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Odd Lots

  • I just missed seeing a nice article on the current sunspot dearth before posting my entry for August 20, 2009. The longest stretch this solar minimum is 52 days back in 2008, and we could well exceed that come early September with no additional spots. (We’re now at 45 consecutive spotless days.)
  • I’m practicing rolling my eyes for the latest showing of the Mars hoax. On August 27, multitudes of people who are rumored to posess something close to human intelligence are claiming that Mars will appear the size of the full Moon. (This does the email rounds every couple of years.) Note well that if Mars were the size of the full Moon in the sky, we’d be living a disaster movie, so be very glad it’s a hoax.
  • Stanford University reports that media multitaskers do not in fact multitask very well. I liked this refreshingly straightforward quote in the article: “We kept looking for what they’re better at, and we didn ‘t find it.” More details here from the Beeb.
  • ZDNet reports on a virus, named Win32.Induc, that pulls a trick I’ve never heard of before: It looks for the Delphi programming environment, and infects Delphi such that any apps built by that copy of Delphi will carry the virus. I can’t quite see how this manages to propagate in a herd as thin as the Delphi programming world has become, unless Delphi programmers tend to use a lot of Delphi utilities obtained from places like Torry’s. (I know I did, so that’s my theory.)
  • Maybe you had one: A die-stamped thin steel rectangular lunchbox, usually (but not always) with completely inane artwork, often branded to TV shows, toys, and other pop-culture phenomena. The Denver Westword has a “10 worst” feature on tin lunchboxes that’s worth a look. I never carried a tin lunchbox to school (we used paper bags from Certified) but I have one now very much like #1, purchased at a hamfest years ago, filled with FT-243 ham-band crystals. I’ve always wondered why the boxes always had little vents punched in the short end sides.
  • Here’s an interesting 2-tube minimal broadcast-band superhet, using 12V space-charge tubes. It’s interesting enough that I might even build one, though my own holy grail is a 2-tube FM receiver. I’ve got the schematic (courtesy John Bauman KB7NRN) and lack only the time to hack it together.
  • I’d never heard of morning glory clouds, probably because they mostly happen in a certain part of Queensland, Australia. The bigger question is why they get all the truly great Weird Stuff down there, and we have to settle for minor-league weirdness like Michael Jackson.


  1. Given your interest in sunspots and climate change, you’ll be interested in the recent paper suggesting a Maunder Minimum -like scenario. Popular discussion at Ars Technica: Primary source:

  2. Kevin says:

    Great pointer on the lunchboxes! Metrics! If I remember correctly, the “vents” on the side were actually the place the wire-formed Thermos holder arm fit into.

  3. Zeph says:

    Induc would be a modern viral version of the famous old Thompson hack– see wikipedia. Delphi is certainly a bizarre target, though. Does anyone still use that?

    Turbo Pascal, at $50 or so, made Borland a major contender… and, last I looked, Delphi was something crazy like $1,000. Amazing what companies can do to shove their feet in their mouths up to the elbows.

    1. The Delphi community is very tightly linked, and code (including a lot of binaries) is passed around through pages like Torry. It’s a small herd and a close one; I’m guessing an infection like this could spread quickly within the herd. And one wonders if the major AV outfits will bother to detect it.

      I still use Delphi regularly–but I use a 9-year-old version that does everything I need, doesn’t require activation, and isn’t as bulky and complex as the newer versions. The price point guarantees that there won’t be any resurgence in Delphi’s popularity, and while I mourn that, it’s the way things have played out.

  4. erica says:

    I just Googled for schematic electronics and Got your Page.Your Post Odd Lots – Jeff Duntemann’s Contrapositive Diary is really Nice.Pl. keep posting on schematic electronics

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