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Comments

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Ask Slashdot: Hungry Students, How Common?

idunham Food insecurity at University? Marginal (390 comments)

First, suggestions (aka what I ate):
Oatmeal, peanut butter sandwiches (especially with bananas or home-made jam), and the cheapest organ meat you can find. Ground beef heart can make a decent meatloaf, in a pinch.
(I got that from the "Meats Laboratory" at Chico, which is a slaughterhouse run by the university to train students.)

Now, observations:
Yes, it can be a problem.
I ended up spending around $10/week, for about the cheapest food I could get.
Most of the money I used to pay for a university education was from work I did in the meanwhile for $8.15/hr, so it's not impossible to work your way through.
The biggest thing is to find a place to stay that's close enough and cheap enough. I was working at the university farm and staying there as well, for ~$150/month. If I'd had to pay the $500+ that would be more typical, I don't think it would have worked.

about 3 months ago
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Beer Price Crisis On the Horizon

idunham Re:So - who's in love with the government again? (397 comments)

First, if you can't trust the byproducts from breweries to be safe, you've got a bigger problem: the beer would be poisonous.
Second, it's unlikely to cause problems that can bioaccumulate in livestock; if it goes bad, the livestock get sick, at which point the milk and meat cannot be used without treating them.

But what would I know? I only have a BS in agriculture.

about 3 months ago
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Scientists/Actress Say They Were 'Tricked' Into Geocentric Universe Movie

idunham Re:where is the controversy? (642 comments)

Thanks for bothering to look something up. A lot of people seem to not even be interested in doing that.
So, here are a couple verses that get quoted in this context:
Psalm 112:6: "Surely he [a good man] shall not be moved forever; the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance."
"moved" is the same word in Hebrew.
The argument goes something like this:

Surely the psalmist could not be teaching that "the good man" is physically immobile; this must obviously be taken as meaning that he cannot be moved from his course.
Apply that same meaning to "the earth can never be moved", and it's consistent with the earth orbiting the sun.

Job 26:7: "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the world upon nothing."

about 3 months ago
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Scientists/Actress Say They Were 'Tricked' Into Geocentric Universe Movie

idunham Re:where is the controversy? (642 comments)

May I suggest that you try asking some, or at least enquire where your source is?

Because I happen to have had BJUP science textbooks in school, and I read Ken Ham as well as Gould, and the claim that literalists are geocentrists doesn't sound at all like any of the books I've read.
On the other hand, that claim does sound like a claim I've heard before, which is discussed in a paper by Lindgren (2014).

about 3 months ago
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The Mammoth Cometh: Revive & Restore Tackles De-Extinction

idunham Re:They can but SHOULD THEY (168 comments)

Ah yes. I think that's a supercow you're asking for.

Welcome to the Lone Star Planet.

about 5 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Software Can You Not Live Without?

idunham A lot of the same...and some I didn't see (531 comments)

My list:
-Vim (usually I'll go for a motif build of gvim).
-Links2 for a lightweight browser that works with many websites in text, framebuffer, and X11.
-Iceweasel (preferred) or Firefox for a full browser.
Chrom{e,ium} and Midori don't cut it; I liked a number of the features of Opera, but not everything. QtWeb is nice when it works but doesn't have enough security updates (WebKit has fixed several vulnerabilities since the last release).
-xli and fbi/ida for image viewers. (Yes, I use three: one for framebuffer, one for a quick view in X, and one for going through photos and making small adjustments).
-xpdf for a PDF viewer, preferably with a certain small patch.
It's fairly light, doesn't waste much screen, and has rectangular selection. Ever tried copy-pasting from a 2-column pdf that was output wrong?
-ksh (OpenBSD pdksh, ksh93, or mksh. NOT oksh.)
Floating point shell math as in ksh93 is nice.
-Ted for a word processor. Yes, it's almost forgotten, and it only edits RTF. But it displays RTF right, and writes RTFs that show up the same anywhere else. When you could end up using any version of Microshaft Office, Wordpad, OpenOffice/LibreOffice, Textmate, or even vde, that's nice.
-mpg123 is great for audio...
-ffplay or vlc for video
-Xiphos and libsword
-gcc, python, dc, groff/nroff and man.

about 5 months ago
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Voynich Manuscript May Have Originated In the New World

idunham Re:You've been snookered (170 comments)

Looks like an herbal product trade group; that said, I'd hesitate to describe this particular one as "crackpots".
I expect the "Botanical" would be better read as "Botanicals", which is very roughly "plants used for non-food purposes".
That disclaimer is virtually mandated by US laws.

Full disclosure:
I'm an ag major who comes down on the side of conventional agriculture. While I was still at the university, I knew some people (professors included) interested in "alternative medicine", partly because of the restrictions related to organic production.
My impression of alternative medicine is that it's a very mixed bag, with too much room for quacks in a field that could include legitimate work.

about 6 months ago
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Voynich Manuscript May Have Originated In the New World

idunham Re:Clearly obvious... (170 comments)

Oh for mod points!
+1, Hilarious.

about 6 months ago
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Voynich Manuscript May Have Originated In the New World

idunham Re:I deciphered it last month. (170 comments)

That's not quite a sensible response: he said that the words were unusually homogenous in length, not that they were unusually long.

about 6 months ago
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Ford Rolls the Dice With Breakthrough F-150 Aluminum Pickup Truck

idunham Re:I live in a city in the Canadian Prairies (521 comments)

Where I live, the guys who have heavy-duty trucks all use them for work or go four-wheeling come the weekend...
and a majority of the people with pickups that their work doesn't require are ladies. (Usually for the sake of horses.)

about 7 months ago
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Winners and Losers In the World of Interfaces: 2013 In Review

idunham Re:Difficult article (116 comments)

Besides criticizing Twitter, he praises newspapers.
Several of his points are good, but...

Random or structured search instantly possible (go directly to what you want without complexity or scan for higher level content without additional cognitive complexity. This type of information-seeking and process-switching is every site designer's dream although impossible to acheive.)

Um, what?
I can scan a newspaper page in probably 15-20 seconds (5-10 seconds for a very quick overview).
Then read the relevant section, in another 30 seconds or so.
Of course, a third of the stories require a reference to another page, which you must go fumble for to get a clue what they're talking about...

Meanwhile, I could have used Google, or pressed Ctrl+F or /, and found what I was looking for pretty quickly.

Overall, he manages to point in the general direction of problems, but making it into content that actually can be meaningfully applied is something he completely misses...
like all too many "UX designers".

about 7 months ago
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China Rejects 545,000 Tons of US Genetically Modified Corn

idunham Re:Good luck keeping the genie in the bottle (215 comments)

Those who say that genetically modified products are safe are not necessarily saying that all GMOs are safe.

Genetic modification is a process which leads to a food with a different genetic profile than the original stock it came from.
It's quite possible to introduce a toxin this way, or an allergen; it's also possible to increase production of a vitamin, or to make a change that has no effect on the food portion. And it may be possible to reproduce the genetic code of a different species (which is what most of the de-extinction efforts are trying.)
And since it is a process, there is not necessarily any genetic or phenotypic characteristic in common between two GMOs.
So the obvious answer is to test everything and approve what is found to be safe.

Now, to finish the point, a genetically modified product has already been tested. Those who say that it is safe are not stating that it never should have been tested; they are saying that the testing was sufficient.

about 7 months ago
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Study Linking GM Maize To Rat Tumors Is Retracted

idunham Re:seems a bit strange (341 comments)

That said, why not make the agro businesses that make huge profits pay for unbiased testing in order to license the product?

The problem is that if they fund it, how do you ensure that the "third party" is unbiased?
And how likely are opponents of GMOs to consider it unbiased? I suspect that even if it did reduce the level of bias, you would hear as many people complaining that it can't be trusted. And perceptions may be as important as facts when it comes to getting the regulations changed.

...some pro-GMO person claims "Well our vitamin A rice".. but they neglect the "Terminating seeds" which reap huge profits for these companies.

There's a couple of things I'd like to point out:
1: If someone objects to all GMOs, they object to even the most beneficial ones. Vitamin A rice is a reasonable argument against those who want to ban GMOs. It's not a good argument against testing, but I've not seen it used that way myself.
2: If you are referring to the "terminator" traits where F2 is infertile rather than male-sterile lines, those have not been included in many seeds. In fact, the USDA currently does not list a deregulated corn or soybean terminator trait.
My understanding is that Monsanto had developed such a trait, which they intended to use to prevent accidental cross-pollination; but when people objected to it, they dropped it.

Male-sterile is quite different from the "terminator" trait; it prevents production of fertile pollen, so that a hybrid seed breeder does not need to hire people to go through the whole field and remove the male flowers from every plant that's supposed to be a female parent in the cross. It does not influence fertility of seeds.

But the reason for not saving and replanting seeds is that almost all seed is hybrid. This means that the second generation is likely to give you a level of variability that renders mechanized harvest impractical, as well as having lower productivity. And hand-harvesting corn is not something that pays off.

The FDA is swamped, sure. They don't need to be the testing company, they could be the gatekeepers for smaller independent companies to do testing. In other areas, like pharmaceuticals the cost of testing is assumed in the product. The same thing should be done with GMO foods, because the majority of the purposes are not altruistic but profit driven.

I did not mention cost as an issue because I'm well aware that there's quite a bit of testing in development of any crop.
I interned at Pioneer one summer collecting soil moisture measurements for drought stress trials, and they mentioned the scale of the testing.
A crop is usually tested for at least five years. Trials runs about $2000 per acre per year for corn, and there are always
several evaluations (resistance to pests, drought tolerance, nitrogen use efficiency, and so on) and they are replicated at 4-5 sites.

In pharmaceuticals, you still hear people claiming that there is bias, and once in a while you hear about trials that were tampered with.

about 8 months ago
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Study Linking GM Maize To Rat Tumors Is Retracted

idunham Re:'no definitive conclusions can be reached' (341 comments)

Don't forget about Lenape potatoes. Even if the study was correct, the same sort of problem has happened with conventional breeding.

"Plant-incorporated pesticides," to use the ag term, are not new pesticides. They are old ones in a new place.
For example: BT corn. It gets its name, and its effectiveness, from Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that is a selective insect killer (different strains target different insects).
B. thuringiensis has long been used as an organic pesticide.
Pesticide resistance and tolerance are also not new traits; they come from species that were exposed to the pesticide and turned out to be resistant or tolerant.

The reason for the focus is that a farmer can lose most of his crop to certain major pests and diseases. It makes more sense to prevent crop loss while keeping yield potential constant than to increase yield potential 20% while still risking 80% of the crop.

Besides, that's not all that GMOs are developed for, though most are. Drought tolerance research has been in progress for a while, and at least one of the varieties has been approved.
And there's high lysine corn, high oleic acid soybeans, soybeans modified for improved yield, soybeans modified to produce stearidonic acid or have a better fatty acid profile, reduced nicotine tobacco, and reduced lignin alfalfa.

about 8 months ago
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Study Linking GM Maize To Rat Tumors Is Retracted

idunham Re:seems a bit strange (341 comments)

And I think you did not read that paper thoroughly, or have no clue how it applies to biological research as conducted today.

What Meehl describes is a two-part issue.

First, there's a problem with using the point null hypothesis (two numbers are equal) instead of a more general null hypothesis (two sub-populations are within natural variation of each other).
The problem is that the point null is always false in fact, so a sufficiently precise test is guaranteed to prove it false and is thus likely to support a directional theory about half the time.

The second issue is that of taking support for a statistical hypothesis as support for a larger non-mathematical theory.
Other theories may well predict the same outcome, so a favorable result does not prove your own theory.
The two combine to make a scenario where, given precise enough measurements, half the time you will find support for your pet theory.

Now, if you don't use statistical analysis, you are essentially setting p=.99 and using a point null hypothesis.

In agricultural and biological research, standard practice is to use the null hypothesis that the two groups are within a certain amount of variation of each other.
And this is not necessarily false, so problem #1 goes away.
Problem #2 is a psychological problem you can always run into.
But ignoring p-values will not solve anything.

about 8 months ago
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Study Linking GM Maize To Rat Tumors Is Retracted

idunham Re:seems a bit strange (341 comments)

The null hypothesis Seralini et al. used?
They didn't have one, since they didn't do statistical tests on that.

about 8 months ago
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Study Linking GM Maize To Rat Tumors Is Retracted

idunham Re:"Even though they had 200 rats" (341 comments)

mosb1000 answered most of this, but I wanted to address this bit:

And, lastly, they tested a longer time. That means any effect will be noted in a smaller group.

...assuming that the population characteristics of 2 year old rats are similar to those of 3 month old rats.
Which is not necessarily the case.

And if you actually read the graphs in the paper, you might notice a couple things:
1: There's no indication of a dose-dependent response.
If you have control and three treatments given increasing quantities of a toxin, the effects of the toxin should increase with dose.
If the effects just fluctuate, you didn't have enough numbers.

2. There's something missing on the graphs: error bars.

about 8 months ago
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Study Linking GM Maize To Rat Tumors Is Retracted

idunham Re:seems a bit strange (341 comments)

Likewise, would you be in favor of retracting any that reached a very shaky conclusion?

Except that the conclusion was not shaky. The number and type of rats was what was complained about, not the actual experiment or the results.

Number and type of experimental subjects is a part of an experiment.
And a conclusion is "shaky" if it is not adequately supported by the experiment. Any factors that reduce the statistical confidence in the results should be considered when evaluating whether it's adequately supported by the results.

If you read the paper, you'll see that there are sizeable differences between doses that do not fit the response patterns of toxicity; if a treatment is toxic, higher doses are more toxic.
So they didn't have enough numbers to check it.
While Seralini et al. used the same number as would have been used in conventional tests, their experiment ran about 4-8 times longer (they finished at 2 years with many rats dying before then; standard experiments are 3 months or less). And a much older population is likely to not have the same consistency as a younger population.

Now, whether a paper should be/have been retracted for shaky conclusions is a different question. And I can see arguments both ways.

And a third question is how we can actually fund an adequate and unbiased test.
Make the USDA or FDA do it?
They're swamped, and aren't likely to have the funding.
Have them charge a fee?
Now you just moved the bias into the bureaucracy.
Hand it over to existing nonprofits?
No, because they get funding from somewhere and usually have a position one way or the other.
It might be possible to have something that comes out unbiased if you can get both sides to fund it.
Maybe a 3-way RR/conventional/organic test could be funded by Monsanto and the folks who like organics.

about 8 months ago
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$39 Arduino Compatible Boardset Runs Linux On New x86 SoC

idunham Re:but why x86? (95 comments)

Would you mind pointing out or naming one of the MIPS boards?
Not that I doubt you, but I've been looking for them for a couple years and have yet to find anything MIPS in that price range, except a few routers.

about 8 months ago

Submissions

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CDE 2.2.1 is released.

idunham idunham writes  |  about 5 months ago

idunham (2852899) writes "Version 2.2.1 of the Common Desktop Environment was released on March 1, featuring several bugfixes/warning fixes/portability improvements, localization, and a new port. UTF8 support has been greatly improved, to go with a new Greek UTF8 translation; an en_US.UTF8 locale was also added. dtinfo now builds and works (at least on Linux and FreeBSD). The new NetBSD port expands the BSD support to the big 3: FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD."
Link to Original Source
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Groklaw's PJ calls it quits

idunham idunham writes  |  about a year ago

idunham (2852899) writes "Over at Groklaw, PJ has posted the last Groklaw article (Forced Exposure):

The owner of Lavabit tells us that he's stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we'd stop too.
There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum.
What to do?
What to do? I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure it out. And the conclusion I've reached is that there is no way to continue doing Groklaw, not long term, which is incredibly sad. But it's good to be realistic. And the simple truth is, no matter how good the motives might be for collecting and screening everything we say to one another, and no matter how "clean" we all are ourselves from the standpoint of the screeners, I don't know how to function in such an atmosphere. I don't know how to do Groklaw like this.
...
My personal decision is to get off of the Internet to the degree it's possible. I'm just an ordinary person. But I really know, after all my research and some serious thinking things through, that I can't stay online personally without losing my humanness, now that I know that ensuring privacy online is impossible. I find myself unable to write. I've always been a private person. That's why I never wanted to be a celebrity and why I fought hard to maintain both my privacy and yours.
Oddly, if everyone did that, leap off the Internet, the world's economy would collapse, I suppose. I can't really hope for that. But for me, the Internet is over.
So this is the last Groklaw article. I won't turn on comments. Thank you for all you've done. I will never forget you and our work together. I hope you'll remember me too. I'm sorry I can't overcome these feelings, but I yam what I yam, and I tried, but I can't.

I note that at one point in the past, PJ turned over Groklaw to Mark Weber. I'm not sure if Mr. Weber will decide to continue Groklaw or something similar."

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