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astronomy

Odd Lots

  • Hats off to T. C. Chua, who figured out how to make Zoundry Raven work with IE9+. Raven uses IE’s WYSIWYG editor, and changes made to the editor with IE9 breaks the program completely. Zoundry is open-source and hasn’t been updated since 2008. Mr. Chua traced through the Python code, found the problem, fixed it, and built an .EXE out of the Python code. He’s made it available here. I’ve used Raven to edit and post Contra entries since 2008, and didn’t feel like chasing down some new blog editor now that I’ve moved to Win7. Bravo!
  • Vegetarian diets are not as healthy as we’ve been led to believe. Make sure you scroll down to Table 3 and get a look at the figures for cancer. Now, some thrive on vegetarian diets and many don’t. What the research doesn’t appear to take into account is “lifestyle panic,” which is severe anxiety that some (usually minor) aspect of your life will kill you. If worry about your diet turns your life into a cortisol thrill ride, your diet won’t help you, and it certainly won’t be what killed you.
  • Mars reaches opposition on April 8, and the best day for observing it is April 14. Actually, any time within a week or two of those dates will provide a pretty good show, especially if you have even a smallish telescope. Such opportunities happen roughly every two years, so catch it now or wait until 2016!
  • Wearable computing has never really set the world on fire, and here’s a reasonably honest assessment as to why. I already have one computer in my pocket, and that’s plenty.
  • A GoPro-packing RC flying wing. Makes kites look kind of lame, but lame is what I have on hand, and lame is how I’m going to fly my GoPro this spring. If we ever get a spring. (6″ of sloppy stuff this morning; would have been 15″ had it been ten degrees colder.)
  • Cores (the other kind of cores) like dust.
  • My instance of the Gallery photo server is pretty much dead, and I’ve begun migrating photos to Flickr. Here’s my photostream link, and my three sets so far. I’m not yet an ace at the system by any means, but with some practice I’ll get everything interesting up there.
  • Ok. Precision marshmallow toasting is cool. Just don’t get nuts and melt the mallow into the machinery.
  • I study climate, in general to support a fiction concept I’m working on, but I don’t talk about it here because I don’t like to trigger the sort of slobbering tribal hatred that any such discussion invariably involves. This is an interesting (if depressing) psychological phenomenon all by itself. (Thanks to Trevor Thompkins for the link.)
  • This turned up on April 1, but like all the best hoaxes, it is nowhere clear that it’s actually a hoax. So is it? (Thanks to Esther Schindler for the link.)
  • The world’s smallest volcano was maybe just a little easier to suss out…

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • Suddenly the Sun woke up, perhaps afraid that it would get typecast for weak peaks. A sunspot number of 282 is only a little low for a sunspot maximum, and higher than I’ve seen since 2004 or so.
  • The Atlantic takes on the interesting phenomenon of false memories, which I did back in 2009 in a series that started here and continued here, here, and here. As I write my memoirs, I’m checking anything I can against my sister’s memories, as well as any old papers or photos I have lying around in boxes. It’s amazing how much I remembered wrong, and I wonder how much may be wrong that I have no hope of every verifying.
  • Did your favorite classic car ever appear in a movie or on TV? Well dayum, there’s a Web site for that. (Thanks to Ernie Marek for the link. And yes, there are loads and loads of 1968 Chevelles.)
  • Reader DennisK pointed me to LXLE, a lightweight Ubuntu-based Linux distro designed specifically to look and work like Windows XP. I have lots of SX270s here destined to become bookends (and several that already have) so there’s no shortage of test platforms. I’ll let you know what I think after I try it.
  • The Intel Galileo board will be shipping by the end of November, for $70. It supposedly competes with the Rapsberry Pi, but to me it looks like half the computer for twice the price. The Beagle boards have more promise. Anybody using one?
  • Here’s a quick history of optical disks.
  • What do you feed that pharaoh you just mummified? Mummified beef ribs.
  • These peculiar ads (one depicting a brand of salami as a dirigible) don’t include Flying Bomb batteries (battery as bomb; what could possible go wrong?) or another brand of battery I saw in the 1960s that shows an Asian couple riding a battery like a horse. Or could it have been needles and thread? Oh, and meet Seaman Strangelove. There are many more Depression-era product posters (salami was popular) with similar metaphors on the walls of hipster restaurants everywhere.

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • More or less recovered here, but oboy, do I have some catching up to do…
  • Those Parallels guys are now installing dicey stuff allthehellover the disks of user Macs. They do it in connection with their poorly received Parallels Access product, and they do it whether or not you use Parallels Access. In other words, they’re preinstalling DRM for a product even when users don’t want the product. Avoid Parallels like the plague.
  • This, by the way, is the same pack of tinfoil hatters who approached me to write about an early version of Parallels years ago, just after I reviewed VMWare Workstation 5 for PC Magazine. I said sure, and asked them for a review copy. They said they couldn’t give me a review copy. They just wanted me to write about it. To review it I’d have to buy it. They’ve been on my killfile ever since.
  • You have to sleep to keep producing a type of brain cell that refreshes nerve myelin. Short your sleep, and you’re basically killing your brain cells. Are you ready to go to bed at 10 PM now?
  • We are extremely close to having a blank Sun, having arrived at Solar Max, maybe for the second time of a two-humped peak. (If it goes officially blank tomorrow, I’ll post a separate announcement, because that would be boggling.) I didn’t even put my wire antenna out this year. What’s the point?
  • We may also set a record for the latest first hurricane of the season. Two more days and it’s in the bag. TS Humberto could break the streak, and lord knows, the gang over at the Weather Channel is rooting for it. Tropical weather has been so peaceable that their Hurricane Central presenters are reduced to playing with stuffed bunnies and doing standup comedy.
  • Like everybody else I get butter, potato chip grease, hand cream, and occasionally red wine on my Transformer Prime. Like most people I clean up with a soft cotton rag. However, there are other ways.
  • I don’t even like motorcycles, but I would ride this in a heartbeat.
  • Yet another Death Ray Skyscraper. I knew Jaguars had electrical problems. I wasn’t aware that they melt like butter. Don’t get melted Jaguar on your tablet. Even AutoMee would have trouble with that. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • There are probably Horrifying Stats sites for most big cities. Here’s the Horrifying Stats site for my home town.
  • CBS is gearing up to make a TV medical drama based on The Wizard of Oz . I would walk through a blizzard / For a checkup on my gizzard / If I only had a pain… (Thanks to Frank Glover for the tip.)

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Daywander

Does anybody have any experience with Glom? It’s an open-source GUI database builder created in the spirit of FileMaker. Someone suggested it in the comments of my entry for April 9, 2013. I’ve just downloaded it and have not yet installed it, but the (slightly sparse) product wiki makes it look pretty compelling, at least for the sorts of smallish databases that don’t have to support tens of thousands of records. It’s specific to the PostgreSQL database back end, about which I know less than I should. Working on that.

While I’m asking for user experiences, how about LyX? It’s been around forever but I don’t see much in the line of books on it. A 2007-era tutorial PDF for version 1.4.1 is available here without charge. I was using TeX by hand (and later LaTeX) in the late 80s and early 90s, and it was impressive on the 386/486 machines in broad use at the time. LyX is supposedly a WYSIWYG word processor based on LaTeX. The TeX universe generally is a science/math geek paradise. LaTeX will typeset equations like nothing else in the galaxy. My primary wonder here is whether LyX is now good enough to use for nonscientific word processing, or if the increasingly silly WYSIWYG vs WYSIWYM argument gets in the way. Our CPUs are more than gutsy enough these days to render TeX content in realtime, and my view is that WYS should always reflect WYM. (I understand the conflict, which is really about markup vs rendering; please don’t lecture me about it.)

The crescent moon and Jupiter are in conjunction tonight, and they will make a good pair in the west just after sunset.

That is, if winter ever decides to end in Colorado Springs. We’re apparently due for snow and perhaps even a blizzard midweek, with temps down to 12 above. Poor Carol is itching to get out and work in her garden, which is still cowering an inch below the surface and keeps yelling about ice giants. The water is welcome, obviously, but I don’t need it on (or as) ice.

We did get a little rain last night, which kept me from seeing if Colorado was getting any aurora activity in the literal wake of a CME that hit Earth yesterday at 2300 zulu. The forecasts focused on the East Coast as far south as DC, which doesn’t get a lot of aurora activity. The sunspot number is also approaching 150, a number I haven’t seen in quite a while. We may get a solar maximum after all…but don’t lay money on it.

Finally, I had an interesting (in the Chinese curse sense) education yesterday in printing your own business cards. I’ve had a card design in the tinkering stages for literally years. The intent was always to get it printed professionally, and heck, the owner of one of the biggest print shops in Pueblo lives next door. Next weekend I’ll be at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and will need some. So I bought a pack of Avery 5871 laser-perf cards and tried to print the design on them. Whoops–the right third of the card is a green bleed. If you’re doing business cards from a laser printer onto laser-perf stock, do not use bleeds. Arranging the art so that the left edge of the cards in the right column didn’t show a green streak took a great deal of kafeutherin’, as Aunt Kathleen would have said. Even after much wasted stock and torn virtual hair, I still had to trim a little bit of green edge off half the cards with a scissors. Lesson: White all the way around…or let the pros do it.