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Temporary Classrooms Are Bad For the Environment, and Worse For Kids

roystgnr Did we check for confounding variables? (187 comments)

Or is there really nothing other than CO2 levels which correlates strongly with the use of portable classrooms and with absenteeism? Perhaps low socioeconomic status has nothing to do with which school districts have more trouble affording permanent buildings? Perhaps higher numbers of children per family are unrelated to which schools are overcrowded?

It's hard to tell, when the bibliography consists of "studies show".

What's sad is that this is still better-than-average science and science reporting. We got an actual transcript, and the correlation seems to be at least a step above the "people who wear parachutes are more likely to die in skydiving accidents!" level which is so good at grabbing headlines.

about 2 months ago
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David Cameron Wants the Guardian Investigated Over Snowden Files

roystgnr If A is evidence, then ~A is contrary evidence (279 comments)

Had the Guardian not complied, I suppose David Cameron's response would have been "I thought they were guilty, but when they refused to voluntarily cooperate with my national security adviser and cabinet secretary, I started to reconsider."

No? But if not, then he is just trying to rationalize some "damned if you do, damned if you don't" nonsense.

about 9 months ago
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How Google Fiber Could Do Some National Good, Or At Least Scare the Carriers

roystgnr The carriers are trying to scare Google (163 comments)

Seriously, what else could *possibly* motivate AT&T to announce "Austin" rather than one of the hundred other similar markets they could be moving into? Are they looking forward to making half as much revenue as they would if they entered a city with no gigabit competition? Are they proud that they'll be increasing the maximum speed available to Austinites by 0% rather than increasing the maximum speed available in another city by 9900%?

Of course not. They're showing Google, "moving in on our turf won't be profitable, because we'll try to undercut you every time you make a move, so you might as well give up and leave us with our oligopoly."

It'll be fascinating to see what Google's response (both in terms of words and actions) will be. Does "don't be evil" include "don't concede to evil"?

about a year ago
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Google's Punishment? Lecture Those They Snooped On

roystgnr Federal law and natural law sometimes differ (252 comments)

If my neighbor and I buy similar analog baby monitors and it takes a week for one of us to switch to a non-default frequency, are we now both criminals?

about a year ago
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Nuclear Arms Cuts, Supported By 56% of Americans, Would Make the World Safer

roystgnr It doesn't matter if NK or Iran follow suit (615 comments)

The USA and USSR didn't build tens of thousands of nuclear warhead because we needed to be able to "destroy the world ten times over" or whatever the pro-disarmament phrase was; we built that many weapons so that even if 99% of them were destroyed in a massive surprise first strike, the remainder would be able to destroy the first striker just once. The threat of retaliation then outweighs any incentives for anyone to commit a first strike.

But none of that applies to threats from NK or Iran. They have neither the technology nor the economies to hit a thousand hardened silos in a massive surprise first strike, and they're not going to be able to change that without decades of obvious development, so even a couple hundred warheads is still more than enough to pave over either country with glowing green glass. The problem with proliferation is a different one: when a nuke in a random incoming shipping container destroys some major harbor city, how do we even know whom to retaliate against?

about a year ago
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US Near Bottom In Life Expectancy In Developed World

roystgnr Re:People don't understand Simpson's Paradox (1063 comments)

The report is full of claims which completely neglect all those factors. Do you need direct quotes?

My "blase comparison" is a more apples-to-apples version of a less precise and therefore more misleading claim made in the news article. Is your disdain towards their distortion even a fraction of your disdain towards my correction?

about a year and a half ago
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US Near Bottom In Life Expectancy In Developed World

roystgnr People don't understand Simpson's Paradox (1063 comments)

Japan's life expectancy in 2010 was 82.9 years, according to the World Bank. In 2006 it was a little lower.

Japanese-American's life expectancy in 2006 was 84.5 years, according to HHS quoting the NIH.

Everybody discussing this issue without taking confounding factors like Simpson's paradox into account should basically be ignored, if you have no chance to respond to them. If you do have a chance to respond to them, then try pointing out facts like the above and seeing if the conversation turns from trying to explain how "the U.S. health disadvantage is pervasive" to trying to explain the opposite. If it doesn't, then you know that their original "explanations" were generated from bias rather than from evidence.

about a year and a half ago
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27 Reported Killed In Connecticut Elementary School Shooting

roystgnr Is "for everyone" on the table? (2987 comments)

The proposals I've seen always turn out to be "give up the right to bear arms for everyone not wearing the right uniforms". But that idea has also been frequently tried, and it doesn't always work well either, and when it fails the ensuing death counts have gone into the millions.

about a year and a half ago
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Even Capped Prediction Markets Can Be Manipulated

roystgnr What predictions become self-fulfilling? (130 comments)

Systems don't generally exist in locally-unstable equilbria, because if perturbations generate their own positive feedback and if the system isn't carefully protected from even the slightest perturbation, then it will have already left the unstable equilibrium.

So, although it sounds cynically wise to claim that "people want to vote for whoever they think will win the vote", any such effect must not be very strong. The first partisan victory would have tilted the scales toward a partisan landslide which would have set up a partisan shut-out, and we'd shortly be laughing about "second-party voters who throw their votes away" the way we talk about "third-party voters" (where plurality counting really *does* create such positive feedback) today.

about a year and a half ago
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Petraeus Case Illustrates FBI Authority To Read Email

roystgnr Anybody here encrypt their email? (228 comments)

A decade or so ago, we finally admitted that the encryption cat was out of the bag, US rules loosened, and web browsers stopped coming in "128-bit encryption that you can't export" versus "56-bit encryption that the FBI or the teenager down the street can crack" varieties.

At the time, many people were cynical enough to speculate that this new "we won't worry about bad people using encryption" policy meant that NSA mathematicians had discovered algorithms for cracking our strongest ciphers.

Yet I don't recall anyone being so cynical as to realize the truth: we don't worry about bad people using encryption because (most) ecommerce vendors are the only ones not too lazy to use encryption. You'd think that a four-star general trying to hide an affair would at least try out PGP...

about a year and a half ago
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DRM Could Come To 3D Printers

roystgnr Someone call the "obvious patent" police! (315 comments)

Perhaps the people who have approved decades of "existing idea X, but on a computer" and "existing idea-on-a-computer X, but over the network" claims will decide that "existing idea-on-networked-computers X, but using a 3D printer" claims are where the obviousness line is finally being crossed?

about 2 years ago
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How Internet Data Centers Waste Power

roystgnr Don Boudreaux summed this up nicely (170 comments)

in this letter and comment.

The most ironic point: "Should we discover (as we undoubtedly would) that tens of thousands of copies of today's NYT were printed, delivered, and sold to subscribers who never read Glanz's report, do we conclude that the NYT needs a new and less-wasteful business model?"

about 2 years ago
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YouTube Refuses To Remove Anti-Islamic Film Clip

roystgnr ...you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld (622 comments)

And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

Even if you don't believe in bright-line ethical rules in favor of free speech, surely any consequentialist calculation of what will happen by bending this rule has to include not only the present murderers' reduced incentive to complain but also any future complaintants' increased incentive to murder.

about 2 years ago
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How Apple Killed the Linux Desktop

roystgnr Re:Actually Miguel... (933 comments)

Certainly "with compiz, it's snazzier" - for a while with Gnome2 + Compiz, even non-Linux blogs were filling up with "wow, you could make your computer look like *this*!" Youtube videos. Has anybody seen videos of Gnome 3 or Unity which impress non-users?

The newest XFCE + Compiz on Ubuntu 12.04 doesn't seem to be stable enough for me, though. Not sure which of them is to blame (or if it's NVidia's drivers, something else...)

about 2 years ago
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FBI Seizes Server Providing Anonymous Remailer Service

roystgnr Re:What did you expect? (355 comments)

The additional facts and context are much appreciated. However:

Now, I'm not trying to say "knocking every anonymous remailer off the internet is justified". Please don't assume I think that.

Do you instead think that "allowing unlimited anonymous communication is justified", even if it means that false bomb threats become as common as litter? Although I'm sure we'd all agree that ethically there's a middle ground between these two points, that may be a moot point if technically no such middle ground exists. And I don't see a technical middle ground, do you? Either truly anonymous speech is possible or it isn't. The mixmaster software can't distinguish between good and evil messages passing through.

more than 2 years ago
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SpaceX Tries Out Its New SuperDraco Rocket Engine

roystgnr Re:Amazing (118 comments)

Isn't the Space Age as dead as a 19th century coal locomotive?

Coal locomotives are dead because they were supplanted by much better designs. Space Age rockets are dead because they weren't. Huge difference.

Would anyone get excited if a "private" company was building a large coal-fired boiler and saying "wow, one day we'll be able to do what we did in the past! Glory days!"

If a private company unveiled a locomotive engine whose performance-to-price ratio was an order of magnitude better than the current state of the art , everyone would be rightly excited.

Almost everyone would be excited, I mean; there's never been a shortage of idiots. I'm sure there were 19th century equivalents of this AC, demanding to know why everyone was getting so excited about putting a two-millenia-old technology like an aeolipile on wheels.

more than 2 years ago
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Pentagon: 30,000 Pound Bomb Too Small

roystgnr Re:you're a troll but even so.... (612 comments)

You are accusing them of being suicidal.

"Potential mass murderers aren't a threat if they'd have to commit suicide in the process" is almost a hilariously unpersuasive argument.

Also: are we particularly worried about rockets, here? Rockets travelling at 7,000 m/s are only important for retaliatory strikes, where you need to get your nukes in the air before the bases storing them become craters. For an unexpected first strike, cargo ships travelling at 7 m/s would do just fine instead. Not just fine, but much, much better in the case where there exists more than one potential culprit. If Tel-Aviv mysteriously explodes tomorrow, I'd agree that Pakistan will "become a glass desert in 1 day". If Tel-Aviv mysteriously explodes in 50 years, when nobody's sure whether to blame Pakistan or Iran or Saudi Arabia or Indonesia or whoever else has invented/bought/seized nukes by then, odds are the bombers get away scot-free.

Iran never invaded anybody and never toppled any foreign government while the US army and the CIA did, multiple times.

On the other hand, it is hard to argue with this. At best the warmongers are just the boys who cried wolf now. "Fool me once, shame on... shame on you. Fool me... you can't get fooled again."

about 2 years ago
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Are Power Users Too Cool For Ubuntu Unity?

roystgnr Exactly (798 comments)

If this was LeenuxSux88@hotmail.com's blog post, then it would have been trolling for Slashdot to link to it.

But this is an explanation for why Unity sucks, written by the man most responsible for Unity. It's not an explicit, *intentional* explanation, mind you, but the chasm between intent and reality here is just another part of the implicit explanation.

The guy doesn't even understand the power geeks he's stereotyping. Most of us *love* graphical bling. That even goes for silly fun like wobbly windows or funny-shaped window border decoration themes, not to mention actually useful features like translucency. Regardless, as long as it's optional (i.e. designed correctly), it's a great option to have. It's even a fine default option, so long as you automatically fall back properly for incompatible hardware and you don't make it too hard to turn off for unimpressed users.

What we hate is systems with fewer options and systems with less usefulness. If there's something that used to be possible or even simple but is now impossible or more complex, then the system has become worse. Gnome 3 has become worse than Gnome 2, and Unity is worse than Gnome 3.

more than 2 years ago
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When Having the US Debt Paid Off Was a Problem

roystgnr Bingo! (633 comments)

A constant positive debt/GDP is basically a heavily regressive transfer payment program: you take money from people based on income (i.e. "new money") and you give it to other people based on wealth (i.e. "old money").

A great scheme for the old money, if only they could have pulled it off. The trouble is keeping politicians on a short enough leash that they can maintain "constant", despite them having every incentive to trade short-term economic growth ("look what great stuff I bought on the credit card!") for long-term pain ("look what a horrible person that other guy is for suggesting we pay down our credit cards!").

more than 2 years ago
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When Having the US Debt Paid Off Was a Problem

roystgnr Re:Say what? (633 comments)

Ah, so it's like how I don't have to worry about whether my mortgage costs more than it's worth, because I can always pay back my debt by selling my always-appreciating house at a higher price. Or maybe it's more like how I can always recoup the cost of my Pets.com stock regardless of profits because I can just find some new buyer to take the stock from me for even more money?

One thing's for sure: ignoring the intrinsic values of a transaction because we'll always be able to cover our butts by finding some one even more ignorant later is a well-thought-out plan that could never possibly backfire on us horrifically.

more than 2 years ago

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