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Odd Lots

  • Our new concrete gets its sealer coat tomorrow, and once it dries it’ll be (finally!) done. I’ll post a photo. So far we think it’s gorgeous.
  • This article has been shared again and again and again on Facebook, and it caught my attention because it echoes something I wrote about in 2009: That because our stuff is lasting longer, we need less stuff, be it forks or cars. And the cars are piling up…or are they? Alas, the article is nonsense (it did smell a little funny to me) and here’s the point-by-point takedown.
  • Here’s the best detailed article on bacteriophage therapy I’ve seen in quite awhile. It’s a hard read, but a good one. Sooner or later, as antibiotics fail us one by one, we’re going to have to go this way. (Phages look very cool, as well.)
  • The scientific method wins again: We thought we knew the physics behind same-material static electricity. We were wrong. Doubt really does lie at the very heart of science, in that if we don’t doubt what we think we know, we have no chance of finding our mistakes.
  • Now that eggs aren’t evil anymore, it’s worth exploring all the various ways to prepare them. If you like hard-boiled eggs, here’s the best explanation I’ve seen of how to boil them so that they’ll peel easily and without divots.
  • Adobe’s Creative Cloud was down for some time. The issue’s been resolved, but it just confirms my ancient suspicion that putting everything on the cloud is a really bad idea. If I can’t access my software, I can’t work. Pretty much end of story.
  • Blue light keeps you awake. Staying awake shortens your life. So as the day winds down, Turn the Damned Thing Off. Then read a book until you’re sleepy. I recommend any substantial history book, with a special nod to histories of the Byzantine Empire. (Thanks to Dermot Dobson for the link.)
  • This is the company that makes the machines that play the songs on ice cream trucks. Or at least the ones in the UK.


  1. Brian Tkatch says:

    I love the links. Thanx.

  2. TRX says:

    > special nod to histories of the Byzantine Empire

    Most of them tend to get too wound up with court politics, but there are a few that do a better job.

    I read a lot of history, and though the Middle Ages isn’t of great interest to me, I thought I had a relatively good outline of major events. In most histories the Church is a big factor in things, so it is referenced often.

    It wasn’t until I picked up a brief history of Byzantium that I had to rearrange just about everything I thought I knew about the period between the latter days of Rome to the Siege of Constantinople. It turned out that *every single one* of the history books I’d previously read – some of them considered “authoritative” – treated the Catholic Church and Greek Orthodox Church as one and the same. And it turned out that Byzantium, far from being a minor player off in the east somewhere, had been a major player in Europe as well.

    A whole lot of things from that era came into better focus.

    The payoff on learning a bit about Byzantium was good. Unlike the payoff for boring through Shirer’s “The Collapse of the Third Republic”…

  3. Don’t read too much into this; “histories of the Byzantine Empire” is a running joke on Contra, and is really about my battle with insomnia since my publishing company disintegrated in 2002. I’ve actually read myself to sleep with other things, like Taylor’s The Fall of the Dynasties and Brueck’s The History of the Catholic Church. It’s not always history, nor even nonfiction; Green Mars works better than Benadryl and maybe Ambien CR, and I got it for a dollar at a rummage sale.

    Many historians are atheists and find religion repellent, which may account for the confusion between the Western and Eastern churches. The difference between the Latin and Greek cultures of that era is subtle but crucial, and some have characterized it as the difference between science and engineering. The Romans were a “whatever works” kind of bunch, and the Eastern Church was a crew of I-dotters and T-crossers who understood their Christian roots and respected them, sometimes (as with Iconoclasm) to deadly extremes.

    I’ve never read Shirer, but now I’m thinking that I should.

  4. TRX says:

    Actually, “The Nightmare Years”, which is an autobiographical account of Shirer’s time as a foreign correspondent in France, China and the Third Reich is pretty good. “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” is “authoritative”, but not bad, considering the amount of material it covers.

    The Third Republic book probably isn’t that bad, but historically it doesn’t connect with much outside France. Though it’s a tediously detailed example of some of the problems of parliamentary democracy; the average term of a French government was something like three months if I remember right. Then they’d get voted out before they got anything done, and three or four different groups rotated through all the top slots like they were on a merry-go-round. And everyone could see the problems with Germany developing, but nobody could stay in power long enough to implement a response.

    As for the historians… regardless of opinions about religion, the Catholic Church was *the* major factor in European history for over a thousand years. To the point where it becomes hard to distinguish Church history from political or military history. Any historian who ignores or slights this loses a lot of credibility in my book.

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