Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

  • From the Words I Didn’t Know Until Yesterday Department: Chicanes are small kinks placed along the course of an auto race, to make the race more…interesting. Heh.You race. I’ll watch. (But not anywhere near a chicane.) Thanks to Pete Albrecht for teaching me this one.
  • According to my good sister Gretchen, that very distinctive and extremely memorable smell of Crayola crayons was due to the animal tallow (probably beef) used in the waxy crayon base material. This is significant because Katie’s pumpkin-shaped bucket of new crayons has no smell at all. None! I may have to buy a set of “classic crayons” on eBay to smell that smell again. (Or maybe I can con my friends into each sending me one of their dupes. Unlike some people, I wouldn’t care if my set consisted of four Periwinkles, three Thistles, five Cornflowers, and a few scruffy Raw Siennas. Variety can be overrated.)
  • And just in case you like the smell of classic crayons so much that you want to smell just like them, here’s Crayon Cologne. (Would using that make me a Person of Color?)
  • Other kid smells worth recalling are Play-Doh and freshly sharpened pencils. My mother bought a canned wallpaper cleaner compound once in the 1970s that looked and smelled a great deal like Play-Doh. In sniffing around online, I found in Wikipedia that the Play-Doh compound was originally marketed as…a wallpaper cleaner. And even today, I occasionally pull the casing off my electric pencil sharpener and take a deep whiff.
  • More kid stuff: Did any of you ever have a Puffer Kite? And if so, did you live in or near Chicago? The Puffer was an inflatable kite, something like a beach toy in the shape of a pork chop, with a grommet for a string. It was patented in 1967 and I had one while I was in college, circa 1973. I’m gathering what little information exists about the Puffer Kite, and it appears to have been a Chicago product, made by the Fredricks Corporation, precise address unknown. I’ve written to a man who may be the heir of the Fredricks operation, and we’ll see what comes of it.
  • More than half of the boggling numbers of mortgage forclosures have occurred in only 35 counties across the US, with 25% occurring in only eight counties. (Alas, the crappily written article does not name them.) States like Nebraska, Kansas, and Kentucky (and most other flyover states) had no counties at all where there were over 20 foreclosures per thousand households, and yet people in small towns and rural areas are essentially bailing out big cities with their tax money. (Thanks to Michael Covington for the pointer.)
  • One of the most wonderful collection of mad-scientist backgrounder material I’ve seen in quite awhile can be found at Mike’s Electric Stuff. Geissler tubes, Nixie tubes, and (do not miss this one!) what is arguably the world’s first integrated circuit, made in 1926 and providing resistors, capacitors, and three vacuum tubes in a single glass envelope!
  • If you like your radios steampunkish, check out Sparkbench, with some of the most beautifully executed homebrew radios I’ve ever seen. More here.
  • The longest-lived person on the Duntemann family tree so far is Alvina Duntemann Wille, who lived from 1880 to 1978. She was the daughter of Louis Duntemann, my great-great grandfather’s younger brother, and lived her entire life in Mount Prospect, Illinois, in a house that stood where the Busse Car Wash stands today, right on Prospect at Maple. My great-grandmother Martha Winkelmann Duntemann did all right too, and made it to 96, outliving all four of my grandparents. I hope to do as well.


  1. Rich, N8UX says:

    Regarding Mike’s Electric Stuff, The “Destruct-O-tron” device intrigues me. And somewhere in my catacombs is an old nixie tube freq counter that I obtained through Navy MARS in 1980. Weighs 100 lbs, but has a leather carry handle!

    And yes, the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil is ok, but combine it with the tactile sensation of an old manual unit with twin planetary cylindrical cutters and spiral cutting edges, and… well, maybe “Nirvana” is too strong to apply…

    Yes, I was the one in 5th grade getting up to sharpen his pencil ten times a day… Rich

  2. Chicanes…chicanery. Are they trying to trick the drivers? That sounds dangerous!

  3. Erbo says:

    In Santa Barbara, the city placed chicanes on certain residential streets as well, for the purpose of slowing down traffic (or “traffic calming”). As I recall, it was very controversial at the time.

  4. […] misunderstood what my sister said about Crayola crayons in my March 13, 2009 Odd Lots. Crayola (once made by Binney & Smith, now part of the Hallmark empire) manufactures a line of […]

  5. bill says:

    regarding: “I’m gathering what little information exists about the Puffer Kite, and it appears to have been a Chicago product, made by the Fredricks Corporation, precise address unknown. I’ve written to a man who may be the heir of the Fredricks operation,”

    I know the Fredricks family well, and the puffer kite. As a kid, I, the sons of Bill Fredricks (Fredricks Corporation) and many of the neighborhood kids were featured in Puffer kite TV spots and display advertising. We had more kites to play with then we knew what to do with. Let me know who you tried to contact, perhaps I can help. -b

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