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Comments

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Ask Slashdot: What Do You Consider Elegant Code?

DavidHumus Re:As little as possible (373 comments)

In fact, APL is the epitome of elegance in computer programming languages: http://sharonhines.com/interne... (one random, recent example of many).

One simple example: some languages have a way to do matrix multiplication but it's often a clunky function call or an odd, non-standard piece of notation (I'm looking at you, Matlab). APL doesn't just do matrix multiply but generalizes the very concept of it so that you can do a generalized inner product that reduces to matrix multiply when the functions supplied to it are multiplication and addition.

Ignorance of the language, common and widespread though it is, is not the same as an actual reason for dismissing it.

about three weeks ago
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New Australian Privacy Laws Could Have Ramifications On Google Glass

DavidHumus A thin wedge against free speech (128 comments)

These laws against recording in public are an early step toward curtailing freedom of speech. The recent popularity of variations on this, particularly with regard toward laws against recording police officers should be a tip-off.

We already have laws that differentiate between what's acceptable in public versus private space: walking around naked, for instance. Blurring this line looks like something that favors those who would erode and limit the public space.

about three weeks ago
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Jimmy Wales To 'Holistic Healers': Prove Your Claims the Old-Fashioned Way

DavidHumus Re:Finally a good fundraiser (517 comments)

You're right as far as I'm concerned but we may not be in the majority.

about three weeks ago
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Survey Finds Nearly 50% In US Believe In Medical Conspiracy Theories

DavidHumus Re:Jenny McCarthy (395 comments)

...the government funds medical research that suppresses "natural cures" by exposing them as ineffective frauds.

Not enough of this given the giant loopholes opened by our clueless congresscritters, e.g. the DSHEA - http://www.wholefoodsmagazine.... .

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Will Older Programmers Always Have a Harder Time Getting a Job?

DavidHumus Quality / $ (379 comments)

As long as the quality of work continues to be an imponderable - not sure why this still is the case, unless management continues to remain clueless - decisions will be made only based on how much money someone costs, and older people want more money. Perhaps they imagine that experience is valuable.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Will Older Programmers Always Have a Harder Time Getting a Job?

DavidHumus Re:Forty-year-olds also have lives... (379 comments)

This only holds if there's no awareness of the difference in work quality...oh, wait.

But I call BS on this tired old argument anyway. If it were true, the 50-something w/the kids in college and flexibility would be sought after - we're not.

about a month ago
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Interview: Ask Eric Raymond What You Will

DavidHumus Error cascade? (126 comments)

Your stance on AGW seems to deny the error-correcting features of the scientific method.

So which do you think is more likely: that AGW-deniers are primarily politically-motivated and don't give a crap about simple facts (like the greenhouse effect of CO2) or that the scientific method is deeply flawed?

about a month and a half ago
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'Google Buses' Are Bad For Cities, Says New York MTA Official

DavidHumus Yokel, much? (606 comments)

Judging from the clueless, anti-urban comments predominating here, maybe the site should be renamed "Slashyokel".

about 2 months ago
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Code Is Not Literature

DavidHumus Re:That's interestingly backwards (240 comments)

This is an extremely blinkered view of code that probably well-represents the majority opinion, given that that's the genesis of most programming languages.

However, there is a small group of languages that aspires to represent computational concepts at an abstract level in a clear, consistent, and logical manner. These languages, like APL and J, are based on a regularization of mathematical notation.

about 3 months ago
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Code Is Not Literature

DavidHumus Code as a tool of thought? (240 comments)

There is a (rather small) minority view that code can actually improve our ability to think - http://www.jsoftware.com/jwiki... . However, the bulk of opinion sees code as an obstacle to be overcome - rightly so, given the sloppy, ad-hoc construction of most programming languages.

about 3 months ago
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How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

DavidHumus Re:Level the playing field (715 comments)

Not everyone can do calculus in high school. Not everyone wants to play football. Not everyone wants to study art.

Because it's not like the purpose of education is to expose you to things you don't know or care about...

about 3 months ago
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Heat Waves In Australia Are Getting More Frequent, and Hotter

DavidHumus Re:A Third Possibility (279 comments)

Except that human contributions have only been going one way: increasing over time. Gas due to volcanoes is random.

Oh, also, you're wrong about the magnitude. According to http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/climate.php, "all studies to date of global volcanic carbon dioxide emissions indicate that present-day subaerial and submarine volcanoes release less than a percent of the carbon dioxide released currently by human activities."

about 3 months ago
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"Clinical Trials" For Programming Languages?

DavidHumus Re:Live and don't learn (232 comments)

I have personally worked on a couple of different 20,000 line code bases in dynamic languages.

They worked just fine: in one case we had about 20 clients buying in for tens of thousands per system + 20 % maintenance, which required one senior and one junior programmer to maintain; the other was a system with about three programmers that accounted for about 1% of the trading volume on the NYSE.

You do not have systems in the millions of lines with dynamic languages because you do not need that many lines to do just about anything.

Do you have any support for your baseless assertion?

about 3 months ago
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"Clinical Trials" For Programming Languages?

DavidHumus Re:99 bottles of beer (232 comments)

The Debian Benchmarks game often over-specifies the problem by requiring a particular approach.

about 3 months ago
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"Clinical Trials" For Programming Languages?

DavidHumus Live and don't learn (232 comments)

After decades of enjoying the extreme and obvious productivity advantages of programming with dynamic languages in interactive environments, I continue to be baffled by the overwhelming preference for static, compiled languages. I understand there is a place for such things, much as there is a place for programming in assembly language, but I continue to wonder why such a clumsy paradigm is so dominant.

about 3 months ago

Submissions

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High-Protein Diet Considered Harmful - who wants to hear that?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about a month ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "There's a report in the Wall Street Journal recently on two studies showing an association between low-protein, high-carbohydrate diets and longevity. The TL;DR is "eating a lot of meat (and other animal-derived protein like cheese) in middle-age lowers longevity but the same things help longevity after the age of 65."

These studies are not too surprising if you follow this sort of thing. What is perhaps more interesting is the strong reaction against this article and articles like it. The comments on the article range from the merely dismissive — "...this study means nothing in the real world" — to the abusive — "what the food nazi's approve....grass, cardboard, tofu, yogurt" and "just more commie propaganda to get americans to eat grass and tree bark like our North Korean comrades".

What's interesting is that you don't get this sort of thing only from WSJ readers — many /. responders parrot the same sort of irrelevant nonsense upon encountering a scientific study pointing to conclusions they don't like: the study "is biased", "fails to account for X", "was based on mice so doesn't apply", and so on with no evidence the responder has looked at (or even understood) at the actual research, of course.

What's also interesting, perhaps not surprisingly, is the corresponding prevalent confusion between information based on empirical evidence and notions from popular culture: many commenting on the article seem to think that there was scientific support for some of the recent high-protein diet fads — that scientists "keep changing their minds"."

Link to Original Source
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Eating meat and cheese may be as bad as smoking

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about a month ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "According to an article on medicalxpress.com:

In a new study that tracked a large sample of adults for nearly two decades, researchers have found that eating a diet rich in animal proteins during middle age makes you four times more likely to die of cancer than someone with a low-protein diet—a mortality risk factor comparable to smoking.

Uh-oh, not only should I be a vegetarian, maybe I should be vegan."
Link to Original Source

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Why do we think bankers get paid too much, but not technology CEOs?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 2 months ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "From the NY Times article (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/outrage-over-wall-st-pay-but-shrugs-for-silicon-valley/):

Big paydays on Wall Street often come under laserlike scrutiny, while Silicon Valley gets a pass on its own compensation excesses. Why the double standard?

The typical director at a Standard & Poor’s 500 company was paid $251,000 in 2012, according to Bloomberg News. Mr. Schmidt [Google's CEO] is above that range by over $100 million. ... The latest was the criticism of Jamie Dimon’s pay for 2013, given the many regulatory travails of his bank, JPMorgan Chase. The bank’s board awarded Mr. Dimon $20 million in pay for 2013, $18.5 million of which was in restricted stock that vests over three years. ... For one, the outsize pay for Mr. Schmidt doesn’t square with Google’s performance. Putting aside the fact that he is not even the chief executive, Google had net income of $12.9 billion last year. JPMorgan was higher at $17.9 billion....

On pure economics, Mr. Schmidt appears to be receiving an inordinate amount. By every measure, JPMorgan is bigger, with more profits. And yet Google awards $100 million to its chairman and there is nary a peep.

Maybe the bigger question is why is CEO pay so entirely disconnected from company performance?"

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Less vaccination then, more measles now

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 9 months ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "Some of the longer-term effects of the anti-vaccination movement of past decades is now evident in a dramatic increase in measles. From the article: A measles outbreak infected 1,219 people in southwest Wales between November 2012 and early July, compared with 105 cases in all of Wales in 2011.

There continues to be no credible evidence that vaccination causes autism but the a significant minority believes this anyway."

Link to Original Source
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Top Exec: I don't know what CDO stands for even though we traded them

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 9 months ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "A top executive at a major financial firm where they made billions creating CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) didn't know the meaning of the acronym.

From http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/top-witness-for-the-s-e-c-turns-testy-on-the-stand/ :

Paolo Pellegrini has been lauded as an architect of one of the biggest hedge fund victories in recent memory: Paulson & Company’s audacious bet against subprime home loans in 2007.

But in a Manhattan federal courtroom on Tuesday, Mr. Pellegrini professed not to know what one of the basic acronyms of the industry meant."
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Peppers Protect against Parkinson's

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about a year ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "A recent study indicates that consuming vegetables from the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes and peppers (as well as tobacco), decreases the risk of contracting Parkinson's disease. Earlier studies had shown that smoking tobacco seems to provide protection against the disease and the newer one seems to confirm that the key ingredient is nicotine, which is present in some vegetables like peppers."
Link to Original Source
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US Educational Scores Not So Abysmal

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about a year ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "The much-publicized international rankings of student test scores — PISA — rank the US lower than it ought to be for two reasons: a sampling bias that includes a higher proportion of lower socio-economic classes from the US than are in the general population and a higher proportion of of US students than non-US who are in the lower socio-economic classes.

If one were to rank comparable classes between the US and the rest of the world, US scores would rise to 4th from 14th in reading and to 10th from 25th in math."

Link to Original Source
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Republicans quash evidence they don't like

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about a year and a half ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "The Congressional Research Service has withdrawn an economic report that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory, after Senate Republicans raised concerns about the paper’s findings and wording."

There may be legitimate problems with the report's findings, however, the default response seems to be not to engage in reasoned discussion but to avoid raising questions about conservative orthodoxy."

Link to Original Source
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Scientist threatened with arrest for finding leaky drain source of "holy water"

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 2 years ago

DavidHumus (725117) writes "A scientist in India investigated claims of "holy water" dripping from the feet of a statue of Jesus in a Catholic church. He traced it to leakage from a blocked drain coming through the wall and statue by capillary action. For his trouble, he has been threatened with arrest under a law against "deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community"."
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Can People Sense Wireless Signals?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 2 years ago

DavidHumus writes "Ask Slashdot: Can people actually detect wireless signals? I've encountered two people who claim to be sensitive to wireless emissions — they find them bothersome. One of these people is blind.

My BS detector says they are mistaken but is there a chance that this could be true?"

Link to Original Source
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Flaming considered harmful

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 5 years ago

DavidHumus writes "An article in the "European Journal of Information Systems" — (abstract only — payment required for article) — reports on a study of the effects of flaming during a negotiation.

The bottom line: flaming someone decreases chances of a successful negotiation (OK — duh!) but flaming the negotiation context (e.g. "this link is too slow") increases chance of resolution. Moreover, in both cases flaming seems to increase the chance of the resolution favoring the the flame-receiver at the expense of the flame-thrower."
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Amish medical needs vs. modern meds and insurance

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 5 years ago

DavidHumus writes "Amish people suffer higher rates of genetic disease than the general population because of in-breeding. Many of these diseases are treatable but the treatment, and other medical needs, can be expensive. However, since the Amish also refuse to participate in insurance, they can run up huge medical bills that bring their traditional ways of life into conflict with modern ways."
Link to Original Source
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India outsources

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  about 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "The race to the bottom continues! According to this BBC story, software firms in India are finding it too expensive to operate there and are considering moves to cheaper countries.

Where will it all end? When will it get so expensive everywhere that developers will be forced to compete on something other than price? Or will employers finally start to measure effectiveness of development rather than just cost?"
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Can IT's potential be realized?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "From an article "How to Tap IT's Hidden Potential" in the Wall St. Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120467900166211989.html by Amit Basu and Chip Jarnagin: "...top executives at most companies fail to recognize the value of IT. ...there is still a tendency to think of IT as a basic utility, like plumbing or telephone service."

The article goes on to list five primary reasons for "the wall" between IT and business: "...mind-set differences between management staff and IT staff, language differences, social influences, flaws in IT governance (defined as the specification and control of IT decision rights), and the difficulty of managing rapidly changing technology."

Does this fully explain the extreme lack of understanding of IT at high executive levels? The article is even-handed in apportioning blame but touches on a few good points. In particular, how "[m]ost top executives fail to recognize the value of information technology. They think of IT as a basic utility, or as an expensive headache that they'd rather not deal with.""
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Age discrimination is OK

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "An article in Business Week by a Duke University researcher http://businessweek.com/technology/content/jan2008/tc20080115_576235.htm makes the case, by re-iterating the usual, that companies are best served by hiring younger programmers, but it's not about the money. Nor is it about management's inability to measure productivity or quality.

Anytime someone tells you that it's not about the money... it's about the money."
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Movie violence a benefit to society?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "An article in the NY times, titled "Economists Say Movie Violence Might Temper the Real Thing", presents an argument in favor of violent movies as a benefit to society. Essentially, a movie theatre is a better place for people attracted to violence than other places — like bars — because it keeps them from acting on this attraction. Article at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/07/business/media/07violence.htm — registration, yada yada."
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Brain scans to help politicians pander

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "The Wall Street Journal has a story http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119759511839128473.html about a company that analyzes brain scans of people listening to political speeches to determine their responses to what a candidate says. The idea is to get around the problem that people sometimes lie when they answer surveys: what they say they will do doesn't match what they actually do in the voting booth. One well-known is example is how voters overstate their willingness to vote for a black candidate http://books.google.com/books?id=nk-QXKu6DhgC&pg=PA245&lpg=PA245&ots=jlFZZ3J4Gn&sig=hsy3cmfBPuFGKkI2yk6uzrCXBuc .

This technique appears to be geared to unearthing people's true prejudices, better allowing candidates to exploit them. Shades of Nixon's Southern strategy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy. This gives a new meaning to the phrase "collective unconscious"."
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Are CS students poor programmers?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "Recently, at a computer conference, I heard two separate people say the same thing during the same day: computer science students are usually very poor programmers. Both these people were college professors in areas that do a lot of computing — mathematics and biology (population genetics) — and have dealt with a lot of students who have had to write programs for their courses.

The specific complaint of both professors was that CS students seem to have very superfical knowledge, that they don't understand things like the limitations of floating point arithmetic and verifying their output. One professor recounted the story of a student who wanted a good grade on a program because it ran to completion — never mind that the answers it gave were off by many orders of magnitude.

Do slashdotters agree or disagree with this? If it is true, why? Shouldn't computer science students be good programmers?"
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Screen type: dark on light or light on dark?

DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "Recently, there was a query about whether 80-column displays are sufficient in the modern world. This standard apparently dates back to the 1920s, based on IBM punchcards designed to be the size of the then-current US dollar bill. Another standard that is perhaps even more archaic is the convention of displaying black text on a white background — this dates back to Gutenberg and before.

However, is this optimal for modern displays? When I customize my editor or programming environment, I choose light-colored text on a very dark background as I find this easier on my eyes. Am I alone in this preference? Are there studies on which is better — dark on light or light on dark for text on a monitor?

I know that when I worked in a fast-paced trading environment where traders had to monitor many screens — on a system where it was easy to customize and retain the color settings — they tended to use light text on dark backgrounds. Also, it seems that an emitting display like a monitor is fundamentally different from a reflective one like a piece of paper: for one thing, the way colors combine is reversed — one is subtractive, the other is additive.

What are the opinions of Slashdotters? Does anyone know of any serious studies on this?"
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DavidHumus DavidHumus writes  |  more than 6 years ago

DavidHumus writes "The cover story of the current New Scientist magazine is titled Mind Your Head, subtitled What the electronic age is doing to our brains.

The lead editorial (http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/mg194 26003.600-editorial-in-denial-about-onscreen-viole nce.html — requires subscription) makes the case that most researchers on the subject "see a clear link between media consumption and aggression, and also mounting evidence for an increased risk of attentional, behavioural and educational problems with extended exposure to TV and computer games."

It goes on to note the inevitable rebuttals provoked by a criticism of a multibillion-dollar business and compares the tactics of the film industry to those of the tobacco companies.

To put the evidence in perspective, the editorial quotes meta-analysis showing "that the statistical correlation between exposure to media violence and aggression is not quite as strong as that linking smoking to an increased risk of lung cancer. It is, however, double the strength of the correlation between passive smoking and lung cancer, twice as strong as the link between condom use and reduction in the risk of catching HIV, about three times the strength of the idea that calcium increases bone strength, and more than three times as strong as the correlation between time spent doing homework and academic achievement."

The meat of the cover story (http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/m g19426001.900-mindaltering-media.html — subscription required) also brings up the idea that, at the same time, facets of popular culture, including video games and TV, may also be increasing our IQs."

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