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Is 'SimCity' Homelessness a Bug Or a Feature?

eriks Re:Games versus reality (393 comments)

Same here, though I don't have kids, and won't ever have kids, though I do have siblings with kids... so the same concept holds -- though poverty is not the only cause of suffering -- I'd imagine there are plenty of "well off" people who live with suffering of some sort, perhaps not so much physical suffering, but suffering nonetheless. So leaving one's kids a large inheritance is hardly a guarantee of them not suffering. I've heard too many horror stories of siblings fighting bitterly over inheritance... which I'm sure causes suffering. Anxiety and fear of losing one's worldly possessions is a form of suffering.

Something like a universal basic income would likely solve the most egregious physical suffering for most that simply lack basic survival necessities, and an actual functioning public mental health system would take care of most who wouldn't benefit from just a basic income.

The other kinds of suffering can only be eliminated by good friends, more advanced medicine, therapy, and personal philosophy or spirituality.

about two weeks ago
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Is 'SimCity' Homelessness a Bug Or a Feature?

eriks Re:Games versus reality (393 comments)

Much of the time when I see a homeless person, I think "There but for the grace of God, go I." -- I can imagine any number of poor choices I could have made earlier in life, or perhaps even just bad luck, that could have led me to a similar situation. It's seldom that I am able to "help" such an individual, though I try make a point of acknowledging them as a fellow human, like I would do with any other person, with a nod, or a smile. Interesting twist of irony: smiling at most homeless people will get you a "Hi" or a smile back, whereas nodding or smiling at random people on the street will often (but not always) get you a glare and a wide berth, I guess some would say that's as it should be.

There's really only a thin veneer separating the homeless from about half of the US population. In fact, I'm sure that there are a lot of people that while having a place to live, are actually worse off than some who are homeless, wintertime in northern climates wholly excepted of course.

So anyway, basically, I agree with you, and what you're doing, though lack the temperament to employ your methods myself -- though I do strive to "consume" as little as possible, just on principle. I've been called "unamerican" (whatever that means, can you be "uncanadian" or "unswedish") for this philosophy, though not by many fellow "yankees" here in rural New England, some of whom still practice the art of frugality for it's own sake.

Americans, on the whole, however, are too willing to say "Those people are just lazy." or "Those people are mentally ill." And while I'm sure those descriptions fit, for some percentage of humans (not just the homeless) more often than not, it seems to me that those two statements are essentially regurgitation of propaganda; platitudes to make us feel less ashamed that we live in a society with so little regard for our brothers and sisters, especially in a supposedly "christian nation", that we allow some of them to languish in the streets, to the detriment of the communities they inhabit, out of some bizarre philosophy that to "give handouts" to them would somehow harm our society. It really is the most twisted logic: damage the culture in order to save it.

Salt Lake City has a program where they're simply providing housing for their homeless population. So far, it's a resounding success, though I'm sure the program isn't perfect (what is?). The city is actually *saving money* since the load on social workers, emergency services and law enforcement is lower. San Fransisco has a similar program, but it hasn't worked as well there, probably for a whole host of reasons.

It seems to me that homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg of America's social ills, a glaring symptom of a root cause that very few are willing to face: monstrous greed produced by a highly-infectious "mental illness", the carriers of which are "neo-liberal" economists and policy makers, convincing us that all we have to do is keep buying shit and working at our jobs that we hate and All Will Be Well, while most of the the imaginary wealth is transferred to a ever smaller sector of the population, as it has done for the better part of a century. It seems they've even deluded themselves into thinking that this can continue indefinitely, by hand-waving away the mathematical absurdities that result if one actually looks at the reality.

I'm not surprised that SimCity has a "virtual homelessness" problem, since the simulation models are probably as absurd as the models used in the real world -- though it has an excuse, it's just supposed to be a fun game, where the outcome doesn't cause real suffering and death for those on the losing side.

about two weeks ago
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White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

eriks Human Rights and Equality (352 comments)

1. Universal human rights, including access to clean water and food, or at least arable land and the means to grow food crops.
2. Universal and complete economic and social human equality.
3. Ending (at least virtually) all sickness and disease.
4. Non fossil-fuel-based energy technology.

Once we lick all that we can go out to the other planets and beyond. There would be nothing left to stop us.

about 3 months ago
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Damian Conway On Perl 6 and the Philosophy of Programming

eriks Re:"The real problem..." he explained (132 comments)

What?! No. He Doesn't say that anywhere in the interview, and it's only true for the "v6.pm" implementation of Perl6. Rakudo is implemented in C, Perl6 and NQP. Pugs is written in Haskell. then there's the PGE, and Perlesque, and other stuff too.

about 7 months ago
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If You Want To Code From Home, Learn JavaScript

eriks Re:Learn JS and compete with $2/hr developers (152 comments)

If you make little enough (after deductions) you essentially pay no federal tax, just FICA and medicare, but there's a line you cross, where you then (as you say) pay a straight percentage. Some years I cross that line, some years I don't. It doesn't usually make a large difference, but it does make a difference.

about a year ago
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If You Want To Code From Home, Learn JavaScript

eriks Re:Learn JS and compete with $2/hr developers (152 comments)

Liked. Appreciated. I do (essentially) the same thing. Have been for almost 15 years. Vastly under-rated "business model": live (quite) comfortably with a (very) low-expense lifestyle and not be stressed out and over-burdened with work. I generally am just above "poverty" income, rather than below. It's kind of funny (strange), the years where a make a little more than usual usually hurt because I have to pay more in self-employment tax, so my net income is lower than if I had just made a little less... can't win 'em all...

about a year ago
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EPA Makes Most Wood Stoves Illegal

eriks R-Value (1143 comments)

In places where it gets very cold, the way to do it (as others I think are pointing out) is retrofit-assistance and (probably more importantly) insulation assistance programs, like we have in much of New England, so that people can still burn wood, but burn a lot less of it, and actually be more comfortable. Our small house has been well insulated recently and I expect to go from using around 600 gallons of oil a year to around 400, maybe even 300 if I'm careful. If I was using wood, there would be a similar decrease in the amount of wood I'd need to burn to stay warm.

In the 21st century, it just makes plain sense that building envelope and R-value should be every homeowner's first and second thoughts when heating any home, especially when doing so with the intent to keep from freezing to death. In a (very) well insulted home, it's possible to (easily) keep from freezing to death with little more than a few warm bodies, good clothing and maybe candle or two -- so a high-efficiency heating device, much smaller than you'd need in a conventionally-insulated house, will easily keep you very comfortable in such a home.

about a year ago
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Obamacare Website Fixes Could Take Two Weeks Or Two Months

eriks Re:I have a better idea. (382 comments)

Probably just feeding the trolls here, but: Seriously? That's the best argument you can come up with? Just because something wasn't done before the modern era means that we shouldn't do it now? So we shouldn't have advanced medical care at all? We shouldn't have enfranchised women? Ended slavery? Have the Internet? I could go on, and on.

There really is no valid argument as to why "Society" shouldn't (to some extend) be "Socialist" -- since that's the whole *point* or society, and for that matter, civilization.

"Removing incentives" is a bullshit argument. Most Human beings have plenty of incentive to be meaningfully productive members of a society, it's called a conscience, and a full set of operating emotions. Unfortunately the people paid to come up with the memes like that one seem to be in the group of humans that lack both.

Yes there are people who abuse the trust of others. Some of them get foodstamps, but they don't really do much harm, they maybe add a few pennies a day to your taxes whereas the people truly causing harm are a small number of vampires sucking the life out of most of the world's population, and at the same time pitting those people they are abusing against each other so they lack the time and observational powers to notice what's really happening.

If we want to go ahead and be all "I've got mine Jack" and "Don't tread on me" and "Every man for himself" then we might as well go back to being stone-age nomadic hunter gatherers, so we can learn what "society" means again, and what it's for.

All that said, "Obamacare" probably isn't the best idea, but not because it's "socialism" -- BECAUSE IT'S NOT! It's a fucking insurance exchange where private insurers compete for the dollars of the uninsured, and soon-to-be uninsured with an allotment to subsidize those earning below 150% of the poverty level. The insurance companies LOBBIED FOR THE BILL.

The rest of the "civilized" world has fully socialized medicine (some places for almost a century), but Noooo, we can't have that, that would be *baaaad*.

*facepalm*

about a year ago
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The Difference Between Film and Digital Photography (Video)

eriks Re:It's true (182 comments)

Sometimes the best portrait studio in the world is outside, with the sun at your back, or behind a thin cloud. I'd say about half of the best photos I've ever taken "just happened" and didn't happen in a studio (since I don't have access to one), and until recently (mirrorless FTW!), they were all taken with P&S cameras. Good composition and an interesting subject are 80% of the battle -- lighting (when not in a studio) is about being in the right place at the right time and choosing (or letting your camera choose) the optimal shutter speed and aperture setting, of course, there are always limits.

Do I drool over cameras (that I can't afford) that would let me shoot a smile in a dim room at f16? Absolutely. ISO 25600 (and more) is here. Within 10 years that will be in your phone. In the meantime, my ~$700 kit lets me take that photo at f1.2 and ISO 800 -- that part of photography is all about compromises, unless you're a pro, or have a lot of disposable income.

For me, photography is about capturing an expression on a human face, or a nature scene from an interesting perspective, or a beautiful creature in a natural setting. That's the great thing about photography though, it is about many different things to different people.

Don't get me wrong, I encourage anyone to buy the best camera they can afford, though the motto: "The best camera is the one you have with you" applies more than ever. There's nothing wrong with using a phone camera or a P&S. No, you won't be able to blow them up into (satisfying) posters or do extreme cropping, but it's still possible to get great photos with them, with a little skill, creativity and luck. Her $50,000 medium format DSLR body is still just a light box. It's possible to take a great photo with nothing more than a piece of film, a cardboard box, some tape and a pin.

about a year ago
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The Difference Between Film and Digital Photography (Video)

eriks It's true (182 comments)

I liked what she had to say, especially: "The camera doesn't take the picture, the human does." -- that's very important. It's always been possible to take *great* photos with very inexpensive gear, if the composition, subject and lighting are all great.

Most people don't need anything more than a decent $200 or even $100 camera. The trouble is that if you want to go to the "next level" -- you need to spend two or three times that (or lots more), and you can then get into low-light territory, which (IMO) is where all the excitement is. A truly *usable* 6400 or 12800 ISO is unbelievably liberating, and that's now here for well-under $1000.

about a year ago
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Post-post PC: Materials and Technologies That Could Revive Enthusiast Computing

eriks Re:Latency. (128 comments)

Agreed. I usually go for XFCE on Linux, it's usually pretty snappy, though a snappy WM doesn't help with crufty chunky applications.

about a year ago
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Post-post PC: Materials and Technologies That Could Revive Enthusiast Computing

eriks Latency. (128 comments)

As an "enthusiast", for me, it's almost all about latency. I want a system that responds as close to instantaneously as possible, especially for the stuff that really should be nearly instantaneous on modern hardware. These days, that means plenty of ram and a fast storage subsystem: SSD is the best upgrade I've done in years. I wait less. A 2 hour render is still a 2 hour render, but when I start up a heavy application I only wait 3 seconds instead of 10, or even 20. It just makes everything less frustrating, even 1 and 2 second waits can be really annoying if they happen a lot.

Many things are much better than they used to be, but I still say "hurry up" to my system too often, especially using a GUI. Though, my 3-year-old built-from-parts "enthusiast" machine feels faster to me than many newer commodity machines with better specs. "Tuning" things on the software side can make a difference, which is something that "enthusiasts" do, and want to be *able* to do.

So long as there are systems that can be tuned, streamlined and knocked about for fun, enthusiasts will be happy. Though I'm still searching for the "holy grail" of a GUI that never stutters, stalls or hiccups. Mostly, if you want that, you still have to use a command line.

Though I guess, if we ever get such a "holy grail" I may cease to be an enthusiast, since computing perfection will be a commodity.

about a year ago
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Dialing Back the Alarm On Climate Change

eriks Living in the biosphere. (490 comments)

I really wish that both "sides" in the climate change "debate" could put away the hyperbole and come to grips with the fact that we need to live in some way approaching equilibrium with the various processes happening here on planet Earth. That's not just about co2 production. Even though there is unquestionably consensus among climate scientists that the rising co2 level IS significant, there are *many* other factors at play. It won't matter if we get the co2 situation under control, but still have high-levels of fresh water pollution and half-dead oceans.

We need to pollute less, period.

We need to dramatically increase our total energy efficiency, which can largely be achieved by picking the "low-hanging fruit" of building insulation, indoor daytime lighting and industrial energy usage. All three of these can be addressed (easily!) with incentives like rebates and tax credits -- granted that takes political will, which seems in short supply, but it's all there already, just waiting to happen: just (gradually) shift the subsidies currently granted to fossil fuel companies over to businesses and homeowners that are willing to make investments in long-term energy efficiency and savings, it just makes sense: since energy saving == money saving.

The reality is that our total energy usage is increasing, so the more we stretch it, the more comfortable humanity can be in the long term. We need to be building as many solar, wind, wave, thermal gradient and salinity gradient systems as we can, all the while earnestly studying the effects and operation of these systems, and discovering our mistakes and correcting them as we go. We need better fission reactor designs: meaning serious R&D and testing. We need better (and more!) energy storage systems. And probably most importantly we need to come up with new ideas for generating and storing energy. Life is not static, we can't just say "hey, this is good enough" -- we have to make it better! Life forms don't stop evolving just because they find a successful niche. They keep going, because there's always more pressure around the corner. As humans, we've insulated ourselves from a lot of pressures, but that's really an illusion, since all we can ever really do is make buffers. Everything remains interconnected and interdependent.

As Bunker Roy says: Decentralize, demystify! People should know that they CAN provide for themselves, but they have to understand how it all works.

We are squandering our resources: geological, biological, financial and (most importantly) human. We need to refine our entire way of doing things.

The oil and coal WILL run out someday. It might be 100 years or 1000 -- but we need to be thinking truly long term here. It would be nice to still have plenty of oil and coal left for other stuff when we finally stop having to burn it for fuel just to keep the lights on. It's amazingly useful, and we have a finite supply.

about a year ago
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Research Shows E-Cigs Might Be As Good For Quitting As Nicotine Patches

eriks Re:Might be? (314 comments)

Another anecdote: Me. Almost exactly a year ago I was a smoker, then a year minus one day ago, I was an "e-cig" vaper. I made the switch that easily and quickly. And (so far) it has been a tobacco *replacement* not a route for quitting, though I can see how it could be, I'm just not using it for that it. There was an initial learning curve and expense, but now it's cheaper, and (theoretically) safer. Nicotine is *not* a harmful drug. The low doses vapers or smokers consume are decidedly non-harmful, when compared to *many* other substances that modern humans typically eat, drink and inhale. It's demonstrably non-carcinogenic. Though I guess we can't expect a rational response to the dangers of ingested substances with the state of things being as they are.

I wish we had hundreds of thousands of people marching in the streets chanting "Be Reasonable!" and "Use Science, not Fear", and maybe even "Have a Heart!".

about a year ago
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Tiny $45 Cubic Mini-PC Supports Android and Linux

eriks HTPC? (197 comments)

Something like this might be just the thing I'm looking for -- There are other tiny android boxes I've been looking at to replace my (aging) htpc. I want to be able to use my nexus 7 as a remote -- to control *everything* on the TV -- that's local video, netflix & random web stuff. Also I'd like to have a single audio output to my sound system for everything, but not have to have the TV on to listen to music. I've yet to find anything truly ideal. Even this probably won't be perfect, but at least it would be inexpensive and tiny: my current htpc is in a large case. I've been thinking Raspberry PI, which would be almost perfect, except no netflix...

about a year ago
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EU Proposes To Fit Cars With Speed Limiters

eriks Wait for lane speeds (732 comments)

This measure probably won't happen. I don't think it will fly, because it offers no incentive, it's just a restriction.

Though eventually, we'll likely see single lane speeds on (for instance) 3 or 4 lane highways, you pick a lane, and the speed control system in your car sets your speed to match all the other vehicles in that lane, and maintain separation distance. The optimal speed would be chosen by the traffic system. Drivers without automatic speed controls will have to match lane speed and separation, or use the one (or two) lanes dedicated to manually-speed controlled lanes, which would have lower conventional speed limits.

Then you can do neat things like cars announcing intentions to the whole traffic system. Think what a traffic system could do if it knew the intended routes of a majority of the vehicles in transit, especially incorporating data like the locations of any road hazards and moving emergency vehicles.

You can also (more) safely set lane limits at higher speeds than might be wise with all the cars having manual speed controls, thus solving the safety issue as well as the desire to let people move freely at maximum safe speed.

about a year ago
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Obama, Romney Data Scientists Strike Out On Their Own

eriks Re:We shouldn't have elections (120 comments)

That is a great idea. At least until we have Multivac:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franchise_(short_story)

But seriously. That would solve a lot of issues. A completely random selection of the public to sit in the Senate and the House would give a much more interesting cross section of the American public. Right now the idea probably wouldn't even be controversial. Even just doing that a few times, say, 20 years, and then letting elections proceed normally again (with sensible campaign finance rules) might fix a lot of things.

Would it create more issues than it solves? I don't think so. Though really only because the system is *so* friggin messed up, that even an idea that radical couldn't really hurt.

Will it happen? Dunno. I sure hope that SOMETHING good happens though, since it's looking more and more like most of us are totally screwed unless something does, or absolutely everyone just starts behaving like actual Human Beings. Don't know which is more likely.

about a year and a half ago
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The Flags We Left on The Moon Have All Turned White

eriks Surrender! (2 comments)

We surrendered to the moon! She truly is a harsh mistress.

about a year and a half ago
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GMO Oranges? Altering a Fruit's DNA To Save It

eriks Re:Orange juice sucks anyway (358 comments)

It's a bit more than just that. Look at the "Not From concentrate" section of this:

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

and you'll get a better idea of what's done, though there is more explicit information available if you're interested.

The "Flavor Packs" they use are technically "natural" since they're derived from oranges, but the whole process sounds pretty nasty to me. I'll continue to just eat in-season fresh oranges or squeeze them myself for juice, and eat different fruits when they're not in season.

about a year and a half ago
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Poll Shows That 75% Prefer Printed Books To eBooks

eriks Used to like paper better, but not any more. (312 comments)

For reading, in bed, lights out, lying on my side in a comfortable position, I've found nothing better than a 4.3" smartphone (NOT an e-reader) mounted in a dock, sitting on the bed next to my pillow, with the screen orientation forced into portrait: this is the EFFING HOLY GRAIL for me for reading novels in perfect physical comfort.

I used to (sometimes) read ebooks sitting in a comfy chair in front of my desktop computer with a LARGE font (so I could lean back and read) -- but it was somewhat less than ideal for extended reading sessions.

I used to think I'd never give up paper novels... until I found the aforementioned method.

about a year and a half ago

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