394 comments)

This 'Cyber-warrior gap' discussion echoes a similar discussion about the 'Science gap'. One perspective is that not enough smart people are going for a particular career. Another perspective is that actually the smart people consider that career, and decide pursuing that career is for chumps.

If you want to attract smart people, you need to make the career look good. In the science gap, the career is unappealing because the effort/reward ratio is unfavorable (get a Ph.D., do some post-docs, then hope a search committee picks you out of the hundreds or thousands of other applicants for one of the three jobs opening up this year in which you might eventually be offered a permanent job). It sounds like for "cyberwarriors" the situation is similar: spend your time doing stuff that might get you arrested or that nobody cares about and then hope the government suddenly decides to actually start hiring.

more than 4 years ago

Actually visible to me right now, IRL:

BenVis Lucky me (274 comments)

I lucked into a 10th floor office with a window. I can see most of one of the busiest freeways in Los Angeles, so I selected multitudes, although really I can see the cars of multitudes.

more than 4 years ago

Facebook Crawler Speaks Back

BenVis Re:Pretty naive (317 comments)

Wow! I was thinking if nobody'd posted a link to Lessig's recent stuff, that I'd get an easy +5 and feel good about myself doing it. Now I see the first mention of it is currently sitting at +2 and I just feel sad. The corrupting influence of money on the US government is a crucial problem we have to solve right away, and I hope a lot of slashdot readers get that and want to help.

Maybe I'm reading too much into moderation. In fact, I hope the parent isn't highly up-moderated because everyone already knows about fix congress first.

more than 4 years ago

First Anti-Cancer Nanoparticle Trial On Humans a Success

BenVis Re:Too small a sample size (260 comments)

Thanks for the overview of the clinical trials procedure. You clearly know a lot about it. One thing I wanted to point out is that while placebo-controlled designs are probably the most reliable, in many contexts (including a cancer treatment) it would be unethical to give patients a placebo (i.e. a treatment expected to do nothing) rather than a treatment that might actually help them.

Basically, if there is a treatment that is known to be at least somewhat effective, that's your control rather than a placebo. It might be that the definition of placebo has shifted to include any standard non-experimental treatment, but that would be news to me.

more than 4 years ago

Computer Failure Causes Gridlock In MD County

BenVis Re:Have a taste of living in Los Angeles! (483 comments)

Installing left turn lights? Most of the protected lefts on my commute are being uninstalled. Maybe they're just moving them from one intersection to another. That sounds a lot like something they'd do in LA.

more than 5 years ago

California Continues To Push For Violent Game Legislation

BenVis Re:Backyard fences (167 comments)

I bet they will never push for a law against violent MOVIES, what with Hollywod present in the state. Games, however, are mostly made out-of-state, e.g. Austin TX has a lot of video game companies.

I think the general thrust of your comment is correct. The video games lobby is nowhere near the Hollywood lobby. However, I live in Los Angeles and within a few miles of my house are offices of EA, THQ and Activision. According to the ESA, California companies employ the most people, accounting for 40% of the employment in the US video game industry. Texas is also in the top 5. I think this kind of brouhaha has more to do with relative age. Movies have been around for as long as our baby boomer overlords can remember. Video games (particularly in their current form) have not. They are newer, so they're a more convenient scapegoat.

more than 5 years ago

Restauranteurs Say Yelp Uses Extortion To Ply Ad Sales

BenVis Scummy business practices indeed (202 comments)

I read a blog post about this case pointing out that East Bay Express also happens to run a restaurant rating service. Conflicts of interest don't always lead to problems, but the conflict should be kept in mind when evaluating the article's claims.

A link to the post.

more than 5 years ago

YouTube Breeding Harmful Scientific Misinformation

BenVis Re:Big deal (816 comments)

It's the blind leading the blind out there. And not only that, they distrust the sighted.

While I can't disagree completely, it seems that some authority figures are using YouTube to get their message out. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has its own YouTube channel with over 17k subscribers. I don't know how many subscribers you need on YouTube to be popular, but 17k seems like a lot.

I guess the New York Times wrote an article about the whole thing. You can check it out: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/22/us/22dmv.html

more than 7 years ago


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