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Comment Re:best investment (Score 2) 373

Absolutely. At some point in my very early education, my reading level was not where it should have been. My mom made me realize that the answers to all of my questions about the world were right there in the encyclopedia (at least the kid-size questions!) - all I had to do was pick it up and read. I consequently spent an entire summer devouring those books, and skipped about three grades ahead in reading ability, learning a ton in the process.

It became frustrating, however, when my understanding and need for more detailed knowledge outstripped what the encyclopedia offered me. I wanted the gory details! The technical bits! I then discovered the central library. Oh, the joys! And especially the published patents. I had a major ah-ha moment when I discovered I could look on the back of any gizmo I had, write down the patent numbers cited there, and go look up *exact directions on how to build it* in the patent filings. For a young hacker and tinkerer, this was a freeking gold mine!

I think, even though electronic references can offer faster and wider resources, having physical books in the house would still today be good for the kids. They can discover new things with more depth, and less distractions. The old editions of any reference books are fascinating as well, for discovering lost technical details and techniques, getting perspective on older ways of thinking, and seeing just how far our understanding has changed over time.

I've also recently acquired a copy of Britannica's Great Books of the Western World, including a copy of the Syntopicon. Why they don't publish this today is beyond me - it's an incredible achievement (especially for the time it was done) and there's nothing else quite like it that I've found. If you don't know what it is, go look it up and snag a copy. You'll be happy you did, if you do any kind of research or writing or even thinking on the grand topics of life.


Submission + - Cutting steel with flaming bacon weapons

Ed Pegg writes: "For Popular Science , Theo Gray demonstrates the Bacon Lance, a flaming meatsword that can cut through steel. Yes, with some ordinary bacon, and some pure oxygen, it's possible to cut through security doors. This comes out right after his profusely illustrated book of science experiments, Mad Science . When he's not working on experiments or his periodic table, Theo's alter-ego is a mild-mannered programmer for Mathematica ."

Comment We used DocBook (Score 1) 401

We used DocBook to write over 500 pages of process documentation for people to follow. After an initial learning curve with it, it was very easy to code up tagged text. Then it was convenient for it to translate into whatever format we needed, HTML, PDF, etc. That was the easy part. And I agree with other people here - keep it simple.

The hard part is getting anyone to actually read it and use it. Practically nobody did, and less so the further down the skill chain you went. What did work for us was holding regular in-service training sessions with everyone, covering one topic per week, and eventually getting everyone up to speed. We used the documentation as handouts, printing the relevant sections for them.

Comment Re:Commuters and travelers (Score 1) 355

Popularity of a site and value of its content are not the same thing. While those sites may very well be popular, due to having plenty of mind-share, their content is by no means exclusive or essential. It's a rare day that I access any of the sites you mentioned, and yet I get the same or equivalent information eslewhere every day. If one of the sites I use becomes unavailable, for whatever reason, I'll simply find another, and that is why ESPN's strategy will fail them in the long run.

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