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Comments

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U.S. Biomedical Research 'Unsustainable' Prominent Researchers Warn

dcollins Re:conflating two problems (128 comments)

"many researchers focus on research and are terrible at and hostile to teaching"

But that's where the incentives are, the criteria for promotion. I was told at a small faculty meeting last week at our college that teaching and service are flat-out totally ignored for tenure and promotion decisions, only published papers are counted (despite the written rule being otherwise). Although I'm not on that track (and glad of it), it's hard to blame people who literally get fired if they focus on teaching too much. That's one of the structures that should definitely be changed.

yesterday
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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

dcollins Re:It kind of makes sense...but it doesn't (575 comments)

The following might to tangential to this particular incident, but do keep in mind that a major part of today's case law is that the government can file a proceeding where the money itself is the defendant, i.e., no human person ("you") is recognizable in the case. Historically that was used in cases where the owner was unknown, but in the drug-war era it's used for asset forfeiture even when the owner is known. If I had to prioritize things to get upset about, it would be that ongoing nightmare in our legal system.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_rem_jurisdiction

yesterday
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Double Take: Condoleezza Rice As Dropbox's Newest Board Member

dcollins Re:Low even for Slashdot (313 comments)

Let's say Republican Senator Susan Collins took this position instead. Then: No issue and no uproar.

The problem is not that Rice is a Republican, it's that she was a part of the most terrifying Republican administration in history, and oversaw defense of torture and mass-surveillance wiretapping programs.

5 days ago
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Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO

dcollins Why the Hell Didn't He Just Apologize? (1744 comments)

Business leaders and politicians go through this all the time -- The way to get around this one is to publicly *apologize*, and release a statement like, "It was one time, almost a decade ago, I was confused and I'm sorry, my views have evolved". Maybe a $1,000 donation to a gay-rights organization.

But Eich didn't do that. He never explained the donation that I could see. Which I would interpret as saying that he STILL sticks to his opinion on the issue, and would rather resign from his leadership than have to say that he was wrong about it. So don't let the door hit you on the ass leaving.

about two weeks ago
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Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO

dcollins Re:I think this is bullshit (1744 comments)

I'm glad Eich is gone, but minor correction: "Free Speech" issues are not just between person and government; although the specific "First Amendment" protections are.

about two weeks ago
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Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO

dcollins Re:I think this is bullshit (1744 comments)

I'm pretty sure that this could have been settled by a "That was almost a decade ago, I was wrong and confused, I'm sorry, here's a $1,000 check to a gay-rights organization." But Eich apparently didn't want to do that, and at no time did he explain himself on that particular act.

So in summary it looks like Eich STILL wants to stick to his guns over that act, and in fact would rather resign from his leadership than make the rather obvious mea culpa. He wasn't "stripped" of anything.

about two weeks ago
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Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO

dcollins Re:I think this is bullshit (1744 comments)

See, the people who are all upset about Eich's resignation are just lashing out in reaction to the fact that their mocking dismissals of the OkCupid message (et. al.) turned out to be 100% mistaken. They're so irate at the moment, at of the personal sting of being wrong, that they're not even making remotely rational arguments.

This is the moment when folks switch from "then they laugh at you" to "then they fight you", in the words of Mahatma Gandhi.

about two weeks ago
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OKCupid Warns Off Mozilla Firefox Users Over Gay Rights

dcollins Re:Who cares? (1482 comments)

These discussions honestly make me very happy. Why? Because it's become very clear that all the right-wing, religiously-tinted ink spilled on ridiculous word games and nonsense logical conundrums to hold back the advance of civil rights and equality has been for naught. It's all headed straight for the trashbin of history, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth along the way. Much like, say, decades of condemnation heaped upon the tyranny of abolitionists in the 1800's. It's delicious, beyond my expectations, and the more I read the more secure I am about which side is winning.

about two weeks ago
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OKCupid Warns Off Mozilla Firefox Users Over Gay Rights

dcollins Re:Not necessarily hate (1482 comments)

Your post seems like a non-sequitor, because the OkCupid message never once uses the word "hate" (in accusation or anything else).

I don't very much care Eich's internal monologue -- the fact is, he's effectively attacked my friends' living situations and I'll be opposing him for that. I suppose, now that you bring it up, that the fact that he's unwilling to explain himself on the issue makes it marginally worse.

about two weeks ago
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Supreme Court Skeptical of Computer-Based Patents

dcollins Re:Failure in obviousness testing (192 comments)

"If I were to write in a paper in medicine and try to get it published in one of the various medical journals that are out there that have a reasonably good reputation, I would be rejected so quickly if I were to try a "Algorithm for using instruments in surgery, nurse hands over knives handle first" journal article."

Well... there are good journals and then there are publish-anything journals. Sadly, I've been in some faculty meetings where the thesis has been, "anything you write can get published somewhere" (which is necessary for tenured academic advancement... fortunately I'm not on that track so I don't face the same pressure).

For example: In 2007 a medical researcher found a breakthrough method for approximating the area under a curve by means of rectangles and trapezoids (i.e., basic integration). This was published in the journal of Diabetes Care, the researcher named it after himself ("Tai's Model"), and the medical community cited the paper 75 times. (Also covered on Slashdot at the time):

http://fliptomato.wordpress.com/2007/03/19/medical-researcher-discovers-integration-gets-75-citations/

about two weeks ago
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Why Darmok Is a Good Star Trek: TNG Episode

dcollins Re:Worst: when they use magic (512 comments)

"the notion of converting matter to energy, beaming it somewhere, and re-making the object from it is basically sound."

No, because the interesting part of an object or person is not the matter = energy transformation. It's the complex structure of the matter, i.e., the information, which is entirely lost if it just gets transformed into energy (which you could say is due to entropy).

Think about 3D printing. Destroying a copy every time you send out a file would be stupid and superfluous. The hard part is getting the scanned copy of the structural information. Once you have the structural information, it is inherently copyable and separate from physical instantiations, or the material of the original copy. Pretending that it's useful to send the actual atoms of the original is nonsense, and many times moreso to send the matter deconstructed into homogenous energy.

Much like the Darmok episode itself, this idea is technobabble masquerading as science fiction. It tickles people's sci-fi yearnings without delivering the real goods.

about two weeks ago
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Why Darmok Is a Good Star Trek: TNG Episode

dcollins Darmok is Awful (512 comments)

I agree, Darmok is probably the single-worst of all Star Trek episodes. Coincidentally, it came on TV last week in a hotel room I was staying at and I started swearing up and down at it to my girlfriend.

The central thesis is totally incoherent: all language is based on referents, and if the universal translator can't work on that, then it can't work on anything else, either. Or on the other hand, the alien race would have no way of expressing the legends to which they're referring to each other in the first place (no language can just be proper nouns). The main problem is that it's a Star Trek episode that wants to be actual hard science fiction (and not just space opera) -- the prospect of which excites fans, but scratch the surface and the premise actually is insulting, obviously stupid.

about two weeks ago
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Tesla's Fight With Car Dealers Could Help Decide the Next Presidential Election

dcollins Re:There is no irony (282 comments)

Mostly agreed. But admittedly the Republican party has long been a gluing-together of different and not totally compatible factions, such as fiscal conservatives (business) and social conservatives (religious). On some issues they agree, like military adventurism abroad (for their own reasons). Other times, it looks more like a confused back-and-forth run around, like that recent crowd-controlled video game (whatever it was). Even without many individuals in the electorate being themselves hypocritical.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factions_in_the_Republican_Party_%28United_States%29

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Fastest, Cheapest Path To a Bachelor's Degree?

dcollins Re:You have the problem, not I... apk (370 comments)

It's not business correspondence, nor a grade in academia.

But the reason that all your posts are downmodded into oblivion is that no one wants to see or spend time decoding your hellacious writing. If that's happening on a casual internet forum, then just think about how much it's costing you elsewhere in your life, that you don't even get to see directly.

about three weeks ago
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Job Automation and the Minimum Wage Debate

dcollins Re:Don't raise wages. Demand lower prices. (870 comments)

I agree that the solutions are in that direction, but I'm sure how politically feasible they would be. Those suggestions in particular require (a) an end to home-schooling, and (b) not increasing payments to people with more children (as is currently customary with WIC, food stamps, tax deductions, etc.)

about three weeks ago
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Are DVDs Inconvenient On Purpose?

dcollins They Tried And Failed (490 comments)

The author seems to be unaware that in 2011 Netflix tried to spin off its DVD business (proposed spinoff "Qwikster") and focus on streaming-only. The outrage from its existing customer base forced it to reverse this plan and publicly apologize to its customers:

"It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price changes,” wrote Hastings. “That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology.”

http://www.geekwire.com/2011/reed-hastings-netflix-customers-i-messed-up/

about three weeks ago
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Job Automation and the Minimum Wage Debate

dcollins Re:Don't raise wages. Demand lower prices. (870 comments)

In theory I'm in favor of basic income. But here's the problem I foresee: There will inevitably be some (likely religious) group who institute a "maximize population" dogma and outstrip any available resources.

Case study: Haredi of Israel.
http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2014/02/06/ultra-orthodox-jews-protest-after-funds-cut-in-israel-conscription-row/

about three weeks ago
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Job Automation and the Minimum Wage Debate

dcollins Re:So what happens when there are no more jobs? (870 comments)

Pretty much agreed. Already a higher proportion of people in their 20's are living with their parents. Just pack more family members into a single living space and do with less. It's possible to go pretty far in that direction. :-/

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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Facebook Silently Removes Ability to Download Your Posts

dcollins dcollins writes  |  about 10 months ago

dcollins (135727) writes "Facebook has a "Download Info" capability that I've used regularly since 2010 to archive, backup, and search all the information that I've written and shared there (called "wall posts"). But I've discovered that sometime in the last few months, Facebook silently removed this largest component from the Downloaded Info, locking up all of your posted information internally where it can no longer be exported or digitally searched. Will they reverse course if this is publicized and they're pressured on the matter?"
Link to Original Source
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Udacity Statistics is Awful

dcollins dcollins writes  |  about a year and a half ago

dcollins writes "As a college instructor specializing in statistics, I felt compelled to survey one of the massive-enrollment online education courses that are all the rage these days. This summer, it seemed a perfect opportunity when Udacity unveiled Introduction to Statistics by founder Sebastian Thrun (of Google autonomous car fame). Having taken the entire course through to the final exam, my overall assessment is: It's amazingly, shockingly awful. Some nights I got seriously depressed at the notion that this might be standard fare for college lectures encountered by many students during their academic careers. I've tried to pick out the Top 10 problems with the course structure and address them in detail."
Link to Original Source
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Director of IT the #1 Most-Hated Job

dcollins dcollins writes  |  about 2 years ago

dcollins writes "CNBC reports on a CareerBliss.com job-satisfaction survey. The #1 most hated job: Director of Information Technology. From the slideshow:

"... IT directors reported the highest level of dissatisfaction with their jobs, far surpassing that of any waitress, janitor, or bellhop. Of those who responded to the survey, one simple, five-word response summed up the antipathy very well: 'Nepotism, cronyism, disrespect for workers.'""

Link to Original Source
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Germany to End Nuclear Power by 2022

dcollins dcollins writes  |  more than 2 years ago

dcollins writes ""Germany on Monday announced plans to become the first major industrialised power to shut down all its nuclear plants in the wake of the disaster in Japan, with a phase-out due to be wrapped up by 2022... Germany has 17 nuclear reactors on its territory, eight of which are currently off the electricity grid... Already Friday, the environment ministers from all 16 German regional states had called for the temporary order on the seven plants to be made permanent... Monday's decision is effectively a return to the timetable set by the previous Social Democrat-Green coalition government a decade ago. And it is a humbling U-turn for Merkel, who at the end of 2010 decided to extend the lifetime of Germany's 17 reactors by an average of 12 years, which would have kept them open until the mid-2030s.""
Link to Original Source
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Poll: How should poll numerical increments be set?

dcollins dcollins writes  |  more than 3 years ago

dcollins (135727) writes "(1) Linear (0,10,20,30,40, etc.)
(2) Binary (1,2,4,8,16,32, etc.)
(3) Logarithmic (1,10,100,1000, etc.)
(4) Exponential (1,3,7,20,55,148,etc.)
(5) Preferred numbers (1,2,5,10,20,50, etc.)
(6) Renard numbers (1,1.5,2.5,4,6,10,15, etc.)
(7) Comical (i, e, pi, etc.)"
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Video Games Shown to Hinder Learning in Young Boys

dcollins dcollins writes  |  more than 3 years ago

dcollins (135727) writes "Researchers at Denison University in Ohio show that giving PlayStations to young boys leads to slower progress in reading and writing skills:

"The study is the first controlled trial to look at the effects of playing video games on learning in young boys. That is to say, the findings aren't based on survey data of kids' game habits, but instead on a specific group of children that were randomly assigned to receive a PlayStation or not... Those with PlayStations also spent less time engaged in educational activities after school and showed less advancement in their reading and writing skills over time than the control group, according to tests taken by the kids. While the game-system owners didn't show significant behavioral problems, their teachers did report delays in learning academic skills, including writing and spelling.""

Link to Original Source
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Open Source Computer Literacy Textbook?

dcollins dcollins writes  |  more than 4 years ago

dcollins writes "The college where I work has decided to forego ordering a textbook for the computer class that I teach this fall. Does anyone know of a free, open-source textbook for basic computer literacy concepts (overview of hardware, software, operating systems, and file systems)?"
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Drug Tests for Benefits in Some States

dcollins dcollins writes  |  about 5 years ago

dcollins writes "From the AP: "Lawmakers in at least eight states want recipients of food stamps, unemployment benefits or welfare to submit to random drug testing... 'Nobody's being forced into these assistance programs,' said Craig Blair, a Republican in the West Virginia Legislature who has created a Web site — notwithmytaxdollars.com — that bears a bobble-headed likeness of himself advocating this position. 'If so many jobs require random drug tests these days, why not these benefits?'" ( http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090326/ap_on_bi_ge/states_welfare_with_strings ) I don't usually think that "slippery slope"-type arguments are that much of an actual danger, but here we find a lawmaker directly making that proposal as a straight-faced call to action."
Link to Original Source
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No More Open Gaming for D&D

dcollins dcollins writes  |  more than 6 years ago

dcollins (135727) writes "In 2000 the 3rd Edition of D&D came in conjunction with an Open Gaming Licence (OGL), modelled on the GPL with the same business motivations ( http://www.wizards.com/dnd/article.asp?x=dnd/md/md20020228e ). Today it was revealed, in a turnabout from comments as recently as last week, that there will be no OGL for the upcoming 4th Edition of D&D. Instead there will be a "Game System License" with many more restrictions on its use — for example, no third-party publishers in 2008 without a $5,000 advance license fee ( http://www.enworld.org/showthread.php?t=218031 )."
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Burn Salt Water with Radio Waves

dcollins dcollins writes  |  more than 6 years ago

dcollins (135727) writes "From Yahoo News:

An Erie cancer researcher has found a way to burn salt water, a novel invention that is being touted by one chemist as the "most remarkable" water science discovery in a century.

John Kanzius happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he developed to treat cancer. He discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies, it would burn.

The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.

http://green.yahoo.com/index.php?q=node/1570"
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Slot Machine with Bad Software: Players To Jail?

dcollins dcollins writes  |  more than 6 years ago

dcollins (135727) writes "Numerous Slashdot threads turn into a debate over who's liable for faulty software: the programmers, the publisher, etc. Here's a new option: perhaps the users are themselves criminally liable. From the AP: ( http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070719/ap_on_fe_st/ge nerous_slot_machine ): "Prosecutors are considering criminal charges against casino gamblers who won big on a slot machine that had been installed with faulty software... A decision on whether to bring criminal charges could come in a couple of weeks, said John Colin, chief deputy prosecutor for Harrison County. He said 'criminal intent' may be involved when people play a machine they know is faulty.""
Link to Original Source

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