vegetablesupercargo's recent activity

  1. Comment on Rust 2018 is here… but what is it? in ~comp

    vegetablesupercargo
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    I like Rust's way of adding keywords, as compared to C's. With C's way, every identifier that begins with an underscore followed by a capital letter is reserved as a future keyword. Then, when C...

    I like Rust's way of adding keywords, as compared to C's.

    With C's way, every identifier that begins with an underscore followed by a capital letter is reserved as a future keyword. Then, when C wants to add a new keyword (like, let's say, noreturn), they first define _Noreturn, which is already reserved, then they add a standard noreturn.h which consists of a single line:

    #define noreturn _Noreturn
    

    That way, old code, which may use noreturn as a variable name, is unaffected, because it doesn't include the header file. No code just has to #include <noreturn.h> and all is well.

    It works very well, but it feels a little awkward.

    Rust's system: If you want 2018 keywords, compile as 2018 code. If you don't, compile as 2015 code. Seems much simpler.

    5 votes
  2. Comment on Where would a beginner start with data compression? What are some good books for it? in ~comp

    vegetablesupercargo
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    If you want the theory behind compression, you're looking for information theory. I'm a fan of Pierce's book on Information Theory but there are a lot of excellent textbooks to choose from. A...

    If you want the theory behind compression, you're looking for information theory. I'm a fan of Pierce's book on Information Theory but there are a lot of excellent textbooks to choose from.

    A basis in information theory will help you understanding how it works and what the limitations of it are. Depending on the book you choose, you will probably come to see a lot of different approaches to compression.

    1 vote
  3. Comment on New Rule: Just Don't Go There in ~tv

    vegetablesupercargo
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    I'm inclined to agree. Not that you should never talk about politics, but probably only when it's going to be fruitful. The thing is, by avoiding talking about politics, you're not giving up on...

    I'm inclined to agree. Not that you should never talk about politics, but probably only when it's going to be fruitful.

    The thing is, by avoiding talking about politics, you're not giving up on politics entirely, due to the fact that everything is political. Bill Maher correctly points out that the weather is political these days. So is traffic. So is baseball. So is TV, etc. Whenever you're avoiding talking about politics, you're still indirectly talking about politics. The key is, when you're avoiding talking about politics, you're listening to someone's worldview and the foundation they've built upon to arrive at their political stance. Not that political ideologies are logical (they're very likely emotional), but they're still built on top of something. Often times, hearing about someone's life and the way they perceive the world is a lot more fruitful than going straight for top of the mountain (politics) and trying to work your way backwards.

    Plus, it's more pleasant.

    5 votes
  4. Comment on What editor do you use? in ~comp

    vegetablesupercargo
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    I know what you mean. vim is like the C++ of editors for me. "Okay I know enough to get the job done. I'm sure I'll get around to learning all the other features...eventually...."

    I know what you mean. vim is like the C++ of editors for me. "Okay I know enough to get the job done. I'm sure I'll get around to learning all the other features...eventually...."

    6 votes
  5. Comment on What linguistics habits annoy you? in ~talk

  6. Comment on What linguistics habits annoy you? in ~talk

    vegetablesupercargo
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    There are two phrases that drive me crazy, because they're weaselly ways of not saying anything. "Just saying". For example, "The original Ghostbusters was better than the new one with all the...

    There are two phrases that drive me crazy, because they're weaselly ways of not saying anything.

    1. "Just saying". For example, "The original Ghostbusters was better than the new one with all the women, just saying". If you had any conviction or worth as a human being, you could say exactly the same opinion (minus the "just saying") and defend it. Instead, people use "just saying" as a way of saying "everybody needs to hear my opinion, but nobody is allowed to question me about it". If anyone uses the "just saying" on you, try arguing with them. Even the mildest "I don't agree with that" is enough to set them off. "Look, I'm just saying! I'm not saying I'm right. I'm just saying!". There are few crimes against humanity more serious than saying something only for the sake of saying something.
    2. "Not a good look" (and similar generic insults). Obviously it means "bad" or "worthy of negative judgment", but it's typically used by people who don't have the fortitude or intellectual precision to specify and defend why it's bad. "All the executives being men is not a good look". Is it a problem? If it's a problem, just say it's a problem. Then we can have a conversation. If it's not, shut your fucking mouth. Don't vaguely insinuate that it's vaguely bad and waste everyone's time filling up the air with your non-information-containing weaselly exhalations.
    1 vote
  7. Comment on 'Distracted boyfriend' advert ruled sexist in ~misc

    vegetablesupercargo
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    The meme builds off of gender stereotypes. If you reversed the genders, it would still work, but it wouldn't be using the same stereotypes. We don't have stereotypes of girlfriends checking out...

    The meme builds off of gender stereotypes. If you reversed the genders, it would still work, but it wouldn't be using the same stereotypes. We don't have stereotypes of girlfriends checking out hotter men on the street while out with their boyfriends.

    3 votes
  8. Comment on Kids can't use computers in ~tech

    vegetablesupercargo
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    Personally I don't think it's a defensible position when we're talking about childhood education. Children have to be taught how the world works, even if the information isn't always tangibly...

    Personally I don't think it's a defensible position when we're talking about childhood education. Children have to be taught how the world works, even if the information isn't always tangibly useful.

    I mean think about what would happen if we applied that attitude to other subjects. I just want to eat food and not care about how it's grown, so children shouldn't have to learn plant biology. I just want to wake up and get to work on time and not care about how the Earth moves around the Sun, so children shouldn't have to learn astronomy. I just want to get married and have children and not care about what a sperm or egg is, so children shouldn't have to learn sex ed. I just want lower taxes and not care about how governments work, so children shouldn't have to learn social studies or history. I just want to fill out my taxes and post on reddit and not care about language in detail, so children shouldn't have to learn about literature or grammar or writing.

    I mean you can argue about prioritizing some things over other things, but these days I don't think you can go on saying it's totally fine for children to have no idea how a computer works, how the Internet works, how social media works, what security is, etc.

    These days, a computer is more than just a blender. (Not that we shouldn't teach electronics in schools, either, but I'd agree that's a lower priority). People don't spend the majority of their waking hours, including their professional and social lives, using a blender.

    8 votes
  9. Comment on Kids can't use computers in ~tech

    vegetablesupercargo
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    Following your car analogy, I'd argue that what most kids are capable of doing these days in terms of using a computer is opening their door, sitting down, buckling their seatbelt, and punching an...

    Following your car analogy, I'd argue that what most kids are capable of doing these days in terms of using a computer is opening their door, sitting down, buckling their seatbelt, and punching an address into a GPS. They have no idea how to turn a key, adjust their mirrors, use a steering wheel, what a gas pedal is, etc.

    In any case, I think using an analogy to argue about semantics is missing the point a little bit. Whether we use the word "use" or "maintain" or "operate" is not the point. The point, from my perspective, is that computers and technology are greatly important, more important now than they were in years past, but kids are ironically less capable now than they were in years before. (And, as a computer science educator of kids, I 100% believe in that statement. Kids now are less capable with computers than kids 20 or even 25 years ago were). To me, that suggests that kids understand the world around them less now than they did years ago, which is a problem.

    8 votes
  10. Comment on Have your political views changed as you've grown older? in ~talk

    vegetablesupercargo
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    I was a socialist libertarian (classical anarchist) when I was younger, from high school through my Master's or so, vaguely aligned with Noam Chomsky. I did have an interest in post-left...

    I was a socialist libertarian (classical anarchist) when I was younger, from high school through my Master's or so, vaguely aligned with Noam Chomsky. I did have an interest in post-left anarchism, as well, and in particular I was moved by Bob Black's famous "The Abolition of Work". Basically, I was convinced that the goal of society should be more freedom: freedom from institutions, freedom from capitalism, in particular, and overall freedom from institutional hierarchies. I was obsessed with thinking of ways to do away with hierarchies, as I hated the idea of subjugating people.

    There were a couple things that bugged me right from the start. The big one was that capitalism is patently quite good at generating wealth (the comforts of life), and that's not necessarily a bad thing, if it can be constrained. A lot of anarchists of the sort I was reading were primitivists and had this idea of "oh yeah we won't have sports cars or things like that, but nobody needs those anyway", which always caused a lot of friction in my brain. Like yeah, obviously we don't need those, but let's think this through a little more about what precisely we'd be flippantly be giving up and why. So I started working through a lot of things like "would we still be able to get bananas any time we want? I'm quite fond of bananas. I know the banana industry is very exploitative now, but maybe there's a way...."

    The other big thing that happened was in my early- and mid-30's, I started questioning where I would get meaning in my life. Not just intellectually, but it was a real problem I was facing personally. I basically had a life of perfect freedom (well maybe not 100%, but effectively pretty close), but I wasn't satisfied with that perfect freedom, and it was bothering me. Everything was fun, but it wasn't meaningful. I started exploring meaning of life a little bit, and one of the people I got a bit of help probably isn't very popular here (Jordan Peterson). I started thinking about things that imposed upon my freedom: job, family, church, marriage, family. Basically all the things I thought were dark and evil from when I was younger. Well, I'm not old yet, so I can't say definitively it was the right path to follow, but it feels right so far. And it crept into my politics a little bit.

    Some things I have kept from my youth:

    • A baseline of universal freedoms. And I mean "freedoms" in the "positive rights" sense. I couldn't enumerate these freedoms in totally black-and-white terms, but housing, food, education, health care, a certain amount of privacy and leisure, and so on. All of those things should be given to everybody. Or I mean we should be working towards that (I guess we don't have the tax base yet). And in terms of negative rights, I'm still very much cranked up to 11 "live and let live".
    • A reduction in work. I don't believe any more that we need to eliminate work, but 40+ hours/week for 45-50 weeks a year for 40+ years is absolutely cuckoo. We should be using our brilliance in machinery and automation and computation to reduce how much we work. And I'm using Bob Black's definition of "work" here. We should still be busy, doing things, but we shouldn't be coerced as much as we are. Just the littlest bit of involuntary work to add seasoning to life and remind us we're a part of the cold, harsh Earth.

    Some things that have changed from my youth:

    • A little hierarchy can be okay. You've got to watch it to make sure it doesn't become dehumanizing, you know, but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. A mentor-apprentice, boss-employee, teacher-student, master-servant relationship can be a meaningful thing in life. I'm actually on bard with a little wealth inequality, as well, so long as everybody's base needs are met and the inequality doesn't get too severe. The last decade or two, we've seen what happens when income inequality skyrockets out of control. Really tragic :(
    • Tradition can be quite good, as well. In my youth, my philosophy was "throw every tradition unless I know it makes sense", and now it's switched to "keep every tradition unless I know it doesn't make sense". At first blush, it sounds like they're saying the same thing, but it's a switching of the burden of proof. There are a lot of traditions that I think you don't get right away. It's only after practicing them for a long time that you start to realize "ah maybe that's why all of my ancestors did this. There's something to that". In Canada we're having a lot of debates about statues of (racist 1st Prime Minister) John A. MacDonald. I'm stodgy now. I say keep them up! Change the context, add a new plaque, whatever you want to make yourself feel like you're fighting racism, but add to history instead of taking it away.

    Overall, I've become more comfortable with government and law and order. I just wish we'd get a forward-looking government that would think about this whole automation thing we (could) have going on.

    5 votes
  11. Comment on What are some big mistakes that first-time home buyers can make? in ~life

    vegetablesupercargo
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    I think this page summarizes it well: Especially for short terms, it is very rare to end up paying more with a variable-rate than a fixed-rate. However, there is always that tiny risk....

    I think this page summarizes it well:

    studies have found that over time, the borrower is likely to pay less interest overall with a variable rate loan versus a fixed rate loan. However, the borrower must consider the amortization period of a loan. The longer the amortization period of a loan, the greater the impact a change in interest rates will have on your payments.

    Especially for short terms, it is very rare to end up paying more with a variable-rate than a fixed-rate. However, there is always that tiny risk....

    3 votes
  12. Comment on What are some big mistakes that first-time home buyers can make? in ~life

    vegetablesupercargo
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    About 1982-ish, I think. Rates were below 10% when he got the mortgage, and were up close to 20% just a couple years later.

    About 1982-ish, I think. Rates were below 10% when he got the mortgage, and were up close to 20% just a couple years later.

    1 vote
  13. Comment on What are some big mistakes that first-time home buyers can make? in ~life

    vegetablesupercargo
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    I'll add: Don't believe the bank when they tell you what you can afford. I found a huge difference going to a bank and going to a credit union. When I got my first mortgage about 10 years ago, a...

    I'll add:

    1. Don't believe the bank when they tell you what you can afford. I found a huge difference going to a bank and going to a credit union. When I got my first mortgage about 10 years ago, a bank told me I could carry a mortgage of $550k or something ridiculous like that (I actually laughed when he told me that because I assumed he was joking). The guy at the credit union, in contrast, "strongly cautioned" me about anything above $250k. When a bank tells you that you can carry a big mortgage, they are thinking about themselves: they are not thinking about you. If you follow their advice, you are going to be completely fucked and they are going to be laughing all the way to themselves.
    2. Don't assume interest rates will stay the same. Give yourself a bit of a cushion in case they go up.
    3. Don't go for the fixed-rate mortgage. Does this contradict #2? No, if you follow #2, you don't need a fixed-rate mortgage. My dad carried a mortgage through the crazy 1980s (when interest rates suddenly spiked to 18%) and he said that even through that crazy period, he would have ended up paying more if he'd locked in to a fixed rate when rates were low. A variable rate will always mean you pay less overall.
    7 votes
  14. Comment on There's No Stopping Toronto's 'Uber-Raccoon' in ~misc

    vegetablesupercargo
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    My solution when I lived in Toronto was to keep all my green bin stuff inside the house until the morning the trucks were coming. Not ideal, obviously. The biggest problems I had with raccoons in...

    My solution when I lived in Toronto was to keep all my green bin stuff inside the house until the morning the trucks were coming. Not ideal, obviously. The biggest problems I had with raccoons in the city were trying to steal food off a (hot!) grill while I was barbecuing, and pooping on my patio furniture. As soon as the sun goes down, Toronto turns into a different city. It's the raccoon's city between dusk and dawn.

    I remember going camping once up north. We got into the campsite right at about sunset and hadn't eaten, so I was pulling some food out of the cooler to make something, and of course a family of raccoons materializes out of the trees. The campsite had an old broomstick leaning against one tree, so I grab the broomstick and start swinging it to shoo the raccoons away. Motherfuckers didn't even flinch. They just sit there, right where the end of my broomstick ended, staring at me. I guess they'd been at that campsite for so long that they knew exactly (to the millimetre!) how long that broomstick was and how close they could safely get.

    3 votes
  15. Comment on What do you think is the problem with privacy? What's the actual challenge we're facing? in ~tech

    vegetablesupercargo
    (edited )
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    Some tasks that have a very high failure right among middle school (and even many high school) students: "Open your browser". Of course they have all used a browser a million times, but many of...

    Some tasks that have a very high failure right among middle school (and even many high school) students:

    • "Open your browser". Of course they have all used a browser a million times, but many of them don't know what it's called. I've learned that many of them just call their browser (even if it's Edge or Firefox or something) "Google".
    • Write a URL on the whiteboard and say "go here". Most of them have never typed in a URL before (some will say they've never seen one before. Others will say "isn't that a programming code in Google?" or something)
    • "Download this file and then open it later". The task of "download this file and have your browser open it immediately" is easy, but finding it and opening it later can be very challenging. This is a broader topic, but many students do not have a solid concept of a filesystem, the concept of local storage vs cloud storage, etc. The idea of a file being stored on their computer (and not accessible from other computers) can often be confusing.
    • Many students seem to intuitively think in terms of "programs" (or "apps") instead of "data". The concept of creating something in one program and then opening it in another program can really mess with them. As an example, the steps of: (1) Open up Notepad; (2) Write a small amount of HTML in Notepad; (3) Save it; (4) See that a new file has been created on your computer; (5) Right-click the file and open in your browser. Each one of those steps in isolation can be okay, but trying to conceptually say how 2 steps are related to one another can be a real mindfuck.
    • Edit: A pet peeve of mine, but they are generally awful at typing. When I was a kid, we had mandatory typing classes: one in grade 2-ish (mostly just "here's what a keyboard looks like, get comfortable with it"), one in grade 6-ish (learning how to touch type, a bit of a struggle) and one in grade 9-ish (this one was for real, being tested in speed and accuracy). The kids that I've talked to, none of them have ever learned how to type. Some of them pick it up a little bit, of course, but even the best students are generally pretty poor at it.
    7 votes
  16. Comment on hey tilda swintons - what would you do if you were awarded $130,000,000 in post-tax lottery money? in ~talk

    vegetablesupercargo
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    Hire an accountant, tell no one, blah blah, all the usual boring stuff. Yeah, but then what.... I mean a lot of it depends on what my wife would want to do, but besides that.... I'd be Mark...

    Hire an accountant, tell no one, blah blah, all the usual boring stuff. Yeah, but then what....

    I mean a lot of it depends on what my wife would want to do, but besides that....

    I'd be Mark Shuttleworth 2.0 and fund a free computing company/institute. Someone else can probably think of something more worthwhile to do with the money, but I have to stick with what I know, and at least I know that free software and free hardware will help a lot of people out. Especially if we could get that holy grail of a smartphone with open specs that doesn't steal the soul of everyone who uses it.

    Going back get another degree would be fun, too....

    1 vote
  17. Exploitation and coercion

    Those two words and their relationship with "consent" and "freedom" fascinate me. I've sort of ruminated about it in the back of my mind for a while, but haven't sorted a lot out. It would be nice...

    Those two words and their relationship with "consent" and "freedom" fascinate me. I've sort of ruminated about it in the back of my mind for a while, but haven't sorted a lot out.

    It would be nice for two people to be able to make any agreement they like between each other without restrictions. "I'll do this for me and you give me that in return". If there aren't restrictions on what sort of agreement two private people make, in some sense, that can be maximum freedom.

    But then exploitation and coercion come into the mix. "If you don't sign this contract, I will kill you" is a clear example of an agreement not being free. "If you don't sign this employment contract, you won't be able to afford to buy food" is still fairly clear, but a little further removed. "If you don't sign this employment contract, you'll be able to get food, but the food you can afford will be heavily processed and laden with oils and processed sugars, and you could suffer poor health in the future" is getting into a lot of grey area.

    We talk a lot about minimum wage workers being exploited. It's true that most of them (almost all of them?) hate their jobs. It's also true that life necessarily requires sacrifices. I don't have a good framework for thinking about what point something becomes exploitative or unethical.

    It comes up in personal relationships as well. "If you don't have sex with me, I will kill myself" is clearly abusive and manipulative. "If you don't have sex with me, I will break up with you" is slightly more removed. "If you don't quit using heroin, I will break up with you" is a little grey.

    At what point is someone being coerced in a relationship vs two people acknowledging sacrifices they have to make to stay together? I don't have a good framework for thinking about this.

    Further things to think about: at what point of mental illness can a person no longer ethically enter into an agreement? What about a normal person who suffers from the usual human psychological biases? At what point is it exploitative to use psychological biases when negotiating with someone? This can go all the way from the benign (ending a price in ".99") to the damaging (designing casino games with flashing lights and buzzers, etc.)

    I don't expect someone to be able to give me a pat answer to this. If you think you can give me a 1-line "Exploitation is ...", I think you're probably missing something. But I am curious how other people think about these things, and what examples or what books you've found that have been helpful to you sorting things out.

    13 votes
  18. Comment on ‘Master/Slave’ Terminology Was Removed from Python Programming Language in ~comp

    vegetablesupercargo
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    I suspect many people feeling really strongly about this (in either direction) haven't taken a look at just how tiny this change is. Python already used the words "master" and "slave" extremely...

    I suspect many people feeling really strongly about this (in either direction) haven't taken a look at just how tiny this change is. Python already used the words "master" and "slave" extremely rarely, so this touches only a few parts in the code.

    The openpty function is probably the most contentious of all of them. openpty splits a pseudoterminal into a pseudoterminal pair, such that one is marked as the "master" pty and the other as the "slave" pty. Python chose the terminology of "master" and "slave" simply because BSD (and thus glibc) used the same terminology in their documentation way back when.

    My personal opinion is that describing a pty-pair as a master-slave relationship isn't quite the right fit anyway. Regardless of whether anyone took offence to the terminology, I think parent-child more accurately describes a pty-pair relationship.

    I think the change is small enough and clear enough to understand that it's okay breaking "documentation compatibility" (I don't know exactly the right term to use) with BSD's man pages.

    Honestly, many of the changes were just using the word "master" bizarrely to begin with. Who ever says "client" and "master" in networking connections? I've only ever heard "client" and "server".

    13 votes
  19. Comment on What do you think is the problem with privacy? What's the actual challenge we're facing? in ~tech

    vegetablesupercargo
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    The biggest problem from my perspective is that we're flying blind. We know that our personal information is valuable—I mean "they" (even this part is nebulous) are paying big bucks to get at it....

    The biggest problem from my perspective is that we're flying blind. We know that our personal information is valuable—I mean "they" (even this part is nebulous) are paying big bucks to get at it. Intuitively I think it makes sense that some bad actors could use our information for something undesirable, but we haven't seen a lot of concrete evidence of it. What I have seen:

    • Targetted ads. To be honest, I don't see these as a big deal per se. They're kind of a canary in a coal mine, in that they reveal to us how much we're being spied on, but I don't think they're interesting in of themselves.
    • Differential pricing. There were examples several years ago of OS X users paying more for flight tickets than Windows users (websites were showing different prices based on your browser's user agent string). This has become a bit more subtle now. Companies not only know what we want to buy, but they (probably) have a good idea of how much we're willing to pay for it.
    • International travel. We've now seen lots of examples of people being banned from flights, refused visas, etc., based on their social media. We can say "serves you right for being stupid enough to put contentious info on a public social media profile", but that's really only stage 1. What's coming next is discrimination not just on your public social media posts, but your private posts, even your most private and intimate messages. We know via Snowden that government agencies have a direct pipe to information that we explicitly mark as non-public.
    • Similarly to above, companies discriminating when hiring, based on our private information.

    Things are kind of vaguely creepy right now, but from a practical standpoint, the average person isn't really affected in any meaningful way. But, it's the nature of information, that once it's out there, it can't be taken back. I suspect part of the reason our information is so valuable is that it has potential value for the future. Some company in the future is going to figure out how to make a fortune on discriminating on our private interactions.

    Some things that I think lead us to this point:

    • People have no idea how electronic devices work. I'm a CS educator and had high hopes for the "digital natives", but ended up being alarmed to find that children born in 2000 are more ignorant of how a computer works than children born in 1980 were at the same age.
    • People have no idea how the Internet works. People have really bizarre behaviours, like pointing to a company's Privacy Policy to decide if they're information's safe, which suggest they don't really understand what's going on.
    • Tech capital has concentrated itself in only a few giants. 15 years ago, if you wanted access to 90% of the population's private email, you'd have to deal with probably hundreds of companies and organizations. Now you have to deal with 1. You can hardly fault Google for it—they flat-out just did email better than everyone else—but it sucks.
    • The network effect, which exasperates the oligopoly. If Google decides it wants to scrap IMAP (an open standard), we can't do anything about it. If Google decides it wants to scrap HTTP, well it actually got frighteningly close to doing that (thankfully it was going to replace it with another open standard, but it might not be so benevolent forever). Google controls the world's email, searches, smartphones, maps, and more. If it wants to squeeze out a competitor, even a free software competitor, it can use its heft in another domain to make things incompatible.

    I don't know exactly what privacy should be. I'm an Orwell fan and I think his description of how people act in privacy vs non-privacy in 1984 has a lot of truth to it. We've seen psychological studies that back up the Chilling Effect: people behave less creatively when they know they're being watched. I don't think it's psychologically healthy to act as if you're watched 24/7. At some level you need a private space to let something out, knowing that it's not going to affect your social standing or your bank account or your ability to travel or your ability to find a job.

    35 votes
  20. Comment on <deleted topic> in ~movies

    vegetablesupercargo
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    Take This Waltz feels exactly like Toronto. The writer/director (Sarah Polley) is a Toronto native and, in many ways, the movie feels like a bit of a love letter to the city. When I was living in...

    Take This Waltz feels exactly like Toronto. The writer/director (Sarah Polley) is a Toronto native and, in many ways, the movie feels like a bit of a love letter to the city. When I was living in Toronto, I actually met someone from Korea who had moved to Toronto specifically because of that movie. It's nice because so many Hollywood movies have been filmed in Toronto, but they usually try hard to make it feel not like Toronto.

    3 votes