Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

  • The mysterious X-37B has returned to Earth after 468 days in space, evidently without a scratch. One of the comenters on the many space hobby sites I read suggested something interesting: The spacecraft might be considered a “retrievable satellite” that can stay in orbit for years at a time, then shimmy down the gravity well for a refurb when necessary before being launched to orbit again. (Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.)
  • The secret to an successful programming language may be a good…beard.
  • Here’s a nice, short, practical piece on password security. In case you haven’t heard yet, a long password of concatenated plain English words (“correct horse battery staple“) is better than a shorter password of unmemorizable gibberish.
  • Why 419 scam emails claim to be from Nigeria and are written idiotically, as they’ve been for years’n’years: It’s a stupidity filter. Only the spectacularly gullible would now reply to one, which maximizes the chances that the respondents will actually fall for the scam. Damned clever, these Nigerians.
  • Here’s yet another assault on wine snobbery.
  • I’m closing in on 60, and in my life have known a fair number of redheads. Not one of them would I describe as “fiery.” Not one. The cliche has become widespread enough that we recently discussed it as such in our writing group. (Most of my heroines have black hair, which seems more exotic to me.) Now that Pixar has anointed the cliche in a new film (rough language alert) might we hope that redheads will now be given some slack? (At least it’s a film in which the folks with Scots accents are actually Scottish.)
  • Speaking of redheads…there is some science now suggesting that the Neanderthals may have been gingers.
  • Speaking of Neanderthals…in my note-taking for a possible novel called The Gathering Ice, I suggested that Neanderthals (who hide in plain sight, and have done so for 50,000 years) refer to themselves as “the Uglies” and to the rest of us as “the Saps.” Now I learn that Graham Hancock uses “the Uglies” to describe the Neanderthals in his 2010 novel, Entangled. Bummer.
  • Double bummer: There is a YA teen series called The Uglies. Not about Neanderthals, though. Still, having twice been outgunned on the term, I’m considering renaming my Neanderthals “the Plugs.” Could work.
  • The anomalous cold snap called the Younger Dryas 12,000 years ago figures into the backstory of my Neanderthal yarn. It’s still unexplained, as this article maintains, but it sure looks like a phase-transition stutter to me, as Earth’s climate was changing from its cold state to its warm state. I’ve often wondered if we are now in the thick of a phase transition from the climate’s warm state to its cold state. (Such a stutter is the main gimmick in The Gathering Ice.)
  • This was utterly news to me: Parts of New York City have a vacuum-driven garbage-collection system that literally sucks trash through pipes under the streets to a central disposal location–and has had it for 35 years.
  • The email subject read “Your parcel is expecting of receiving.” Its parcel was expecting of delivering trojan. My delete was delivering of action. Alreet!


  1. Gary M. Mugford says:


    An idea about The Uglies. All races have their own concept of beauty and I think the hide-in-plain-sight Neanderthals might very well call themselves “The Beautiful People,” (later Beeps for a corruption of Beautiful People) with nary a hint of irony. The non-Beautiful People? The Herd. The Disadvantaged. The Puglies. The Noise. Humanity. Ugh!!!

    Just an idea to throw into your percolator.

    Keep posting, GM

    1. Considering themselves the Uglies is a vital component of their survival strategy: Melt in with human (“Sap”) culture, and recognize that the huge herd that you’re hiding in considers you the outliers on the looks spectrum. It’s an inside joke to them, and they are very good with humor. They have some interesting powers that make them seem a little alien once you get to know them. They’re not that big on sex, and plan their family tree generations in advance. They can factor enormous numbers in their heads. They have an internal compass that gives them a sense of absolute direction. Their children walk at nine weeks or sooner. (Then again, their women are pregnant for thirteen months.) What they are not is a bunch of scratching hairy apelike dolts, like the cavemen you see in popular culture. They’re good with that…in fact, they originated that trope, and carefully foster it.

      The concept has to grow for a couple of years still, but when I’m done with a few other items on the fiction side, I’ll start writing some scenarios and maybe short stories, as I did with the Drumlins world.

  2. Erbo says:

    Re: black hair being “exotic”…I knew a girl back in college who was half-Japanese, half-Irish. She had long black hair…and freckles. Smart girl, too. She’d qualify as a good heroine.

  3. Linda says:

    I think I will ask Judy to reply about the red heads!

  4. Stickmaker says:

    In an unsold novel I wrote about twenty years ago, Neanderthals were called “Andys” and modern humans “Saps.” So it seems to be a not uncommon meme. (The main biological difference turned out to be that the Andys were smarter but more tightly bound by instinct. This created some interesting cultural differences.)

    Oh, and I have black hair with red highlights. 🙂

    Rodford E. Smith

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