Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

  • Ars has the best article I’ve yet seen on the recent ruling in the Apple ebook price fixing trial. Insight: Publishers get less under agency than they do under wholesale, but they’re willing to accept it to keep control of pricing. Book publishing is a freaky business. This may not work out as planned for the publishers.
  • Also from Ars: Weird search terms that brought readers to the Ars site. I used to publish these too, but I don’t get as many as I once did. Web search has always been a freaky business. I guess the freakiness just wanders around.
  • The sunspot cycle still struggles. Cycle 24 will be freaky, and weak–even with our modern tendency to count spots that could not be detected a hundred years ago.
  • Not news, but still freaky if you think about it: The Air Force tried building a flying saucer in 1956. The aliens are still laughing at us.
  • Actually, the best flying saucers are all triangles. In the greater UFO freakshow, these are by far my favorites.
  • There’s a quirk in the insurance industry that will allow young people to opt out of the ACA and still get health insurance–while paying much less they would buying traditional health policies under ACA. Life insurance policies often allow for accelerated payouts of benefits while the insured is still alive. My insight: Such a policy would be a way to finesse limited enrollment windows by paying for catastrophic care until enrollment opens again. (Which would be no more than ten months max.) And you thought publishing was a freaky business.
  • We thought we knew how muscles work. We were wrong. Human biology is always freakier than we thought.
  • As is washing your hair–in space.
  • Streaming is the ultimate end of the DRM debate. Music, movies, sure. Could one stream an ebook? Of course. Would people accept such a system, or would they freak out? Well, we thought DRM for serial content was dead, too. (Book publishers have become much more aggressive against piracy lately. More tomorrow.)
  • And finally, if you want freaky, consider the humble cicada killer, which vomits on its own head to keep from frying in the summer. We had them living under our driveway in Baltimore. I didn’t know what they were and they scared us a little until I called the county ag agent, who said, “They’re cicada killers, but don’t worry. They’re harmless.” I immediately called Carol at work to give her the good news. The receptionist at the clinic wrote down: “Jeff called. The things living under your driveway are psychotic killers, but don’t worry. They’re harmless.”


  1. Stickmaker says:

    I’m not the first person to note that about the same time the Avrocar was failing, someone independently put an inflatable skirt around a similar vehicle to create the hovercraft.

  2. Ken Dezhnev says:

    “Weird search terms that brought readers to the Ars site.”

    A couple of years ago, looking for background on a science article I had read, I googled the two words ‘oxygen’ and ‘indricotherium’, which I thought would target the search pretty tightly.

    It led me directly (or perhaps via Darwin Central or some such) to a rich vein of socio-political blogs which I actually liked–more than I had ever suspected were in existence. Those two words now sit as talismans at the top of that section of my blog links list.

    One of those sites, Taki’s Magazine, led me to your site. I recognized your name from an early version of your book on DOS (“what is this thing, this Debug?”), which I bought to investigate my new 286 PC. I didn’t carry that investigation very far (too many other fish to fry), but I remembered that it was an excellent book. Discovering your more recent writings was another happy surprise.

    Salutations and regards,

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