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US Post Office Increases Secret Tracking of Mail

Firethorn Re:competition (110 comments)

Fedex, and UPS have both gotten into trouble with the USPS over their letter deliveries. The trick is that 'first class mail' doesn't mean all mail. Next day, maybe second day air is legal. Even then some businesses were investigated for sending 'everything' fedex, even if it didn't need to be there that quickly.

What you won't see in the USA as long as the USPS maintains it's legislated monopoly is the equivalent of a UPS Ground Letter. Because that would compete with first class.

2 days ago

Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

Firethorn Because your math made me suspicious (714 comments)

1.4M employees, check.
$16B is for all of walmart, not just the Walton's stock. They own around half.

$8.81 moving to $100/hour almost makes the $8 insignificant, but I'll use $91.19 anyways.

1/3rd are part time.

Using 1.4M employees, that's roughly 1,867M full time hours, 467M part time hours. 2.3B employee hours/year. So increasing average employee pay to $100/hour would cost the Waltons $210B of their $8B of income from Walmart a year. For that matter, raising average pay to $12.29 would wipe out their income period. You could reach $15.77 if you theoretically turned Walmart into a non-profit.

$2/hour to the proposed federal minimum wage increase would seem doable though. It would also increase our tax base - more people paying the higher income tax rates vs the 15% max long term capital gain rate the Waltons almost certainly take advantage of.

3 days ago

Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes

Firethorn Re:This is silly (714 comments)

I still remember an ancient Disney cartoon that showed basically this - except that it pointed out that higher productivity, normally through automation(the graphic showed him using a paintbrush with 6 heads vs one to paint eyes on dolls), allows a business to pay workers more while keeping the price of the good stable on the market.

Of course, unless there's factors in place to provide alternative demand for said workers the increased productivity is more likely to go into profits or reducing the price of the goods in order to achieve greater market share.

That's actually what I propose instead of welfare/minimum wage for the most part - enact policies such that there's always a job that pays a 'living wage' available. Businesses have to beat that to hire anybody.

3 days ago

A Library For Survival Knowledge

Firethorn Re:100 year old survival knowledge in PDF files??? (266 comments)

Publish the books hard-bound on acid-free paper and then you've got something useful!!

This reminded me how I'd printed out some copies of my resume on premium acid-free paper. Talk about a waste - Resumes are more temporary than just about anything else you print out. When it's likely going to be looked at for 10 minutes then discarded, and even at best it'll be worthless in 3 months, why worry about acid free?

Honestly though, I'd settle for 3 ring binder with the acid-free paper. It's a lot cheaper than a bound book, and pages can be separated out if necessary, such as pages on printing presses going to that shop, while the pages on farming go to the farms, etc...

3 days ago

Solving the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment

Firethorn Re:No mystery - suddenly there was money in it (604 comments)

we're sitting inside at keyboards FFS and would be considered sissies by someone defrosted from 1970.

Not really. Sure, keyboarding would be considered women's work, but that's data entry. Programming, analysis, and such would be considered men's work, though it was one of the more gender equal professions back in the day. Also, plenty of male secretaries and data entry people back in the '70s. You only had so many women working, after all.

4 days ago

Tetris Is Hard To Test

Firethorn Speaking of UI's (169 comments)

Defining all of the possible scenarios is often a lot harder than it looks. There aren't too many UI coders out there that haven't said "yeah, we need to fix it, but what made the user decide to do that?" at one time or another.

This reminded me of a UI bug I discovered in Steam - if you have 2 monitors, one rotated 90 degrees, but not the primary, and try to maximize steam on that window, bad things happen.

Seeing as how I've seen only like 3 people doing that, most not in a home setting, I don't think it comes up much.

5 days ago

Ballmer Says Amazon Isn't a "Real Business"

Firethorn Re:The US tech industry (276 comments)

If you need to run software that uses 20GB of RAM (very likely 5 years from now), you're SOL.

Like you said, it really depends on what you do with it. OS and office applications have mostly stabilized on requirements. Image viewing, even graphic viewing is no longer a sticking point, every computer in the last decade or so can handle high definition video. If he wants to upgrade to 4K or something he'd need a new video card, which should contain enough of it's own processing ability that all all the computer has to do is feed IT the minimally preprocessed video stream for decoding and display.

If his gaming style is less 3D shooter and more 'bejeweled', again, no need for new. Even then, with today's reliance on platforms even most 3D computer games come relatively crippled and/or able to downgrade to surprisingly low box requirements and still be playable.

Doing video stuff might work, but again, he'd actually have to do that.

about a week ago

CHP Officers Steal, Forward Nude Pictures From Arrestee Smartphones

Firethorn Re:Prison time (272 comments)

Now unless that article is a total white-wash, it sounds like a tragic mistake. Like insurgents who hide their weapons behind children hoping to vilify their attackers, it seems quite strange someone would place a baby's crib blocking their own front door.

Now ask why they're breaching in the midnight to 4 am time period, why they're breaching at all when there's no evidence that somebody's life is in immediate danger, etc... Heck, I was just reading about where they decided to raid both sides of a duplex and did the full 'bang&bash' before shooting a seven year old in the head. Disregarding signs of a child being in the house like toys scattered around the lawn... The seven year old didn't even live in the side where the suspect lived, there were no interior connections, etc... I don't even blame the officer who shot her all that much - his actions were the tip of an iceberg that involved the whole department. The chief's decision to have a SWAT team. The leader who decided to use them in such raids. The site lead/investigator who called them in for this case, and to have them raid BOTH sides at the same time, when reports are that he didn't have a warrant for her side at the time(got it retroactively, which is bullshit if true). The training he received, etc... Negligent? Sure. Manslaughter? I'd actually save that for the guy that ordered both apartments raided and higher.

These raids take place presumably when the drug dealers inside are at their lowest. Well, everybody is typically at their lowest during this period, so it takes them longer to identify police, and reflex actions are reflex actions.

They're not even really safer for the officers than walking up to the door and publicly presenting the warrant because death tolls DURING SWAT raids from people who manage to get a lucky shot off and worse, friendly fire from other SWAT agents is similar to officers lost handing them out the old fashioned way. If necessary, SHOW THE BLOODY SWAT VAN. At that point they know they can go quietly and painlessly or SWAT can put them down the hard & painful way. Yes, I've seen a couple incidents where they raid a house, find nothing, but in the progress of the raid one SWAT officer shoots another SWAT officer and they try to charge the occupants with assault/murder. Hell, I don't think it's justified to push an officer's death at the hands of another officer during a raid deliberately conducted when you're at your lowest ability level even if drugs are found.

Save lives - both officer and not. End the war on drugs.

about a week ago

Days After Shooting, Canada Proposes New Restrictions On and Offline

Firethorn Re:Shot in the back (307 comments)

The weapon was an old, outdated weapon.

Old and outdated doesn't mean that it can't be deadly effective in trained hands.

about a week ago

Days After Shooting, Canada Proposes New Restrictions On and Offline

Firethorn Re:Shot in the back (307 comments)

If the guard would have had a fully loaded assault rifle the result would have been that he still would have been shot in the back but now the shooter would have been armed with a weapon that actually could do serious damage.

Weren't there TWO honor guards there? If they had loaded weapons the OTHER guard could have shot him, saving time.

about a week ago

Employers Worried About Critical Thinking Skills

Firethorn Re:What is critical thinking? (553 comments)

On one hand: Schools don't teach the right technical skills (i.e. practical skills). They're too focused on thinking, research, pure science.
On the other: Schools don't teach enough thinking skills, they are too focused on practical concerns and memorization

Memorization typically isn't practical skills. Outside of certain specific career fields, naming things like the 'most important' 20 battles of the US Civil War, the dates they took place in, and the generals involved are not that useful outside of the specific class.

Being able to work a spreadsheet/budget is a very practical in many areas, but isn't necessarily 'critical thinking'. I think a better point to say than that would be problem solving. Is the potential employee capable of solving everyday problems that may crop up, without the assistance of a manager? That's also useful.

about a week ago

Manga Images Depicting Children Lead to Conviction in UK

Firethorn Like violent video games (474 comments)

Indeed. Observe violence rates compared with the playing of violent video games. Despite trying to restrict them, studies that look at the long term actually find a negative correlation between violent video games and real life violence. You have to look at very young children shortly after the game to find increases.

about two weeks ago

Manga Images Depicting Children Lead to Conviction in UK

Firethorn Re:Moral Imperialism (474 comments)

There is an artist who actually more or less does this. He also successfully sells the art, often bartering it for hotel stays and such. He never claims it to be real money.

They did try to charge him with counterfeiting once, though. I remember reading that chargers ended up being dropped because he didn't use anything more mechanical than a fountain pen for his work, and the law(at least at the time) specified printing, mechanical reproduction, which he wasn't doing. They were shocked that he was hand drawing everything.

Complicating it even more was that, as art, every 'bill' he created was worth more than face value. IE a "twenty" would go at auction for $10k or something crazy. He'd be a fool to try to pass one of his creations off as 'real money' because it'd be worth less that way. ;)

about two weeks ago

Manga Images Depicting Children Lead to Conviction in UK

Firethorn Re: Moral Imperialism (474 comments)

There's a world of difference between content-based restrictions and time-place-manner based restrictions - do you agree? Are you okay with someone shouting their political speech through a bullhorn at your window at 3AM? Their non-political speech?

Good point. I see a big difference between criminalizing owning some pictures and simply being restricted from broadcasting said images via television or even just plastering them on a billboard.

I guess my support for restrictions on the first boils down to
1. Active attacks - this would include the speeches through bullhorns at windows at 3 am. They're trying to disrupt your sleep, which causes injury. Ban.
2. Inciting violence - varies between calling for duels to endorsing violent overthrow of the country. I'll note that expressing a belief shouldn't normally trigger this. It has to be done with intent to cause violence. Basically you shouldn't be held guilty of a violation because you said 'I'm pro-choice' and a bunch of pro-lifers attacked you.
3. Libel/Slander - probably should come under 'active attack', but lying to harm your target isn't allowed.

Yes, I support the rights of the Phelps to hold anti-gay demonstrations and the KKK to march, and I hate both of them. I support the banning of child porn on the basis that a child is injured in the process of creating it, ergo there shouldn't be any traffic of it.

On the other hand, while creepy drawings lack the harmed individual(s). As somebody who really believes that free speech isn't free if offensive speech isn't free, and lacking any scientifically sound studies that show that banning the stuff will reduce molestation/abuse rates, I have to go against banning them.

about two weeks ago

Speed Cameras In Chicago Earn $50M Less Than Expected

Firethorn Re:Easy to solve - calibrate them to overestimate (398 comments)

I remember an early case where the kid(with his parent's support) fought using the GPS logger installed on his car due to an earlier speeding incident that showed he wasn't speeding at the time the cop said he was. The GPS company sent representatives(for free). The parents hired a lawyer on principle, etc...

He ended up losing, but the court/prosecution spent so much money fighting it that it was just insane. Their intent was to set a precident that 'GPS doesn't count'. Of course, what really happened is that the company took that experience and retooled their devices some - shorter intervals, instant AND average speed, signed log files so you could be assured they weren't edited, etc...

about two weeks ago

Speed Cameras In Chicago Earn $50M Less Than Expected

Firethorn Proper yellow timing. (398 comments)

I can be much more verbose now, I have time.

I don't see how it could reduce accidents unless the yellow was too short to allow all vehicle types time to stop.

NHTSA and other associated organizations have done lots of math and studies to determine and verify 'best' designs for nearly every kind of intersection out there, which includes proper yellow light timing.

To put it in context - while I kept it generic I could have said 'increase yellows to NHTSA or similar standards'. If you look at the studies, yellows shorter than NHTSA recommendations tend to have more accidents and red light running. Yellows longer than NHTSA standards don't do much, so it seems they've done their work. Indeed, if all intersections utilize the same standards, you gain the benefit that drivers learn to expect how long the yellow will be at a given intersection - 'Level, 35 mph, the yellow will be 'this' long and I have time to make it/not make it'. No matter where the intersection is.

Thing is though, local governments are discovering that a properly designed intersection that meets NHTSA and similar department rules regarding a well designed intersection won't have enough red-light runners to justify the expense of cameras, and that designing it right(or fixing the flaws) makes it safer than what red light cameras can provide. Of course, this presents a problem - the safest course is to fix the intersection, but that costs money. Cameras at least theoretically 'make' money, so they're preferred in areas concerned more about revenue.

Of course, courts throwing out fines left and right(including forcing the government to pay back all collected fines in select situations) when it's discovered that the reason for excessive red light running is an improperly designed or programmed intersection alters the finances. Much less when it's discovered that somebody shortened the yellow because they weren't making enough, as has occasionally happened. Heads really tend to roll then. The problem is that even if the government and camera company select intersections that happen to have a short yellow, when they're forced to retime the light to standards suddenly revenue drops. Running the cameras are no longer worth it.

If the stats don't pan out, that's interesting.

I suggest reading the sources. It's noted all over that increasing yellow duration at problematic intersections works(at least most of the time). Nearly always there's some problem to be corrected - yellow timing is easy though. Sometimes all you need is a warning light earlier on.

I don't think fatalities is the big issue here. Drunk driving is its own problem that won't be solved with traffic signals. No one wants to deal with collision damage from lower speed accidents.

Bingo. Independent studies have shown that red light cameras don't really reduce serious accidents(T-Boning at speed and such), but can drastically increase the number of rear-end collisions. Not that I want to argue your experience, but there's reasons why I kept it all statistical - accidents will happen no matter what as long as humans are still behind the wheel. All we can do is minimize them.

I think the way we design intersections needs a rethink.

Actually, following NHTSA and similar standards tends to be very effective at reducing accident rates.

about two weeks ago

Speed Cameras In Chicago Earn $50M Less Than Expected

Firethorn Re:So it's like Colorado (398 comments)

They're still making money from marijuanna sales there. I could have told them they wouldn't make that much money, they were way too optimistic, and set the tax rates too high to properly compete with illegal sources.

Compounding that was a federal campaign against the financing and housing of legal dispensaries - they have a hard time getting the money to get the economy of scale necessary for profit. Leasing commercial property is also almost impossible.

about two weeks ago

Speed Cameras In Chicago Earn $50M Less Than Expected

Firethorn Strict enforcement...Good way change the law (398 comments)

There's an old saying that the best way to get a bad law changed is to strictly enforce it. Piss off enough people with either having to drive slow or pay the tickets, they'll instead elect anybody promising to fix the 'problem'.

about two weeks ago

Speed Cameras In Chicago Earn $50M Less Than Expected

Firethorn Re:Easy to solve - calibrate them to overestimate (398 comments)

If it still reduces accidents as well as red light running, does it matter if 'more' people run the yellow? The goal of traffic signals is safe intersections and driving, not a 'Simon Says' game.

Note: Link provided not for unbiased site, but because site does have links to reputable studies.

I DID read a biased FAQ by a red light company. Note how they pound the cost of accidents in life and property damage, citing studies. But when it comes to how red light cameras effect the crash rate? 'If red-light and speed safety cameras reduced by an additional 25%...'. Uncited supposition.

Fact is, the 'typical' fatal red-light running is a person going through an 'aged' red, at high speed, while drunk. Not the type to be worried about a camera at that point. Most accidents involving 'fresh' reds are minor, comparable to the rear-end collisions that increase due to the cameras(google should give studies easily).

  I apologize for not linking a study, but I have to head out.

about two weeks ago

An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

Firethorn Re: Agner Krarup Erlang - The telephone in 1909! (341 comments)

Good idea! They even make fancy ones that can bend to turn corners a bit and use the shape of the rollers to keep the product on them going the right direction and not falling off the conveyor.

A slight slope would be all that you'd need to keep the product moving without any further human assistance.

Depending, the ice truck should already have one available. Heck, worst case have a cart.

about two weeks ago



Firethorn Firethorn writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Firethorn (177587) writes "From Decatur Daily
Shut down 22 years ago in 1985, the Tennessee Valley Authority has reactivated Unit 1 at Browns Ferry Nuclear plant in response to rising demand for electricity in North Alabama. It's the first reactor activated since 1996.

It's expected to produce 1,155 megawatts, power 650,000 homes, and employ an extra 100 workers at the plant.

Renovations cost $1.8 Billion, but they expect the payback to be done within 4-5 years, down from the 7-8 years estimated in 2002, mostly because of increased fuel costs for the alternatives."



Firethorn Firethorn writes  |  more than 5 years ago

You know, I found a story on fark leading to a postive spin on Walmart. Of course, the thread had all sorts of entries on how bad/evil Walmart is. While I certainly don't agree with everything in the article, neither do I believe that Walmart is worse than the devil. It's of only average evilness for a large corporation.

One points brought up was the 'liveable wage'. While Walmart does indeed have one of the lower wage medians, it's a retail store. It's wages are in line with the other 'mart' stores, grocery stores, and their ilk. If anything, a lower median wage indicates that they aren't top heavy with too many managers. 90% of their workers are covered by health insurance - and not government plans.

Here in the USA we have a messed up view of what a 'liveable wage' is. It's part of why we've lost so much of our manufacturing - cheaper laber outside the USA.

I'd rather have them have a job that might not pay enough for them to get that 60" Plasma, own two cars, not to mention such 'essentials' as cable, high speed internet, a thousand+ computer, etc, than NO JOB.

Essentially, I feel that it'd be a better situation to have welfare set up so that people are always better off working than not working. They're also always better off working the better paid job than the lesser**. As part of that, I'd get rid of the minimum wage.

IE we declare the minimum living income to be X. Really bad standard of living, barely covers the basics. Everybody gets X.
Joe gets a job making Y. His welfare payments are adjusted such that he gets Y + (X-Y/3). I use a divisor of 3 because there are costs associated with working, and a /2 is a bit too quick. Let's say X is the Poverty line. We'll go with a family of 4. $21,200. Ouch. Still, let's say they get job/s earning $30k. They'd 'lose' 10k in benefits, still obtaining $11.2k in benies. They now have an effective income of $41.2k, which while not great, is better than sitting completely on welfare. Meanwhile the single guy would be looking at $10.4k, and that $30k job would leave him with $400 in benefits. He's still better off getting that pay raise, though. I'm firmly of the belief that somebody working and contributing is better than not working.

That would help with our outsourcing problem, while wages would drop, it would help make us competitive on the global workforce market again.

On another topic - U.S. homes lose $2 trillion in value in '08

Is this necessarily a bad thing? For a while there people were treating their homes as investments - well, a home IS an investment, but they were treating theirs like something they could buy then sell when their retired for enough money to retire on. Easy credit allowed people and speculators to buy far more home than they needed, or even could afford, putting a crunch on housing and raising prices to the point of unaffordability. Personally, I'd like to remain able to afford a decent home with a 30 year fixed, on no more than 30% of my income, not some fancy loan that I ultimately can't afford.


Firethorn Firethorn writes  |  more than 9 years ago

What with the flooding, I feel that New Orleans should be renamed to 'New Venice'. I have many thoughts on this.

For one, it's just stupid to build a standard city below sea level, on the coast, especially in an area subject to hurricanes.

My idea, since the area's natural tendency is to be flooded anyways, we go along with it and build like in venice. It'd remain a tourist attraction, and would be far more resistant to hurricanes with proper construction. My idea is floating homes. Tie them in location with rails so they stay level. Give then around 3-4 meters of travel. You could reduce this by actually artificially raising the level of water, then when a hurricane comes, pump the water out to keep it level. It's hard to flood an artificially raised lake. You break a levy, the water level drops.

Then instead of levees, you build tide breakers, to moderate the tide and any breakers. Build 'sacrifice buildings' closest to the gulf, that can be used to break the tide even further. Then large buildings that won't float, but sit on a solid foundation, will use their first floors for nothing critical, and reinforce the ocean side to withstand the hurricanes, at least better. They're also to protect the homes behind.

Great tourist attraction, unique, pretty much floodproof.


Why do people keep calling me a republican?

Firethorn Firethorn writes  |  more than 9 years ago

Disclaimer: This is intented to be a summery. There are all sorts of jinks and kinks in my beliefs. This is mearly a summery.

People keep calling me a republican on this board. If I am one, I must be an awfully strange one, seeing as how I'm pro choice, pro drug legalization, at least somewhat pro gay rights, and am an agnostic with atheist tendencies.

I believe in seperation of church and state, but I don't think that means that the state can supress people's freedom of religion. As in if a kid wants to read the bible or pray in school, they can (as long as it's not disruptive to class).

I think that school vouchers are a good idea. Private schools and parents have been doing more education with less than public schools for years.

I think that the government should run a balanced budget. I also think that the fairtax guys have a good idea, but that there are a number of kinks to work out.

The war on terror, war in Iraq? I think that we're taking the wrong direction at the airports. I think that all the violations of our rights are wrong. As for the war in Iraq, well, we're committed. We have to finish it, lest it turn into another Afghanistan. I can only hope the upcoming elections go reasonably well.

I am a strong supporter of the first amendment. I feel that if I'm not uncomfortable with at least some of what is being said, speech isn't free enough.

I am also a strong supporter of the second amendment. And yes, I believe that that covers machine guns. NBC weapons are a bit much even for me however. If it's not something that a single soldier can be expected to haul and use somewhat discriminatorily, it's not a personal arm.

I think that it's a major crime that the government can confiscate property without trial.

I think that our government spends too much money on various welfare and pork barrel projects. If we must have welfare, I think that people should have to work for it.

I'm a libertarion, not a republican.


First Entry...

Firethorn Firethorn writes  |  more than 9 years ago

Well, I usually mess something up in my posts, so if something seems odd, it might just be.

I'm certainly not average.
I'm pro-choice... And Pro-Death penalty
I'm for a strong military...but I'd let gays join
I'm for closing the border...but I'd let legal immigration be easy.
I'm for legalizing drugs...And serious prison time for DUI's.
I consider myself for a clean enviroment...but I'd do this closing all hydrocarbon powerplants and replacing them with nuclear.
I'm a strict constitutionalist.
I believe that if we must engage in war, we should wage it offensivly. Under modern technology, offense is what wins battles.
I'd eliminate welfare and the minimum wage, replacing it with a 'work-fare' program, where you have to work at something for forty hours a week (even if only picking trash up from the side of the road). Benefits would be mostly concrete, not cash. You'd eat at a dining facility, live in a provided apartment, etc...

I certainly have other views, but this should cover most of the issues.

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