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Comment Re:Iowa has more roads than you would believe. (Score 1) 285

It's true that most of Iowa has a road grid. Here's an example from Story County which includes Ames:

What's interesting to note on this map is the purple lines which represent some roads that were reclassified as Level B roads around 2006-2007 timeframe. Level B roads are minimum maintenance and typically include many dirt/earthen roads. Others may include a thin layer of gravel on top, but lack a complete foundation. In addition, some regular gravel or paved roads with a good foundation periodically get reclassified this way as well due to lack of use or need.

AFAIK, the Level B designation is currently controlled at the county level, but the DoT could begin making recommendations for more roadways to be listed this way. This could give Iowa a relatively easy option for transitioning to fewer maintained roads by simply reclassifying more and more of the roads as Level B. Once redesignated, the DoT would stop performing regular maintenance on them. Many of the gravel roads may become seriously pot-holed over time, but they would still be drivable. Those that are seldom used might become overgrown. Some form of infrequent maintenance may still be required to address issues like erosion or washouts.

For those locations that require these roads to access dwellings or fields, the owners or agencies they contract could perform some types of necessary maintenance. For example, snowplowing of the redesignated roads would still be needed to allow home access, but many rural land owners already own trucks or other farm machinery that can be fitted with plow-blades for clearing snow. The state could potentially offer some form of rebate program for the equipment, or tax-breaks based on the mileage of B-level roads from main road to dwelling. Either would be significantly cheaper for the state than continually maintaining tens of thousands of roads that see little to no use.

Comment CFLs don't last nearly as long (Score 1) 602

I've never had a CFL bulb last more than 2 years. I've had several fail in under a year, and a couple that died within a few weeks. Of those that have failed, 1 exploded, and 2 others made audible pops and burned up. Thankfully, the glass cover of the light fixture captured the pieces from the one that blew up, and there was no fire started by the other two that ignited. I've tried different brands, and all have seen extremely high failure rates. The cost and unreliability have also been a net loss for me compared to if I had opted for incandescent bulbs instead.

Also a result, I stopped buying CFL bulbs a while ago due to how unreliable and potentially dangerous and costly they have proven to be. Instead, I stocked up on a bunch of cheaper incandescent bulbs before they were removed from store shelves. At the much slower rate of replacement for incandescent bulbs I've observed, my stock will hopefully last me for several more years. Hopefully by then, there is a reliable alternative on the market.

Comment Top 5 things I learned from software development (Score 1) 548

1 ) Make liberal use of saves, back-ups and version control check-ins. Disk space is cheap, and having incremental versions can be a life-saver in case things go awry.

2 ) When given an existing piece of software to modify or maintain, do not assume that the previous authors had any clue about what they were doing, or that they followed good coding practices. After fully analyzing the code, be alert for opportunities to restructure / rewrite portions that will improve maintainability and efficiency and determine if they can be implemented as part of the updates.

3 ) Comment heavily. At the very least, add comments for each functional block to help identify their purpose, expected inputs and outputs. Always add comments for non-obvious line entries. Also make sure to clearly comment any debug / trouble-shooting code that is added to make it easy to remove later.

4 ) Today's coding choices may last forever. Once implemented and released, it becomes significantly harder to make changes later. Make sure that proper architecting and design work is done up front way before any code gets written.

5 ) If you don't like it, get out. One of my professor's used this phrase a lot, and my experience in engineering has led me to agree with it. If you don't like coding those lame exercises in software classes, chances are you won't like coding in the real world either. Passionate and motivated programmers tend to produce better results. If you don't enjoy writing software, find something else that you do like instead.

Comment Change for Babylon 5 Pilot (Score 1) 276

IIRC, JMS once mentioned that there was something in the Babylon 5 Pilot, possibly related to the graphics, a scene or the imagery, that he would have changed if he could do it over. From the quote, it seem like it may have been one of those "once you see it, you can't unsee it" kinds of things. I've watched the pilot many times, but I've never spotted it. What was it?

Comment Re:Those things that annoy us in other games are s (Score 3, Interesting) 128

If you activate skills the moment they cooldown, you will fail hard in this game. If anything, the cooldown system in GW2 actually requires more resource management to know when to best activate skills. Of all the RPGs I've played, I think GW2's skill system might be one of the easier ones to begin learning, but one of the hardest to master. In other words, it manages to appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers, which is no small feat.

Also, each class plays distinctly differently. Abilities and play styles are very different between them. The fact each one has a heal skill doesn't alter this. Most heal skills have long cool downs, so you need to really stay alert and use them when you need them the most.

As for the original GW's skill system, GW2's version is significantly different. You can still respec your character in GW2, but there are some costs to do certain kinds of changes.

Comment Re:Those things that annoy us in other games are s (Score 3, Informative) 128

You should try it before judging.

From a game design stand-point, a mana system is fundamentally a way to prevent players from activating too many skills too quickly...which is the same thing that cooldown timers do. However, cooldown timers don't force players to channel funds into a gold sink like mana potions, or waste inventory slots to carry them. Having played many games with mana pools, I find the cooldown system in GW2 to be vastly superior.

Obviously, those players that really enjoy buying, carrying and quaffing mana potions may disagree.

Comment From a few people I know with math degrees... (Score 2) 416

- Insurance companies sometimes hire them for statistical analysis of cost/benefits
- Larger hospitals that do research sometimes hire them for statistical analysis of medicines and treatments
- Manufacturing companies sometimes hire them to do statistical analysis of product failures

If she doesn't mind focusing on the statistics branch of math, there are jobs out there.

Comment Re:Would switch if it weren't stupid-expensive... (Score 1) 425

If the hardware came with Vista (as opposed to being upgraded to it from something else), consider trying Vista first before removing it. I know a lot of people love to hate Vista, but personally I've found it to be extremely reliable - far more reliable than WinXP ever was. I've had zero crashes or other problems with Vista in over 2 years of using it on two PCs which are up 24/7 and see some rather heavy use at times. From reading lots of Vista horror stories, I think my main keys to success were to start with Vista rather than trying to upgrade to it, and to build PCs with enough horsepower to handle it. Depending on the hardware, it's possible that your church's machines might run just fine with Vista.

If entropy is increasing, where is it coming from?