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Door-To-Door Mail Delivery To End Under New Plan

panthroman Re:Frequency vs. Distance (867 comments)

Getting and sending mail becomes less convenient. I'm a big USPS fan (clearly...), and the draws are convenience and personal contact, not speed.

Getting mail twice a week would suffice for me, but getting rid of the mailperson -- the one who hand delivers a letter door-to-door anywhere in the States, for under a dollar! -- robs the USPS of its charm.

about a year ago
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Door-To-Door Mail Delivery To End Under New Plan

panthroman door to door delivery boosted USPS profits (867 comments)

Before the Civil War, you had to go to the local post office to pick up your mail.

In 1863, Postmaster Montgomery Blair petitioned congress to "promote the public convenience" by providing free home delivery in cities, and argued - correctly, it turns out - that the resultant increase in postal usage would offset the delivery cost and yield a profit. Free rural delivery followed around the turn of the century.

Others at the time argued that whether home delivery yielded a profit was irrelevant, since government entities should be more concerned with civic duty than profit. It's a balance, for sure, but I wish the civic duty sentiment were more common today, or at least to acknowledge the trade-off.

about a year ago
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Typical ambient noise level, where I am right now:

panthroman how loud are dB? (331 comments)

30 dB - quiet library
60 dB - typical conversation
85 dB - inside your car in city traffic
95 dB - subway train 200' away
105 dB - power mower a meter away
110 dB - rock concert
140 dB - gunshot

From here, for those like me who had to look this stuff up...

more than 4 years ago
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Darwinian Evolution Considered As a Phase

panthroman darwin didn't know the details? shocking! (313 comments)

Have Woese and Goldenfeld a brilliant new idea? All they're saying, I think, is that "parent" and "child" are the appropriate units of selection only when genes are passed vertically: from parent to child. They're suggesting that horizontal gene transfer is underrated as a historical evolutionary force.

Agree or not, it hardly undermines Darwin. Genes weren't known in the 19th century. Darwin didn't have a clue about genes, so we're gonna knock him for being "wrong" about it? I mean, was Jesus wrong about genes, too? It's anachronistic silliness.

Science is fundamentally dynamic. Any science that hasn't progressed in 150 years ain't doing too well. (Dear creationists: stop calling us "Darwinists." We've moved on.) I mean, The Origin came out in 1859, for crying out loud! Darwin was more brilliant, more insightful, and rightly more famous than I'll ever be. But if we both had to take a biology test right now, I'd kill him.

more than 4 years ago
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I keep track of my passwords ...

panthroman Re:Mechanics car... (414 comments)

There is an old saying re a Mechanics car or carpenters house... they are usually the worst examples of how well they are maintained.

That's because a mechanic isn't worried if her car breaks down - she knows how to fix it.

I don't think the saying means "people are hypocritical" but rather "people who know how to fix things don't worry as much if they break." If you're a security admin and you don't follow your own advice... do you know how to fix it if it breaks?

more than 4 years ago
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Best estimate of monthly spending on food:shelter

panthroman Re:1:1 (582 comments)

You know, you're making me think it is a silly definitional thing.

The usual way to add a point at infinity to the real numbers is the way I described - it's a way of forming the real projective line. The benefit is that you can define some operations with infinity, but the drawback is that you lose meaningful ordering in the number line. (That might be why the Riemann Sphere is a more useful object; the complex plane isn't ordered to begin with.)

If you want to retain ordering in the number line, then yes, you have to add two points at infinity. So maybe you're right, and the real projective line is a silly thing.

more than 4 years ago
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The 9 Most Tested Lab Animals

panthroman Re:humane testing (235 comments)

Plants react to death and damage, but so does a water balloon. Neither has a nervous system, so I don't worry too much about it. Yes, there is an element of "if it's not like me, then it can't suffer like me," but what else can you do? Assume, despite no evidence to the contrary, that grass can suffer? Then soccer is a monstrous sport!

Why draw the line at tomatoes? First, I don't really. I eat fish on occasion. There is no magical line. Second, it's easy for me to avoid eating cows, and I'm very confident that cattle can suffer. It's damn hard to avoid eating plants, and I'm not at all confident that plants can suffer. So not eating cattle is a better ethical bang for my buck.

more than 4 years ago
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The 9 Most Tested Lab Animals

panthroman Re:humane testing (235 comments)

And as a Botanist I don't see how you gain any moral high ground by killing plants.

Because plants can't suffer. It's not the killing that bothers me, it's the suffering.

I'd say capacity for suffering goes something like:
humans > cows > fish > bivalves > tomato plants > sand

more than 4 years ago
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Best estimate of monthly spending on food:shelter

panthroman Re:1:1 (582 comments)

FYI, the old 2 = 1 trick is:

a = b
a^2 = ab
a^2 - b^2 = ab - b^2
(a+b)(a-b) = b(a-b)
a+b = b
since a = b...
b+b = b
2b = b
2 = 1 (!)

The secret is when you "cancel" (a-b) from both sides in step 4, you're dividing by zero (since a=b). Cute, but pretty old.

more than 4 years ago
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Best estimate of monthly spending on food:shelter

panthroman Re:1:1 (582 comments)

A better reason can be seen using limits. As X approaches 0 in 1/x, the output approaches BOTH positive and negative infinity. As such, it is impossible to define the output - it would need to have two values at once, which is illogical.

But +infinity and -infinity are the same point, in a way.

You can kinda wrap the number line into a circle. This pic should be somewhat self-explanatory on how to map the number line onto a circle. And you can probably see that the very top of the circle - the so-called "point at infinity" - is both +infinity and -infinity.

(See Riemann Sphere for a complex plane version of this.)

more than 4 years ago
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The 9 Most Tested Lab Animals

panthroman Re:humane testing (235 comments)

especially when it's for something shallow like cosmetic testing.

...or like cheaper hamburgers?

Sorry. As a vegetarian biologist, this is just an inconsistency that I see constantly. "How can you be vegetarian and use antibodies that came from lab rabbits in your research?!" Easy: the cost/benefit ratio is wildly different. I don't understand how McDonald's-eating folks complain about animal testing.

more than 4 years ago
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Nintendo Shuts Down Fan-Made Zelda Movie

panthroman Re:Nintendo Needs zelda (222 comments)

[Zelda], [Mario], Donkey Kong, Metroid, F-Zero, Fire Emblem, Golden Sun, Kirby, Starfy, Star Fox, Punch-Out!!, Pokemon, Kid Icarus

Shigeru Miyamoto made Nintendo what it is.

more than 4 years ago
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The Key To Astronomy Has Often Been Serendipity

panthroman the surprise is what defines a "breakthrough" (51 comments)

Maybe important findings get publicity and "breakthrough!" status only if they're somewhat surprising? If folks chip away at a problem for 20 years, even if the result is the same as waiting 19 years and then having a eureka discovery, is it still called a breakthrough?

more than 4 years ago
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Until I remember to write '2010' instead of '2009':

panthroman i mess up ~2-3 times before i get it right (206 comments)

I wonder the poll just measures how often folks write out the date, and most folks mess up about the same number of times before "oh yeah, it's 2010!" kicks in.

A receptionist, who's scheduling things all the time, might only need one morning at work to make the mental shift. But for me it's ~2 weeks, since I rarely find myself writing out the date.

more than 4 years ago
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Until I remember to write

panthroman i mess up ~ 2-3 times before i get it right (35 comments)

I wonder if all folks mess up about the same number of times before "oh yeah, it's 2010!" kicks in, and the poll's really measuring how often you write out the date.

I imagine one morning at work is all it would take a receptionist, who's scheduling all the time. But for me it's ~2 weeks, since I rarely find myself writing out the date.

more than 4 years ago
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In 2009, I've donated (or will donate) to charity ...

panthroman Re:giving to worthy causes is NOT generous (596 comments)

Tz-D-K is a root that means justice. That website just spelled out the letters. And Maimonides - aka Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon - is Rambam (in Hebrew: R-M-b-M). (I agree with you on the Mourner's Kaddish - that website is incorrect there.)

more than 4 years ago
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In 2009, I've donated (or will donate) to charity ...

panthroman Re:giving to worthy causes is NOT generous (596 comments)

From Judaism 101: "... the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word 'charity' suggests benevolence and generosity... The word 'tzedakah' is derived from the Hebrew root tzadei-dalet-kof, meaning justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act..."

If tzedakah just meant charity, then American Jews would likely use the English word 'charity.' As a general rule, if a word finagles its way into a new language, it's either:
- a word children learn (mom, dad, grandma, etc)
- a concept that doesn't quite exist in the new language (tzedakah, schlemeil, machatunim)
- a restaurant trying to charge you more for food (aubergine, frites, a la carte) :)

And BTW, Maimonides' ladder traditionally lists the highest form of tzedakah as helping someone become self-sufficient. Double-blind giving is second.

more than 4 years ago
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In 2009, I've donated (or will donate) to charity ...

panthroman Re:That low? (596 comments)

Now I remember why I left Slashdot in the first place.

Something about your post is... impossible.

more than 4 years ago
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In 2009, I've donated (or will donate) to charity ...

panthroman giving to worthy causes is NOT generous (596 comments)

The act is the same by any name - giving to worthy causes - but "charity" has such generous connotations.

I always liked the Jewish "tzedakah." The idea is that whatever you give was never yours to begin with. That money, that effort or time or whatever, is part of the community, part of something larger than yourself. Maybe it's a semantic quibble, but it helps remind me that my accomplishments don't exist in a vacuum.

The word "charity" could use a little humility.

more than 4 years ago

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