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Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

usuallylost Re:Not Very Prepared (190 comments)

Prior to 2011 there had not been a significant earthquake in my area for a bit over 100 years. When the quake hit in 2011 what we discovered is that pretty much nobody was prepared for an earthquake. Fortunately the damage was mostly restricted to building damage. In particular we have a lot of masonry structures in Virginia and some of them got damaged. The front steps to my house suffered some cracking and the sidewalk is not at a slight angle that wasn’t there before the quake. I am eventually going to have to get that fixed.

I do have some general emergency supplies. Water, good radio, good flashlights, fresh batteries, a supply of medications, and some food that doesn’t require cooking. Things which are useful in any emergency but which could also service in an earthquake if needed. That stuff came in handy in 2012 when we had a Derecho come through. That took out power, phones (both mobile and land line), knocked down trees and uprooted the sign at the Wendy's. Some people were without power for over a week from that.

2 days ago
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Scientists Baffled By Unknown Source of Ozone-Depleting Chemical

usuallylost Re:Source is HVAC Contractors (303 comments)

I had an old HVAC system replaced in my house a few years ago. The contractor went to great pains to carefully pump out the old coolant before decommissioning the system. He told me that in my state if you get caught not doing it you can lose your license and incur significant fines. Perhaps your area simply doesn’t have the kind of enforcement mine does? Still from the article the amount being released is equaling 30% of the peak from before the ban. So while illegal dumping and venting may account for some of it I doubt it is all of it. My guess is we are going to find that some country is using it on a fairly sizable industrial scale. Based on their record of doing things like still using asbestos even though it is known to kill people I would look at India. That or some rogue country like North Korea.

about a week ago
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Scientists Baffled By Unknown Source of Ozone-Depleting Chemical

usuallylost Re:china did it (303 comments)

The history of China is that their government tends view their citizens as cheap expendable assets. If pollution related illnesses don’t kill them in inconvenient numbers they are willing to accept the impacts of the pollution. At least as long as those impacts fall on the general population and not the elites. I suspect you’ll find the elites have taken steps to protect themselves. Things like filtered water and air in their residences and offices etc. As far as the general public goes their real concern is that they are kept placid so what they are looking for is a scape goat to focus public anger on. So when people complain about pollution they trot out “evil people in the west did it”. Since they control the media and it is a police state ridiculous statements like that can pretty much stand mostly unchallenged.

about a week ago
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Adam Carolla Settles With Podcasting Patent Troll

usuallylost Re:Dammit! Adam you rolled over... (63 comments)

The reason I say it is a silver lining is that the money Adam Carolla lost is mostly crowd funded money. So a lot of people lost $20 each. The trolls didn't bankrupt him, it appears that they didn't succeed in forcing him to pay and they very likely lost ~$500,000 out of pocket. So for the trolls this is a net loss. Depriving them of funds, generating publicity for the cause and having them fail at their goals are all good things. Not as good as winning an outright victory but better than losing to them.

Lawyers as a general rule are loath to see anything that generates legal activity go away. No matter how abusive of the system it is. Just look at how much money lawyers spend defeating any measure that might be construed as tort reform. Still at the end of the day when a lawyer is being paid, assuming the lawyer isn't a crook, they generally act in their client's interests or at least within the confines of the client's instructions. From the point of view of the individual lawyers involved the very best thing that could happen is this case drags on for years and they get to bill a lot more hours. A case like this is a gravy train for lawyers and now it is ending.

about a week ago
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Adam Carolla Settles With Podcasting Patent Troll

usuallylost Re:Dammit! Adam you rolled over... (63 comments)

It would have been great for him to invalidate their patent. I can however see where the economics of it might not work. Especially considering that the trial was occurring in a venue considered friendly to trolls. It sounds like he, and his legal team, made a calculation and figured that they were going to spend a lot more money with no certainty that the court would do the right thing. Also with no certainty that they would be able to recover any of their non-trivial legal fees. I can see where he would decide it was time to cut his losses. The silver lining here is that if he spent over $500,000 odds are they ended up spending something similar. So this whole endeavor has likely been a big money loser for them.

about a week ago
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Fighting Invasive Fish With Forks and Knives

usuallylost Encourage over fishing? (180 comments)

I agree that eating the invasive fish is a good idea. After all if we didn't put catch limits, and encourage catch and release, on the normal game fish people would have fished them to extinction. So really all we have to do is convince people they are good eating and then make no efforts to protect the invasive fish. My guess is once it gets going people will gleefully over fish them. Just have to make sure people stick to the undesirable fish.

I don't know about lion fish but both Asian carp and northern snakeheads are good to eat. They eat Asian carp extensively in China and the northern snakehead is commonly consumed in Thailand. I have seen them for sale in markets where the northern snakehead was stuffed with what looked like lemon grass, other herbs and covered in a layer of salt and then grilled. I never tried it simply because I am not keen on fish.

about two weeks ago
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Aaron's Law Is Doomed and the CFAA Is Still Broken

usuallylost Re:Face it ... (134 comments)

That is good advice. A huge number of Americans do not understand that we have a two election system. The primaries for the various parties and then the general election. The party's policy positions are frequently fought out in the primary process. Since such a small percentage of the population participates in those the will of the party elite tends to hold sway. If you want to change what happens a primary challenge is a much smaller undertaking and has the potential for greater impact than any other method of directly challenging the current system. Absent a primary upset odds are that the person on the ballot for both parties is an entrenched establishment player. Mostly because they are the only ones who come out for primaries.

The Virginia seventh district is a prime example of how a comparatively small and not well funded group of upset voters can change the entire dynamic of a race. An unknown comparative outsider came into the race and spent ~$250,000, which is chump change in congressional elections, and took down Eric Cantor. Because the voter pools are so much smaller it is much easier for a group to impact policy at that level. In the general election you frequently add a zero to the number of voters involved and to the amount of money you have to spend to get your message out. The key is upset local people changed the power structure in the house by particpating in the primary.

about three weeks ago
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Least Secure Cars Revealed At Black Hat

usuallylost Re:Too much bullshit (140 comments)

Check around my guess is you can get software online that will let you let you reprogram the computer. I used to own an Audi. On some versions of my car you could hold the unlock button on the fob for some number of seconds and it would roll all the windows down. Holding the lock button would roll them all back up. They wouldn’t enable it on my car because it wasn’t a feature on my model. Come to find out that my car supported it but that they had simply programed the computer not to do it. A friend of mine, also an Audi owner at the time, bought a $20 cable that came with a software package that gave you complete access to the computer on the car. We were able to change any parameter that the dealer could change. In my case the only parameter I changed was changing the feature for opening and closing the windows from the key fob from off to on.

The same package also let you access all the error codes that the system logged and had a handy database that told you what they all meant. Which was a great help in figuring out problems with the car.

about three weeks ago
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French Provider Free Could Buy US Branch of T-Mobile

usuallylost Re:Rejected! (111 comments)

I hope you are correct. I have already had Sprint burn down one mobile phone Company around me, NexTel, and I don’t look forward to going through that again. This seems like a much better deal for consumers to me.

Actually Sprint has screwed me twice with mobile phones. I had a Sprint Spectrum phone when they just pulled the plug on that network rending my phone useless. They got sued and the worthless class action made some lawyers rich and they gave those of us who lost the use of $300 phones $50 gift certificates to use toward buying new $300 phones from Sprints new service. The second time was when they burned down Nextel. Frankly I am seriously dreading the idea of going through that crap again.

about a month ago
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CIA Director Brennan Admits He Was Lying: CIA Really Did Spy On Congress

usuallylost Re:And no one will go to jail (266 comments)

Even if they do refer it for prosecution it will just go to the Justice department’s Assistant Attorney for the Washington area who will refuse to prosecute. DOJ has already refused to even investigate this so it is unlikely they'll actually prosecute it. The sad fact is that there is really not much congress can do at this point. They can whine and complain, hold hearings, perhaps hold up some legislation/nominations or mess with the budget. Nothing that the White house can’t get away with simply ignoring. If by some miracle they actually pass something the President will simply veto it. So realistically it would take 2/3 of both houses agreeing to do something to really take any meaningful action here. I do not see that happening

about a month ago
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Comcast Confessions

usuallylost Re:I must be the outlier (234 comments)

I cancelled my Comcast service a couple of years ago. Mainly because I had their DVR service and they absolutely refused to make it work. They just kept sending me new DVRs. After replacing six DVRs in a year, which pretty much defeats the purpose of a DVD, I got fed up and went to Verizon FIOS. The sales rep from Verizon told me I’d have less hassle if I just turned in my equipment locally than if I tried to call them. He even very nicely gave the address of my nearest Comcast facility and their hours of operation. You are doing something seriously wrong when Verizon has better customer service than you.

There is one use for these customer retention people. I used to call Comcast every year or so and say I was leaving. Without fail they would give me various discount packages. I don’t think I paid full price for their services for the last decade I had them. In a typical year I’d reduce my bill by 25 to 50 percent just by calling up and trying to cancel. If they are going to be obnoxius you may as well benefit from it.

about a month ago
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Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples?

usuallylost Re:11% fuel efficiency improvement (138 comments)

If they can make this work at a reasonable cost the trucking industry is defiantly a place I’d expect to see it. After all fuel efficiency is one of the biggest factors in whether a trucking company makes money or not. I am not sure a dynamic system such as being described in the article makes that much sense for cars and trucks. Making some sort of prefabricated body panels that have some pattern permanent imprinted it in seems like it would be much cheaper and require less long term maintenance. Even if you only got a portion of the 11% improvement it could still equal millions of dollars a year to a large trucking company.

As far as they sort of dynamic system described in the article I have to wonder if that wouldn’t be more appropriate to something like the aviation industry. Aircraft have a large enough cost that even if a system like that was $100,000 to put in the impact on the overall cost of the aircraft wouldn’t be that great. It is another industry, like trucking, where fuel costs are among their greatest expenses so an 11% improvement would be significant.

about a month ago
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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

usuallylost Re:666 (753 comments)

Organized crime is simply the largest example here in the US. You could also point to the fact that the Chinese middle class is moving billions out of a Chinese banking system they don’t trust and into offshore accounts by carrying it in their luggage a few thousand dollars at a time. That is probably a better example anyway as it a direct example of the kind of reasons you don’t want a cashless system. A bunch of politically connected bankers are ripping them off and they are reacting by withdrawing their cash and moving some of it abroad to protect it. The Chinese government puts a lot of limits on its citizen’s abilities to do direct money transfers abroad so they are using cash to bypass that. That is an ability we should be hesitant to give up.

about a month ago
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No RIF'd Employees Need Apply For Microsoft External Staff Jobs For 6 Months

usuallylost Re:This is just a repeat (282 comments)

Unfortunately I fear you are correct. In my view the whole H1B visa scheme is designed to create a class of indentured workers to drive salaries and benefits down for US tech workers. Microsoft has innovated with the whole create the shortage by imposing unreasonable hiring restrictions. So now they lay people off declare them ineligible and then complain to congress to get some more H1B visas. After the artificial period of ineligibility their former employees can reapply for the positions they were not able to fill with H1B visa holders. Very likely at lower wages due to the fact that you will likely have far more people competing for a much smaller pool of positions. The scary thing is that if this works for Microsoft you can expect to see other companies doing it. If we didn’t have to live with the consequences you could almost admire the evil genius factor of it.

about a month ago
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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

usuallylost Re:666 (753 comments)

There are defiantly people out there that are moving that kind of wealth around in cash. Organized crime moves millions around in cash every day. They not only move it within the US but move it across borders to and from other countries. In some parts of the world people do cross border trade in US $100 bills with transaction amounts often measured in the 10s of thousands or more. So it defiantly possible to do it. If you had some reason to think you’d be a target you could pull out money in small enough transactions that no one triggered any alerts and sock it away. Actually you could pull it out in one block sum and just let it be tracked if you wanted. It isn’t illegal to pull a million dollars out in cash they just record it and ask some questions. Once you have it you can hide it, spend it, give it to somebody else or just move it without anyone else’s help. The point is that if cash goes away you won’t be able to move .01 without their cooperation and tracking.

about a month ago
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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

usuallylost Re:666 (753 comments)

It is different from now in a couple of ways. When you go to make a purchase using any electronic payment system that transaction is being facilitated by a third party. It could be your bank, American express, a crypto currency system (eg bitcoin) or some government agency. Whomever that third party is takes your request to buy something, pay a bill or transfer money to some third party and facilitates it. If that third party becomes unavailable for some reason your ability to conduct such transactions is seriously compromised. Now it might become unavailable because of some governmental action like an order form a court saying no transfers for person X. It might be because a hurricane has taken out the infrastructure to conduct the transaction in your area. Whatever the case as long as that third party is either unable or unwilling to facilitate a transaction your ability to conduct any sort of business is very limited.

Cash on the other hand does not require any direct action by any third party to complete a transaction. As long as the system is sufficiently functional that money still has value you can transfer cash from one person to another and compete the transaction. Cash is resistant to being easily tracked. It’s portable and has minimal dependence upon outside infrastructure. About the only way cash totally loses its value is if the nation that issued it either ceases to exist or ends its support for physical currency. Cash can be used to anonymously support groups that the powers that be don’t want you supporting. It can be used to buy things they don’t want you to buy. It can just be held against an emergency. Going from a mostly cashless to a completely cashless system represents a significant loss of individual autonomy. Personally even if I only ever use it to keep a small cache against the power being knocked out long enough that my credit card is unusable I like to have that ability. I think it would be a significant blow to the public to lose it.

about a month and a half ago
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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

usuallylost Re:666 (753 comments)

The most important words in your post are “almost entirely cashless”. I agree with the original poster about the importance of the existence of the ability to have cash transactions to the maintenance of freedom. Basically the way to think of cash is that it gives you the ability to have anonymous economic transactions and the ability to maintain a store of wealth that is not dependent upon external services.

If you take that away then in essence you are saying that every economic transaction is going to be directly traced via some technological means. It is inevitable that information will end up in some central database. Worse if you find yourself on the wrong side of the powers that be for some reason they can simply deny you access to your wealth at their whim. Whereas if you have cash on hand the only way to deprive you of its use is to physically take it from you.

about a month and a half ago
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Workplace Surveillance Becoming More Common

usuallylost Re:unions are needed before the bathroom break tim (195 comments)

Unions are a double edged sword on the positive they do tend to protect against some of this stuff. On the negative they are expensive to maintain and that money comes out of the employee's check every week. Also they tend to rob you of flexibility.

My brother is a union member and because of that union contract there are some things he simply doesn't have to put up with. On the other hand because of that union contract he can't have alternative work schedules, he can't negotiate different duties with his boss, and in general he has far less flexibility than a non-union employee. My brother gets irritated because the union is dominated by a lot of employees who fear change so he can't get some of the things he wants because the majority votes against it. So realize if you accept the union you are agreeing to basically let your co-workers have a vote on your career decisions because those decisions will be made collectively rather than on an individual basis. Whether this is a good or bad thing is going to depend upon who you are, what industry you are in, whether there are better deals to be had and how likely you are to be able to negotiate one of those deals for yourself. If you are a top 10% employee for example odds are a union is going to be bad for you. If you are more of a midrange employee or someone who isn’t comfortable negotiating for yourself, and will thus never get those available deals, the union may be good for you.

Another aspect of giving up your own autonomy to gain the protection of a union is that you may be called upon to go on strike. This has happened to my brother twice in his career and both times it was a real hardship as their strike fund doesn't totally replace your paycheck. You also end up picketing when they tell you to even if it is raining in January.

about 2 months ago
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Are the Glory Days of Analog Engineering Over?

usuallylost Re:The world... (236 comments)

The articles headline is a bit missleading. In the body of the article you find that even they admit that analog engineering isn't dead or going anywhere. What is changing is the exact skill sets required. If you are doing traditional circuit design on purely analog equipment you are on hard times because people aren't doing as much of that. If on the other hand you have a foot in both the digital and analog world and can do analog design for digital systems there is a shortage and money is really good. So basically the people having problems are the older analog engineers who haven't kept their skills current. I think you could write that same article about just about any technical field where there has been rapid development in the technology. Some folks end up in dead end specialties that simply aren't in demand anymore. Your options there are retrain, change carriers or compete for the ever shrinking number of jobs. I'd argue that the last one is the worst choice unless you are simply close enough to retirement that the other two are simply unviable. Which actually appears to be the case with most of the guys listed in the article.

about 2 months ago
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Scientists Race To Save Miami Coral Doomed By Dredging

usuallylost Re: "by a team hired by the U.S. Army Corps of..." (99 comments)

Well the army has to maintain a staff of competent engineers for use during war time when they need to do things like open harbors, clear beaches, build air strips, build costal defenses etc. Those guys can either just sit around during peacetime or the Government can give them other responsiblities. So the government gets to use engineers, construction crews etc that it is already paying for rather than letting them sit idle and hiring somebody else. Also it keeps their skills up to date by having them work on real projects on a more or less continuous basis.

about 3 months ago

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