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New Google Fiber Cities Announced

Will.Woodhull Re:Disappointed in Portland (147 comments)

If a $300 one-time fee (that you can plan for many months in advance) is a show-stopper for you, then you have a severe personal finance problem.

(And saying "I'm too poor not to live paycheck-to-paycheck" is not an excuse; plenty of people on the forums at sites like earlyretirementextreme.com and mrmoneymustache.com have figured out how to live well on $7,000 - $30,000 per year).

Well, yes, I live very well with on an income of $10,000/yr, barring a catastrophic health issue. I do so by being very careful about avoiding frivilous expenses. A one-time expense of $300 on top of a continued monthly expense that is only a few bucks less than what I am now paying doesn't work for me. But spending $300 now to avoid years of monthly payments would be a good deal.

I don't really need any faster access or greater bandwidth than what I now have. Yeah, I'd like those, but I'd also like a trip to Hawaii, a larger appartment, room for an infinite number of bookcases... Not going to happen.

3 days ago
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New Google Fiber Cities Announced

Will.Woodhull Re:Disappointed in Portland (147 comments)

Thank you for posting that. I think I had stopped reading when I hit the "$300 construction fee". That was a show-stopper, so why spend any more time on the thing?

Yeah, I would be interested in the $25/mo for 12 mo, then $0 for the next 6 years.

3 days ago
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New Google Fiber Cities Announced

Will.Woodhull Disappointed in Portland (147 comments)

I'm disappointed that Portland did not make the cut this time. But I don't expect to directly benefit from Google's fiber anyway. I'm on a fixed income and the last I looked, Google would be more than I could afford.

That said, I expect that when Google does come to Portland that will force its competitors to sweeten their offerings. But maybe that will happen soon anyway, in an economic equivalent of 'spooky action at a distance.' If Google succeeds big time in these other cities, the providers already in the Portland market might realize that it would be advantageous to drop their rates and offer better packages now, and thus make Portland look like a less inviting market to Google.

Well, a couple of providers would also have to improve their customer and technical support (here's looking at you Comcast). But I'm sure they would sacrifice some of their excess profit margin if they felt the Google dragon breathing fire on their butts.

So I for one welcome our new google overlord. Even if he never comes completes the courtship ritual, he might put the fear of loss of market share in the boardrooms where it will do the most good.

3 days ago
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Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others

Will.Woodhull Re:Really? Theory of Mind (219 comments)

You have lost me with the way you introduce the term "instinct" into the discussion without defining it. What do you mean by instinct? How do you distinguish between "instinct" and whatever the other thing is that you feel that humans and other primates may have, but that other mamals do not have?

Also there seems to be some confusion on your part as to how extensive "mirror neurons" are across species. They have been identified in man and in some primates, but they have not as yet been identified in any other mammals. You seem to be making an incredible leap between the state of "not yet found" and the state of "not there". Has it occurred to you that human and laboratory primate species are very easy to find and study with MRI, but it is not yet possible to do MRI studies on lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!)

Are you simply a troll? Or someone who is momentarily stumbling over their own words? As a working hypothesis, I think you are exhibiting the behavior of a troll who has not yet become skilled in the language arts.

about two weeks ago
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Regular Exercise Not Enough To Make Up For Sitting All Day

Will.Woodhull Re:Correlation Causation? (348 comments)

It seems an equally valid conclusion is that a number of bad health outcomes are associated with pre-existing conditions that encourage or enforce prolonged sitting. I don't think this meta study has adequate controls for pre-existing bias; I don't think that can be done in this kind of research.

Nevertheless, the human body is designed for strolling around the savannas gathering stuff to eat, gathering things to burn. Brandishing torches to drive the large predators away from their prey, cooking their stolen meat on fires of dried dung. Nearly constant movement, but very little extreme exertion. A sort of idyllic life, if you don't mind the smells and the bugs.

It makes sense that a modern life style that mimics the one the human body was adapted to would be the healthier way to live.

about two weeks ago
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Regular Exercise Not Enough To Make Up For Sitting All Day

Will.Woodhull Re: "15 to 20 per cent higher risk of death (348 comments)

The implication being that sitting all day seems to help whatever is already killing you do it faster.

Or that more people who are going to die sooner than the average in any case sit around a lot more than the others. Is the study doing an adequate job of controlling for this variable? As an episodic asthmatic there are several weeks each year when I have to time my medications and inhaler use so I can get an hour of walking in each day, but other than that hour I am quite sedentary, trying to avoid wheezing, during those weeks. I live a generally sedentary life because I have little choice: I could not keep a job as a mailman or Fedex delivery driver, etc. I am likely to die earlier than most from complications of airway disease, yet that has little to do with how much I sit on my butt during the hours when I am not doing my daily 3 to 6 mile walk.

There are a lot of men in similar predicaments. I know of two young men with cystic fibrosis who religiously Zoomba an hour each day and otherwise are student bookworms dependent on elevators and those OLGCs (old lady go-carts) to get around. These guys are doing everything they can to live to their 40th birthday and the odds are not in their favor. How much do these kinds of edge cases distort the general statistics? Is the study adequately accounting for those who are going to die young no matter what, and must live a sedentary life style?

about two weeks ago
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Regular Exercise Not Enough To Make Up For Sitting All Day

Will.Woodhull Re:We all have to die one day (348 comments)

Delaying it is not going to make it any better or worse.

True enough. For death itself.

The thing to really fear is if sitting on your butt all the time increases the risk that you won't be able to enjoy sex for the last 10 years of your life because you'll be too sick to complete the sex act. Even when making love all by yourself. You won't have the heart for it any more. In a very literal way.

That's the true message here. Not that death will take the indolent sooner, but that if you develop one of the sedentary diseases, you will not be able to have much fun in the last, lingering, decades of your life.

Get off your keister and move around a bit. We've got the technology... take your coffee and lunch breaks with a walk with an audio book. Replace your computer desk with a treadmill equiped with a keyboard. Move your butt!

That might be a good rallying cry for all geeks: Move your butt.

about two weeks ago
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Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects

Will.Woodhull Re:New System: Inner/Outer Planets (170 comments)

Yes, "the stupid drama" is probably getting more people to read this stuff than would otherwise be the case.

But the positions that have been expressed are now only being repeated. Let it go. A better astronomical taxonomy will undoubtedly come along in the next few years, possibly at the next IAU convention. Let it go, for now.

about two weeks ago
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Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects

Will.Woodhull Re:New System: Inner/Outer Planets (170 comments)

tl;dr. I did read the first few paragraphs.

Significant findings in what I did read:

Somehow parent poster managed to mistake grand-parent's position with regard to using the innie-or-outie barycenter as a point of distinction between a moon and a binary planet. GP was very definitely saying that such a distinction was pointless. Which seems to also be what PP is trying to argue. Which suggests that much of PP can be ignored; it is preaching to the choir but for some reason its author has been unable to see that. Perhaps his mind, which apparently is pretty clear much of the time when dealing with astronomy, was clouded by his emotions. Which do come through very strongly in PP.

However the following calls for a comment:

To say that the Earth and the Moon have a special relationship is obvious, but it doesn't warrant any extraordinary classification given the absurdity of the current system.

While PP and GP agree on the absurdity of all this, PP is not seeing the importance that GP sees in the affects of promulgating this crap.

GP's concern is that astronomy has a duty (as does every science) to present its truths clearly to everyone outside of its small scientific community. It cannot dismiss absurd representations in its jargon as unimportant by arguing that all astronomers can see the fallacies and just ignore them. That is a travesty; astronomy needs to provide college students, high school students, grade school students, and kindergarteners with an accurate representation of its findings and not some mumbo-jumbo absurdity like what PP has so eloquently described above.

This is all the more poignant since the IAU brought this whole foolish argument up because in the wisdom of their final hours of their last big confab after many members had left to catch the bus home, they expressedly attacked the current state of general understanding of what defines a planet or a moon and replaced it with an even more absurd set of definitions meant for public consumption. To replace what has been taught in the schools. And now through posts like PP the community of astronomers are attempting to backpedal by claiming that none of this makes any difference anyway, since WE all know what we are talking about.

What arrogant bullshit.

IAU: you and you alone have the power to fix this mess that was made on your doorstep, in your name. Figure out what it is that should be taught to the youngsters today who might choose to take advanced astronomy courses tomorrow. Then make that public, with your full support behind it.

about two weeks ago
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Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others

Will.Woodhull Re:Really? Theory of Mind (219 comments)

The naturalists who originated the phrase would have said

"Theory of mind refers to the ability to simulate the minds of other beings to deduce things about their future behavior".

There are complex behaviors in many species that can only be explained by assuming that one individual is able to put itself into the headspace of another and so anticipate what that other individual is about to do. This sometimes involves a definite sense of how the world must appear to the other. There is irrefutable evidence of this working between members of the same species in cooperative hunting, and also between species, between predator and prey. Perhaps all mammals have this-- certainly those that hunt in prides and packs, and those that form flocks and herds, exhibit theory of mind.

One of the most significant aspects of theory of mind is that it is present in species that have no language, and thus no culture and no clear way of thinking out "If I do this, he is going to do that, because where he is he cannot see that my partner is waiting for him to do that. Whoopee! We got ourselves some lunch!" Whatever theory of mind is, it should not be confused with this very simple mental model. For this kind of reasoning is merely mimicking what theory of mind is doing without any rational means of doing it.

Theory of mind strongly implies that there are mechanisms other than rational thought that can allow a human being to perceive and react appropriately to things in their environment, and do so in some very sophisticated ways. The really interesting questions that this raises include how could a person become rationally sensitive to the findings he obtains through theory of mind? In other words, how can rational thought be extended to include intuition as another way of perception that is akin to vision or hearing?

about two weeks ago
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Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others

Will.Woodhull Re:Really? Theory of Mind (219 comments)

Empathy and theory of mind are related, for sure, but they might be very distant cousins.

Theory of mind is a term used to describe the ability some species have where individuals behave as if they can put themselves into the minds of others. Lions exhibit it when one lioness will deliberately allow itself to be seen and in doing so cause the herd of antelope to move into the ambush that has been set up by other females in the pride. Each participating huntress is somehow aware of how the prey is likely to react and also what the others in the pride are going to be doing-- and all this "putting myself in the mind of another" is done without any verbal skills. Or for that matter without any non-verbal specific communication signals that persons who study lions have been able to identify.

The visible differences in gender in lions is very distinct. There is no way that an adult male lion and female lion could be mistaken for each other. The females show a strong theory of mind in the way they hunt in cooperation, but the males do not participate in that (though during early adulthood they hunt as individuals). The differences between gender in humans is also very distinct. It could be that the human adoption of language has overlaid similar innate gender differences in the use of theory of mind. But underlying innate differences could explain a lot of human behavior.

Not saying anything new with this, but merely reframing what any of us a few years beyond puberty already know: groups of men and women do have very different approaches to problems. As a general statement with numerous exceptions, women seem to be more involved in theory of mind activities. Perhaps men's lack of involvement in those permits them to incorporate more inanimate objects into human culture, like learning how to shape rocks into better scraping tools, or build Internets so they can more widely broadcast their ignorance about what it is really all about....

There does seem to be a strong gender difference in how groups of men and women go about solving problems. It is probably innate and probably has something to do with our clear sexual dimorphism extending beyond our physical appearance into how our minds work.

about two weeks ago
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Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects

Will.Woodhull Re:New System: Inner/Outer Planets (170 comments)

I have read your post and understand that it is, alas, representative of contemporary astronomy's position wrt the pairing of the Earth and Moon as not being significantly different from, say, the pairing of Mars and Phobos.

But I take solace in the fact that the Moon is spiralling away from the Earth and long before the death of the Sun makes all this insignificant, the Earth and Moon will, in fact, become a binary planet. According to the precepts of contemporary astronomy.

It does seem extremely odd that what will become true in the future is considered false at present. Especially as the increase in distance that will make the Earth - Moon a binary planet will also diminish the now powerful effects each has upon the other.

about two weeks ago
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Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects

Will.Woodhull Re:New System: Inner/Outer Planets (170 comments)

The alchemists did something like this, on the road to the periodic table of the elements. So it could definitely be a useful way to develop telescopic science.

In a few decades we could then make a distinction between astronomers who accept a rationally based taxonomy of orbital objects, and "alastronomers" whose thought processes are mired in the old school searches for definitions that make distinctions between Pluto, Ceres, etc and Mercury, Mars, etc. Not to mention the hair-splitting the alastronomers use to keep from admitting that the Earth and Moon are a binary planet such that the orbit of either one around Sol has a strong sinusoidal component.

about two weeks ago
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Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects

Will.Woodhull Re:I still think Pluto is a planet (170 comments)

They will be known as "midget planets", I would think.

Except for the ones that are larger than Earth. Those will be taxonomy busters.

about two weeks ago
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Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects

Will.Woodhull Re:I still think Pluto is a planet (170 comments)

The most likely result will be that astronomers will eventually reject the term "planet" entirely. Sorta like how, a few centuries back, they rejected the older term "astrology", due to all its baggage and mis-use by pseudo-scientists and charlatans.

You realize that you are implying that the astronomers who voted in the current astronomical definition of planet are all either psuedo-scientists or charlatans?

That raises some very serious thought-provoking questions. IMHO, using only common sense and no optical assistance mechanisms, it looks to me like they are probably pseudo-scientists, and not charlatans.

about two weeks ago
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Analysis Suggests Solar System Contains Massive Trans-Neptunian Objects

Will.Woodhull Re: Riiiiight. (170 comments)

Seeing these protuberances on slashdot perturbs me a little. But I would be seriously perturbed to see protuberances of astronomical size.

about two weeks ago
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Doxing -- Something To Expect More of In 2015

Will.Woodhull Re:at the moment the only trend (171 comments)

It is useful right now, and has been for several years within the communities where doxing has become a known problem. It is a jargon word that is gaining mainstream use simply because the mainstream is now beginning to see a significant increase in the behavior it describes.

A similar term, "outing" (as in "John was deliberated outed last week by Jim, his ex lover") has been in use among the LBGT communities since at least the 1950s. But that refers explicitly to making public someone's very private sexual orientation.

However "doxing" is different from "outing": it is a more general term describing the unauthorized release of anyone's private information in a public forum. It is rarely an honorable act and in general those who dox others are persons without honor. And the honor of those who condone doxing is questionable. People who dox, or show support for doxing, are people you cannot trust. You should not associate with them, either, since that will raise questions about your personal honor.

"Doxing" is a concept that needs to come into the mainstream, right now.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Are Progressive Glasses a Mistake For Computer Users?

Will.Woodhull Re:if it doesnt work (464 comments)

The most practical solution for most persons is to get contacts that correct for distant vision, and use $10.00USD drugstore reading glasses for close up work. The readers are cheap enough that it makes sense to buy a couple of pair of different strengths: 1.50, 1.75, and 2.25 (jewelry work, etc).

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Are Progressive Glasses a Mistake For Computer Users?

Will.Woodhull Re:if it doesnt work (464 comments)

I have one toric lens contact for mild astigmatism. If I'm laying on my side for a while to work on the car or take a nap, my vision will be strange for a minute or so when I straighten up. They might not be the best choice for someone into extreme sports, figure skating with lots of high speed twirling, aerobatic pilots, etc.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Are Progressive Glasses a Mistake For Computer Users?

Will.Woodhull Re:if it doesnt work (464 comments)

I have been near sighted since early grade school, needing pretty strong correction. I have probably used more than 100 prescription glasses over the years, including various bifocals and progressives.

I did okay with my first pair of bifocals, from about age 40 to 45. I was building custom computer systems and repairs, so a mix of close-up bench work and general vision.

Between 45 and 50 I was doing more classroom and group support and the bifocals were not working well for this. I was having to do a lot of middle distance work as well as close up and far distance. The job required standing at the back of the room and scanning client/student computer screens where distances ranged from 4 feet to 30 feet. Shifting focus in those middle distances was very fatiguing, which made me grumpier than my usual lovely self, which did not win awards from the managers. Fatigue from eyestrain can develop without you being aware of it; you might have a kind-of, sort-of headache or you might just get more obnoxious without realizing what's happening.

Progressives worked well for me, after I deliberately set out to learn how to use them. Your neck gets more of a workout, since you need to tilt your head to bring things into focus. It takes a few days of deliberate practice to get the habit. It is not natural for humans, though I'm told that it is common in other species. Horses were mentioned. I never really looked into it. Once I learned how to use them they were a delight: I never before had such good vision at all distances.

I am now retired. I wear contact lenses set for distance vision and carry reading glasses with me. I still have progressives as a backup. The contacts are partly vanity: near-sighted eye glasses make the eyes look a little smaller than is natural, in a sort of reverse-cute ugliness. But mostly the contacts are better for photography and outdoor sports (I can wear proper hazard glasses when bicycling, etc).

TL,DR SUMMARY: Progressive lenses require doing some training to learn to position your head correctly for different distances. They are very much worth the effort if one is constantly having to shift between middle distance viewing as well as far and near. For photography, hiking, bicycling, kayaking, etc the best is contacts set to make one mildly far sighted, and carry reading glasses.

about a month ago

Submissions

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Wanted: ebola-proof suits and/or terrestrial robots

Will.Woodhull Will.Woodhull writes  |  about 4 months ago

Will.Woodhull (1038600) writes "An open letter to the greatest philanthropists of our time:

Ebola is going to be an increasingly important thing in our lives for at least a couple of decades. An infection with a +70% mortality rate that is on an exponential growth curve is not going to be contained and eradicated any time soon. We are going to live with it, and some of us are likely to die from it, for years to come

We need something similar to a spacesuit to replace the protective garments that care givers are currently wearing. The suit needs to be immune to agents that can be used to assure disinfection of all its exposed surfaces. For instance, the wearer might need to be able to walk through an intense microwave chamber, or a massive bon fire, and probably through fog chambers of antivirus chemicals without being affected, and without destroying the suit's re-useability. The suit would also need to provide a good interior environment, including cooling, sip tubes for hydration and feeding, etc. Last, it should be bullet proof, since in many environments where it would be used there would be persons who would be willing to kill for the apparent advantages the suit might seem to provide. Finally, it needs to be mass produced: everyone involved in healthcare delivery should have one at hand.

Any well built ebola proof suit is likely to be a good basis for designing a spacesuit. Even in the unlikely event that we find some way to get rid of ebola in the next few months, the work done on the ebola suit would be of benefit.

Would someone like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Warren Buffet take this project on? We need these suits-- like literally yesterday when you think of the number of health care providers who have died from ebola, and some of those deaths have even been among persons who have the best possible gear now available, and the very best training in how to use it."
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A weighty comic: xkcd on gravity wells

Will.Woodhull Will.Woodhull writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Will.Woodhull writes "xkcd's comic for today is a wonderful description of the solar system in terms of gravity wells. Don't miss it!

It does raise a couple of questions: how accurate are the numbers (can we trust our comics in this day and age)? should this be incorporated into K-12 schooling? And what's with those Titanics: it seems like like they are singing a Frank Sinatra lyric with their lungs full of helium?"

Link to Original Source

Journals

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First Entry

Will.Woodhull Will.Woodhull writes  |  more than 5 years ago

I was active on Slashdot from June, 2002 to about a month ago as MysticGoat, account #582871.

I am continuing from this time forward with this account, under a nickname that is very close to my name in real life.

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