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Mark de Vos: Interests besides linguistics

  • LaTeX: This wonderful system has saved me thousands of hours that would have been ill-spent typing out bibliographies, adjusting margins and doing, redoing and redoing example numbering.  If you are about to embark on any kind of large-scale writing project (e.g. MA dissertation, PhD thesis, an article or a book) then using LaTeX is really not an option. And it is open-source freeware.

  • John Benjamins is one of those publishers that accept LaTeX documents but doesn't actively support it. After much pain, I have developed a rough-and-ready style to format LaTeX documents into something approximating the John Benjamins style. Contact me if you would like to use it.

  • I'm also rather proud of a sneaky little hack I created to draw labelled, horizontal brackets in syntactic trees. And of course I need to show it off and say, in the words of LaTeXers everywhere: "isn't it beautiful?"


  • Steam Engines: I caught the fever when my Oupa demonstrated a tiny little engine to me when was was virtually a babe in arms. He was probably showing off because Mom and Dad were certainly not around. I was duly impressed when both he and the engine were engulfed in flames. Oupa never demonstrated it again. I've been "designing" steam engines ever since and have always wanted to build one. Actually, I did with everything ranging from paper, plastic, and even metal. None of them worked. Always wanted a steam-powered car.

  • Home-made steam engines that work!: I got a snap-together steam engine from my friends as a graduation present. It works! This inspired me to look out an old engine I built years ago. I could never get it to work. But this time around, with a liberal dosing of silicon lubricant, and swapping the spring with a simple elastic band, it sprang to life. Puff! Puff! Puff! Now I'm going to get to work on that steam-powered car.

  • Netherlands Steam Engine Museum: It should be illegal to close a museum for a whole year!

    guess which one is kit-builtguess which one I built at home



  • Stirling Engines: Just as elegant as steam engines but without the torque. They work by exploiting differences in heat by transferring gas from a heated area (Where it expands) to a cooler area (where it contracts). The engine can run on very small heat differences and is potentially a way of exploiting a relatively low heat yieldfrom biomass and other "green" sources. Stirling engines are potentially the most efficient engines with up to 50% efficiency. They are used for generating power in space and for giving the Swedish Gotland class conventional submarines endurance previously only possible with nuclear power. I would highly recommend this site where there are also lots of nice engines at this site: Lots of animated engines

  • Pulse jets: Another passion. Built one of these too from pipes from the local hardware store, one bicycle (for alternating current: invert bicycle, connect wheel hub to transformer, apply car alternator to the spokes, crank madly), one transformer (for DC current), one bicycle pump, one home-made sparkplug, one hairdryer, one tank of fuel, some tubes. Wow! Result: one foot-long blue flame, no thrust at all, one thrilled little boy. Always wanted a jet-powered car.

  • Neutrinos and particle physics: Merely inspiring. The closest I've come to particle physics -- which is not particularly close-- is when I tried to build a Van de Graaf generator. It didn't work.

  • History of the Neutrino: As a child I was very worried about the monster under the bed which nobody could see but which all the evidence indicated surely MUST exist. I am reassured to see that scientists sometimes have the same problem.

  • Pauli's letter: Bedtime reading while waiting for the monster under the bed to put in an appearance.

  • Particle physics news and resources
    CERN: pictures of the monster under the bed inter alia.

  • Zeppelins: I started building one of these too (a "smaller", scale model of the LZ-127). I calculated that given my weight-to-lift ratio my zeppelin could not be smaller than 3 or 4 meters long. My mother parked the car on it before it could take to the skies.

  • Indian cooking: You don't seriously think I'm going to give you a link to my secret recipes do you?

  • Ballroom dancing: Shall we dance?

  • Sole and Console

  • NETCAT: Netcat is a set of command-line tools I developed to download multiple (text) files from the internet. While doing research on Afrikaans, I wished to compile lists of examples, especially focussing on the informal kinds of usage one might expect in chat forums etc. Lacking access to a full corpus, I decided to compile my own set of texts and NETCAT was the tool I developed to do this for me. A typical procedure might include:

    • very specific internet searches to isolate pages in the language under consideration, extracting the hyperlinks, removing duplicates and known irrelevant links, compiling a batch file to download the text from the pages, removing html markup.
    Netcat facilitates this and you can leave the 'cat to download hundreds of files. Contact me if you would like to use it.
  • PGP: If you don't already know about this, you should. Great fun to play with and extremely useful. Did you know that for a typical 1024-bit PGP message would take about 300 000 000 000 MIPS years to crack? MIPS stands for Millions of Instructions Per Second. A MIPS-year is approximately the amount of computing done by a 1 MIPS computer in one year. Deep Blue, the chess machine that beat Garry Kasparov in 1997, was equivalent to about 3 million MIPS. Simplistically put, It would take Deep Blue 300 000 years to crack a PGP code.

  • Linguistics Society of Southern Africa

  • South African Journal of Linguistics bibtex bst file. The South African Journal of Linguistics (SAJL) is one of those benighted publications that does not accept LaTeX submissions. However, I have hacked another bibliography style file (bst) to more or less fit the SAJL style. It works with protestations.
  • Grahamstown: This is where I'll be so update your mailing lists.


Last Modified :Fri, 15 Jul 2011 15:02:54 SAST