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Computer Game Reveals 'Space-Time' Neurons In the Eye

Reality Master 101 Re:Zoned? (105 comments)

That's a fake video.

about 7 months ago

Google's Business Plan For Nest: Selling Your Data To Utility Companies

Reality Master 101 Re:You are the product (167 comments)

You say that like it's a bad thing. As far as I'm concerned, I love the fact that I can trade demographic data for various online services. I'd far rather give them that than have to shell out real money. And as a bonus, I get ads that are potentially actually useful to me, rather than (say) feminine hygiene products.

about 8 months ago

Michael Abrash Joins Oculus, Calls Facebook 'Final Piece of the Puzzle'

Reality Master 101 Re:Not much (232 comments)

Major imagination fail. You have no idea what you're talking about. This is going to change the world on many, many levels. That's why FB bought them. I'm not going to bother to prove this for you, but just wait for it to happen.

about 9 months ago

The PHP Singularity

Reality Master 101 Re:Recursive? No, very iterative. (622 comments)

I was making the arguments that others make to dislike the languages, not my personal feelings. There's no such thing as a perfect language. The arguments against Ruby (as I understand them, I haven't used the language all that much) is that it's very slow and the community is full of asshats.

more than 2 years ago

The PHP Singularity

Reality Master 101 Re:Java Not Realtime Capable (622 comments)

To be fair, Minecraft is a (surprisingly) quality program that is written in Java. It's also a total memory pig and is much slower than other 3D games, though also to be fair, it's a quite complex 3D environment (infinitely changeable), so it's hard to compare to games with more static worlds. But it does show that it's at least possible to write a good game in Java. It does occasionally freeze up, however, probably doing garbage collection to my son's infinite annoyance. :)

Now, a fair comparison is comparing the Java version of the Scratch environment to the Flash version, and the Flash version is about 5-10x the speed.

more than 2 years ago

The PHP Singularity

Reality Master 101 Re:Recursive? No, very iterative. (622 comments)

Java can nearly as fast as C for very small pieces of code where the runtime can do straightforward JIT compilation, that is true. If you define that as "where Java is used", then your claim is true. However, for code of any size or complexity, Java slows down tremendously. Why do you think Java is "slow on the desktop"? It's because desktop apps are applications of size and aren't trivial pieces of glue code.

Or, to put it another way, if Java isn't inherently slow and is "as fast as C" as you claim, why would there be an exception around desktop apps or "graphics in general"?

more than 2 years ago

The PHP Singularity

Reality Master 101 Re:Recursive? No, very iterative. (622 comments)

Oops, you are correct. My apologies to the original poster. But then, C# is Microsoft, so I think it's fair to say that you can find programmers out there that say it's stupid and awful. :) [I actually haven't used the language to a significant enough extent to have an opinion]

more than 2 years ago

The PHP Singularity

Reality Master 101 Re:PHP alternatives (622 comments)

I notice that most (not you, obviously) of the PHP defenders are posting as A/C. :)

There is no doubt that PHP has some deep flaws, but they give you an escape from a lot of the flaws. It's possible to have a reasonable codebase written in PHP if you have good experience in the language.

The main reason I like PHP is that it's ubiquitous. I learned a long time ago that it SUCKS to work in an unpopular environment, even if it has some sort of theoretical advantage. It's hard to find information, libraries are nonexistent or buggy, programmers are hard to find or expensive, etc, etc.

As I see it, there are only four viable language if you want to stay mainstream: Java, C++, C# and PHP. If you want to avoid Microsoft, you're down to three. If you hate Java's verbosity, slowness and pain, as I do, you're down to two. And if you want quick productivity and rapid development for entrepreneurial reasons, that eliminates C++ and also eliminates Java again, and that leaves one to rule them all: PHP.

I don't particularly like PHP. But it does have a lot of modern language features, and it's really easy to get code written and out. And it's reliable, if you put in the work to establish a framework (E_STRICT, turn on exceptions, etc).

I would love to see a better mainstream language emerge, but PHP just plain wins out for certain purposes. If I was working for a large organization with plenty of time and money, I'd probably pick C++ or Java. But for a small, hungry organization, it's hard to beat PHP, which was forged by necessity. And I wish I could beat it, because it does have some pretty big flaws.

more than 2 years ago

The PHP Singularity

Reality Master 101 Re:Recursive? No, very iterative. (622 comments)

Very few serious programmers will say that they are stupid or awful.

Huh? Have you just fallen off the turnip truck?

C: Unsafe at any speed. Un-bound-checked array, null pointers, etc, etc. Many people HATE C because it's unsafe, though they grudgingly admit that it's sometimes a necessary evil for system programming.

C++: Overly complex, insane learning curve, no garbage collection. There are no shortage of people who hate C++.

And Java is possibly your most absurd point. Overly verbose to the extreme, slow, insane memory requirements, slow, crazy libraries, and slow (please don't bother to claim that isn't slow).

more than 2 years ago

Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way

Reality Master 101 Re:Environmental Questions (540 comments)

Don't know why you're putting the scare-italics on bacteria. I probably should have said microorganisms to be as general as possible, but are you thinking bacteria requires oxygen? Anaerobic bacteria evolved on Earth, so I would think it could possibly evolve on Mars (assuming there isn't trapped oxygen in the soil, for whatever reason).

more than 2 years ago

Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way

Reality Master 101 Re:Environmental Questions (540 comments)

Of course our sterilization wasn't perfect, but at least we did it, and there wasn't an easy way for them to grow and spread into the environmental soil. That's a far cry from putting dirty humans there along with hydroponics with literally quadrillions of bacteria actively growing, not to mention the living space located within the ground and tapping the native water supplies.

Like I said in another post, I highly doubt there is native life there. But doubt is not the same as proven, and the fact is that contamination from a colony is a real possibility. The point isn't really about the factual question of life or no life, the question is whether there are sufficient scientists who believe it's likely enough to be an issue, and then it becomes a political issue.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way

Reality Master 101 Re:Environmental Questions (540 comments)

For what it's worth, I agree with you. I highly doubt there is life on Mars, but our opinion doesn't matter to the big picture that there are a lot of people who believe there might be. And really, we're just guessing. The point is that once we have contamination, it might kill off something that was there.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way

Reality Master 101 Environmental Questions (540 comments)

I've always been of the opinion that once a private Mars mission gets close to becoming reality, scientists and the government will go in league to shut it down because of environmental contamination. The question of whether there is life on Mars is still open, and once you have a group setting up a settlement, the planet is potentially contaminated forever with Earth bacteria, which might even kill off native bacteria, if any.

My question is, are you concerned with the contamination question and do you think you might be prevented from going if scientists get the right politicians to listen? You sort-of have a FAQ question about this ("Will the mission be harmful to Mars' environment?"), but you don't really answer it.

more than 2 years ago

Debate Over Evolution Will Soon Be History, Says Leakey

Reality Master 101 Re:God's experiment in free will (1226 comments)

Christians today (since Christ's time, actually) are under a new covenant which we call the New Testament. The Old Testament is no longer applicable as law.

You are (sadly) mistaken. There is a reason the OT is included in Christian bibles.

"It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid." (Luke 16:17 NAB)

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." (Matthew 5:17 NAB)

“For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:18-19 RSV)

Every single word of the OT was commanded by Jesus himself to be obeyed. Why this doesn't tell people that it's all a bunch of mythical hooey I will never understand.

more than 2 years ago

Perl 5.16.0 Released

Reality Master 101 Re:No (192 comments)

I use Perl nearly every (damn) day, on a very old codebase project. There are things about Perl I like, but there are also things that I really despise. Not through fault of Perl, really -- it's simply old, slow (yes, slow) and outdated compared to other modern languages.

There is no way I would start a new project in Perl, and the only people who would are people who are willfully ignorant of the rest of the industry. Perl is beyond its life. There is nothing it does better than other languages, and there are a whole hell of a lot of things it does much, much worse.

more than 2 years ago

Richard Stallman Falls Ill At Conference

Reality Master 101 Re:Putting his money where his mouth is (460 comments)

What you clearly don't get is that much of the reason you can get a good OS and applications for free is the GPL, for which you can thank RMS. I remember what it was like to install *BSD before the various BSDs were shamed into modernity by Linux. No thanks, you can have that.

I don't believe you can make the case that Linux wouldn't be Linux without the GPL, had it used some other license. Linux is Linux through force of Torvald's personality. It would be identical if it had used, say, the BSD license. Granted, the tools developed by the FSF gave Linux a good start. But that's software, not a license.

more than 2 years ago

James Cameron Begins His Deep-Sea Dive

Reality Master 101 Re:Cool rich guy (162 comments)

You know what, I imagine it probably does take "bulldozing" to overcome the entrenched existing entities in order to do Really Big Effective Things.

If it takes hurting some feelings to ELIMINATE Polio and Malaria forever (!!), and who knows what other diseases in the coming decades, then that seems fine to me. Polio has been eliminated in India. I'm pretty sure all the millions of children saved aren't too concerned about the fact that Bill Gates is in a bit of hurry to get things done.

more than 2 years ago

Mitt Romney, Robotics, and the Uncanny Valley

Reality Master 101 Re:Religion (501 comments)

Oops, you are correct, sir. Finger fart!

more than 2 years ago

Mitt Romney, Robotics, and the Uncanny Valley

Reality Master 101 Re:Funny you mentioned that (501 comments)

How do you think the concept of Separation of Church and State would fare under President Romney?

Far better than under a 'mainstream' Christian. Who understands better about religious persecution than Mormons? The last thing they'll do is legislate so that one religion is able to dominate more than others, because that dominant religion won't be theirs.

How about your rights to be left alone even after death?

You know what? I'm dead. If it makes my family happy to baptize me in whatever they want so that it eases their mind that they'll eventually meet me in the afterlife, that's fine with me. I'm, you know, dead, so it doesn't matter anymore. If they want to stuff me and put me in the living room, hey, that's great. Whatever makes them happy. Funerals are for the living, not for the dead.

more than 2 years ago

Mitt Romney, Robotics, and the Uncanny Valley

Reality Master 101 Re:Religion (501 comments)

Of course, many Catholics claim that Protestants are "not really Christianity", either (and vice-versa).

I will say one thing about Mormons... of all the people I've met of different religions, Mormons were by far the nicest and most genuine people. They actually try and live the tenants of their religion. I'm an atheist, but if I had to pick a religion to follow because I wanted the culture, I'd pick being a Mormon. I hate alcohol anyway. :)

They're not perfect of course (their support of California's Prop 8 is particularly troubling), but overall having Romney be a Mormon is a positive in my book, compared to, say, Santorum who is a full-blown religious wack job.

more than 2 years ago



What RPC Library Do You Like?

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Reality Master 101 writes "I'm about to embark on developing a new web service application from scratch, and part of the strategy is to have many distributed software components. These days there are a ton of RPC mechanisms. I'd like to hear from Slashdotters about what RPC libraries you've used recently, pro and con. These are going to be for internal communication, so my preference is for binary encoding of parameters (rather than inefficient XML). Of course, cross-language independence is a big plus. I will be using Apache running on Linux. Apache Thrift seems very interesting, but I'm open to suggestions."

Mississippi Looks to Ban Food From Fat People

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Reality Master 101 writes "You're big, bulky — and hungry. So you lumber into a restaurant to get a bite. You scan the menu for a tasty meal, but when it comes time to order the waiter refuses to serve you. The reason? You're too fat. Sound outrageous? You may want to steer clear of Mississippi, where legislation was recently introduced that would ban restaurants from serving proportion-challenged patrons."

X Prize Foundation to Announce New Space Prize

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Reality Master 101 writes "Wired has announced that a new space prize will be announced September 13th at Wired's NextFest. According to the invitation, it will be the largest space prize ever, and, "The challenge is extreme, the destination is extraordinary, the prize purse is exceptional." Teaser video here. So what will it be? Orbit? Payload on the moon?"

Best Geek Phone?

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Reality Master 101 writes "Recently we had an Ask Slashdot about simple cell phones, now I'd like to ask the opposite question. I'm thinking of replacing my phone, and I'd like to replace it with the best "geek" phone. What are Slashdotters using these days? It should have a great browser and have good third party applications, especially ssh (and an RDP client?) for remote access. The iPhone is out, of course. What deals did you get from the US carriers?"

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Reality Master 101 writes "Super secret space start-up Blue Origin (financed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) had a super secret test flight on November 13, 2006. They've now released video and pictures of the very successful flight. Looks like they're making good progress. From the page: 'We're working, patiently and step-by-step, to lower the cost of spaceflight so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system. Accomplishing this mission will take a long time, and we're working on it methodically.'"



Why do people support Ron Paul?

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Ron Paul has been getting a lot of attention as an "outsider" candidate, and in fact, even here at Slashdot I've seen a lot of Ron Paul in sigs.

So I decided to visit his web site and see what he's all about. Uhhhhhh... why is this guy getting so much geek attention? I can only assume that people are focusing on some single issue, and haven't checked what the guy actually *believes*. Much like people who support the Libertarian Party, actually, who have some seriously crackpot stuff in their platform. But I digress.

What's wrong with Ron Paul? Here's a sampling:

"So called free trade deals and world governmental organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and CAFTA are a threat to our independence as a nation. They transfer power from our government to unelected foreign elites. [...] And a free America, with limited, constitutional government, would be gone forever." link

Sheesh. Sure, the value of trade deals is debatable, but the rhetoric above is just silly. "Gone FOREVER" OH NOOOOO!! Typical Politician fear-mongering, if not out-and-out crackpottery. So far, I'm not impressed.

I oppose legislation that increases the FDA's legal powers. FDA has consistently failed to protect the public from dangerous drugs, genetically modified foods, dangerous pesticides and other chemicals in the food supply. Meanwhile they waste public funds attacking safe, healthy foods and dietary supplements. link

Oh, geez. The FDA is certainly not perfect, but to say that the FDA "consistently" fails to protect the public from dangerous drugs is just a lie. If it wasn't for the FDA, we would be flooded with quack drugs. The Libertarian would say that the consumer should decide what's good and what's bad, but it's impractical for every citizen to have to review all the studies to know whether the thousands of drugs are effective or not. Again, I'll listen to how the FDA can be improved, but overblown words like the above don't give me confidence that there's any substance to the man.

And then, to top it off, he attacks *all* genetically modified foods broadly, showing that he has an anti-science agenda, and is completely ignorant of the issue.

I am committed to guaranteeing parity for home school diplomas and advancing equal scholarship consideration for students entering college from a home school environment. [...] I will veto any legislation that creates national standards or national testing for home school parents or students. link

I'm a supporter of home schooling, but let me get this straight. He wants home-schooled kids to have equal parity for diplomas, equal consideration for scholarships, yet doesn't think they should be be tested to see if they learned anything?? How is that supposed to work? And is the government going to force universities to accept home schooled kids with no testing?

The framers of the Constitution never in their worst nightmares imagined that the words, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech......." would be used to ban children from praying in school, prohibit courthouses from displaying the Ten Commandments, or prevent citizens from praying before football games. The original meaning of the First amendment was clear on these two points: The federal government cannot enact laws establishing one religious denomination over another, and the federal government cannot forbid mention of religion, including the Ten Commandments and references to God. link

First of all, he's being disingenuous here. Nowhere are children "banned" from praying in school. What is banned is the SCHOOL leading prayer. That he doesn't seem to understand this (or is lying about it) is incredibly worrisome.

And then he doesn't seem to understand that freedom of religion means the government cannot advocate one religion over another, and in fact, should not be advocating religion at all. I don't feel like quoting more, but he then goes on to attack the idea of the separation of church and state. I think it's pretty clear that he's not going to be a big advocate of atheist rights.

This isn't everything I find disturbing. To be fair, I did see a lot I liked about the man (as I can say about any of the candidates, of any party). But as near as I can see, he is not deserving of the reputation that he seems to be building.

Can anyone tell me why they support Ron Paul, especially in light of the above?


Why universal health care is a Libertarian ideal

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Disclaimer: I'm not a Libertarian, though I'm sympathetic to *some* of their ideas. A lot of them are crackpot, though.

Universal health care has been traditionally an idea that Libertarians despise, because it's directly against the Libertarian ideal of personal responsibility, and not "stealing" from others to support oneself. In this small essay, I'm going to argue that Universal Health Care *is* necessary to a free Libertarian-style society.

First, let me say that for most of my life, I've been adamantly against Universal Health Care, primarily because I don't trust the governmen not to screw it up. I still believe this, but I've come to believe that UHC is necessary anyway.

The reason is because modern UHC is not directly subject to market forces, hence the reason health care costs are completely out of control in the U.S. The underlying reason is health insurance. Once people stopped paying directly for health care, they stopped caring what it cost. In fact, they had an incentive to get the *most expensive* health care. Why not? "The insurance company is paying for it." And the Doctors certainly have no incentive to keep costs down. Might as well order a few extra tests. The result of this are costs spiralling ever upward.

Now, Libertarian think tanks are aware of this, and their solution was the idea of "medical savings accounts", where people (in essence) get a refund for not using health care. This is a really weak incentive. It helps a little, but it still doesn't address the fundamental corruption of market forces. That this is the best the Libertarians can come up with ought to tell you how impossible it is to fix.

So given that market forces can't work, and in fact people are getting bankrupted every day by health costs, the only solution is really for the government to step in, as inefficient as that can be.

So, even if that's the only solution, why do I say this should be a "Libertarian Ideal"? Let me first start with what most Libertarians think the government *should* do. One of the most fundamental functions of government is to provide a legally level playing field, for example, contract law. Most (hopefully all, but you never know) Libertarians wouldn't argue that contract judges should be privatized. There needs to be a relatively fair legal environment for business.

So how does UHC fit into this? One of the fundamental tenants of Libertarianism is the idea of personal responsibility, that in the end, one should take care of oneself through hard work.

And that's the crux: someone *can't* take care of oneself if they are not physically capable of it. It's unreasonable to say to someone, "I realize that your leg is broken, so work harder so you'll have the money to fix your leg." People cannot be productive without being physically healthy, just like people can't be productive without a reasonable legal environment.

Note that health care is different from other items, say, food. If I'm hungry, it's *is* reasonable to say, "go out and work, so you can afford to buy food." Physical health is a very different idea. It can actually *prevent* the Libertarian ideal of working to support oneself.

So, just like a stable legal system is necessary for a healthy capitalistic society, so is a healthy workforce capable of working to support themselves.


The aspartame CONSPIRACY!

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Well, not really a conspiracy.

Continuing my recent habit of posting a journal entry every two years or so, I thought I'd share my experience with aspartame-induced headaches.

For a few years, I've been having on-and-off chronic headaches. They felt right behind my eyes, and I seemed to also be somewhat sensitive to bright lights. Sometimes it would be a dull throb, but every so often I get real ball-busters that lasted for over a day that meds just didn't make go away. I pretty much attributed it to getting older. It was annoying, but not life threatening.

Now, I'd heard a lot about aspartame conspiracies, and like most conspiracies, I figured it was all a bunch of crap, along the same lines as "multiple chemical sensitivity" and the like (no offense to people with legitimate allergies).

One day, I was reading along, and I saw a post (it may even have been on Slashdot) where someone said they had been having chronic headaches for a long time that went away when they stopped drinking Aspartame. The guy didn't seem like a looney, so I thought it was worth a try. Anything to get rid of them!

I started drinking water every day, rather than my usual diet sodas. Within a week, there was a noticeable drop in the incidence of headaches, and NO occurances of bad headaches. After a month, I had had only a few incidences of headaches, and still NO bad ones, which was pretty much unprecedented. It's been probably six months now, and my headache problem is pretty much gone. I still get headaches occasionally, but it's a much more normal rate, and not nearly the severity. Still haven't had a ball-buster since I stopped drinking it.

Now, I'm still not an Aspartame looney who wants it banned. Some people go into anaphylactic shock with peanuts, that doesn't mean we should ban peanuts. It just happens to have that effect on me, and doesn't for millions of other people. But it should be common knowledge that it CAN happen to certain people.

Oh, and I don't think it was caffeine that was doing it. I drank a couple of diet cokes a day, but mostly I drank diet Sprite specifically because I don't like a lot of caffeine. My caffeine intake is pretty much zero now, but I've been drinking caffeine for a long time (a LOT back in my 20s) and I never got headaches from it.

If you're having chronic headaches and drink a lot of diet soda like I did, it's worth a try to see if you have the same effect. And I used to pretty hate drinking water, but I got used to it, so I'm okay with it now.

Speaking of water, I also don't buy into the silly "water is better for you anyway" nonsense. Liquid is liquid, your body uses it the same way. And by the way, that "Eight 8-oz glasses of water a day" thing is totally wrong as well, but that's another journal entry (there is ZERO evidence that drinking more water leads to more health).


I Discovered the Secret of Staying in Shape

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 9 years ago OK, I'm 40 years old and have always had a problem with keeping my weight under control. At certain times in my 20s, I was in decent shape, but it was always a struggle. The last ten years I've been slowly losing the battle, and it doesn't help that my wife is a great cook.

Recently I made the decision that I really had to do something about it, as I've so often done in the past. Zillions of diets, working out, you know the drill -- and then ultimate failure.

My first realization was that my body wanted a certain number of calories, and that number of calories exceeded a healthy maintenance weight. Trying to overcome body chemistry like that is just too damn hard, and you always lose in the end. I can't eat salads rest of my life! I hate them, and it's not sustainable.

OK, step one was being honest with myself that limiting the food supply side would never work. Therefore, the energy demand side had to be increased. Which meant the dreaded exercise. I played a few sports ten years ago, but it's really hard to fit that in with a wife and kids. But I managed to squeeze in some time in the morning before work for the gym.

So I started in on that... but the gym is SOOOO damn boring. That's what pretty much defeated me before, but I was determined to succeed. But I could feel the seeds of failure being planted.

THEN... I heard about something. A high-end gym had DVD players on their cardio machines. The light went off! Good lord, that was it. I went out and bought a portable DVD player (it was like $150 at Sam's Club -- they're CHEAP these days). It came with a strap system that fit over a cardio machine, slick as you please.

It was beautiful. I'd pop in a video and the 45 minutes passed so easily I decided to increase it to an hour. I now burn 1140 calories in an hour, five days a week. And the weight has been coming off! Of course, you can't go crazy and increase your food intake. I actually managed to eat healthier here and there, but it's so freeing to know that I don't have to. All I have to do is watch movies and I'll get in shape, no thought needed.

I usually use the Elliptical Trainer, which does both your legs and arms at the same time. It's also low stress on your back (I have a bad back).

The other key to the plan was signing up for the Blockbuster $15/month unlimited rental plan, where they send you videos, and then when you send them back, they send out another one (it's like Netflix, except cheaper).

Now I actually look forward to my workout in the morning. It gives me one hour of blissful time to watch all the movies I haven't seen, TV shows (I'm watching the HBO series Deadwood right now -- recommended). It's worked out great.

If you've given up ever being in shape and healthy, give the plan a try. It's tailor made for geeks who have to keep their brains occupied or exercise is just torture.


Poison Oak Sucks

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 11 years ago

So my three year old boy is HUGE into pipes and drains. We have a big storm drain outside our house that empties into the canyon next to the house, and it's been a dream of his to figure out where the pipe empties out. So one day we decided to scale the canyon. It was very steep, so I had to carry him while trying to hold my balance. We found the end of the pipe and had lots of fun exploring around.

Until a few days later.

Yup -- I started breaking out in a HUGE rash all over my body. All over my arms, all over my legs, around my waist, on my face and, er, my genitals. Big red blotches, weeping and oozing. And itching. Real, real bad.

Actually, I got really scared that it was something else. I have psoriasis on my hands. Anyone who has psoriasis can tell you how much it totally sucks. You can't cure it (it's genetic), you can only maintain it. It causes your skin to blister and scale, and you have to use heavy-duty creams to get rid of it. I was scared that maybe my psoriasis decided to go crazy all over my body! That would truly, truly suck.

Fortunately, I figured out it was "only" poison oak. Better than psoriasis, but boy does it suck hard. You cannot believe how bad the itching is. The only thing that I can compare it to (and this is only vague memories) was chicken pox. I couldn't sleep at night. I had to constantly rub ice cubes on myself as a topical anesthetic. It was absolutely horrible.

Now, in doing some research, I thought that it pretty much vanishes in about a week, so I tried to tough it out. I asked my pharmacist father-in-law if there were any cures, and he said there was nothing non-prescription, so I just tried to tolerate it.

Finally, though, I couldn't take it anymore. The itching was driving me insane, so I did a web search for "poison oak cure". And this stuff popped up: Zanfel. It promised to "cure the itching in 30 seconds, and get rid of the poison oak in 24 hours". Whoa. This has to be a scam, but I'm freaking desperate. I look at the list of pharmacies, and found one near me. I buy the stuff... OUCH! $32 for a little 1oz tube. SCAM SCAM SCAM. Screw it ... I'd pay $320 if it got rid of the itching.

The stuff was freaking amazing. It literally blew away the itching in about 30 seconds. Supposedly it sucks out and neutralizes the poison.

Unfortunately, it didn't cure it in 24 hours, though. The pamplet says that if you have "systemic poison oak", then the poison is in your bloodstream and the only thing that will get rid of it quickly is heavy duty steroids from your doctor. So I went to the doctor yesterday and got the steroids.

The Zanfel works for about 4-8 hours, and then the Uruthiol poison (that's the bad stuff) works it way from deeper in your skin back to the surface. Then I have to apply the Zanfel again, and I get more relief.

Man, if you ever get Poison oak, poison ivy or poison sumac, YOU WANT THIS STUFF. It's worth every freaking penny.

And I'm now an expert on poison oak, and how to avoid it. What's funny is that I used to think it was kind of a joke ("Oh yeah, gotta avoid that poison oak!! har har"), but it's no joke. The itching is absolutely horrible when you get it bad like I did.

By the way, the rule of thumb is that "leaves of three, let it be", meaning that if the plant has groups of three leaves, then it might be poison ivy or poison oak. The rule of thumb works for the latter two, but apparently poison sumac can have a lot more leaves. Fortunately, poison sumac is not in my area (So Cal), so I'm safe. This is poison oak country.

-- Feb 6 update (next day) --

As long as I'm giving updates on my health, I broke my little toe last night running in to answer the damn phone. My foot hit the side of the doorway. Now I look like a leprosy victim with a big limp. I think I'm ready to star in the next "Night of the Living Dead" movie.

This week has really sucked health-wise.


Oracle disses McNealy

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 12 years ago

ShadowRam had a hilarious story about Oracle dropping the hammer on McNealy... see it here.

I have to admit, I hate McNealy with that idiotic smirk he always wears. I hate Ellison more, but it's still funny seeing McNealy crawling back to Oracle trying to get his keynote spot back when they gave it to ... Michael Dell! Oh man, that is sweet. :)

I've said it before, but if we have to have a software monopoly, given the choice between Gates, McNealy, Jobs or Ellison, I would take Gates hands-down. Thank god it's not Ellison. The man is insufferable enough.


Bin Laden is Dead

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 12 years ago

I was pretty sure after that written statement was released recently purporting to be from bin Laden, but this story seals it for me.

So let me get this straight. When bin Laden is needed the most to rally his "troops", combined with the fact that he was never shy about using video in the past to do so, suddenly he's taken to releasing written statements and making audio-only tapes? Not bloody likely.

The dude is dead.


The product I've been waiting for

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 12 years ago If you're like me, you have thousands of family photographs lying around that you would love to digitize for posterity. If you're also like me, you started scanning with a flatbed scanner, but the magnitude of the task just defeated you. You said, "there has to be a better way to do this". Well, finally there is. Somebody at HP got a clue and created a scanner with a photograph feeder! Stick in a stack of 24 photos, hit the button, and boom! They get scanned in. For me, the $280 or so would be worth it if all I ever did was just scan legacy photographs and then throw the unit away.

I ordered my unit. I can't wait to do it.

Now if I can just find some good picture organization software. Any suggestions out there? I want something that lets you select from a list of people/places for each picture. The other thing is that it should index picture files, and not try and store the pictures into its own "repository". Oh, and the index information should be exportable into an ASCII format.


Stallman on Outlawing Non-free Software

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 12 years ago

I submitted this as a story to Slashdot, but they rejected it. Well, I thought it was rather interesting and newsworthy.

In this recent Slashdot story, I posted that I recalled RMS advocating outlawing non-free software. I couldn't find an exact reference, so I decided to pose the question to him, once and for all. My question and his response are reproduced below.

My letter: "In a nutshell, do you support legislation that require software companies to produce free software? Or to put it another way, should non-free software be outlawed?"

His response:

Those two questions are not the same. I would strongly oppose a plan to require anyone to produce any particular kind of software. Whether to allow proprietary published software is a different matter.

Restrictions on redistribution of software all ultimately rest on explicit government intervention, whether through copyright law, through technology contol laws such as the DMCA, or through enforcement of certain contracts. I would not be sad to see this cease. Requiring release of source code for published software could be justified as a consumer protection measure, like publishing ingredients lists and nutritional analysis for foods.

I would not oppose such changes in laws, but I don't particularly advocate them either. What I advocate is free software. I don't much care whether publishing proprietary software is legally permitted, as long as in practice it rarely happens.

To be honest, I'm somewhat disappointed in this response. This is the first time I've ever seen RMS squishy about anything. It's like he wants to call for legislation outlawing non-free software, but he's not quite ready to go that far.

So he either backed up my recollection, or he did not, depending on how you read his statement. Personally, I think that if you are even ambivalent about whether it's my right to produce -- AND MY RIGHT TO PURCHASE -- proprietary software, then you have very wrong ideas about what freedom is all about.

If I, as a private citizen, contract with another private citizen to purchase the right to use a particular piece of software, it is none of RMS's business if I decide that the source code is not a valuable part of the transaction.


The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Whine-out

Reality Master 101 Reality Master 101 writes  |  more than 12 years ago

Perhaps you are aware of the The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Blackout. I found it all a bit silly, but never let it be said that RM/101 is not willing to ante up with a better idea. And this is it:

The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Whine-out.

Whining about trivial things by the ignorant is more dangerous than a gun in the hand of a child. Rho's inflation of the importance of comments reflects on the inability of Slashdot's "community" to understand that this is just a web site, with a service that you get for free.

For the record, my feelings on The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Blackout rests firmly in the uninterested. I have almost zero opinion on the final outcome of the blackout. I love Slashdot, and will probably continue posting to support the site, but the details of the blackout are dull (to me).

Says rho, "In that case, Slashdot would be much better served by dumping the flaky and irritating overhead of a DB server and filling the pipe with a longer "Favorites" list--which, essentially, is what Slashdot is once you strip away the comments and comment posters." If rho thinks he can divine real significance from Malda's (factual) assertion that not as many people read comments as many think, he is sadly mistaken. Unfortunately, rho has an inflated sense of his worth, and has taken to whining because Malda doesn't stroke his ego like he wants.

This whining about being "underappreciated" is offensive. Thus, I propose a small revolt: The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Whine-out.

T(H)GSW will be during the week of April 21 through April 27. Easy to remember, because it corresponds with the blackout (completely worthless information: the full moon in April falls on the 27th). During that time, I will be posting completely whine-free posts, and further will be smacking anyone down (through posts, of course) who whines about Slashdot. I will become Malda's idea of the ideal Slashdot reader. I will provide insightful content -- completely whine free.

During that week, I'd like to see if Malda sees Slashdot become a better place, or if it becomes the Hallowed Shrine of Whining, even more than it is now. I'd like for the more whiny posters to revisit their own self-importance and have a new outlook. And, I'd like for the "community" to really see what the true value of Slashdot is--not this inflated sense of "ownership" that they seem to have, but the fact that it's a free service that's fun to participate in, but is definitely not worth all this whininess.

This is where the (Hopefully) comes in. This is only meaningful if enough whiny posters agree to go along and participate. If there is only me (who never whines anyway) and a handful of others who cease whining during that week, it will be pretty meaningless. Barely a dent will be made, and rho and the rest of the "community" will never realize the incredible value from a whine-free Slashdot.

To spread the word, I'm changing my sig to link to this journal entry. If you would like to help, you can link to this journal from your own sig, or you can simply resolve to enter into a voluntary one-week whine-out. Pass the word. This will only work if a goodly number of comment posters participate.

To summarize, if you wish to participate, during the week of April 21 through April 27

  • Click through as many stories as possible to check for whining
  • Post as many comments as possible without whining (e.g., "They don't appreciate me", "It's not fair that the editors get unlimited mod points", "Why did I get moderated down", "Malda can't spell", "This story is redundant", "They only take PayPal", etc, etc, etc, etc)
  • Drop the hammer on anyone caught whining with a big fat "No whining this week!" post.

Here are some useful HTML links to this journal entry (short version is 86 characters, should fit in most sigs). You'll probably have to unfungle them after the lameness filter gets through with it:

Long version (117 chars): <P>--<BR>Join <A HREF="http://slashdot.org/~Reality+Master+101/journal/6131">The (Hopefully) Great Slashdot Whine-Out</A>

Short version (86 chars): <a href="http://slashdot.org/~Reality+Master+101/journal/6131">T(H)GSW</a> Apr 21-27

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