Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

  • I had some fairly sophisticated oral microsurgery about ten days ago, and it kind of took the wind out of me. That’s why you’re getting two Odd Lots in a row. I have things to write about long-form but have only recently found the energy to write at all. Promise to get a couple of things out in the next week.
  • Some researchers at UW Madison are suggesting that sleep may exist to help us forget; that is, to trim unnecessary neural connections in order to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in the brain. Fair enough. What I really want to know (and am currently researching) is why the hell we dream. I doubt the answer to that is quite so simple.
  • Ultibo is a fork of FreePascal/Lazarus that creates custom kernel.img files for the Raspberry Pi, allowing direct boot into an embedded application without requiring an underlying OS. I haven’t tried it yet (still waiting on delivery of a few parts for a new RPi 3 setup) but it sounds terrific. Bare metal Pascal? Whoda thunkit?
  • Humana just announced that it is leaving the ACA exchanges after 2017. As I understand it, that will leave a fair number of counties (and some major cities) with no health insurance carriers at all. Zip. Zero. Obamacare, it seems, is in the process of repealing itself.
  • NaNoWriMo has gone all political and shat itself bigtime. You know my opinions of such things: Politics is filth. A number of us are talking about an alternate event held on a different month. November is a horrible month for writing 50,000 words, because Thanksgiving. I’m pushing March, which is good for almost nothing other than containing St. Patrick’s Day. (Thanks to Tom Knighton for the link.)
  • Paris has been gripped by rioting since February 2…and the US media simply refuses to cover it, most likely fearing that it will distract people from the Flynn resignation. Forget fake news. We have fake media.
  • I heard from a DC resident that there was also a smallish riot in Washington DC today, and so far have seen no media coverage on it at all.
  • Cold weather in Italy and Spain have caused vegetable shortages in the UK. Millions of small children who would supposedly never know what snow looked like may now never know what kale looks like. Sounds like a good trade to me.
  • Trader Joe’s now sells a $5 zinfandel in its house Coastal brand, and it’s actually pretty decent. Good nose, strong fruit. Seems a touch thin somehow, but still well worth the price.
  • I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Gahan Wilson’s cartoons in Playboy and National Lampoon, but Pete Albrecht sent me a link to an interview with Wilson that explains why he did certain things the way he did, like his brilliant series called “Nuts” about how the world looks and feels to small children.


  1. TRX says:

    > bare metal Pascal

    UCSD p-System For The Win!

    When you bought a new IBM PC in the early days, you could buy either IBM’s port of DOS, their branded version of CP/M-86, or the p-System.

    1. Boy. Had forgotten that. I bought an IBM PC in February 1982, and chose DOS. I actually had the P-System some years later, but it ran under DOS and I don’t think you had to boot into it. But I could be wrong; that was a very busy (and somewhat cluttered) time in my life.

      That may have been the Pecan packaging of the P-System:

      The cool thing about Utibo is that it links whatever components of an OS your app needs into the app when you build it, so the app is/has its own OS. Looking forward to trying it out.

      1. Erbo says:

        The UCSD P-system was also available for the TI-99/4A home computer, but you needed a specialized piece of hardware (the P-code interpreter card) to run it. I didn’t have one of those, despite actually having the big, heavy Peripheral Expansion Box with the disk drive and memory expansion.

  2. RickH says:

    I’m working on a ‘learning to read’ project that has graphics, simple video, and audio that needs to be synced with the words on the ‘page’ (screen). Haven’t decided how to write it yet; I know PHP and HTML, but want it to be a standalone app (for iPads and tablets as well as PC’s).

    On a limited budget, and only have a notebook (good quality HP) to develop on, so not sure what tools/framework to use.

    Any ideas?

    1. You need to keep in mind that I’ve never done much Web programming beyond tinkering with PHP and realizing that I don’t like it much. I’m skeptical of everything-on-the-Web apps, which aren’t very useful in the absence of a broadband connection. However, that may in fact be the right way to go, and the governing parameters may have less to do with the technology than with the market you’re shooting for. You’re on your own there. Carol and I never had children and thus never faced the challenge of helping our offspring become readers.

      In terms of technology, I think you need to see what development platforms allow easy integration of sound, video, and text. HTML5 can do it, unless I misunderstand its capabilities. I write everything I write in Pascal unless the solution requires something that Pascal can’t provide, which so far has proven to be…nothing. However, I’ve done no work whatsoever with video and in truth video remains the Really Big Hole in my technology skillset.

      I know that Lazarus/FreePascal targets both Windows and Android. Not as sure about iOS. (Onlookers, feel free to pipe up if you know more about any of this than I do.)

      If you’re going to write standalone apps, you’re going to have to learn how to code in some language that isn’t PHP. Obviously I recommend Lazarus/FreePascal, but I’m sure such an app could be done in Python. Visual Basic might be also an option, assuming it can target Android and iOS. Lazarus and Python are free, which may also be a factor for you.

      Lazarus provides a rich component framework allowing you to drop content frames of various kinds on a form and connect them via property tables and events. That’s how I would go after it, and I don’t know how much more I could suggest without knowing more about the project specs. The good news is that you can download it onto your laptop and give it a shot. I have a free ebook on FreePascal that will introduce you to the basics of the Pascal language. It’s not completely done and needs a little updating, but it’ll get you started. My download area online is in disarray. Send me an email and I’ll send you the file.

  3. TRX says:

    Back when “the web” appeared I was administering some Unix machines with terminals and several dozen Windows PCs running terminal emulators.

    I looked at HTML and realized that under all the glitz and hoorah, a “web browser” was just another kind of graphics terminal emulator…

  4. Tom Hanlin says:

    I suspect that dreaming involves discussion between the brain hemispheres. I often wake up with solutions to problems and/or comprehensive new ideas. Possibly, very odd ideas but, even so, it’s clear that I’ve been thinking in dreams. I can usually retain the last one.

    1. I sometimes “sleep on it” with good results, but I can’t relate those results to anything I remember dreaming. What I find intriguing is how similar repeating nightmares are across humanity. I’ve been having the classic “wandering around searching for English class” dream for almost thirty years, since long before I ever read that other people had it. That’s mighty specific for something ostensibly symbolic.

      So is something baked into our genes responsible for something that modern and that specific? Or are we really communicating with other minds in our sleep? (I don’t believe in telepathy, but this would be one thing I would put up to support the hypothesis.)

      I’ve wondered if dreams are just entertainment the brain plays for us while it’s doing boring things like compacting memory, or perhaps our left hemisphere interpreting raw data in the right brain’s buffers as it goes about its nightly maintenance.

      Dreams are fascinating things, especially in their fringe areas like lucidity. Just last night I dreamed about my grandfather Harry Duntemann. He was digging in my sister in law’s flower garden with my nephew Brian. I watched them work for a while, and then something started to seem wrong. I went up to him and said, “Grandpa, wait a second! You’ve been dead for sixty years!” Then the dream ended like somebody cut the film with a scissors. I so wanted him to explain why he was there even though he was dead.

      1. Tom Hanlin says:

        I have a mild thought that the corpus callosum may not always carry sufficient data, and that we may be literally of two minds.

        I do not have significant nightmares. If something disturbs me too much, I get into lucid dreaming, and I can disrupt it, within limits. Dreams tend to have purpose, I think, and they really want to go the way they will. They can be very insistent on that, regardless of reality. What it’s doing, I don’t know. I suspect it’s doing something.

        I’m often conscious during the dreams when I’m about to wake up. That may be why I’m able to retain them. I’m not sure the idea of graphing points onto squares, then cubes, and spinning them into hypercubes made any sense, but I was obliged to wake up before it got excessively multidimensional.

  5. jim f says:

    Thanks for the link to the Gahan Wilson interview… very interesting.

  6. Tom Hanlin says:

    Oh, yeah, well. The squares had points made of squares, the cubes had points made of cubes, the hypercubes… don’t ask. I woke up.

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