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Places Where the Silicon Valley Bubble Could Pop

curunir Re:I Read TFA... (107 comments)

Read the linked TechCrunch article...it's really a great explanation of everything that's going on. One good example was Mountain View working on a commercial development that would bring 42,550 jobs to the city while only creating additional housing for 7000 people. This in a city where already far more people work than live. To Mountain View, it's simple...residents require more services like schools, fire departments and police than do office complexes. But those workers have to live somewhere and cities like Mountain View that are acting selfishly are pushing rents up in nearby cities.

Two of those cities are San Francisco and Oakland. Both cities have a lot of housing when you ignore one minor detail...the current residents that would need to be displaced. But since all those jobs in Mountain View pay way more than the current residents make, developers and landlords are only too happy profiteer off the well-compensated tech workers by pricing the current residents out of the market.

But, as the piece lays out, it's not tech workers that are to blame and, for the most part, not tech companies either. It's mostly local and state government's 30+ years of stupidity that's led to this. Starting with prop 13 in 1978 and the backlash that led to rent control laws, government created an environment where homeowners fight tooth and nail against new housing and rent control drives rent up by distorting the market. The ensuing difference between controlled and uncontrolled rents causes conflict between tenants and landlords who see how much money they're losing each month. So the city adds even more idiotic regulations that ensure a certain amount of housing is sold/rented below market rates, which has income restrictions that just about guarantee that poor people won't be able to afford them...but zero-income children of parents willing to cosign qualify quite easily.

Meanwhile, companies keep growing/starting up and more and more high-paying jobs keep coming to the area. But thanks to all those "I got mine, screw the rest of you" homeowners who keep new developments from being built, those jobs come without the corresponding increase in necessary housing. So what are current landlords to do...every form of meddling is forcing prices through the roof to the point where only highly-paid professionals can afford them? You could either sit by and allow your tenant to pay you a small fraction of what the place is worth (and sometimes rent it out for full price on AirBnB...no rent control there) or you could use some sleazy tactic to evict the long-time tenant and let the boom dollars roll in. Also, notice I didn't say tech professionals...we make up less than a quarter of the well-to-do SF population...there's more finance than tech.

As per usual, the ones most hurt by this are the working poor. The abject poor are doing the same as ever...when you make zero and live off city-provided social programs, rent prices really don't affect you all that much. But the people trying to be productive members of society are basically forced to move away and commute back to the city. And this has some really nasty side effects...like police officers who have no real attachment to the community they serve because they've been priced out of living there.

Protesting the Google bus makes for a great shot on the 11pm news, but is otherwise counter-productive. If we want to fix the issue, we should:
a) Repeal prop 13, rent control, the below-market-rate program and all the other government meddling.
b) Tell homeowners to go fuck themselves and start building new housing as fast as we can.
c) Add significant tax incentives for people who live close to work. This would have the dual effect of being "green" by reducing commutes and making it unattractive to work in cities that do not provide enough housing to support the businesses there.

Alternatively, we could just accept that poor people will need to move and let it happen. It's heartless, but given how bungling government is, it's pretty much inevitable. The unfortunate part is that what's considered poor is almost ridiculous. Someone making $100k/yr will basically never be able to afford to buy a home in SF.

See...SF and Oakland have a lot to do with Silicon Valley :-)

about 4 months ago
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Figuring Out the iPad's Place

curunir Re:It already found its place. (333 comments)

I've got two iPads and I think it's misguided to look at it replacing desktop/laptops or phones. The commonality between those two devices is basically limited to activities that I see as having become commoditized...email, web and the like.

But the iPad has partially replaced two of my other devices. I have a 55" flatscreen and PS3 that get significantly less use these days, and it's mostly because of the iPad. I'm not a heavy gamer, so it's notable that I've filled the PS3 void with games that are significantly simpler than what I have on the PS3, but I still find the greater variety of games available on the iPad compelling. For the price of one PS3 game, I can get ~30 iPad games and augment that with many free games. That means I'm almost never bored, despite the lack of depth of each game. And while the iPad might not be as compelling a media viewing device as my 55" screen, I find myself using it more often. It's more convenient, there's no remotes, no switching inputs and streaming is easier. Media companies often bend over backwards to prohibit streaming to devices that can be hooked up to a TV, but they'll make streaming to an iPad work well. When you add in advantages like not disturbing someone who's sleeping and not needing to pause to go to the bathroom I find myself unconsciously gravitating towards streaming on my iPad.

Any discussion of whether the iPad is displacing another consumer electronic device should include TV and gaming consoles long before you include computers or cell phones.

about 4 months ago
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Whole Foods: America's Temple of Pseudoscience

curunir Re:Because... (794 comments)

Great, now Syngenta's GMO sweet corn is labeled and Monsanto's non-GMO broccoli is not.

The label doesn't need to just say GMO...they can put their name on it as well. But I've got no love for any of the companies in that field, so I'm fine with hurting other GMO companies in addition to Monsanto.

You mean the ones anti-GMO groups routinely lie about?

I don't claim to follow it closely, but I've heard those "lies" from many different sources and it's just you calling them lies. Given that I don't really see an upside to GMO crops, I don't really see a need to reexamine what I've heard.

Evolution is just a theory, disagree with that? Then why not label it, just for information's sake?

Now you're just being obtuse. Theory, in a scientific context, doesn't mean what you're pretending it means. Gravity is also a theory. Relativity is a theory. The use of the word 'theory' doesn't mean we don't know that it's true. But I'd imagine that textbook authors would consider, "This book contains information on the theory of evolution." to be a badge of honor rather than the stain that "GMO" would be, so I guess I'm okay with that label...if a creationist wants to avoid evolution, that's their right and I support that. Just as long as those "other" textbooks have to wear the "This book contains 'information' on creationism" label.

about 6 months ago
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Whole Foods: America's Temple of Pseudoscience

curunir Re:Because... (794 comments)

I don't give a rats ass about whether GMOs are healthy or not. I want them labeled because I don't want a dime of my money to go to Monsanto. I want Monsanto to die because of their patent policy, exploitation of the third world and general willingness to endanger our ability to feed ourselves.

Fuck anyone who frames the labeling of GMOs as a health issue, be they for or against. It's an informed consumer issue, nothing more.

about 6 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: When Is a Better Career Opportunity Worth a Pay Cut?

curunir Listen to yourself (263 comments)

I've been through this a few times and, strangely enough, I've found wisdom in a small speech from a mediocre movie that's helped with my last few.

To paraphrase:

There's no such thing as a tough decision. We make hundreds of decisions each day and, over the course of a year, the number of decisions we make runs into tens or even hundreds of thousands. We only think decisions are hard when we don't like the answer that we've come up with.

The movie was otherwise forgettable, but that quote has stuck with me and I've used it on quite a few occasions to try to listen to whatever voice inside me has already decided and drown out the conscious thoughts that are trying to undermine that decision with logical arguments. It looks weird to type, but I've found that whether it's decisions in a relationship, career or even what to eat for dinner, starting from the position that I've already made the decision and then trying to figure out what my decision was makes the decision making process easier.

Listening to your description, I can guess at the decision you've made. But I encourage you to read your own words aloud as if they aren't yours and try to figure it out for yourself. Chances are you're trying to talk yourself into either staying or going. There's no guarantee that this will help you arrive a the correct decision. But it will at least help you determine which outcome you actually want.

about 6 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: When Is a Better Career Opportunity Worth a Pay Cut?

curunir Re:Almost always yes, with a but (263 comments)

4) If you've been working as an engineer for 30 years and you still need the money, you're doing it wrong.

Moreover, I've felt for quite some time that I need to have at least a year's salary saved up so that I can do my job effectively. And by doing my job effectively, I need to feel comfortable saying, among other things:

    * That's illegal/immoral, I'm not going to do it.
    * That's a dumb idea, we shouldn't do it.
    * That's an impossible deadline, I'm not going to agree to meet it.

If I'm not entirely comfortable with them calling my bluff and losing my job over the issue, I won't feel comfortable saying those things. And, as an engineering leader, I need to be able to say those things if they need to be said.

about 6 months ago
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Killing Net Neutrality Could Be Good For You

curunir Re:riiiight (361 comments)

And the Netflix/ESPN argument is a strawman. Net neutrality isn't about protecting established players like Netflix, ESPN or anyone big enough to play the "withholding our services from your customers" card. Net neutrality is about protecting the startup that wants to challenge Netflix and doesn't have the leverage to push back against the telcos.

about 6 months ago
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Audience Jeers Contestant Who Uses Game Theory To Win At 'Jeopardy'

curunir Re:He's Playing To Win (412 comments)

He's not necessarily playing to win, because the rules of the game don't encourage him to do that...from his perspective, ties are as good or better than a win. If the rules were changed such that the two tying contestants would split the amount that each of them accrued, he'd most certainly play to win. But a tie means a) he keeps his whole total for himself, b) he comes back to play again and, possibly most importantly, c) he brings with him to the next game an opponent he's fairly certain he can beat. To see why the last one is important, you have to realize that there are a certain number of exceptional players that are really hard to beat (call them a "Ken Jennings"). Until each contestant plays the game, there's a certain probability that one of them will be a Ken Jennings. A typical winner will get two new contestants each game and so doubles the odds that he or she will face a Ken Jennings. Chu, by halving the number of new players he faces, also halves the odds of running into an opponent who's better than he is.

Given all the advantages of playing not to lose instead of playing to win, I'd say he's pretty smart for doing so. He's getting to keep a winner's amount each time, gets to come back to play again and limits the number of untested contestants he has to play against. Basically, he's playing to win money rather than win the game, which are close enough to the same goal that they've historically been inseparable. But he's figured out how to separate them and, in doing so, has angered people who enjoy the game more than the money.

about 7 months ago
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The Moderately Enthusiastic Programmer

curunir Re:Management bonuses (533 comments)

Bonus targets are set by level and there are equivalencies between engineers and managers. My manager classification corresponds to a Staff Engineer (which I was, prior to becoming a manager). Bonus targets are a percentage of salary, and my salary is only slightly higher than the rest of the team (though, again, my salary hasn't really gone up much since I switched to management). There is a concerted effort to ensure that the pay structure and career path doesn't force people to stop being engineers. An engineer maxes out at Fellow, which is a VP-level equivalency. The bonuses are really pretty transparent and it's the same for managers and engineers, everyone knows their bonus target percentage, salary and then the formula takes into account company performance, BU performance and the rating that the manager submits based on his/her own assessment and peer reviews. The bonus targets for each level aren't made public, but once people get bumped up once or twice, it's pretty easy to extrapolate.

The one area where there is an almost complete lack of transparency is in equity awards. The annual equity awards are based on two manager ratings, only one of which is shared with the employee. The other rating, retention, focuses not on how indispensable, how hirable and how likely to leave an employee is. This is kept secret because it could encourage counter-productive employee behavior like threatening to leave and siloing (trying to horde knowledge of a particular component rather than sharing it with coworkers).

Is that what you were looking for?

about 7 months ago
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The Moderately Enthusiastic Programmer

curunir Re:Dreaming of code? (533 comments)

You pay taxes if you take the award in cash. If you take the award in gift cards, the amount is grossed up.

FWIW, we still have budget for team building events. The 10% reserve is strictly an individual compensation fund.

about 7 months ago
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The Moderately Enthusiastic Programmer

curunir Re:Dreaming of code? (533 comments)

The deceit is in how it's presented to employees. If I'm an employee and I get an award, I feel special/appreciated. But if I know that there's a pot set aside for each manager and it's his/her job to give it to the team each quarter, the specialness goes away. Now I start to count my awards to ensure that I get 10% of my salary in awards each quarter.

By revealing the program, it stops feeling like an extra perk given for valuable work and starts feeling more like something you're entitled to and something that, if you don't get it, is a negative commentary on performance. It would be just like your bonus...when you don't get it, you feel a sense that you've lost something and the high you get from getting it is somewhat lessened by the fact that you expected to get it.

about 7 months ago
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The Moderately Enthusiastic Programmer

curunir Re:Its across the board... (533 comments)

The reason passion matters for developers is the speed at which our industry changes. For someone working if a field with fewer changes than ours, going to school and learning how to do the job can be enough. But for a developer, staying qualified for the job requires a commitment to continually better yourself. You have to read up on the newest technologies, trends and methodologies on an ongoing basis...and most employers aren't willing to have you do it during work.

This is why they're looking for people who passionately love developing. Those are the people that spend half their time away from work hacking on personal projects where they're free from any constraint around technology selection or architecture that might be imposed at work. What you're looking for is someone who views writing code as almost a form of play. That's what they mean by passionate...that intrinsic motivation that doesn't need to be cultivated, because companies are terrible at making employees grow their skills and even worse at monitoring those changes in employees....it's just simpler to screen for it in the interview process.

about 7 months ago
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The Moderately Enthusiastic Programmer

curunir Re:Dreaming of code? (533 comments)

It seems strange, but it's often just as important or even more so that employees receive genuine compliments from peers and managers when they deserve them

Yep. I work for a Fortune 100 company and one of the surprises when I moved to management was that the budget for salaries is actually 110% of what developers think it is (i.e. if you added up all the salaries that developers think they make, there would be an extra 10% left in the budget.) That last 10% is intended for managers to dole out as awards, which can be taken either as bonus pay or in grossed up gift cards. It was explained to me that the company found that employees were happier making the same overall amount when a portion of the pay was doled out for something they did well. That attachment to a job well done made the pay more meaningful to them than it would have been had it simply been added into their paycheck. And the encouragement to take the money as a gift card also helped associate the company with the spending of discretionary money, which is something that people find pleasurable.

The whole thing was an interesting look into how HR departments are using psychological research to help retain valuable employees. I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about it...on the one hand, it's deceitful that this is being done without employees realizing it. On the other hand, it's making them more happy in their jobs. It's almost like a doctor prescribing a placebo pill...if the patient gets better, does it really matter that it's actually due to a psychological phenomenon?

about 7 months ago
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Powering Phones, PCs Using Sugar

curunir Re:Amp hours per kilogram (199 comments)

And it even if they had the energy part right, it wouldn't be the most useful measure of energy density where batteries are concerned. When it comes to batteries, energy per kilogram is a less useful measure than energy per liter. For example, Hydrogen has a very high MJ/KG but a comparatively lower MJ/L. Batteries made with heavier metals will likely still store energy more efficiently into a small space than a biofuel cell like the one in the story.

Most of the applications of batteries require fitting as much energy possible into a confined space rather than fitting as much energy possible into a small amount of mass.

about 7 months ago
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Doctors Say Food Stamp Cuts Could Cause Higher Healthcare Costs

curunir Re: Decreased Costs (1043 comments)

While it's true that the educated and comfortable aren't really capable of understanding the plight of the poor, they're also in a position to think about these issues in an analytical fashion absent the desperation that comes with poverty. For instance, views on foreign aid to Africa have been changing recently. This is the result of studies that have shown that while well meaning, the aid keeps those receiving it from achieving self sufficiency.

So should we never question the types of aid that we provide in this country? Welfare is both a safety net and a web in from which the poor rarely escape. Are we not creating the same sort of dependence here at home that we do with foreign aid? Is there not a better way for us to be spending that money to help turn these people from perpetually non-productive members of society into contributors? I think we can all agree that our social safety net should act more like a trampoline to help people bottom out and, with a slight jump on their part, return to a height where they can stand on their own two feet.

As such, I think it's our duty as privileged people without the day-to-day concerns of figuring out how to survive to continually question whether the money we're spending to help poor people is being spent in their best interests...albeit with a bit more tact and empathy than GP.

about 7 months ago
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Counterpoint: Why Edward Snowden May Not Deserve Clemency

curunir Re:What's good for the goose (573 comments)

I'm done making a distinction between the people who serve and the people who command. I don't support the troops, not anymore.

The actions of our military would not be possible without the complicity of those who serve. At this point, the misdeeds of the military are well documented and anyone serving is giving their tacit support to those misdeeds by enlisting. The US political system is fundamentally flawed and unlikely to change things. If we start directing our ire at those in the military, perhaps the specter of shame and disdain will cause future enlistees to reconsider their choice to join up and a lack of "boots on the ground" will curtail the obnoxious behavior of the military in a way that no amount of voting or political activism can.

I do agree that some of the treatment of veterans is wrong and I do sympathize with them, however it's an issue that I won't support for the above reasons. Unlike Vietnam vets, all current vets have voluntarily sided with a government that they had no right to believe would treat them ethically. They've chosen their side and it's in opposition to mine.

Note that everything I've said above applies equally to any white-collar worker in the defense space. If you work on weapons systems or in the intelligence community, you've sided with people I consider morally bankrupt and I consider it your ethical duty to extricate yourself as soon as responsibly possible.

about 8 months ago
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NSA Head Asks How To Spy Without Collecting Metadata

curunir Re:Then Fire Him (509 comments)

I don't have a problem with him not knowing how to do his job, I have a problem with him not understanding what his job should be. His whole argument is begs the question, do the dots even need to be connected?

We can live with a certain level of unconnected dots. Terrorist attacks may go up, but they're such an insignificant danger to us, that an increase in terrorism won't register when compared to the things we should actually be afraid of. The absolutist thinking behind needing to prevent the bad guys from doing bad things at all costs is what needs to change. We need to switch to a mindset of needing to prevent as much as is possible within the rules of our society.

We need someone in his job who understands that it's okay to fail if the failure happens for the right reasons.

about 8 months ago
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NZ Traveler's Electronics Taken At Airport; Interest in Snowden to Blame?

curunir Re:First (453 comments)

Nah...it's not me, maybe you're thinking of Sauron.

about 8 months ago
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Lawsuits Seek To Turn Chimpanzees Into Legal Persons

curunir Re:Inevitable inference (641 comments)

It seems to me that scientists have judged animals as guilty of being unconscious until proven conscious.

Except that, in this case, chimps have been proven to be conscious. They've been taught sign language, are able to articulate feelings and desires and have shown the ability to understand concepts that are quite sophisticated. They're not at the level of normal humans, but their IQs correspond with moderately-retarded humans who do have legal rights.

Their lack of legal rights, at this point, cannot be attributed to any lack of proven consciousness. It's specifically their lack of personhood that prevents them from having rights. While that might seem like a synonym for intelligence and consciousness, it isn't currently.

about 9 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Cheap Second Calculators For Tests?

curunir Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (328 comments)

I suppose that's the difference between now and ~20 years ago. Back then, the TI-81 had no way to load a program apart from typing it in manually. The TI-85 had a data cable, but that only allowed a program/data to be transferred between two TI-85s. If the calculator had simpler ways to load programs, there would have been huge potential for abuse. But we had to write the programs ourselves.

And it really isn't possible to write a program to perform a task without truly understanding it. It's a lesson that I learned during the course of my CS education. Whenever I've struggled to write code, it means that I haven't asked enough questions and I don't understand what I'm writing to the necessary level of detail. The challenge of writing code for a living isn't the writing part...writing code is easy. The challenge, when working on something really difficult, is asking yourself and others the right questions to solidify your understanding of what needs to be coded.

about 9 months ago

Submissions

curunir hasn't submitted any stories.

Journals

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Are there any competent Java developers anywhere???

curunir curunir writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Seriously???

We've had a job rec out for months now and all we get a are a steady stream of purely fictional resumes. We've yet to find one person who comes close to passing the initial phone screen. Our phone screen is a complete joke too...we only asking simple questions like, "What's the difference between a Set and a List." I swear my 8-year-old nephew would do better than almost everyone we've talked to so far (he's bright and I showed him the basics of Java, but that's still pretty sad).

I would think that our job description would sound pretty appealing...we use Spring, TDD and an agile process which makes everyone's life much easier. We've sold management on making employee learning and career development an essential metric of our success (equally weighted with hitting our milestones). And our benefits are pretty solid. Yet all we see is a steady stream of morons who'd probably have problems doing basic tech support let alone Java development.

So, I ask, what are we doing wrong? Why aren't there any competent Java devlopers even considering us?

P.S. Yes, this is a not-so-subtle means of trying to get qualified developers in the SF area to send me a resume (so if you know of any that are looking for a job, please point them towards this journal entry). However I'm also genuinely interested to hear whether anyone thinks we're doing anything wrong in our applicant search and whether others are finding it as hard to find talent.

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Does anyone read these things?

curunir curunir writes  |  more than 11 years ago

Hmmm...So I'm curious, does anyone actually read these things? I suppose I need some sort of discussion topic if I want people to respond, huh?

Hmmm...

Here's a quote I found that seemed oddly applicable to our post-9/11 society...

"Civilization is only a pretense, in the crisis we become mere apes again, forgetting the rational biped of our pretensions and becoming instead the hairy primate at the mouth of the cave screeching at the enemy, wishing it would go away, fingering the heavy stone that we'll use the moment it comes close enough." -- Orson Scott Card, Xenocide p489

What else...

Some crazy links:
This (riiiiight...)
That (hmmm...guess we can be sure Taco uses google)
Wha??? (the pictures alone are good for a larph)
hmm... (WTF is a Liberal Quaker?)

Oh and...

GO A'S!!!

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