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Why Your Programmers Just Want to Code

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 09:18 AM PST

The Do's and Don't's of Managing Programmers:

Why are some programmers such jerks?

Too many managers believe the problem lies with [the disgruntled programmer]. If he was a better employee, dedicated worker, or at least cared more, then this wouldn't happen. Right?

Unfortunately, no.

The first suggestions matter a lot
How you handle ideas from new programmers sends an important signal. Good or bad, it sets the stage for what they expect. This determines if they share more ideas in the future... or keep their mouth shut.

Sure, some ideas might not be feasible in your environment. Some might get put on the back burner to be discussed "when we're not busy". Some ideas seem great, but they run against unspoken cultural norms.

No matter what the reason, dismissing or devaluing your programmer's ideas — especially in the first few months — is a bad move.

Damaged by all the naysaying, he'll try a few more times to present his ideas differently, aiming for a successful outcome. If he continues to feel punished, though, he'll realize that the only way to win is not to play.

Which is exactly what you don't want your programmers learning.

He will stop presenting ideas, asking to meet customers, and genuinely trying to understand the business.

Ultimately, it's a lose lose.

If you want programmers to become mere code monkeys, treat them like code monkeys.

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"Do Not Resuscitate" Tattoo Baffles Doctors

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 07:45 AM PST

A 70-year-old man with an unusual chest tattoo caused doctors to call for the assistance of ethics consultants:

Emergency medicine doctors in Florida struggled to figure out how to respectfully care for an unconscious 70-year-old man with a chest tattoo that read "Do Not Resuscitate" followed by what appeared to be his signature. In a case report published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the doctors recounted:

This patient's tattooed DNR request produced more confusion than clarity, given concerns about its legality and likely unfounded beliefs that tattoos might represent permanent reminders of regretted decisions made while the person was intoxicated.

The unresponsive patient was brought to the emergency department by paramedics. He had high blood-alcohol levels and no identification or family with him. After a few hours, hospital staff saw his condition slipping. His blood pressure dropped and acids were building up in his blood. Despite the prominent tattoo, the doctors didn't know if they should trust it. They contacted social workers to try to find his next of kin and made several attempts to revive him enough to get him to confirm his wishes. But the revival attempts failed.

The consultants advised that the tattoo be treated as an authentic preference, and a Do not resuscitate order was written. Later on, the patient's official out-of-hospital DNR order was found, and it matched the preference expressed by the tattoo. The patient ended up dying later that night.

Let this be a lesson to you: Don't get an ironic "Do Not Resuscitate" tattoo.

An Unconscious Patient with a DNR Tattoo (open, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc1713344) (DX) (PDF)

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A Map Showing How Much Time It Takes to Learn Foreign Languages: From Easiest to Hardest

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 06:15 AM PST

For English speakers:

Do you want to speak more languages? Sure, as Sally Struthers used to say so often, we all do. But the requirements of attaining proficiency in any foreign tongue, no doubt unlike those correspondence courses pitched by that All in the Family star turned daytime TV icon, can seem frustratingly demanding and unclear. But thanks to the research efforts of the Foreign Service Institute, the center of foreign-language training for the United States government for the past 70 years, you can get a sense of how much time it takes, as a native or native-level English speaker, to master any of a host of languages spoken all across the world.

The map above visualizes the languages of Europe (at least those deemed diplomatically important enough to be taught at the FSI), coloring them according the average time commitment they require of an English speaker. In pink, we have the English-speaking countries. The red countries speak Category I languages, those most closely related to English and thus learnable in 575 to 600 hours of study: the traditional high-school foreign languages of Spanish and French, for instance, or the less commonly taught but just about as easily learnable Portuguese and Italian. If you'd like a little more challenge, why not try your hand at German, whose 750 hours of study puts it in Category II — quite literally, a category of its own?

The map reckons Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, and Basque are off the charts.

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Kim Jong Nam Carried Antidote to the Nerve Agent Used to Kill Him

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 04:45 AM PST

Kim Jong Nam was reportedly carrying antidotes to the chemical weapon he was killed with, as well as $125,000 in cash:

Kim Jong Nam, the murdered half-brother of North Korea's leader, had a dozen vials of antidote for lethal nerve agent VX in his sling bag on the day he was poisoned, a Malaysian court was told this week. Two women, Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese, are charged with conspiring with four North Korean fugitives in the murder, making use of banned chemical weapon VX at the Kuala Lumpur international airport on Feb. 13.

The vials contained atropine, an antidote for poisons such as VX and insecticides, toxicologist Dr K. Sharmilah told the court on Wednesday, state news agency Bernama said.

Atropine is used to treat nerve agent and pesticide poisonings, and is typically given intravenously or injected into a muscle. Kim Jong Nam didn't pack any syringes.

Also at CNN, BBC, and Asia Times:

Nerve gas blocks the biological action of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) in the body, essentially shutting down the nervous system. This stops the action of all the body's organs and leads to convulsions and death rather quickly. Atropine is designed to counteract the blocking agent.

As an antidote, atropine has to be administered very rapidly and absorbed into the body quickly. This rules out atropine liquids and pills as an effective counter to nerve agents because these means of therapy work too slowly. The best administration is through intramuscular injection.

Previously: Kim Jong-Un's Half-Brother Reportedly Killed in Malaysia

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Biohackers Disregard FDA Warning on DIY Gene Therapy

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 03:14 AM PST

"Cease & Desist" has not worked:

Despite a warning from the federal government about do-it-yourself gene therapy, two companies say they'll continue offering DNA-altering materials to the public.

The companies, The Odin and Ascendance Biomedical, both recently posted videos online of people self-administering DNA molecules their labs had produced.

Following wide distribution of the videos, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week issued a harshly worded statement cautioning consumers against DIY gene-therapy kits and calling their sale illegal. "The sale of these products is against the law. FDA is concerned about the safety risks involved," the agency said.

Does the Executive Branch want the market to decide, or not?

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World's First Electric Cargo Ship Will Be Used to Haul Coal

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 01:41 AM PST

The Center for American Progress reports

[...] it should be a welcome moment that China's Guangzhou Shipyard International has launched "the world's first electric ship with a capacity" of 2,200 tons, as the state-run Global Times reported1 earlier [in November].

The ship is short-haul: It can travel about 50 miles with its 1,000 lithium batteries after two-hour charge, which is the loading and unloading time for the ship, state news site ChinaNews.com reports.2 So, it can be charged while it is docking.

Sadly, the Chinese spoiled the launch of this otherwise green cargo ship by using it to transport coal for electricity generation on the Pearl River in Guangdong Province. The ship can carry up to 2,300 tons of coal, though ChinaNews.com reports such vessels could in the future be used for "passenger ships, ro-ro ships [roll-on/roll-off vessels carrying wheeled cargo] engineering vessels" and similar purposes.

[1] DNS won't resolve. Google cache.
[2] DNS won't resolve. Google cache. (Chinese)

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Tesla Delivers on 100 MW Australian Battery Promise

Posted: 04 Dec 2017 12:09 AM PST

Tesla has switched on "the world's largest battery" in South Australia:

The world's largest lithium ion battery has begun dispensing power into an electricity grid in South Australia. The 100-megawatt battery, built by Tesla, was officially activated on Friday. It had in fact provided some power since Thursday due to demand caused by local hot weather.

South Australia has been crippled by electricity problems in recent times. Tesla boss Elon Musk famously vowed to build the battery within 100 days - a promise that was fulfilled. "This is history in the making," South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said on Friday. The battery would prevent a repeat of a notorious incident last year where the entire state lost power, Mr Weatherill said.

Mr Musk has described it as three times more powerful than the world's next biggest battery.

The capacity is 129 MWh, and the battery can deliver 100 MW of power.

The record will not stand long. Hyundai is building a 50% more powerful battery system in Ulsan, South Korea.

Also at CNN, The Guardian, and RenewEconomy.

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Barnes & Noble Pivots to Books

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 10:37 PM PST

Barnes & Noble will shift to smaller stores and is turning to books to attempt to save its business:

The retailer had hoped that toys, games and other items would shore up its results, especially as Amazon.com Inc. ate away at its traditional business. But its non-book sales have flagged the past two quarters, and now the company is putting its focus back firmly on reading.

Barnes & Noble will "place a greater emphasis on books, while further narrowing our non-book assortment," Chief Executive Officer Demos Parneros said in a statement.

The failed foray is just one of the challenges bearing down on the chain. Customer traffic is down, and Barnes & Noble is losing market share. Though the release of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" reinvigorated sales a year ago, the company is now paying for that blip: Same-store sales fell 6.3 percent last quarter, with about half of that decline coming from the drop-off in Harry Potter demand.

Barnes & Noble's Nook e-book business also has languished, a further sign of Amazon's tightening grip on readers. It all added up to a loss of 41 cents a share in the fiscal second quarter, compared with a deficit of 29 cents a year earlier. Analysts projected a 26-cent loss for the period, which ended Oct. 28.

Barnes & Noble may benefit from short leases, allowing it to close or downsize stores as needed. New stores may be only about 40% as large as the average existing location.

Headline credit where it is due.

Also at WSJ:

"There's too much stuff in the stores," said Barnes & Noble Inc. Chief Executive Demos Parneros, in an interview after the company's earnings call. "We're drawing a line in the sand and reducing the assortment of gift items and what I'd call tchotchkes. For example, we love journals. But we have way too many. We're refocusing on books."

Related: Amazon Opens Physical Bookstore in Seattle
Amazon Books Opens in New York City

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Light Table - A Next-Generation Open-Source and Customizable IDE

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 08:16 PM PST

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

Light Table is a free, customizable, functional, and open-source IDE with a modern User Interface, plugin support, command pane, and connection manager

I'll stick with (g)vim personally but there's probably a few of you who'll find this interesting enough, if only to rag on it in the comments.

Source: https://www.fossmint.com/light-table-next-generation-open-source-ide-editor/

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On Atari's Flashback Game Console

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 05:55 PM PST

The New York Times has an article about Atari's Flashback video game console:

This month, I bought a retro Atari gaming console for $39.99 at a Bed Bath & Beyond in suburban New Jersey. It was a few feet from a set of Calphalon pots and pans and a display of oven mitts 11 rows deep. So that tells you something about the intended audience.

[...] Somehow, Atari never dies. The console, known as the Flashback, was one of the best-selling items in early November at Dollar General, one of the nation's largest chains. Considering that Atari is down to a mere 18 employees, perhaps no company is squeezing more nostalgia out of an old product this holiday shopping season.

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New Hybrid Plane Will Add Second Electric Engine As Battery Costs Drop

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 03:24 PM PST

Move over electric cars, here come electric planes:

Luckily, electrification isn't always an all-or-nothing proposition, especially in a plane with several engines. A new partnership from Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens appears to take advantage of this fact. Dubbed the E-Fan X, this will be a demonstration hybrid aircraft which—initially—will have one of four gas turbine engines replaced by a two megawatt electric motor. But as the system matures, is demonstrated to be safe and, presumably, as battery costs come down, provisions will be made toward replacing a second turbine with another 2MW motor.
A big part of the motivation for projects like this is, apparently, the European Commission's Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation, which includes a reduction of CO2 by 75%, reduction of NOx by 90% and noise reduction by 65%. The happy side effect, presumably, will be cleaner air, lower dependence on fossil fuels, and cheaper flights too.

If they put solar panels on top and wind turbines on the wings, they can recharge while they fly.

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Ban Glitter

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 01:13 PM PST

Some scientists want to ban glitter, a microplastic that can contribute to contamination of the world's oceans:

It's sparkly, it's festive and some scientists want to see it swept from the face of the Earth.

Glitter should be banned, researcher Trisia Farrelly, a senior lecturer in environment and planning at Massey University in New Zealand, told CBS. The reason? Glitter is made of microplastic, a piece of plastic less than 0.19 inches (5 millimeters) in length. Specifically, glitter is made up of bits of a polymer called polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which goes by the trade name Mylar. And though it comes in all sizes, glitter is typically just a millimeter or so across, Live Science previously reported.

Microplastics make up a major proportion of ocean pollution. A 2014 study in the open-access journal PLOS ONE estimated that there are about 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic weighing a total of 268,940 tons (243,978 metric tons) floating in the world's seas. Microplastics made up 92.4 percent of the total count.

NOAA and Plymouth University pages on microplastics.

Also at NYT and National Geographic.

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Why a Generation in Japan Is Facing a Lonely Death

Posted: 03 Dec 2017 10:52 AM PST

Sabishii, na?

With no families or visitors to speak of, many older tenants spent weeks or months cocooned in their small apartments, offering little hint of their existence to the world outside their doors. And each year, some of them died without anyone knowing, only to be discovered after their neighbors caught the smell.

The first time it happened, or at least the first time it drew national attention, the corpse of a 69-year-old man living near Mrs. Ito had been lying on the floor for three years, without anyone noticing his absence. His monthly rent and utilities had been withdrawn automatically from his bank account. Finally, after his savings were depleted in 2000, the authorities came to the apartment and found his skeleton near the kitchen, its flesh picked clean by maggots and beetles, just a few feet away from his next-door neighbors.

The huge government apartment complex where Mrs. Ito has lived for nearly 60 years — one of the biggest in Japan, a monument to the nation's postwar baby boom and aspirations for a modern, American way of life — suddenly became known for something else entirely: the "lonely deaths" of the world's most rapidly aging society.

To many residents in Mrs. Ito's complex, the deaths were the natural and frightening conclusion of Japan's journey since the 1960s. A single-minded focus on economic growth, followed by painful economic stagnation over the past generation, had frayed families and communities, leaving them trapped in a demographic crucible of increasing age and declining births. The extreme isolation of elderly Japanese is so common that an entire industry has emerged around it, specializing in cleaning out apartments where decomposing remains are found.

Compounding matters, Japan has a declining birthrate and bans immigration.

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