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Why No Executive Order To Stop NSA Metadata Collection?

FridayBob Obama leads from behind (312 comments)

This is typical of our current President. If pressed on the issue, he might say that he would "prefer" the NSA not to collect phone records on all Americans, but that so far the opponents of the system just haven't been vocal enough about it for him to take any action on the subject. "Hey, Mr. President, where's all that _change_ you promised us?" I'm sure he would prefer to to do all those things, except that his donors would not be too happy about that.

To think that I voted for this guy... twice. Not that the alternatives were any better, but sometimes I wonder if this administration really is any better than the previous one. And I seriously doubt the next one will be any better. Why? Because today the donors are the ones who are actually running the country (with the recent McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling only adding insult to injury). The only solution I can think of is to attack this evil at its source by getting money out of politics.

about two weeks ago
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How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion

FridayBob Re:More anti-religious (1037 comments)

I'm an atheist, but I still see this as a bullshit argument. It's just redefining religion as any strong belief system. The communists explicitly said religion is bullshit and committed atrocities aplenty.

Religion is the original strong belief system upon which all others are based. Stalin may have been an atheist, but his regime and cult of personality was a lot like a religion. The word "totalitarianism" was probably first used to describe his rule, distinguishing the usual forms of despotism from an absolutist system that demands its citizens to completely subject themselves to the state and/or supreme leader, their private lives and personalities included. So when Stalin wanted somebody executed, for example, there were plenty of unthinking people around him who would blindly follow his orders.

And that was likely not a coincidence. At an early age, following his mother's wishes, Stalin actually trained to be a priest in a Orthodox seminary in Georgia (the country). Judging from his harsh criticism of the Russian Orthodox Church and of religion in general, there seems to be little doubt that he became an atheist later on, but there is no evidence that his brutality was motivated by his atheism.

about two weeks ago
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How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion

FridayBob More anti-religious (1037 comments)

Atheism is not new to me. The first time I questioned religion was when I was seven years old, asking my mother, "If God created the universe, then who created God?" Her answer, "God always was", did not sound at all convincing to me. At age 15, when I was finally allowed to choose for myself whether or not to attend church services, I immediately stopped doing so, having considered it a waste of time for as long as I could remember. A few years later I realized that I did not believe in God at all. That was over 30 years ago.

What the Internet did, however, was to introduce me to the writings of authors such as, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Their books describe in great detail how religion has caused so much more suffering in the world than it has ever managed to prevent, for example how wars may be started by people, but wartime atrocities almost always require religion to be involved. Ultimately, this is all caused by systems that tell us what to think, immunizing us to argument, so they should be recognized for what they really do: brainwashing.

What to do about it? Education, education, education. Mandatory up to age 21, but available to everyone at all ages and for free. Everyone should be scientifically literate. The best thing a society can do is to invest in itself, and religion just happens to be one of the first things we lose when we learn to think for ourselves.

about two weeks ago
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Lit Motors, Danny Kim, and Changing How Americans Drive

FridayBob Re:Easiest way to change how they drive... (144 comments)

The easiest way to change how they drive is to change the structure of the roads. The amount of fuel and tarmac America wastes by having stop junctions, and light controlled intersections everywhere is enormous.

That may be true, but it's also a much more expensive approach that requires more space (not always available). Plus, all those extra viaducts and tarmac would also need to be maintained, while the State and Federal governments already do a pretty poor job at maintaining the existing infrastructure. Of course, they could always decide to raise taxes in order to pay for it all, but that would be unpatriotic...

about a month ago
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Lit Motors, Danny Kim, and Changing How Americans Drive

FridayBob Go Danny, go! (144 comments)

As opposed to the seemingly numerous SUV fans here, I'm apparently one of the exceptions who actually believes in this product. I heard about the C-1 in December 2012 and made my initial deposit for one only about a month later.

I love everything about this idea. If successful, it will be the cheapest plug-in electric road vehicle on the market, it will have a range second only to a Tesla and it will have the fastest charging time of all due to its small battery. The latter, along with its speed and acceleration, is made possible by its low weight, and that's largely thanks to the fact that it has only two wheels. Mileage? The C-1 will get 200 miles on a 10 KWh battery, so think about that the next time you fill'er up. In the US that's about $1.25 for a full change, or 0.625 cents a mile. And yes, it'll always be more dangerous to drive than a car, but certainly safer than any motorcycle.

Okay, you can tell from my homepage link that I'm based in the Netherlands, where cars are smaller on average than in the US, where lane splitting is legal (below a certain speed) and where gasoline prices are higher than anywhere else in the world. I also happen to have a motorcycle driver's license. But as much as I hate the fossil fuel industry (global warming, the Iraq war) and wish I could stop buying gasoline, until late 2012 there wasn't an electric vehicle available that I considered worth buying; cars like the Nissan Leaf aren't exactly cheap and don't have enough range, while the Tesla Model S is just too expensive. The Lit C-1 has both of those bases covered. And like a sports car the C-1 may not be very practical (although more so than a motorcycle), but considering what it offers in return I'm willing to put up with that.

about a month ago
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NASA-Funded Study Investigates Collapse of Industrial Civilization

FridayBob Re:All eggs in the same basket (401 comments)

You're looking too far into the future. I don't expect that our civilization will last even another 100,000 years, but I'd like to think that we can get it to last more than another few centuries. Not keeping all of our eggs in the same basket has long been considered a good way to avoid premature collapse.

about a month ago
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NASA-Funded Study Investigates Collapse of Industrial Civilization

FridayBob Re:All eggs in the same basket (401 comments)

...At this stage seeding either with people is not a sustainable solution and would not help Earth. So what use is it exactly?

It's not about Earth or our species as much as it is about our cultural and intellectual legacy. With all of our eggs in the same basket, a collapse of our civilization could quite possibly mean losing all of that. But if we would also somehow managed to set up a truly self-sustaining colony on the Moon or Mars before that happened, then much of that information would be safeguarded. Sure, setting up such a colony would be very hard indeed, but on the other hand reacquiring the information that we would lose in a collapse would be much harder, and perhaps impossible.

Oh, and setting up an off-world colony, especially on the Moon (because of its proximity and because we know where to find water there), might be easier (and cheaper) that we think. For example, nations could start by encouraging (e.g. with subsidies) commercial mining operations on the Moon, and then encourage any resultant settlements there to become ever more self-sufficient. As the decades passed, maybe that goal would eventually be achieved. We can't know for sure unless we try. If a plan like that were to work, we'd have relatively little to lose and possibly everything to gain.

about a month ago
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NASA-Funded Study Investigates Collapse of Industrial Civilization

FridayBob All eggs in the same basket (401 comments)

This is one of those scenarios in which it would be better to not have all of our eggs in the same basket. For instance, it might be possible to avoid a complete catastrophe if, in advance, we managed to set up a self-sustaining colony on the Moon or on Mars. However, unless we're very careful, that could easily be such an expensive endeavor that attempting to achieve it would only hasten the collapse of our own civilization. Ho-hum.

about a month ago
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Senator Accuses CIA of Snooping On Intelligence Committee Computers

FridayBob Re:NOW it's a tragedy, NOW it's so sad to see... (242 comments)

... Why does she not have sympathy for us, and for our arguments against being spied upon?

Because among the millions of us there may be a few terrorists, so none of us can ever be trusted. She and her colleagues, on the other hand, are fine upstanding citizens who are completely trustworthy and never do anything wrong.

about a month and a half ago
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New Zealand Spy Agency Deleted Evidence About Its Illegal Spying On Kim Dotcom

FridayBob How about if they delete the new /. version? (222 comments)

That would compensate somewhat. Then we would have to continue with /. classic.

about 3 months ago
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Will Microsoft IIS Overtake Apache?

FridayBob Re:IIS better in almost every way. (303 comments)

... It is beyond me why Microsoft is so fixated on manipulating Netcraft stats.

They're attempting to exploit our herd mentality in order to hide their weakness; if enough of us can be fooled into thinking that IIS is more popular than it actually is, then more people will switch to it or stick with it for that reason alone.

about 3 months ago
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20,000 Customers Have Pre-Ordered Over $2,000,000 of Soylent

FridayBob People kibble (543 comments)

The last time this subject came up I was quite enthusiastic about it and shared my thoughts about it with a number of people, including my sister who happens to be a veterinarian. Here's what she had to say about it:

It has its merits. For dogs. Or cats. It's usually referred to by us vets as "dry food" or "kibble". The pitfalls:

  • Dog and cat foods turned out to be not-so-balanced throughout the early years, causing food related diseases. The more famous of these being crystalluria (blocked cats) and taurine deficiency (dilated cardiomyopathy in cats). Most are better these days, the average dog or cat food being better balanced than the average TV dinner.
  • Bogus ingredients. The Chinese are great at adding things that look like proteins but aren't. In fact, they can be very harmful. They've already proven they don't care about human babies, and they make most of the fake medicines around. So: why wouldn't they sell cheaper soylent green, and why wouldn't you end up buying it? The current kidney failure mysteries connected to dog and cat foods are (the ones we've figured out, at least) related to Chinese ingredients. Beware of Soyrent Gleen!!!

This is the first people kibble produced, and if fed as a sole diet, it will probably turn out to have similar problems. Interesting problems, no doubt, but problems nevertheless.

On the brighter side it might have more merits in the lab: precisely controlling student diets while experimenting on them. (Glad I'm not a student in need of funds anymore. :-) )

Otherwise, there is no magic to it. No surprise when eating it. Only tastes different when stale or you have a cold. Sounds utterly soulless. Even the best cookies don't make a good diet. In short: Yuck.

about 3 months ago
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Federal Judge Rules Chicago's Ban On Licensed Gun Dealers Unconstitutional

FridayBob Re:Its counter productive (934 comments)

First, your statistics were not collected with the intention of comparing crime rates between nations. ...

That was never my intention. Statistics for firearms-related deaths also include accidents and suicides. This is not just about crime, not should it be.

... the problem is the methodology of how you process the data so it can be compared. ...

I disagree with this point. For comparative statistical studies of the kind that I gave so many examples of earlier, no further changes should be made at all to the numbers before they are published. That is in fact of paramount importance. Otherwise those responsible for producing them would be blamed for massaging and manipulating the numbers. Again, the task of explaining the differences should be left to the reader.

Your example of comparing the fuel economy of buses with motorcycles is of little use. Anyone can predict in advance that heavier vehicles consume more fuel, so it's not a statistical study from which we can learn anything. A better example would be a study of snakebite incidents around the world: you'd see that Iceland and New Zeeland have no cases, since no snakes are found in the wild on these Island nations, while India and Brazil have thousands of cases every year due to the many endemic venomous species, as well as other factors such as poverty and people walking barefoot. Yes, the snake species involved are rather different in India and Brazil, but the study is only supposed to show that the chances of snakebite injury in the last two countries is much higher than in the first two. In exactly the same way, the numbers I quoted earlier simply suggest, with no further explanation intended, that people living in the United States are more likely to die from a gunshot wounds than those living in the Netherlands.

So when comparing crime statistics between nations you have to compensate for demographic differences. ...

The studies we're arguing about here -- snakebite, cancer, road accidents, etc. -- are not apples and oranges comparisons, and under absolutely no circumstances are they supposed to include and "compensation" for any perceived variables. In fact, when done properly, great care is taken to prevent that sort of thing. For example, who would want a statistical study that compares the number of winter coats sold in countries around the world to compensate for the fact that some countries are tropical and others are not not? For a salesman, that would render the study utterly useless.

And that doesn't even address that the data itself is often corrupted by political interests. ...

That would be an assumption on your part and not necessarily true at all. Unless there are well-documented cases of politicians tampering with the numbers for firearms-related deaths, then I see no reason to worry about it.

Obviously you will need the statistics collected by multiple disinterested third parties. Doubtless you find this overly burdensome. TOUGH SHIT. That's science. ...

For a while it was fun debating with you, but now it's starting to look more like this is a religious issue for you. Also, next time try not to use so many statements like "If you really can't grasp little things...", "TOUGH SHIT", " If you wish to have a PRAYER ..." and "End of argument": it may be colloquial, but it's still condescending and thus makes you look weak and insecure. Remaining polite while attempting to use logical, clear and concise arguments is a much more effective way to prove your point.

about 3 months ago
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Federal Judge Rules Chicago's Ban On Licensed Gun Dealers Unconstitutional

FridayBob Re:Its counter productive (934 comments)

If medical studies were conducted this way you'd be proscribed red wine to cure your heart disease.

The so-called French paradox? That would be the result of someone (perhaps supported by the French wine industry) quoting two individual studies -- for heart disease and for red wine consumption -- and then claiming correlation and causation. The conclusion is questionable, but it does not follow that the individual studies cited are unscientific to begin with. That only shoots the messenger, because by themselves the studies don't refer to each other at all; it is only we who mention them together later on in our search for an explanation.

about 3 months ago
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Federal Judge Rules Chicago's Ban On Licensed Gun Dealers Unconstitutional

FridayBob Re:Its counter productive (934 comments)

Certainly I was not playing games. This is the first time I've been accused of using a straw man argument, but I suspect you may be correct about it. I always thought that logical fallacies were more of a debating tactic, but now I guess they are usually just made in error. Oops. :-)

Anyway, I think my reasoning and arguments have so far been rather poor, perhaps mostly because I've been flailing around in the fog of my own opinions: something that I'm sure is more likely if you don't put enough effort into listening (or in this case reading) what is actually being said. Again, my bad.

I'll give it another try. In your first reply to me you were very clear and there was no need for me to search for analogies: "Compare parts of the US to parts of the US if you want to talk about the US statistics. You cannot compare states across national lines with any credibility." That was your apples and oranges argument all along and and I should have recognized it immediately. My apologies for the lengthy and unnecessary digression.

Instead, I should have immediately pointed out to you that I see nothing scientifically wrong with making numerical comparisons like that between countries; something that is in fact done all the time. Here are more than a dozen examples:

Why would it be unscientific to make comparisons like these? As long as the numbers are always collected in the same way, then they are just numbers and don't attempt to explain anything about differences that may be cultural, legal, socioeconomic, etc. In all cases it's left up to the reader to explain the differences ("it's a police state", "it's probably a poor country", "perhaps they eat too much fish", "maybe they have better rights for women", etc). So, if there is nothing wrong in principle with the above comparisons, why take exception to those involving gun ownership and firearms-related deaths?

about 3 months ago
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Federal Judge Rules Chicago's Ban On Licensed Gun Dealers Unconstitutional

FridayBob Re:Its counter productive (934 comments)

I didn't say you couldn't hypothesize and express opinions. I simply pointed out that your opinions lack evidence and therefore they are just opinions. ...

Please reread my previous response. I first attempted to clarify your position, then wondered if you had a problem in general with statistics as a scientific discipline.

about 3 months ago
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Federal Judge Rules Chicago's Ban On Licensed Gun Dealers Unconstitutional

FridayBob Re:Its counter productive (934 comments)

Let me get this straight. Your position seems to be that there are no scientifically valid statistics available to show a clear correlation between gun ownership and gun-related deaths in the United States (or do you have a different source that you do trust?). Therefore we should not even entertain the notion that they are related, let alone take any actions based on that assumption. Correct?

If so, then are there any demographic statistics that you find acceptable? Any statistics at all? Remember, so much of modern science is based on statistics (e.g. it made finding the Higgs boson possible) that I would think we were at least reasonably good at it. And Nate Silver's statistical analysis quite accurately predicted the outcome of the 2012 elections State by State. So I find it curious that you choose not to trust any statistics at all when it comes to the gun control debate.

about 3 months ago
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Federal Judge Rules Chicago's Ban On Licensed Gun Dealers Unconstitutional

FridayBob Re:Its counter productive (934 comments)

And since no statistics are available that you approve of, you will not accept that the most common solution to this problem has any merit. Pity.

about 3 months ago
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Federal Judge Rules Chicago's Ban On Licensed Gun Dealers Unconstitutional

FridayBob Re:Its counter productive (934 comments)

Sure, there are plenty of cultural and socioeconomic differences between countries around the globe, and even between towns in a single State. And there's always a problem with the statistics. However, if you can admit that America has more handguns per person than any other country in the world, and that it also has an uncomfortably high firearms-related death-rate, then how can you possibly say that reducing the former would not reduce the latter?

When faced with the choice of allowing the civilian population to have handguns or not, the usual approach that governments take is to forbid these weapons by default and then to make a few necessary exceptions. The problem is not that responsible individuals are uncommon -- they are extremely common. The problem is that the law of large numbers dictates that for, say, every 100,000 individuals, 1.) accidents happen and 2.) a few people will always turn out to be less than responsible. It's those people who will always be there to spoil the fun and it is impossible to predict who they will be. And since you will agree that a gun in the wrong hands can have disastrous consequences, the aforementioned approach is considered to be common-sense and has in fact proven to be extremely effective wherever and whenever it has been applied. Fewer guns mean people are less likely to be shot.

So in general, assuming that a nation is not at war (on its own soil) and does not have a law-enforcement problem to begin with, how could taking guns away from a population possibly fail to bring down the firearms-related death rate, especially the rates for mass- and accidental shootings?

about 3 months ago

Submissions

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Twitter is something I...

FridayBob FridayBob writes  |  more than 3 years ago

FridayBob (619244) writes "Twitter is something I...

* am completely addicted to!

* use most of the time

* use a lot

* make regular use of

* do not use regularly

* use only sometimes

* do my best to avoid

* will never, ever use!"
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OS poll at the BBC

FridayBob FridayBob writes  |  more than 6 years ago

FridayBob writes "The BBC's Technology page is currently running a poll to see whether or not people are thinking about upgrading to Apple's new Leopard operating system. If not, it asks if you're either happy with Tiger, running Windows, or use Linux instead. At the risk of skewing their results, how about we let them know what we prefer? Of course, to be really effective, we have to keep this a secret..."
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Compressed Air Car

FridayBob FridayBob writes  |  more than 6 years ago

FridayBob (619244) writes "Yesterday, a Belgian newspaper published this article (translation) about a new car that runs on nothing but compressed air. Apparently, it can run for about 200km on a tank of air filled up to a pressure of 300 bar (4351 psi). Special filling stations can refill an empty tank in only 3 minutes, but the car can also refill itself in six hours using an electrical outlet and its own on-board compressor. The car was developed by MDI (lots of info), a company set up by French engineer, Guy Nègre (ex-Formula One), that makes its money by selling patents and manufacturing licenses. It will become available in Belgium some time next year for a minimum price of only EUR 4,000 ($5,402). The Indian company, Tata, have also bought a manufacturing license and plan to sell a model for as little as EUR 1,835 ($2,478). This Wikipedia article has some interesting information regarding the air engine. Until a good enough battery appears with which to run an electric car, this seems like an excellent solution."

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