Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

  • Verizon refuses to stop using tower-side cookies (which can’t be deleted by mobile device users) even as AT&T has caved on the issue. The solution is to stop using Verizon. That’s what Carol and I are about to do.
  • Relax. Microsoft did not pull the plug on Win7 updates on 1/13. That won’t happen until 2020. What’s going away are new OS features and phone support, two things I don’t think the world desperately needs.
  • I like molten lava as much as the next guy. (Just wait until you read my novella Firejammer, coming out–finally–this spring.) That said, I’m not sure I like it quite this much…
  • With January only half over, the Great Lakes ice cover is now up to 34%. Lake Erie has pretty much iced over completely.
  • Britain’s Royal Society has published some evidence that people born during solar maxima do not live as long as people born during solar minima. It may be folate depletion by UV. Or something else. However, the correlation appears to be real. (Thanks to Neil Rest for the link.) Carol and I are solar minima babies, whew.
  • Discovered two very good red wines recently: Menage a Trois Red, and Menage a Trois Midnight. Both are dry reds, both are fruit-forward, and (in contradiction of the vintner’s Web writeups) neither has any detectable oak. I guess if you’re going to get the hipster market you have to claim oak, even if you lie about it. In this case, nothing of value was lost.
  • I doubt that my readers are dumb enough to think you can lose weight by ingesting chemistry sets like Slim-Fast. But just in case, read what Tom Naughton says about recent diet rankings in content-free publications like US News. Hint: The same doofi who bleat endlessly against “processed foods” (which now means “any foods I don’t like”) are endorsing fructose cocktails like Slim-Fast over Atkins and paleo.
  • Popular Mechanics lists the 14 best cities in America for startups. None are in Silicon Valley, and all are in relatively low-cost areas. Maybe hipster city cachet is finally starting to lose its cachet. Or so we can hope.
  • Lots has happened in CPU architectures since the 1980s, when a lot of us learned it. (I started a little earlier, but the IBM PC brought most of us to a new starting gate at the same time.) Here’s a decent summary. One consequence of all this is that human-written assembly language is less of a win over compilers, and the best reason to learn assembly these days is to understand what your damned compilers are up to in there.
  • Before he broke into the SF business, Keith Laumer was an ace model airplane designer. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • Physically small, fanless PCs have been around for awhile, and I was bullish on them until I began using Dell USFF (ultra-small form factor) machines like the Optiplex 780, which are pretty small and almost entirely silent. Should we settle for 1.6 GHz? Only if there’s a specific application in mind, like education (think RPi) or embeddedness.
  • Bill Cherepy sends us news of a thermostatic butter keeper that can keep a stick of butter (block? It’s a form factor we don’t make in the US) at any arbitrary temp from 15 to 23 degrees C. Butter is definitely coming back into its own, bravo halleluia!


  1. Tom Roderick says:

    Wow, did people born during the Maunder Minimum live forever? Now there is a plot device for you Jeff!

    The butter keeper is really interesting. I have been making the switch to butter from margarine and I can really taste the difference. However, if I forget to take it out of the fridge soon enough it is like a brick, even if not in that form. I would like to see one for the stick form we get in the US, but it almost looks like one could put a couple of half sticks in the brick model keeper.

    I have played around with those thermoelectric modules and have always been intrigued by their ability to heat or cool either side depending on polarity. They do suck up some current though.

    My grandparents used nothing but butter (and lard for pastry) and I seem to remember them buying it in sort of round “wheels” wrapped in a waxed paper.

  2. Erbo says:

    Minecraft players know that molten lava is good for making obsidian, which you need to build a Nether portal. Those using the IndustrialCraft 2 mod also know that it makes a good power source, when fed into a geothermal generator. Just be careful not to fall into it…

  3. TRX says:

    Though I was a voracious SF reader, I actually encountered Laumer’s model airplane book before his fiction.

    A homebuilt glider also featured in “The Great Time Machine Hoax.”

    1. I discovered Laumer when I was 13, and the hardcover edition of The Great Time Machine Hoax listed some of his earlier publications, including his model airplane book. I looked for it in a couple of Chicago public libraries, but never found it. (I had done model airplanes for a couple of years prior to that time.) Ditto his short novel Greylorn which was one oif his earliest publications. Never found it until the Internet era. May order the airplane book just to have it on my shelf. Laumer was formative in my early career as a writer.

  4. Jonathan O'Neal says:

    I have been using a powerless butter keeper (aka “butter bell”) for years, with good effect. It can keep a full stick’s worth of butter at room temperature for several weeks (actually, that’s what the manufacturer claims; I’ve never come close to keeping a stick that long, nor have I had any mold or rot issues), assuming you freshen the water every few days. It’s basically a ceramic bell you fill with butter, then store it inverted in a ceramic base containing a small amount of water. The butter is hydrophobic, so the water has no effect other than to create a very effective barrier to bacteria. And let me tell you, room temperature butter spreads very nicely, even nicer than those oleaginous butter substitutes.

    Here is an image of how they work.

    1. We’ve had no trouble with spoilage just leaving the butter on the kitchen island in a conventional covered butter dish. Butter, like coconut oil, is robust. We finish a stick in about five days, depending on what we’re cooking, and in Colorado, at least, it doesn’t melt like butter did in Arizona. If we get a place in Phoenix I will have to think about a butter cooler.

  5. Ed says:

    William Briggs was unimpressed by the solar cycle link….

    1. Thanks for that. Let me read the item closely. I’ll include it in my next Odd Lots, and credit you with the link.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *