Saturday, September 15, 2018


In 1989 a hurricane hit Charlotte pretty squarely; resulting in an experience I will gladly pass up if offered again. Without belittling those at the coast who experience more destruction more frequently, a hurricane is an experience here in the piedmont so I will pass on my observations and feelings of the event.

The Third Week of September 1989.

A major hurricane called Hugo shares front-page news as it crosses the Atlantic and slams the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, destroying as much as 90% of the housing in some places. It does not cross over into the Caribbean, but veers back into the Atlantic taking a bead on the Southern coast some three days away.

Thursday, 21 September.

Hugo is clearly poised almost directly at Charleston, SC and surprises meteorologists by actually intensifying from 120 to 135 mph winds over the Gulf Stream - by any assessment a major storm: force IV on a scale of V. Thanks to the clear danger and accuracy of predicted landfall; the coast, and especially the barrier islands, is thoroughly evacuated.
By afternoon the radio is recommending a certain battening down in Charlotte such as bringing in lawn furniture that might be picked up by gusts. One customer is actually making plans in case one employee can't get to work Friday and everyone is joking about the fine weather we'll have for our vacation which starts the next day. In fact, I observe that we're going to Gatlinburg on the other side of the mountains and expect only to have to contend with rain as we leave town.  Since we're going to be closed for four days anyway, I unplug the computers as I leave for the  evening.
In the evening I go out to get flashlight batteries and film for the trip and end up walking a mile home because the truck's battery is weak from being 4-years-old and not having been driven for over a week. It was a pleasant walk - not really blustery with just a hint of rain. We do decide not to leave the car parked under the canoe suspended from the ceiling of the carport, close the windows on the porch and even bring the garbage can in.
The center of the hurricane is now scheduled to hit just north of Charleston at midnight, almost simultaneously with high tide. Since we've got the day off and aren't planning to leave until noon, we haven't done any packing or preparation for the trip.

Friday, 22 September.

The power blinks about 4:00 am setting off a burglar alarm, as usual, in the neighborhood and waking the dog. Since the wind and rain are already heavy, we bring the dog inside and watch the storm with curiosity when the power goes off for good. (This doesn't surprise us because we must be on a weak line - the power goes off for as much as 12 hours  a couple times a year. It's such a nuisance we even bought a battery-powered TV for here in the middle of the city.)
By about 5:30 it's apparent we're not going back to sleep so we turn on the TV to see if we can find out how the coast fared. The cheap TV doesn't have click-stop tuning but I'm surprised to be picking up channel 7 from Spartanburg - 90 miles away. Maybe, I say, channel 3's transmitter lost their feed from the studio and is snatching the network off the air. Soon we see a familiar face but the production looks like something out of the 50's: they're not at the usual set, or even the "newsroom" set, but two anchors huddling around a single microphone on a table, in front of a single fixed camera with people continually walking behind them out a door to a hall.
It seems that Charlotte has been hit squarely by a storm that lost its hurricane designation (74 mph sustained winds) barely 20 miles away. We're told that there is no lightning tonight - those continual flashes in the sky are power lines falling and transformers dying.
A little before 8:00, during the calm we know is just the eye of the storm, we all poke our head out the front door. Unfortunately, the cat gets spooked off the stoop by a loose dog in the yard and disappears outside; with more hurricane to come. A couple cars come down the street and turn around in our driveway so we walk out to see the way blocked with branches from both sides of the street. Surprisingly, there's the newspaper at the end of the driveway, barely wet.  The back yard is covered with green leaves on twigs but I don't see much destruction from a quick walk around the house.
As the back side of the storm arrives with diminished winds, we fix our tea on the camp stove, read the paper by the oil lantern and watch the battery TV - familiar activities as I mentioned that power outages are not uncommon on our block.
The reports coming in reveal that Charlotte got hit with unprecedented and unexpected destruction: travel as impassable as in a heavy snow, large percentages of traffic lights and  power out, trees down, houses damaged, a radio station tower blown over. An ambulance out in the storm got stymied by falling trees both before and behind it. Apparently no one else was out as there are no significant reports of personal injuries.
When the rain stops again, I go out to check on the office. The mood is very like when Charlotte gets hit by a major snow storm: very little traffic at 10:00 on a Friday morning, some strollers out, and a few people starting cleaning up. Except that the strollers are in shorts and short sleeves, the people cleaning up are out with rakes and saws, and the roads are impassable from large, immobile objects, not stuck cars.
Before getting to the corner I have to drive around and over a fallen power line to the streetlight. Then, as I pull out, I glance over and see a gnarled old cedar tree lying flat on the lawn of the church. In the next block there's a large oak with its roots in the air, leaning against the roof of a house. When I turn down The Plaza, I can see city crew already attacking some debris in the oncoming lanes in the next block. Then I see a tree, uprooted, laying flat on the ground. Then, all of a sudden, it's "there's another one! ... wow! and another!" In the mile trip down the street, I guess that every other house must have had a tree blown down. And branches aren't just broken or a fork split like I'm used to with ice storms; the entire 3-foot diameter tree is blown over with the roots bringing up a patch of sod as much as 10 feet across.
As I pull in the front driveway at the office Charles, our employee, comes in the back - he's one of those people who just can't resist being in the middle of the distraction ... or maybe the real distraction was at home since schools were closed. A few branches are laying around and our wooden sign has fallen off the building and is laying undamaged on the sidewalk. Other than that there are no problems, not even any rain blown in the roof vents and dripping in the ceiling; a too common occurrence. Of course, the power is off, but the office was going to be closed anyway.
When I get home, we go for a walk with the dog but the entrance to the park is blocked with a tree completely across the path. One of our neighbors is attacking the blockage in the street with a carpentry saw and I offer to lend my chain saw, if he has an extension cord long enough. We both chuckle that it'll probably be a couple days before  electricity comes back to our block. A more complete walk around the yard reveals that a 15-year-old, 2-foot-diameter pecan in the back corner is toppled; falling along the fence without damaging it but crushing our new blackberry patch with its crown. The next-door-neighbor's telephone line is on the ground, but our services seem to be intact. Patricia has telephoned her mother who couldn't get a line into Charlotte due to the busyness.
Jane calls to say that her power is off at her house and the main building at Sharon Towers is still on its emergency generator four hours after the storm. This surprises me as I would expect them to be a priority right after the hospitals. Her main concern is that very few of the staff have made it in so there is no one to prepare meals, even if they could cook.
As we're packing, the only thing that bothers me is that power outages are so general that there are only a few gas stations open, and we've only got a quarter tank in the truck. Oh well, I just bought 2-1/2 gallons for the lawn mower and that should get us to South Carolina, I figure. We have carefully not opened the freezer door so it should be good for 24 to 36 hours, but we do put everything we can from the refrigerator in an ice chest.
On I-277 through town, it's more "wow! lookit that!." Even the large overhead directional signs on the interstate have been blown down. While a few major intersections have police directing traffic, it's generally defensive driving, obstacle avoidance time. Not a single traffic light is working. Even the six-lane street has trees blocking one or two lanes and some neighborhoods are impassable. Fortunately there is very little traffic except for an unexplained bottleneck at the on-ramp to the interstate. There must be some blockage at the previous, major interchange forcing people to grope through the back streets to the next exit.
Going southwest the interstate is clear but we can see trees down for 30 miles out of town. We also watch convoys of utility trucks coming to help Charlotte out from the Gulf coast, where we so often send help for storm damage. I finally stop for gas in Kings Mountain, but the stations are closed. At the next exit, a truck stop is open, but the crowd of cars at the two islands of gas is practically a mob and I decide my elbows aren't sharp enough. Finally, by the time we get to Gaffney, I can get gas and even a bag of ice without having to stand in three lines. At least the sun has come out and the afternoon is almost pleasant.

Saturday, 23 September

Kathy and Phil (Patricia's sister) were to have flown in to Knoxville Friday, but their connection was through Charlotte and the Charlotte airport was closed down ALL day Friday. They finally make it through Charlotte today where the airport still was not up to full capacity. Unfortunately, they don't pick up a Charlotte paper. Although most of the coverage is rightfully concentrated on the coast, TV and even the New York Times mention that Charlotte was hard hit by the storm. I still haven't seen any reports of what happened between Charleston and Charlotte.

Sunday, 24 September

We finally talk to Sandy Frye who came by to take care of the animals. Although he has power at home in Waxhaw, Charlotte is still largely without electricity. He is anxious to get out of town before dark because not only are there no street lights, the streets are still a tangled mass of trees and cables down.

Monday, 25 September

It's a dreary, rainy day so we leave early to come home and clean out the refrigerator. The radio is reporting that Charlotte is still under siege so we make a point of stopping at a grocery store in Gastonia where we pick up milk, orange juice and bread and a couple bags of ice.
Charlotte still looks like the storm was this morning, not 3 days ago. Utility lines are a tangle everywhere, very few traffic lights are working, neighborhood streets are barely passable, many offices and even retailers are closed, and school has already been cancelled for the entire week. The report is that 90% of the customers in the city - 200,000 - lost their electric service and only 40% has been restored.
We're just as glad that we came home early so we can clean out the refrigerator in the light. Everything goes. We had bread but it was on the bottom shelf of the freezer and the meat thawed all over it. The only thing we salvage are some nuts that were on the door of the freezer and raisins that were on the top shelf of the refrigerator. We grill some hot dogs that we've been carrying around in the ice chest for three days. Everyone else was eating their steaks over the weekend but ours went in the trash - two garbage cans full and yet another bag besides.
It still was worth it to go on with our vacation and not have to worry about having to dive into the cleanup. I truly did not expect the power to be off this long and there's not much we could have saved after three days. You can cook the food on the grill but then if you still don't have refrigeration, what do you do?

Tuesday, 26 September

At least we have power at work. We fix our breakfast there,  stuff what we have into the little refrigerator, and plug in the rechargeables.
Business is relatively normal except that there's no backlog from having been closed for two days - so was everyone else.
We take our first real look around the neighborhood since Hugo. The destruction is immense: Winter St. must have been impassable. There are trees down so thick you couldn't climb into some yards as well as tarps on many roofs. One short block of Midwood Place still has lines down that we can barely get in, and two cars out of three houses are smashed. At Chatham and Belvedere the house had a nice 4-foot-high curved brick garden wall a car had knocked a hole in years ago. Within the last month it had been rebuilt as elegantly as originally. It's smashed. There's a house on Thomas that has a nice sunny front yard, belied only by the pile of logs where it was once shady. A house on Commonwealth was hit so squarely by such a large tree I'll bet it was knocked off its foundation.
Myers Park, famous for its 70-year-old oaks still has its canopy but there are large holes letting in daylight. Dilworth and Elizabeth and Eastover, all the old neighborhoods with mature trees are reported to be the hardest hit in the city. Pin oaks and pines and some of the street trees were most susceptible to damage. Most of the pines were topped, leaving a 10-foot stump while the oaks were uprooted and caused more damage where they fell. I thought we were lucky that the old maple out front came through unscathed, perhaps because it is old and does not have a dense crown, but the city arborist commented that very few maples were toppled.
South Carolina estimates that a billion dollars worth of forests were destroyed. They can log the trees that are down now, but production will be hurt for 20 years before a forest will recover.

Wednesday, 27 September

Most of the commercial area around our office seems back to normal except that one customer on a back street nearby is still taking orders by candlelight. We decide to go out for a hot lunch of meat and vegetables; but the restaurant's closed when we get there. Our A&P is dark as we go by. At K-Mart there are skids of Coleman gas and stoves stacked up as you go in the door. Harris Teeter is well-stocked with ice, and discounting it too, but one bag came from Raleigh and another from Georgia.
Duke Power, which had been reporting returning service to 8%-10% of the city each day revises their estimates of who has power ... from 58% to 43%! Six days after the storm!

Thursday, 28 September

A good Samaritan cleaning up a stranger's yard is killed when a tree falls on him. A man suffers a heart attack hauling debris. A lineman is electrocuted when a hot wire falls on him.
The piedmont death toll, which stood at one as the storm passed, is approaching a half dozen.

Friday, 29 September

It's getting depressing that conversation is amounting to "Really? You STILL don't have your power back?" We take a pool between us: Patricia says it'll come back Saturday afternoon; but I'm betting on Monday.
One of our customers, who happens to be on the Mint Hill town council, says he told Duke Power if they can't get his back soon to make him the very last to be turned on. There's no distinction in being in the last 10%.

Saturday, 30 September

To make the clean up even nastier, it's a dreary day. In fact, we get more rain this weekend than Hugo itself left. For lack of anything else to do, we go to work all day.

Sunday, 1 October

The rain continues, and Jane calls to say she finally got her power back. It seems everyone but us is getting back on line. A utility truck has been working in front of the church so Hannah and I go to see what's up, just as they pull away. They have turned the power on along Mecklenburg Ave., just 50 feet out the back door.

Monday, 2 October

We both comment that now there's no point in sharing power from the neighbors. What an extension cord or generator could give us just wouldn't matter that much now. We're getting used to living with the Coleman stove and kerosene lamp and candles.
Except for opening a couple new packages of socks, for the first time we're even worrying about clothes. Patricia washes some underwear and laments how slowly it air dries.

Tuesday, 3 October

What's the first thing you're going to do when the power comes back on?
* Part my hair
* Put on make-up sitting down
* Run the garbage disposal
* Get the rental video out of the VCR
Even non-procrastinators have faith that they can do something tomorrow. Like the garbage disposal and dish washer, which have been incubating for a week and a half now. I wouldn't dare hand wash those dishes, maybe we should run the cycle twice.
A columnist observes that a hurricane is nature’s way of telling you to defrost your refrigerator.

Wednesday, 4 October

The extension cord that was running across Mecklenburg Ave. near The Plaza is gone today.
Country Club Lane is blocked at the corner and we hear machinery working as we come home. No, that's just the city; out with a front-end-loader picking up debris in the street.
I'm in Radio Shack and two separate customers are saying "I don't really watch a lot of television, but I'm about to go crazy." One was buying a battery TV, but the other was just trying to find some good rabbit ears. People without electricity are being very patient, but when the power does come back they get testy without their cable.

Thursday, 5 October

I count no fewer than 15 utility trucks working in and around the park. There are more all through the neighborhood. They seem to be working diligently on Winter and Chatham Sts., but not Country Club Lane. Our line runs through the back yards and there's a broken pole two houses down I'm sure no one wants to get in to replace. But at 7:00 there is a truck in there replacing it in the dusk.

Friday, 6 October

A crew is replacing the line to the house two doors down. Other than that, I don't see much activity around here. The reports are that 99% plus of the customers are back on line. If there are fewer than 1,000 people without power a third or more must be in our neighborhood. That's really discouraging.
On our way out to supper, I drop a disc off for the computer club newsletter (fortunately when I wrote it last month, it was on the office computer), and John was incredulous we still didn't have power. So, we stopped at the grocery store on the way home and got a single can of orange juice and some ice, as we had several times before.
But when we pulled into the driveway there were lights blazing in the house! What a luxury to be able to see into the next room at night. To have a cup of tea in the morning without having to fiddle with the Coleman stove. To wash clothes and dishes. Even to vacuum the rugs.
Fourteen days and fourteen hours without electricity in the middle of a major inland city. You just don't expect to be without basic infrastructure that long. I won't complain about having to reset the clocks the next time the power blinks for a few minutes, at least until next year.
My question is whether the utility took the opportunity of this forced rebuilding of their distribution system to improve the basics of the network. Our block goes off a couple times a year. Did they put in a heavier switch or bigger transformer since they were replacing it anyway? I'm sure some neighborhoods, because of the way they grew, must be served in an inefficient manner. Did they straighten out a tangle of feeder lines? Or do they not have a grand plan of massively upgrading their engineering and could only make the judgement to splice the lines that existed before the catastrophe?

Saturday, 7 October

Now I can get out my electric chain saw and start to cut up the one tree that fell in our yard. But I burn out the motor almost immediately and go to Mac Blythe's to get a new one. Honest, I would have been in the market for a new saw this month anyway. He mentioned it's a shame I can't wait a couple months as there should be lots of almost new saws for sale in the classifieds.

Saturday, 14 October

The out-of-town utility workers went home last Friday, just in time to give their motel rooms to the race fans. The last of the residences got their power Sunday. I think the Duke Power workers must have just slept this week (and I don't blame them) as they haven't touched the street lights that are out. Some lines that don't serve any customers are still on the ground or hanging low over the streets. A broken pole in the park hasn't been replaced but the lines just run twice as far without support.
Now the lament is the piles of debris at the curb waiting for someone to cart it away. The city estimates that merely hauling and disposing of what three weeks ago was 150,000 of our trees will cost $30 million - our snow removal budget for 100 years! Hopefully federal disaster aid will pay for that but they require the use of private contractors, which means multiple bids, which means more delay. The latest estimate is it will all be gone by spring.
Despite the devastation, I predict that next summer Charlotte will still be known as a city of trees. Some people will curse the tree that knocked down their phone line or put a hole in their roof, but more will replace the gap in their urban forest. An article in the paper was just lamenting the monoculture of Queens Road West's too many pin oaks planted too close together. Maybe we'll have as many trees in more varieties because of Hugo. Come back in 50 years.

Thank goodness for what we did have during these trying times:
* Hot water
* Mild weather
* The Coleman stove
* The kerosene lamp
* Power at work
* The battery TV

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Big Brother may not be watching, but everyone else is.

How paranoid are you?

I used to count on anonymity by obscurity to protect my privacy. I figured I was too boring for anyone to make the effort to track everything I do and profile me. In the less than 10 years since I last said that, it turns out that I am valuable and it is not too difficult to track and correlate every last thing I do.

Know that shopper’s card you use at the grocery or drug store? By watching your purchases, they know how many cats and kids you have, whether you live a healthy lifestyle, and possibly even specific ailments or habits. Meanwhile, your credit card company knows the health of your finances and when you’re away from home as well as how often you eat at McAlister’s and whether your hobbies are gardening or fishing. Your cell phone carrier knows within a few feet where you are as well as having a record of all your calls and copies of your contacts list, txt messages, and photos. Even your belt or shirt (and if Homeland Security gets its wish, your drivers’ license) could be blabbing your position every time you walk in or out of a store through the RFID “inventory control” chip embedded in it.

Modern voluminous databases and large amounts of computing power allow companies to gather all the information they collect and infer the pieces that apply to a single person. They can identify you even if traces don’t share identical identifying information. And then they look for a way to make money off your dossier.

You think it’s great for the grocery to send you a coupon for one oat cereal because you’ve bought another one. The competing manufacturer pays them without knowing who you are. But what if the grocery decided to sell your cigarette purchases to your insurance company?

It should be even scarier online. You’re already plugged into the biggest computer in the world and you are instantly moving from place-to-place. One moment you may be talking to your broker, the next buying a shirt with PayPal, and after that jumping among friends at MySpace.

Who can follow you at the speed of a click? How do they know who you are? Weren’t all those financial transactions protected with https?

Every webmaster knows at least what your personal IP address is, what type of browser you’re using, and where you came from if you clicked a link to get there. If you’ve got cookies on the computer (and you can hardly surf the web without collecting them), they know a lot more about you. By looking your identifiable cookie up in their database, they know everything you’ve told them including possibly your name and address, credit card numbers, and every thing you’ve looked at on their site.

It’s good that the outdoors store reminds you to buy a scarf, saves you having to look up your wife’s shirt size, and doesn’t make you retype your shipping address, right? But what if they give you a list of targets because you just bought a bow and arrow somewhere else? How did they know that?

When a site has an ad on its page, that probably is put there by another company which now has permission to add their own cookie to your gut. Go somewhere else and the same ad server reads its cookie and may have a lot of inferred or specific information from your previous stops. Don’t bother trying to parse their EULA and Privacy Statements – most of them allow free exchange with “affiliated partners.” And they are also permitted to change them on a moment’s non-notice.

A few months ago (,121.0.html) I challenged you to search on a random topic, but warned you not to be signed into your Google account while you did it. Remember that IP address I said all websites can connect to you? The search engines know it too and intentionally save all your searches by your IP address. Their stated purpose is to improve their search algorithms, but there’s a lot of information there. And that information could be available to Google’s subsidiary Doubleclick. Doubleclick is a major provider of targeted display advertising on the net and was one of the early users of the idea to track you with their cookies as you surf to various sites. If you have any account with Google, you are known across all their other subsidiaries from Checkout to Finance to Health to YouTube; it’s all in the same database.

Google is just the goliath for this example; I’m sure everyone else tries to leverage the same technology. AOL knew your identity wherever you went long before Google. Yahoo and Microsoft encourage a single login for all their services. As the old sayings go: you live in a fishbowl; be wary, very wary.


(c) 2008 Bill Barnes
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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Logic and policy - part 2

"The US does not torture."
"Torture is an action that can cause serious injury or death to a prisoner."

If a bad guy believes the stated policies above, then he knows he'll be able to walk away from whatever his American interrogators toss at him. Just put up with a little discomfort and it will all be over with no appendages missing. Simple logic removes the incentive for the adversary to speak.

So, is (waterboarding) torture?

It doesn't matter. Any actions that may appear to be torture won't work, so why bother? The best we can do is lock a suspect up and stop by every couple days to ask "wouldn't you like to go see your family now?"

Near torture by Americans shouldn't be an issue because there's no logical reason to use it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Logic and policy.

Maybe those words don't go together, but you'd think the clever lawyers would take any opportunity to make their point. But then, maybe they don't want their point made.

Our town has a rule that a billboard can't change more than once a day - except for time and temperature. Unfortunately, the billboard companies claim the town doesn't have jurisdiction over state roads; which is just about all the roads that have businesses on them. So; first the "rotating triangle" billboards, and now, partial- or full-video boards are starting to proliferate.

I'm waiting for someone to hold the billboard companies liable for an accident because the driver was distracted by the motion. Their defense will be "our boards aren't a distraction." But I argue that any motion has to be categorized by the driver to decide whether it requires action and thus is a distraction.

Maybe we could compromise that a certain level of motion is not a distraction. Perhaps if the image changes no more than once during the time it typically takes a driver to pass.

But the companies are selling impressions - a car driving by while your ad is displayed. If you say they can only display an average of one ad while a car drives by, then that cuts their impressions by 50% - 75%. And if they are telling their customers that a certain number of people will see their ad, they are selling the fact of driver distraction. Or are they guaranteeing their customers a certain number of babies in their car seats?

The bottom line is: If the billboards aren’t a distraction, they aren’t doing their job. So anyone who has an accident in the presence of a billboard should be able to place some liability on the companies.

(c) 2008 Bill Barnes ... More like this:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

We don't . . . any more

This is a starting point. Feel free to add your comments (they will be moderated). Credit will be given for originality -- skip the obvious (such as the first few).

We don't walk any more.
We drive to the mailbox. We take the elevator to the second floor (if the stairs are even available).

We don't talk any more.
We TXT, we IM, we email, we trade voicemails, we might even "chat" -- but that doesn't mean "talk".

We don't use words any more.
See previous listing. And I'm not necessarily just referring to technical jargon or government acronym-speak, either. To me, most personalized license plates are gibberish and it takes me longer to read an SMS than a page of Dostoyevsky.

We don't type any more.
I used to be a fair typist. I could hit 70 WPM on transcription with keyboard-entered formatting codes. Now I spend most of my time with my right hand on a mouse and my finger on the Ctrl key to copy and paste. I tell my ergonomist that I can't use a "natural" keyboard because I so often work one-handed that I have to stretch my left hand from the shift to a far-right letter. (Don't tell me to get a 15-button mouse. I use too many computers to install customized drivers and then learn a set of non-mnemonic commands. At least MSWord [pre-07] carries most of its customization in a single file.)
Even when I'm coding, which is straight typing without too much thinking, there are too many odd characters for me to get up any real speed.

. . . More to come.

(c) 2008 Bill Barnes ... More like this:

Saturday, August 18, 2007


The doctor gave me a routine that included "Drink x glasses of water a day. Caffeinated drinks don't count toward your requirement." The instructions did not say "avoid caffeine," only caffeine-containing drinks don't count.

Why Is It?

By this criterion, drinking a litre of iced tea (150 mg caffeine after the ice melts) is evil but drinking a mug of coffee (133 mg caffeine) chased by 3/4 litre of is water acceptable.

I have always assumed that whatever nutrients I ate over a short period became effectively integrated into a single dosage in my body.

Caffeine table from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
(c) 2007 Bill Barnes

Sunday, August 12, 2007

More information than I need

My bicycle computer can display the miles I've ridden down to one thousandth of a mile (23.001). But wait a minute. The technology* it uses to measure distance can't measure less than about 7 feet and one thousandth of a mile is about 5-1/4 feet.

So, why do they bother with that last decimal place? I know, the answer is "because they can". The display is wide enough and they want to pretend that they are more accurate than they actually are. But wouldn't it be more honest just to leave it off. I know there's always a rounding error but this seems to gratuitously imply it knows more than it does.

* A bicycle computer measures distance by counting the revolutions of the wheel. Every time a magnet attached to a spoke passes a sensor on the fork, it counts "one". Then the electronics, knowing the distance covered in one revolution of the wheel is PI*diameter, converts revolutions to miles or kilometers. Of course, the computer can be calibrated for different wheel sizes and .001 mi would almost be accurate for a 20" child's bike.

(c) 2007 Bill
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