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How Riot's social scientists fixed League of Legends trolling

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Interesting Insight (1 comments)

"That's a paradigm shift: trolls aren't trolls all the time, they're sometimes trolls because they're in a bad mood every now and again. Players bring frustrations and tensions from the outside world into the game and even though it might not be common behaviour in a particular player, because it happens to most people once in a while you'll likely run up against examples of it pretty often in a game as popular as League of Legends."

"Once you acknowledge that, Lin recognised, you have to change the way you mete out sentences. This realisation is why Lin believes punishing players is often not effective. "If you look at the community at large and split them into demographics based on their behaviour there is a small demographic, say one percent of players, who are persistently negative and you'll need systems in place to help those players reform or improve their behaviours, but the majority of negative experiences come from neutral and positive players having a bad day so we need systems like honour and behaviour alerts to shape their behaviour."

about a week ago
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Fifty Years Ago IBM 'Bet the Company' On the 360 Series Mainframe

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:CMU 1968-72 (169 comments)

Same here.

We had a 360/50 that occupied one entire floor of the building.

Turn in your cards then wait 12 hours to get your print out and see if it even compiled.

Basicly if you had a CS problem due in a week you had 14 chances to write your program and get all the bugs out before it was due.

about two weeks ago
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Morse code test requirement to be reinstated for Amateur Radio License

Hugh Pickens DOT Com April Fools (1 comments)

"It was a big mistake eliminating the Morse Code test," admits Dotty Dasher, the FCC's director of examinations.

about two weeks ago
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Morse code test requirement to be reinstated for Amateur Radio License

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:I'm a llittle puzzIed (5 comments)

Good. I hope the FCC does re-instate the Morse code requirement. My father used Morse code every day for twenty years as a telegrapher for the Rock Island Railroad and I studied it when I worked the "extra board" summers while I was going to college. It's really an excellent way to communicate when you are in a high noise environment. In any case, I'm glad I did a search on google news for Morse Code because otherwise I wouldn't have seen the story about Jeremiah Denton that I just submitted.

The POW Who Blinked 'Torture' In Morse Code

The LA Times reports on the passing of Jeremiah Denton, the US Navy pilot held by the Viet Cong, who let the world know in a TV interview that POWs were being tortured by blinking out the word "torture" in Morse code. From 1965 to 1973, Denton was held at the "Hanoi Hilton" and several other infamous Vietnamese prisons and was held in isolation for lengthy periods totaling about four years. At points, he was in a pitch-black cell, a cramped hole crawling with rats and roaches. His beatings opened wounds that festered in pools of sewage. Frustrated that Denton would not confess to alleged American war crimes or reveal even basic details of US military operations, jailers subjected him to horrific abuse. Taking command of fellow POWs he usually could not see, Denton fashioned a secret prison communication system using the sound of coughs, hacks, scratching, spitting and throat-clearing keyed to letters of the alphabet. "When you think you've reached the limit of your endurance, give them harmless and inaccurate information that you can remember, and repeat it if tortured again," he told his men. "We will die before we give them classified military information." Thinking they'd broken him, Denton's captors allowed a Japanese TV reporter to interview him on May 2, 1966. "The blinding floodlights made me blink and suddenly I realized that they were playing right into my hands," he wrote. "I looked directly into the camera and blinked my eyes once, slowly, then three more times, slowly. A dash and three more dashes. A quick blink, slow blink, quick blink ⦠." While his impromptu blinks silently told the world that prisoners were being tortured, he was unabashed in the interview, which was later broadcast around the world, in his denial of American wrongdoing. "Whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it â" yes, sir," said Denton. "I'm a member of that government and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live."

about two weeks ago
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Morse code test requirement to be reinstated for Amateur Radio License

Hugh Pickens DOT Com I'm a llittle puzzIed (5 comments)

Both your links are to a press release dated December 15, 2006.

Can you provide a link to a story in 2014?

When I search google news for "Morse code," I don't see anything about it recently.

about two weeks ago
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Urine Trouble: Chemists Warn that Peeing in the Pool is Dangerous

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Alternate Title (1 comments)

Chemists Say Urine Danger If You Pee in Your Pool

about three weeks ago
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Security for the 'Internet of Things' (Video)

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Dear Roblimo (106 comments)

Why are you stepping on a story with another one 17 minutes later?

Best Regards,

Hugh Pickens

about three weeks ago
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Malaysia Jet Made Radical Course Change at Time of Disappearance

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:Misleading title (2 comments)

Better Title: Malaysian Military Says Missing Jet Made Radical Course Change at Time of Disappearance

From NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03...

Malaysia Jet Changed Course at Time of Disappearance, Officials Say

"The Malaysian authorities now believe that a jetliner missing since Saturday may have radically changed course around the time that it stopped communicating with ground controllers. But there were conflicting accounts of the course change and what may have happened afterward, adding to the air of confusion and disarray surrounding the investigation and search operation."

From The Malaysian: http://www.themalaysianinsider...

Malaysian military now reveals it tracked MH370 to Malacca strait

In a strange twist, Malaysia's military believes it tracked the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 by radar over the Strait of Malacca, far from where it last made contact with civilian air traffic control over the Gulf of Thailand.

A military source confirmed with Reuters that the Boeing 777-200ER with 239 on board changed course and made it to the other side of the Malay peninsula.

"It changed course after Kota Baru and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Straits," the military official, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.

From Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article...

Malaysia military tracked missing plane to west coast: source

(Reuters) - Malaysia's military believes a jetliner missing for almost four days turned and flew hundreds of kilometers to the west after it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country's east coast, a senior officer told Reuters on Tuesday.

In one of the most baffling mysteries in recent aviation history, a massive search operation for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER has so far found no trace of the aircraft or the 239 passengers and crew.

Malaysian authorities have previously said flight MH370 disappeared about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for the Chinese capital Beijing.

about a month ago
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WSJ: Americans' Phone Bills Are Going Up

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:Ting (273 comments)

Ting is great.

I bought an iphone 4s from sprint and activated it on Ting and my monthly bill is about $10.

about a month ago
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Meat Makes Our Planet Thirsty

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Mames McWilliams?? (2 comments)

Sorry, it should be James McWilliams.

about a month ago
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How much time do you spend gaming compared to 10 years ago?

Hugh Pickens DOT Com About the same (270 comments)

None.

about 2 months ago
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Psychologists: Internet Trolls Are Narcissistic, Psychopathic, and Sadistic

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:Survey results != Real world (293 comments)

Good point. There is a second part of the study that addresses this issue is to some extent.

A limitation of Study 1 is that we asked participants to select their favorite activity from a list of options. This necessitated a categorical index of trolling that likely underestimated the effects. Hence in Study 2, we assessed enjoyment of each commenting activity (including trolling) on separate continuous scales. To rule out the possibility that overall Internet use explains relations with trolling, we also included a question about total time spent on line for use as a control variable. Finally, to triangulate on trolling with multiple measures, we constructed a second brief index:the Global Assessment of Internet Trolling (GAIT) scale, which assessed trolling behavior, identiïcation, and enjoyment. As in Study 1, measures of the Big Five were included for comparison. Study 2 also featured data from a larger and more diverse sample, furnishing us with enough statistical power to test hypotheses about the unique contributions of the Dark Tetrad. For reasons articulated earlier,we expected sadism to dominate personality effects on trolling. Thus we predicted that the relations between sadism and trolling would remain signiïcant even when controlling for overlap with psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.

about 2 months ago
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25% of Charter Schools Owe Their Soul To the Walmart Store

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Crystal Bridges (233 comments)

That's not all Alice has done. My wife and I recently spent a few days at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a world class museum in Bentonville, Arkansas created by Alice Walton, and had an incredible experience. "Located on 120 acres of native Ozark forest, Crystal Bridges' grounds invite visitors to enjoy the natural environment as a continuation of their museum experience. The Museum's distinctive architecture immerses visitors in the landscape, while three miles of nature trails encourage exploration and reflection." And admission is free.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Can't Slashdot Classic and Slashdot Beta Continue to Co-Exist?

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Insight into Dice's Thought Process (9 comments)

Here's some excerpts and a question and answer from Dice's Chief Executive Officer, President and Director Michael P. Durney at the 4th quarter earnings report for Dice on February 4, 2014:

Michael P. Durney - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director of Dice Holdings:

We took a pretax noncash impairment charge of $15 million to write down the goodwill at Slashdot Media and Health Callings, as well as intangible assets at Slashdot. Based on our projection of expected cash flows, which is in part based on no anticipated improvement at Slashdot Media and on Health Callings being combined into HEALTHeCAREERS, we determined that we needed to record the charge.

Michael P. Durney - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director of Dice Holdings:

In addition to the 2 specific areas of focus for us in 2014, we have 3 key strategic priorities. One, leverage the power of data and analytics to maximize value of the targeted nature of our brands; two, build robust mobile applications and mobile-enabled sites to deliver our services anywhere; and three, continue building a culture of high performance within the company to leverage innovation across all of our sites.

Financial Analyst Stephen Sheldon:

It looks like you took a charge for the Slashdot assets this quarter. So I was curious to get your commentary on how we should think about that business on an ongoing basis?

Michael P. Durney - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director of Dice Holdings:

Yes, it's a good question. So if you go back to why we bought it, originally, we bought Slashdot Media for 3 reasons. First and foremost, it was to get access to the users of Slashdot and SourceForge in order to promote engagement in our tech business. And that has happened. There's still more to do and we want more engagement, a more direct engagement, and we'll work on that in 2014. But strategically, that is the primary reason we bought it, and that has happened to some extent.

The second reason we bought it was we thought internationally we could grow that business, and that hasn't happened.

And the third reason is we like the tech advertising business when we bought it, and that business has fallen off generally and, certainly, specifically for us. So if we look at it from a purely financial standpoint, the expected cash flows in the business don't support the carrying value that we had, and we took a write-down for that. Strategically, though, we're still continuing to work on that integration with Dice and promoting that user engagement between the 2, and that hasn't changed.

The conclusion is that Dice isn't writing off Slashdot. Slashdot will continue to exist. Although Slashdot hasn't given Dice the return in advertising that it had anticipated, Slashdot has promoted Dice's engagement with their tech business which was their primary reason for buying it. However one of Dice's strategic thrusts is to "build robust mobile applications and mobile-enabled sites" and that is why they are pushing slashdot beta. What Dice doesn't seem to understand clearly is that by pushing the beta to the exclusion of slashdot classic they run the risk of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

about 2 months ago
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Building Deception Into Encryption Software

Hugh Pickens DOT Com "Honey Encryption" (106 comments)

"Honey Encryption" to Bamboozle Attackers with Fake Secrets

Tom Simonite writes at MIT Technology Review that security researcher Ari Juels says that trickery is the missing component from the cryptography protecting sensitive data and proposes a new encryption system with a devious streak. It gives encrypted data an additional layer of protection by serving up fake data in response to every incorrect guess of the password or encryption key. If the attacker does eventually guess correctly, the real data should be lost amongst the crowd of spoof data. The new approach could be valuable given how frequently large encrypted stashes of sensitive data fall into the hands of criminals. Some 150 million usernames and passwords were taken from Adobe servers in October 2013, for example. If an attacker uses software to make 10,000 attempts to decrypt a credit card number, for example, they would get back 10,000 different fake credit card numbers. "Each decryption is going to look plausible," says Juels. "The attacker has no way to distinguish a priori which is correct." Juels previously worked with Ron Rivest, the "R" in RSA, to develop a system called Honey Words to protect password databases by also stuffing them with false passwords. Juels says that by now enough password dumps have leaked online to make it possible to create fakes that accurately mimic collections of real passwords and is currently working on creating the fake password vault generator needed for Honey Encryption to be used to protect password managers. This generator will draw on data from a small collection of leaked password manager vaults, several large collections of leaked passwords, and a model of real-world password use built into a powerful password cracker. "Honeywords and honey-encryption represent some of the first steps toward the principled use of decoys, a time-honored and increasingly important defense in a world of frequent, sophisticated, and damaging security breaches."

about 3 months ago
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Comet-Chasing Probe Wakes Up On Monday

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Re:The 12-year Journey (67 comments)

You are correct.

It should have read:

" flying past Mars and Earth several times for a gravity assist and even briefly visiting a couple of asteroids"

about 3 months ago

Submissions

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New Facebook Phone App Lets You Stalk Your Friends

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  2 hours ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Iain Thomson reports that Facebook is adding a new application called "Nearby Friends" that alerts smartphone users when their friends are nearby. "If you turn on Nearby Friends, you'll occasionally be notified when friends are nearby, so you can get in touch with them and meet up," says Facebook in a statement. "For example, when you're headed to the movies, Nearby Friends will let you know if friends are nearby so you can see the movie together or meet up afterward." The feature, which is opt-in, allows users to select which friends get a warning that you are in the area, and prepare a subset of people who might like to know when you're near, if they have the Nearby Friends activated as well. According to Josh Constine what makes "Nearby Friends" different than competitors and could give it an advantage is that it’s centered around broadcasting proximity, not location. " If someone’s close, you’ll know, and can ping them about their precise location and meeting up. Broadcasting location is creepy so we’re less likely to share it, and can cause awkward drop-ins where someone tries to come see you when you didn’t want them to.""
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Americans Wary of Some Futuristic Technology

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  6 hours ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Doug Gross reports at CNN that Americans are generally excited about the new technology they expect to see in their lifetimes but when confronted with some advances that already appear possible — from skies filled with drones to meat made in a lab — they get nervous. Overall, respondents to a survey by the Pew Research Center were upbeat about how technology will shape the near future. In the report, 59% of Americans think tech developments will make life in the next half-century better, while only 30% said they will make life worse. More than eight out of 10 respondents (81%) said they think that in the next 50 years, people who need transplants will be able to get them with organs grown in labs. More than half (51%) think computers will be able to create art as skillfully as humans do. But Americans are a little less optimistic about some science-fiction staples. Only 39% think it's likely scientists will have figured out how to teleport things (or, presumably, people), 33% say we'll have long-term space colonies by 2064 and a mere 19% expect humans will be able to control the weather.

But some of the advances that may be closest to becoming reality are the ones survey respondents were most worried about (PDF). Nearly two out of three Americans think it would make things worse if U.S. airspace is opened up to personal drones. A similar number dislike the idea of robots being used to care for the sick and elderly, and of parents being able to alter the DNA of their unborn children. Only 37% of respondents think it will be good if wearable devices or implants allow us to be digitally connected all the time. People were split almost evenly (48%-50%) on whether they would ride in a driverless car. But only 26% said they'd get a brain implant to improve their memory or intelligence, and a mere 20% said they'd try eating meat made in a lab. Some 9% said they'd like to be able to time travel. A similar number said they'd like something that would keep them healthy or extend their lives, 6% said they wanted a flying car (or bike), 3% said they'd take a teleportation device and a mere 1% said they want their own jetpack.

Asked to describe in their own words the futuristic inventions they themselves would like to own, the public offered three common themes: 1) travel improvements like flying cars and bikes, or even personal space crafts; 2) time travel; and 3) health improvements that extend human longevity or cure major diseases. "In the long run, Americans are optimistic about the impact that scientific developments will have on their lives and the lives of their children — but they definitely expect to encounter some bumps along the way," says Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at Pew and the author of the report. "They are especially concerned about developments that have the potential to upend long-standing social norms around things like personal privacy, surveillance, and the nature of social relationships.""
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Switching from Sitting to Standing at Your Desk

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  yesterday

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Chris Bowlby reports at BBC that medical research has been building up for a while now, suggesting constant sitting is harming our health — potentially causing cardiovascular problems or vulnerability to diabetes. Advocates of sit-stand desks say more standing would benefit not only health, but also workers' energy and creativity. Some big organizations and companies are beginning to look seriously at reducing “prolonged sitting” among office workers. "It's becoming more well known that long periods of sedentary behavior has an adverse effect on health," says GE engineer Jonathan McGregor, "so we're looking at bringing in standing desks." The whole concept of sitting as the norm in workplaces is a recent innovation, points out Jeremy Myerson, professor of design at the Royal College of Art. "If you look at the late 19th Century," he says, Victorian clerks could stand at their desks and "moved around a lot more". "It's possible to look back at the industrial office of the past 100 years or so as some kind of weird aberration in a 1,000-year continuum of work where we've always moved around." What changed things in the 20th Century was "Taylorism" — time and motion studies applied to office work. "It's much easier to supervise and control people when they're sitting down," says Myerson. What might finally change things is if the evidence becomes overwhelming, the health costs rise, and stopping employees from sitting too much becomes part of an employer's legal duty of care "If what we are creating are environments where people are not going to be terribly healthy and are suffering from diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes," says Prof Alexi Marmot, a specialist on workplace design, "it's highly unlikely the organization benefits in any way.""
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Apple Wants Evidence That Steve Jobs Was A 'Bully' Excluded From Trial

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  yesterday

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Dan Levine reports at Reuters that four major tech companies are arguing in a court filing that witnesses at an upcoming trial over no-hire agreements in Silicon Valley should not be allowed to offer evidence that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was "a bully." "Plaintiffs' only purpose for offering this testimony would be improper — to cast Mr. Jobs in a bad light," the companies said in the filing, adding that such evidence has no bearing on whether any defendant entered into an illegal conspiracy. "Free-floating character assassination is improper." Tech workers filed a class action lawsuit against Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems Inc in 2011, alleging they conspired to avoid competing for each other's employees in order to avert a salary war. Tens of thousands of workers stand to benefit if they win the case, which could yield over $9bn in damages. In a joint court filing late last week, the companies told U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California that they were not seeking to bar Jobs' interactions with other witnesses about the no-hire agreements. However, opinions based on other evidence should be barred. All four companies previously settled with the US Department of Justice in 2010 after a DoJ investigation, agreeing not to enter into any future no-hire pacts, but because they settled the case, they argue that any evidence from the DoJ probe should be inadmissible as well. "To admit evidence of the DoJ investigation for any purpose would be unduly prejudicial because the jury might incorrectly assume Defendants have admitted to or been found guilty of antitrust violations.""
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Chinese Pollution Could Be Driving Freak Weather in US

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  yesterday

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Jonathan Kaiman reports at The Guardian that China's air pollution could be intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and altering weather patterns in North America leading to more intense cyclones, increased precipitation and more warm air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole. "Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the US," says Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading. "The particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms." Fossil fuel burning and petrochemical processing in Asia's rapidly developing economies lead to a build-up of aerosols, fine particles suspended in the air. Typically, aerosol formation is thought of as the antithesis to global warming: it cools our Earth's climate. But researchers say, too much of any one thing is never good. "Aerosols provide seeds for cloud formation. If you provide too many seeds, then you fundamentally change cloud patterns and storm patterns," says co-author Renyi Zhang. China's top leaders are aware of the extent of the problem and Beijing will soon revise an important piece of legislation and give environmental protection authorities the power to shut polluting factories, punish officials and restrict industrial development in some areas. The changes to the China's environmental protection law, the first since 1989, will legally enshrine oft-repeated government promises to prioritise environmental protection over economic growth. "The provisions on transparency are probably the most positive step forward," says Alex Wang, expert in Chinese environmental law at UCLA. "These include the requirement that key polluters disclose real-time pollution data.""
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Snowden Used the Operating System Designed for Internet Anonymity

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  2 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "When Edward Snowden first emailed Glenn Greenwald, he insisted on using email encryption software called PGP for all communications. Now Klint Finley reports that Snowden also used The Amnesic Incognito Live System (Tails) to keep his communications out of the NSA’s prying eyes. Tails is a kind of computer-in-a-box using a version of the Linux operating system optimized for anonymity that you install on a DVD or USB drive, boot your computer from and you’re pretty close to anonymous on the internet. "Snowden, Greenwald and their collaborator, documentary film maker Laura Poitras, used it because, by design, Tails doesn’t store any data locally," writes Finley. "This makes it virtually immune to malicious software, and prevents someone from performing effective forensics on the computer after the fact. That protects both the journalists, and often more importantly, their sources." The developers of Tails are, appropriately, anonymous. They’re protecting their identities, in part, to help protect the code from government interference. “The NSA has been pressuring free software projects and developers in various ways,” the group says. But since we don’t know who wrote Tails, how do we now it isn’t some government plot designed to snare activists or criminals? A couple of ways, actually. One of the Snowden leaks show the NSA complaining about Tails in a Power Point Slide; if it’s bad for the NSA, it’s safe to say it’s good for privacy. And all of the Tails code is open source, so it can be inspected by anyone worried about foul play. "With Tails", say the distro developers, "we provide a tongue and a pen protected by state-of-the-art cryptography to guarantee basic human rights and allow journalists worldwide to work and communicate freely and without fear of reprisal.""
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Humans Are Taking Jobs From Robots in Japan

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  2 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Bloomberg reports that humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process. “We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them,” says Mitsuru Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota’s plants. “When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods (Kami-sama in Japanese), and they could make anything.”

According to Kawai, learning how to make car parts from scratch gives younger workers insights they otherwise wouldn’t get from picking parts from bins and conveyor belts, or pressing buttons on machines. At about 100 manual-intensive workspaces introduced over the last three years across Toyota’s factories in Japan, these lessons can then be applied to reprogram machines to cut down on waste and improve processes. In an area Kawai directly supervises at the forging division of Toyota’s Honsha plant, workers twist, turn and hammer metal into crankshafts instead of using the typically automated process. Experiences there have led to innovations in reducing levels of scrap and shortening the production line and Kawai also credits manual labor for helping workers improve production of axle beams and cut the costs of making chassis parts. “We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again,” says Kawai. “To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.”"
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay A Relative's Debt

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  3 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Just in time for the April 15 IRS filing deadline comes news from the Washington Post that hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds are instead getting letters informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check — sometimes on debts 20 or 30 years old. For example, when Mary Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them. Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. “It was a shock,” says Grice, 58. “What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can’t prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus.”

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, says Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam. The Federal Trade Commission, on its Web site, advises Americans that “family members typically are not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.” But Social Security officials say that if children indirectly received assistance from public dollars paid to a parent, the children’s money can be taken, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred. Many of the taxpayers whose refunds have been taken say they’ve been unable to contest the confiscations because of the cost, because Social Security cannot provide records detailing the original overpayment, and because the citizens, following advice from the IRS to keep financial documents for just three years, had long since trashed their own records. More than 1,200 appeals have been filed on the old cases but only about 10 percent of taxpayers have won those appeals. "The government took the money first and then they sent us the letter," says Brenda Samonds.." We could never get one sentence from them explaining why the money was taken.”"
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Jenny McCarthy: 'I Am Not Anti-Vaccine'

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  3 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Jenny McCarthy is claiming she has been misunderstood and is not anti-vaccine. In an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times, McCarthy tries to ignore everything she’s been saying about vaccines for years and wipe the record clean. “People have the misconception that we want to eliminate vaccines,” McCarthy told Time magazine science editor Jeffrey Kluger in 2009. “Please understand that we are not an anti-vaccine group. We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins.” But Kluger points out that McCarthy left the last line out of that quotation: "If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f--king measles." That missing line rather changes the tone of her position considerably, writes Phil Plait and is a difficult stance to square with someone who is not anti-vaccine. As Kluger points out, her entire premise is false; since vaccines don’t cause autism, no one has to make the choice between measles (and other preventable, dangerous diseases) and autism." Something else McCarthy omitted from her interview with Kluger: "I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe," said McCarthy. "If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f*cking fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s sh*t. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism." Kluger finishes with this: "Jenny, as outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough continue to appear in the U.S.—most the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children because of the scare stories passed around by anti-vaxxers like you—it’s just too late to play cute with the things you’ve said. " For many years McCarthy has gone on and on and on and on and on and on about vaccines and autism. "She can claim all she wants that she’s not anti-vax," concludes Plait, "but her own words show her to be wrong.""
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Scientist Studies the Worst Place to Be Stung By a Hymenopter

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  5 days ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Pain is notoriously difficult to quantify. Many pain-rating scales have been developed to bridge the gap between a patient’s perceived pain, and the medical practitioner who is trying to relieve the patient’s pain. One such scale is the Schmidt Sting Pain Index developed when Justin Schmidt judged the painfulness of stings from 78 species of Hymenopter. Schmidt’s 4-point scale ranges from 0, a sting that cannot penetrate the skin, to 4, the most painful insect sting known. Only the bullet ant, Paraponera clavata, and the tarantula hawk, Pepsis grossa, were awarded a painfulness of 4 .

Now Time Magazine that Michael Smith – a postgraduate studying bee behavior at Cornell decided to explore how pain affects different body parts by forcing insects to sting him 190 times, literally from head to toe, over five weeks. Smith, who previously studied bee-keeping at United World College of the Atlantic, took agitated bees in forceps and applied them to 25 different areas of his body. He then rated the resulting pain from zero to ten. The results? Although his testicles were the fourth worst place to be stung – with a pain rating of 7.0 – that was only equally as painful as being stung in the palm and the cheek. The penis was only marginally more uncomfortable with a 7.3 rating. His nostril with a rating of 9.0 was the most painful, with the upper lip not far behind on 8.7. “If you’re stung in the nose and the penis, you’re going to want more stings to the penis, over the nose –if you’re forced to choose. There’s definitely no crossing of wires of pleasure and pain down there. It’s painful. Getting stung on the nose is a whole body experience. Your body really reacts. You’re sneezing and wheezing and snot is just dribbling out. It’s electric and pulsating.""
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Can You Buy A License to Speed in California?

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Alex Mayyasi writes that in the parking lots of Silicon Valley’s venture capital firms, expensive cars gleam in the California sun and a closer look reveals that the cars share a mysterious detail: they nearly all have a custom license plate frame that reads, “Member. 11-99 Foundation.” Are the Bay Area’s wealthy all part of some sort of illuminati group that identifies each other by license plate instead of secret handshakes? The answer is the state highway patrol — the men and women that most people interact with only when getting ticketed for speeding. A number of the frames read “CHP 11-99 Foundation,” which is the full name of a charitable organization that supports California Highway Patrol officers and their families in times of crisis. Donors receive one license plate as part of a $2,500 “Classic” level donation, or two as part of a bronze, silver, or gold level donation of $5,000, $10,000, or $25,000. Rumor has it, according to Mayyasi, that the license plate frames come with a lucrative return on investment. As one member of a Mercedes-Benz owners community wrote online back in 2002: “I have the ultimate speeding ticket solution. I paid $1800 for a lifetime membership into the 11-99 foundation. My only goal was to get the infamous ‘get out of jail’ free license plate frame.”

The 11-99 Foundation has sold license plate frames for most of its 32 year existence, and drivers have been aware of the potential benefits since at least the late 1990s. But attention to the issue in 2006-2008 led the foundation to stop giving out the frames. An article in the LA Times asked “Can Drivers Buy CHP Leniency?” and began by describing a young man zipping around traffic — including a police cruiser — and telling the Times that he believed his 11-99 frames kept him from receiving a ticket. But the decision was almost irrelevant to another thriving market: the production and sale of fake 11-99 license plate frames. But wait — the CHP 11-99 Foundation also gives out membership cards to big donors. “Unless you have the I.D. in hand when (not if) I stop you," says one cop, "no love will be shown.”"
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Supporters Rally After Teacher Removed For 'Dangerous' Science Projects

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Howard Blume reports that Greg Schiller, a popular Los Angeles high school science teacher, has been suspended after students turned in projects designed to shoot small projectiles that appeared dangerous to administrators, spurring a campaign calling for his return to the classroom. One project used compressed air to propel a small object, but it was not connected to a source of air pressure, so it could not have been fired. (Fun Fact: In 2012, President Obama tried out a more powerful air-pressure device at a White House Science Fair that could launch a marshmallow 175 feet.) Another project used the power from an AA battery to charge a tube surrounded by a coil. A school employee saw the air-pressure project and raised concerns about what looked to her like a weapon and both projects were confiscated as evidence. "It is the practice of the Los Angeles Unified School District to reassign an employee to a non-classroom setting when there are allegation related to student safety," said a statement by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). "We will always err on the side of protecting students." Hundreds of students and parents have rallied around Schiller after his suspension and organized a rally on his behalf at the campus, gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition calling for his reinstatement and set up a facebook page called "Free Schiller." “As far as we can tell, he’s being punished for teaching science,” says Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles."
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Science Is Running Out of Things to Discover

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "John Horgan writes in National Geographic that scientists have become victims of their own success and that "further research may yield no more great revelations or revolutions, but only incremental, diminishing returns." The latest evidence is a "Correspondence" published in the journal Nature that points out that it is taking longer and longer for scientists to receive Nobel Prizes for their work. The trend is strongest in physics. Prior to 1940, only 11 percent of physics prizes were awarded for work more than 20 years old but since 1985, the percentage has risen to 60 percent. If these trends continue, the Nature authors note, by the end of this century no one will live long enough to win a Nobel Prize, which cannot be awarded posthumously and suggest that the Nobel time lag "seems to confirm the common feeling of an increasing time needed to achieve new discoveries in basic natural sciences—a somewhat worrisome trend." One explanation for the time lag might be the nature of scientific discoveries in general—as we learn more it takes more time for new discoveries to prove themselves. Researchers recently announced that observations of gravitational waves provide evidence of inflation, a dramatic theory of cosmic creation. But there are so many different versions of "inflation" theory that it can "predict" practically any observation, meaning that it doesn't really predict anything at all. String theory suffers from the same problem. As for multiverse theories, all those hypothetical universes out there are unobservable by definition so it's hard to imagine a better reason to think we may be running out of new things to discover than the fascination of physicists with these highly speculative ideas. According to Keith Simonton of the University of California, "the core disciplines have accumulated not so much anomalies as mere loose ends that will be tidied up one way or another.""
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Developer Who Introduced 'Heartbleed' Flaw Denies He Inserted It Deliberately

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Ben Grubb reports that German software developer Robin Seggelmann says he did not insert the "Heartbleed" flaw deliberately as some have suggested. "It was a simple programming error in a new feature, which unfortunately occurred in a security relevant area. It was not intended at all, especially since I have previously fixed OpenSSL bugs myself, and was trying to contribute to the project," says Seggelmann. "I was working on improving OpenSSL and submitted numerous bug fixes and added new features. In one of the new features, unfortunately, I missed validating a variable containing a length." After he submitted the code, a reviewer "apparently also didn’t notice the missing validation," Seggelmann added, "so the error made its way from the development branch into the released version." Logs show that reviewer was Dr Stephen Henson. Despite denying he put the bug into the code intentionally, Seggelmann says it was entirely possible intelligence agencies had been making use of it over the past two years. "It is a possibility, and it's always better to assume the worst than best case in security matters." If anything has been demonstrated by the discovery of the bug, Seggelmann says it is awareness that more contributors are needed to keep an eye over code in open source software. "It’s unfortunate that it’s used by millions of people, but only very few actually contribute to it," Seggelmann concludes. "The more people look at it, the better, especially with a software like OpenSSL.""
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New French Law Prohibits After-Hours Work Emails

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Lucy Mangan reports at The Guardian that a new labor agreement in France means that employees must ignore their bosses' work emails once they are out of the office and relaxing at home – even on their smartphones. Under the deal, which affects a million employees in the technology and consultancy sectors (including the French arms of Google, Facebook, and Deloitte), employees will also have to resist the temptation to look at work-related material on their computers or smartphones – or any other kind of malevolent intrusion into the time they have been nationally mandated to spend on whatever the French call la dolce vita. “We must also measure digital working time," says Michel De La Force, chairman of the General Confederation of Managers. "We can admit extra work in exceptional circumstances but we must always come back to what is normal, which is to unplug, to stop being permanently at work.” However critics say it will impose further red tape on French businesses, which already face some of the world's tightest labor laws. However according to Simon Kelner French productivity levels outstrip those of Britain and Germany, and French satisfaction with their quality of life is above the OECD average. "No wonder, we may say. We'd all like to take a couple of hours off for lunch, washed down with a nice glass of Côtes du Rhône, and then switch our phones off as soon as we leave work. It's just that our bosses won't let us.""
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Scientist Investigates Most Painful Body Locations for Bee Stings

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Pain is notoriously difficult to quantify. Many pain-rating scales have been developed to bridge the gap between a patient’s perceived pain, and the medical practitioner who is trying to relieve the patient’s pain. One such scale is the Schmidt Sting Pain Index developed when Justin Schmidt judged the painfulness of stings from 78 species of Hymenopter.Schmidt’s 4-point scale ranges from 0, a sting that cannot penetrate the skin, to 4, the most painful insect sting known. Only the bullet ant, Paraponera clavata, and the tarantula hawk, Pepsis grossa, were awarded a painfulness of 4 . Now Rod McPhee reports at the Mirror that Michael Smith – a postgraduate studying bee behavior at Cornell decided to explore how pain affects different body parts by forcing insects to sting him 190 times, literally from head to toe, over five weeks. “We speculated it probably really would hurt to get stung in the testicles. Two days later, by chance, I did get stung there. But I was really surprised that it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.” Smith, who previously studied bee-keeping at United World College of the Atlantic, took agitated bees in forceps and applied them to 25 different areas of his body. He then rated the resulting pain from zero to ten. The results? Although his testicles were the fourth worst place to be stung – with a pain rating of 7.0 – that was only equally as painful as being stung in the palm and the cheek. The penis was only marginally more uncomfortable with a 7.3 rating. His nostril with a rating of 9.0 was the most painful, with the upper lip not far behind on 8.7. “If you’re stung in the nose and the penis, you’re going to want more stings to the penis, over the nose –if you’re forced to choose. There’s definitely no crossing of wires of pleasure and pain down there. It’s painful. Getting stung on the nose is a whole body experience. Your body really reacts. You’re sneezing and wheezing and snot is just dribbling out. It’s electric and pulsating.""
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Security Flaw Found in OpenSSL

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about a week ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Passwords, credit cards and other sensitive data are at risk after security researchers discovered a problem with OpenSSL, an encryption technology used to securely transmit email, e-commerce transactions, social networking posts and other Web traffic. Security researchers say the threat, known as Heartbleed, is serious, partly because it remained undiscovered for more two years. Attackers can exploit the vulnerability without leaving any trace, so anything sent during that time has potentially been compromised. It's not known, though, whether anyone has actually used it to conduct an attack. Researchers at Codenomicon say that OpenSSL is used by two of the most widely used Web server software, Apache and nginx. That means many websites potentially have this security flaw. Researchers are advising people to change all of their passwords."
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NSA Spied on Human Rights Workers Says Snowden

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about two weeks ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Guardian reports that according to Edward Snowden, the NSA has spied on the staff of prominent human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. "The NSA has specifically targeted either leaders or staff members in a number of civil and non-governmental organisations including domestically within the borders of the United States." Snowden, addressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, said he did not believe the NSA was engaged in "nightmare scenarios", such as the active compilation of a list of homosexuals "to round them up and send them into camps". But he did say that the infrastructure allowing this to happen had been built. Snowden made clear that he believed in legitimate intelligence operations but said the NSA should abandon its electronic surveillance of entire civilian populations. Instead, Snowden said, it should go back to the traditional model of eavesdropping against specific targets, such as "North Korea, terrorists, cyber-actors, or anyone else." Snowden also urged members of the Council of Europe to encrypt their personal communications and said that encryption, used properly, could still withstand "brute force attacks" from powerful spy agencies and others. "Properly implemented algorithms backed up by truly random keys of significant length all require more energy to decrypt than exists in the universe"
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IPCC Finally Acknowledges Its 'Himalayan Blunder'

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about two weeks ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Pallava Bagla writes in Scientific American that there is one silver lining in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the glaciers in the Himalayas are not disappearing for at least a couple of centuries. The IPCC had earlier asserted that the glaciers in the high Himalayas—also dubbed the “third pole”—would disappear by 2035. According to the new report, “it is virtually certain that these projections [the current glacier melt rates] are more reliable than an earlier erroneous assessment of complete disappearance by 2035.” The 2007 Himalayan glacier error had badly tarnished the reputation of the Nobel Peace Prize winning IPCC. In its Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007, the IPCC had committed what came to be known as the `Himalayan Blunder’ or ‘Glacier-gate’ when it asserted that Himalayan glaciers “are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate.” Subsequently as part of the major reform process the IPCC `strengthened’ its procedures and was even subjected to an extended probe by the Inter Academy Council from Netherlands. Chris Field, one of the lead authors of the latest report, says the Himalayan glacier error was “really serious” and that "we've tried to double check and triple check and quadruple check everything in this report.""
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Meet the Diehard Faithful Who Refuse to Move On From Windows XP

Hugh Pickens DOT Com Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes  |  about two weeks ago

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Nearly every longtime Windows user looks back on Windows XP with a certain fondness, but the party’s over according to Microsoft. “It’s time to move on,” says Tom Murphy, Microsoft’s director of communications for Windows. “XP was designed for a different era.” But Ian Paul writes in PC World that many people around the world refuse to give up on XP. But why? What’s so great about an operating system that was invented before the age of Dropbox and Facebook, an OS that's almost as old as the original Google search engine? Bob Appel, a retiree based in Toronto, says he uses 12 PCs in a personal Dropbox-like network—10 of which are running XP. “I use a third-party firewall, a free virus checker, and run Housecall periodically,” says Appel. "My Firefox browser uses Keyscrambler, HTTPS Anywhere, Ghostery, and Disconnect. I also have a VPN account (PIA) when traveling. For suspicious email attachments, I deploy private proprietary bioware (me!) to analyze before opening. All the 'experts' say I am crazy. Thing is, I stopped the security updates in XP years ago after a bad update trashed my system, and yet I have never been infected, although online for hours each day. So, crazy though I be, I am sticking with XP.”

Mike Merritt uses an XP PC to run his online business in rural Ontario and cites Outlook Express as one of his major reasons for sticking with XP. The once-popular email client isn’t available with Windows 7 or 8.1, and for Merritt, alternatives such as Thunderbird or webmail clients like Outlook.com are a non-starter. “Webmails have a slower load time than a desktop app like Outlook Express and they would have their own learning curve and modification to my current workflow," says Merritt. ""The upgrade path for me would require replacing a bunch of things that work just fine as far as I'm concerned."

The same day that Windows XP reaches its end of support on April 8, Microsoft will roll out a major update to Windows 8.1 that will make it easier for traditional desktop users and the company recently announced that the Start menu will return to Windows sometime in the coming months. Mike Eldridge says that since his computer is currently on its last legs, he’s going to cross his fingers and hope for the best until it finally dies. “I am worried about security threats, but I’d rather have my identity stolen than put up with Windows 8.""

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