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Comment: Re:Slaves are always cheaper than the free (Score 3, Interesting) 443

by smellsofbikes (#48458753) Attached to: Researchers Say the Tech Worker Shortage Doesn't Really Exist

When will we finally get to a ruling class no longer pining for the pre-civil war days?

A friend who teaches economics was posting about this the other day. Her contention is that for all of history until the 1800's, it was fairly easy to just leave and go find some subsistence environment, so if you wanted workers you had to enslave them and force them to work for you. Now that it's not generally possible for most people to find environments for subsistence lifestyles, there's no longer any need to enslave people. They have to find jobs to survive. At that crossover, work stopped being something the lowest class of society did under force, and became something that was considered a privilege.

Comment: Re:There's Still Time! (Score 1) 144

by smellsofbikes (#48458659) Attached to: Here's What Your Car Could Look Like In 2030

Blade Runner, for example, posited that the skies above Los Angeles would swarm with flying cars by 2019.

It's only 2014. There's still 5 years. Get to work, everyone!

Not only that, but as I recall, the movie showed the police having flying cars, and everyone else on foot or bicycle because they were poor.

Comment: How much of the work do you want to do? (Score 1) 194

by smellsofbikes (#48436645) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Hackable Car?

As others have said, Subarus and Hondas are fairly easy to hack if you want to change existing ECU's.
But if you want a car the way you want it, and are going to do more work, look for older cars.
I have a 1975 Triumph Spitfire. I added electronic ignition, replaced the mechanical speedometer and tachometer with electronic ones, and am working on a custom fuel injection setup. If I want to put seat heaters in the car, removal of the seat pan doesn't take any bolts at all. It takes four screws to pull the door apart.
The problem, of course, is that I have to do ALL the work myself. There isn't anyone else doing stuff like this, so every project is brand new.
But there are precisely zero software or firmware barriers to doing anything I want, and the only hardware barriers are my skill limitations.
It's an easy way to sink 3000 hours into a car only worth $2000USD, though, and at the end you still have an old car with very dubious reliability.

Comment: Re:absurd generalizations (Score 1) 71

by smellsofbikes (#48419583) Attached to: Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

You probably already know all this, but for what it's worth, Gary Klein's realization that you can build a stiff frame out of anything if you just increase the diameter enough is completely apropos for wooden bike frame design. The problem, as the Renovo guys have found, is that you need like 5" diameter tubes to get even acceptable stiffness, since stiffness rises as the third power of diameter for tubes. But at those diameters, for a competitive weight, the walls have to be like sub-millimeter in thickness, making for an incredibly delicate bike. (Even old top-end aluminum Cannondales were notorious for having holes punched right through the downtube when the bike merely fell over in a garage and landed on some heavy steel thing.) So Renovo's going down the route of making egg-crate-like tubing with huge amounts of milling to form internal honeycomb structures. Most everyone else in the wood/bamboo bike frame world has shrugged and accepted a more flexible frame as the cost of aesthetics, but in some cases like triathlon bikes it's okay to have a flexible frame as long as it's aerodynamic.
Of course, making a wood frame and then wrapping it with a layer of something with a really high young's modulus gets you a great frame... but then it's really a composite frame that uses wood rather than foam as its form, so that hardly counts.

Comment: A long and current history of wooden bikes (Score 4, Informative) 71

by smellsofbikes (#48414123) Attached to: Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

There has never been a time when wooden bikes weren't being made. As late as the 1930's, people were making bikes with wooden compression-type spokes, rather than steel tension-type spokes, and currently there are piles of amazing wooden bikes being made.
This Owen was used as a triathalon bike, with some very respectable finishes (race finishes, not varnish finishes):
Satoshi Sano has been building spectacular bikes using traditional Japanese boatbuilding techniques:
Note internal cabling in steam-bent frame elements, and a wooden seat on a steam-bent seatpost.
And since bamboo is wood, there are at least a dozen companies using bamboo as the primary frame material.
Calfee started it, as far as I can tell:

But there are many others, like Panda and Boo.
Bamboosera makes a great Cannondale-shock mountain bike:
and Hero Bikes make work and utility bikes:

Hero (and at least two other companies) go so far as to offer classes, where over a weekend you start out by harvesting bamboo, and end up making a complete ready-to-build-up frameset.

Comment: Re:reflexes? (Score 1) 114

My mother likely has a damaged visual cortex. She was born with double vision and had surgery to correct this. Unfortunately, even though the surgery successfully fixed her eyes, she still sees double. She'll see one image up and slightly to the side of the other - all blended together. Don't ask me how she drives, reads, or even maneuvers around. I wouldn't know which objects (seeing two of everything) to avoid but she has adapted and is used to it. She has said that, to her, it seems natural to see 2 of everything since you have two eyes and seeing one just sounds foreign. (3D movies don't work for her, thanks to this though.)

I don't know if she's already looked (so to speak) into this but she sounds like a possible candidate for vision therapy. They're pretty good at dealing with exactly this sort of problem without surgery, and through use of cleverly designed exercises, training eye muscles to consistently maintain image fusion. It certainly has limitations: they can't fix problems because of nerve palsies or damage that leads to muscles that simply don't work. But if the muscles work at all, they can often do some pretty amazing things.
It's expensive and most insurance plans don't cover it. But what price would you put on having good depth perception?

Comment: Re:Have we discovered all there is to discover? (Score 5, Interesting) 221

Indeed. We have enough trouble finding certain DNA-based life forms. Plenty of life forms we only know about because we leaned how to copy DNA, and started grinding up samples and amplifying the DNA. Many of those refuse to grow in petri dishes and don't cause diseases, and would no doubt be unknown to this day if they didn't contain DNA.

I think there's a fairly low chance that Earth has life that doesn't use DNA/RNA but if there is and it minds its own business, it could be decades or more before we discover them.

Consider things that grow much, much more slowly. They're already finding chemolithoautotrophs living in rock 4 km beneath the surface of the earth, that reproduce over the course of years, rather than in twenty minutes like the bacteria we're used to working with. If there were organisms that didn't have DNA, but did have some sort of body that could maintain chemical gradients, allowing it some sort of metabolism, and reproduced on the scale of centuries, we'd have trouble ever noticing it was there because we haven't made the tools to find it, for lack of knowing what we're looking for.

Comment: Re:But DC is different,no? (Score 2) 588

by smellsofbikes (#48319103) Attached to: Marijuana Legalized In Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC

Obama has stated that this issue is not of major concern to him and will not be seeking prosecution.

That's what he's stated, but not what he's done. They've raided several marijuana dispensaries and farms here in Colorado.

How do you know when a politician is lying? When their lips are moving.

To be fair, some of the places they've raided appear to have been selling, whether knowingly or not, fairly large quantities of pot to people who were then taking it to Kansas and Wyoming and reselling it, and interstate transport of illegal drugs is absolutely part of the Federal Government's job.
However, it's not clear to me how sellers can tell where the stuff is going, and why should they be required to? They're selling what's legal here, and it's not really their business what the buyers do with it.
The obvious answer is getting our neighbors to legalize pot as well, but that's going to be a challenge. My recollection is that any quantity of pot whatsoever is a felony in Wyoming.

Comment: Re:Feather deployed when it wasn't supposed to (Score 1) 150

by smellsofbikes (#48304239) Attached to: SpaceShipTwo's Rocket Engine Did Not Cause Fatal Crash

Yeager replied, "All ours pilots do that, we do a roll on final approach to make sure we're not landing on top of somebody else." And so he saved Emmett's career.

And Yeager had good reason to say this: airplanes do land on top of each other, especially when a high-wing plane is doing a low approach and a low-wing plane is doing a steep approach. It's also a somewhat common midair collision scenario, of a high-wing plane climbing into a low-wing plane, because of the same visibility problems inherent in the two designs.

Comment: German was widely used natively in the US (Score 1) 323

by smellsofbikes (#48143503) Attached to: How English Beat German As the Language of Science

Until as late as the 1850's, there were as many German speakers in Pennsylvania as English speakers, and until just before WWI it was common to hear people speaking German in the streets of any of the large cities. (There are still about a quarter million people in Pennsylvania who speak a version of German as their primary or daily-use secondary language, apparently.)
Likewise, in Colorado, there were so many German speakers that when Colorado became a state in 1876, the laws of the state were distributed, by law, in English, Spanish, and German, until 1914.
Those are the two states I know best: I presume many other states had similar situations.

Comment: Re:Too bad... (Score 1) 610

by scubamage (#48137425) Attached to: Wind Power Is Cheaper Than Coal, Leaked Report Shows
Not trying to throw my hat in behind the report, but it does say it's an interim report. So they may still be refining numbers. It's very possible that some director said "have a copy on my desk by tomorrow even if the numbers aren't completely ready, just give your best guess." That happens quite frequently in my job at least.

The trouble with opportunity is that it always comes disguised as hard work. -- Herbert V. Prochnow