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Odd Lots

  • 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.)

Odd Lots

Odd Lots, Thanksgiving Edition

  • Some brilliant if loopy stuff came out of the 70s, and one of the most brilliant is the episode of WKRP in Cinncinnati where they shoved live turkeys out of a helicopter and were surprised when the turkeys soon hit terminal velocity and went splat. (No turkeys were harmed–nor even shown–in that episode.) Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.
  • There are in fact turkeys that fly. Carol and I bought a heritage turkey of the sort that can and probably did fly, if not very far nor fast. Although it’s still thawing as I write this, the theory is that the meat will be darker and juicier coming from muscles that are actually used in the bird’s daily life. We’ll know soon.
  • I often eat eggs two meals a day, and don’t quail at eating eggs at all three meals. Which made me wonder if you could get turkey eggs somewhere, and what they’re like. They’re a little bigger (about 25%) and considerably pointier–and almost unavailable. Why? They’re lots more valuable as turkeys than as eggs. As so often, Cecil Adams has the last word.
  • Leave it to The Wall Street Journal to highlight a conflict I would not have imagined on my own: the issue of putting Marshmallow Fluff in the sweet potatoes. People have evidently come to blows over this.
  • I was astonished to learn (from the above article) that Marshmallow Fluff has existed since 1920. I’ve tasted it exactly once (as best I remember) when my poor mother attempted to use it in gingerbread house roof frosting circa 1960. The frosting softened the hard gingerbread slabs and the roof caved in.
  • The obvious question to arise after you cease boggling over putting Marshmallow Fluff in the sweet potatoes: Is there a marshmallow-flavored liqueur? Yup. Smirnoff has it. And a bald woman in their product advertising, egad. Like a marshmallow, get it?
  • If that doesn’t seem odd, well, consider other weird cordials from around the world, including cannabis liqueur, smoked salmon flavored vodka, and (yukkh!) baby mice wine.
  • No, I didn’t find a turkey-flavored liqueur. However–and I am not making this up–Jones Soda sells (among other things, including Green Bean Casserole soda) Turkey & Gravy soda. How does it taste? Do not fail to read the description in the article.
  • I failed to find turkey-flavored vodka, but I did run across a recipe for 100-proof vodka-flavored turkey. Hic.
  • We’re long past Marshmallow Peeps season, but here’s an entrepreneurial idea: sell pre-staled Peeps. It takes a year or so to get them stale enough to pass muster with aficionados, but I have it on good authority that they don’t get moldy. Don’t ask why; you don’t want to know. Twinkies were not outliers in this regard.
  • As for Thanksgiving itself, the holiday and the state of mind, I will simply refer you to what I said in 2008. It’s all still true–and since then Jackie has lost a good deal of weight and become ours. Be thankful. Live mindfully. Appreciate those you love and who love you. And thanks to everybody who takes a detour out of their busy online lives to read me here!

Odd Lots


Aeros Birthday.jpg

Today is Aero’s sixth birthday. We’ve given the Pack (and their forebears, Mr. Byte and Chewy) cake and lemon bars on their various birthdays down through the years, with good results. Dash, however, is peculiar in that he simply doesn’t like sweet things. So this time we took a quarter pound of good burger and divided it four ways. (L-R: Jack, Aero, QBit, and Dash.) We were out of birthday candles, so I took a plumber’s candle and stuck it in Aero’s portion.

It’s a testament to the quality of Carol’s training that even after she placed the plates of burger in front of them, saying “Leave it!” was enough to keep them seated patiently on the bench behind the table. Once the photos were taken, saying “Take it!” ensured that the burger was gone in two heartbeats. Maybe one. (Carol yanked the candle first.)

It’s also been two weeks since I last posted here, which is well beyond my usual threshold of pain. Insiders know what’s going on: I have a novel to finish. And I’m not trying to finish it just to get it off my do-it list. No sirree: An editor at a significant press has asked for the full manuscript.

Boy. Nothing like a little request like that to light a fire under a guy.

I have a pair of hard deadlines now: Finished manuscript by 8/31. Polished manuscript ready to ship by 9/15. Today was a milestone: I hurtled past 53,700 words, which was the finished length of Drumlin Circus. That means that Ten Gentle Opportunities is the longest piece of fiction I’ve written since The Cunning Blood crossed the finish line on Good Friday 1999.

It is also the strangest. At my Clarion workshop in 1973, Lloyd Biggle, Jr said during a guest lecture that you can’t mix SF and fantasy. I’ve had it in my head ever since then that when Biggle’s words reached my ears, it was like swearing on the Runestaff: I knew I would damned well do it someday.

Sorry, Lloyd. I offer you: Dancing zombies. Well-dressed AIs. Object-oriented magic. Virtual universes, virtual doughnuts, virtual Frisbees, virtual stomach acid. Romance. A cannon that fires machine instructions. Heavily networked kitchen appliances. Total war waged inside a robotic copier factory. (Did I miss anything? I’ve heard there’s a sink shortage locally.)

I admit it. The romance has been hard. Reading romance novels to see how the pros do it was not especially helpful. Worse, I have no real-world experience engaging in screaming matches with significant others, of whom there have been exactly four, anyway. The romance may thus seem less real than the magic, which might be described as Supernatural Pascal.

What’s been harder than the romance has been maintaining the mood for 53,000 words. Humor is just, well, hard, which is a topic worthy of one or more entries all by itself. I think it works, but it’s hard to know until the whole thing’s done. I suspect my beta testers will tell me. If they don’t, my editor will.

53,800 words down. 26,200 words to go. Three weeks. Watch me.

Odd Lots

  • Don’t forget the annular solar eclipse that will touch the Southwestern US this Sunday, May 20.
  • From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: Ignorosphere, the region from about 120,000 feet altitude to the lowest stable orbit. (It’s a flip term for the mesosphere.) It’s too high for winged aircraft or balloons, and not empty enough for orbiting spacecraft. Sampling it is difficult (one-shot sounding rockets are all we have in terms of tools) and we know less about it than any other region of near space.
  • After a long conversation on the subject with mobile developer David Beers the other day, I stumbled on an article that drives home the problematic nature of Android app development: There are actually four thousand different Androids. (Maybe more.)
  • I’m seeing more and more videos in, um, bad taste being posted to my friends’ Facebook feeds by something called Socialcam. The suggestion is that those who post have actually viewed the videos, but that’s not true. Socialcam reserves the right to post stuff to your Facebook feed that you have not viewed and have no knowledge of. Tear that damned thing out by the roots.
  • This certainly makes me wish that I liked corn more than I do.
  • An interesting study here adds fuel to the fire over suggestions that keeping a consistent sleep schedule helps you lose weight. I.e., don’t try to “make up” lost sleep on the weekends. Doesn’t work. I’ve been saying this for years, based on a lecture series I took at the Mayo Clinic: Getting five hours of sleep a night will make you fat and kill you before your time. People get angry at me for suggesting that they be in bed, lights-out, between 9:30 and 10 PM if they have to get up at six to get to school or work, but that’s probably what it takes. A handful of people may be able to get by on five or six hours a night. The usual human-traits bell curve suggests that you are almost certainly not one of them.
  • If you remember a speculation I made some time back about dogs and human origins, well here’s another: That dogs helped us drive the Neanderthals to extinction. I’m dubious. My sense is that their lack of dogs allowed the Neanderthals to drive themselves to extinction via dawn raids. Dogs made dawn raids difficult, and so we failed to wipe our own species out. (I haven’t seen any evidence yet that Neanderthals kept dogs, but of course I’m still looking.)
  • If you don’t know what a “zoetrope” is, go look it up before you behold the pizzoetrope, which is essentially an edible animation created by spinning a pizza. Sounds loopy (as it were) but it works.

Odd Lots

Dash Nails It. Twice.

L-R: Jeff Duntemann, Dash, Carol Duntemann, Jack

(Photo above courtesy Dr. Kathy Jordan.) We got back from Denver Monday night with a folder full of ribbons and, in the kennel in the back seat, a new Bichon Frise champion: Ch. Jimi’s Faster Than Light, better known to most of you as Dash. I also came back with a miserable headcold, so if this (rather late) entry is thin gruel, it’s because my head still feels like very thick gruel.

We’ve gone to the annual Rocky Mountain Cluster Dog Show now for several years. It’s the largest AKC event in the mountain west, and consists of four separate dog shows on four consecutive days. This makes it worthwhile for people to travel a fair distance to get there, since for each breed there are four chances to win. With more dogs entered, there are also more chances for the coveted “major win,” two of which are necessary for a dog to achieve championship. At smaller shows you can collect conformation points toward championship, but without those two major wins, that last step can’t happen. (Dog show rules are complex, and I can’t do them justice in a single blog entry.)

It’s a big show, and in fact dwarfs the Bichon Frise National Specialty, which we call Bichonicon and attend when it isn’t too far. This year the lousy economy reduced attendance from a typical 3,000 dogs to about 2,500–which is still a lot of dogs.

We already have a champ in the house: Aero became a champion in 2010. We’ve been working on Dash and Jack since then. Dash has been racking up points fairly regularly since we began showing him as a puppy. In fact, he’s been “singled out” now for some time, which means that he had more than the required fifteen conformation points, but lacked a second major win to become a champion.

The Rocky Mountain Cluster doesn’t always present an opportunity for Bichon Frise majors (which depends on the number of breed dogs entered) but this year it did, for both males and females. The Rocky Mountain Bichon Frise Club was there in force, with a bichon enclave roped off down in the lower-level cattle pens at the National Western Complex, near the junction of I-25 and I-70.

Ch. Jimi's Faster Than Light (Dash) on grooming tableCarol had been working on Dash’s coat for some time, having studied under long-time bichon groomers including Jimi Henton here in the Springs, and Lorrie Carlton of Belle Creek Bichons in Plymouth, Michigan. Dash certainly looked about as good as he ever has, and on Friday morning mostly needed fluffing up. Carol did a very good groom job on Jack as well, but Jack has special problems unrelated to his coat, which is superb. Jack is shy, and has a hard time keeping his tail up and over his back (as required by the breed standard) when in the midst of dog show pandemonium. We’re working on that, and in fact have made great progress since he came to us in 2009, but when he’s in the ring his tail drops.

Carol and I both “handle;” that is, we both usher a dog around the show ring. She typically handles Dash, and I typically handle Jack. On Friday the judge in our ring was the formidable Edd Bivin, an intense and cerebral dog expert who has been an AKC judge since 1961, and regularly chairs the Best In Show panel and provides commentary on the televised Eukanuba National Championship dog shows. (No pressure!) Dash, now two and a half, still has more than a touch of puppy in him, and did not behave as well as we had hoped. Nonetheless, when all the male bichons had marched around the ring for the final review, Edd Bivin pointed at him for the #1 position. Dash had beaten all (male) comers, and nailed his second major. He was a champ.

Dash didn’t win Best of Breed that day, an honor taken by Lindsay Van Keuren’s bitch Barbie. (Remember that “bitch” is a technical term in the dog realm, and simply means “female.”) Several people who watched him suggested that when he matures a little more (and stops squirming like a sixth grader) he will be unstoppable. Carol is considering going on with him to compete for the title of AKC Grand Champion, which is a much tougher climb.

We’ll see on that. As for the rest of the show, Dash squirmed his way out of winning on Saturday and Sunday, but again pulled down a major win on Monday, under veteran AKC judge Carl Gomes. So he now has three major wins and 23 points. Since he needs only two majors and fifteen points to be a champion, he has a comfortable margin. Jack looked great but just couldn’t keep his tail up, and will need some additional training. We all came home dog-tired and covered with dog hair, not to mention this peculiar brown dust that churns up in the cattle pens. (You can guess where that comes from, keeping in mind that these are not dog pens…)

By the next morning I had come down with a whomping headcold, which is still with me as I write. Doesn’t matter. Dash got his championship. The whole Pack got some chicken liver. Carol shared a couple of malted milk balls with me and then ordered me to bed. Dog shows are hard work, and a hairy business. Still, we had more fun than we’ve had in a good long while.

Odd Lots