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D. A. Wood

Joined: November 7, 2011
Comments posted: 258
Votes received: 69

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Recent Comments

Something that happens "right now" happens at any instant of time that you care to choose, within reason.

The earth orbits the sun right now.
Pure water tastes good right now.
The Eiffel Tower stands in Paris right now.
The River Thames flows through London right now.
The United States has 50 states right now.


D. A. Wood February 27, 2013, 8:25am

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Dear Philistine:

I have had BRITISH people tell me that the phrase "the government are", such as is used by cheap tabloids and magazines there, STINKS TO HIGH HEAVEN.
Of course, in North America, we agree completely.

Likewise, my British friends have told me that "the Commonwealth are" likewise stinks to high heaven.

These are not "matters of opinion". These are matters of sane versus foolish.
If you wish to ally yourself with the usage of cheap tabloids and magazines, you MUST not present that as some form of Standard English.
You do not even know the difference between singular and plural.


D. A. Wood February 27, 2013, 8:16am

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@Warsaw Will
Warsaw Will says:
@D.A.W. - I don't see why are you are still going on about a building sitting or standing somewhere; I have absolutely no problem with that.

I do not like people misquoting me and lying about what I said or wrote!
You have never apoligized about that, either.

You are obviously a habitual liar and a Philistine, too.
Am I making myself clear? You lied about what I wrote.
Now, you want to sweep it under the rug ??
Shame on you. Go eat manure.


D. A. Wood February 27, 2013, 8:06am

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To Warsaw Will:
You do not understand how newspapers operate in the large cities of the United States and Canada.
Here, a large newspaper does not have just one Editor, but rather it has many editors. Some of the higher-ranking of these have more explanatory titles such as these:
Associate Editor
Assistant Editor
Managing Editor (one with many business responsibilities)
Science Editor
Sports Editor

Naturally, the newspaper's editorials that go on the editorial page are the responsibility of the Editorial Page Editor. Letters to the Editor go there, too, and actually the "editorial page" can be two or more pages long.
Furthermore, in the largest cities, the Editorial Page Editor has assistant editors who work for him or her.
When submitting a letter to the editor, the proper greetings are "Dear Editor", "Dear Mr. Editor", or "Dear Madame Editor". "To Whom It May Concern" also works.

To be an editor for a large newspaper here is rather like being a vice-president of a large corporation, which might have 25 or 30 vice-presidents.

Hence, "The editor of the New York Times wrote" or "The editors of the New York Times wrote" are both correct. In the first case, it is understood that the New York Time has many editors.


D. A. Wood February 26, 2013, 7:51am

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To: Warsaw Will:
"It does so right now" would have been ungrammatical.
Quite to the contrary: "It does so right now" is perfectly good English, at least in North America, where over 300,000,000 English speakers live.
Does the Moon orbit the Earth? "It does so right now," or "It still does so right now."

Q: Will your bank give change for a $100 bill?
A: It does so right now. Let's go!

Q: Does Vanguard 1 orbit the Earth?
A: It still does so right now, and it has done so ever since 1958.


D. A. Wood February 26, 2013, 7:31am

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Warsaw Will: I have a hard time understanding that the statue of Abraham Lincoln sits in Washington, D.C., because it sits in a chair, just as I sit in a chair as I write this. What is so hard about this? I could recommend that you look up photographs of the interior of the Lincoln Memorial. You can find these on the Internet.

Notice that "you look" is in the present tense. Look away for ten seconds, and then you look again. Any of those moments is "right now", and you can repeat the process as many times as you chose to do so.

Also, I actually wrote "the Houses of Parliament sit along the Thames in London", and not "stand", as you misread and miscopied. "Sit" was the contrast that I ws trying to make, compared with the Empire State Building, which "stands" in New York City. Stop in the name of the Queen! You made a salient mistake. Why?

The statue of Thomas Jefferson "stands" in the Jefferson Memorial because the figure of Jefferson stands on its feet in an upright position. That was the contrast that I was making: Lincoln sits but Jefferson stands.

I didn't say anything about the "historical present" because that is rarely seen or heard of in the United States in American or Canadian products.
One big problem that we face here concerns documentaries on TV that were made in the U.K. or in Ireland. These have narrated paragraphs in which the tenses of the verbs flip back and forth between the past tense and the present tense in a random order. In other words, they do so "willy nilly" or "ad litem".

There is absolutely no concern in the consistency of the use of the tenses.

Furthermore, there are odd statements like "the team decided". A team does not have a brain, so a team cannot make any decisions whatsover.
Here in North America, we say, "the leader of the team decided".

Then, if those decisions are terribly unpopular, you Britons could say, "the team threw the leader overboard to the sharks".
In America, we do not have too much of a history of mutinies.
We do not have stories of Captain Bligh or Henry Hudson.

D. A. Wood February 26, 2013, 7:08am

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I don't need a grammar book in English because my mother was a professional teacher of American English for several decades. I learned from her.

You are arguing concerning that twisted mess called "British English".

No, not "In an editorial yesterday, the editorial writers of the Times stated that bla bla bla" but rather, "In an editorial yesterday, the editors of the Times stated bla bla bla"
The people who write editorials are called "editors" - but once again we are getting into the superiority of North American English (which includes Candian English, don't forget.)

In American English, we say that a short buiding "sits" somewhere, but a tall building strands somewhere. "Mr. Jones's house sits along Maple Street", but "The Empire State Building stands in New York City." "The White House sits along Pennsylvania Avenue", but "The Capitol Building stands on Capitol Hill."

So, do not get confused about the Houses of Parliament (buildings) sitting along the Thames, and the House of Commons (a group of people) sitting for a meeting.
Concerning the monuments of Washington, D.C., the Washington Monument stands, the statue of Abraham Lincoln sits (in a chair), but the statue of Thomas Jefferson stands (on its feet). All of these are in the present tense, indicating RIGHT NOW, and there is no need to use the present progressive form.

Also, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial sit along the Potomac River, but it is not possible for the Washington Monument to do anything but stand. When this monument was completed, it was the world's tallest structure, surpassing the Great Pyramid of Egypt, and it remained the world's tallest structure until it was surpassed by a cathedral in Germany. Then, a few years later, that was surpassed by the Eiffel Tower. Some say that the Washington Monument is still the world's tallest stone structure because it does not have a metal framework at all. On the other hand, is the tallest one the cathedral in Germany? Or does that one have some metal framework? It is hard to find out because there are so many erroneous sources out there. Some of them do not mention the Washington Monument or the cathedral at all.

"Right now I write this comment," is perfectly fine language. It is not necessary to use the present progressive form, though that is the more common way.
I have read of a noteworthy play (maybe one of Shakespeare's) in which a character says, "I die." It was not necessary for him to say "I am dying," because "I die" means RIGHT NOW.

When I say, "The Moon orbits the Earth," and "The Earth orbits the Sun," these mean RIGHT NOW. It does not matter that they have done so for billions of years, and that they will do so for billions of years into the future, because my sentences tell of the situation right now. As for the Moon, even if the weather is bad over the entire continent, and nobody there can see the Moon in its orbit, we can measure its presense can its movement by radar.We know what it is doing.

On the other hand, I have read a book of "Noteworthy Last Words". In it, there is the story of a physician who was seriously ill. From time to time, he was taking his own pulse - until one time when he said "Stopped," and that was the end of the his life. He was using the word "stopped" as an adjective, but that means "right now".

Also, I have read that during the latter part of the 1800s, a criminal in England was taken to the gallows to be hanged. He was standing on the trap door with the noose around his neck. Then he decided to make a final declaration, but that was just as the trap sprung. HIs last words were supposedly, "I am J----" as the noose tightened around his neck. People have speculated that he intended to say, "I am Jack the Ripper." Is this true? Note that the verb "am" is in the present tense, and it means RIGHT NOW. He did not intend to say, "I was Jack the Ripper."

D. A. Wood February 25, 2013, 7:54am

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Oh, Warsaw Will, I agree with you emphatically.
"With all but a monumental collapse now standing between...." is truly horrid English.
Actually, it isn't even English, but rather it is gibberish.

By the way, "The Sun writes" is also nonsense.Whatever the "Sun" did, it was sometime in the past, so either the past tense or the present perfect tense is required. So, "the Sun wrote". Actually, it is probably more correct to state "the Sun printed". However, the "Sun" is a corporation, and corporations are incapable of doing anything like these things. So, in truth, "the employees of the Sun wrote" or "the employees of the Sun have been writing".

I have aslo seen weird statements like "John Jones writes" or "John Jones says", when in reality, John Jones has been dead for several years, hence he does not say or write anything at all anymore. Likewise, Winston Churchill says or writes nothing at all anymore.

So many people have lost sight or the fact that the present tense means RIGHT NOW. Here are some example: The Houses of Parliament stand in London.
A large statue of Abraham Lincoln sits in Washington, D.C.
The Moon orbits the Earth once every 29 days. It is doing so right now.

In contrast, the American, British, and Canadian Armies landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. This was definitely an event in the past.

D. A. Wood February 24, 2013, 1:25pm

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Oh, we love SPECTRE. We watch James Bond OO7 movies on TV and at the movie houses all the time. These are my favorites:
"The Spy Who Loved Me",
"Moonraker", "Octopussy", and
"Never Say Never Again" !
Of course, a movie with a chartacter named "Pussy Galore" has to be a fine one, too/

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 9:14am

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In the United States, we went straight from the word "airfield" to "airport" w/o even considering the wacky word "aerodrome".

The original meaning of "airfield" was an open piece of land covered by grass or dirt that airplanes used for taking off from and landing on. Then later on, gravel, ground up coral, and pieces of pierced sheet metal were used to cover airfields. The sheet metal, called "Marston matting" was especially useful on rainy and muddy islands in the Pacific where mud was the continual enemy of the U.S.A.A.F., the U.S. Marine Corps aviators, and the Royal Australian Air Force.

When eventually during the 1940s (and maybe the '30s) they started paving runways with concrete and building nice terminal buildings, that was when the airport was born. Then when military aircraft such as the B - 29 Superfortress and the B - 36 Peacekeeper bomber grew to be so large and heavy, concrete runways became necessities for the Air Force, and the advent of fast jet-propelled bombers, fighters, and cargo planes made paving even more necesary.

By the way, we have always used the word "airplane" as far as I know, and never used "aeroplane", which looks like something from the Roman Empire - LOL!
Also, "aircraft" seems to be some kind of an invention of the Royal Navy that got picked up by the Royal Canadian Navy, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Marine Corps, and then spread from there. I don't think that most people know that "aircraft" is closely related to "watercraft". And then there came "spacecraft".

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 9:09am

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"Many hammer all over the wall and believe that with each blow they hit the nail on the head."
(Translated from German.)
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749 - 1832), German poet, dramatist, and scientist.
"Art and Antiquity", III, 1 (1821).

Note: I added the part about "and scientist" myself.
Among the phenomena that Goethe studied was the perception of color by human beings. There are several viable theories in this field, and one of them is "Goethe's theory" - still viable after all these years.
Goethe could also be listed as a philosopher. In many ways, he was actually a polymath, just as were Galileo, Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Priestly, Lavosier, Pascal, Fermat, Descartes, and Thomas Jefferson.
I have attempted to name men from several different countries, and as it turned out, two different continents.

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 8:26am

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I know that Asimov used the words "psychohistorian" and "encyclopedian", and he probably invented them, and he definitely used "robotics" before anyone else did. Asimov said that he thought that this was a word that was already in use, but it wasn't. So Asimov created "robotics" by analogy with the words like { dynamics, graphics, mechanics, optics, physics, and statistics }
Asimov also created the word "gravitics" in the same way.In his novels, that is the science.of controlling gravity for such things as the propulsion of spacecraft.
To be careful, we do not have even the slightest hint that his could be scientically possible. It was a complete piece of fiction.

An earlier S.F, writer named E.E. "Doc" Smith wrote of spaceships that used "inertialess space drives", but in our knowledge, that is completely impossible. It would turn the science of physics completely upside down.

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 8:24am

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From www.dictionary,
Contrarian - a person who takes an opposing view, especially one who rejects the majority opinion.
Year of origin - as in "first seen in print" - 1963.

I could be mistaken, however, but I thought that I had seen it in S.F. novels and short stories that were written during the 1940s and '50s. It could be that those were not observed by writers in the field, such. as Douglas Harper, the author of the Online Etymology Dictionary.
Contrarian just seems like a word that Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, or Ray Bradbury would have used.

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 8:11am

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"Contraian" is a word that I have seen in novels, and especially in science-fiction novels, so I did not invent it. Now I need to look it up in a good dictionary and find out if it is listed there, and what its source is.

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 7:40am

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The original vacuum tube amplifiers used triodes, tubes with three electrical terminals, invented by the American Lee De Forest in 1906. Three terminals (or more) are necessary to make an amplifier.
Sir Ambrose Fleming of England invented his vacuum diode in 1902, and it had/has two terminals. It is impossible to make an amplifier out of one of these, though you can make a rectifier with one, as Sir Ambose did. The invention of the diode is beside the point because I carefully wrote "vacuum tube amplifiers", since I am an E.E.
Hence, Fleming's work was important, but De Forest's work was 100 times more important because triodes quickly became essential in radio transmitters, receivers, and long-distance telephone networks.
As for diodes, it was soon found (around 1910 or so) that solid-state diodes could be made using crystals of galena (an perhaps other minerals). This was the source of the terms the "crystal radio" or "crystal receiver" in the field of radio. Once again, these crystal diodes were units with two electrical terminals, and they could not be used to make amplifiers.

When Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley invented the solid-state transistor at Bell Labs in 1947, that was an electronic device that had two terminals and it could be used as an amplifier. Another engineer at Bell Labs, J.R. Pierce, was asked to suggest some possible named for it, and one of these was "transistor". That was the name that the others liked, and that was the one that stuck.
To this day all transistors have three electrical terminals, except for some special-purpose ones that have four. Those are not seen very much.

Thomas Edison was experimenting with an electric like bulb with an extra terminal in it, during the 1870s or '80s, not connected with anythng but vacuum, and he noticed that an odd elecric current would flow. However, Edison neither understood what has going on at all, nor did he do anything with it. The fact that he didn't understand it was reasonable, especially since the electron was not even discovered until J.J. Thomsen of Scotland did it in 1897. Edison's current did get the name the "Edison Effect", but let me emphasize that he didn't understand it at all. Also, Edison was an inventor, and not a educated physicist or engineer at all. He just had a lot of intuitive insight into how to make things work in electricity, mechanics, optics, and acoustics. He also hired a lot of well-educated and experienced assistants.

Marconi was somewhat better educated, but lot of times he did things out of intuition or sheer frustration. One time he was experimenting with an antenna that consisted of two metal plates with an electrical terminal welded to each of them. Nothing was working right at all, and then out of frustration, Marconi told his assistants to BURY one of the plates in the ground. Everything started working a lot better then.
Marconi had accidentally invented the kind of antenna that has one terminal grounded and the rest of the antenna extending upwards, but insulated from the ground.

This type is used all the time in AM radio broadcasting and in other uses in nearby frequency bands. In AM broadcasting, the tower that you see IS the antenna, rather than being a support for an antenna.
In FM radio and TV broadcasting, things are done quite differently.

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 7:38am

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It is true that:
1. Americans speak an older version of English than British people do.
2. French Canadians speak an older version of French than people in France do.
3. Hispanics in South American speak an older version of Spanish people in Spain do.
4. Icelanders speak an older version of Norse that the people in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden do.
This has all been documented by linguists, I also imagine that there are places in the world that people speak an old version of Portuguese. Maybe even in Brazil.

Sometimes we Americans feel like yelling HOLD YOUR HORSES at the British and the Irish about all their unnecesary changes in the language. Sometimes, it is "You are all riding wild horses!"
There are people in isolated parts of the United States who speak English that is positively Elizabethan, and we mean Elizabeth I, not Elizabeth II.

Also, we have a way of inventing things like vacuum tube amplifiers and airports, but in the British Isles, you decide to call them "valves" and "aerodromes". There is the specter of contrarism there.

D. A. Wood December 15, 2012, 9:56am

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"A few mashed potatoes" means that Mrs. Jones looked into her pantry and her root cellar and she found only two, three, or four potatoes, so she boiled them, mashed them, and fed them to her family and herself.

Mrs. Smith had already cooked and mashed her two potatoes, so she had less mashed potatoes.

Poor Mrs. Brown could find only one large potato, so she cooked it and mashed it, and she had the least mashed potatoes.

There was a twist in the language in that "mashed potatoes" was viewed as both a discrete and a continuous quantity. I admit that there was something odd here.

"few, fewer, fewest" and "little, less, least" are a lot more common.

Mrs. Adams had only a few cans of soup left in her pantry.
Mrs. Cook had less soup left, two cans.
Mrs. Evans had the least soup left, only one can, and she could not feed her family properly.
I admit that this is being tricky. You might be able to think of a better example.

D. A. Wood December 15, 2012, 3:26am

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Sorry for my misspellings: I have trouble getting "Chomsky" spelled right all the time. I do a lot better with Marvin Minsky, another retired professor from M.I.T. who made remarkable processes in the areas of computers, thought, artificial intelligence, and language. I also made the glaring mistake of typing "of" instead of "to" (or vice-versa). I apologize.
Oh, well, my ONLY excuse is that I am not typing for a technical journal, or for a handout or a test for my students...
I was really pleased when some of my students told me that my handouts were "better than the textbook" in being easier to understand.

D. A. Wood December 14, 2012, 11:49pm

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Yes, Jeremy, this is me, the Dale Wood of Auburn, Georgia Tech, and the University of Alabama. As for published papers, those are few: I had an interesting experience while I was working at Northern Illinois University. I had a colleague and friend named Ragu Athinarayanan (Ph.D. in electrical engineering) who was working on some research and writing a research paper. Ragu asked me for some help with the mathematics that he needed, and it turned out that I had studied just what he needed while I was working on my M.A. in math. So, I did a large amount of the higher math in the paper. I also edited Ragu's paper for clarity and accuracy in expression. (Ragu was from Malaysia, and he still had some troubles in English.)
In the end, I put so much work into the paper that I asked Ragu if I could be a co-author, and Ragu said, "Of course."
When our paper was completed, the next step was for Ragu to submit it to the editors of several technical journals to find out if one group was interested in publishing it. One of them did, but I don't know which one, and I don't know what title that Ragu and the editors decided to give to it. (Maybe you just told me.) Also, I only had a contract to teach at N.I.U. for one year. I was hired to fill the gap after one of the professors there had retired. The department head wanted to rehire me for another year, but the administration of N.I.U. wouldn't give him the money to do so. (I think that the Dept. of Technology just struggled along one man short the next year.)
In my case, I needed another job so I could earn a living, and I was lucky enough to get one in Chicago, about 75 miles to the east. I moved, but I didn't have to move too far. I lived in Schaumburg for the next several years.
In any case, I lost track of what happened to our research paper. I probably should have stayed in closer contact with Ragu and asked him what happened to it.
Let me be clear: That research paper was a genuine piece of teamwork. Most of the engineering work - done by Ragu - I did not understand because it was on the Ph.D. level, of course, and inside Ragu's area of expertise. On the other hand, Ragu did not understand a lot of the mathematics (of nonlinear dynamical systems) until I explained it too him.
I considered Ragu to be the primary author and myself to be the assistant author, but in the world of publications, it was simpler to list us as co-authors.
Also, while I was studying for my master's degrees, my primary area of study was in random processes (very valuable knowledge in communication systems), and dynamical systems was definitely a secondary area. So, I was using one of my secondary areas to help the primary author of the paper, Ragu Athinarayanan. Ragu deserves the primary credit for it. That paper never would have existed except that he created it.

D. A. Wood December 14, 2012, 11:35pm

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Someone has disagreed and insisted that the language ALWAYS changes.
This is untrue because the changes in the language only come in small amounts that occcur only now and then (occasionally). In other words, the changes form a random process, probably of the Poisson type.
Over a period of 300 to 400 years, those changes do not make much difference in intelligibility. For example, Isaac Newton often wrote in Latin, but his works were translated into English about 300 years ago. Those translations are still quite readable.
Let me emphasize: that is not "always changing". "Always changing" is something that changes every second of every day, such as a person's blood pressure, or the contents of one's stomach..

In contrast, take something that Chaucer wrote in the English of 1,000 years ago. By now, there has been time for the small, randiom changes to accumulate a lot more, and the writings of people like Chaucer are nearly unintelligible except by experts.

Something else has happened. Some decades before Newton and Shakespeare, the printing press came into wide use, and this has been a strong stabilizing influence on the language - both in its written and spoken forms. In other words, the average rate do change has been lower.

Before the printing press, books were rare, magazines and newspapers were nonexistent, and illiteracy was at an incredible level - over 90% of the population.

Anyway, trying to explain thngs like the average rate of change of a set of small, random changes is very difficult to yokels who have never studied random processes. Yes, it is. Some of you will waste no time in scoffing at all of it, rather than trying to learn something about it. That is why I have taken to so rarely writing anything here. (I think that tonight is the first time in several months.) There are too many people here who are far more interested in scoffing at things that in learning anything from them, They SCOFF at the idea that there is a lot of relationship between language and mathematics -- but then I tell them that people like Bertrand Russell, Claude Shannon, and Noam Chomsky used these relationships all the time - Englishmen and Americans. Some of their rewards are listed here:
Russell - Nobel Prize in Literature. Shannon & Chomsky - National Medal of Science awarded by the President of the United States on the recommendation of his staff and Cabinet. Also - Chompsky, a member of the National Academy of Science, and Shannon, a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Then they were all honary members of the learned societies on the opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, too.However, I bet that you can scoff at that, too. What does that fuddy-duddy the Prime Minister know? Egad, giving honors to American scientists, mathematicians, and engineer - because Shannon was an electrical engineer who earned his Ph.D. in mathematics, too.
D.A.W. . . .

D. A. Wood December 14, 2012, 1:50pm

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