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Comment Re:most places have speed limits (Score 5, Insightful) 121

The top speed of my Tesla Roadster is only 125 MPH, but it's always zippy and responsive. We have speed limits as high as 85 MPH in some parts of Texas now. We also have a lot of rural two-lane highways where it's 75 MPH. When passing in these situations, I find it very helpful if I can zip up to 100 MPH momentarily to get on past and get back into my lane.

Also, it has to be said. . . Acceleration is its own reward. The highway in front of my house is only 50 MPH, but 0-50 MPH in the Roadster always brings a smile.

Comment 7-bit ASCII, the Great Communicator (Score 1) 207

I participate in a weekly fiction event on a MUCK (a text-based virtual environment, for you young whippersnappers). MUCKs were designed around telnet protocol and 7-bit ASCII. A few years ago some ambitious staffer upgraded this one to work with SSH (which almost nobody actually uses) and UTF-8 (which almost nobody actually uses). Now we can enter text with 8-bit characters! And of course, they usually come out as garbage -- and sometimes even crash the antique client programs that some users still connect with.

The so-called "smart" quotes have been one of the biggest ongoing sources of frustration at our weekly gathering. Participants continue to struggle and struggle with reformatting their stories to ASCII.

7-bit ASCII has serious limitations, but its simplicity is also its strength. Each character is one byte, and practically every device, old or new, agrees one what character that byte represents. (Thankfully, not many EBCDIC systems around anymore!) ASCII is like Morse code. It's like the Latin alphabet. And often it's more practical to adapt our usage to its limitations than to try and exceed them.

Comment What about the primaries? (Score 5, Insightful) 1430

I'm not a fan of the Electoral College, and I'd be pleased to see it go away. However. . .

The shortcomings of the Electoral College are *trivial* in comparison with the broken and dysfunctional primary system that gave us Clinton and Trump as our major-party candidates. It's utter madness. That's where we should focus our reform efforts.

Comment Stereo Photography (Score 1) 29

I love stereo photography.

A lot of people don't realize, stereo photography used to be huge. In the 1800s professional photographers went all over the world with big stereo cameras on tripods, taking photos of famous people and places. These were made into prints for Holmes stereo viewers, and door-to-door salesmen went around peddling bundles of stereo cards. You could take a virtual tour of Rome in your own home, you could see the Grand Canyon, etc. Then Kodak and Ford came along and changed everything, and pretty soon people were driving to the Grand Canyon in their Model T and taking crummy 2D snapshots of their family with a Brownie camera, and all the stereo vendors went out of business. (Except you could still buy View-Master discs at the visitor's center!)

Stereo cameras made a brief comeback in the 1950s, with the Stereo Realist and similar cameras. But to show off your Grand Canyon photos you had to gather your friends in a dark room and give them special glasses and subject them to a slide show. Haha! What fun. :P

I got a Fujifilm FinePix REAL 3D W3 camera. It's amazing. It's wonderful. I can keep it in my pocket and take stereo photos anywhere. But. . . How to show off the photos? They look *great* on my big screen 3D HDTV, with the special glasses. So what am I going to do, corral all my friends into the living room and put glasses on them and subject them to a slide show? Really? I don't think so.

It's frustrating.

Comment Coal to grow in the USA?? (Score 5, Interesting) 275

quote: "As for the U.S., it gets about 33% of its total electricity generation from coal and will likely grow the coal industry rather than phase it out under President-elect Donald Trump."

I don't believe it.

The coal business is dying from natural causes in the USA, and I don't think there's anything Trump can possibly do to turn that around. Thanks to the fracking revolution, cheap natural gas is rapidly undercutting and replacing coal, and some existing coal plants are even being converted to gas. Wind turbines have been going up in large numbers -- including here in Texas, where the wholesale price of electricity (dynamically auctioned via computer) has sometimes been pushed to zero. At the same time, the cost of solar panels has plummeted. How is coal going to compete with all that? It just can't.

Comment UTC and Local Time (Score 1) 598

This is my idea. . . Let's just use two time: Universal Time and Local Time. Everybody's got a smart phone these days, or smart watch, or smart glasses, or smart something. . . Let it use GPS to get their location, calculate sunrise and sunset times, and set Local Time from that. Noon is midway from sunrise to sunset, and midnight is midway from sunset to sunrise.

Everything that's done on a local scale -- events in your town, store hours, school and work hours, etc. -- can be done on Local Time. Anything that requires coordination beyond your town can be scheduled using Universal Time. And if there's any doubt about which to use, then provide both times. And everybody will have a device in their pocket that can translate between the two whenever needed, even if the difference is an odd number of minutes (which it usually will be).

Comment College Sorta Kinda (Score 2) 515

In college they didn't teach any courses in the hip new language that I wanted to learn, so I took a course in Pascal and taught myself "C" in parallel with that.

I liked C a lot better.

I *also* learned an immense amount during the same time period by picking apart an open source game, modifying it, expanding it, learning everything about how it worked. I'd say the majority of what I ended up actually learning was self-taught.

However. . . Looking back, I'd already been dabbling with trying to learn BASIC and other such stuff for a few years by that time, and my progress had been VERY SLOW. I'm sure my self-teaching/dabbling progress would have been way faster if I'd had access to the amazing online resources that now exist.

Comment The Fruit & Nut Club (Score 0) 245

My view on this. . . The Libertarian Party has long been infested with Fruit Loops, Nut Bars and Bananas. They could have opened a whole snack bar right there at the convention, and they were all outraged at the thought of their beloved party being "taken over" by grown-ups like Johnson and Weld.

From where I sit, Johnson and Weld aren't hijacking the party. They're just trying to rescue it from the Looney Tunes.

You know who I'm talking about. . . I mean the guys in bizarre costumes screaming at Johnson because he won't commit to abolish driver's licenses. . . or legalize all hard drugs overnight. . . or abolish public education. . . or privatize our highway system and make all roads into toll roads. . . Policies that the American people want, deep down in their hearts, if only they realized it! If only everyone would read Ayn Rand and become enlightened!

I'm talking about the faction trying to get "opposition to all forms of government" inserted as a plank the party platform. Here's a hint for you guys: It's the Libertarian Party, not the Anarchist Party. If you love anarchy so much, why not form your own Anarchist Party? Or better yet, move to Somalia and see how you like it!

The Fruit & Nut Club will undoubtedly be gnashing their teeth and retorting that I'm no libertarian and have no libertarian principles. That's not true. I have a very strong believe in libertarian principles. To wit:

1. I favor freedom for the people. They shouldn't trampled by big government or big business or big unions or big religion or big anything.

2. I'm not sure how much government we need, but I'm sure what we have right now is too much.

3. We should really try to keep the country from going broke.

I think if the party would stick with *my* principles, they could have a lot clearer message, focused on what's important, and make some headway with the general public -- as opposed to blathering about Rand, NAP, and anarcho-capitalist doctrine.

Comment Free will???? (Score 1) 386

It's an interesting experiment, with interesting results, that has no connection whatsoever with the subject of "free will" as most normal people understand that term. Pointing at this and then questioning free will is utterly bogus flamebait.

Comment Where does the money come from? (Score 1) 866

The big mystery to me, which isn't addressed, is where the money comes from. Do they raise it from income tax? Or from VAT? Is it just going to be one arbitrarily defined class of people paying in and another arbitrarily defined class of people receiving? Or do they think they can just "print" money from thin air as needed? Somehow I don't see that working.

If I were, in fact, called upon to design such a system and attempt to maximize its efficiency, I would suggest. . . An energy tax. Tax the production and import of energy sources. All of them. The most efficient way to raise revenue is by taxing economic activity at its foundation. In agricultural societies, it was land. In a modern industrial society, everything requires energy. Tax it at the source, and then let the energy companies pass the cost on down to their customers. Indirectly it would end up taxing all consumption, but in a much less meddlesome way than VAT. (And we can throw VAT and income taxes alike into the trash bin of history!)

I've got a feeling though, that a lot of politicians would feel threatened by a simple and neutral method of raising revenues. They'd rather have a complex tax code that they can continually wrangle of the details of, and try to score points with various constituents or enact various "social engineering" schemes to encourage this behavior, punish that behavior, etc.

Comment Re:This again? (Score 1) 314

The parallels run deep. I remember running Starpath Supercharger games on my ColecoVision. . . with the Atari 2600 adapter plugged into the Coleco, and the Supercharger plugged into the adapter, and a cassette drive plugged into that, and my hacked Wico joystick. . . right before I made the leap to Atari computers, and eventually Amiga.

When the NES came out, with its stupid toy robot, and jumping over mushrooms while Romper Room music played. . . I laughed, and laughed, and figured this "Nintendo" company would be out of business in a matter of months. But you know, the NES wasn't aimed at me. There's always another crop of younger kids coming up who aren't ready to be handed a complex, costly or fragile device to play games on. The console makers today seem to have forgotten this.

Comment Re:Make them toys again. Watch them sell. (Score 1) 314

Yes. That was the secret of Nintendo's success with the original NES. There's always a market of kids who are too young to be entrusted with a costly, complex and fragile device

Incidentally, I was among the generation who jumped from Atari and Coleco consoles to computer games on the Atari ST and the Amiga, and I thought the NES was the stupidest idea ever, and nobody would buy it. Thus proving the worth of my crystal ball. . . I'd like to think I've learned a few things since then, though.

Comment Re:DungeonMaster (Score 1) 90

AFAIK Dungeon Master wasn't published by Atari. It was from FTL Games. You might give Legend of Grimrock a spin.

The other great game from FTL was Oids, which was like an addictive hybrid of Gravitar and Choplifter. And now there is Graviton 2, which I haven't bought yet, but it looks like a near-clone of Oids.

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