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Comments

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Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

hey! Re:EVD (160 comments)

It's exactly as many syllables as "ebola" but carries more information, what's not to like?

Indeed, it carries MUCH more precision than just "Ebola", which can mean any of the following:

"Ebola River" is a tributary to the Congo River.

"Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever" was the name of a disease first discovered in people living in the remote Ebola River watershed.

"Ebola Virus" (abbrev. "EBOV") is the infectious agent that causes "Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever"

"Ebolavirus" is the taxonomic genus to which the "Ebola virus" belongs.

"Ebola Virus Disease (abbrev. "EVD") is now the more common name for Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. We can call it that because we have definitively identified the infectious agent that causes the disease (EBOV). Changing the name pre-emptively differentiates EVD from other hemorrhagic diseases that might arise from the same area.

Laymen simply say "Ebola" and let their audience sort out what they mean -- if indeed they mean anything precisely. I once had this conversation with an elderly relative.

Relative: 90% of bats have rabies.

Me: That's hard to believe.

Relative: It's true! I read it in the paper.

So I went to the paper and found out that she had it hopelessly garbled. TEN percent of bats SUBMITTED FOR TESTING had positive SCREENING tests.

yesterday
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Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

hey! Re:EVD (160 comments)

I worked in public health informatics for many years, and it's a longstanding tradition to use three letter codes. I think this is the legacy of old systems which provided three or four character fields for codes, but it certainly speeds things along when you're keying data into a spreadsheet.

The tradition isn't formalized, and so it's application is somewhat irregular, but it's important in this case to realize that public health surveillance makes a strong distinction between a *disease* (a disorder of structure or function in an organism like a human) and an *infectious agent* (the parasite, bacterium, virus or prion that transmits the disease). That's because you can find the infectious agent without finding any cases of the disease -- for example in an asymptomatic human, in a disease carrying vector like a mosquito etc. Non-specialist use the same terms to refer to either the disease or the agent (this naming by association is called "metonymy", a word every system designer should be familiar with). So of course the abbreviations experts use seem nonsensical to non-specialists.

The abbreviation "EVD" maskes perfect sense -- it is the *disease* caused by the Ebola Virus (EBOV). A non-specialist uses terms loosely and would say things like "They found Ebloa in Freetown." A specialist wouldn't use such loose language. He'd say "We found a human case of EVD in Freetown," or "We had a serum with a positive titer for EBOV from Freetown."

yesterday
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VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding

hey! There's only one thing you need to know about H-1B (217 comments)

There's only one thing you need to know about the H-1B program to see that it's not about providing skilled labor *here*: after 6-10 years of working the visa holder is kicked out of the country to make room for a less experienced visa holder.

If H-1B led automatically to a green card, then we'd be keeping the *most* expert workers here, rather than replacing them with less experienced ones. Change that *one* aspect of the program, and it's be an asset to the US as a nation.

yesterday
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VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding

hey! Re:Yay! Hopenchange! (217 comments)

I went back and got a degree after 25 years. It's not the *degree*, it's the *education* that matters, and I got a lot more out of the education than my younger peers. This was a new perspective on things I was already familiar with, and I was able to connect a lot of dots I wouldn't have been able to when I was eighteen. I could immediately see what stuff was good for, and I discovered a number of things that would solve commonplace problems I'd seen occur over and over again, even with personnel wit advanced degrees.

Then I got out and discovered that the world didn't want to hire a fifty year old who'd been "out of work" (going to school) for three years....

yesterday
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Autonomous Sea-Robot Survives Massive Typhoon

hey! Re:Is this an achievement? (47 comments)

Well, you are unlikely to be the *only* one who doesn't think this is all that impressive, because you're unlikely to be the only one who didn't read the article or looking up the device on the company's website.

The robot in question is designed to capture energy from surface waves for propulsion. So it is not a deep submersible, it waddles along a six meters below the surface, tethered to a streamlined surface buoy that it drags along and uses to capture wave energy. Making it through a major storm is a significant proof-of-concept for such a system.

yesterday
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"Intelligent" Avatars Poised To Manage Airline Check-In

hey! Re:There's something touching about that comment (102 comments)

It's not the human *touch* that people crave in a complicated interaction with a system. It's human *versatility*.

Thus more personnel does no good, if those personnel are rigidly controlled, lack information to advise or authority to act. The fact that they're also expected to be jolly and upbeat as they follow their rigid and unyielding rules only turns the interaction with them into a travesty of a social interaction.

What would work better is a well-designed check-in system that handles routine situations nearly all the time, along with a few personnel who have the training and authority to solve any passenger problems that come up.

3 days ago
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New Toyota Helps You Yell At the Kids

hey! Re:I just got married (205 comments)

I'm pretty sure birth control exists.

3 days ago
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Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

hey! Re: The issue is big publishing (191 comments)

I can only go with the experience of my friends, who've gone both routes successfully.

It's true that traditional publishers expect mid-list authors to shoulder most of the promotion efforts these days. I never said they didn't. Fiction authors are now expected to maintain a platform, which used to be a non-fiction thing. Certainly traditional publishers have become more predatory and less supportive than they were twenty years ago. I don't have an inside track on why that is, but I suspect there are several causes. One is that POD allows publishers to make an reliable though modest profit from their mid-list authors, which ironically makes them more risk averse. But publishers still provide production and editing services on a MS that'd cost you maybe ten thousand dollars if you were contracting those services out. They also get your book in bricks-and-mortar bookstores, which is a bridge too far for most indy authors, even the successful ones.

A lot of the bad feeling that publishers get from indy authors comes from two sources. First, a long history with rejection. Second the lack of respect indy authors get relative to traditionally published authors. We can see it in this discussion elsewhere, where one poster puts "authors" in quotes when referring to indy authors. And it's easy to see why because most indy authors just aren't good enough to get traditionally published. *Some* indy authors put out a product that's every bit as good as the mid-list authors from the big publishing houses, but most just dump their terrible manuscripts on Amazon with a clip-art cover and no copy editing, much less developmental editing.

The statistic that most indy authors make their investment back plus 40% didn't impress me, because (a) that counts the author's labor as free and (b) most indy authors don't invest much cash in their projects. The percentage of indy authors that clear, say, five thousand dollars in profit are very small.

It's not that indy publishing doesn't have its points, and my traditionally published friends are certainly thinking about dipping their toe in the water. But it's not as cheap as it looks if you want a comparable product, and you give up certain things. I was in Manhattan recently and went to the 5th Avenue branch of the NYPL. My traditionally published friends' books were either on the shelves our out circulating. The NYPL had *none* of my indy author friends' books, even though at least one of them has made the New York Times best seller list.

4 days ago
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Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

hey! Re:The issue is big publishing (191 comments)

I don't think it's as simple as Amazon is good or Amazon is evil. Amazon is powerful, and that needs watching.

Now I have a number writer friends, one of whom is published both with traditional imprints like TOR and with Amazon's new in-house publishing imprints. She has good things to say about Amazon's imprints, but one thing you have to take into account is that nobody will stock your book *but* Amazon if you publish with them. That's giving up a lot, so they treat authors reasonably well. But that doesn't mean the corporation actually cares about authors. Amazon needs reliable mid-list authors to make their publishing ventures a success, and by cutting out the middleman can afford generous royalties. But if Amazon succeeds in putting a stake in the heart of traditional publishing, I wouldn't care to speculate on what will happen to authors.

Nor should what traditional publishers do for authors be underestimated. I have friends who are successful indy writers, but it's not like being a writer, it's more like running a small publishing house yourself. They hire story editors, copy editors and artists, and manage promotion and publicity. It's a lot of work; that plus actually writing pretty much precludes a day job. It's not for everyone.

It's a lot like being an engineer. Engineers are smart people who usually have a lot of insight into the companies they work for, but that doesn't mean that most engineers want to run businesses. Some do, but most would rather have other people take care of that stuff so they can concentrate on what they feel they're best at.

Many writers choose the indy market because it's the only way they'll ever get published. They just dump their manuscript on the market without editing, design or promotion and hope for the best. They rarely succeed. Others choose the indy route because they thrive on running and controlling their own small business, the way some engineers step naturally into the role of entrepreneur. They're well positioned for the future. But most writers need support to reach their full potential.

5 days ago
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Breaches Exposed 22.8 Million Personal Records of New Yorkers

hey! Re:Mispelling in Headline... (41 comments)

It's actually 'Breeches' and now we finally know Step 2.

Years ago, when static electricity was bad news for computers, I had the idea for a "data processing shoe" that would have a little conductive ribbon that would drag along the floor and ground out static electricity. Such a thing is of course no longer needed, but given the apparent popularity of data breeches these days maybe the concept could be resurrected as a fashion statement.

about a week ago
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When Beliefs and Facts Collide

hey! Re:Factual beliefs? (725 comments)

Telling people who collect stamps they're idiots could be a hobby.

about three weeks ago
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How Did Those STAP Stem Cell Papers Get Accepted In the First Place?

hey! Re:The same way many global warming papers got pub (109 comments)

Peer reviewed. Yeah, right. And just who is reviewing the peers?

Ha! I knew the denialists would come swarming out of the woodwork on this one.

Consider the stem cell paper that we're talking about here. It was published in January and immediately started going down in flames. Here we are six months later, watching scientists gleefully kick the cold corpse of the authors' reputations. And you're still wondering who keeps the reviewers and editors of a scientific journal honest?

Peer review isn't some kind of certification of a paper's truth. It can't reliably weed out misconduct, experimental error, or statistical bad luck. It's just supposed to reduce the frequency of fiascos like this one by examining the reasoning and methods as described in the paper. It doesn't have to be perfect; in fact it's preferable for it to let the occasional clunker through onto the slaughterhouse floor than to squelch dissenting views or innovation.

That's why climate change denialists still get published today, even the ones who disbelieve climate change because it contravenes their view of the Bible. Peer review allows them to keep tugging at the loose threads of the AGW consensus while preventing them from publishing papers making embarrassingly broad claims for which they don't have evidence that has any chance of convincing someone familiar with the past fifty years of furious scientific debate.

about three weeks ago
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Study: People Would Rather Be Shocked Than Be Alone With Their Thoughts

hey! Re:Sad, sad times... (333 comments)

Here's what I think is the confounding factor (there always is one): I'd be wondering, "Does that button REALLY deliver a shock, or is it some kind of sham social psychology experiment prop? I bet it's a prop. If it isn't, it won't deliver THAT bad a shock. If it is, I wonder what the researchers will do when I push it?"

The confounding factor is curiosity. They'd have to do *two* sessions with the overly curious.

about three weeks ago
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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Religious Objections To Contraception

hey! Re:Bad media coverage (1330 comments)

Except that if you read the majority opinion they actually open up any provision of the law to challenge on the same grounds. They warn that the ruling should not be taken as covering anything covered by insurance, but presumably any such thing could in principle be challenged on the same basis, and depending on the circumstances might likewise be exempted. The majority has opened the door to challenging the application of any provision of this law to a closely held corporation -- indeed any provision of any law. They just don't know how the challenge will turn out.

It's interesting to note that the court broke down almost exactly on religious lines when dealing with contraception. Five of the six Roman Catholic justices voted with the majority, and all three Jews joined by one dissenting Catholic. I think this is significant because the majority opinion, written exclusively by Catholics, seems to treat concerns over contraception as sui generis; and the possibility of objections to the law based on issues important to other religious groups to be remote.

Another big deal in the majority opinion is that it takes another step towards raising for-profit corporations to the same status as natural persons. The quibbling involved is astonishing:

....no conceivable definition of 'person' includes natural persons and non-profit corporations, but not for-profit corporations.

Which may be true, but it's irrelevant. The question is whether compelling a for-profit corporation to do something impacts the religious liberties of natural persons in exactly the same way as compelling a church to do that same thing. If there is any difference whatsoever, then then the regulations imposed on the church *must* be less restrictive than the regulations imposed on a business. Logically, this is equivalent to saying the regulations imposed on a business *may* be more restrictive than the regulations imposed on a church.

about three weeks ago
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Neanderthals Ate Their Veggies

hey! Re:Vegetables out of necessity, or out of preferen (151 comments)

Some of us are old enough to remember the Vietnam war, which in turn brought us in contact with the long running civil war in Laos. Anti-communist Hmong from Laos fought alongside Americans and after both Vietnam and Laos fell to the Communists many Hmong refugees were resettled here in the US along with their families.

I remember this story about S. nigrum from a newspaper account back in the 80s about foraging by local Hmong refugees. There were lots of stories about Hmong settling in, and because this was pre WWW you read them because you read pretty much everything in the paper that was even vaguely interesting.

about a month ago
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Neanderthals Ate Their Veggies

hey! Re:Vegetables out of necessity, or out of preferen (151 comments)

In my experience you tend to crave what you habitually eat. The Hmong forage for Solanum nigrum -- black nightshade -- a plant that is not only inedibly bitter for most people, it's actually poisonous if you haven't spent years working up a tolerance to its toxic alkaloids. And here's the kicker: black nightshade grows wild here in the US and the old folks here go looking for it in the woods, even though they can buy meat and non-toxic vegetables in the supermarket. They grew up with the stuff, so they crave it.

The single most powerful feature our species has is behavioral flexibility. The same plant that is a side dish providing auxiliary nutrients today could be famine food tomorrow if the hunt doesn't go well. If a plant is nutritious and abundant in the environment, I'd expect local humans to eat it with enjoyment.

about a month ago
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Match.com, Mensa Create Dating Site For Geniuses

hey! What if I don't want to date women smart as me? (561 comments)

Maybe I'm looking for a woman who is better looking than me and who'll accept the IQ differential in exchange.

</sarcasm>

True story. I took a long bike ride last summer and ended up in a very affluent seaside community. I cross over the causeway to an island that's the most desirable neighborhood. I pass an attractive blonde woman jogging, but I think nothing of it. Then I pass another one. Then another. And another. I notice the women getting in and out of the Land Rovers in front of the Islands quaint shops. They're obviously blonde joggers too. It's like all the women came from the same Jogging Blonde Lady factory then were rigged out with different accessories. None of them look over 30.

So I start looking for men. They're obviously wealthy, but they appear on average 20 years older than the women. In fact, they're just regular, dumpy old shlumps with expensive cars and watches.

It was weird, like having a young, blonde, athletic wife was part of the homeowners' covenant or something. Sorry honey, but we just got a citation from the association and you'll have to move of the island. Heather here will be taking over your duties; be a dear and show her around the old place.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Would It Take For You To Buy a Smartwatch?

hey! I bought a Pebble for just one reason (427 comments)

Calendar reminders. That's it. I don't always keep my phone in my pocket and sometimes I have the thing on silent. It's worked out well for me. I tried the email and facebook notifications, but I really don't care about missing those things. For me the whole point of email over phone calls is that you don't have to drop what you're doing because somebody has something to tell you.

Now I've always worn watches; I like them. I like being able to glance to see the time. I also like the quick, crude analog timing function of a rotating bezel, although I can live with a digital stopwatch. And I like a good looking watch; for me this means simple, functional elegance. I think the best looking watch ever made was the Rolex Submariner, although I'd never spend that kind of money. Generally cheap watches are too cluttered for my taste, but you can find a reasonable Submariner knock-off around $80 (e.g., an Invicta 8926OB).

It's not a matter of impressing people with how much I spend. One of my favorite watches costs only $35 (Timex Expedition T45181). I like it because it is simple, functional, and aesthetically pleasing in a subdued way.

But with the Pebble any question of aesthetic elegance goes right out the window. It's an ugly hunk of plastic. It will not impress anyone. But then, missing an appointment because your phone is in your coat pocket on silent isn't going to impress anyone either. The Pebble does one critical thing (other than tell time) and does it really well. Most of the time that makes it my go-to watch. On weekends I go for my Submariner knock-off, or if I'm doing something that will beat up the watch I'll go for the Timex.

about a month ago

Submissions

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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
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hey! hey! writes  |  more than 7 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."
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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?"
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hey! hey! writes  |  more than 7 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?"

Journals

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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.

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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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