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Odd Lots


  1. Tom R. says:

    Welcome back to Conta Jeff! Some of us were beginning to worry!

    1. Negotiating a difficult book contract. In truth, I don’t have a lot of long-form topics to discuss right now, at least ones that wouldn’t get me in a certain amount of trouble. But I’m still out here, chewing through books, watching sunspots, studying health insurance and climate (see what I mean?) and trying to enjoy a glorious if slightly damp Colorado summer. When I’m quiet, it usually means I’m busy, or else sick. Not sick this time. (Except a little, at the appalling behavior at my miserable excuse for a college…)

  2. Re: Cyanoacrylate fuming: Also, don’t overheat it. I’ve read that causing the liquid glue to combust releases the cyanide gas in it.

  3. Rich Rostrom says:

    This explains how this $55M giveaway was pushed through the City Council.

    1. I got several “How can you be so angry at your college!” letters this morning, and your link is certainly helpful as an answer. Thanks. De Paul should have told the city to go take their money and spend it on public education, not build a new stadium for the use of a private university that already has one. I may have to post a more detailed response when time allows.

      In the meantime, I’m trying to find out how deep De Paul was in the process leading up to the midnight coup. I don’t think they were passive bystanders, mouths agape at a completely unexpected turn of events. No, I’m thinking they were in it up to their eyebrows.

  4. “People are posting idiotic Facebook memes…” Film at 11.

  5. A. Druid says:

    Alliance, Nebraska = Carhenge! You bet I’ll be there. (Only sorry it won’t be this year… I read it too fast the first time)

    1. I would be honored to meet you there, if not before. I’m thinking of putting a private email list together for the project. Suss out my email and send me a note if you want to take part.

  6. Denis R. says:

    After I got my Masters from DePaul I was inundated
    by phone calls from the school asking for money donations.
    The callers were all enthusiastic young kids by the sounds
    of their voices, so I really didn’t enjoy finally saying to one of
    them “Look, I HATE DePaul”. The school is a sausage factory
    barely above a “franchise education” diploma mill and the administration are a bunch cruel phonies feathering their nests.

    They stopped calling. Some classes were great, some instructors truly gifted, but I think the place is a cynical mockery of their putative “Vincentian Ideals”.

    1. They still call me. I’m not sure what to say to those bright young begging voices, asking me to contribute to “the community.” If I ever got the ear of a high-level administrator, you can bet I would give him or her a carefully composed earful.

      I graduated in 1974, having enjoyed a handful of brilliant teachers (Patricia Ewers, Rachel Romano, Raymond Wilding-White and John Price) and a pompous mob of third-shelf poseurs. My father was dying and I was growing up more or less on my own. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, having failed out of engineering school without a Plan B, and those knuckleheads who didn’t push me toward secondary education thought I would be brilliant in law school. Not once, not once did anyone there suggest that I could build a career in publishing.

      My liberal education is thus very spotty. Literature (Ewers, Romano, Price) ace. Music (Wilding-White) ace. Philosophy, psychology, sociology, teaching, uggh. I became an autodidact because it was literally the only other option. I don’t think they taught me how to teach myself so much as forced me to. However and whyever the lesson got learned, it got learned, and it was almost certainly the most important thing I learned, there or anywhere else.

      1. Tom R. says:

        Many people never learn that the real purpose of higher education is for you to learn to keep learning forever without having to be spoon feed.

        Even though I was stubborn and finally got a degree in engineering in 1970 the world changed so fast that most of what I did after that was things I learned on my own. Much of which was not even related to engineering, but learning to work with people.

        1. A lot of people are surprised to learn that I don’t have a CS degree because I was a programmer for six years, including Z80 and x86 assembly. (The rest was in peculiar Xerox in-house languages, BASIC, and COBOL. I had access to Smalltalk on an Alto, but that was pure fun and unrelated to my job.)

          Computing (especially low-level computing) has gotten spectacularly complex since 1985, and I don’t think I could have pulled that off in the current day. Branch prediction, egad.

          1. William Meyer says:

            I was a college dropout. I am self taught in analog video, and video systems design. I then taught myself digital logic design, with a big hat tip to Don Lancaster. From there, I tinkered with the Jolt, but then bought an IMSAI kit. Learned 8080 (briefly) and Z80 assembler with some help from a friend who was a Berkley grad. Found UCSD Pascal, cursed it a lot. Bought Turbo Pascal 1.0 for the Z80, and never looked back. I still enjoy assembler on small processors, but won’t even look at Intel syntax, much less the complexities that model brings along.

        2. William Meyer says:

          My mother used to say that the most important thing to learn in college was a sense of how much you don’t know, and the second most important was how and where to find reliable answers when the need arises.

          These days, I would add that college should (since secondary schools no longer do) teach competence in writing and speaking skills.

      2. Rich Rostrom says:

        “I graduated in 1974, having enjoyed a handful of brilliant teachers (Patricia Ewers, Rachel Romano, Raymond Wilding-White and John Price) and a pompous mob of third-shelf poseurs.”

        De Paul is also a stronghold of the usual left-wing claptrap. Some years back I went there to protest an appearance by the infamous Ward Churchill; they also employed anti-Israel “scholar” Norman Finkelstein.

        “those knuckleheads … thought I would be brilliant in law school.”

        Or at least pay a whole lot of tuition. Maybe not then, but in the 90s and 00s, De Paul was a happy particiipant in the law school bubble.

        And of course they have an MBA mill.

  7. RH in CT says:

    The Sun’s Magnetic Field is about to Flip

    August 5, 2013: Something big is about to happen on the sun. According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun’s vast magnetic field is about to flip.

    “It looks like we’re no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal,” says solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University. “This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system.”

    It seems to me that an event like that might upset that solar cycle you mentioned.

    1. Actually, field reversals of that sort happen at some point during every 11-year (or thereabout) solar cycle, usually at or just after the sunspot peak. It’s nothing unusual, though as with all massively complex systems (stars, the human body, climate) it’s not easy to predict anything with precision.

      There’s a graph on solar field reversals on another aggregation of NASA’s article:

      What’s far more interesting to me is the gradual decay of the intensity of the field with each successive peak. (See the graph in the article above.) Solar activity has been on a general downswing for the past few cycles, and given the weakness of Cycle 24, many think that Cycle 25 will be a new record weak cycle. Quite apart from 6 meters being dead as a doornail, there may be implications for long-term climate trends. I watch this solar data page, and recommend it:

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