- Yes, I know: I haven’t posted an Odd Lots since late October. A few of the items here have been in the notefile for awhile and may be a little stale, but I’ve had other things on my mind than scanning the Web for links, heh.
- Forbes.com will not let you in if you’re using an ad blocker. G’bye, Forbes. You were barely worth reading even without the risk of your ads serving malware.
- Vegetable oils can kill you. If you must use them, use coconut oil, which is by far the best of the bunch. As for me and my house, well, we serve butter. (Thanks to Tom Roderick for the link.)
- Nice short historical piece on the Apollo Guidance Computer.
- Global warming may be caused, in part, by ozone depletion, in a subtle pas de deux with volcanoes. We’ve done a good job protecting the ozone layer in recent years, which may account (again, in part) for the Inconvenient Pause.
- Related: Excellent long-form article on climate and human civilization over the past 18,000 years. Make sure you get a good close look at that poster.
- Free Pascal 3.0 is out. Get it here. Lazarus 1.6 is being built with it, and should be out later this month.
- While you’re at it, see this interview with Florian Klaempfl, creator of Free Pascal.
- A satellite abandoned almost 48 years ago has begun transmitting again. Nobody knows why. (Thanks to Jonathan O’Neal for the link.)
- The common contention that 97% of the world’s scientists agree that global warming is an urgent problem is a lie. Repeating that lie doesn’t make it true…but it does make you a liar. (Thanks to Charlie Martin for the link.)
- When electronic surplus shops die, a little bit of geek culture dies with them. We have OEM Parts in the Springs, and Apache Surplus and Reclamation here in Phoenix, but I’ve seen any number of others go belly-up in the last twenty years.
- A gunmaker is going to carve up a chunk of meteoric iron and create a number of pistols. Not quite the “space gun” we imagine (and nowhere near as badass as Vera) but a space gun nonetheless.
- $40 of the $100 or so you pay for cable TV goes to sports content. This is one reason (and perhaps the main one) that Carol and I dropped TV when we ordered cable here in Phoenix. TV sports can’t die fast enough to suit me.
- Winemakers say that consumers want fuller-bodied and fruitier wines, but less alcohol. Those two factors are incompatible with the winemaking process, so wineries routinely under-report alcohol content in wine. Incredibly, the article’s author managed to blame part of this on global warming.
- 12 reasons you should not own a bichon. Hey, I own four. I’m a contrarian, after all.
It’s been a tough three years for Carol. Her mom’s final year and passing, and then three foot surgeries that took literally a year to fully recover from; well, things like that would slow me down too. So it was with some celebration and a little apprehension that we took off for something we haven’t done in almost three years: a dog show.
We rolled into the Terry-All Kennel Club Dog Show up in Brighton, Colorado on Friday afternoon. Dog shows require a sort of “home base” where you can set up a grooming table and get the contestants in shape for the show ring. Grooming space can be either paid or unpaid. At the Adams County fairgrounds, the difference between paid and free grooming space is whether or not you have walls. Unpaid grooming space is in the cattle pens, which are just that: A roofed area divided into pens by pipe railings. Paid grooming space gets you walls, in an arena building used for showing and auctioning cattle.
What you don’t get either way is a floor. This is cattle country. You get good Colorado brown dirt, liberally mixed with grass and hay preprocessed by various large animals. Eat your lunch carefully: The Five-Second Rule does not apply.
Carol paid for grooming space in the arena building, and we were right by one of the building’s six doors. The light was good; power was available. Alas, we had a howling wind most of the weekend that was not named Mariah (maybe Manure-ah?) which blew in through the rear doors, picked up brown dust as it went, and deposited it upon all and sundry before exiting out the front doors. Breathing second-hand smoke in my youth was bad enough. Meditate for a moment on breathing second-hand cattle feed.
Oh, and we have blinding-white dogs. The challenge should be obvious.
Carol met that challenge in high style, granted that all of us came home crunching dust between our teeth. Dash never set foot in the dirt, nor did the rest of the Pack, all of whom were with us and three of whom were entered.
Friday night was an AKC-sanctioned B match for Bichons, which our club organized. (Many thanks to Tammy Singer for doing most of the legwork!) A “B match” is a sort of practice match for dog handlers, basically identical to a real AKC show ring (including an AKC registered judge) except that points are not awarded. In a B match, dogs older than 7 years may be entered in the Veterans class whether they’re neutered or not. QBit, now ten, and Jack, now eight, were both elegible. Carol got their coats in shape, and QBit took first in the class. Jack has a much better coat and looked quite sharp, but QBit (above) has the confident personality preferred by judges, which Jack simply lacks.
Saturday and Sunday were the real show, in which only Dash may compete. (He still has the family jewels, irrespective of regular threats from both Carol and myself.) This was a biggish show for Bichons, with 16 entered, though several did not show and at most I counted 13 Bichons at one time.
Some of them were spectacular, like Lorrie Carlton‘s Flynn, who pretty much swept the field on Saturday and went on to take first place in the Non-Sporting Group. It was a good weekend for Bichons: The breed won Best in Group for both Saturday and Sunday.
Where Dash beat all Bichon comers was in the Owner / Handler class, which means dogs presented in the ring (“handled”) by their registered owners. Dog showing is a competitive business, and there are a fair number of dogs shown by professional handlers who are paid to take dogs around the country on the show circuit to gather wins. Flynn is one of these. To keep professional handlers from sweeping all awards, there is a separate class for people (like us) who do their own handling. Dash won best in the Owner / Handler class on Sunday, which means Carol could show him against other Best of Breeds in the Non-Sporting Group also shown by their owners. After a little touch-up by the formidable Bichon groomer / handler Ellen Perry, Dash went around the ring and landed third place in the Non-Sporting Group. This was the biggest win Carol and I have ever nailed in showing our Bichons, and made the whole windy, dusty, exhausting outing worthwhile.
I was in my grubbies in the photo above (taken by Patrina Walters Odette) because I was not doing any handling on Sunday, and schlepping equipment around at this particular show is always a pretty dusty business.
Dust notwithstanding, it was great time and we had a chance to catch up with members of the club we don’t see very often. We also got to meet a couple of new puppy contenders worth watching in coming years. Our next show is in Longmont in mid-May, but we’re likely to leave most of the Pack with Jimi. There will be no B match, and QBit, Aero, and Jack will not be competing. So it will be a simpler project in many ways, as well as a cleaner one.
It took us all day to wash the dust out of everything…except the dogs. That’s another day entirely. Maybe two.
The Front Range Bichon Frise Club held its (now expected to be) annual halloween party this past Saturday. Picture a dozen bichons in funny outfits tearing around club president Lindsay Van Keuren’s back yard on what could well be the last nice day this year. Carol cut a Party City grass skirt in half, and wrapped half around QBit and half around Aero. She did the same with a Party City lei and both again got half. It was a pretty effective costume, because QBit and Aero are aces at dancing on their hind legs waving their front paws in the air. The video I posted on Facebook prompted Dennis Harris to declare them the Duntemann Hula Hounds, which in turn reminded me that Marty Robbins had a song called “Lovely Hula Hands” back in the time that even time forgot. So could I write “Lovely Hula Hounds?” Sure. Will I? Maybe. I have to finish my filk of “YMCA” first. Sub in “bichon frise” for “YMCA” and you’ll see where I’m going with it.
Dash doesn’t dance on his hind legs, and in fact what he mostly does is get in trouble. So Carol bought a very appropriate costume for him that was basically a Depression-style prisoner outfit, complete with number, printed on a little T-shirt, plus a black and white hat to match. He got the award for “Scariest Costume,” which is itself a little scary.
Speaking of shirts…I discovered a wonderful source of everyday shirts a year or so ago: the US military. I bought a couple of used Army dress green shirts on eBay, and later found a couple of Air Force dress blue shirts, one of which I was wearing in the photos above. I found a few more at Glenn’s Army Surplus here in the Springs, and my friend Lt. Col. Powl Smith gave me a few more when he retired from the Army recently. The shirts have two pockets, which is a requirement for my everyday attire. They’re rugged, and can be had in both long-sleeve and short-sleeve designs. Best of all, you can toss them in the wash, put them in the dryer for ten minutes, and they’ll hang up without a wrinkle. Yeah, they’re polyester blends. For me this is a feature, not a bug. I paid $15 each for the new ones, and about $5 for the used ones. So far, no regrets.
I’ve been quiet recently in part because I’ve been studying. The desktop database development world has a shed a few skins since I learned it, and I’m going to have to learn it mostly all over again. But if I do that, I might as well take notes, so I can teach it to everybody else. Lazarus Database Development From Square One, anybody?
Could happen. Stay tuned.
- Yet another take on the Amazon vs. Hachette dust-up: The publishers contributed to Amazon’s monopsony power by demanding platform lock-in via Kindle DRM. And now they’re surprised that Amazon controls the ebook market. (Thanks to Eric Bowersox for the link.)
- Pete Albrecht sent word that some guys at the University of Rochester have figured out how to trap light in very small spaces for very long times, on the order of several nanoseconds. (This is a long, long time to be stuck in one place if you’re a photon.) It’s done with evolvable nanocavities–and that gives me an idea for a tech gimmick in my long-planned novel The Molten Flesh. So many novels, so little time…
- Related to the above: The reason I stopped working on The Molten Flesh three or four years back is that I ordered a used copy of the canonical biography of Oscar Wilde (who is a character in the story) and the book stank so badly of mold and mildew that I threw it out after sitting in a chair with it for about five minutes. Time to get another copy.
- Yet another reason not to bother with The Weather Chanel: WGN’s weather website is hugely better, doesn’t require Flash, and works nationally, not only in Chicago.
- Lazarus 1.2.4 has been released. Go get it.
- OMG! STORMY, have you been messing around in Nebraska again?
- Over at Fourmilab we have a superb scan of the 1930 Allied Radio catalog, which carried not only radios and parts but waffle irons, home movie projectors, coffee percolators, toasters, copper bowl heaters, electric hair curlers, and much else for the newly minted upper middle class. (Thanks to Baron Waste for the link.)
- One interesting thing about the radios in the Allied catalog above is that they’re shouting about screen grid tubes. Tetrodes were invented in 1919 and weren’t in mass production until the late 1920s. I’m guessing that tetrodes were what separated the extremely fussy triode-based radios of the 1920s from the turnkey appliance radios of the 1930s and beyond. What the tetrode began the pentode completed, of course, but the watershed year in appliance radio seems to have been 1930.
- Our current Pope has abandoned the bullet-proof Popemobile. It’s one step closer to the end of the Imperial Papacy.
- What dogs think of dog impersonators. Hey, man, the lack of a tail gives it all away…
Jimi Henton, the local breeder from whom we got Aero, Jack, and Dash, brought me her dog grooming dryer some time back to see if I could figure out what was wrong with it. Carol has the exact same dryer, a Chris Christensen Kool Dry. It’s basically an SCR-controlled variable-speed fan in a box, putting out 114 CFM through a hose.
Jimi said it wasn’t blowing as much air as it used to, even after she cleaned the filter and made sure nothing else was gummed up with dog hair. It still blew, and the pot still varied the fan speed, but it wasn’t as loud and clearly didn’t have its out-of-the-box oomph. Worse, she’d had a new motor installed last year. The first one had gone for eleven years before dying; this seemed kind of premature.
I wanted to compare the two dryers to get a sense for how much air was being lost in Jimi’s. I have no way to measure airflow here, but sitting on the laundry room floor I noticed Jack’s little soccer ball, much reduced from its original size, but still round enough for my purposes. With only a little skill I managed to get the ball levitating over the nozzle, as any kid who’s bright enough to put a vacuum cleaner in reverse has done. On Carol’s dryer, the ball wobbled between 18″ and 24″ above the nozzle. On Jimi’s, it was maybe 4″.
So there was work to do, somewhere. Upon opening the dryer up, at least one problem was obvious: The 1,025 watt AC motor was wired to the speed control with #24 telephone wire, and too much of it. (You know, the stuff with the two-color, bands-on-solid insulation.) Close inspection showed two cold solder joints, coincidentally (heh) where the #24 wire hit the speed control pot. The plastic insulation on the phone wire was blackened with heat. The dryer slowly was cooking itself from the resistance of all that skinny wire. No need for a fork; it was done.
Jimi had ordered the motor from the manufacturer and then had somebody local put it into the dryer. She called him an amateur. No. I’m an amateur, with a callsign to prove it. I do electronics because I love it. Whoever installed this motor was…an idiot.
All fixed now, using some #14 stranded wire and soldering skills I learned when I was eleven. Both dryers now loft the soccer ball two feet hgh. Ohm’s Law is a bitch, dude. Please go back to sharpening scissors.
Yes, I’ve been gone for awhile, and for any number of reasons found it inconvenient to put anything together until this evening. I’ve been having some trouble with that old book-hauling injury in my left arm, spent ten days in Chicago, fixed some stuff (including an interesting repair on a dog grooming hair dryer) and learned some new things that I didn’t expect to learn, including a few that I probably didn’t need to learn.
In short, I’ve had nothing much to report, and in the summer heat just felt better reading books and taking it easy in the cause of getting my whiny supinator to shut the hell up. The gruel here is on the thin side, but that’s summer.
My younger niancee, Justine, made me aware of something called Prancercise by demonstrating it in front of the whole family. Damn. I thought she was kidding. Then I watched the video. Wow. It has nothing on the Invisible Horse Dance, but it could be the next craze at weddings. Or maybe not.
Weddings. We did attend a terrific wedding, of the daughter of my oldest friend Art. At her reception I saw something called the Casper Slide–not to be confused with the skateboarding stunt of the same name. And if you are confused, you’re not alone. I think this is why the real name of the dance is the Cha-Cha Slide, developed by a Chicago DJ named Casper. I watched the dance, and apart from some stomping, it looked a lot like the Electric Slide. But hey, what do I know about cultural tropes?
Another bit of knowledge that was true but unwelcome is that Barnes & Noble comtinues to come apart at the seams. Their CEO quit the other day over the failure of the Nook tablets to capture any significant part of the tablet market. The Nook division is for sale, and Microsoft is making slobbering noises. The Nook guys have been on my you-know-what list for some time, for pushing down updates that freeze in mid-install and can’t be removed. (I don’t use AMV, but I wonder if it works at all after the installer gets stuck.) Leonard Riggio wants to take back the retail division. A lot of stores are closing, and half the remaining stores have leases that expire in 2016. And everybody’s wondering what happens after all this happens. Especially publishers.
I learned that the Chicago Tribune has a page dedicated to documenting every single homicide that happens in Chicago. That this would be a big, frequently updated page is bad enough. That is exists at all is worse. I guess Chicago is a terrific place to be from.
There’s a video on domesticated fox, pointed out to me by Pete Albrecht. I mentioned the Russian research on Siberian fox years ago, but this is the first time I’ve seen videos of the animals themselves. It’s sad in a way; the poor things are stuck somewhere between fox and dogs, and are at best unreliably tame. It’s pretty clear to me, however, that this was the same process our ancestors used to turn wolves into dogs. And it didn’t take thousands of years.
I learned that the backlight behind the controls of my new car stereo changes color continuously.
Ok, ok, I can see eyes glazing over. That’s it for tonight. I hope to get back on my usual schedule shortly.
Carol found some very small insects crawling around on Dash’s neck yesterday while she was brushing him. She dropped several of them into a pill bottle followed by some alcohol. These were tiny bugs; I’m guessing the biggest one wasn’t quite two millimeters long, and most were at best a millimeter. We squinted and used the magnifying glass that I keep in my desk drawer, and the best we could say is, Yeah, that’s a bug.
I knew what I had to do next, and it took me way back. For Christmas when I was eight (the end of 1960), my father bought me a microscope. It was small and lacked a fine focus knob, but it had an iron frame and decent optics. For the next two years until I discovered electronics, looking at very small things was one of my main hobbies.
My father helped me get the hang of it. He had had a simple microscope himself in the early 1930s, and I still have it somewhere: A black crinkle-finish tube about five inches high, with an eyepiece at the top, a slot for inserting slides, and a tilting mirror in a large milled cutout toward the bottom. He bought me a book called Hunting with the Microscope, by Gaylord Johnson and Maurice Bleifield (1956) and I spent a couple of years hunting for all the microscopic things the authors had painstakingly drawn on its pages.
Many of the drawn microorganisms were said to be found in rivers and ponds, and my friends and I haunted the banks of the Chicago and Des Plaines rivers in the summer with mayonnaise jars in hand, scooping up slimy water and the even slimier mud on the riverbottom beneath it. Holding up the jars against bright light showed them to be absolutely crawling with minuscule thingies in constant motion. I had a well slide and managed to corral some of the little monsters in it, but they didn’t slow down long enough for me to identify them. None followed the corkscrew path that paramecia were said to exhibit. We saw no volvoxes nor stentors, cool as that would have been. Water bears too were AWOL. Most heartbreakingly, we never cornered an amoeba, which we longed to see eat something by engulfing it, which would be akin to watching The Blob in miniature–always a draw for ten-year-olds.
No, most of the critters that moved slowly enough to identify were microscopic worms. When my mother heard us talking about worms from the corner of the family room when my friends and I were gazing into my microscope, she made us dump the mayonnaise jars into the toilet and wash our hands. My mother was an RN, and although we didn’t learn it first-hand until we were 13 (another story entirely, though a good one) both rivers were flood relief for Chicago’s and suburban sewers. After even a modest rain, runoff would cascade from overflowing sewer mains right into the rivers, carrying raw sewage with it. So these weren’t exactly earthworms we were watching.
I’m honestly not sure what became of my little microscope. The good news is that Carol received a much better one she when was fourteen (a Tasco 951 with a fine focus knob) and earlier today, I pulled her microscope down off the high shelf and set it up on the kitchen island where the light was good. I looked at a few of the pickled-in-alcohol bugs, but they had been picked off Dash with a tweezers and were not in good shape. We cornered Dash and hunted until we spotted a live one. I carefully snipped the little tuft of hair to which the bug was clinging, and with some prodding managed to tack the bug to the sticky strip on a white Post-It. (Gaylord Johnson would have been proud.) Under the microscope, it was unmistakable: Linognathus setosus, the dog louse. The tacky Post-It strip kept it from walking around, and we were able to see how it clung to a strand of dog hair with its hooked legs.
Dash got a prompt treatment with the usual doggie bug meds, and in a day or two whatever lice remain will be gone. In the meantime, I have to wonder what happened to the microscopy hobby. Astronomy and electronics are both big business, but beyond some Web sites (like this one) I don’t see much to indicate that anybody is digging through river mud looking for water fleas anymore. The instruments are cheap compared to good test equipment or telescopes. You can get used stereo microscopes on eBay for $250 or less, and used student microscopes like Carol’s for under $50. Rivers are a whole lot cleaner than they were fifty years ago, and I’m thinking that if I sampled the Chicago River today I might score a stentor or two, and maybe even an amoeba. Granting that Google is a much better way to identify the stuff you’re looking at, I might order a copy of Hunting with the Microscope, just for fun. No, I don’t really need another hobby, but I want to be ready the next time something really small comes calling, and I need to know what it is.
- Carol and I are now home from Chicago, still bumping into walls but doing better. If you haven’t heard from me in a couple of weeks that’s why.
- Chicago burned on October 8, 1871. The cow did it, right? Well, there were a lot of other serious fires around the American midwest that same night. Tucking my ears into my tinfoil hat here: What if a cluster of biggish small meteorites hit the country that night, sparking fires wherever they fell? The more Russian dashcam videos I see, the less outrageous I think the idea is. (Thanks to Michele Marek for the link.)
- And for people who say that the Russians seem to attract meteorites, look at this. I’d say The Curse of the Splat People has been laid upon northern new Mexico.
- Why am I so fascinated by the Neanderthals? Aside from the fact that I may well have a Neanderthal-ish skull and ribcage, it’s hard to beat our big-brained, musclebound brothers for idea triggers. I had never considered Taki’s startling question: Would they vote Republican? Or would they just tear your arm off for asking? (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- Search Google Patents for Edward F. Marwick, and you will find 205 different patents filed by my very own late high school physics teacher. He told us about a few of them (like this one) in 1969. We thought he was kidding. The man was a damned good physics teacher, and he thought big.
- Bill Beaty posted a comment on Contra for my September 7, 2011 entry describing a very simple solid-state equivalent using an MPF102 and a 9V battery. A full description is on his site, and it’s worth seeing if you have an unscratched itch for a half-hour project.
- I think I aggregated the Steampunk Workshop before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Beautiful stuff, startling craftsmanship. Like this Mac Mini mod. Wow. (Thanks to Bill Cherepy for pointing it out.)
- Carol and I had to cancel our entry of Dash and Jack in the big Rocky Mountain Cluster dog show for obvious reasons, but one of our Bichon Club members posted a wonderful video of her seven-year-old son Adam showing their puppy, Ruby. Ruby and Adam got a blue ribbon. The kid is amazing. Sheesh, when I was that age I was still throwing mushrooms at my sister at the dinner table.
- I guess this was inevitable, at least in Washington State and/or Colorado. I suppose the research is useful. (Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.)
- 32 years ago today, Darkel’s Lucky Guess–known to more than a few of you as Mr. Byte–came into our world, and eight weeks later Carol and I took home our very first bichon puppy. Although not show quality, Mr. Byte was a spectacular dog, and even seventeen years after his passing we miss him terribly.
- A study at Michigan State shows a strong correlation between use of multiple forms of media at once–e.g, watching TV while surfing the Web–and depression. We don’t know if multitasking causes depression, or if depressed people multitask to distract themselves, but simply establishing the correlation is a good first step.
- Now this is nothing less than brilliant: an app that examines a design destined for 3D printing and lets you know whether it will print well, or at all. 3D typos cost money, and it’s not always obvious looking at a design where a typo lies, or how serious it might be.
- Oh, and there’s a browser-based CAD system that was created with 3D printing in mind: TinkerCAD. Have not used it and generally don’t like browser-based software (what if I develop skills with it and then it goes away?) but it’s a niche that had to be filled.
- Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has just signed the state constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana. As long as you’re not in a public place, using it is now legal under state law–which is, pardon the expression, mind-blowing.
- Only slightly less mind-blowing was the savaging that Rolling Stone gave Obama for not jerking the leash on the DEA. Wow.
- If the elderly–who have nothing if not life experience–are peculiarly vulnerable to scammers, it may be due to the failing of a region of the brain that acts as a “crook detector.” I agree: smug, smirky mouths are not the signs of integrity. Nor is the desire to run for office.
- Pete Albrecht sent me a link to a search site for locally grown food and farmers’ markets. We buy local when it’s possible (though we don’t make a fetish of it) and things like this can only make it more possible.
- Line up the cover spines on Wired‘s 20th year, and read the secret code.
- Lazarus 1.0.4 is out. It’s a bug-fix release, but bug fixes are good to have. I’ve already been messing with it, and I’m starting to think the product has really quite sincerely arrived. Get it here. Many components and demos available here.