Friday WWII Flix “Back to Bataan”

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WWII – I watched another of the old WWII era movies from my collection the other night, “Back to Bataan“. This film was shot in Back & White and was released in 1945. The major stars are John Wayne and Anthony Quinn. The synopsis per IMDB is:

In 1942, after the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese, U.S. Army Col. Joseph Madden stays behind to organize the local resistance against the Japanese invaders.

Some of the scenes represent real events, while others are fictionalized, that occur on Luzon in the Philipines after the islands fell to the Japanese in 1942. This wasn’t a great film but I enjoyed it. The rating on IMDB is 6.7/10, which corresponds to my feelings about it.

Interview with Author Emilia Bernhard

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Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the mystery “Death in Paris”. After I posted my review I contacted the author, Emilia Bernhard, and arranged to interview her.

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Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Bernhard: I don’t think I did realize, really. I always wrote, and at an early age, I was told I was good. Except for about five years when I had the worst and most painful writer’s block imaginable, I don’t think a day went by without my doing some form of writing — I kept a journal, I wrote letters and e-mails, I wrote essays for school and articles after I became a graduate student. And even today I write at least something every day; it would feel odd not to. So I think I was always a writer.

Myself: What is the first piece that you remember writing?

Bernhard: A composition while I was in detention in sixth grade (age 11)!

Myself: What is your academic and work background?

Bernhard: I have a Ph.D., and I work as a lecturer (professor, for Americans) in 19th-century British literature at the University of Exeter, in the UK.

Myself: Do you live there in Exeter?

Bernhard: Yes.

Myself: Do you think that living there has affected your writing?

Bernhard: No. I scarcely even look out a window when I write, except when I stare at nothing while thinking! Lots of good cafes to sit in and revise, though.

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Bernhard: Well, my top hobby is reading. I also love to dance (ballet and tango), and I’m starting to get back into taking ballet lessons after a long gap. And I love going to the cinema or watching films at home. Oh, and I walk twenty-five miles a week, but that’s not a hobby: I do it to lose weight.

Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?

Bernhard: That I’m cute as a button and don’t suffer fools gladly.

Myself: What’s the earliest book you remember reading for yourself?

Bernhard: “The Story of Ferdinand“, by Munro Leaf. I still love it.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Bernhard: I did nothing but!

Myself: What book that you read as a child stands out in your memory?

Bernhard: Hands down the answer here is “Jane Eyre”. I found it on a shelf in my classroom when I was 12 years old. I remember the cover vividly: it was purple, and in the center was a photo of a young woman holding a candle. I think it might have been abridged, because there’s a whole bit in the novel where she lives with some religious cousins, and I don’t remember that being in what I read; I was quite surprised to come across it when I re-read the novel as a young adult. I loved the book. I loved Jane — I was bullied, and I admired her quiet stoicism — and I was much struck by Mrs. Rochester. I still love it as an adult: I think “Reader, I married him,” is one of the most perfect sentences in fiction. And I still think the bit where she lives with the religious cousins could be left out!

Myself: What have you read recently?

Bernhard: Two biographies of Peter Sellers, both of which I put down before finishing — Peter Sellers seems to attract biographers who wish to inject antic wit into their biographies, and that didn’t work for me. Before that, “The Position”, by Meg Wolitzer, and her “The Wife”, which I loved, loved, loved; a biography of the Duchess of Windsor; and a book called “I Was Anastasia” that I picked up at random in the library. I read fast — I average a book in about three days — so I tend to read pretty widely.

Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?

Bernhard: Hmm…I guess I would say “intellectual novel” is my favorite genre if that’s a genre. I like best books in which there is subtext, and/or books that are well written.

I don’t really have a favorite character or author, because my job means I’ve read and taken to my heart so many characters and authors. I’m awfully fond of “David Copperfield”, book and character, and of “Great Expectations”. But a book I’ve turned to again and again when I need a comfort read is Maeve Binchy’s “Light a Penny Candle”. It was her first book, and it’s surprisingly good.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Bernhard: On my sofa or in bed.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?

Bernhard: I absolutely prefer paper to any other format. Every time I open a book, even if I’m just idly looking at it, the first thing I do is smell it. You can’t do that with an e-reader, or with audiobooks! I love the different smells and feels of different papers, so paper reading is the one for me. I do listen to audiobooks, usually when I’m doing something that requires my hands, and I have read eBooks — but my issue with them is that I’ve already forked out for the Kindle, so I’m not going to fork out again for books to read on it — so the Kindle is just for books that are free to download.

Myself: What books do you recommend to others? Give as gifts?

Bernhard: I give “Jane Eyre” to every twelve- or thirteen-year-old girl I know well enough to give a gift to, and I’ve been recommending “The Wife” all over the place. Aside from that, I tend to try to suit the recommendation to the person. Tell me what you’re like, and I’ll tell you what you might like…

Myself: Why do you write?

Bernhard: For me, that’s like asking, Why is hair? I just do.

Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Bernhard: I’m still not really sure I do! My best friend pressured me to submit a novel to agents, and that’s the only reason I got this book published. Sometimes I think there’s nothing wrong with just writing for the pleasure of it, but then sometimes I think there’s no point in writing without an audience reading.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Bernhard: My father, without a doubt. He read everything I wrote until I finished my first academic book, and without him, I wouldn’t be the writer I am. Then there’s a whole host of writers I’ve read and admired: they all sit around in my head and occasionally inspire a joke or the structure of a sentence or scene.

Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Bernhard: It’s just whatever feels right. Although they seem always to include a murder, and that’s been true since I was in college thirty years ago.

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Bernhard: Well, the idea for this novel, “Death in Paris”, came because I wanted to have someone drown in his soup. I thought the “died in his sleep/soup” confusion was very funny (sadly, I still do), and so I built from that line; I made up a story that would connect to that line. The idea for the mystery itself came from a very old murder that’s always seemed odd to me.

More generally, I would have to say I don’t know where my ideas come from. Sometimes I’ll just have a set-up (“two brothers”) that pops into my head, or there’ll be an idea (“jealousy”) and I build a story around it.

I don’t believe in inspiration as an outside force that descends, but I do believe we have a lot of things roiling around in our subconscious-es and unconscious-es, and sometimes something randomly comes bobbing to the top, entering the conscious mind — I’d call that inspiration, and I think it’s where my ideas come from.

Myself: Where do you do your writing? Why there?

Bernhard: I write on a desk I bought from Ikea that is essentially a long piece of wood laid across two trestles. I have desk daydreams; I fantasize about a desk that’s as long as an upended door — maybe even longer! — with a center drawer for my pencils and some paper and a pale wood smooth surface. I’m pretty sure that’s my ideal desk because it suggests a kind of blank emptiness, which I find intensely soothing but very rarely encounter in my home. Oh, and I turn the desk either so it faces a window or so it’s at right angles to it because I love natural light and like to glance out the window at the sky while I’m writing.

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Bernhard: Well, because I have another job that’s very intensive in fall, winter, and spring, I generally write my first drafts in the summer. Academics are working all the time, but in the summer the work we’re expected to do is research and writing. So I fit writing my initial drafts around the academic writing I do in the summer. Because I can do the revisions in little chunks, I do it during the school year, for between an hour and two hours a day.

Myself: As a part-time writer how do you fit writing into your daily schedule?

Bernhard: Well, I have no family. As Joan Baez said, “I am made to live alone.” And I realized early on that I don’t have the temperament to be a mother, so I’m not one. This makes it much easier to write, but of course, I still have a job. So I set myself a low goal, 1,000 words a day, and I try to stick to it even on work days. I’m most awake in the evening and at night, so I’ll usually do the 1,000 words then. Some days it takes an hour; some days it takes much time and hair-pulling. And some days I don’t make it, which is fine. But I do write at least one paragraph a day.

Myself: About how long does it take you to complete the first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Bernhard: First draft – six weeks to five months. Revisions take much, much longer — up to three or four years. And it’s still never perfect.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?

Bernhard: An ENORMOUS amount. I look up everything I don’t know. For my first mystery, I read up on French law, the structure of the French police, and even the architectural history of Paris. And I use Google Maps obsessively. Walking the streets via Google Satellite is hugely useful to me.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Bernhard: Just a Macbook and a pencil, a red pen, and paper.

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Bernhard: The hardest thing about writing is writing the first draft and trying to remember, while doing so, that the awful and inadequate glop you are producing will NOT be the finished product — trying to remember that this is how first drafts always are, and they always get better.

The easiest thing about writing is not doing it! Someone once said that the only thing writers like better than writing is finding ways to avoid writing, and that’s 100% true in my case. There’s always something to tidy, or organize, or watch on TV, or laundry to do or a cup of tea to make, that can delay sitting down to write. I don’t think this is out of fear of the blank page; I think in my case it’s out of fear of the hard work. Almost anything seems smaller than the production of good writing does.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Bernhard: You don’t need to be published to be a writer; look at Emily Dickinson.

You shouldn’t look to other people to validate your writing, but you must be the harshest critic to yourself that you can be, no matter how good you think you are: always question all your judgments and every word (except maybe the prepositions).

Don’t wait for inspiration. Write every day, even if it’s just a little bit because writing is a job like any other: the more you do it, the better you get.

First drafts are horrible, and the experience of writing them is horrible. The revision is where you make it good. My father always said, “The first time, you don’t have to get it right; you just have to get it down.”

About 80 to 90% of what you write in your early drafts will be bad. If you write one good sentence in the early days, you’re winning.

Don’t put anything in a story or novel that isn’t in the service of that story or novel, unless you’re just writing for yourself (which is fine; see my first piece of advice).

Cut cut cut cut cut cut cut.

Revel in the pleasure of writing. In those rare moments when you feel like it’s all going perfectly, enjoy it! Enjoy, too, the extraordinary fun of being able to create a complete world, with complete people performing actions. And enjoy making your writing better. Never underestimate the power of the right revision.

Never stop writing to make mayonnaise or open a bottle of wine. Robert Louis Stevenson stopped in the middle of a sentence in order either to make mayonnaise for his lunch or (depending on the story) to open a bottle of wine for his lunch. He had a brain hemorrhage and died while doing that, and he never finished the sentence. Or the book it was in.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Bernhard: A mystery, “Death in Paris”, and a scholarly book about Lord Byron’s philosophy of knowledge, “The Development of Byron’s Philosophy of Knowledge: Certain in Uncertainty”. Also a number of academic articles.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Bernhard: I’m working on my second mystery, tentatively titled “The Books of the Dead”.

Myself: What else would you like to share?

Bernhard: Three things come to mind:

  1. Donald Trump is a dangerous idiot who is peddling a fantasy of power to people who feel powerless. Please don’t vote Republican now.
  2. Age can bring a depth of understanding and feeling that is to be welcomed. Youth is often over-rated.
  3. The voices of the seemingly ordinary and uninteresting are fascinating and deserve to be written and heard — the complexity and bravery of a life occur inside, not necessarily in large actions and demonstrations.

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Bernhard: I have a Facebook author page: Emilia Bernhard Author Page. I’m also on Twitter: my name is @1LaMew. They can follow me on Instagram at emilia_bernhard. Or they can contact me via the University of Exeter.

Study Shows Dark Roast Coffee Helps to Protect Your DNA

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Coffee – I came across an article a short time ago that gave further reasons to drink coffee. In the study “Consumption of a dark roast coffee blend reduces DNA damage in humans: results from a 4-week randomised controlled study” published in the European Journal of Nutrition helps protect your DNA.

In this test, participants were split into one group that drank water and another that drank coffee. At the end of a month, those who had been drinking the coffee had fewer breaks in their DNA strands. The official conclusion of the test:

Our results indicate that regular consumption of a dark roast coffee blend has a beneficial protective effect on human DNA integrity in both, men and women.

Just one more test that indicates that drinking coffee in reasonable amounts is good for you.

Mac Accessories – Sutter Slim Backpack

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Product Announcements WaterField Designs, a San Francisco designer and manufacturer of custom laptop sleeves, bags and device-specific cases, introduces the Sutter Slim Backpack, a lightweight, executive-style pack for work or travel. The meticulously-designed laptop backpack includes padded compartments for both a MacBook Pro and iPad and evenly-distributed pockets to balance the load for comfort and efficiency. With its sleek, streamlined aesthetic, the Sutter Slim Backpack is the ideal bag to carry a day’s work essentials. Customers who order the Slim through January 31 will receive a complimentary WaterField Tech Pocket.

“When gathering customer input for WaterField’s recent Sutter Tech Sling crowdsourced-design project, it became clear that there’s a strong need for a lightweight, executive backpack to carry a day’s work and tech gear,” explained owner Gary Waterfield. “The Slim’s weight-balanced design makes efficient use of space. No matter how much you stuff the bag, it keeps its svelte shape and remains comfortable on your back.”

Highly-functional features enhance the comfort and sleek styling of the Sutter Slim Backpack:

  • Two plushly-padded compartments cushion up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
  • Rear panel slides over wheeled-suitcase handles for hands-free airport navigation.
  • Efficiently-placed pockets in distinct zones prevent bulging and ensure a balanced carry.
  • YKK waterproof zipper secures exterior top pocket for ultra-convenient, quick access, especially when the bag is set down or resting on suitcase handles.
  • Interior open-topped pockets organize tech accessories.
  • Swing-around front pocket, accessible from either side with the bag still on one shoulder, lies behind a full-grain leather panel that extends beyond the zippers to protect contents from the elements.
  • Key fob inside the front pocket allows quick key retrieval without fully removing the bag.
  • Gold, water-resistant liner lights up the interior for increased visibility.
  • Stiffened side and bottom panels prevent sagging and help keep bag more upright when set down.
  • Ergonomic, padded shoulder straps and rear mesh padding enhance comfort and airflow.
  • Comfortable leather handle facilitates an easy grab-and-go from a car seat or overhead bin.
  • Rugged tan waxed canvas or black ballistic nylon with a premium full-grain leather panel presents a look that will upgrade any wardrobe.

Early adopters who order the new Sutter Slim Backpack by January 31, 2019, will receive a matching complimentary Tech Pocket. WaterField’s newest gear pouch, the Tech Pocket organizes the frequently-used, small tech gear ubiquitous in today’s digital society. Lined with super-soft, almost cashmere-like padding, the case closes with a silent, snap-shut magnet. The main compartment and two internal pockets organize dongles, adapters, keys, an iPhone and more. A front pocket for additional accessories closes with a self-locking YKK zipper. Loops at either end of the case can attach to a strap or carabiner.

Pricing and Availability:
The Sutter Slim Backpack:

  • Price: $229
  • One size: 15.5 x 11.5 x 3.75 inches; 2.2 lbs.
    Colors and materials: Tan waxed canvas with distressed, full-grain chocolate leather panel or black ballistic nylon with full-grain black leather panel.
  • Padded laptop compartment: fits up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro or 15-inch Surface Book.
  • Padded tablet compartment: fits up to a 13-inch iPad or Surface Pro.
  • Pre-order now. Shipping begins February 1, 2019.

The Tech Pocket

  • Price: $49. (Complimentary with Sutter Slim Backpack orders through January 31, 2019.)
  • Colors: Tan waxed canvas or black ballistic nylon.
  • Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.75 inches; 2.5 oz.
  • Available now.

Book Review: “The Iron Codex”

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Book Reviews – “The Iron Codex” eBook was published in 2019 and was written by David Mack (http://davidmack.pro). Mr. Mack has published nearly 40 novels. This is the second novel in his “Dark Arts” series.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Language. The story is set the contemporary time frame, but in a slightly alternate world, one with magic. The primary character is Russian Anja Kernova who has been hunting former Nazis in South America.

There are three other principal characters: The American Cade Martin who works for British MI6, but who is now under suspicion because he has been disappearing;  The German Briet Segfrunsdóttir who now serves as the master magician of the Pentagon’s top-secret magickal warfare program; and the Spanish Father Luis Roderigo Pérez of the Monte Paterno Monastery who has been studying White Magic for the Catholic Church.

World War II has been over nearly a decade. Kernova is using her abilities to hunt Nazis. She comes into possession of the Iron Codex that contains many magical secrets. That causes her to be the target of pursuit by agents of the Vatican, Russia, and others. Complicating the situation is the effort by a cabal led by Dragan Dalca to open the way for demons.

Kernova calls on Martin for help. Both Segfrunsdottir and Pérez are drawn into the fray on the side of Kernova. There are many competing groups all wanting to control the Iron Codex for different agendas.

I enjoyed the 12 hours I spent reading this 375-page alternate history fantasy. I found this novel a little hard to read without having read the first novel in the series, but it wasn’t too bad. I thought that the plot was interesting, mixing magic and spies. I like the chosen cover art. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

Further book reviews I have written can be accessed at https://johnpurvis.wordpress.com/blog/. 

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Study Shows Robots Becoming​ Less Popular

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Robots – The study “Are robots becoming unpopular? Changes in attitudes towards autonomous robotic systems in Europe” focusing on interviews of the participants was conducted in the European Union between 2012 and 2017. The study examined the changing attitude of the participants toward robots. More than 80,000 participants from 27 different countries were included in the study.

The highlights of the results:

  • Attitudes towards robots became more negative between 2012 and 2017
  • Attitudes towards robots assisting at work showed the strongest negative trend
  • Women with lower education evaluated robots more negatively
  • Countries with a larger share of older citizens evaluated robots more favorably.

The participant’s negative attitudes toward robots seem to correlate with the degree of interaction they have with them. Criticism of robots increased as the participants became more familiar with the robot. This seemed to occur regardless of how ‘human-like’ the robots look.

In the five years of the study, the attitudes of the participants took a definite negative turn. The big question is what is this going to mean in the years ahead? As more and more robots enter the workplace will this attitude change for the better or will the negative feelings continue to increase.

macOS New App Release – File Extractor 1.0

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Product Announcements – Independent developer Mac OS X File Recovery of Auckland, New Zealand has released File Extractor 1.0, their new file extraction utility for macOS computers. The app offers users the ability to extract files embedded inside other files, such as PDFs, DMG disk images, and many other files formats. File Extractor can recover over 100 different file formats.

File Extractor can extract text files, graphics images, individual files, and other types of files embedded in any blob of data. Once the files have been scanned, users can select the files they’d like to recover with just a few clicks of their mouse. The app uses state-of-the-art algorithms to extract data, even from third-party formats that might otherwise be inaccessible.

“File Extractor is the result of five years of development, which resulted in bulk data recovery software that was purchased and used by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),” says Mac OS X File Recovery CEO Ben Slaney. “While there are competitors on the market, they are slower, and their results are nowhere near as robust.”

The app is an excellent utility for use when the need arises to extract data from files, browser caches, DMG disk images, and other data sources. Users will find File Extractor especially helpful when attempting to extract files from those pesky third-party file formats.

File Extractor uses state-of-the-art algorithms designed to extract data from any type of file. Users will be surprised at the quantity, quality, and types of data the app will extract from source files. All extracted text is saved as “Raw Text (Plain)” files, meaning they can be read in any plain text editor, like the macOS TextEdit app.

Deleted files can be recovered from disk images created using Disk Utility, as the app can scan deleted files from the disk image. The feature can also be used with SD cards, hard drives, and other media types. (On .DMG files created from a digital camera’s memory card (using Disk Utility) users can recover deleted files from their camera or recover files if the card becomes corrupted.)

File Extractor can scan:

  • PDF files (extracts both text and images)
  • Graphics images (it can extract separate images contained in them (such as PSD files))
  • Disk images (with the .dmg extension) to recover deleted files
  • Any large complex filetype. For example, JPG files embedded in Photoshop documents
  • Browser caches. Users can view the files they contain using File Extractor
  • Corrupted documents for information that can be salvaged

“I believe users will be amazed at the files they can extract and recover by using File Extractor,” continues Ben. “The app is the ultimate file extraction utility, easily outperforming any of the competitors available for the macOS operating system on the market today. I can’t wait to hear how our users take advantage of its power!”

Device Requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.7 or later (macOS Mojave compatible)
  • 64-bit processor
  • 2.0 MB

Pricing and Availability:
File Extractor 1.0 is only $14 USD (or an equivalent amount in other currencies) and is available worldwide exclusively through the publisher’s website. A free trial download is also available.

macOS New App Release – SwiftCapture 1.2

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Product Announcements Ben Software of London, United Kingdom has released SwiftCapture 1.2, a major update to the high-performance video capture application for the Mac. SwiftCapture’s powerful features and intuitive user interface allow users to create high-quality video recordings, time-lapse captures and stop-motion movies from a variety of video and audio input devices.

SwiftCapture supports any video input device that works on a Mac, including built-in FaceTime and iSight cameras, USB webcams and the popular Blackmagic range of devices for analog, HDMI and SDI input.

The main features of SwiftCapture are as follows:

  • Supports any Mac-compatible video input, including Blackmagic devices
  • Supports any Mac-compatible audio input
  • Records standard MOV and MP4 movie files, which have a wide compatibility
  • Timelapse and stop-motion capture features
  • Hardware-accelerated video encoding
  • Easy image capture, including copy-and-paste and drag-and-drop
  • Image adjustments: brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness
  • Ability to add a text overlay, for example, date and time
  • Applescript control for automation

New features in this version are as follows:

  • Compatible with macOS 10.14 “Mojave”
  • More reliable audio capture from Blackmagic devices
  • Improved video frame timings from Blackmagic devices
  • Automatic video format detection for Blackmagic devices
  • Improved audio/video synchronization
  • Efficiency improvements resulting in lower CPU usage
  • AppleScript enhancements
  • Bug fixes

Pricing and Availability:
SwiftCapture costs GBP 29 (approx. USD $38) for a single-user license and GBP 399 (approx. USD $530) for a site license through the website. A 30-day fully-functional trial version of SwiftCapture is available for download.

EM Drive Does Not Perform well in Tests

Propulsion – I have been watching the stories in the media on the EM Drive for a while now. If you are new to this, the EM Drive is a resonant cavity thruster. In simple terms, it is an electrically powered thruster that requires no fuel. It was proposed by Roger Shawyer in 2001. Most consider the EM Drive to be impossible as it defies currently known physics.

Previous tests of an EM Drive prototype by NASA showed some success. The EM Drive was subjected to more strict testing by a team at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany led by Martin Tajmar. They presented their results at the Aeronautics and Astronautics Association of France’s Space Propulsion conference on May 16, 2018. Their tests are not supportive of the claims made for the EM Drive.

The results presented by Tajmar is reviewed in the video above by Scott Manley. Tajmar and his team had not totally given up on the EM Drive at the time of their report. They plan further testing, but the prospect of this being the solution to propulsion hoped for is dim.

References:

  1. ‘Impossible’ EM drive doesn’t seem to work after all
  2. EmDrive: Not Quite (Yet?) the Answer to Space Travel