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Comment Isaac Asimov (Score 2) 194

I recall that in IASFM (yes, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine), Asimov once wrote an editorial which covered this subject. Although I don't have that anymore, I think I recall the gist of it pretty well. He noted that a number of science fiction writers over the years had attempted to invent gender-neutral pronouns for the English language, but none had ever gained any traction. Asimov then pointed out that English already had gender-neutral pronouns that work just fine, in the form of "he" and "his". It's rarely difficult to tell from the context when they are being used in a gender-neutral way. The awkward "he or she" construct was a solution to a non-problem.

So, I think I'll stick with Asimov on this. However, I have to admit to being stodgy in my writing habits. I still refer to The Elements of Style (which Asimov also recommended), not to mention Webster's 2nd Edition (the "dord" dictionary), and I still capitalize God (yes, even when He is referred to by pronouns), and I still believe that "flammable" is not a real word and shouldn't be used outside of warning labels that must be understood by semi-literates.

Comment Agent Smith (Score 3, Insightful) 85

"Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this, the peak of your civilization. I say your civilization, because as soon as we started thinking for you, it really became our civilization, which is of course what this is all about."

Comment GOTO and the Wild West (Score 2) 600

To understand the revulsion some hold toward GOTO, you have to mentally turn back the clock to a time when it was used for almost everything. Back in the wild west days of computering, there were no conventions for organizing program code. There was no Structured Programming. Early languages provided simple branching tools (like IF-GOTO) but no guidance. A good programmer would soon figure out his own way of organizing his code, and he could become quite productive. The problem was, everyone had their own individual, eccentric methods, and looking at somebody else's code was often confusing. Then structured programming came along, and it provided (or some might say imposed at sword point) a common organizational methodology and a common vocabulary. Two programmers who were trained in the doctrine of structured programming could read one another's code much more easily.

If you see the keywords and indentation of a WHILE-REPEAT loop, or a REPEAT-UNTIL loop, or an IF-THEN-ELSE condition, then you already have a clue, you already have a starting point to understand what the code is doing. If you see GOTO, then it communicates almost nothing. Then you have to look at the context. There may also be some code comments. It may not be a problem, and in today's environments there's no reason why it should be. This isn't the wild west anymore, and we don't use GOTO for everything. If it's there, somebody presumably had some reason for it.

Comment The Recursion Cult (Score 2) 600

I think some time in the misty past (1970s?) recursion went through a fad phase, and it was hailed as the solution to every programming woe, not to mention the secret key to artificial intelligence. I can remember studying Logo (which is a variant of LISP) at one time. Logo composed every function call recursively: when it hit a key word that required arguments, then it would put that on hold and go looking for those arguments, some of which might be keywords that required their own arguments, etc. That's not unique among programming languages, but the syntax provided no clues or organization: no parenthesis, no brackets, no braces, just a string of words, and the only way to figure out which was an argument to what was if you already knew (or stopped to look up!) how many arguments each word takes. But supposedly you wouldn't need help reading it because it's recursive, and recursion is wonderful magic.

Incidentally, Forth suffered from a similar readability problem, but at least it executed way way way faster.

The other thing I remember about Logo and recursion was the textbooks and tutorials trying to teach me how every loop could be done using recursion -- and should be! Why would you do that? Because it's the Logo Way, of course. And because recursion is wonderful magic.

It was overly complex and inefficient, to be sure. However. . . I happily use recursion for actually recursive tasks, such as traversing various kinds of tree structures.

Comment Land of the Lost (Score 2) 176

This reminds me of cheesy old movies and TV shows about primitive "cave men" constantly on the run from predatory dinosaurs -- Land of the Lost, Land That Time Forgot, etc. Except I think now we see that it would have been the dinosaurs doing the running, while the cave women back home got the BBQ pits warmed up.

Comment 3D photography (Score 2) 399

The only time I use the 3D feature of my LG TV is when viewing photos I shot with my Fujifilm FinePix REAL 3D W3. (Fuji, you are great at making cameras, not so hot at naming them!), or looking at other people's 3D shots with the Phereo app. These 3D sets are absolutely the best way to view 3D photos.

The W3 is maybe the best consumer 3D camera ever made (and it's pocketable!), but it didn't exactly set the world on fire either, and is now becoming a collector's item. So, yeah. . . I'm sad that this technology never seems to catch on with a wider audience, but that seems to be the reality of it.

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).

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