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Russian Military Forces Have Now Invaded Ukraine

jfengel Re:Send in the drones! (827 comments)

Would Russia invade if Ukraine still had their nukes?

They might, actually. It's a decent bet that Ukraine wouldn't respond, even to invasion, with a city-destroying bomb. They would instantly become the bad guys in the situation. And if Russia responds to the escalation, the next bomb goes off in Kiev.

MAD never really had to cope with a ground invasion of the US by Russia, or vice versa. It's a very good thing that we didn't share a border, or somebody might have tested it. But even under MAD, there were all kinds of proxy wars, where our allies were invaded, and we never decided to reply with nuclear weapons, even while throwing thousands of lives and billions of dollars at it.

So yeah, Russia might well have taken a gamble on a ground invasion even with a nuclear-armed Ukraine. Nukes are a tricky weapon to use. The main thing they do is deter other nukes, and nobody's threatening Ukraine with nukes. Putin would have to ask himself if he thought the Ukrainian government was crazy enough to respond to its existential, but conventional, crisis with unconventional weapons. And given how aggressive he's been so far in flouting international judgment, he might well believe it.

4 days ago
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Climate Damage 'Irreversible' According Leaked Climate Report

jfengel Re:Simple English Wikipedia will come in handy (530 comments)

It's not even really the donors, per se, but their voters. Climate change denialism is very popular. The businesses ensure that candidates who favor them connect with those voters, but it's not like the candidate would suddenly change their mind if those donations dried up. They'd continue to be denialists. And if that politician leaves, the denialist voters will be sure to pick up another denialist candidate.

The business help ensure denialism not with the politicians, but by funding denialist news networks and web sites. They also run attack ads (on any subject, not just climate) to defeat candidates who would oppose denialism.

They don't need to buy politicians. They buy voters instead, by scaring them. You won't fix the candidates, who are just doing what their constituents (at least, 50%+1 of them) want. The direct donations are a pittance. It's the overall miasma of denialism that give us anti-intellectual politicians, not the other way around.

I've got no idea how to fix it. It's famously said that you can't fix stupid, and there's a LOT of stupid.

5 days ago
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California DMV Told Google Cars Still Need Steering Wheels

jfengel Re:Backward-thinking by the DMV (505 comments)

I don't necessarily disagree about the time frame, but I'm not sure why you're concerned about the price. The computers and sensors they're talking about putting in are fairly cheap. The software cost a lot of money to develop, but it would be amortized over a lot of people.

I don't think they'd have to go the luxury-car route, the way Tesla has. If anything, I'd expect them to want to sell it under cost, since there's a lot more cool stuff they can do once they can start treating computer-controlled cars as the default. The switchover period will be the least safe.

about a week ago
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News Corp Australia Doesn't Want You To Look Closely At Their Financials

jfengel Re:New for Nerds? (132 comments)

Interesting. Thanks!

about a week ago
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Facebook Cleans Up News Feed By Reducing Click-Bait Headlines

jfengel Re:Stop calling them clickbait (61 comments)

It's not even really about the headlines, per se. What they're looking for is content that users click through to, but don't read. The clickbait headline was part of that, setting up the expectation that the user would want to at least a little time reading it (and then failing to), but it sounds as if they're trying to eliminate bad content via the measure of whether or not people spend any time reading it.

about a week ago
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New Nail Polish Alerts Wearers To Date Rape Drugs

jfengel Re:Discreet? (585 comments)

The straw, at least, was clean. I wouldn't want to stick my finger in my drink after I've been in a bar all night. Of course, I like being drugged even less. But carrying around disposable straws or swizzle sticks strikes me as a lot more hygienic.

I guess one can hope that the alcohol will solve that problem, especially since women's garments are notorious for lacking pockets in which to carry such things. That does make this particularly brilliant: you put it on before you go and it's always with you. But I'd still want to wash my hands a lot. (I hope it's durable to hand-washing.)

about a week ago
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New Nail Polish Alerts Wearers To Date Rape Drugs

jfengel Re:The world we live in. (585 comments)

Date rape doesn't just happen to drunken girls at frat parties. The whole idea of date rape drugs is that they're used in places where women otherwise have a reason to feel safe, with someone they aren't actively afraid of, and having consumed only reasonable amounts of alcohol. It happens in very nice bars by very nice-seeming men, surrounded by other well-behaved people.

They're making good choices, unless we want to tell women that the only good choice is to lock herself in her house. The whole idea of this is to test the drink before she drinks it, and if it's been tampered with, she doesn't.

about a week ago
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Airbnb To Hand Over Data On 124 Hosts To New York Attorney General

jfengel Re:Addressing potential problems (149 comments)

I've had one negative experience with AirBnB. It wasn't terrible, more disorganized than dangerous, and it's only one out of over a dozen excellent experiences, but that sounds about right: a very small percentage of problems. 124 in New York City also sounds about right for the worst-of-the-worst.

In other words: no, not widespread, but if you can eliminate the few bad actors it increases overall confidence in the system. And if it decreases slightly the hostility from the industry they're trying to displace, it's better for the customer. The only losers in that are those who have been bad, and I just don't see anything wrong with that.

about a week ago
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News Corp Australia Doesn't Want You To Look Closely At Their Financials

jfengel Re:New for Nerds? (132 comments)

Does anybody read them?

In the US, the newspaper industry has been flailing for decades. TV was eating their lunch even before the Internet did. The national "newspapers of record" still have some sway, but they no longer swing elections. They are still the last best hope of serious journalism as the fourth estate, but there's just not much left of it.

In the US, it's not even fishwrap; people just don't buy them. They do get it online, but what little actual news is in that stream is mostly thinly rewritten (or not) wire reports.

Is it any better in Australia?

about a week ago
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Students From States With Faster Internet Tend To Have Higher Test Scores

jfengel Re:Correlation is not causation (175 comments)

DC's violent crime rates are largely about its poverty. Aside from the federal government, it has no real industry. It was heavily populated by poor blacks fleeing the South during the civil war, and during the next century-plus they were heavily discriminated against. There were few jobs for them except at the very bottom of service. While the place is on average pretty wealthy, its real population is quite poor.

The real fail of the politicians was that for two centuries the federal government ran the place. They didn't live there permanently, so they didn't treat it well. They eventually established a city government, but it was chronically mis-managed for decades.

They finally got in some good mayors. Poverty and violent crime are falling (though some of that is part of the broader national trend). They still bicker with the feds over governance, but the federal government is still its primary source of income, both directly and from the taxes they collect from people who work for it. That, too, has boomed for a few decades. It's nowhere near the crime capital it used to be.

about a week ago
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Major Delays, Revamped Beta For Credit-Card Consolidating Gadget Coin

jfengel Re:Won't work with new chips (78 comments)

In fact, I'm almost surprised he wasn't fired. You're not just not paid enough to run. It's potentially dangerous, and the damage from the shoplifting is smaller than the potential harm to you: it's unlikely but expensive when it does happen. Most stores I know tell you to just call attention and get security to come: they ARE tasked with that. (Most of them, in fact, are also told not to chase people, just to collect identifying information and report it to the police.)

The main purpose is to scare people away with the knowledge that they could be caught and could spend time in jail. Again the risk is low but the potential cost high. Most store managers would have given you all the "Look, I admire your bravery, but don't do it again" speech. It's just not worth it for the store.

about a week ago
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Latest Wikipedia Uproar Over 'Superprotection'

jfengel Re:Too much good content is deleted at Wikipedia. (239 comments)

Taken together, does that imply that the OP read about it in Dr. Dobbs but didn't cite the source? That doesn't speak particularly well of his work on the article.

I'm not crazy about the deletionists, but it doesn't surprise me that they're not doing independent research on notability. There should be (and probably is, somewhere) a good set of guidelines entitled, "So, you want to write a new entry for Wikipedia? Here's a checklist for avoiding the deletionists." And that would include "[] Cite at least three independent sources in the references section."

about two weeks ago
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Students From States With Faster Internet Tend To Have Higher Test Scores

jfengel Re:Correlation is not causation (175 comments)

Yeah, violent crime seems to go with density, rather than poverty. It's committed by the poor, but closely-packed poor rather than rural poor.

DC is ALL urban, every single inch of it, so it's not really appropriate to compare it to a state. It's mid-pack compared to other cities of comparable size; it fell between Indianapolis and Miami on the 2012 list (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012), and near Toledo and Nashville.

More urban states have higher violent crime rates, but it's centered in the urban cores. States with fewer cities will have lower violent crime rates, even though they may have more, poorer poor people. A lot of it, I gather, is drug related; I know that rural areas have their own drug problems but the distribution networks lead to a kind of organized violent crime.

about two weeks ago
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33 Months In Prison For Recording a Movie In a Theater

jfengel Re:If he sold phyiscal copies (463 comments)

The problem is that it takes thousands of man hours to produce a movie

Hundreds of thousands, actually. Millions, in some cases. High-end movies are enormous affairs. Each of those hundreds of names in the credits got $20-$50 per hour (less for the interns) for one to two months of full time work (and often with a fair bit of overtime). It's an insane amount of work, but it's the difference between a cutesy indie film (which will still take several thousand man hours) and the real slick look of a big Hollywood movie.

about two weeks ago
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Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year

jfengel Re:How would the money be split? What's the incent (610 comments)

I think it's more useful to think of the number as a quantification of how much that advertising is worth: that's the amount of money operators are depending on (one way or the other) to keep providing what they're providing.

How you actually get it to them is a whole different question. They've talked about micropayments and subscription models and other things, but ads have the nice characteristic of requiring zero overhead for the viewer. There's nothing to install; you "pay" just by having it on your screen. Whether it's actually worth it to the advertiser is insanely difficult to say, but they are (at least for the moment) actually forking over the money.

Everybody would love a more precise system, where you pay for the page views that are of interest to you, but that shifts the burden from millions-of-site-operators to billions-of-viewers, and they're all incensed about having to "pay" for something they were previously getting for "free". People keep trying things, but it comes as no surprise to me that for a lot of side, throwing a few basic ads onto the page for pennies-per-thousand-impressions is the easiest way to monetize their effort, at least for the vast array of small sites.

Big sites (like Slashdot) can do better, because the economies of scale make it worth the overhead to try to get money from viewers, and maybe some day we'll get that packaged down to a point where other sites can get it. But since the total sum of money is pretty substantial, I think a lot of viewers will say, "I hate ads, but I hate paying even more."

about two weeks ago
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Dramatic Shifts In Manufacturing Costs Are Driving Companies To US, Mexico

jfengel Re:Growing pains. (233 comments)

I gather that there is a countervailing trend, in the form of reformers in the government. China's version of "communism" is pretty far removed from anything visualized by the early social theorists, and it was plagued by a lot of outright insanity for decades, but it always had collectivism at its core. Mao was one of the great mass-murderers of history, but he wasn't corrupt, merely deranged.

I wouldn't call it a benevolent dictatorship, but I was put in mind of it by your mention of the unelected senators. They still had to campaign; it's just that they ended up stumping on behalf of the legislators-cum-electors. The most prominent example was the Lincoln-Douglas debates: they were running for the Senate but really trying to get legislators to vote for their party. It meant that national issues often trumped local issues, and the state legislature suffered for it.

My point there is that democracy, while important, isn't a cure-all. It's inherently adversarial, a conflict which has notably ground today's national legislature to a standstill. Even popularly-supported reforms get no traction, much less anything with even a whiff of controversy. And it's too inflexible to stop the largest discretionary component of our budget from pumping many billions to the military-industrial complex: I don't buy the theory that they're manufacturing wars for it, but even without that kind of explicit corruption it's still not as responsive as you'd like to imagine a directly-elected legislature should be.

I'm not an expert in China's structure, but I wouldn't count them out just because they're unfamiliar. Certainly the system is ripe for corruption, and they do need to fix it, but they have managed to reform themselves already even under one-party control. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here. There's much to do.

about two weeks ago
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How To Read a Microbiome Study Like a Scientist

jfengel Re:Ask about everything (53 comments)

The Faustian bargain there is that they're not supposed to be expressing any specific purposes. If you're categorizing your product as a "supplement" you have to avoid making specific health claims. It generally says so, right on the package, via the incantation "This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease".

Generally in very, very tiny print. In much larger print, they'll hint strongly that it's good for something (often, something fairly vacuous). It's on the FDA to judge when it crosses the line into a medical claim, and they don't have anywhere near the kind of manpower it takes to evaluate the multi-billion-dollar market. It took an outside organization to sue the makers of Airborne, via the FTC, for false advertising rather than a violation of the more specific FDA rules.

So yeah, there are rules about dietary supplements, but they're badly flouted. They walk right up to the line, or even cross right over it, and rely on people's gullibility to make the jump to believe that these worthless products do anything.

about two weeks ago
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How To Read a Microbiome Study Like a Scientist

jfengel Re:Not just microbiome studies (53 comments)

Yep, came here to say that. And since effectively every daily news story on any science subject fails to answer any of them, it would be a pretty good heuristic to simply ignore all of them.

Newspapers and TV news are designed to sell news today, and to sell you news again tomorrow. Science doesn't turn out news on a daily basis like that. Important results take a very long time from first inkling to confirmation. You won't be able to act on that news today at any rate. Wait until the news comes out in a source like Science News or Scientific American, when it's got at least a few days worth of evaluation and consideration under its belt. Everything that comes out more frequently than that is going to be just plain rubbish the overwhelming majority of the time. And you'll hear about the stuff that isn't rubbish plenty quickly enough.

about two weeks ago
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The Royal Society Proposes First Framework For Climate Engineering Experiments

jfengel Re:I am skeptical (174 comments)

The IPCC report does discuss what happens if we don't, and it's more than enough to call for some kind of measures. A proper outcome of geoengineering studies will treat that as the control: "This is what we get if we do nothing... this is what we get if we just control carbon output... this is what we get if we apply technique X/Y/Z".

It's just that measuring "this is what we get" is really hard. Temperature is the easiest to predict (and even that is proving aggravatingly difficult on scales smaller than multiple decades), but it's not the only factor. And we need to take ALL of the effects into account to judge what's going to be most cost-effective.

I'm really just asking for somebody to make the case as clearly as possible. A comment downthread told me "Oh, you just throw a bunch of water into the air, and the clouds will fix it." I *know* it's not that simple; it's obvious that a lot isn't being taken into account.

Unfortunately, most conversation about climate change is dominated by the just-plain-stupidity of denialism, rather than getting to ask the hard questions. I want them to be asked, though I'm also sadly fatalistic: denialism has pushed us, as you have said, past the point the ship has sailed. I end up thinking of this as largely academic, and by the time it comes to be implemented it'll be much too late to help. But we're going to do the research anyway. I'm just hoping it will come with enough of the right answers to be compelling to those prepared to understand it.

about two weeks ago
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FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

jfengel Re:not true at all (133 comments)

Even if it's produced with zero human labor, the price isn't going to be free. There already is practically zero human labor in the actual growing of food. The process is heavily automated already. The consumer price is dominated by the various middle men (distributors, shippers, retailers, etc.) The actual farmer receives less than a dime for each dollar you spend. Far, far less for prepared foods.

If you're willing to cook, you can buy more than enough raw ingredients to feed yourself quite well, for well under a dollar a day. And very little of that money goes to the farmer himself; you're mostly paying to get the food from the farmer to your local outlet, and then to you.

I personally wouldn't mind if MORE people had to get into farming. There are downsides to that massively automated farming: increased pesticide use, large amounts of fossil fuels, soil loss, lack of variety, etc. I'm just fine with subsidizing the food for those people who can't work, or even don't wish to: the raw materials end up costing practically nothing already, at least at the farm itself. But if people want to work... and many do... I think that more labor-intensive agriculture has some advantages.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

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Executive order makes government data open by default

jfengel jfengel writes  |  about a year ago

jfengel (409917) writes "Last week, President Obama issued an executive order titled "Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information".

Government information shall be managed as an asset throughout its life cycle to promote interoperability and openness, and, wherever possible and legally permissible, to ensure that data are released to the public in ways that make the data easy to find, accessible, and usable.

It relies heavily on a paper from the CIO, "Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People.", issued in February."

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Former Senator claims US government suppressing UFO evidence

jfengel jfengel writes  |  about a year ago

jfengel (409917) writes "Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) says the White House has helped keep the truth about the “extraterrestrial influence that is investigating our planet” from the public. He was joined by five former Representatives. Paradigm Research paid each $20k to appear at a press conference, at which Gravel said:

“It goes right to the White House, and of course, once the White House takes a position, ‘well there's nothing going on’...it just goes down the chain of command, everyone stands toe. ... The smoking gun of the whole issue, which is when they saw hovering space craft in Wyoming and South Dakota over the ICBM missile silos that the missiles couldn't work.”"

Link to Original Source

Journals

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Theater

jfengel jfengel writes  |  more than 10 years ago Just on the off chance somebody comes to find out who I am, I'll stick in a plug for my theater group, The Rude Mechanicals. We put on really, really good Shakespeare in Laurel, MD. Half the cast reads Slashdot, and you've never seen Shakespeare until you've seen it performed by computer nerds. The other half are English majors. This is serious amateur theater.

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