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    • At the risk of being annoying, I am going to start a diary of posts.

      These posts are brilliant. But they are hidden.

      What I mean is that you would never expect them to be in Conversation X based on the title of Conversation X.

      So these shares are kind of like a software Easter Egg discovery, meaning I’ll be adding items infrequently and they will be a pleasant surprise.

    • From the conversation The (co)inventor of the BBS has passed away

      Post by @mbravo

      I actually have a personal story linking BBSes and Montreal :) in early 90s I was running a BBS and Fidonet node out of a room technically belonging to the student union of the Lensoviet Institute of Technology but during the day occupied by a ragtag team of computer geeks who were running the institute's accounting (as in running the actual payroll, not doing the accounting) for thousands of faculty and students. I moonlighted there as an in-house expert on IBM PC compatibles and MSDOS/DRDOS/Windows, and in return was allowed to do whatever I wanted outside of work hours (including, very generously, use of the phone line). Modem was 2400 something, initially even without error correction. I often spent nights working on the station configuration, reading mail and generally tending to stuff.

      I don't remember which year exactly that was, probably 1991, but to my utter surprise I got a direct (!) dialup call from Quebec. It turned out to be a retired radiologist with a curious mind, who learned computers on his own, learned about BBSes initially because someone told him there were nice crosswords on some of them. He had an interest in Russia and St.Petersburg especially, and so he looked up the Fidonet nodelist and found the entry for my node (there were just a handful at the time). He couldn't stay on for long, because international phone rates, but we kept in touch via Fidonet netmail, he eventually got a Fidonet address of his own, he learned about Linux from me (and set up a heterogeneous network of Windows PCs, Macs and a Linux box in his basement, I think he was well past 65 when he started, from scratch) and we had many a wonderful discussion. He would call directly from time to time and we would sit in sysop chat. Calling overseas to a 2400/no correction modem wasn't much fun though, and in a couple years to my utter embarrassment I got a surprise Christmas (well, New Year's) present - a USRobotics Courier DS (14400), the big flat black supercarrier of a modem that was almost an unimaginable luxury. Needless to say, quality of his direct connections improved to no end :) and so did the carrying capacity of the whole St.Petersburg Fidonet network backbone (our partners for international routing in Estonia have been running USR DSes for quite some time already, so we were suddenly able to receive and transmit vastly higher volumes of mail in the space of the same long distance call). 

      We kept in touch for a long time, and Jean-Pierre (that was his name) even visited St.Petersburg in person, and of course visited me and my family where we lived and we showed him around and had a great time. We continued to be long distance friends well into the Internet era, switching over to Skype and email, until somewhere in late 2000s he dropped off the radar and we learned from his relatives that he has passed away (old age).

      It was one of those cases which to me prove the absurdity of the whole "Internet desocializes people" discourse, and it was especially obvious and magical for me because it started while the Iron Curtain was still very much in place. I have had many more experiences like that (e.g. me and friends turning up at a stranger's backyard in Alabama on three Honda cruisers, because an hour prior we called him out of the blue saying "hey we're three motorcyclists from Russia and we got your number on the Tent Map on AdvRider, can we, err, camp at your place overnight?" (hat tip to @Chris  ) :)), but this one is both about BBSes and Canada/Quebec, so there you go.

    • From the conversation How to deal with (future) college debt

      Post by @StephenL

      Amazing story on a homeless student trying to get into the top universities and the barriers to entry because she doesn’t come from privilege.

      So I'm helping a kid I know with some college applications and I have some thoughts. My friend has a GPA of over 4.0 and a star in track and cross-country. She grew up Black in a white rural town in CA--oh and she's homeless. She's living with a friend's family.

      So I convince her to apply to some top colleges and offer to help her jump thru all the dumb financial and non-financial hoops. It occurs to me, after 10 or so applications in, that if you wanted to design a system to keep out poor kids, this one is probably your best bet.

      We've already paid over $1000 (even with fee waivers). I have no idea how she was ever going to pay that money or who in her life was going to help her with the 100s of essays we've written!

      And the essay questions!!!! Columbia asks "what exhibits, lectures, theatre productions and concerts have you liked best in the last year?" I'm tempted to write "Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera--psych--my town doesn't even have a movie theatre!

      I ask her what kids do for entertainment and she says: "um.... drugs." Another school asks her what her favorite periodicals, newspapers, websites are. She doesn't have access to a computer except when she does homework on a school computer. She doesn't get the New Yorker.

      These are minor annoying questions. The major one is "tell us what you're most excited about coming to Stanford, etc." She's a first gen college student. She has no idea what Stanford is like. She has never traveled outside her town.

      It just seems like anyone who can answer these questions has got to be coached. I am trying to help, but I don't even know. I literally only applied to one college because my friend helped me with the application. I barely know what Stanford is like, but I really hope my friend gets in and I really would love to go back in time and help my 18 year old self fill out these applications and do SAT prep, etc. We have to have a better system.

      Source: Twitter

    • From the conversation Photos from the 2019 Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition

      Post by @Pathfinder

      Pathfinder described to me how *tiny* surgical knots are.

      The image of the tied suture from a cutaneous head wound is probably #3-0 nylon, and tied by hand without magnification, probably. #3-0 nylon is about a quarter millimeter in diameter.

      The suture used for corneal transplant or some forms of cataract surgery is #10-0 nylon, and is about 0.025 mm in diameter, and is about 1/10th that of #3-0 nylon, and about 1/100th the areal dimension of #3-0 nylon suture in cross sectional area. The steel needles for #10-0 nylon are about the size of an small child’s eyelash, and are held by fine instruments - they are way way too small to hold with one’s finger tips.

      #10-0 nylon suture is tied using loupes or microscopes by ophthalmologists, vascular surgeons, some urologists, and neurosurgeons. #10-0 nylon suture is used in most large operating facilities every day year round, as is #3-0 nylon and many other absorbable and non- absorbable sutures. There is a table below describing the suture dimensions in mm.

    • From the conversation Meaningful educational experiences and creations

      Post by @Chris

      I missed grades 3-5 while living on the streets with my mom, then went to live with my father a few weeks into 6th grade. Mom and I didn't tell anyone I had missed those years, so the teachers and my father had no way to know. The well-intended teachers of the day saw to it that I got an IQ test. It revealed that I probably had a learning disability, so I was placed in special ed.

      Through no fault of the angels who taught us, I came to hate school because it made me feel stupid. Then, when I somehow got into UC Santa Barbara despite Ds in English, I couldn't pass English 1A, so I got on academic probation and then released. I was so angry I swore I'd never set foot on another college campus in my life.

      And then I met a girl. She had a degree. We got married shortly after my 20th birthday. She promised to help tutor me in English if I'd give college another try. I wouldn't have done it for anyone else, but my male ego told me I must...

      I attended a lecture by a professor of higher ed, who boomed across the podium, "THE IQ TEST IS THE BIGGEST FRAUD EVER PERPETRATED ON THE AMERICAN PUBLIC!! It measures interest and exposure."

      "If you want to graduate in the top 2% of your class, set aside 4 hours a day at the same time and place. Don't eat, daydream, watch TV, play games or anything else there. Just study. In time it will become habit and for those 4 hours, you will get in the zone. Learning will become delightful."

      I tried it. And I got a full scholarship to Stanford Grad school and got a 4.0 average there. The boy who was known to the kids in middle school as the retard had figured out a way to learn.

      Ironically, I made a pledge to myself to enjoy Stanford more than any student who had every attended, and I believe I did.

    • From the conversation Watch out for those bad backroads

      Post by @Shewmaker

      I do know that Florida invests a lot of money on keeping the left shoulder on its interstates and toll roads in tip top shape because during a hurricane evacuation they permit using the left shoulder. There are these signs which fold up when not in use that are unfolded prior to an evacuation which state this permission. They also clean the shoulders when a hurricane has a likely possibility of making landfall. (I don't know whether the national government provides assistance in this or not.) Just before one crosses into Georgia, there are signs indicating that just prior to the state line, those using the shoulder must merge with the rest of the traffic because Georgia does not provide this.

    • From the conversation File under Numismatics, Brexit, and the Serial Comma

      Post by @Shewmaker

      The typewriter was not capable of producing the quality of print produced by typesetters and as far as I know was limited to monospace type.

      I was born in 1958 and I remember that the print in books always seemed much more pleasing than the printing which came from typewriters. My Dad purchased an IBM selectric with multiple fonts and I remember using it for certain reports in High School that had to be typed. But even the Selectric was not capable of producing the quality of print found in Books and magazines.

      Typesetters also usually produced full justified pages while typewriters produced a jagged right margin.

      The double space after a period was a result of the monospace limitations of typewriters. Metal typesetters prior to the personal computer did not place a space that was exactly twice the width of two letters. In a non-monospaced font that would have looked pretty silly.