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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Stop a Debt Collection Scam From Targeting You?

Planesdragon Make them spend money (497 comments)

Pick up the phone. Ask them who they're calling from, have them spell your name specifically, state you "do not recall" such alleged debt. If you can, record the call. ("It's for my own records" if they ask.) Don't ever give them ANY information. If they insist on collection, ask them to send you a physical claim. If such arrives, find a defect and tell them about it when they call back. (unless, of course, they have an actually-toll-free number, which they have to pay for.)

Oh, and always, ALWAYS make them repeat themselves. Repeat yourself ad-naueum, as well.

Just don't make any false statements, or agree to the validity of any debt you are not willing to pay.

(Honestly, though, I'd expect a scam to drop at "I'm recording this call, and your name is?")

about a year ago

EPA Makes Most Wood Stoves Illegal

Planesdragon Re: Good (1143 comments)

Turn the heat down? Yeah, I tried that... and the guy who came to repair my pipes pointed out that up north, water freezes when it gets below 32F.

You seem to have confused "down" with "off."

about a year ago

Google Attacks Microsoft Again: Android 4.4 Ships With Quickoffice

Planesdragon Re:Documents shared with Google? (178 comments)

Quickoffice was a document-editing program way back in the PalmOS days, and it was the only major player to make a WebOS version.

Quickoffice does not require Google Docs to work. Although it does have some features which are counter-intuitive and don't work depending on the view you're in.

about a year ago

Cadillac Unveils Pricier Alternative To Tesla Model S

Planesdragon Re:$5000 gets you... (196 comments)

> 3) Its battery life is pathetic, so it makes up for it with a mediocre ICE to charge with. Wake me when it has a range near 1000 miles, which is what a setup like this should be sporting.

This is a serial electric hybrid. You are evaluating a metric that only really matters for an all-electric car.

A Volt (or any other car with a gasoline engine) can make a journey of 1,000 miles significantly faster than any car tesla makes. They can also be rescued if energy runs out with a common plastic container, instead of a tow truck.

An electric car is an excellent choice if your daily commute and fiscal budget allow it. (I know people whose daily commute is well over 100 miles each way.). But they are simply not the same category as hybrid cars, be those hybrids serial or parallel.

(And, yes, I know that the Volt's engine and likely the ESR have a physical connection to the drivetrain that is used at certain highway speeds. That makes it a semi-paralel hybrid, not an electric car.)

about a year ago

Of 1000 Americans Polled, Most Would Ban Home Printing of Guns

Planesdragon Re:Machine shop, anyone? (578 comments)

Making a zip gun from plastic tubing is, however. And that's what a 3-d printed gun barrel is.

about a year and a half ago

Is Bitcoin Mining a Real-World Environmental Problem?

Planesdragon Re:Until they hit the max number of bitcoins (595 comments)

I've tried and tried to wrap my head around this, but it makes no sense to me. How can you have fractional-reserve banking if the coins have to match a digital signature? Fractional-reserve banking creates money out of thin air. How can you create bitcoins out of thin air?

1: It's "wealth", not "money." Fractional reserve banking doesn't create more US dollars, it just creates a debt from one part to another and formalizes the transfer of debts instead of the physical exchange of bank notes.

2: Annuities and futures. If I loan you 500 bitcoins to buy a car, with terms that you pay me back over 12 months with interest, I have ~500 BTC as an asset I can promise to others.

about 2 years ago

BitCoin Value Collapses, Possibly Due To DDoS

Planesdragon Re:Well the ultimate value of Bitcoin is (605 comments)

but what I have not seen is a technical discussion on how Bitcoin is going to be shut down.

Assuming for the moment as a given that the feds describe to shut down BitCoin (let's say Congress passes a law banning it), I'd wager that the implementation would not be not dissimilar to the approach they take against child porn. Ban the practice outright, impose punitive sentences for dealing with it, and employ police officers to track down those engaging in the practice.

And if that happens, I wager domestic bitcoin usage would just shutter rather than deal with persecution. Bitcoin 2 would be written to concur with the law, and likely overtake its predecessor due to simple market weight.

about 2 years ago

BitCoin Value Collapses, Possibly Due To DDoS

Planesdragon Re:Well the ultimate value of Bitcoin is (605 comments)

In the United States, people cannot ... trade real goods and services with BC -- because the U.S. gov' ...will enforce the dollar as the sole legal tender

That's not what "legal tender" means.

I could set up shop today in New York State and accept only bitcoins if I wanted to. The government wouldn't stop me, and in fact they'd back up my right to set my prices as whatever my little heart desires, in whatever strange currency I want.

But as soon as I ask the police to force a shoplifter to pay, I'll wind up having to deal with dollars, because that's all the government will force anyone to pay a debt in. And if I am on the other end of that transaction, I might wind up having to convert some bitcoins to dollars at a sub-optimal time when the bill comes due.

(That I'll also have to pay my taxes in dollars and likely pay my vendors and suppliers in the same means I'll have to deal with some local currency regardless. but that's a different issue.)

about 2 years ago

BitCoin Value Collapses, Possibly Due To DDoS

Planesdragon Re:Who uses bills? (605 comments)

For every $1000 in deposits, that means they can lend $10,000 at 5% above their costs and payouts, or more, yielding a $500 profit... wow!

1: It's $1,000 in assets. That includes a whole bunch of things beyond deposits, such as certain bonds.

2: That's $500 in revenue, not profit. From that revenue, they need to pay for all of their bills, and their payroll, and account for losses due to uncollectable accounts and outright thievery.

This $500 is spent by them eventually, and helps dilute the value of your original $1000 by inflation... so your "savings" loses value, as they leverage against it in multiple manners....

3: Inflation is a feature, not a bug. The work you did picking tomatoes last year is less valuable to the species than the work you did picking tomatoes today. The species would be better served if you used that same frugality to horde useful items instead of tokens, which is why the market rewards investment over savings.

about 2 years ago

BitCoin Value Collapses, Possibly Due To DDoS

Planesdragon Re:Who uses bills? (605 comments)

My money is a few bits in my bank's private datacenter.

Your liquid wealth is a properly formatted record and data trail at your bank's private data center. (more than a few bits. At least a few integers for value and date/time for each transaction you've ever had.)

I don't know about you, but these days I have very little money. If i want some I just redeem some of the debt that my credit unit owes me for some, although most merchants I deal with will accept an electronic debt assignment instead of requiring money.

about 2 years ago

BitCoin Value Collapses, Possibly Due To DDoS

Planesdragon Re:Well the ultimate value of Bitcoin is (605 comments)

Bitcoin does have an intrinsic value: the computing time it takes to mine a bitcoin.

Stop. Bitcoins have an intrinsic COST. The computing time that goes into producing a bitcoin is comparable to the paper and ink used to print a physical US dollar, or the wages and electricity cost of the "creation" of purely electronic dollars. (Which are really debts, rather than currency, but that's an entirely different boneheaded idea that the one you're postulating.)

Once a bitcoin is produced, it cannot be redeemed for an equal amount of computer time. In fact, using a bitcoin requires SOMEONE ELSE to pay for the verification chain that makes this electronic currency at all feasible.

(you're right that it's a bubble, and I'm not here to argue the system's inherent merits or flaws.)

Having said all that: the dollar, in contrast, really does have no practical intrinsic value. Ever since 1971, when Nixon threw the last vestiges of any standard away. (And defaulted on U.S. debt in the process, by the way. People who said the "fiscal cliff" would be the first time the U.S. ever defaulted on debt simply don't know their history.)

The US dollar is backed up by an almost non-intuitive fact of modern society. It's legal tender for payment of debts. As in, if you don't pay your employees or pay for that meal in a restaurant, or if you just wrong someone more generally, the courts will denote whatever judgement is finally ordered against you in US dollars, and if your wealth is denominated in some other currency, you'll be subject to whatever market exchange rate you can manage to produce sufficient dollars to pay the debt.

Or, in short, "people who say the US dollar isn't backed up by anything don't know what they're talking about."

On a different note, though, I'd be interested if you could point to a US debt that was denoted in a weight of precious metal and not redeemed for sufficient value to satisfy the bond-holder. Just because in 1971 the President of the United States stopped offering gold for dollars doesn't mean the US "defaulted" any more than Wal-Mart selling out of ammo means they "defaulted' on that gift card you bought. (The phrase "Redeemable in gold on demand at the United States Treasury, or in gold or lawful money at any Federal Reserve Bank" was gone from bank notes decades before. And still did not specify the amount of gold.)

about 2 years ago

Dropbox TOS Includes Broad Copyright License

Planesdragon Re:So they wont get sued by asshats (213 comments)

It's the usual clause companies have to put

"You give us the right to make derivative works from your stuff" is just about as far away from "usual" as you can get it.

With a clause like that, Dropbox can do the smallest of alterations to your stuff, sell it, and not give you a dime. Even if it's something that you sell for $$ and don't give away for free. Hell, with a clause like that, Dropbox can take your software code and release it under any license they want, essentially as if they were you.

No part of the law requires them to not list out what they do. "Make any derivitive works necessary for this service" would do it. This isn't the law -- this is their lawyers being either dickish or lazy.

more than 3 years ago

Apple Nixes iPad Giveaways

Planesdragon Re:Enforceability? (388 comments)

Can they enforce what you do with an iPad? Not legally. They can do some PRACTICAL things, and they aren't necessarily doing criminal things to stop you... but the things they can do to keep you from using, selling, breaking, or whatever with your iPad after you buy it are pretty short.

Now, there IS some authority that attaches to advertising that uses their trademarks... but, AFAIK (IANAL - don't trust legal advice you get from the internet) as long as you're not claiming to be Apple, claiming to be associated with Apple, or spreading misinformation about their products, they don't really have much legs to stand on.

To wit: the same laws that say you CAN buy five iPads and tell everyone around that you are giving away five free iPads are also the ones that say you can buy an iPad, review it, and then tell everyone your opinion about it.

Oh, and also:

It's certainly their prerogative if they want to say that any of those things void my warranty, but I don't think they can enforce any of their demands on me.

Warranties come in two parts. What's legally required in the jurisdiction of sale, and what the company does above and beyond that. While they can add special conditions to that part of the warranty that goes beyond your local legal mandates, said mandates themselves are applied based on your local law and not the arbitrary dictates of the manufacturer.

(What kind of warranties are forced? Well, for starters there's the warranty that the iPad won't burn down your house due to a flaw in design or manufacturing. So, that's something.)

more than 3 years ago

The Importance of Lunch

Planesdragon Re:Lunchbreaks (475 comments)

Why not recommend he light a homeopathic candle while he's at it?

Sheesh. And I won't even comment on your food choice, aside from noting that "organic" food is, by and large, more expensive for little or no gain. So-called "organic" foods are farmed differently... but unless you care enough about their farming practices to pay the surcharge, the "non-organic" ones are just fine.

(And when's the last time you saw "in-organic" food, anyway? And salt doesn't count. ;) )

more than 3 years ago

What Happens If You Get Sucked Out of a Plane?

Planesdragon Re:What about long fall survivors ? (327 comments)

They are noteworthy because their survivals are unusual -- and each one you cite, including Vesna, suffered injuries that could have very easily killed them.

more than 3 years ago

Can You Really Be Traced From an IP Address?

Planesdragon Re:WTF? (246 comments)

If all the info you have is that someone/something at IP downloaded kiddie porn, that's no evidence at all.


1: Probable Cause
2: Personality Profiling
3: Jury trials.

A DA doesn't need to prove your kiddie porn habit to a geek-fandom level. He just needs to convince 12 more or less random strangers that it's very likely you traffic in child porn. And that's only if he wants to throw you in jail. If he just wants to harass you, he just needs to show a judge that IP address -- and he's got "probable cause" to bust down your door and take your PC from you. (Hell, if we're talking about a vice squad geek and not a DA, he can put off the judge until latter -- since you're so likely to alter your own logs or try and cover your tracks.)

more than 3 years ago

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Choose a Windows Laptop?

Planesdragon You're making an illusionary distiction (898 comments)

How would Slashdotters go about picking a solid, basic laptop for Web surfing and document editing that won't be obsolete in two years?

Few laptops will be anything but "obsolete" in two years. But that's the same if you buy an HP, Apple, Dell, Acer, or whatever. Just keep an eye out on any forthcoming tech bumps (Wireless-N, Blue-ray, # of cores, discrete vs. shared video ram) and you'll do fine.

I pick laptops on vendor first (Gateway didn't get their reputation for crappy computers for nothing, for example -- and I like HP, as I have a bunch of laptops that all use the same power cords), features second (I'm a sucker for the touchsmart laptop), and price third.

Price on the web first, but don't forget to check your local big-box stores. I scored a sweet deal on my first laptop from best buy -- they had it for the same price it would have been built and shipped from HP, but with more options than I needed.

(FWIW, My current recommendation would be at least a dual-core CPU, Wireless-N if you have it now or will before you replace the laptop, and skip the blue-ray or DVD player unless there's no additional charge or they're very important to you. Discrete RAM is entirely dependent on if you're going to do any gaming with the laptop; if it's just email and word docs, don't bother. If you're going to fire up The Sims or City of Heroes or Eve Online, it's a must.)

more than 3 years ago

Friends Don't Let Geek Friends Work In Finance

Planesdragon Re:The work itself (732 comments)

You are the devil. Sorry, but that was clear by the end of your first sentence.

If the company needed you to spend 100 hour weeks to keep from going bust, then it should have gone bust. That's how capitalism works. If the company had ANY value, it would have been bought by a competitor and its foolish owners would have been let go. If the company wasn't bought, even when it had to put itself up for pennies on the dollar... well, then it didn't have any value, and it's just a value-sucking leech.

Look, I don't care what kool-aid you drink. We're suffering the worst recession since FDR, and it's the fault of YOUR chosen market segment. The risk of sub-prime mortgages should NEVER have been so hidden by derivatives, and the short-term profit that your ilk extracted has brought about the long-term pain that the world is suffering through now. If the CEO and CFO don't understand at a gut level what the fiance-geeks are doing... then they shouldn't be doing it. Period, full stop, end of story. And shame on the finance-geeks for letting them do it!

more than 3 years ago

Facebook Wedding Photos Result In Polygamy Arrest In Michigan

Planesdragon Re:I don't get it (267 comments)

Wow. Someone doesn't appreciate just what legal benefits a marriage grants. Let me start with the big ones:

1: Presumption of paternity. I'm married, and my daughter is sitting beside me. I do NOT need to do anything to prove that she is my daughter, and should it ever come up (like, say, if my wife decided to leave me after becoming pregnant) the burden of proof is on whomever is saying my child is not mine.

2: Tax benefits. In addition to being able to pool income for income tax purposes (which would be much more significant if we didn't both work), we also jointly own all marital property. Which means when one of us passes away, the other one doesn't "inherit" anything -- and so, even if we owned billions of dollars, there would be no inheritance tax. It also means we can give each other money without having to have the other one potentially report it as gift income. (Yes, the benefit is fairly mediocre for most folks. But if you're an edge case, it can be a lot.)

3: Legal protection. The only person who is absolutely prohibited from testifying against you in court is your spouse. (Ok, not "absolutely", but provided it's not a domestic crime, it's pretty high. Higher than lawyers or doctors or priests.)

4: Automatic visitation / power of attorney. When one of us goes into the hospital, not only can the other one automatically visit, but we also automatically get a limited power of attorney for medical decisions as the next of kin.

5: Inheritance rights. She can't write me out of her will, and I cannot write her out of mine. (see #2, above. And yes, it does matter in several cases.)

So, those are the benefits that a polygamist (or a polyandrist, or a polymorist) gains. But multiple concurrent marriages aren't illegal because they somehow grant too many benefits; they're illegal because they stress the dating pool. If we adopted bigamy, for example, we'd have ~25% of the population that simply cannot find a wife, because they're all taken. And that 25% of the population might just stay home and play video games -- or they might go out and take wives wherever they can be found, including acts as vile as rape and murder among the instances which would increase.

(And, yes, a gender-neutral multiple marriage law would make sense. But it also makes sense to just ban them altogether.)

more than 3 years ago

Has the Second Dotcom Bubble Started?

Planesdragon Re:dotcom bubble (298 comments)

Look at TV ratings - a top show in the 70s used to be watched by 40% of America. Now it's downto 7-8% with nets like CW scrapping the bottom at only 1%

In the 70s, there were only three nationwide networks, and the typical household had maybe a dozen channels to pick from, many of whom were just duplicates of the same nationwide network.

Forty years later, a typical household has well over a hundred networks -- possibly a lot more. A tenfold increase in options equating to less than a tenfold drop in the top popularity doesn't really describe TV "collapsing."

And mass-media does fairly well, btw. Pure digital typesetting and Print-on-demand can let a typical mass-media book do very well on surprisingly narrow margins. Hell, if you want a good example look at comic books. In the 70s there were, what, four publishers, two of which were Disney and Archie comics? And today there are, easily, a solid half-dozen publishers on the rack, and the big two produce far more variety than they did in the 70s.

more than 3 years ago


Planesdragon hasn't submitted any stories.



Outdo Microsoft Word

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Despite years of development and an almost universal grunt of dismay from geeks, there is no F/OSS tool that can replace Microsoft Word. It comes up short for several tasks (simple data management, spreadsheets, page layout) and is overkill for many others (simple note-taking or letter writing), but it's in a class all on its own when it comes to what it was intended for: writing.

Feel like you can prove me wrong? Know a program that can be my pen-and-paper better than I'd ever believe? Here's the chance to give it a new user and advocate. The program must:

  1. Be a Win32, .Net/Mono, or simiarly windows-friendly App. Java and other add-ons are OK, but Linux-native isn't.
  2. Take either .DOC or a similar equivalent (.HTM, .DOCX, or some standard flavor of .XML). Batch converters are ok, but see below.
  3. Count the words in any arbitrary section of text, including the text as a whole
  4. Track the changes I make at least as well as Work 2k (only the last writing session is all I really need)
  5. Have an on-the-fly spellchecker
  6. Have a built-in or hooked-in thesaurus
  7. Have an some option to fix common typos as a type
  8. have some similiar option to undo accidental typo-corrections easily
  9. Be able to either export to .DOC or have a Palm OS companion that can read and at least commonent upon an RTF-style version.

OOo passes 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9, but fails pretty miserably at 3, 6, and 8. I don't use OOo.


Laptop Update - FYI

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 7 years ago

For the record, I did get a laptop a few weeks back. I considered Acer and a few others, but was wooed by the HP/Compaq Turion and "big familiar name to heckle support to." (I checked the post-merger quality by a geek who had, and would still have if not for divorce, a Compaq laptop.)

Thanks to a sale at BestBy, I picked up the Turion, WXGA, 15.4 (.1?) HP Paviliion dv5000. A quick newegg upgrade to 2 GB ram, and it's now my primary PC, where I waste many hours playing City of Heroes with "good enough framerate for an RPG."


Well, that's interesting....

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 8 years ago

Has anyone else noticed that Journals are now automatic story submissions? Did I miss a discussion somewhere?


Cheap Laptop Advice Wanted

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 8 years ago

Brief news update:

As of March 23, I am now a card-carrying, Grade 11 permanent New York State Tax Department Employee. Being as New York State pays its employees one month after they work, I am only now getting the "slightly" bigger paycheck for this illustrious new position. (It'll continue to grow for the next 2 1/2 months, actually.)

By way of celebration, I've decided to splurge on a new laptop. By "new" I of course mean "a" laptop, my previous portable PC being a used Pentium computer whose hinges have long since died away.

So, if you've got any nuggets about the lower-end of PC laptops (~$750), please dig them out and share. Does anyone have any recommendations, or relevant horror stories? Has anyone had any experience with AMD's Semprons and Turions, sufficient to advice one over the other?


The right cliche for OSS

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

(Why oh why isn't there an F/OSS icon?)

It occurs to me, after reading CyranoVR's latest jorunal, that the right axiom (or "cliche") for OSS isn't "you get what you pay for" or "beggars can't be choosers", but rather the following:

Scavengers must make do

So, the right guidepost for free computing is "scavengers must make do." Or, to translate: if you're not paying for it or writing it yourself, make do with what you find.


Amending the Constitution, take II

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

As I've said before, we should come out and amend the constitution to make this a better country.

A short recap of previous amendments:

D1: The ERA
D2: Define Marriage and give federal weight to Civil Unions
D3: Let Congress protect citizens (end-run around the commerce clause)
D4: Abortion

To add to this list of good ideas that we really should consider, I'll add a fifth stolen right from The West Wing.

Amendment D5: Voting Rights
All citizens who reside in these United States shall be counted and persons for purposes of proportional representation of members of Congress, and for all federal elections.

All citiens so counted shall be alloted to cast one vote, in a manner decdied by Congress and the several states. Citizens younger than the age of eighteen or otherwise in need of a legal guardian shall have their votes cast by proxy by their legal guardian, save for those who specifically register to vote on their own.

In any case where a real citizen and that citizen's guardian both cast otherwise valid votes on the citizen's behalf, the vote of the real citizen shall be deemed valid and the guardian's proxy vote discarded.

Let's given children the vote. All children, even newborns. We value children too poorly, and parents not enough.



Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

Short, short review:

It's a good movie. Not as good a Orison Scott Card says it is, but still good.

Why do I say this? Because Whedon's choice of how to heighten the tension in the final act (after they land on the last planet) is a cheap trick. Or an expensive trick, if you want to nitpick. But still, a trick that made me stop living the movie and remember I was watching a man's work.

I'd say more, but it's only been out a week.


3 Political Axis

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

After discussing things with Chacham, it occurs to me that we have not two, but three political axis in this country.

Right Wing vs. Left Wing: This is the major arc, one that I have previously described as "Righteousness over Liberty vs. Liberty over Righteousness."

Liberal vs. Conservative: This is a minor arc, but one that gets misused very often. The proper use, by the actual meaning of the words, would be "against the status quo vs. for the status quo."

Optimist vs. Pessimist: This is the least spoken and most important arc, and there are likely better terms for it. Some politicans believe that people are fundamentally good, and that the rest of us just need to get out of the way and keep wickedness at bay. Others hold that people are fundamentally evil, and need to be taught and restrained lest they bring ruin to us all.

Republican advocates (by which I mean, pundits) have sucessfully maligned the liberal/conservative arc as new names for left wing vs. right wing. This deprives us of needed vocabulary, and leaves the words "Judge Roberts is a Conservative Right-winger" as meaning the opposite of what they really mean--someone who values righteousness over liberty but will not change the status quo.

And this isn't something that only damages the left, either. George W. Bush should have ran as a "Liberal Republican", willing to change the way the system works for the better. He did, in fact, run on that idea both times, he just didn't admit it.


Grammar Checker

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

Random Front Page Story

My answer?

"A useful gramamar checker needs to be able to watch a user write, and adapt to their writing style. This should be its primary function--watching the user, noting where they vary against the 'norm', and varying the norm how the user varies it."


Random Wisdom - sexuality

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

Please accompany me for a moment on a thought experiment. By the end, you might just be able to make my point for me.

Imagine yourself as a virgin, who has never had sex before. (Some of you may not have to imagine. Others will have to think back to grade school.) Now, picture that one Friday night you and a classmate find a quiet room somewhere, get naked, and have absolutely mind-blowing sex.

After finally getting home on Sunday night, you lie in bed, no doubt thinking about the experience and how your life has changed. You might fret and worry over the taboos you've crossed. You might be relieved at passing another of life's hurdles. You will almost certainly be thinking of the person you had sex with, and wondering if you can do it again next Friday night.

Now, with that thought firmly in mind, think about what would be different if you were a different gender, or if your virginal mate was a different gender. You'd still be thinking about them. It would still impress upon you the "wow" of sex, and should you and your virginal partner seperate you would likely seek out a person of a similar gender and orientation to your virginal mate.

The point?

Humans are designed to want to fuck whatever we first fucked pleasurably.

In fact, the underlying principle goes even further. Those of you who aren't finally re-taking Psych 101 this semester can probably list a litany of other instances where humans seek out repetition of situations they enjoyed.


A perfect example of science's shortcomings.

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

If you don't know about it already, go read up on the Monty Haul problem. Bear in mind that computer simulation proves Marilyn Vos Savant right.

Now, then, why exactly is she wrong?

A natural inclidng is to jump up and say "she's got to be wrong; there's no way that can be right." A scientific inkling is to say "Planesdragon, you've gone off on a silly Christian rant again. Why must you prove how stupid you are?"

The answer, of course, comes in a closer examination of the problem.

If you choose to always switch, you will win 2/3 of the time.

If you choose to not switch, you will win 1/3 of the time.

But, the desicion to switch does not come until Monty asks his final "will you switch" question. Either you've got the car or you've got the goat--a new possibility that has exactly two outcomes.

I'm just a lowly college drop-out, but I believe that this is an example of "the law of independent trials."


[Politics] Security and Communication

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

It's an undeniable fact that the President of the United States is at once the most powerful single man in the world and the one with the most ammount of people who wish him dead. Well, maybe we can argue that second part, but slip in "American" and we're back to undeniable.

Becase of this threat and power, the President lives in a more or less constant state of security. No one comes near him without being searched, or being restrained by a bodyguard. No one can easily stand and take a picture of him, because secuirty gets in the way.

A side effect of this, of course, is that the President can fairly easily only see and hear the people he wants to see and hear. He doesn't sit at home wondering "Gee, I've got an hour, let's flip through the channels." He doesn't walk down the street and wait in a crowd, or go to a bar and chat it up with the common man.

Especialy this President, whose political mastermind is infamously censored who could and could not come to his "town hall" style political rallys.

Doing my own hour of mindless searching, I came across an article on Snoops, in which a reporter told the President he was doing a bad job and the President replied "Who cares what you think?"

Now, this exchange is what it is--a reporter being unusually honest and a President returning the favor--and I have no problem at all with that. But what irks me is Snoopes interpretation of the event. To wit:

Our opinion? There are plenty of traditional outlets for expressing dissatisfaction with the policies and actions of elected representatives, but walking up to the President at a public function and telling him he's doing a lousy job isn't one of them. Such behavior demonstrates a lack of respect for the office of President of the United States, an honor that should be maintained whether or not one respects the man who currently holds the office -- just as the well-mannered citizen doesn't express his disagreement with the political views of a American-flag-carrying protester by spitting on the flag he bears, because that act displays a contempt for everything Old Glory symbolizes, not merely for the person carrying it. The President isn't above criticism, but freedom of speech isn't an excuse for ignoring the ordinary civilities of choosing an appropriate time, place, and manner for the expression of that criticism.

Because the President is such a powerful figure, who weilds more power today than George Washington ever did, it's critically important that the people who DO see him are under no restraint to say whatever they please. I wouldn't even mind if the President replied in kind--it wouldn't make for good TV, but it would be a refreshing change of pase from the scripted talking point Presidency we've had since, oh, Kennedy beat Nixon.


Shilling and Proud - Mindcraft

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

If you've been in the same forum as me just about anywhere but /., you've probably heard me shill for Mindcraft -- my own take on how Psionics should have been. Well, this week I finally got the good news that the product is done, on (electronic) shelves, and ready to buy. It's avalible for $7 at RPGNow, DriveThruRPG (no DRM), and, if you're in Europe, 5.79EUR at Arima.

Since the subset of "friends circle" folk and d20 gamers is so small, I'll link to my discussion over at the dnd3e Livejournal. (Yes, that is my ugly mug on the icon there.)



Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

This is for everyone on my "fans" list who isn't where they want to be in their lives at the moment.

For everyone who thinks that life sucks.

For everyone who doesn't believe that there is some benevolent, all-mighty thing out there watching them and handing them a script.

For everyone who is growing, and scared of what the world around them is becoming or what they are growing into or growing out of.

The lives that we lead are not to be spent in any particular way. Our lives are not destined to be spent in prasie of a dead man, in study of arcane secrets, in droll labor to enrich another, or even in the creation of a legacy of industry or family.

Our lives are to be spent living. We were all created to be, first and foremost, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to deprive you of the wondrous freedom that I happen to believe God gave us and wants us to exercise.

My religion is thus: God likes you, and is watching even when no one else is. He isn't a judge taking down notes, but a member of an audience glued to the edge of his seat as you live out your life.

Please keep that in mind, and live your life in exactly the way you want to live it. Only failure to do that is blasphemy. Only refusal to be yourself is unforgiviable sin.

(Feel free to tell me I'm wrong about God. But don't you dare for a moment think that you life is for anything grander than living.)


Friendly Fire

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

I've heard more than a few times the claim that Americans are especially prone to friendly fire. The claim is most often attributed to a friend who happened to serve in the Canadian or British military services, and I'm willing to take uncontested the fact that Americans have this REPUTATION.

But I don't believe it, and I won't believe it until some real statistics are shown.

Such as, how do these friendly fire incidents add up when you normalize for the size of the military? How about when you seperate the rate of inter-army and intra-army friendly fire?

It's an horrible event when any soldier dies at the hands of their allies. But if a country that fields 100,000 men and women DOESN'T have ten times the friend-fire incidents of their 10,000 strong ally, then I'll get worried.

Until I hear the numbers, I'm not convinced that the greater number of American friendly fire incidents is due to anything more than the greater number of American soldiers.


Dean elected DNC Chair!

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

And the whole country breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that the only political party that could take on the Republicans has been handed over to someone who showed he knows how to remake a campaign. 2008 starts looking more and more interesting, to say nothing of the mid-term 2006 elections.


(Even if you're a Republican, you must recognize the importance of a strong opposition to ensure that no party rules by defalt, but instead retains the will of the people to stay in power.)



First wacked idea of the new year

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

As I was talking with an Army Veteran friend of mine last night (in lieu of our wednesday night RPG game, naturally) I had an off-hand idea that I think deserves entry into my list of "good ideas if they could get past that wacky implementation phase."

Demilitarize the army.

By this, I don't mean throw down our guns and say "we'll never fight a war again!" Rather, I say let's turn our large, land-occupying force into something that's not intended to level countries. Either dramatically reduce the extant conventional force's numbers and create something new, or repurpose our oldest and most-maligned military branch to be a non-military "peacekeeping force."

The primary reason I think this is a good idea is to prevent any future prison torture scandals, or anything else of the kind. The new force would be closer to a massive police force that is loaned out to other countries as needed than a highly funded brute squad.

And, since it wouldn't be a military force, it could act domestically if needs be. We need to guard the mexican border for a month? Send in a few divisions of the Peacekeeping army.

The rest of the offensive military -- which would be all of the special forces and Marine Corps, and most of the Navy and Air Force -- would be a "kill it and leave" group designed purely to attack and destroy nations, armies, and giant lizards from outer space. They could drop any need to exercise respect towards the enemies of our country, and focus on executing the wars we send them on with all needed effeciecy.

And, once this stealthy fire-from-heaven shot-in-the-dark force does its work and we conqer the next country to find itself under a tyrant, we send in a different force whose every person trained and studied and views themselves as a keeper of the peace and not a killer of men.

The new force would be the left hand of American international power, intended to aid those in need be the need caused by the war-fighting right hand or some other disaster.


Public Service Announcement.

Planesdragon Planesdragon writes  |  more than 9 years ago

Just FYI.

I no longer work for UWNYS. My job of long suffering is over, and I no longer dread waking up to go to work in the morning.

I am now a bonna fide State Employee, albeit with a temporary contract instead of the regular "permanent" thing. Ah, well. Five months to convince them to keep me, and if not that then I get a new addition to my resume that doesn't have "secretary" attached to it at all. Yay!

(For the curious, I now work for the Tax Man.)

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