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Comment Re:Door.sys (Score 1) 245

I think I ran mostly TurboBBS or Searchlight (before they went all crazy and modern with 'RIP' graphics.) Searchlight in particular didn't do certain things the standard way, even if they made other things a lot easier... I seem to remember having issues with the FOSSIL driver too.

The last time I did a thorough housecleaning, I ran across a floppy with Telix and a bunch of SALT scripts. Ah, memories.

Comment Re:Talk about creating a demand (Score 1) 334

This article in Discover magazine about Jack Bitterly's* desire to use new flywheel technologies to power automobiles, is what got me excited about choosing engineering as a college major. It's quite sad that nothing ever came of it, other than a few highly specialized applications, such as the space station. (I read one claim that Kevin Costner's investment in the company was a total loss, but that it had a lot to do with NASA taking over the project and stiffing some of the creditors. Cum grano salis.)

I recently saw that a company called Velkess got a kickstarter project funded for 3-15kWh 48v flywheel storage systems, with expected product delivery dates in the 2016/17 range announced. We'll see if they deliver on promises and if they're in any way price competitive.

*Jack was 77 when that article was published in 1996. Every so often I've looked him up on the internet and as late as 2009, he was still alive and kicking and still working. I've also run across patent applications he has filed as late as 2013. Wow. I hope like heck I'm still that active and doing things I am passionate about in my 90s.

Comment Re:Do It, it worked in AZ (Score 1) 886

I fall rather squarely into the prescriptivist class of grammarians (as opposed to the extreme corpus linguists who seem to feel that language is entirely fluid and dynamic and should be bound by no rules whatsoever), but find it perfectly acceptable to use the third-person plural forms for persons of indeterminate gender or identity. While it has often been taught that using the 3rd person plurals in that way is incorrect, there are a number of pragmatic and historical reasons why it isn't so. A couple:

1.) It is readily understood by native speakers; we've been doing it that way for a very long time! Shakespeare, Chaucer, Jane Austen, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, George Bernard Shaw, George Eliot, Elizabeth Bowen, C.S. Lewis, Oscar Wilde, all have used 'them' as an indeterminate singular pronoun.

2.) It fulfills a need. Using 'he' causes an assumption, as does using 'she.' Some authors choose to alternate between the two, but that is just confusing. Saying 'he or she' and 'his or her' every time is far too wordy and cumbersome. Considering that English only has a neuter third-person plural, 'they' is a perfectly good stand-in. (Heck, the Germans use 'sie,' 'sie,' and 'Sie' (her, they, You) without any issues. Aside from some fun and intentional linguistic wordplay, ambiguity is resolved through context.)

Comment Patent Grammar Too (Score 5, Informative) 425

Yep. I work in patents, where a small incorrect use of grammar or terms of art can mean losing millions of dollars. The classic case in point:

Patent A:
"A vehicle comprising 3 wheels and a motor."

Patent B:
"A vehicle consisting of 3 wheels and a motor."

Assuming it is 1700 or something and no prior-art exists,

Patent A can go on to claim 4-wheeled motorized vehicles (since a 4-wheeled vehicle does after all have 3 wheels), 3-wheeled vehicles with shark fins, whatever. "Comprising" is open-end and interpreted as "it has at least this," or as you say, "including."

Patent B is strictly limited to 3 wheels and a motor, no more and no less. If a competitor uses 4 wheels, or adds shark fins, or two motors, then it isn't covered by the patent. "Consisting of" is a closed phrase interpreted as "having exactly."

The incorrect grammar "comprised of" would be an ambiguity, and as such, interpreted in the strictest way -- limiting as in Patent B.

It may seem worrisome that scientists and engineers of all people -- some of the absolute worst butchers of language and grammar out there! -- are the ones who become patent agents or patent attorneys, but all-in-all, the ones who do so tend to be some of the smartest folks I've met. You need to be well-rounded to do the job.

Comment External TBC (Score 1) 201

>> To avoid frame dropping, you need an external TBC (different from the TBC in the VCR) acting as a frame sync.


Let me add for the person asking the question that I found an external TBC extremely useful back when I was transferring family movies from VHS. Even though I used a nice SVHS unit with an internal TBC, some of the worst older tapes still had lots of dropping out, tearing, and sync issues that magically all but disappeared when I fed the signal through the external TBC. Perhaps you don't need it in your case, but I definitely did.

Here's an in informative thread where someone asked about the need for an external TBC. Be sure to look at the images in post #7.

If I have a VCR with TBC, why is a separate unit needed anyway?

Comment William Faulkner Meets Clark Gable (Score 1) 796

I'm a huge fan of classic film, and one of my favorite anecdotes is a conversation related by director Howard Hawks between William Faulkner and Clark Gable in the director's car as he invited both men along on a hunting trip.

Despite being famous in their respective fields, the two men had never met each other. Moreover, Faulkner didn't watch movies and Gable didn't read. As the conversation in the car went on, it got on to the topic of literature. After listening a while, Gable asked Faulkner the best authors to seek out if one wanted to be well read.

Faulkner responded, "Oh, Thomas Man, Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, and myself of course."

  "Oh," ask Gable, "do you write Mr. Faulkner?"

"Why yes, Mr. Gable," replied Faulkner. "And what do you do?"

Comment Right on Target (Score 1) 450

I love how the yellow line on the satellite-tracker here crosses within a few yards of my house on full zoom.

Having a satellite crash into my home would not make my day. Having a North Korean satellite crash into my home would not make the North Koreans' day, once Washington got involved. Hopefully it'll just splash down into the ocean or burn up on reentry.

Comment Also vote for a Lamy (Score 1) 712

Parent makes a good recommendation. I own several Parker Vectors and Lamy Safaris -- both can be had metal, which is more durable than the plastic variety -- with fine and x-fine nibs, and they are great, inexpensive* fountain pens. Ink is cheap and plentiful on eBay, or you can use a converter and a bottle of just about any make/color that pleases you. I like a lot of Noodler's Ink; I keep one pen especially for their super-intense stains-like-the-dickens Baystate Blue. Great for signing documents.

One thing I have always loved about fountain pens is that by changing the angle of the nib -- even turning it 180 -- you can change the size of your writing. Great for sub/super-scripts.

The only downside is that I always feel a bit guilty when someone asks to borrow my fountain pen and they turn out to be a southpaw. Lefties may get ink on their hands if they're not used to such things.

*you won't have a heart attack if you lose it or lend it out and don't get it back.

Comment Re:Translation (Score 4, Interesting) 866

Similarly, when I was in my high school physics class, there were some things we did our "Physics Olympics" competition that wouldn't fly today. This was only 15 years ago, but in a small, rural, midwestern town.

Just offhand, I remember building a Rube-Goldberg machine comprising (among other things) a very sharp hatchet, a butane torch, and a large mercury thermometer.

Another project had a goal of flinging a tennis ball the farthest; my partner's father worked in a metal shop / foundry and we built a compressed air cannon involving 1/4" steel pipe and some rather impressive pressures.

While we were talking about gears, pulleys, etc, I assembled a rudimentary cranked Gatling gun - about 12 inches tall, out of Technic lego, copper tubing, spring steel, etc -- that could fling BBs a distance of around 30 feet.

However, even then we could see the changes coming. While I was in school, the new school board decided that students who took both wood and metal shop were no longer allowed to make crossbows. It was a tradition going back at least 40 years; some of the kids with good artistic skills carved beautiful stocks. Of course, there aren't even wood or metal shop classes now.

All of my teachers have since retired and there's a completely new administration now. Last year a student was suspended for having a kitchen knife - in her car - which she had brought to cut a birthday cake. The school board backed down from an outright expulsion. Sad, stupid times.

Comment Re:Buffing? (Score 4, Funny) 326

True, it's a proper name, not a common word, but I've always liked this:

In Sparkill buried lies that man of mark
Who brought the Obelisk to Central Park,
Redoubtable Commander H.H. Gorringe,
Whose name supplies the long-sought rhyme for “orange.”

-- Arthur Guiterman

Comment Zone of Control (Score 1) 718

I wish I could find the reference, but an article I read not too long ago noted that a single fully-deployed modern nuclear-powered supercarrier (including logistcal support like AWACS, etc) stationed in the middle of the US eastern seaboard had an effective zone of control that stretched from Halifax to Havana. That's just impressive, and a good reason the navies would like to keep them around as a symbol of power.

Battleships became obsolete because they were designed only for surface-to-surface combat and bombardment, and were vulnerable from above (and below). I suspect aircraft carriers are more adaptable; among other things, nascent computer-guided railguns (large and small) will probably help against future incoming ballistic dangers.

Comment Yikes (Score 3, Insightful) 145

Am I the only one whose first knee-jerk thought was, "Wow, that's great! And from now on, I use nothing but cash!"

What's wrong with a simple asymmetric encryption system keyed to a particular cellphone, to be activated at checkout?

GPS-revealing apps already weird me out -- along with peoples' obliviousness to personal safety and/or security -- but automatically promulgating your name and photo to the store you enter quite exceeds creepy. At least this service is optional...for now.

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