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Open Source Victories of 2008

orthogonal Re:I like KDE 4 (378 comments)

In other words, the KDE team destroyed a perfectly functioning desktop environment to build a better Weatherbug.

This is a perfect summary of may reaction to KDE4. Mod parent up.

about 6 years ago

Open Source Victories of 2008

orthogonal Re:Listen to yourselves! (378 comments)

KDE4's panel is one of those things that you figure out and then say "WhereTF was the tutorial for this?" That is, after you figure out that you have to manually add it because it's not there by default. You can right-click where it doesn't have any programs or on the edge, and there's a rectangle you can click+hold and drag to change size I think.

I call this the Microsoft Excel Charting experience: where you have to guess where and how (left-click, right-click,click-and-drag) to click to set various parameters. It's frankly exhausting, more like a crappy game of skill than configuration.

KDE3, conversely, gives me a tree view, and somewhere within that tree are all the settings I need. I may take a bit of time looking through the tree to find what want, but no magical clicking is required, and I don't have to guess what an option does: it's clearly labeled.

KDE4 is a massive step backwards; Gnome, which I've always detested because it's not configurable, is preferable to KDE4. I'm really at a loss as to what the KDE4 team was thinking.

about 6 years ago

Open Source Victories of 2008

orthogonal Re:I like KDE 4 (378 comments)

KDE 4.1 looks like Gnome, only worse. The default font sizes are HUGE, and the default antialiasing is horrible. The launcher button on the kicker panel, instead of just showing applications, shows a tabbed panel that starts on the "favorites" tab; to actually launch an app, I have to chose the application tab, then get a list in a HUGE font, when menu, instead of cascading, are replaced by sub-panels, and the replacement is made slower by stupid animation.

The kicker panel itself is way too large, probably 50 pixels high.

The desktop isn't a normal desktop, instead there's some pseudo-transparent lozenge in which desktop items are grouped.

When I open "System Settings", I get some multi-applet container like MS-Windows or Gnome, not the tree-view I saw in KDE 3.5. I can't even find most things I want to change (like Window Decorations) or even a menu with an about which would tell me what app I'm running.

Did I screw up the install somehow? Am I still running Gnome (no, can't be, every app starts with "K").

What the hell??? If I wanted Gnome or Vista, I'd run that crap. Why can't KDE be KDE?


I liked KDE because it was clean and functional. KDE 4.1 is a travesty.

Ok, read this bullshit marketing drivel from KDE, it reads like an MBA's sales pitch:

        However Plasma is more than just this familiar collection of utilities, it is a common framework for creating integrated interfaces. It is flexible enough to provide interfaces for mobile devices, media centres and desktop computers; to support the traditional desktop metaphor as well as well as designs that haven't yet been imagined.

Christ, man, I just want to launch an app, and occasionally glance down at the laucher to see how much battery life I have. I don't want a "framework" that can do everything.

But, says KDE:

        Plasma takes a different approach, engaging the user by creating a dynamic and highly customizable environment.

I don't want to be engaged, I just want to launch an app. I'll probably maximize that app, so the desktop won't even be getting a look.

But, says KDE, you can get rid of the gee-whiz gee-gaws:

        With Plasma, you can let your desktop (and accompanying support elements) act like it always did. You can have a task bar, a background image, shortcuts, etc. If you want to, however, you can use tools provided by Plasma to take your experience further, letting your desktop take shape based on what you want and need.

Oh, ok, that's cool. So can I get rid of the "cashew" control on the desktop?

        Although putting an option to disable the cashew for desktops sounds reasonable, from a coding point of view it would introduce unnecessary complexity and would break the design. What has been suggested is, since the destkop itself (a containment) is handled by plugins, to write a plugin that would draw the desktop without the cashew itself. Currently some work ("blank desktop" plugin) is already present in KDE SVN. With containment type switching expected by KDE 4.2, it is not unreasonable to see alternative desktop types developed by then.

So let me get this straight: Plasma's a revolutionary framework that can do things "that haven't yet been imagined." But it also supports the traditional desktop.

But getting rid on a "cashew" on the desktop is too hard to code, but if you write a trivial plugin that redraws the entire desktop (which isn't so trivial, as it's a yet unready work in progress, and won't even be possible until the next release of KDE) you can get around this unwanted "feature".

Come on, guys, your super framework requires a plugin to be written just to present a blank desktop? And plugins won't work until 4.2? And a boolean "don't show" would break the design? You guys got seduced into major mission creep.

This isn't a desktop environment, it's the dev's toy. Which is great, but don't claim it's ready for end users.

about 6 years ago

Mining the Cognitive Surplus

orthogonal Cory Doctorpw (220 comments)

If Cory Doctorow thinks it's great, I can safely ignore it, right?

more than 6 years ago


orthogonal hasn't submitted any stories.



A Prediction

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 8 years ago

If my prior comments on wikipedia are any guide, after the post drops off the front page, a wikipedia editor with mod points will mod-bomb all my (currently 5,5,5,4) comments in the Wikipedia story.

The wikipedia administration, for whatever reason, is extraordinarily defensive and hates to see criticism remain un-suppressed. If this is reminiscent of a cult, well, if the show fits....


Innate Gender Preferences in Toys 25 Million Years Old?

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 9 years ago

Some 25 million years ago, humans and vervet monkeys diverged from a common ancestor. In very rough terms, perhaps one and a quarter million human generations, or five million vervet generations, have been brought forth upon the Earth since that common ancestor lived. Of course, many differences have evolved between humans and vervets in those 25 million years: among other things, human parents choose toys for their children; vervet parents do not.

But after all that time and genetic change, and despite studies attributing human children's toy preferences to adult stereotypes, a new study by Dr. Gerianne Alexander finds that vervet males, like human boys, prefer toy trucks and balls, while vervet females and human girls prefer dolls and toy cooking pots. What's more, the vervets play with the toys much as human children do: males roll trucks on the ground, females inspect dolls (apparently) for genitalia. Previously on Slashdot: Harvard president Larry Summers and his daughter's "baby truck", Gender and gaming.

[Submitted and, of course, rejected.]


Slashdot fans! Help me!

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 9 years ago

I've got a number of fans, and I've never asked for anything other than that you appreciate my comments here.

But now I need your help.

A spark jumped from my finger and now my Touchstream LP keyboard is dead. Like the parrot in the Python skit. Dead.

Windows plug-and-play doesn't recognize it at all.

So I need your help.

Can anyone either

  • suggest possible repairs
  • or, tell me where I can get a replacement?

Neither of these are easy: the keyboard uses capacitance to track fingers, so the spark may have burnt those out, or -- since it doesn't respond at all -- the main circuit board may be fried.

And the manufacturer of the Touchstream has been bought up, and Touchstream keyboards are no longer manufactured.

Please, Obi-Wan, ^HHHH er, Slashdot fans, you're my only hope.


I'm thinking of getting a Twiddler2....

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 9 years ago

I'm thinking of getting a Twiddler2: the one-handed chording keyboard.

Before I do, I'd like to hear opinions of the Twiddler2 from anyone who has used one.



Laptop functionality in handheld form factor?

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 9 years ago

I'm playing around with the idea of getting a laptop and (geek warning) some sort of VR glasses instead of a screen.

Optimally, I'd like something with the form factor of a Sharp Zaurus, but with a hard drive and standard ports.

Basically, I want a "real computer" that I can put in my pocket. To use the VR glasses, I'd need standard USB ports and the ability to use a standard video card.

Is this too bleeding edge? What are my options for a really small laptop, possibly without a screen?

This is slashdot, so I know you guys have some good ideas, and a good sense of what's possible.


Your secret stash of ancestral DNA to the rescue?

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 9 years ago (A)bort, (I)gnore, (R)evert to Grandma's DNA A jaw-dropping revision to Mendelian inheritance: bad genes can be replaced from a secret ancestral stash. (Is the stash in RNA? DNA? A gzip file? We don't know.)

The same researchers have previously mentioned other ways to get around Mendel. See abstract #34.

Almost as interestingly, this discovery could undercut the deleterious mutation hypothesis theory of why sexual reproduction is useful, useful despite what John Maynard Smith termed its "two-fold cost", and explain the eighty-million years of asexual reproduction without extinction in bdelloid rotifers.

Also, brought to you by the letter... 3FB? DNA gets a fake fifth letter.

(This was submitted to Slashdot and rejected, so you get to see it exclusively in my journal, or over on MetaFilter.)


The Dangling Conversation (apologies to Simon & Garfunkel)

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 9 years ago

"When you wanted me, I figured I had, or would have down the road, better prospects than you. Um, things didn't work out as bright and shiny as I hoped. Now I'd, you know, be willing to settle.

"Ok, actually, I really don't even think of you anymore, and your name doesn't still make me pause and wonder 'what if', if it ever really did, (it doesn't, even though the mere thought of me is still like a fresh punch in the gut for you after all these long withered years).

"But if it consoles you to think that you cross my mind on lonely white nights at three a.m. and I feel some sort of vague formless regret -- honestly, any regret I feel is more for my lost youth than for you per se, at this point you just kinda symbolize that lost youth for me, like an old 'Letter' sweater from highschool or a copy of the program for that play we were in together, or those pictures of guys with long sideburns that you know instantly are from the time of the Nixon Administration --, well, you always were the sentimental sort who wrote poetry and believed bathetic crap like 'true love', so keep on with what's essentially your form of mental masturbation if it makes you feel better."

"Ok, stop crying, it always annoyed me when you cried because it made me feel like I was supposed to do something and what did you want me to do, I mean, you were nice and fun and all that --- yes the sex was good, why do you always ask about that --but, come on, we never -- hell, you especially never really expected it to last, I mean we travelled in different circles and you weren't Jewish, not that that's a big deal to me, but Jesus, your family -- please stop crying, ok, so sometimes on occasion I miss you, is that what you wanted to hear?

"Ok, so sure, sometimes I think of you, but really, if I'm the 'one who got away' for you, don't you sometimes stop to think there's one who got away for me too, and it's only natural that rather than think of you when I'm lonely -- yes, yes, yes, sometimes I do think of you, and you were really nice. Yes! Yes I mean it! Why would I lie now?? Really. I do mean it.

"Yes, you were really nice. Ok?

"And it was great talking to you. Sure, sure, same time, next year, give me a call like always. No, I do like hearing from you. I do.

"Ok, you have a nice night too."


Visitors to US to be tagged with RFID by Homeland Security

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  about 10 years ago

silicon.com reports that 'the US Department of Homeland Security has decided to trial RFID tags' .... 'to track both pedestrians and vehicles entering the US to automatically record when the visitors arrive and leave in the country.'

Welcome to the Land of the Free!, number 4c62c570-70c5-11d9-9669-0800200c9a66! You'll be reflecting at 2450 MHz, enjoy your stay!

The article goes on to explain that

The testing phase will continue until the spring of next year. The exact way RFID will be used with the travellers is not yet known.

. . . .

US Under Secretary for Border & Transportation Security, Asa Hutchinson, said in a statement: "Through the use of radio frequency technology, we see the potential to not only improve the security of our country, but also to make the most important infrastructure enhancements to the US land borders in more than 50 years."

What is your frequency, Kenneth?

Remind me again why the most talented foreign scientists are no longer doing research in America?

And how soon will the "success" of this program lead to tagging government employees and contractors as a prelude to tagging all citizens?


"senior level web programmer" and SQL DBA, $10 per hour?

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  about 10 years ago

On craigslist.org I see under "Computer Gigs", an ad for a "senior level web programmer" with, additionally, "exceptional Microsoft SQL 2000 administration... skill".

By "senior", the ad explains, they mean "someone with at least 5 to 6 years working experience in Microsoft Platforms. Microsoft certification is a plus."

The offer requires a minimum three month contract, with set hours of 10:30 am to 3:30 pm, Monday through Thursdays (with Fridays off). That's 20 hours a week (but without apparently the ability to time-shift or moonlight so as to accomodate another 9-5 job).

The compensation offered is $800 per month -- in other words, a "senior level web programmer" is apparently worth only ten dollars per hour.

And yes, I emailed them to confirm this, and they really do mean ten dollars per hous, twenty hours per week, minimum three month contract. And this is in the San Francisco area.

So my question is, is this what's becoming the norm, or is the job poster smoking something?

Addendum: As artifex2004 (766107) notes below, the job posting has been removed from craigslist.

However, another craigslist reader was er, kind enough to respond to the original listing; but I'm not sure how he calculated $12.50 an hour. (And no, I didn't make the response.)

Also, for those wondering about my email with the job poster, this is his reply to my query confirming his ad, with addresses elided:


Yea exactly we are a small start up. And that is our offer


----- Original Message -----
From: orthogonal's address elided
To: job poster's address elided, too
Sent: Monday, January 03, 2005 2:42 PM
Subject: Wanted: SQL 2000 Admin With ASP, HTML skills

>> From your ad at: http://www.craigslist.org/sby/cpg/54284856.html
>> You're offering $10.00 per hour for a senior level web programmer?
>> Quoted:
>> This is a senior level web programmer position. You will program and
>> manage our existing database driven community portal.
>> We are looking for someone with at least 5 to 6 years working
>> experience in Microsoft Platforms. Microsoft certification is a plus.
>> Working hours will be 10.30am to 3.30pm with Fridays Off. Salary is
>> $800/month. Minimum 3 months contract required.


Can racism be "logical"?

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

Of course it can be.

Take a hypothetical variety of racism for instance: if you agree to paint yourself blue and preferentially aid others who are painted blue, people who painted themselves red and preferentially aided red-painted people would naturally prefer to not see you in an position of power or influence, as you would use that position to aid blues (and thus hinder reds who might otherwise have gotten the benefits you preferentially give to blues).

It would also, in this case, behoove you to not only discriminate in favor of blues, but against reds, as reds in power would, perforce, discriminate against you.

At some point, tension might increase until you were legitimately physically afraid of reds, because reds would see an advantage in harming you if they could get away with doing so.

While you'd know that some reds were actually peaceful, good people, you'd have no easy way to determine which reds were good, as it would be risky to associate with any reds, because the bad ones would take advantage of you.

As you became less and less willing to take the risk of trusting a red, so reds would observe your unwillingness to "reach out", and they would be logically inclined to not risk reaching out to you.

At some point, atrocities would be committed by either side: muggings, lynchings, rapes, and eventually a state of war might exist between red and blue.

With war, with the entire survival of one group or the other as a free people undominated by their enemies at stake, even "good" reds would be honor bound, for the survival of their race/people/nation to attempt to kill and harm even blues they knew to be "good", and vice versa: surely we have seen good and honorable men fight fiercely and honorably to kill other good and honorable men, when each side feels its children and way of life at stake.

So, yes, racism can be logical, because once racism starts, the short-term benefit is to rely on a stereotype rather than pay the cost and take the risk of examining people as people and not as members of groups. In the long term, this leads to positive reinforcement of both stereotypes and inter-group enmity -- but it can be awfully hard to endure high short-term costs for even high long-term rewards.

(And honestly, if you can commit genocide or enslave the opposition, your group will, by and large and up to the last century or two, also get a high reward: witness the genocide of Khoisan and to a lesser extent pygmy peoples in Africa by Bantu peoples, or of aboriginal Americans ("Indians") in both North and South America by Europeans, or the near-genocide of Basque and Celtic peoples by Indo-Europeans and Germanic peoples in mainland Europe. Or Armenians in Turkey in 1917. Genocide and enslavement are morally wrong, but they often greatly benefit the perpetrators: ask any American farmer where he got his land.)

If I know that 9 of 10 Maori will kill me because I am Mori (and indeed the peacerful Mori were wiped out by quite intentional Maori genocide and enslavement), I'd be a fool not kill every defenseless Maori I come across -- and a Maori, reasoning that I would so reason, would be a fool not to kill me.

(I will leave the logic of superstition to the reader, but I will hint that we all desire explanatory stories, and even Newtons' physics is subtly wrong, but good enough for most purposes involving human-perceptible masses and speeds. And that the religious, according to several studies, enjoy better health than atheists.)

Given that humans form kinship and pseudo-kinship ("clan", "tribe", "people", "nation") groups, and given that humans can model and predict the actions of other humans, xenophobia and racism are, regrettably, perhaps inevitable.

And recall that all of history's Cains had children, and the Abels did not; it is no surprise to this humanist and atheist that the mark of Cain is a standard and fundamental part of the heritage passed down to every human.


Republicans Jam Phone Lines on Election Day 2002

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

(I submitted this to Slashdot, but I guess the editors didn't find it interesting.)

A Republican consultant paid a "vendor" $2,500 to jam the phones of the local Democratic Party and Firefighter's union offices in several New Hampshire cities on Election Day 2002, in order to prevent voters from calling to arrange rides to the polls and other 'get out the vote' efforts.

In the closest affected race, Republican John Sununu beat Democrat Jeanne Shaheen for U.S. Senate by fewer than 19,000 votes out of over 442,000 votes cast. The consultant pled guilty today, but his co-conspirators have not yet been identified and the investigation is continuing.

We all know that Diebold's voting machines are supposed to ensure that every vote is counted, but what are other ways that technology can be used to undermine democracy?


Microsoft MSN Slate Columnist: Drop IE for Firefox

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

(This was rejected by the Slashdot editors when I submitted it. It's not a dupe is it?)

Slate, the flagship "webzine" of Microsoft's MSN website, has published a column by Paul Boutin advising Microsoft Internet Explorer users to drop IE for Mozilla Firefox because "hackers continue to find and exploit security holes in [Internet] Explorer". Boutin isn't planning to go back, either, he says: "I've been using [Firefox] for a week now, and I've all but forgotten about [Internet] Explorer." He even helpfully links to a Firefox .xpi to make installing Sun's Java VM easy for new Firefox users.


The Bush Administration Dictionary

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

As you are aware, the Bush Administration's "Justice" Department wrote several memos defining torture in such a way as to permit its use, notably by saying that it's not torture unless the only reason it's being done is to inflict pain -- thus ruling that any use to extract information is, ipso facto, not torture.

As a patriotic citizen, I wish to do my bit to help the Bush Administration, so herewith I present

The Bush Administration Dictionary:

  • freedom (n), why the terrorists hate us; unnecessary luxury under the Bush administration
  • Bill of Rights (n) archaic, mere paper listing mere suggestions to the monarch
  • free speech (n), doctrine establishing the rights of Fox News and Clear Chanel Communications; applicable to corporations only
  • terrorist (n), anyone opposed to the King; a dissenter
  • patriotism (n), a fig-leaf that justifies anything

I hope you'll follow my lead by adding more patriotic definitions!


Blackstone, Jefferson, Padilla

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

That venerable historian of Common Law, Blackstone, cites the first recorded usage of habeas corpus in 1305, during the reign of King Edward I of England.

Habeas corpus, of course is that foundation of liberty that requires the King -- or later, the state -- to produce a person imprisoned and justify the legality of his imprisonment. Note that it has nothing to do with guilt or innocence -- it's a check on the State's power to imprison without due process of law.

In this country, that same principle is upheld by the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution, which from time to time it seems advisable to quote in full:

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Except for Abraham Lincoln's illegal suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, in direct defiance of the Supreme Court, the principle had always applied in this country -- until two years ago.

Then, in 2002, John Ashcroft arrested American citizen Jose Padilla in Chicago, and has since held Mr. Padilla incommunicado, with access to Counsel or Due Process of law, effectively suspending habeas corpus and flouting 700 years of legal tradition as well as our Constitution.

This threatens the very basis of our traditional American liberties -- it sets a precedent that any American can be snatched off the streets by a government that claims absolutist powers to do so without explanation or recourse.

Our country was founded by men who revolted against another George for such monarchical usurpations; if we claim the heritage of those Patriots, our course is clear: we must set ourselves against this George and once again declare with those Founding Fathers that the end, the purpose of government is to secure our unalienable Rights and "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it."

Thankfully, we can -- for the moment -- still do that altering through the ballot box. If we are to call ourselves Americans and Patriots, if we are to claim to be the heirs of Washington and Jefferson and Adams, our duty is clear: to vote George W. Bush out of office.


Victory in Iraq! -- for the RIAA!

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

(I submitted this to Slashdot -- and of course, the editors rejected it.)

As the U.S. prepares to hand over 'sovereignty' to Iraq on June 30th, the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority is also forcing Iraq to adopt laws favorable to the U.S. Three of these are Orders Number 80, 81 and 83, requiring the adoption of patent and copyright laws to protect 'intellectual property' against 'piracy'. Although the laws have been written by the U.S., with the Iraqi Governing Council forced to accept them, the press spin is typical RIAA double-speak:

'The new amended laws acknowledges [sic] the Governing Council's desire to bring about significant change to the Iraqi intellectual property system as necessary to improve the economic condition of the people of Iraq.
In addition, the amended law aims to improve the conditions of life, technical skills, and opportunities for all Iraqis and to fight unemployment with its associated deleterious effect on public security.'

In a delicious irony the Washington post reports that the Coalition Provisional Authority's web site stole the "intellectual property" -- specifically, the web site design -- of the liberal Brookings Institute.

I'm sure our American soldiers are proud to have made the world a little safer for record company executives' profits.


All of human history, in a quick "ten years"

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

This essay developed out of a trip with a friend to the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History; but I only completed it as an answer to a comment on Slashdot yesterday.

It got pretty good feedback:

and even those posting the praise themselves got modded up (!), so I thought I'd post it again, hoping to let a wider audience see it. Yes, it is my own writing -- and thank you for the generous praise (and mod points).

But more than just seeing, I'd like to see your comments, especially about what you think should be included in a calendar of the last "ten years" of humanity's history. Whether you have a sentence to describe a "minute" -- that is, a particular year --, an "hour", or an epoch, let me know what for you are the highlights of the calendar. What should be the brief description for each "day"? "Dark Age to Atomic Age" or "Feudalism to Democracy" or "The Last Day of Scarcity" for the last day?

Take a look, and let me know your thoughts. Here's the essay, as it originally appeared:

Part of the challenge of learning history or understanding evolution (human or otherwise) is to begin to grasp the enormous differences and the great epochs of time -- time far, far in excess of the span of any single human's life, time measured in the millions of years -- that separate us from our origins.

Let's play a game by pretending that every year only lasts a minute. It's 2004 today, so, by this game's metric, a "minute" ago it was 2003, and thirty-five minutes ago -- a little over half an hour ago -- Neil Armstrong, in 1969, set foot on the moon. In these terms, World War Two ended just a minute less than an hour ago. Three hours and forty-eight minutes ago -- in 1776 -- Thomas Jefferson declared independence for one nation while, essentially simultaneously in our terms, Adam Smith revealed an Invisible Hand that regulated commerce among all nations.

Each hour is comprised of sixty minutes, each day of twenty-four hours, for a total of 1440 minutes per day. So by our scheme, one "day" ago, 1440 minutes ago, an English King named Riothamus -- or Arthur -- had just recently failed to keep south-western England from plunging into barbarity in 564. Since Arthur's reign, the rest of "yesterday" saw the Dark Ages in Europe offset by the flowering of Islamic science and mathematics, the rebirth of Europe in the Renaissance, the exploration and colonization of most of the world by Europeans, and, an hour ago, the beginning of the atomic age. All this in one busy "day".

Even given the brevity of our metric, compressing one year of 525600 minutes into a single minute, it's still easily possible to recite the salient historical events on a year in the sixty seconds we are given, and even include our own particular history: "1903: first heavier-than-air flight; Grandma born." or "1943: Battle of Guadalcanal, Allied invasion of Italy, Warsaw Ghetto uprising against Nazis, Dad born."

But what's most interesting isn't those years, like 1943, crammed full of events, but the far greater number of years which our histories don't distinguish from one another. Two days ago, 48 hours ago, we come to the year 875 BC (since there's no year zero, 1 AD being preceded immediately by 1 BC). While I'm sure that a historian of that era could come with an interesting event of that year, the nearest I can come up with is the ascension of Osorkon II to the pharaoh's throne in Egypt the next year in 874 BC. The remainder of day two will be pretty packed: Rome will be founded and will reign for most of the day, Christ will be born and crucified in a brief half-hour - but will give rise to over a "day" of Christianity.

Going back another day, three "days" ago starts with the year 2315 BC, right in the middle of Sargon of Akkad's creation of the first recorded empire, in Mesopotamia - and the first writing with a known author, Sargon's daughter Enheduanna's hymns. After Sargon and his daughter, the day will see the beginnings of monotheism and Judaism, the founding of Athens and the fall of Troy.

Four "days" ago opened with 3755 BC, just six years after 3761 BC, the first year of the Hebrew calendar. This "day" saw the beginning of writing, the use of sails and potter's wheels, and the first cities.

Five "days" ago was ushered in with the year 5195 BC. During this "day", man began using ploughs in Europe. Toward the end of the day is 4004 BC, the year Bishop Ussher reconstructed from the Christian Bible as the Day of Creation.

Six "days" ago, it was 6635 BC. This day saw the formation of the English Channel (!) as the glaciers melted, and the domestication of the cow.

Seven days ago, the first "minute" of the "day" is 8075 BC. This "day" sees the beginning of rice cultivation and the domestication of the cat.

Nine days ago sees the beginning of agriculture.

But Neandertals went extinct a full twenty-one days ago.

And it was a full month ago when the first humans of our sort (not Neandertal) entered Europe.

Human culture, in the form of rubbing red ocher on our bodies and burying our dead, began about forty-five days ago.

Sometime over three months ago, the total human population fell to about one thousands persons, in an evolutionary bottle-neck, and "Mitochondrial Eve" had her daughters, daughters who became the mothers of the entire now-living human race.

But it was a full year ago (half a million years ago in real terms) that our sort of human diverged from Neandertals.

Two "years" ago, modern humans were nowhere to be found; Homo erectus, with his stereotyped stone flaking, was the smartest biped.

Five "years" ago, Homo habilis appeared on the African savanna.

Eight "years" ago (in reality, about 3.9 million years ago) the dominant hominids were the Australopithecine.

And it was "only" ten "years" ago (five to six million years before present) that some mutation began the divergence of humans and chimpanzees from the same ancestral hominid.

But it was fully 125 "years" ago (65 million years ago) that the last of the dinosaurs died, allowing mammals to conquer the Earth.

It's been a long long time.


Sad news ... American Liberty, dead at 227

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - American liberty was found dead at the Supreme Court this morning. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss it - even if you believe you don't need civil liberties because you're not a criminal, there's no denying its importance to the Founding Fathers. Truly an American icon.

The U.S. Supreme Court today handed down its decision in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of the state of Nevada, 03-5554, ruling that Americans have no constitutional right to refuse to give their names when asked to by police. The Court, in the opinion written by Mr. Justice Kennedy, explicitly says that police can demand your name even without probable cause to make an arrest, in the course of a so-called Terry stop, because "[o]btaining a suspect's name in the course of a Terry stop serves important government interests".

Slashdot previously discussed the Hiibel case in February.


"Vote" in the unofficial orthogonal presidential straw poll

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

In order to gauge who Slashdotters' opinions in the upcoming United States Presidential election, I've added a series of five user journal entries, immediate "below" this one.

Please indicate which candidate you support for President of The United States by adding a comment to the journal recording tallies for the single candidate you support.

In order, the journals are for supporters of

Please note that you should indicate the candidate you support even if he or she is not currently on the ballot in your state, or if you are illegible to vote for one reasons of age, residency, citizenship, or civil disability -- the point is to indicate support, not to predict the actual electoral outcome. But is you are illegible to vote, or your preferred candidate is not on the ballot, I'd appreciate your noting that, and the reason you can't vote for whom you support, along with your comment.

If the candidate or party you support is not explicitly listed, please add a comment to the fourth journal entry, "Supporters of a candidate or party not listed above", and begin the subject line of the comment with the party affiliation (if any) and candidate name of the candidate you support.

Please comment only in a single "candidate" journal. You may add a brief sentence indicating the reasons for your support, but please reserve longer advocacy or argument for this journal entry. Anonymous entries, multiple entries, and entries by the same user in more than one tally journal will not be recorded in the final tally of "votes".

(But multiple or anonymous entries commenting on the candidates or on this straw poll are more than welcome in this journal only.)

Thank you for participating in orthogonal's straw poll!


Supporters of Republican Party candidate George W. Bush

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

Please comment here if you support the election of Republican Party candidate George W. Bush to the Presidency of the United States.

Please note: For purposes of the straw poll, George W. Bush is considered the presumptive candidate of the Republican Party.

Anonymous entries will not be included in the final tally. All other entries, even those with text opposing the candidate, will be construed as support for candidate George W. Bush. If you support another candidate, please post in the corresponding journal entry.

Please add only a single comment to only one of the four tally journals. Additional comments or advocacy can be added to the latest journal entry which announces this Straw Poll.


Supporters of Democratic Party candidate John Kerry

orthogonal orthogonal writes  |  more than 10 years ago

Please comment here if you support the election of Democratic Party candidate John Kerry to the Presidency of the United States.

Please note: For purposes of the straw poll, John Kerry is considered the presumptive candidate of the Democratic Party.

Anonymous entries will not be included in the final tally. All other entries, even those with text opposing the candidate, will be construed as support for candidate John Kerry. If you support another candidate, please post in the corresponding journal entry.

Please add only a single comment to only one of the four tally journals. Additional comments or advocacy can be added to the latest journal entry which announces this Straw Poll.

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