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Tech Firm Fined For Paying Imported Workers $1.21 Per Hour

hey! Re:What 3500$? (200 comments)

What's wrong with our system is that corporate shills call anyone who suggests any restraint on corporate behavior a "socialist", and enough people are scared that only bloodless corporate tools can get elected.

We vote like a bunch of pussies, and we get the government we deserve.

5 hours ago

NY Doctor Recently Back From West Africa Tests Positive For Ebola

hey! Re:my thoughts (180 comments)

That's because you use ridiculously vaguye language like "easy to transmit". You need to specify the conditions under which the potential transmission takes place. What peoiple don't realize is just how primitive conditions are in Africa, and what a difference it makes. These are countries where medical providers re-use latex gloves, sometimes even hypodermic needles. Granted, this guy was part a medical mission that probably had all the protective equipment, but you have to keep in mind that the primitive conditions that preceded them meant that there have been some TEN THOUSAND cases in the region.

It's immensely labor intensive to take care of an Ebola patient, especially with the precautions required by close contact., but the overwhelming numbers introduces yet another deadly risk factor: fatigue.

So yes, I suppose you could say the medical personnel who contracted Ebola are stupid because they made a mistake under pressure. But what about the rest of us? This epidemic should never have got big enough to pose a global concern. It was our choice to cut the CDC's emergency preparedness budget to a billion dollars below the FY 2002 mark.

6 hours ago

In UK, Internet Trolls Could Face Two Years In Jail

hey! Re:Trolls are the lowest form of life. . . (485 comments)

Well, every generalization has its corner cases that require careful thought. So while I agree that trolling per se shouldn't be outlawed, there may be certain uses of trolling that should be criminalized.

Take the libelous component of cyberstalking. At the very least this could be an aggravating factor in impersonation. Also, the law already recognizes libel as wrong, but it requires the harmed person take civil action. The Internet exposes more people than ever to reputation harm, but not all those people have the money to hire a lawyer. Social media have created a whole new vista for defamation, much of which is *practically* immune from any consequences.

So I do not in principle object to a law that criminalizes *some* forms of defamation, particularly against people who are not protected by the current laws. But I'd have to look at the the specific proposed law carefully. Just because people *claim* a new law would do something doesn't mean it does, or that's all it does.

4 days ago

The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real

hey! Re:Heavier than air flight is impossible (347 comments)

Well, there's a big difference between saying something won't ever happen because it's never happened yet, and saying that a claim that you've done something is presumptively not credible unless you can meet certain stadnards of proof.

about a week ago

As Prison Population Sinks, Jails Are a Steal

hey! Re:Prison population (407 comments)

Check out this graph.

The nuimbers of prisoners has not declined significantly since 2009. This doesn't mean the bubble hasn't burst, the nature of the bubble resists bursting. People can leave the housing market, but prisoners can't leave the prison market.

Still, anyone who invested big-time in prisons back in 2008 or so on the basis of 30 years of exponential prison population growth was just stupid. We were approaching 1% of the Amercian population incarcerated, how much higher did they expect that to go?

I have no sympathy with a town that bet its financial future on prisons while its schools rate minimally acceptable.

about a week ago

FBI Director Continues His Campaign Against Encryption

hey! Re:And he is, probably, right (284 comments)

and America has always valued the cantankerous Individual above the glorious Collective, that other cultures prefer...

When I was in college I took several courses from the famous scholar of Japanese literature, Howard Hibbet. In one of the classes there was student who liked to talk about Japanese culture's "Samurai values". The professor listened politely to this student, until one day he said somethign that has stuck with me for thirty years: "You should be careful about uncritically accepting the way a culture likes to present itself."

I have found this to be very true, even of corporate cultures.

about a week ago

Scanning Embryos For Super-Intelligent Kids Is On the Horizon

hey! Re:What a terrible, terrible idea. (366 comments)

Example: Hawking: 150ish IQ, John Sununu 190.

Many years ago there was a brief vogue among a few companies for psych testing potential employees. So I paid to have myself tested so I'd know what my potential employers "knew". Among other things, the tests informed me that I have an IQ that is 4.3 standard deviations above the mean.

This got me thinking. Which is more likely, that I'm smarter than 99.999% of the population, or that the test score was bogus? It should be obvious that it's far more likely that my test results were bogus!

Just because we can assign a single number to a person's intelligence the way we can to that person's height or weight doesn't mean that that number is as objective as height or weight is. What IQ tests purport to measure *cannot be observed directly*, and therefore cannot be measured directly. So we must not lose sight of the fact that IQ tests are *devised* by psychologists to correlate with something. How do they do this? By comparing a test's scores against something easy to measure -- rank in school for example. An IQ test that correlates poorly to performance in school would be considered "faulty", but one that correlates strongly to performancve in school would be considered "accurate".

In other words, IQ tests are only as meaningful as the outcomes they're deisgned to correlate with. An IQ test correlated to school success doesn't necessarily correlate precisely with "street smarts", many components of which are evolutionarily important (e.g. reading facial expressions).

Another thing to consider about how the test are calibrated is that the result is bound to be reliable ONLY near the mean, simply because confirmatory data out on the tails of the distribution is necessarily rare. So while I'd lend considerable credence to the 20 point spread between a 90 IQ and aa 110 IQ, I wouldn't lend the same credence to a difference between 140 and 160. I'd lend no credence whatsoever to the difference between a 140 and 160 IQ.

Basically, I consider distinctions betwen IQs over 125 unreliable, and distinctions between IQs over 135 as absolutely meaningless. There's no epistemological justfication for ranking people's intellectual abilities by IQ at that level. It's entirely possible that John Sunnunu would score 2.6 standard deviations higher than Stephen Hawking, but that's an artifact of the test, not reality.

about a week ago

Ask Slashdot: Handling Patented IP In a Job Interview?

hey! Holding your own patent is useless to an employer. (224 comments)

Worse than useless in fact.

If I were hiring you I'd be concerned that you would use your patents against me if we have a dispute later on. Of course I can work out a special agreement with you where you agree to automatically license to me any patents you hold. Or... I could hire that other guy I like about the same as you but who doesn't come with any special legal issues to resolve.

As for be *impressed* by the fact that you hold your own patents, I wouldn't be, given some of the silly patents that I've seen. Holding a patent is not, per se, impressive. Inventing something truly novel *that actually gets built into products* is impressive. It's accomplishment, not the recognition of the patent office.

My father-in-law designed the gyros used to guide the Apollo spacecraft. That's impressive, but so far as I know he never applied for any patents on his work. One of my friends from MIT designed a flat transfer case that can be retrofitted onto a transverse mounted front wheel drive car designs to make them 4WD. It's in use on cars by several manufacturers. It's patented, but that's not what makes it impressive. What makes it impressive is that it is a practical solution that nobody every thought of before and other engineers are eager to use.

In fact, I might well terminate a hiring interview if you began describing patents *you personally* held relating to my work. Why? Becuase if I don't hire you I don't want you coming after me for triple damages for knowingly infringing on your patent. Even if that patent won't hold up to litigation, I don't need that problem. It's the same reason that I tell coworkers barging into my office with "Have you seen this patent" on their lips to STFU. If it's really novel then I'm unlikely to infringe on it. If it's a bad patent then I'm better off not knowing about it.

about a week ago

Birth Control Pills Threaten Fish Stocks

hey! Re:Cities (147 comments)

You got it exactly right. Cities *concentrate* polution. Spreading the same populatioh over a wider area *disperses* the pollution.

Civil engineers used to say "dilution is the solution to pollution", but no longer -- except ironically. That's because there can be offsetting mechanmisms that concentrate a pollutant -- e.g. collecting in streams.

Cities actually make processing pollution and waste more financially efficient, although the price tag in absolute (rather than per capita) terms can be eye-popping. Here in Boston we went through a major shock about 25 years ago. We had had the lowest water and sewer rates in the country, living off massive infrastructure investments made generations prior; but we were dumping minimally treated sewage and sludge into the harbor. A lawsuit forced us to disband the agency which was running the sewage and water system, but also recreation like parks and skating rinks, and form a new quasi-independent authority . After 6.8 billion dollars spent on new treatment plants, we had more expensive than average water. 6.8 billion spread over 2.5 million ratepayers is a LOT of money $2750 / person over a decade or so. But it's cheaper than if those 2.5 million people were spread out evenly along the coast for a few hundred miles.

about two weeks ago

Independent Researchers Test Rossi's Alleged Cold Fusion Device For 32 Days

hey! Re:Any suffiently advanced tech... (984 comments)

The level of power output he's claiming *should* be able to make the device self-sustaining. 1.5 Megawatt-hours over 32 days (768 hours) works out to 1953 watts. On a 120V circuit that'd be the equivalent of drawing 16 amps; 9 amps on a 220v circuilt.

If the *bulk* of the power is coming from fusion, then despite the inefficiencies it should be possible to get this machine to run itself without external power inputs after an initial "bootstrapping".

OR ... scale the machine up to generate more power than a wall outlet can provide, but still "starts" off a wall outlet.

OR .... plug a fast electric tea kettle into the same circuit and see if the breaker trips. The fact that the machine "generates" power in the middle (ish) of the range supplied by a standard electric circuit is suspicious.

about two weeks ago

PETA Is Not Happy That Google Used a Camel To Get a Desert "StreetView"

hey! Re:Sheesh, what's the problem? (367 comments)

It really is unfortunate. Where there is room for a decent, effective animal rights group to help solve problems of animal abuse and cruel treatment, PETA has decided to completely occupy the space with its lunatic and extreme ideals, berating or silencing anyone that dares oppose their just and righteous mission.

Did the ASPCA go out of business?

about two weeks ago

Texas Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

hey! Re:For those who said "No need to panic" (421 comments)

To answer your question, if you mean *absolutely* prevent, the answer is nothing. But that's not the right question. The question is whether this will be transmitted at such a rate that it can result in sustained "endemic" transmission. "Endemic" is defined as a situation where each person infected in a location on average infects at least one other person. There may be a handful of transmissions from this index case, but it will fizzle out.

People worried about Ebola becoming endemic based on what's happening in West Africa have no idea how primitive conditions are in West Africa, where hospital workers often lack basic supplies like gloves, and are even reduced to re-using hypodermic needles. And people there who get to one of those horrible hospitals are the lucky ones. The health care and sanitation standards in the effected regions has been described as "medieval".

"Pulling out all the stops" sounds like a good idea, except if you think about it, it gives you absolutely no guidance about what you should do. Some of those "stops" would actually make things worse, and others would be a ridiculous overreaction. For example, should we quarrantine the state of Texas? After all there's been a case of transmission there. That's an overreaction.

Beware the Dunning Kruger effect. Not knowing anything about public health or tropical disease makes it really easy to design a containment program that sounds to you like it ought to work. But there aren't infinite dollars, even to fight Ebola. Every half-baked thing you do comes at the expense of something that would have been more effective. I've worked with the CDC, specifically the Fort Collins DVBID, which does vector borne stuff. The agency is full of PhDs and MDs who've spent their career studying tropical disease outbreaks and what to do about them.

People who think they know better remind me of this quote from Terry Pratchett:

Sergeant Colon had had a broad education. He'd been to the School of My Dad Always Said, the College of It Stands To Reason, and was now a post-graduate student of the University of What Some Bloke In The Pub Told Me.

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Best Books On the Life and Work of Nikola Tesla?

hey! Alice in Wonderland. (140 comments)

Because, to paraphrase the late computer science pioneer Alan Perlis, Alice in Wonderland is the best book ever written about anything.

about two weeks ago

Texas Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

hey! Re:For those who said "No need to panic" (421 comments)

For those who said "No need to panic" ... are we there yet?

Nope. And we never will be. Panicked people make stupid decisions that make the situation worse.

One thing these outbreaks in Europe and the US show - we don't know enough about Ebola.

There is no "outbreak" in the US or Europe. And not knowing enough about Ebola is not the same as saying we know nothing about Ebola, and what we know says there is not going to be an outbreak here -- just a few isolated cases of transmission. Thus far there have been one confirmed case of endemic transmission in the US and one in Europe, both nurses. The other "cases" were people with other viral diseases. One transmission does not an "outbreak" make, except to people who are panicky. It's normal in a situation like this for "suspected cases" to pop up all over the place. What do you expect, with the media spreading panic.

The CDC is now saying that the transmission in TX was caused by a "breach of protocol", which is not surprising given that the barrior protocols are exacting and onerous.

about two weeks ago

Texas Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

hey! Re: For those who said "No need to panic" (421 comments)

The barrier protocols are quite onerous. It doesn't need to be idiocy, fatigue is enough to induce human error. Experts have pointed to this as a factor in the spread of Ebola in West Africa; aside from the fact that most people have access to medieval levels of health care, or facilities that lack things like latex gloves, supplying hospitals with equipment is not enough. The workload of health care workers has to be kept light enough that they can take the extreme precautions needed without making errors.

It is also possible that the barrior protocols have a bug somewhere in them.

about two weeks ago

Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs In China and Germany

hey! Re:While I will agree with that.... (228 comments)

SIGINT is the NSA's bailiwick and nothing in the mission statement of the NSA precludes using physical intrusion to obtain it.

What's more NSA is part of the DoD, and the DoD has been conducting physical intrusion to obtain SIGINT for years. In the Cold War American subs tapped undersea cables believed by the Soviets to be impervious. That was a joint NSA, Navy, CIA program, which makes sense.

It also makes sense that physical intrusion to obtain SIGINT would be a joint NSA/CIA operation, which means that someone with access to the NSA family jewels can also compromise CIA "assets" overseas.

about two weeks ago

The CDC Is Carefully Controlling How Scared You Are About Ebola

hey! Re:Increased public vigilance?? (478 comments)

Well, yes. Then if you see one call the public health authorities.

Common sense? Sure, but you'd be surprised at the degree to which what you'd think was common sense flies out the window when people encounter the unexpected.

In my experience what people do when confornted with the unexpected is take their cue from what other people around them are doing, and if that's nothing, they'll try to ignore whatever it is. I've even seen that happen with FIRE ALARMS. Instead of getting up and leaving, they look to see what other people are doing. And since those other people are doing the same thing, nobody is leaving. They're looking at each other, wondering whether that really IS a fire alarm. I once had to stick my head in the room on my way out and tell the people there that yes, it really is a fire alarm and they have to leave right away.

If people have been recently primed then perhaps they're more likely to do something reasonable. Of course that sometimes means lots more false positives, but that's a tradeoff.

about two weeks ago

MIT Study Finds Fault With Mars One Colony Concept

hey! Re:"Finds Fault" is faulty reporting (269 comments)

Except this is engineering, not science.

Engineering is by inclination more conservative than science. That's because the failure of an engineering project is more catastrophic than the failure of a hypothesis, which after all is a result. But ultimately, after the engineer has done all he could to resolve competing priorities of cost, schedule, safety etc., it's whoever is bankrolling a project that decides to pull the trigger. The Apollo program was incredibly dangerous; more money and time might have mitigated that, but they were on a hard deadline to get to the moon by the end of the decade and were already spending an almost unthinkable fraction of the nation's GDP (0.8%) to do it. So they went ahead anyway. They lost three men on the ground and of the 33 they sent into space came within a whisker of killing five of them: all three on Apollo 13, and the LEM crew on Apollo 11 who almost ran out of fuel looking for a safe landing spot. And while you might point out that the Apollo 11 LEM crew still had 25 seconds of fuel left when they touched down, compare that to the margin of safety we set for aircraft, which can still glide if they lose engines.

While I agree broadly with the conclusion of the MIT critique, what I'm suggesting is that the engineering enterprise might have a degree of freedom they may not have considered, which is a willingness to take high levels of human casualties. The degree to which we value human life is a recent innovation. In the 1830s, trading ships began traveling between New England and California. That meant crossing Cape Horn in the winter, one way or another, and the casualty rates were appalling by modern standards. Sailors were routinely swept off the deck or fell from ice caked rigging to near instant death in freezing waters. But this was viewed as an acceptable price to pay in order to supply the New England shoe factories with cheaper leather.

While I don't think the proposed schedule is at all feasible, just from the time it will take to decide to *do* this thing, we might not necessarily have to wait until all the safety concerns are addressed to contemporary standards for things like ships and aircraft. Of course I wouldn't dream of boarding a ship to Mars unless I was 99% certain of surviving to death by old age, but some people might be happy to do it with 50%, or even less. Of course populating the mission with the wing suit contingent might have other unexpected effects...

about two weeks ago

Chimpanzee "Personhood" Is Back In Court

hey! Circular reasoning (385 comments)

Well, dismissing the suit because iof this kind of technicality is certainly feasible, but the reasoning behind it is circular.

If someone's legal status of "person" isn't recognized by the courts, then it is likely NOBODY can have the standing to bring suit on their behalf. There is, in a purely technical sense, there is nobody TO bring a suit on behalf of.

It turns out there are *other* grounds for establishing standing. It's not necessary to show that you are directly affected by some action to bring a First Amendment suit against a government entity for example. Such a suit brought on 14th Amendment "due process" grounds would put the court in a bind: it could not dismiss the suit because of standing without, in effect, making a ruling, or at least a determination.

We may well be forced to clarify the basis of indvidual "personhood" in the law by advancing technology; possibly AI, possibly even biotechnology. What if research into intelligence enhancement produced a chimp that could score above 100 on an IQ test that had been devised to handle humans with speech loss? Would it be reasonable to deny that chimp legal personhood while allowing someone who'd had a stroke to retain his? Why?

about two weeks ago



Paypal Forces E-Book Sellers to censor Erotic Content.

hey! hey! writes  |  more than 2 years ago

hey! (33014) writes "On February 18 of this year, global giant payment processor PayPal sent eBook publisher Smashwords an ultimatum: if Smashwords didn't remove all eBooks with certain erotic content from its catalog in the next several days, PayPal would immediately stop handling payments.

Smashword's TOS already precluded child pornography, but now PayPal wants them to also censor depictions of consenting, non-related adults acting out incest fantasies. Likewise fantasy novels in which human characters transform into non-humans are affected if those characters have sex. ZDNet has a summary of the impact of these changes, which would among other things ban Vladmir Nabokov's *Lolita*.

As outrage mounts, finger pointing is in full swing. Smashwords blames PayPal, and PayPal blames the banks it deals with. The crux seems to be that erotica buyers have a higher rate of "chargebacks" — customers who buy stuff then demand their money back. Fair enough, but is a customer really more likely to return a book because it depicts one kind of fantasy between consenting adults vs. another? Perhaps the problem is just the quality of writing."

Link to Original Source

hey! hey! writes  |  more than 6 years ago

hey! writes "Fantasy author Lloyd Alexander, author of the Chronicles of Pyrdain, Time Cat, and the Westmark trilogy passed away last week at the age of 83.

Alexander, who graduated high school at the age of fifteen, left college at the age of nineteen to serve in World War 2, where he rose to the rank of staff sargeant in the Army's intelligence service. He received his intelligence training in Wales, and became fascinated with the country's romantic history and literature. The Chronicles of Pyrdain, his best known works, are set in an imaginary land resembling the mythical Wales, and draw heavily upon the medieval Welsh Mabinogion for inspiration. That series won two Newberry Awards, one for the second book in the series, The Black Cauldron, and another for The High King, the final novel length work set in the Pyrdain universe. He received or was nominated for many other prestigious awards.

Alexander published his first work in 1955, the year after Tolkien published The Fellowship of the Ring, and the next decades saw many attempts to follow in Tolkien's footsteps. Like C.S. Lewis, Alexander remained firmly outside that stream of High Fantasy literature, writing in the simpler language of the young adult literature market. But while Alexander did not write with the elaborate theological symbolism of Tolkien or Lewis, his works often have an similar (if humanistic) moral gravity, touching as they do on themes of heroism, loss, and even political irony. In his own words:

"In whatever guise — our own daily nightmares of war, intolerance, inhumanity; or the struggles of an Assistant Pig-Keeper against the Lord of Death — the problems are agonizingly familiar. And an openness to compassion, love and mercy is as essential to us here and now as it is to any inhabitant of an imaginary kingdom."

I have written an appreciation of Lloyd Alexander. For more information, refer to his Wikipedia entry and his NY Times obituary. Lloyd Alexaner (1924-2007), rest in peace."

hey! hey! writes  |  more than 7 years ago

hey! (33014) writes "As many of you are aware, the folks who engineered the merger of Daimler-Benz and Chryslter into DaimlerChrysler are having second thoughts. Chrysler has a long history of doing interesting things, but they also have a long history of financial ups and downs. And current management is eager unload Chrysler while the unloading is good.

Meanwhile, while Chrysler's situation is precarious, Al Gore's stock is at an all time high. He just starred in a smash hit, double Oscar winning movie. He's just been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. And the public seems to have decided that his impassioned opposition to the Iraq war was not, after all, a sign of mental instability. In short, although it seems incredible, Al Gore has become cool. If there were any doubt of it, he has been awarded an Emmy, not for his nascent work in TV, but a special award designated for those "touch our common humanity". In other words an award for cool people.

It's been widely speculated that Gore could let the Clinton and Obama wound each other over the Democratic nomination for a few months, then step in for a last minute coronation. On the other hand Rick Haglund, a Michigan journalist who covers the auto industry, puts one and one together and comes up with this intriguing idea: Gore should make a play for Chrysler. Gore even has his own VC firm to do it. Should he put his investor's money where his mouth is, or should he go for a fourth run at the presidency?"

hey! hey! writes  |  about 8 years ago

hey! (33014) writes "The Bush administration has announced a new space security policy, which includes the statement that "Consistent with this policy, the United States will preserve its rights, capabilities and freedom of action in space ... and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests."

Strictly speaking, this doesn't say that the US policy is to deny space access to hostile countries. It just says that the US can do so if it is "necessary". Possibly this is meant to cover situations similar to those in which we would deny a hostile seafaring nation access to non-territorial waters. While attacking hostile assets in space would be a regrettable scenario, it is probably inevitable that spacefaring nations contemplate this. Even so, this has been widely reported as a kind of declaration of space imperialism by the US (e.g., "US spreads its wings over space control", "US turns space into its colony", and "America wants it all — life, the Universe and everything"), whereas China's blinding of a US satellite a few weeks ago was largely tolerated or even lauded. Could US international prestige possibly sink lower?"



Geez, I'm starting to get cranky

hey! hey! writes  |  more than 9 years ago

I've done two posts today in which I call the subject of an article "stupid" (example 1 and exzample 2).

I have to watch it. It's a bad habit to start thinking of yourself as superior.


Two questions

hey! hey! writes  |  more than 10 years ago

Just an experiment. I'd like to know two things.

(1) Does anyone read journal entries?

(2) How do people find journal entries they might want to read?

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