Voice of Bruck News Service

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What website is complete without a set of “Answers to Frequently Asked Questions,” or FAQs? With the following I hope to set the record straight on every issue imaginable.

1) How was your weekend?

Not too bad, and yours? Play any golf?

2) How ‘bout them Redskins?

I haven’t been paying much attention to them. Who did the Lions lose to this week? They didn’t play? That’s right, now we’re in some strange, mysterious phase of the football season called “playoffs.”

3) Since they’re made of plastic, can Glock handguns pass through metal detectors?

No, only the frame and a few smaller parts are plastic. The barrel and slide, plus most of the mechanical parts, are steel plus other metals. Even if the entire gun were plastic, you still wouldn’t be able to get on the airplane with ammunition.

4) What would you like for dinner?

You know I like everything you cook dear.

5) Is this seat taken?

No… Go ahead… and squeeze… right in there… No, that’s alright, I just won’t inhale…

6) Can the Radio Shack HT-202 2 meter handheld transceiver be modified for out-of-band transmit or receive?

No! No! No! What are you, some kind of newbie? That question has been answered a thousand times on this forum! Now get off my screen and don’t come back till you learn how to use the search feature!

7) Paper or Plastic?

Plastic. No wait, I no longer have a dog. Paper, please.

8) Do these jeans make me look fat?

How much do they cost?

9) Where did you get the nickname Bruck?

From a talking cactus in the Mojave Desert on a cold, rainy Tuesday afternoon four Septembers ago last June.

10) Can I take your order?

Yes, I’ll have combination #7, regular size, diet coke, no ice please. Uh, excuse me, I asked for no ice. Could I please have that without ice? Thanks.

11) Who was your favorite Seinfeld character?

George. It was like looking in a mirror.

12) Which 12 gauge shotgun shell hull is better for reloading, Remington STS or Winchester AA?

It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, but in the STS hulls, the powder cup and hull are one piece, whereas in the AAs they are two separate pieces. This supposedly improves pressure uniformity behind the shot, which should result in a more consistent pattern, but at my level of skill (75% on a good day), it surely doesn’t matter. I reload considerably more AAs simply due to their availability, but my reloader is set up to accommodate both type of hull without adjustment.

13) Which did you like better, Princess Diaries I or II?

One, definitely. I thought Anne Hathaway was a perfect girl-next-door-turned-princess, and Julie Andrews, well let’s just say if you liked her in “The Sound of Music,” you’ll love her in PD. One thing I would have like to heard more about was what happened to Cipher after he betrayed the rest of Morpheus’ crew - did the machines actually put him back into the Matrix, and if so, as a rich, important guy like they promised? And the horse’s severed head in the director’s bed, I really didn’t need to see that.

Sequels are almost never better than the originals. Except for the Police Academy films - they just keep getting better and better!

14) Are you going to finish that?

Yes, and if your fingers get anywhere near my plate I’ll eat them too!

15) Would premium gas make my car run better?

If you drive a very old vehicle (with carburetor, distributor, points, etc.), then yes, premium would help performance and fuel economy, and possibly give longer engine life. For vehicles with modern (late 80’s and younger) electronic ignition, read the label inside the gas door. If premium gas is indicated, then you should use it. If you don’t, your performance will just suffer but it won’t hurt the car. If premium gas is not indicated, then putting it in your car won’t help anything, so don’t waste your money.

Premium (high octane) vs. regular (lower octane) is all about piston knock. Piston knock is a symptom of pressure spikes in the cylinder during combustion resulting from uneven burning of the fuel/air mixture. The pressure spikes erode the piston face and can even punch holes in it over time. Knock is controlled via spark angle, which is the relative position with respect to crankshaft angle (piston position) at which the spark is ignited. Are you still reading this? Making the spark fire later (“retarded”) reduces knock at the expense of performance and fuel economy (PFE), while an earlier (“advanced”) spark risks increased spark knock to improve PFE. Don’t you have anything better to do than to read this drivel? As for octane, the higher the value, the more likely the gas is to burn more smoothly with less likelihood to induce knock for a given spark angle.

Old timers will remember making mechanical adjustments to their distributors to adjust spark angle based on audible feedback, i.e., actually listening for piston knock while rotating the distributor cap. The spark angle then was fixed in place forevermore, at least until it was adjusted again. In modern electronically-controlled engines, the spark angle is adjusted automatically by the engine computer, and can have different settings based on instantaneous conditions of the engine such as rpm and load. Seriously, stop reading this answer now or risk death from boredom!

So the idea is, and always has been, to advance the spark as much as possible without causing piston knock. Modern engine control systems employ a “knock sensor,” which is basically a microphone attached to the cylinder head, for feedback. The reason your vision is getting fuzzy is that your brain is attempting to crawl out of your head through the eye socket. The engine controller continually adjusts the spark angle until knock starts occurring or a maximum spark advance setpoint is reached, then backs off a bit for a safety factor. There are correction factors for rpm and load, i.e., the ideal spark angle at one operating point may be different from that of another operating point; the engine controller corrects for this.

With engines that run on premium gas, the maximum spark advance is higher than that with engines that run on regular. So in a premium-drinking engine (I’m sure you’ve died of boredom by now so I don’t even know why I’m finishing this sentence) which has premium in the tank, the spark is allowed to advance more, giving better PFE. If regular gas is used, the spark advance adjusts only to the point where knock occurs, which usually doesn’t afford any added PFE. In a regular-drinking engine with premium in the tank, the spark advance will run up against the maximum allowable spark advance without any added PFE from the premium gas. I’ve notified the fire department - maybe they can still revive you.

16) What kinds of stores are in the Mall in Washington DC?

“The Mall” in DC has no stores and is actually a huge lawn that stretches about a mile and a half between the Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial. They should call it “The Lawn.”

17) Nokesville, where’s that?

Fitzwater Rd., between Aden and 28, which is called “Nokesville Rd.” at that point.

18) What’s the difference between a Probabilistic Neural Network and just using Bayes’ Rule?

Nothing really. The PNN is simply a multidimensional treatment of Bayes’ Rule, with some computational gingerbread for automation and application-specific integration.

19) Have they installed your ethernet drop yet?


20) Do you live in the North or the South?

I’ve lived in Northern VA (NoVA) now for about six months and am pleased to report that it is a lovely place with an advanced and civilized culture. It is a unique area in US, dominated culturally by the federal government and the military, but also a high-tech hub (Silicon Valley East), and home to large immigrant populations.

To many in the rest of VA, NoVA isn’t really a part of VA. They consider it part of “the North,” whereas everyone to the north considers us part of “the South.” Technically, NoVA is part of VA, which, if you call the South the states that attempted to secede in the mid-19th century, is part of the South. But frankly, the people that inhabit NoVA, along with the chain stores and restaurants that dominate the commercial landscape, are by and large no more southern than Don Cherry.

NoVA’s people are from all over the US and the world, but not too many of them have been here all that long. Soldiers and sailors with short military hitches and career-climbing government bureaucrats keep the real estate industry hopping.

In some of the small towns there is some down-home southern culture, but basically every village and farm within commuting reach of DC/Arlington is being gobbled up by subdivisions and developments, and that reach is getting longer every year.

My colleague Jeff (not his real name) is from southern VA, but has also lived in several other places in the US, including Chicago. I asked him what he thought, whether NoVA was part of the North or the South. He thought about that a minute and proclaimed, “Ah don’t know whut it is. It ain’t neither one.”

So there’s your answer: Ah don’t know whut it is, it ain’t neither one.

21) Has anyone ever actually asked any of these questions?

Well yeah… I mean some of them, maybe…


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