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Comments

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Doctors Say Food Stamp Cuts Could Cause Higher Healthcare Costs

jamie Re:Math, do it. (1043 comments)

As the linked article points out, that $15 billion is a simple correlation based on diabetes alone.

When cost savings are almost erased by one disease, maybe someone hasn't thought through the unintended consequences.

about 3 months ago
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iOS 7 Lock Screen Bug Leaves Certain Apps Vulnerable For Access

jamie Can't replicate (135 comments)

I can't replicate it either. The YouTube video claims I double-tap the home button but the second tap is slightly longer? By the end of the first tap it's already bringing me back to the lock screen, i.e. by the time I'm pressing down for the second tap, I'm already being taken back to the lock screen. iPhone 5, updated last night to 7.0 (11A465).

about 7 months ago
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Google Throws /. Under Bus To Snag Patent

jamie Re:/. turns green, lifts bus over head: PATENT SMA (584 comments)

Hmm. Well, there's also 7844610 which was filed in 2004 and does seem pretty similar. In fact their abstracts are identical. That's a little deflating.

The patent whose application was filed in April 2002 is this related one, 7502770, which isn't very similar. I think that's the one you meant.

more than 2 years ago
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Google Throws /. Under Bus To Snag Patent

jamie /. turns green, lifts bus over head: PATENT SMASH (584 comments)

I think I may want to contest this patent.

The patent cites Slashdot comment moderation as an example of how not to assign importance to user actions. Its authors were apparently unaware that the algorithm they described in November 2010 is virtually identical to the way Slashdot has actually assigned importance to user voting on Firehose stories since May 2008 (give or take). I know because I wrote it.

What this patent calls "authority," we call user "clout."

Multiple clouts, actually. Each Slashdot user has a number that describes how valuable the system believes their up/down votes in the firehose are, and it's separate from how valuable their descriptive tags applied to stories are. (Up/down votes are simply tags with special names, making vote-scoring and description-determination very similar under the hood.)

It's been a while since I looked at this code -- I work for sister company ThinkGeek now -- but scanning over our public repository here are some of the interesting parts:

plugs/Tags/tags_updateclouts.pl - the tags_peerclout table is the way that each type of clout is built. It has fixed entries at gen=0, the zeroth generation, which would typically be the Slashdot editors or other users considered reliable and definitive. To build gen=1, the code looks at how many users tagged or voted on the same objects as the gen=0 users did, and assigns the gen=1 users scores based on similarity (or difference). Then from the gen=1 users, gen=2 users are assigned scores similarly, and so on.

The gen=0 entries in that table "designate one or more contributing authorities by delegating to each a specific quantity of authority." I don't think I could describe that better myself.

plugins/Tags/Clout/Vote.pm process_nextgen() - here's where each new generation of user clout is successively determined, for firehose votes in particular. Line 194 invokes the algorithm and line 203 assigns that user their new voting clout. This iterative process is the automated method through which "each contributing authority may in turn designate and delegate authority to one or more additional contributing authorities."

plugins/Tags/Clout/Vote.pm init() - sum_weight_vectors totals the change in clout for each generation, and possible weight decreases exponentially. If you're in gen=1 the maximum weight you can have is only 60% of the maximum from gen=0, etc. The fraction is smaller than 100%, which helps ensure "that the total quantity of authority delegated does not exceed the quantity of authority the contributing authority was itself delegated." When the clouts are used to determine firehose item ratings, "the ratings are combined in a manner that affords a higher priority to the ratings provided by contributing authorities to which a greater quantity of authority was delegated."

All this may have changed since it was written. I don't actually know what's running on Slashdot at this moment. I'm just going by the public repository that I knew was on sf.net, and I don't even know if there's a later version of the code available anywhere.

But I suspect that this system would constitute prior art.

Also, looking over my code from 2008, boy, I really wish I'd put in more comments.

more than 2 years ago
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The Intentional Flooding of America's Heartland

jamie Re:Why should I read this? (477 comments)

You're just incorrect. You may have been misled by a modern American right-wing propaganda campaign. You should read what actual historians have to say about the idea that the Nazis were leftists.

If you're too busy to read the whole debate, allow me to excerpt:

Having set up distorted stereotypes of “liberalism” and “fascism” Goldberg finds them united by a host of similar projects such as campaigns against smoking (it was Nazi doctors who first established the link between smoking and cancer, and Hitler was a fanatical anti-smoker). These similarities concern peripheral matters. The foundational qualities that separate liberalism from fascism simply vanish from the analysis: political pluralism vs. single party; universal values vs. the supremacy of a master race; elections vs. charismatic leadership; fascism’s exaltation of feelings over reason.

more than 2 years ago
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The Intentional Flooding of America's Heartland

jamie Re:Why should I read this? (477 comments)

He says the Nazis were left-wingers [americanthinker.com]

Actually it is rather common opinion among historians, that the far-left and far-right meet at the far end

Wrong.

more than 2 years ago
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The Intentional Flooding of America's Heartland

jamie Re:Why should I read this? (477 comments)

By calling him a right-wing nut, which implies there's no basis for strict constructionism

Wrong. (I stopped reading there.)

more than 2 years ago
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The Intentional Flooding of America's Heartland

jamie Re:Why should I read this? (477 comments)

Heh. I quoted statements of fact which were unsubstantiated. That's a problem. You quoted me giving an editorial opinion. That's not.

You edited out the link I provided (which, unlike Herring's, gave more information about what I was saying). And you omitted the sentence where I quoted someone to back up what I wrote.

Ooooookay.

more than 2 years ago
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The Intentional Flooding of America's Heartland

jamie Re:Why should I read this? (477 comments)

If I'm being asked to trust what Joe Herring says because of who he is, then of course I need to know who he is. He doesn't present evidence to back up many of his assertions, he just writes stuff and hopes I'll believe it:

The Missouri River Recovery and Implementation Committee has seventy members. Only four represent interests other than environmentalism. The recommendations of the committee, as one might expect, have been somewhat less than evenhanded.

Says who?

This year, despite more than double the usual amount of mountain and high plains snowpack (and the ever-present risk of strong spring storms), the true believers in the Corps have persisted in following the revised MWCM, recklessly endangering millions of residents downstream.

Says who?

Whether warned or not, the fact remains that had the Corps been true to its original mission of flood control, the dams would not have been full in preparation for a "spring pulse." The dams could further have easily handled the additional runoff without the need to inundate a sizeable chunk of nine states.

Says who?

more than 2 years ago
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The Intentional Flooding of America's Heartland

jamie Why should I read this? (477 comments)

Who the hell is Joe Herring and why should I trust anything he writes? Did Slashdot review his scholarship here and give it a stamp of approval, or was it just put up on the website, leaving it to the readers to decide whether it's B.S. or not?

No qualifications or expertise are claimed for Joe Herring on the website. In fact no information on his background is given except that he is "from Omaha, NE." This is highly unusual for a publication that hopes to be taken seriously. We don't even know if that is his real name.

We are left to judge the value of this Joe Herring essay by his previous contributions and by the reliability and reputation of the website that publishes his work.

Joe Herring is, in short, a right-wing nut.

He claims all leftists -- all! -- want to overthrow the Constitution: "The continuum on the left that ranges from the 'wouldn't it be nice if we all just smiled' types to the hardcore authoritarian communists may disagree about methods, but sadly, all agree on one thing: if their utopia is to come about, the Constitution -- and the form of government derived from it -- must be replaced with...something."

He says the Nazis were left-wingers: "The Left will not willingly lay claim to the true legacy of socialism, so we will have to hang it around their necks."

He believes that the true goal of health care reform, renewable-energy subsidies, and regulations on Wall Street is for "the left" to seize power and exterminate half of the human race. Really: "As the federal government asserts control over health care, energy production, and the financial markets, the trinity of power is within the left's grasp. Unless driven back from their goals -- and quickly -- the likelihood grows daily that more than four billion of our 'species' will be joining the table scraps and yard clippings on the compost pile."

He thinks the problem with Politifact's 2009 Lie of the Year, "death panels," is that the right wasn't lying hard enough: "To describe this board as a 'death panel,' as Rush Limbaugh has, is to underestimate its power and misconstrue its purpose."

And five minutes with Google reveals that American Thinker is a source that, shall we say, lends no additional credibility to Joe Herring's contributions. Take global warming as a typical example. They printed essays claiming to have found a "smoking gun" that disproves global warming (wrong). Then they found another single argument that by itself disproves global warming (still wrong). They argue that global warming is a Nazi lie.

This "intentional flooding" piece looks like yet another right-wing hit job on leftism. I would be happy to entertain the idea that misguided environmentalism is partially to blame for one disaster or another, but I would like to hear a reasoned argument from someone who's not a nut.

more than 2 years ago
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Expense and Uncertainty Plague 'Fair Use' Defense

jamie Re:My submission (190 comments)

It wasn't your submission that was used. I shared it with the Slashdot author folks a few hours before you submitted. They penned their own writeup. :)

more than 2 years ago
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Where the Global Warming Data Is

jamie Re:Oh, hey, (1011 comments)

You wrote something similar to this in another comment too:

Those climate 'scientists', to be responsible, should be telling us not to take a single step until they can generate the scientific models to assure us that if, for example, we invested $100T over 50 years we would lower the temperature even a tenth of a degree.

You're just wrong here, Steve, on two levels.

One is that you're forgetting that "not to decide is to decide." Everyone knows the predictive models are inexact. Even over the past ten years or so, we've seen the best scientific predictions proved wrong -- global warming is getting much worse, much faster, than the consensus belief in 1999.

Waiting for an arbitrary standard of scientific certainty before changing any behavior is an option the world has, one option among many: the "continue as before" option. What we do know is that that leads to disaster. We may not be able to say exactly when which exact magnitude of disaster will arrive, but it is known to be a catastrophe of global proportions.

And we may not be able to know the ideal time to begin acting for optimum return on our economic sacrifice, but it's pretty clearly in the past: beginning global greenhouse-gas reduction efforts ten years ago would have been better than, say, now.

The other level you're wrong at is that it's scientists' job to give us information about our options. Refusing to tell us that the status quo leads to catastrophe until predictive abilities reach an arbitrary threshold of certainty would be a breach of scientific responsibility. And pretty amoral too, it'd take a Guild of Evil Scientist level of inhumanity to know about impending world destruction and swear a pact not to say anything.

Suppose the approaching danger were instead an archipelago of asteroids whose orbit will approximately intersect the earth in a hundred years. The scientists don't know whether the really big rocks will hit the earth but some of the medium-size ones probably will. They don't have any plans for deflecting them or taking earthbound steps to handle the catastrophe. But shouldn't they tell us what they know? And, as fellow human beings, wouldn't they recommend that the world take the best known course of action at the best possible time?

more than 4 years ago
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Lost Northwest Pilots Were Trying Out New Software

jamie Re:It's a tough job and it pays accordingly (518 comments)

$200K for the decades of training and experience

Getting your commercial license does not take "decades of training"

If only you'd kept reading for just two more words! :)

The most-senior pilots who fly the big jets for the biggest commercial airlines make $200K. They got there by climbing the seniority ladder for 30+ years.

See the links in my original post for more details.

more than 4 years ago
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Lost Northwest Pilots Were Trying Out New Software

jamie Re:It's a tough job and it pays accordingly (518 comments)

HAH! "for a job that technology has made almost fully automated... the larger the plane, the more they earn - even though it takes little more skill to pilot a jumbo jet."

$200K for the decades of training and experience to know what to do when one of the world's more complicated machines breaks, a mile in the air, with 200 souls on board. "Overpaid"? What a jackass.

more than 4 years ago
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Lost Northwest Pilots Were Trying Out New Software

jamie Re:Isn't it truly frightening (518 comments)

His latest movie isn't compelling, and his fact-checkers fell down on the job this time around. It's barely even entertaining. I don't recommend it. That doesn't mean what he reports is untrue -- he talked to these guys, he saw a pay stub.

(Previous efforts have been much more enlightening and educational. I do recommend Columbine, Fahrenheit, and especially Sicko.)

more than 4 years ago
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Lost Northwest Pilots Were Trying Out New Software

jamie Re:It's a tough job (518 comments)

on *AVERAGE* the pay is around $70k

So you accept numbers on a webpage without questioning the methodology? And without questioning the numbers themselves? The line you quote shows a narrow range from $67,613 to $87,893 -- starting salaries are $67,613? Really? That didn't make you blink?

How about the fact that the "AVERAGE" shown is exactly halfway between the lowest and highest salary shown?

Who reported these numbers? Was there self-selection bias? Did someone just make the numbers up? Are there even more than two figures forming this "AVERAGE"? Any idea?

C'mon, critical thinking skills please.

I don't know anything about this site you found, but it backs up what I wrote, saying:

...the top salary level is reached only after many years of service and only at a few of the major airlines. Most airline pilots start out as first officer (co-pilot) with a regional carrier; initially they earn about $15,000 to $20,000 a year. And when they join a major airline, their first position may not be as a pilot, but as a flight engineer. Considerable training is necessary for any type of pilot job, and most airline pilots have to 'pay their dues' by first gaining a good deal of experience either in the military or in other types of civilian piloting.

more than 4 years ago
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Lost Northwest Pilots Were Trying Out New Software

jamie It's a tough job (518 comments)

Obviously the pilots should have paid more attention, but I suspect the reason they were trying to squeeze in a little extra work is that they weren't going to get paid to learn the scheduling system on their own time.

Pilots go through years of expensive schooling and have to repay their student loans like everyone else. Their salaries start around $20,000 if they can get hired in a very competitive market.

Remember the hero pilot who landed the plane in the Hudson, saving Flight 1549 and 155 people's lives?

the last talk [Capt. Sullenberger] had with his wife, Lorrie, before the crash... was about money.

Like thousands of airline workers, his salary had been cut in half and he lost most of his pension. At 58, the 29-year veteran faced having to find work outside the industry and possibly having to sell his house.

Many pilots take second jobs. Some are on food stamps:

He took home $405 this week. My life was completely and totally in his hands for the past hour and he's paid less than the kid who delivers my pizza.

I told the guys that I have a whole section in my new movie about how pilots are treated (using pilots as only one example of how people's wages have been slashed and the middle class decimated). In the movie I interview a pilot for a major airline who made $17,000 last year. For four months he was eligible -- and received -- food stamps. Another pilot in the film has a second job as a dog walker.

"I have a second job!," the two pilots said in unison. One is a substitute teacher. The other works in a coffee shop.

more than 4 years ago
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Porn Surfing Rampant at US Science Foundation

jamie This article is misleading at best (504 comments)

Well, this is reported by the Washington Times, so you know it's not biased in the least. OK, let's take a look.

The only substantive abuse claim here is a quote from the NSF's inspector general making a budget request to Congress. The Times article implies that "this dramatic increase," forcing fraud detection efforts to be reduced, refers to employees browsing porn.

But that's not the case, is it. If we read the Times article very carefully, we see that the very first graf references:

Employee misconduct investigations, often involving workers accessing pornography

Subsequent references to "the problems," "this dramatic increase," and "the misconduct cases" are all really talking about employee misconduct as a whole, not porn surfing specifically.

Maybe that's why this article is big on rhetoric and small on actual cases. One lengthy case is detailed on the article's first page. How much did that case cost taxpayers? "Between $13,800 and $58,000." Out of the NSF's $6.49 billion budget. That's 0.0006%.

How often is "often"? Six times as often as before. Misconduct cases -- not porn specifically -- went from 3 in 2006, to 7 in 2007, to 10 in 2008. The Times hints repeatedly that this is a huge problem, but despite its lavish use of adjectives -- "pervasive," "swamped," "well-publicized" -- it has to report that the actual number of porn-related misconduct cases in 2008 was seven.

Slashdot's headline "Porn Surfing Rampant" is exactly the kind of exaggeration that the Washington Times was hoping secondary media would slap on this story. "Rampant" is just not true, there's no possible way seven cases in a year can be described that way.

If each case was as bad as the one "between $13,800 and $58,000" case that was identified, those seven cases probably cost 0.004% of the NSF's budget.

But the Times article gets worse, moving from exaggeration to outright lies. Later, its author Jim McElhatton writes:

The foundation's inspector general ... told Congress it was diverted from that mission by the porn cases.

That's a flat-out lie. The OIG told Congress it was diverted by "employee misconduct," not porn. Here, read the actual budget request. (Full quote below.)

There is one paragraph in a 7-page report that references employee misconduct, and nowhere are "porn cases" referenced. Surely some of the cost to the agency was specifically from porn-surfing misconduct. And some was not. How much? We still don't know.

Look, any major institution, private or public, that employs a large number of people and gives them access to the internet, is going to have a few employees who abuse that access. It's ridiculous to think otherwise. Employees are capable of wasting time in a wide variety of creative ways. I daresay some employees in the private sector are wasting time reading Slashdot right at this very moment when they are nominally getting paid to do other things.

Republicans aren't fans of science; we know that. Smearing the NSF in the media by associating their name with porn for a news cycle is a fun yuk I suppose, but for conservatives it's another shot fired in the culture war. I find it depressing. There's actual news out there; this is at best People magazine type crap.

And it's ironic that this gets spread over the internet that the NSF helped create, and the story is brought to you thanks to the Freedom of Information Act that was passed by Democrats over the objections of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Scalia.

Finally, as someone who 10 years ago was writing stories for Slashdot exposing the flaws of censorware, I have to say it's really embarrassing that the site is now being used to hawk the stuff. Websense is going to save us from porn? And it's not going to tie the hands of investigators who need to look into research misconduct? It's a good thing to treat NSF researchers like children and criminals? Really?

---

Full quote from the NSF budget request:

With increasing frequency, OIG has been called upon to investigate instances of employee misconduct within the agency. The urgency of these investigations has required the reassignment of staff focused on the core areas of our investigative program: research misconduct and fraud. In 2008, we experienced a 6-fold increase in employee misconduct cases and associated proactive and management implication report activities. To manage this dramatic increase without an increase in staff required us to significant reduce our efforts to investigate grant fraud. We anticipate a significant decline in investigative recoveries and prosecution in the coming years as a direct result. An increase in staff will help minimize this decline while allowing us to handle the continued flow of employee cases. More importantly, it will provide the additional resources needed to balance the proportionate need to investigate employee misconduct, grant fraud and research misconduct.

more than 4 years ago
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DoE Considers Artificial Trees To Remove CO2

jamie Re:These things are nothing like a tree (418 comments)

Trees have a finite lifespan, and, as noted, when they die they (barring very rare circumstances) release the carbon back into the atmosphere.

If the median tree carbon content is 5 tons and life is 50 years, each tree sequesters 250 ton-years of carbon.

Now we can start comparing opportunity costs. What do we lose by planting the tree, as compared to other actions or inaction? Potential land-use costs? Labor costs? Could the carbon sequestration and other benefits of the tree be achieved more cheaply in other ways?

...including conservation? Multiply the kilowatt savings of a more-efficient refrigerator by its expected lifespan and carbon-per-kilowatt-hour and it may turn out to be a better use of resources to build refrigerators than plant trees. What resources are required to build a wind farm that produces carbon-free energy for 50 years?

I'm not an expert but the numbers are so large that I doubt tree-planting will accomplish much. Humans add about 5 gigatons of carbon a year to the atmosphere. Let's say an average tree masses 10 tons, half of which is carbon, in 1000 square feet, for 50 years. Sequestering 5% of our carbon emissions would mean planting 100,000 square kilometers of forest every year -- the entire state of Virginia. For years 1-50. In year 51, now that you've covered an area half the size of the U.S. in trees, you need to redouble your efforts because the first year's are dead and decaying.

That's a lot of work to cut net emissions by five percent. I'll bet there are much more effective ways.

more than 4 years ago

Submissions

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Another Climate-Change Retraction

jamie jamie writes  |  about 7 months ago

jamie (78724) writes "It seems every time someone twists global-warming science into 'good news,' a retraction is soon to follow, and so it must be for Slashdot. Yesterday, the conservative Wall Street Journal published yet another apologetic claiming "the overall effect of climate change will be positive," by someone who (of course) is not a climate scientist. Today, Climate Progress debunks the piece, noting 'Ridley and the WSJ cite the University of Illinois paper to supposedly prove that warming this century will be under 2C — when the author has already explained to them that his research shows the exact opposite!' We went through this same process last year, with the same author and the same paper, so it's pretty embarrassing that he 'makes a nearly identical blunder' all over again."
Link to Original Source
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Gore Misquoted on Hexametric Hurricanes

jamie jamie writes  |  about 8 months ago

jamie (78724) writes "In a story on Thursday, Slashdot and its readers had a little fun at the expense of Al Gore, who was quoted as saying that the hurricane severity scale was going to go to 6. A correction was made the next day. The author of the piece that Slashdot linked now writes "I retract the balance of my criticism." Turns out Gore was misquoted.

Luckily for Gore, this is the first time he's been ridiculed for something he didn't actually say. Well, except for Love Story, Love Canal, farm chores, and everyone's favorite, inventing the internet.

(The original Slashdot story is at http://yro.slashdot.org/story/13/08/22/2111247/for-overstated-claims-gore-tesla-upbraided-by-nws-nhtsa-respectively and its central link now includes the Washington Post's correction.)"

Link to Original Source
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How did WordPress win?

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 3 years ago

jamie (78724) writes "Byrne Reese discusses why WordPress beat Movable Type, and offers some insightful thoughts about licensing and the perception of "free." (I hope his impression that people think perl is "scary" isn't as common as he thinks.)"
Link to Original Source
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NASA - NASA Finds Earth-Size Planet Candidates In

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 3 years ago

jamie (78724) writes "NASA's Kepler mission has discovered its first Earth-size planet candidates and its first candidates in the habitable zone, a region where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface."
Link to Original Source
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RealClimate: Getting things right

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 3 years ago

jamie writes "'Last Monday, I was asked by a journalist whether a claim in a new report from a small NGO made any sense. ... The press response to their study has therefore been almost totally dominated by the error at the beginning of the report, rather than the substance of their work on the impacts. This public relations debacle has lessons for NGOs, the press, and the public.'"
Link to Original Source
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Skynet meets the Swarm: how the Berkeley Overmind

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 3 years ago

jamie writes "StarCraft, one of the most popular games ever made, also serves as the perfect proving ground for artificial intelligence. Here's the inside story of how a Berkeley team won the world's first StarCraft AI competition with code that can beat even pro-level human players."
Link to Original Source
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Turns out that music really is intoxicating, after

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 3 years ago

jamie writes "Our reaction to the music that we love stimulates the flow of dopamine into certain sections of the brain, concludes a new study out of McGill University. The findings "help to explain why music is of such high value across all human societies," the scientists note."
Link to Original Source
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How long before apps overtake physical video game

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 2 years ago

jamie writes "Horace Dediu crunches some numbers and comes to a startling conclusion: 'If you look at the red line above and its slope, it would indicate that, given time, the App store will overtake the entire physical media gaming industry. The time when that happens will depend a lot on the growth or decline of the physical game media business, but another four years seems a safe bet.' This follows on the heels of some earlier analysis of apps per iOS device and what that steady upward growth means."
Link to Original Source
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A New And Maybe Better Way To Stop People From Bei

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 3 years ago

jamie writes "The people running the video game League of Legends knew they had a problem. They had the same problem that makes much of the Internet unpleasant. Too many people were being jerks online. They're hatching a novel solution: citizen justice."
Link to Original Source
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NOAA: 2010 Tied For Warmest Year on Record

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 3 years ago

jamie writes "A NOAA preliminary analysis reports that 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record, beginning in 1880. This was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average — 0.62 +/- 0.07 C above, to be precise. It was the wettest year on record too, according to the Global Historical Climatology Network."
Link to Original Source

Journals

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NYC graffiti law

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 6 years ago

I'd completely forgotten I wrote this three years ago:

Joshua Kinsberg has been released. But his bike and invention are impounded, at least until his court date on Friday (after the RNC is over).

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5850151/

NYC's anti-graffiti law is very strict:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nograffiti/html/legislation.html

"No person shall write, paint or draw any inscription, figure or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or any other real or personal property owned, operated or maintained by a public benefit corporation, the city of New York or any agency or instrumentality thereof or by any person, firm, or corporation, or any personal property maintained on a city street or other city-owned property pursuant to a franchise, concession or revocable consent granted by the city, unless the express permission of the owner or operator of the property has been obtained."

I wonder if the framers of that law realized they were banning kids from chalking hopscotch onto their schools' playground or onto the sidewalks in front of their houses. I wonder how many children have been arrested for chalking up a 4-square game.

One important point: the police did not see the chalk-spraying invention being _used_. So the inventor probably could not have been charged with the above law. But the only other anti-graffiti laws describe "aerosol spray paint cans," and the video of the arrest clearly shows the inventor explaining to the police that it uses chalk, not paint. Predictably, the New York Post gets that wrong, describing the invention as "a convoluted spray-paint mechanism": http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/29532.htm

Earlier this month, a family was threatened with a $300 fine for their 6-year-old girl's drawing with sidewalk chalk.

On her own front step.

It's legal of course. The police screwed up. Notice the final clause from the law as of 2004 ("unless... permission of the owner... has been obtained") and the similar clause from the 2005 law Natalie Shea was threatened with (only if "not consented to by the owner").

But a street artist was later arrested for drawing on the sidewalk with chalk (while being filmed by PBS about his artwork!). And I won't be surprised if sooner or later some kid literally chalking hopscotch onto the sidewalk or a school playground gets arrested.

That's the law, after all. We had to make sure nobody chalked anti-Bush slogans while the RNC was in town. And the law's the law.

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Efficient RSS Throttling

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 9 years ago Dan Sandler has an article from a few days ago about RSS throttling, where he discusses the solution of having the server keep track of which clients have hit RSS feeds recently, so it knows when a client crosses the line and needs to be banned.

This is exactly what we do on Slashdot, of course. Every hit, whether to a dynamically-generated perl script page, or to a static .shtml or .rss page, triggers an Apache PerlCleanupHandler which inserts a row into our 'accesslog' table on our MySQL database.

(By putting it in the cleanup phase, we ensure it doesn't affect page delivery times at all; it just means a few more milliseconds that the httpd child is occupied instead of being available to deliver pages, but the only resource it's taking up is RAM.)

Dan writes:

I'm uncomfortable with this solution because it's hard to make it scale. First, you have to hit a database (of some kind) to cross-reference the client IP address with its last fetch time. Maybe that's not a big deal; after all, you're hitting the database to read your website data too. But then you have to write to the database in order to record the new fetch time (if the RSS feed has changed), and database writes are slow.

I'll grant that our accesslog traffic is pretty I/O intensive. But if you were only talking about logging RSS hits and nothing else, it'd be a piece of cake. The table just needs three columns (timestamp, IP address, numeric autoincrement primary key). You expire old entries by deleting off one end of the table while you insert into the other. That way inserts never block, even under MyISAM (though I'd recommend InnoDB).

You only need to keep about an hour of the table around anyway, so it's going to be really slow. How many RSS hits can you get in an hour? A hundred thousand? That's peanuts, especially since each row is fixed size. Crunch that IP address down to a 32-bit int before writing it and each row is 12 bytes, give or take. Throw in the indexes and the whole table is a few megabytes. Even a slow disk should be able to keep up -- but if you're concerned about performance, heck, throw it in RAM.

To catch bandwidth hogs, you create a secondary table that doesn't have so much churn. It has an extra column for the count of RSS hits, so if some miscreant nails your webserver 1,000 times in a minute, the secondary table only gets 1 row. You periodically (every minute or two) check the max id on that table, then

INSERT INTO secondary_table SELECT ip, MAX(ts), COUNT(*) FROM table WHERE id BETWEEN last_checked+1 AND current_max GROUP BY ip

By limiting the id to a range, again, there is no blocking issue with the ongoing inserts. After doing that, you trim off rows from secondary_table older than an exact time amount, and then you're ready to do the only query that even approaches being expensive:

SELECT ip, SUM(hitcount) AS s FROM secondary_table HAVING s > your_limit GROUP BY ip

and you have your list of IP addresses that have exceeded your limit.

What we do is use that data to update a table that keeps track of IP addresses that need to be banned from RSS, and have a PerlAccessHandler function that checks a (heavily cached) copy of that table to see whether the incoming IP gets to proceed to the response phase or not.

Slashdot's resource requirements are actually a lot higher than this, since we log every hit instead of just RSS, we log the query string, user-agent, and so on -- and also because we've voluntarily taken on the privacy burden of MD5'ing incoming IP addresses so we don't know where users are coming from. That makes our IP address field 28 bytes longer than it has to be. But even so, we don't have performance issues. Slashdot's secondary table processing takes about 10-15 seconds every 2 minutes.

As for Dan's concern about IP addresses hidden behind address translation -- yep, that's a concern. (We don't bother checking user-agent because idiots writing RSS-bombing scripts would just spam us with random agents.) The good news is that you can set your limits pretty high and still function, since a large chunk of your incoming bandwidth is that top fraction of a percent of hits that are poorly-written scripts. Even a large number of RSS feeds behind a proxy shouldn't be that magnitude of traffic. We do get reader complaints, though, and for a sample of them, anyone thinking about doing this might want to read this thread first.

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Oil Shock Could Cause Another Recession

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 9 years ago The media is surprisingly quiet about the "oil shock" that we are going through. One might almost call it "suppressed panic": I'm seeing the story in financial sections but it hasn't hit the front page yet. The price of oil keeps hitting record highs, and with supply barely exceeding demand, the price may continue to rise in the months to come.

The question is how much. The consensus seems to be that if we hit the $60-70 level and stay there for a few months, we're definitely looking at another recession. But what damage could a $50-60 price do? Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley was concerned, saying in August that

With oil prices now in the high $40s (WTI basis), there is good reason to treat this development as yet another in a long string of energy shocks. The impact of such disruptions depends very much on context -- namely, the vulnerability, or lack thereof, in the underlying economy. When a weak economy is hit by any type of a shock, recession normally results. Conversely, a strong economy is better insulated to withstand such a blow. Most of the oil shocks of the past fall into the former category -- hitting economies when they are vulnerable. Unfortunately, the Oil Shock of 2004 fits that script to a tee. [...]

At the current level of around $47, oil prices are 62% above the $29 average that has prevailed since early 2000. That takes the "real" oil price (i.e., WTI quotes deflated by the headline CPI) back to levels last seen in the late 1980s; in fact, other than the brief spike in late 1990, the current increase represents the sharpest run-up in the real oil price since the late 1970s. I have maintained for some time that the "true" shock probably comes with $50 oil (see my May 10 dispatch, "Global Wildcards"). That would represent in excess of a 70% surge above the post-2000 average -- enough of a spike, in my view, to put it in the ballpark with full-blown oil shocks of the past.

and

"The economy is near its tipping point," Stephen S. Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley, said yesterday. He said the nation would likely fall back into recession if oil prices hover near $50 a barrel for three to six months.

"This is an oil shock, absolutely," Roach said, noting that yesterday's closing price was 68 percent higher than the roughly $29 per barrel average that had prevailed since early 2000. "The oil price is high enough to make a real difference to a vulnerable U.S and global economy."

I wonder if W's economic legacy will be a W-shaped recovery.

Update, Nov. 1, 2004: Oil Down $2, Speculators Bet on Kerry Win - LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices fell heavily on Monday, taking U.S. crude below $50 on speculation that a U.S. election win for Senator John Kerry could ease the geopolitical friction that helped fuel this year's record-breaking rally.

Update, April 8, 2005: "The economists have changed their minds," says the WSJ. The economists who were saying last August that $50-60 oil would cause a recession have bumped their estimate up to $80-90. It's quite possible they were too pessimistic last year (and that I was foolish to believe them). But this writer wonders if they shouldn't have stuck to their guns. Oil peaked recently in the high-$50s, but has declined all this week, to $53.

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Anti-virus spamware

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 10 years ago Every anti-virus software manufacturer knows that viruses fake their From addresses. This has been true for years.

So any anti-virus software that detects a virus, and then bounces a reply back to the alleged "sender," with a warning about how their product stopped the virus, serves no purpose except to advertise their product.

Such emails are (1) unsolicited and (2) commercial, and are therefore spam.

Example of spam I received from a Sophos product:

Dear Sender,

The Hays Personnel Services Internet Gateway has detected a virus in an email message that you sent. The email has been quarantined and has not been delivered to its intended recipient(s) .

Please scan and clean all your files and attachments to ensure they are free of viruses and then re-send your message.

For your reference, the details of the message you sent are:
Subject: hello
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2004 11:20:25 +0800
Recipients:
[redacted]

The Virus Detected: Scenarios/Incoming/Incoming Sophos Virus Scan: A virus has been detected: 'W32/MyDoom-A'.

[...]

A number of current viruses spoof the senders email address. If this email has been sent to you in error please accept our apologies.

For further information on the virus specified above, please refer to http://www.sophos.com/ virusinfo/

Whoever wrote that software either knew or should have known that MyDoom spoofs the From line. Therefore, the only reason for sending that mail to me was to say "look how great Sophos is at protecting this company from viruses -- maybe it can protect your company too!" Ironically, that company offers anti-spam solutions as well!

I offer a warning to any company thinking about installing an anti-virus email filter -- if you pick a product that responds to viruses by sending spam, your company's mail server may well be blocked by other mail servers around the world. It's not fair, but that's the way the world works now.

To anyone who writes a review of anti-virus email software: warn your readers off any package which spams!

And to anti-virus companies who engage in this sleazy scam: screw you.

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Can't make it to tonight's meetup

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 10 years ago I signed up on slashdot.meetup.com and said I'd be at the Ann Arbor, Michigan meeting tonight. Then I got a throat cold. I've been feeling under the weather this week. I just don't feel like spending a total of 3 hours in a car when I'm still slightly mucusy and sore.

I think it'd be fun, but... maybe next month. Sorry.

I'd post this note on meetup.com, but it doesn't seem like there's any way for me to do so, without giving them money. And I think I'll attend at least one real-world meeting of some kind before I'll be doing that.

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Wanted: Open-Source Audio Programmer

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 10 years ago

Someone I know is looking for a programmer to design and code an audio application. This is for a university, so the resulting program will be used in labs, possibly around the country. The source code will be published under some open-source license.

The resulting program would have to run on Macintosh and Windows, and preferably on Linux as well. The project would have to be completed within n months -- that's undetermined, and depends somewhat on the final feature set, but definitely not as much as a year. So it would be important that the programmer be familiar with some application framework that allows for development on those three platforms, because there isn't a budget for spending three months to learn about how to do that. I don't think anyone cares what language/environment you use as long as it's compatible with an open-source license and is portable to the three desired platforms.

The core of the program is an algorithm that will take input from an audio source (microphone) of human singing and convert it, in real time, into a frequency in Hz. This means not only doing an FFT, on a scale of tens of milliseconds, in real time -- which is fairly well understood -- but also interpreting the result. When a pitch is sung, the frequencies produced are not limited to the base tone, which our ears hear as "the pitch." The note produced includes a variety of formants and overtones, depending on the vowel being sung.

Pulling out "the frequency" from a constantly-changing vector of amplitudes is not rocket science, but it's not trivial either. If you're not an expert on digital audio, don't worry too much about it. Explaining this to you is the professor's job. But if the above description scares you, well, this project is probably not for you.

If it helps you visualize, the core of this is quite similar to the core of the program Music MasterWorks, with the key difference that this application must be geared toward feedback and evaluation in a classroom setting. And of course that it will be open-source, a chief advantage of which is that other academic institutions will be able to build on the work over time and maintain it.

There is of course money to pay for this. This is a university, so you're not getting stock that will make you rich. But it'll pay the bills for those n months.

The remaining necessary features are pretty boring: the program has to be able to take audio input from whatever standard microphone setup there is for the platforms needed. It has to play audio (to establish the key for the student and play for them the notes they are to sing back). It has to allow students to log in, and has to store data about their activities, over a network to an SQL database (real simple DB stuff).

The final goal for this project is to allow professors to flexibly input a series of MIDI notes, and to have students sight-sing (since displaying a staff visually is probably harder than playing the necessary notes out the speaker!). That means features like authorizing a professor, reading MIDI input live from a MIDI interface, storing that data, and displaying notes on a staff in a (relatively simple) graphical format. But I think we're assuming that's going into version 2.0.

The programming work can almost certainly be done over the internet, with meetings by regular ol' phone, after an initial face-to-face meeting.

None of this is starting soon. There is grant paperwork, and approvals, which have yet to happen. My best guess is that the ball will get rolling "sometime this calendar year" -- not a very accurate guess, I know, sorry about that.

If you're a programmer who'd be interested in this project, drop me a line at jamie@mccarthy.vg.

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Tetrahymena

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 11 years ago Always back up your valuable data!

The single-celled organism Tetrahymena has two cell nuclei. One contains the working copy of its DNA database.

The other contains a replicated slave DB, which acts as a checksum to the original in case it becomes corrupted.

The BBC has the story.

"The smaller nucleus (called the micronucleus) does nothing more than keep the cell's full genome safe. It seems that Tetrahymena uses the smaller of its two nuclei as a master record of its dna so that it always has a safe set of genes for the cell's offspring.

"The other nucleus, called the macronucleus, uses 'working' dna to regulate the cell's life functions."

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A Freudian Slip

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 11 years ago The American Decency Association put me on their mailing list after I did the reports on library censorware in Holland, Mich.

So every few days I get something in my inbox from repressed people protesting Howard Stern, Cosmo at the supermarket or a not-sufficiently- Family Video. The latest big push of theirs is the boycott of Abercrombie and Fitch for peddling porn and selling thongs for girls.

Today's mail included this letter from Bill Johnson, the President of the ADA.

To: Friends
From: Bill Johnson
Re: How do we get convictions?
Date: October 11, 2002

A PERSONAL NOTE:

How do we get convictions? Can we instill them in others?

I can come into a room and see an image on a television that is exhibiting a scantily clad actor and get immediately indignant while a group of people (young or old) can be sitting viewing it and see nothing wrong. Why is that?

I believe it is because of a strong sense of right and wrong - Biblical convictions. [...]

Honestly, over the years I have wondered why there aren't people all around us who experience righteous indignation over sexual images and themes that increasingly dominate the various "entertainment" choices.

I care deeply when I see an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog using sexual images of older teenagers to hit the hot bottoms of other teenagers but I wonder why there is so little outrage from other Christians around me?

I'm pretty sure he meant to write "hot buttons." Guess he had something else on his mind.

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Re: "Fastest Slashdotting Ever"

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 11 years ago Dear Sir/Madam,

It has come to my attention that you clicked onto the Slashdot homepage and saw a story with "0 of 3 comments" or approximately such, whereupon attempting to visit the website referenced by same, you encountered slowness which indicated to you that it had become, as the colloquialism goes, "Slashdotted."

At which point you returned to Slashdot and proceeded to post a comment expressing your ( [ ] surprise [ ] astonishment [ ] outrage ) at how quickly the referent had been reduced to a pile of smoking silicon.

Allow me to explain something to you.

A story appears on the Slashdot homepage at approximately the same time for everyone. (Actually, since less than half our visitors are logged-in, that minority sees /index.pl which delivers a story (on average) approximately 30 seconds before the majority sees it on /index.shtml. But this 30 seconds is irrelevant: let us say the story "appears" on "the" Slashdot homepage at about 10 seconds after the top of the minute, when it is written into /index.shtml.)

After what delay should one expect the "Slashdotting" to begin?

Our traffic throughout the day is quite constant. There is no peer-to-peer network of Slashdot readers, who spread the news of "look! a new freakin' story!" gradually around the world over the succeeding hour, that all may throng, gawk, and retreat until the next story is posted. We do not mail out a newsletter or mobilize the phone banks to inform people of this fact. No, people are constantly stopping by, and they see the new story when they see it.

Let us think about it briefly. Let us suppose that we have n people visiting the Slashdot homepage every second, of which m click through to read a link. We see that if a new story goes up at 14:00:10, then between 14:00:10 and 14:00:11, there will be n viewers, and, after they stretch their mice over to the links and click, m of them will visit the linked site.

Whereas twenty minutes later, between 14:20:10 and 14:20:11, there will be approximately n who -- oh wait a minute! It's the same number!

In conclusion, we see that the Slashdotting begins after approximately the length of time it takes our average reader to paw a mouse over a link and click it. Since this duration is trivial compared to the time it takes to post even the very first comment (20 seconds, minimum), your surprise is unwarranted.

I feel your pain, though.

Hope this helps,

jamie@slashdot.org

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Taking Liberties

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 11 years ago

The honor of producing the English language's most popular aphorism may fall to Benjamin Franklin:

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

That's as it's cited by Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed., 1919, the most authoritative source I could find without resorting to a library trip. (I'm lazy.) That's modulo punctuation and Wacky Pre-Dictionary Capitals, of course. The quote appeared as early as 1755 and was published in Franklin's Historical Review of Pennsylvania in 1759.

Notice the important words "essential" and "temporary," without which the meaning changes significantly. Adjectives, like the word "foolish" in this rhyme, are the first to depart our memories, as we shall soon see.

The Franklin quote also appears in fifty Slashdot users' sigs, though only nine times in its Bartlett-approved form. Here's how some of our users spin this quarter-millennium-old dichotomy:

from the Misabridged dept.

  • Those who give up freedom for security deserve neither.
  • Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither!
  • Those who would sacrifice freedom for security will get neither
  • Those who give up freedom for security deserve neither.
  • Those who would surrender freedom for security soon have neither.

from the You just trailed off there dept.
(also known as, while defending our freedoms, watch that 120-character limit)

  • They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor s
  • Those who would surrender essential liberty for a little temporary security may deserve neither, but they tend to
  • They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor sa

from the Paraphrasing, the game everyone can play dept.

  • A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will deserve neither and lose both.
  • A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.
  • People who are willing to give up freedom for the sake of short term security, deserve neither freedom nor security
  • A people that would sacrifice rights and freedom for a bit of safety deserve neither freedom nor safety.

from the Maybe they said it too dept.

  • A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both and deserve neither. - Thomas Jefferson
  • Those who would trade freedom for security will not have, and are not deserving of, either - Thomas Jefferson
  • A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both and deserve neither --Thomas Jefferson
  • Those that would give up freedom for security deserve neither. Lazarus Long (aka Robert Heinlein)

from the Variations on the theme dept.

  • They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security
  • Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
  • Those who would give up essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety
  • They that give up liberty to obtain safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

from the Commentary dept.

  • Not only will they not deserve liberty or safety, Mr. Franklin, they will be DENIED both!

from the Modern synonyms: security dept.

  • Those willing to give up freedom for the sake of short term security, deserve neither freedom nor security.
  • They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security
  • Those who give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither
  • Those who would give up essential liberties for temporary security deserve neither liberty or security

from the Modern synonyms: purchasing power dept.

  • Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
  • Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
  • Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither.

from the Modern synonyms: in times of sacrifice dept.

  • Those who would sacrifice essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
  • Those who would sacrifice freedom for a little temporary safety deserve neither freedom nor safety
  • Those who would sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

from the Clever... dept.

  • Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little safety will receive 25% off their insurance premiums
  • Those who would give up liberty in exchange for security and DRM should switch to Microsoft Palladium!
  • Those who would sacrifice sound quality for hard-drive space deserve neither.

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Looking for the Energy sources

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 11 years ago Energy Task Force Lawsuits to Proceed

WASHINGTON, DC, July 12, 2002 (ENS) - A federal judge has ruled that a public interest lawsuit seeking documents from the White House Energy Task Force may proceed.

Judge Emmet Sullivan issued an opinion Wednesday allowing the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch to proceed with their suits challenging the administration's attempts to keep Vice President Richard Cheney's task force meetings with energy industry executives secret. Last year, the task force produced a national energy policy that relies heavily on energy production from fossil fuels like oil and coal, and from nuclear power plants.

The Sierra Club filed its lawsuit after the Bush administration refused to divulge how much influence energy companies had in crafting the nation's energy policy. The administration refused to release information about meetings with industry representatives, despite numerous requests from Congress and a variety of public interest groups.

In his opinion, Judge Sullivan wrote that Cheney and his co-defendants were seeking a ruling from him that "would eviscerate the understanding of checks and balances between the three branches of government on which our constitutional order depends."

The judge chastised the Justice Department lawyers for attempting to mislead the court, writing that, "the fact that the government has stubbornly refused to acknowledge the existing controlling law in at least two cases, does not strike this Court as a coincidence. One or two isolated mis-citations or misleading interpretations of precedent are forgivable mistakes of busy counsel, but a consistent pattern of misconstruing precedent presents a much more serious concern." ...

http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/01-1530.pdf

Before explaining precisely why further factual development is necessary to effectively resolve the constitutional question here, first the Court must briefly discuss the proper legal standard to apply to separation of powers conflicts. Defendants have repeatedly invoked an incorrect constitutional standard in this case, a standard that would increase Executive power at the expense of the other branches of government. Defendants have made these arguments despite previous concessions of defense counsel that their preferred standard did not reflect the governing law. The government's oscillations before this Court reflect what appears to be a problematic and unprecedented assertion, even in the face of contrary precedent, of Executive power. To borrow the words of the D.C. Circuit in Nixon v. Sirica, "[s]upport for this kind of mischief simply cannot be spun from incantation of the doctrine of separation of powers." 487 F.2d 700, 715 (D.C. Cir. 1973). ...

The implications of the bright-line rule advocated by the government are stunning. Even if this Court were to consider the question of what separation of powers standard to apply without the benefit of precedent, it would reach the conclusion that the government's position is untenable. Any action by Congress or the Judiciary that intrudes on the president's ability to recommend legislation to Congress or get advice from Cabinet members in any way would necessarily violate the Constitution. The Freedom of Information Act and other open government laws would therefore constitute an unconstitutional interference with Executive authority. [...] Clearly, this is not the law. Such a ruling would eviscerate the understanding of checks and balances between the three branches of government on which our constitutional order depends.

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Fakes

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 11 years ago The following is email I received last night. I guess some high school students are very bored. I'm posting this not only because the memes in my head tell me to, but to get their list of keywords all together on the web and make it that much harder for anyone else they contact to find them. Take that, you solipsistic, Vulcan-fetishist, Nietzschean, pseudo-Dawkinsesque, Games-magaziner, manifesty Neo-wannabes.

(Not like anyone's going to find anything with their search terms anyway, using the rules they propose... way too generic. Wild goose chase. The ironic thing is that the find-Ryan-and-Jacob chain letter is a pretty cool meme.)

There is something extremely wrong with every single person in this world. They seem to be part of a pointless simulation.

"The Matrix" has portrayed this idea somewhat, yet we watch it and go back to our daily lives. Yet in this very life, underneath the seeming diversity in people's opinions, values, talents, and interests, there is something that makes everyone the same. It is as though this planet is populated only by mindless fakes, objects that provide the appearance of intellect on the surface but are based on only mechanical reflexes and primitive thought patterns.

I don't really care if anything I say has been said before, if it was portrayed in movies, in books, or in the lyrics of some useless song. With 6 billion people covering the globe at any given time, thousands and thousands of years of written literature, probability dictates almost any combination of words has occurred numerous times. Yet there is clear evidence there was no action, so those words, just like the people who spoke them, must have been just more fakes. I am forced to use this language (also created by the fakes) because there is no alternative, so everything I write here could be misunderstood to make me sound like one of them, but it will be the action that I take and the dedication that will separate me from them.

In my estimation the fakes that occupy this planet don't make up 99%, but more like 99.9999999% of the population. I know this because I've searched, and in my search have so far only found one true ally (I have found him via the internet as well). But even with those numbers we would not give up because there is no logic in giving up.

The people on this planet are all fakes because the societies have made them this way. Ideas that populate people's minds have no logic or purpose. Concepts such as religion, god, morality, individualism, freedom, identity, happiness, love and billions of others are all just memes. Like parasites they infect the minds and spread from one person to the next. They have no point or purpose; they exist without any logical basis or foundation. The fakes are completely controlled by them, and they will never see beyond them. To not be controlled by them one must do more then just realize that they exist. One must resist any ideas that have no point, endlessly question, and never accept imperfection or compromise in any answer.

We (myself and my ally) are different though. While we have had the limitation of existing only in these societies, something has made it possible for us to resist being indoctrinated into becoming one of those fakes. We have no arbitrary wants, needs, desires, or preferences.

If this world continues to exist the way it is then nothing in it will ever have a point. It will always be just a product of random evolution, one with no importance or relevance. The only logical goal is to dedicate our lives to increasing our numbers, those that aren't fakes, so that in thousands of years our numbers may be such that the fakes would no longer be a threat to progress.

Those that join us must see every other person occupying this planet as the enemy, and us as their only allies. Like us they must have dedication only to taking the most logical action, and to nothing else.

To tell you more about us, we've posted some personal information about ourselves on a website. You'll also find past responses to us on that webpage.

Obviously anyone reading this email is most likely just another fake. Do not simply reply to this email, if you do your message will almost certainly be ignored. If you do wish to communicate, first demonstrate your interest by taking the effort to find us online, one of the ways to do that is described below.

Use a major search engine to search for every combination of any two words from the list below. The order of the words shouldn't matter as long as you do not search for them in quotes. Also when you pick the right combination you shouldn't need to look at more then the first matches.

There is no trick to this and this isn't meant to be quick, it should, however, be fairly clear if/when you find the right site. The following search engines were verified by us, please use any of them as other search engines may simply not list us correctly: MSN, Lycos, InfoSeek, FastSearch, LookSmart, HotBot, InfoSpace, Ask.com, AllTheWeb, Teoma, WebCrawler, AltaVista.

perfect
theory
endless
eternal
desire
ambition
driving
perpetual
idea
logical
infinite
dream
final
best
escape
objective
thought
only
logic
clue

If this can't be solved, or if you never reach us, there should be no reason for you to give up as we will never give up and thus there will always be some way to find us.

--------------
Ryan and Jacob

Followup, later in the day: Joshua Schachter found their homepage. It's pretty dull. EternalAmbition.com.

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Speed

jamie jamie writes  |  more than 11 years ago Original journal entry, June 28, 2002:

I just went for a drive under the influence. Of what, I'm not sure.

I was sitting at my keyboard, following a few IRC channels and testing a build of some code, when suddenly I noticed that everything seemed to be moving very quickly and very slowly at the same time. I became aware of my typing: my fingers were moving at breakneck speed, it seemed, flying over the keys faster than should be humanly possible. At the same time, I was calmly conscious of what I was typing, and the words seemed to be proceeding from my fingers at a stately pace. Every motion I made was accompanied by the same contradictory twin senses: that the movement was wildly fast and serenely slow at the same time.

This is far from the first time that I've noticed this happen. It's been happening since I was a teenager at least. This is the first time in months, possibly a year. Once or twice a year, throughout my lifetime, is probably a good estimate.

It starts without warning. The only effect is that my perception of speed changes, or maybe disappears, leaving me with the feeling that everything is happening too quickly and too slowly. Noises seem louder as well. This time, for example, the refrigerator motor was running and it, along with my normal collection of computer fans, was very noticeable. I haven't noticed any alterations in vision or any other senses.

In general there is a heightened sense of perception, though this is likely just because I am curious about the phenomenon and am actively paying attention to my surroundings.

The twin sensations of speed and slowness are somewhat different in character. The feeling of speed is a kind of excitedness and rush, minus adrenaline. The closest I've felt to it in everyday life is when I played soccer or table-tennis: the feeling was similar to the focus when someone with the soccer ball was rushing me and I had to stop them, or when I was in the zone and volleying over the net just at the edge of my ability. With this, there's no emotional involvement, no excitement, just the awareness that "this is happening a bit faster than I can deal with," or perhaps more precisely: "geez, look at that go!" or "look at me go!"

But the feeling of slowness is more like being surprised that "this is still going on?" We plan our everyday activities one thing at a time: first I'll walk over there, then I'll turn on the light, then I'll pick up the pen, then I'll... etc. The feeling of slowness is a feeling that the current action is taking longer than expected to get through. "Aren't we done with this yet?"

When this happens, normally I just... well, keep doing whatever I'm doing. I can function quite normally, my consciousness, judgement, and coding skills are quite unimpaired -- it just feels strange. This time I wanted to try something new. I got my keys (loud frenetic jangling), walked outside, locked the door (swift latching), walked to the car like I was an actor in a sped-up movie, climbed in, started it up and pulled out.

I was very cautious of course. I definitely got a feeling of fast movement even from trundling forward in first gear. When I pulled up to the exit gate, it seemed to rise very quickly, while taking forever to do so.

Once I got out of first gear and on the road, I found something very interesting. I could experience either the feeling of moving very swiftly, or the feeling of standing almost still, depending on which I wanted to focus on. When I noted how swiftly I was moving, as I did at first, the car's acceleration seemed instantaneous: I barely was in one gear before it was time for the next, and the trees just flew by.

And then, a moment later, when I decided to pay attention to how slowly it was all happening, the car seemed to be hardly moving at all. That was even stranger: I had to look down at the speedometer to note my speed (45MPH) -- and when I looked back up, it felt like I was in a go-kart trundling slowly along. If I hadn't known better I would have sworn I was doing 10MPH.

I braked early for the stoplight just to be on the safe side. Despite the odd sensations, or maybe because I was being incredibly careful, I had no real problems driving.

After I turned, I decided I wanted to take the top down (it's a hot day today). I pulled into a parking lot and somehow sensed the feeling was subsiding. As I unzipped the rear window and pulled the top down, those actions felt more normal than usual. By the time I turned around and pulled back onto the road, it was gone; all was right again. Time since the stoplight was about 15 seconds. Total elapsed time of this sensation, from typing to putting the top down, was probably three to four minutes.

For the record, I don't do drugs, I don't smoke, I don't drink, and I haven't for over ten years. The only drug in my system at the time was one cup of half-caf coffee I'd drunk six hours earlier, and 47 grams of sugar from a can of non-caf soda. I'd eaten a nice lunch a few hours before, so my blood sugar was relatively stable. I notice I'm getting a bit of a headache now, but that happens frequently anyway. Nothing I've eaten or imbibed today has been unusual in any way.

In other instances of this phenomenon, I've noticed that my sensation of size has changed as well. My fingers, in particular, will feel both daintily tiny and grossly large. I didn't pay attention to that aspect of it today, but I'm sure if I had, I would have noticed it again.

My hypothesis is that there is some portion of the brain that regulates perception of time. Our brains are quite well equipped to expect things to happen at a precise time: we can jump off a small ledge, close our eyes halfway down, and know intuitively when to flex our knees for the landing. Somehow this part of my brain goes on the fritz, or becomes disconnected, twice a year. What I perceive as simultaneously "too fast" and "too slow" is, I believe, how my consciousness interprets lack of the "this looks normal" message from lower in the brain. In essence, my forebrain asks my mid- or hindbrain, "does the proportion/speed of this look 'normal'?" When the answer fails to come back in some appropriate way, any explanation I want will do: an object will be too large if I want it to be, or too small, or things will be happening too fast, or too slow. Without the reassurance of correctness, apparently, my consciousness will accept any explanation as valid.

But -- nothing I've read about the brain has mentioned any such structure. And, not being a brain surgeon, I'm not exactly in a position to test my hypothesis. Oh well.

I have to wonder if anyone has ever had this same experience. And I wonder whether others, having a similar experience, and knowing nothing of the way the brain works, have called it "leaving their body" or "a fugue state." I could easily see blaming demons -- but me, I just think it's cool.

Followup, September 15:

After I wrote the above, Scientific American's September 2002 issue came out. Its focus is on time. On pp. 59-65 is a fascinating look at how the brain measures time.

"The interval timer helps you figure out how fast you have to run to catch a baseball. It tells you when to clap to your favorite song. It lets you sense how long you can lounge in bed after the alarm goes off."

The theory described in the article is that spiny neurons in the striatum are essentially oscillators, firing 10 to 40 times a second, and that interval-timing involves synching them up and then watching for patterns. Interesting stuff.

I don't think a fault in this system is what was wrong with me. I recognize that interval-timing might be used at a variety of levels, but I doubt it could also explain the difference in my perception of dimensions.

Followup, January 23, 2006:

I think it's only happened once since 2002, by the way.

I just read this passage from "How Meditation Works" and was struck by the similarity of the physical awareness described here with the experience I occasionally undergo involuntarily. The description of body parts gaining or losing size and weight is dead-on, and I couldn't have phrased this better myself: "Each component of the event seems to contain vast expanses of time and space within which to perceive information in an unhurried way." Also, footnote 14.

And increased awareness and clarity is indeed part of the experience: I feel as if every scrap of sound, every individual action and sub-action, everything within my sphere of senses is specifically discernable. Or, of course, seems to be -- since it's my brain doing this, how would I know whether I actually have increased awareness or just the illusion of it?

Anyway, the final paragraph below describes using (a similar or identical?) meditational experience of events as a metaphor (or tool?) to explore one's thoughts and sub-thoughts, "emotions, concepts and mental images" in the same way. That would be interesting, but not interesting enough for me to invest untold hours meditating. As for the physical experience I occasionally undergo: again, interesting, but not life-changing. Really not that much of a payoff. I've always thought of it as my brain briefly breaking somehow, and then fixing itself. Never considered trying to live my whole life that way. Whatever floats your boat...

A common approach used in the Theravada tradition is to flood the consciousness with more and more complete and precise information about mental and physical events. Typically, one first learns to experience this intense "vipashyana mode" of observation for a single simple event. Once learned, this can be generalized and applied to any aspect of experience. With practice, a habitual suppleness is developed which allows one to perceive each event in the stream of daily life in this totally aware way without having to work at it.

Take, for example, the act of walking. Most people do it unconsciously. There's nothing wrong with that, but suppose you would like to enhance awareness of this event "walking." You could start by mentally noting which foot is swinging at any particular time. This gives you a tiny bit more information about the reality of walking than doing it unconsciously. Next, with regard to each foot, try to note the very instant when the foot begins to rise and the instant when it again touches the ground. [13] Left up, left swing, left down, right up, right swing, right... For still more detailed observation, it is useful at the beginning to walk much more slowly than normal and perhaps to pause between each component of the walking. Now, note the instant the left heel rises, note the sweep of tactile sensation as the sole lifts away from the ground. Note the moment the toes leave the ground, the beginning of the forward swing, the swing itself, the end point of the swing, the beginning of lowering the foot, the lowering, the instant the foot touches ground, again the sweep of tactile sensation and the instant when the foot has completely returned to the ground. Now pause. Note when the will to move the right foot arises. Now begin to move the right foot, observing each component as before.

Such an exercise builds much samadhi, but this is a byproduct. The important thing is increased clarity about the process. After more practice, it is possible to apply an even finer analysis. Within each component of the motion (lifting, swinging, lowering, etc.) can be distinguished numerous subcomponents, tiny jerks each with distinct beginning and end points and each preceded by a separate will to move. If this keen observation is sustained, alterations in perception begin to occur. The event seems to slow down, a subjective sensation independent of any actual physical slowness. Each component of the event seems to contain vast expanses of time and space within which to perceive information in an unhurried way. [14]

But wait. As your information about the foot gets fuller and fuller, the foot seems to be less and less there! It expands, contracts, becomes light and hollow, merges with things, disappears and reappears. Without being seduced or frightened, just keep on noting the simple reality of the foots moment-to-moment motion.

This "vipashyana mode" of awareness can be applied to every type of experience. One can gently move the eye over an object, drinking in information about it so rapidly and fully that the consciousness has no time to solidify and limit the object. Likewise with other senses, touch, taste, smell, hearing, etc. This is the fundamental paradox of meditation: see something fully and it is transparent, hear fully and there is silence. The feeling of solidity and separateness of objects, which most people take for granted, turns out to be merely an unnecessary and toxic byproduct of the process of perception. It clogs the flowing stream of life. One can function quite well without it.

Applying this total mode of awareness to emotions, concepts and mental images is the most difficult but most productive exercise of all. The stream of a person's thoughts and feelings is so unpredictable and gripping ... not at all like raising and lowering a foot! Yet with the detachment and one-pointedness of shamatha, one can catch a thought at its very onset and note each minute permutation until the very end in that same slowed down, complete, unsolidified mode of awareness. A person who can unrelentingly apply this mode to his or her deepest images of self will enter a refreshing new world.

13. In attempting to fully experience any event, it is of utmost importance that the event's beginning and ending points be clearly noted. A line segment which includes its first and last point is mathematically very different from one which does not. Return

14. John Brodie, former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, recalled such experiences in an interview published in the January 1973 issue of intellectual Digest (pp 19-20):

"At times, and with increasing frequency now, I experience a kind of clarity that I've never seen adequately described in a football story. Sometimes, for example, time seems to slow way down, in an uncanny way, as if everyone were moving in slow motion. It seems as if I have all the time in the world to watch the receivers run their patterns, and yet I know the defensive line is coming at me just as fast as ever. I know perfectly well how hard and fast those guys are coming and yet the whole thing seems like a movie or a dance in slow motion. It's beautiful."

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jamie jamie writes  |  about 12 years ago So while I was busy doing something else this afternoon, I was walking through a parking lot when I spotted a stalled car that's smoking. My first thought was that it blew a radiator hose, since the white smoke looked a lot like steam, and I have never seen that much come out from under a hood before. But as I walked closer, I saw little drops of orange fall into a puddle underneath. Aha, I realized, the engine's on fire.

The girl, still sitting inside, couldn't have been over 18. Her most notable feature was that, as I walked up, she was still sitting inside. My exact words to her, and keep in mind there was a prodigious amount of smoke billowing up directly in front of her, were: "do you know your car's on fire?" She said, "I don't know what to do!" I said, "you really want to get out of the car."

So she did, holding a lime-green cell phone that I'm sure was very stylish, and started to explain that she was out of town and didn't know what to do. I strongly suggested calling 911, told her where she was so she could tell the fire department, and ran off to try to find an extinguisher.

Logical place to find a fire extinguisher is an eating establishment with a kitchen, right? Aren't there, what do you call them, fire codes? Of the three that bordered this parking lot, the trendy café and the Subway claimed not to have one. Maybe they thought I was the leader of a tricky gang of extinguisher thieves.

The third, a Middle-Eastern place where the owner recognized me, handed theirs over immediately, but while I had run the eatery-gauntlet, the insulation and plastic under the hood had turned itself into thick black smelly smoke, and one of the front tires had caught like a candle.

By the time I got back to the car, a cop was already there, and there was extinguisher white stuff on the pavement. OK, good, a professional. It was still burning though, maybe not as much as before, but flaming oil was still dripping into a nice flaming puddle underneath. That was cool.

The cop's role, that I could see, involved dressing in fireproof gear (did you know all cop cars had a fireproof suit in the trunk?), staying upwind, and waiting for the fire department to arrive. Of course by the time the fire truck arrived the interior was burning and they had to soak the whole car.

Anyway, shortly before the firemen open the door and spray in the water, sending flames shooting out the other side, the girl turns to me and the other guys standing around watching, and asks us whether we think the car will still be driveable. After we gently explain that cars with incinerated engines don't go, she pauses for a moment, thinks about that, turns to look me in the eye, and asks:

"Do you have a light?"

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