Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

  • I posted The Cunning Blood on the Kindle Store 61 days ago, and in those two months it’s earned just a hair over $3,600. 46% of that came from KU page turns. Fellow indie authors, I think we have us a business model.
  • Tom Roderick sent me a link to a very nice graphical COSMAC ELF emulator, designed to look as much like Joe Weisbecker’s unit from Popular Electronics (August, 1976) as possible. You can toggle in opcodes like we did almost forty years ago, and run them. (The Q line drives an LED.)
  • In cleaning out the garage, I took a look at the motor/battery module of my robot Cosmo Klein (which I built in 1977-1978) and realized it wouldn’t take much to get it running again. The original Cosmo had two COSMAC systems and a glass-screen TV for a head (which made him very top-heavy) along with a cranky robotic arm. (Here are some photos of my COSMAC projects and Cosmo himself.) I could hide an RPi2 in that thing and you’d never find it. Funny how stuff changes in 38 years…or maybe not funny at all.
  • From Astounding Stories: Spacemen beating the crap out of one another in zero-G with…yardsticks. By Edmond Hamilton. Not sure of the year, but you can download the whole thing.
  • From the Weirdness-I-Just-Learned-About Department: The tontine, a financial arrangement in which a pool of people contributes equally to buy a pool of assets, and as they die, each deceased’s share is distributed to survivors. Apart from an inceptive to murder your tontine siblings, what could go wrong?
  • In the fever of a house hunt, I missed this item: Amazon is going to create its own line of house brands for food. I have a peculiar curiosity about house brands, which is a sort of shadow business that doesn’t get much press. Why would an industry-leader cereal manufacturer sell its cereal in bulk to other companies to sell as competing house brands? It happens, but nobody wants to talk about it. Big store chains have house brand versions of many products, including most mainstream cereals. There’s a book in this somewhere, though I don’t intend to write it.
  • If you’re not a balls-out supporter of nuclear power generation, I don’t want to hear a word out of you about global warming. We need base load, and neither Sun nor wind can provide base load. In truth, all that stands between us and a completely nuclear future is fear (i.e., political tribalism) and money. The money issue can be fixed. Alas, the gods themselves, etc.
  • It’s been 119 months since a major hurricane (Class 3 or higher) has hit the American mainland. Unless Joaquin goes ashore along the east coast somewhere in the next several days (and current winds argue against that) it’ll be 120 months–ten years–come October 24. That’s an all-time record since records have been kept. Global warming causes everything else; why not better weather?
  • And you wonder why I’m a global warming skeptic. Hey, fellow (potential) morlocks: I hear that our Educated Elite is delicious with melted butter.
  • Americans are embracing full-fat foods, thus spitting in the face of government advice. As well they should: The War on Fat is based on fraudulent science put forth by ace scientific con-man Ancel Keys, whose only real talent was getting government to take his side. Go butter, eggs, and meat. You’ll lose weight, and feel better.
  • Yes, I bring that up regularly, because I’m trying my best to ruin Keys’ reputation. His deadly advice has killed tens of millions, and is still killing them. “I’m supported by the government. I’m here to kill you.”
  • Some good news: A judge kneecapped champion patent troll eDekka by invalidating its only significant patent.
  • And more…for some people, least: Charlie Martin pointed me to an article from Harvard summarizing a study on the beneficial effects of coffee. Coffee appears to delay, improve, or prevent just about everything but insomnia. And what’s my main problem?
  • There! A month’s worth of grouchiness in one Odd Lots! (With a few other items thrown in for spice.) I don’t do that often, but it feels good when I do.


  1. TRX says:

    > Why would an industry-leader cereal manufacturer sell its cereal in bulk to other companies to sell as competing house brands?

    They’re selling retail, from the bottom of the distribution chain. Their profit is probably the same whether they’re selling to the next link up the chain or to a competitor.

    I’ve been seeing this for years with auto parts. The subcontractors who make water pumps, gaskets, etc. sell them to wholesalers who package and sell it under their own brand name. I put a water pump on my truck last year. The “no-name” pump had the Dodge logo and part number cast in, and was apparently identical to the one I took off.

  2. TRX says:

    > nuclear future

    Dixie Lee Ray was director of the Atomic Energy Commission in the early 1970s. She wrote a book called “Trashing the Planet” about the environmental issues of failing shut down coal plants in favor of clean nuclear power. Which was precisely the sort of thing many people didn’t want to hear.

    Dr. Ray’s career was impressive; it’s worth the moment to check her Wikipedia page.

    As an aside, a railroad aficionado once mentioned that it was a sad thing that there were no nuclear locomotives. After all, most US nuclear power plants and submarines had the steam bits built by locomotive companies, who knew about that sort of thing.

    Someone else replied that there were hundreds of steam locomotives in operation; much of the French rail system was nuclear powered. The French used the reactors to feed an electrified rail system. Which made a heck of a lot more sense than a crossing collision involving a live reactor…

  3. Bob Fegert says:

    Love the images of Cosmo and the Cosmac stuff.

    I see you had your Standard HT in hand.

    It was best to hold the standard as it weighed so much that if you hung it from your belt one bad move might lead to it pulling your pants

    1. Sure, but it beat those old BC-611 Army talkies from WWII. I loved the Standard and used it a lot on the local repeaters in the late 1970s. Back then, it was nothing special weight-wise. (We called the whole category “bricks” for a reason.) I had it until 1986, when I bought my 02-AT at Dayton. Now I’m using the two Baofeng HTs I wrote up here a few months back. One crazy idea I’ve had is to build an operating oak-and-brass steampunk HT around the smaller Baofeng. It would make the BC-611 look…middling.

  4. jim f says:

    re Tontines… see the movie, The Wrong Box …very funny.

    1. Larry Nelson says:

      Another pop culture occurrence of a tontine was in an episode of MASH. Private Sherman Potter formed a tontine with four comrades over a bottle of cognac on the battlefield in WW1. The last surviving member received the bottle. As the last man, Colonel Potter toasted his friends while serving on the battlefield in Korea. It was a memorable if sentimental episode.

      That is where I first learned the word.

      1. jic says:

        Back when *The Simpsons* was still worth watching, there was an episode where Mr Burns tried to kill Grandpa over a tontine they were in regarding a stash of looted art they recovered in WWII.

  5. Erbo says:

    Here’s a whole list of old computers you can emulate right in your browser, of which the COSMAC ELF is just one. Most of these emulators are in JavaScript and don’t require any additional software. (A couple are Java applets.) It’s frightening how much power you can get out of a browser-based script interpreter these days…

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