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Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone

azcoyote Re:The Dangers of the World (784 comments)

(Second comment) Come to think of it, after reading the article, it seems to me that this case can be compared to the issue of vaccines. I think most people on Slashdot are probably annoyed with the anti-vaccine crowd, and the same logic applies here. Yes, people have to take risks, but it is not responsible to take risks that unfairly cost the rest of society. If (as someone else noted) society is safer today in part because kids don't wander the streets freely, then that lone kid who is left to free-roam is more likely to be the target of nefarious activities. Or, as someone points out in the article, child abductions aren't the only problem: car accidents are a serious threat. In any case, when something bad happens it isn't only the parents who are going to be footing the bill. Of course, there are limits to this logic; it is impossible to do anything without costing society something; but at least it is important to note that the idea that we can simply exercise our free decision in a vacuum that has no consequences on anyone else about which other people should be concerned is simply a fantasy. We are social beings whether we like it or not, and we are not merely responsible to our own individual parenting ideologies, but also to the demands of a society that is more than the sum collection of the free-wills of individual persons.

about two weeks ago

Parents Investigated For Neglect For Letting Kids Walk Home Alone

azcoyote Re:The Dangers of the World (784 comments)

I appreciate your perspective--thanks for sharing it. I think perhaps it shows that moderation in opinions is wise; one might expect you to have been completely pro-CPS because of your experience, but you recognize that there are more layers to it. Hence you argue that calling CPS was going too far, even though you think their decision to let the kids walk home was the wrong one.

Even though I don't have your personal experience, I have watched way too many episodes of Forensic Files and Cold Case Files not to feel annoyed with parents making such dangerous decisions in the name of supposed freedom. i try hard to balance teaching prudence with giving my kids a long leash, but I would not let such young kids walk home unsupervised.

That being said, my opinion on the matter is more pro-CPS than yours, but I still think that it stops short of being extreme. I've heard plenty of CPS horror stories. However, I think that calling CPS in this case was acceptable, precisely because one call to CPS should not result in losing one's children. Rather, it is possible that one minor negligent activity might point to other worse activities, and CPS should at least have this case on file. If this is the only thing they've done, then they merely get a stern warning about being careful. After all, at the very least a cynical person can point out that kidnapped or otherwise missing children cost the state a lot of money to track down, so at the very least the government can criticize people for wasting public money. The same parents who talk about a child's freedom of space, after losing a child, will be kicking down the doors of the police station demanding that the government do everything necessary to bring their kid back.

about two weeks ago

Authors Alarmed As Oxford Junior Dictionary Drops Nature Words

azcoyote Re:Age group? (174 comments)

True--and on top of that, definitions for words that are already broadly familiar as nature words are not particularly helpful when located in a dictionary. When I look up blackberry in Oxford's comprehensive online dictionary, I get:

1a. The edible berry-like fruit of the bramble, Rubus fruticosus, and its cultivated varieties (see sense 1b), which is an aggregate fruit consisting of a cluster of soft, sweet, purple-black drupelets. Later also: the similar berries of any of various other species of Rubus.

Now how does that help a kid at all unless he's doing a science project? And even then, a smarter kid will at least get a botanical encyclopedia. In effect, all that he needs to know when reading a book is already said in the word: berries. Something like minnow is not so obvious, but all he needs to know is: a kind of fish.

I remember as a kid when reading literature that rattled on different nature words I could hardly keep the names of different trees, flowers, and land formations straight, because without having experienced these individual things as different from other individual things, they had no real meaning for me, no matter what the dictionary said. In other words, unless I have eaten a minnow and compared it to a trout in an explicit way, then all that happens when I see the word "minnow" is that my mind functionally swaps it out with the word "fish." Perhaps a more useful dictionary for kids to read literature would actually describe something of the cultural significance of words... e.g. it would describe a salmon as a fish that people enjoy eating, and for some reason enjoy it more than mere canned tuna.

My guess is that the only reason people are complaining about this dictionary anyway is for political-ideological reasons. I'm sure many non-nature words were taken out, but because they fear the technologization of nature they are looking for something to attack (and certain feminists would share this fear as a kind of masculinization of language against a supposedly feminine pristine nature).

about two weeks ago

The Open Office Is Destroying the Workplace

azcoyote Re:I hate it (420 comments)

Even monks tended to have private monastic cells where they went throughout the day to pray alone.

about a month ago

The World Is Not Falling Apart

azcoyote Re:The good outweights the bad (208 comments)

The problem with generalizations, however, is whose world? It is easy to say "things are getting better" when we live in comfortable first-world situations where even the poor among us may count as rich in other countries. So long as violence and rape don't happen on our doorstep, we decide that things are better. But it all means very little to the person who happens to be on the underside of this better world. In short, the ways in which we tend to judge the world to be better tend to be predetermined according to limited scales that almost guarantee the result. Hence we might say that there are fewer wars today, but that does not mean that violence is going away; war has shifted into terrorism, and murder has escalated into the phenomenon of serial killers and school shootings. I don't doubt that in the last few years even these things may have decreased, but things often trend on larger cycles than a few years, and it may be that some of the low points we are experiencing are mere incidental shifts within the overall curve, rather than real and lasting improvements.

The danger, of course, is that we so quickly jump to giving ourselves a pat on the back, and we stop ourselves from seeing the evils and suffering that are out there. Or, we find ways to explain them away in order to exonerate ourselves for our inaction. One might have trouble swallowing the claim that the world is categorically a better place if one is on the front lines in Ukraine, or if one had a brother murdered by the police in Mexico, but we who are safe and comfortable can always pretend that it's those people's fault and theirs alone for not making their country as wonderful as ours. We refuse to see that the prosperity of the proud is intricately linked with the suffering of the downtrodden.

about a month ago

Researchers Accidentally Discover How To Turn Off Skin Aging Gene

azcoyote Re:Skin deep, but that's where the money is ! (175 comments)

Exactly. What people don't understand is that economic interests are not fundamentally opposed to the progress of technology--they actually drive it. We like to think that technology soars as high as our aspirations, but invention costs money and at the end of the day, commercialism pays the bills. We are constantly promised flying cars and cities on the moon, but the real tangible products only arrive when they become economically viable in some sense. There were mp3 players before the iPod, but only the iPod really pushed the market forward such that technological innovation went from better and better mp3 players, to smart phones, to tablets, etc. This is because, on the one hand, the iPod was surrounded by excellent marketing, and on the other hand, the product itself was shaped by economic interests to target the then-current market in a superior way. Hence it may not be that the iPod was the best and newest technology that could be produced, but it was perhaps the best blend of innovation, marketing, and economic viability for the situation, and thus because of its marketability it drove future innovation in the direction of handheld wireless devices.

Back to the situation at hand, companies that sell skincare products do have a vested interest in bad skin, but only to the extent to which it enhances the marketability of their products. They might be able to form a conspiracy network and hide such a miracle product only if human nature were not what it is, and economics were not driven by competition. One company still has to compete with another, and so one company will likely invest in high-tech means of skin care in order to dwarf another. Thus there will be no conspiracy to bury this new technology. Rather, one company will promote the technology enough to gain an upper hand in a high-end market (e.g. not cheap Suave products like I buy), but cost and convenience will prevent this technology from eliminating the skin care industry altogether.

Human genetic engineering could change the situation, but that will involve complex issues (patented genes?) and other economic and political factors that will be external to the skin care industry in itself. Like all other technologies, human genetic engineering will be driven by the economy, no matter how much transhumanist idealism pushes for it as the supposed next step in human evolution. In the meantime, this particular discovery will more likely lead to lesser technologies that purport to target Granzyme B without eliminating it genetically.

about a month and a half ago

Comcast Sued For Turning Home Wi-Fi Routers Into Public Hotspots

azcoyote Re:Comcast Business Class (291 comments)

I'm just a home user with Comcast but I use my own DOCSIS 2.0 modem (the max Comcast speed in my small city is so slow that it hardly makes a difference). The catch is that every four months or so Comcast seems to do a review of my account and decide that my modem belongs to them. So they start billing me a rental fee for me own modem, and then I have to call them and yell at them. This resets the clock, but in another four months or so it'll happen again, and again, and again.

The trick with dealing with Comcast, in my experience, is that you should always follow the prompts for cancelling your service. The only people who can actually help you or give you discounts or anything are the guys who have to talk you out of ditching Comcast. When my contract runs out and they start to bill me more, I usually just have to threaten to switch to AT&T, and they will offer me some kind of deal.

Ironically, the reason I use Comcast is because there's no options here other than Comcast and AT&T, and despite their repeated attempts to lay claim to my modem and their general sleaziness, Comcast seems to be the *less evil* option for me. AT&T had me on a bimonthly schedule of adding false charges to my bill, and a daily schedule of outages and crappy service. It's sad when one of the most evil companies in America seems to be the lesser of two evils.

about a month and a half ago

New Analysis Pushes Back Possible Origin For Antikythera Mechanism

azcoyote Re:A lesson about History- and the liar narrative (62 comments)

Correct. The scientific method requires a hypothesis, which may be hinted at by evidence but still requires imagination to extrapolate from preliminary evidence and hints toward a possible outcome. A bad hypothesis can stifle an outcome. Moreover, once evidence is gathered, the more speculative the conclusion the more imagination is required to piece disparate evidence together into a plausible possibility. The Antikythera device is a great example of this, because at least from what I've seen, much of the speculation about it is grounded on some very tenuous evidence because of the condition of the device. It is not entirely clear what it looked like, because its original appearance has to be extrapolated from heavily corroded junk, and this requires a lot of speculation and imagination.

about 2 months ago

Statistician Creates Mathematical Model To Predict the Future of Game of Thrones

azcoyote Re:My mathmatical prediction (127 comments)

lol, it was sarcasm. But the real math is in the profits. One could construct an economic formula to represent the profitability of fiction in popular markets relative to the general unexpectedness of its events and the use of cliffhangers and secrecy to keep the reader attached. I say "unexpectedness" and not "unpredictability" because it may really be that such outcomes, because they are determined by the desire to compel and surprise the reader in order to make the book profitable, are actually extremely predictable.

For example, I used to annoy my wife my predicting the ending to NCIS episodes long in advance. The killer would almost always be (1) the person you least suspect, because the character has no real rational justification for the crime in the early episode and (2) the one superfluous character introduced in the episode, since they didn't want to pay much and dedicate screen time to characters who did not push the plot forward. In short, because the writers of the show were trying so hard to be surprising, they would cook up contrived motives that could be presented in the last five minutes of the episode, and then make the one person who seemed most innocent actually turn out to be guilty. But then, this is predictable. It's just like how if you've watched enough episodes of House, M.D., you can easily guess that the person who first gets sick during the prologue is not the actual person who's going to pass out and end up in Dr. House's care.

In short, it is somewhat silly to analyze literature in terms of a kind of Asimovian statistical "psychohistory," when the real principles that structure the literature are so evident. For example, whether or not a particular character appears in future books is not determined relative to characters' appearances in prior books, but according to the MO of the author, which is not something that remains static over the years but which develops and fluctuates according to his historically-conditioned priorities. Vale is honest about the limitations of the statistical approach, but what I think is necessary is to recognize how that which derives from human freedom but ultimately manifests in statistical ways is always also at the same time codetermined by implicit principles and formulae (e.g. the economic viability of such and such kind of writing), especially economic ones.

about 4 months ago

Statistician Creates Mathematical Model To Predict the Future of Game of Thrones

azcoyote My mathmatical prediction (127 comments)

The next book opens with an interesting but hard to follow prologue concerning random throwaway characters that you never heard of and will never hear about again.

Almost nothing really significant happens for tens of chapters, even though every chapter bleeds into the next with a cliffhanger making you want to read the next one. Plus there's several gratuitous sex scenes to keep the Slashdotters interested.

After many chapters of pretty much no development, something horrific happens toward the end making the fans say, "NO! He can't do that!" and so they read on.

It closes off with an unsatisfying cliffhanger ending with a teaser epilogue that advertises yet another book. We still learn pretty much nothing about what is north of the wall and any protagonists we rooted for are that much farther from achieving anything good. There's no deep moral significance and nothing to be learned about life except that one is better off not being a character in one of George R.R. Martin's books.

Rinse and repeat until the series becomes unprofitable. (Unless Martin gets hit by a car, seven novels simply will not be enough.)

about 3 months ago

This 'SimCity 4' Region With 107 Million People Took Eight Months of Planning

azcoyote Re:simcity 4 is best simcity (103 comments)

I myself miss Sim City 2000 the most, especially for the wacky newspapers.

about 5 months ago

"MythBusters" Drops Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci

azcoyote Re:My wife will miss Grant. (364 comments)

Grant is the only one I'll miss. I might watch the show again now that the other two are gone.

about 5 months ago

Efforts To Turn Elephants Into Woolly Mammoths Are Already Underway

azcoyote Re:Bad timing? (147 comments)

Nah, they'll be perfect when nuclear winter comes around. ;o)

about 8 months ago

Why Hollywood's Best Robot Stories Are About Slavery

azcoyote Re:It only can become slavery... (150 comments)

I don't think it will ever be a problem, anyway, inasmuch as free-will is not something that can be developed through a quantitative increase in heuristics and processing power. It is a qualitatively different kind of intelligence, and not something that we can invent. The problem, however, will always be that because people believe that they can endow something with free-will, there will be (A) attempts to create superior robots that mimic free-will to a convincing degree, and (B) people who foolishly believe that their AI has free-will, and therefore should be treated as a person. It's analogous to the way in which many people are convinced that their dogs qualify as persons on the same level as human beings. In the future, it is likely that people will become so attached to AIs that they go so far as to insist that they are people.

about 9 months ago

Virtual Reality: Purpose Beyond Gaming

azcoyote Re:CAD, and Maintenance Manuals (72 comments)

Maintenance manuals are a good idea, but VR editions would probably cost more time and money than a company is willing to spend, especially when they'd rather have to buy something new than fix something old.

about 9 months ago

You Are What You're Tricked Into Eating

azcoyote Possible, but the rhetoric is outlandish (499 comments)

One can argue for increased protein, but the frequent claim that this represents a better, more "natural" way of living is suspect. We have to come to terms with the fact that humanity's natural state is technological. We cannot even survive in most of the climates in which we live without clothing, which is a basic form of technology. The protests against processed food are, in a sense, highly dishonest, because (1) they delude themselves into thinking that the technological aspect of our food is the problem, rather than any issue of self-control, and (2) especially for Americans the call for government regulation shows that while we pretend that the market itself can regulate everything and set the terms of value, we are uneasy with the results, which tend to devalue human life and well-being for the sake of profit.

Besides, I certainly don't need to go to the freezer section to buy unhealthy, fatty food. Some of my favorite homemade meals, such as traditional Mexican enchiladas, are bad enough for me.

about 9 months ago

Comcast Takes 2014 Prize For Worst Company In America

azcoyote Re:Well Deserved (195 comments)

Yeah, every so often they decide once again that the cable modem that I own must somehow belong to them, and they start billing me for renting my own equipment.

about 10 months ago

What's In a Username? the Power of Gamer Tags

azcoyote Re:It's a fine balance (99 comments)


I think there's definitely something about gamertags that impacts the way people respond to you. I remember when playing Gears or War or Halo there seemed to be an unspoken policy of avoiding being on the team of someone with an all-lowercase name, because it at least seemed to often be the case that such a person was a young kid or a newer player. Of course, looks are deceptive. There are many good players who use all-lowercase gamertags. But even if we cognitively know that our assumptions are faulty, that does not stop us from unconsciously acting upon them before we think about it. (Hence Pascal says that human reason is subject to imagination: you could put the world's smartest philosopher on a secure plank hanging over a cliff, and even though he knows that he won't fall, he will probably still be afraid of it.)

The only name change I paid for on Xbox Live was to make my gamertag more interesting and less newbish, so that other experienced players would be less likely to avoid being on my team. You can say that one's skill should speak for itself, but you have to win a game first in order for your skill to speak, and in team-based matches a set of bad teammates can easily make you look like a newb.

So most of them will choose names that give the impression of a callow youth trying to grossly overcompensate for their (obvious) inadequacies. Not only are these individuals easy to spot, their choices are more likely to make them targets for scorn and derision rather than convey the impression they are better than they really are.

I agree. The mark of many newb gamertags will often be that he or she chooses a name that he or she *thinks* is intimidating. It would be better to imitate very closely gamertags of players who *are* intimidating, when these have some distinctive character. I opted for something in the middle, which would not look like it was trying to be too clever but would not immediately appear to be newbish.

about 10 months ago

Transhumanist Children's Book Argues, "Death Is Wrong"

azcoyote Re:Huh? (334 comments)

Yeah. One can say that death is merely built into the system if the system itself is considered determinative of all value. Hence one can agree that from a naturalistic and materialistic standpoint, one can no more say that death is wrong than that fly death is wrong, or that evolution itself is wrong. But if we believe in a system of value that extends beyond the raw system of evolution--if we believe that there is anything worthwhile to human life beyond being a mere instantiation of the power of evolution and the endless cycle of life and death--then we can believe that death is wrong.

Not that I think this criticism applies to what Jhon said, but a great inconsistency lies in the fact that many of us cannot help but believe that our lives are worth something, that the people we love should not simply die, but still we profess a nihilistic materialism that cannot of itself ground the value of human life. The question we have to ask then is whether our striving toward improvements in medical science is merely for the sake of showing off the wonders of technology, or whether we really believe that people should live longer. If we answer the latter, are we not implying that life is morally superior to death, that technology is not wrong if it makes us more than another cog in the evolutionary system?

I have read theological attempts to claim that human death is justifiable simply in view of evolution and the cycle of life. They argue that even if we die horrible deaths, at least we are doing good by feeding the worms that eat our bodies. But who can actually profess this view in all honesty apart from depression or mere cynicism? How many of us can really say, "At least the poor worms will have something to eat"?

That aside, I do agree with Jhon that the moral value of extending life is not necessarily the same at that of living forever. Nevertheless, we should not consider death valuable in itself simply because it is a mechanism of evolution. Technology, even if it violates the usual flow of nature, is not thereby something immoral or destructive. We are technological beings and the products of evolution, and the kind of nature-freedom dualism that makes people to think that technology and nature are incompatible simply doesn't make sense.

about 10 months ago

Satoshi Nakamoto Found? Not So Fast

azcoyote Re:I don't understand the logic behind this (182 comments)

True--and, in fact, it makes more sense for someone who really wants to remain anonymous to remain silent and let an imposter be the center of attention. He might have posted to exonerate Dorian because he felt sorry for him, but what does it really matter? It's not like he was under arrest or being investigated by the police. Perhaps he posted to clear Dorian because he didn't like someone else getting credit, even if he won't stand up and take the credit himself. Or maybe Dorian just posted in order to further the confusion and try to trick people into thinking that he isn't the guy.

about a year ago


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