Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

  • Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal is out, and hardly anybody’s even mentioned it. Could it be that nobody’s really upgrading every six months anymore? (My workaday Linux system is still running 10.04.) I’m not bullish on Unity, and may reconsider Kubuntu when I set up a GX620-based Linux box in coming weeks.
  • The formidable Al Williams has a three-part series on DDJ explaining how to use the visual tool App Inventor to create Android apps. I have not used App Inventor yet, but Al’s analysis of the challenges of using it (and of visual metaphors for programming generally) are worth reading. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
  • John Scalzi has written a brand new Fuzzies novel. (Not furries, Fuzzies–tiny aliens created by H. Beam Piper.) Scalzi’s good–this one could be fun. I’ve read all the Fuzzies books (by Piper and others) and truly only like Little Fuzzy (the original) and Fuzzy Bones by William Tuning. Fuzzy Sapiens is so-so, and Fuzzies and Other People is so awful that Piper chose not to submit it for publication after he wrote it in 1962. It was found in a box after he committed suicide in 1964, and not published until the late 1980s.
  • Interestingly, most of Piper’s copyrights were not renewed, and a great deal of his work (including Little Fuzzy) is now in the public domain. Go to the “P” author page on Project Gutenberg and scroll down.
  • I heard years ago that armadillos are the only other mammalian species that contracts leprosy, but now there’s evidence that virtually all human cases of the disease (which is vanishingly rare these days) were contracted from them. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • Illinois is banning trans fats in its schools (with a notable exception for doughnuts, how healthy!) but does anyone dare remind them that there is absolutely no trans fat in unhydrogenated lard? In terms of monounsaturated fat (the good fat) lard comes out better than butter, and both are far better than the vegetable oil spreads we call margarine. Funny how the more animal fat I eat, the more animal fat (my own!) that I lose. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the Illinois link.)
  • And the much-reviled Dr. Eades makes the point that Mediterranean people who supposedly take all their foods as olive oil are actually doing a lot of their cooking in animal fats, especially lard. (They export the olive oil to people like us, who think it’s healthier.)
  • This gets an award for something. I’m still not sure what.


  1. Erbo says:

    I’m still running Lucid myself on both Protea and Theometry. It is, after all, one of Ubuntu’s LTS versions, for which they guarantee support for three years. The next one of those will be 12.04 (“Perky Penguin” maybe?), and by then, hopefully they’ll have all the kinks out of Unity and all the other new stuff.

    1. I’ll keep an LTS version handy, but I want to see if Unity is as clumsy as it seems to be from what I’ve read online. So I’ll set Natty up on the GX620 once it gets here.

      I’m wondering if Canonical will use another animal for the “P” release, just to confound expectations.

  2. Lee Hart says:

    On “this gets an award for something”… It looks just like the sort of vehicles our BEST kids build!

    15 years ago, I and some fellow engineers started BEST — Bridging Engineering Science and Teaching (see We go into 4th-6th grade classrooms, and mentor the kids to invent their own go-kart-size electric vehicles. We don’t provide plans, parts kits, or money, and won’t build it for them. Instead, we provide the tools, and show them how to think their way through a complex problem themselves. They set their own goals, design it, model it, scrounge parts, raise money, and build test and drive it themselves!

    They are wonderful contraptions; like Rube Goldberg meets the Little Rascals. We’ve had cars made out of cardboard, cars driven by propellers, self-balancing 2-wheel Segway-like cars, beds on wheels, and cars made from all manner of conglomerations of old bicycle parts and scrap lumber.

    At the end of the school year, all the teams bring their vehicles to Race Day (coming up in just two weeks). We have over a hundred kids participating and ten cars entered so far. There are drag races, slaloms, endurance races, car shows, and technical presentations.

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