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Odd Lots

  • Lazarus 1.8.4 has been released. Bug-fix release but still worth having. Go get it!
  • From the Questions-I-Never-Thought-to-Ask Department: How was sheet music written after quill pens but before computers? With a music typewriter, of course.
  • How to become a morning person. Yes, there are benefits. The larger question of whether circadian orientation is born or made remains unanswered. Carol and I both lived at home during college. We’re both morning people. My sister and I had the same parents, grew up in the same house and obeyed the same rules (bedtimes were set from above and were not negotiable) and she went away to school. She is a night person. Proves nothing, but I find the correlation intriguing. (Thanks to Charlie Martin for the link.)
  • Here’s a long-form, highly technical paper on why human exposure to low-level radiation is more complex than we thought (hey, what isn’t?) and that some data suggests a little radiation experienced over a long timeframe actually acts against mortality. I’d never heard of the Taiwan cobalt-60 incident, but yikes!
  • Sleep, exercise, and a little wine may help the brain’s glymphatic system clean out unwanted amyloid waste products within the brain, preventing or staving off Alzheimer’s. This process may be the reason that anything with a brain sleeps, and why humans (who have more brain matter per pound than anything else I’m aware of) should get as much sleep as we can.
  • An enormous study on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet was found to be profoundly flawed, and has been retracted. The data was supposedly re-analyzed and the original results obtained again, but if the researchers made the mistakes they did originally (assuming that they were in fact mistakes and not deliberate faking) I see no reason to trust any of their data, their people, or their methods ever again.
  • How faddism, computerization, national bookstore ordering, a court case, and New York City cultural dominance destroyed (and continues to destroy) traditional publishing of genre fiction. The good news is that with indie publishing it matters far less than it otherwise would.
  • If you’ve followed the nuclear energy industry for any significant amount of time, you know that fusion power is always 30 years in the future. Now, I’ve also been hearing about thorium reactors for almost 30 years, and I got to wondering why we don’t have them yet either. Here’s a good discussion on the problems with thorium power, which intersect heavily with the problems plaguing ordinary uranium reactors.
  • Long-held myths die hard, especially when governments beat the drum for the myth. Eggs are good food. I eat at least two every day, sometimes more. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study indicating that people on a lots-of-eggs diet lost weight and suffered no cardiac consequences of any kind. Good short summary here.
  • I don’t see a lot of movies, but I’m in for this one, crazy though the concept is. After all, spectacle is what the big screen and CGI are for. Mad Max meets Cities in Flight? Sold.
  • The contrarian in me has long wondered how much of what I put out on the street every week in the recycle can is actually recycled. The answer is very little, especially since single-stream recycling became fashionable. Almost all of it goes into landfills. The reasons are complex (there’s not a lot you can do with scrap plastic, for example) but apart from aluminum cans, the cost of sorting it far exceeds the value of the reclaimed materials.
  • The antivax movement has always boggled me for its indomitably willful stupidity. Having stumbled upon a research paper on who the antivaxers are I boggle further: They are almost all members of the educated elite in our urban cores. This was always a suspicion of mine, and now we have proof.
  • Here’s a fascinating piece on the effects of water vapor and continental drift on global temperatures. The topic is complex, and the piece is long and rich, with plenty of graphs. The comments are worth reading too. The primary truth I’ve learned in researching climate for the last ten or fifteen years is that it’s fiendishly complex.
  • Brilliantly put: “But anger isn’t a strategy. Sometimes it’s a trap. When you find yourself spewing four-letter words, you’ve fallen into it. You’ve chosen cheap theatrics over the long game, catharsis over cunning.” –Frank Bruni, NYT.
  • A few days back I got Leonard Bernstein’s quirky, half-classical, half-klezmer “Overture to Candide” stuck in my head all afternoon. One listen to this was all it took.
  • I got there by recovering an old memory, of a chap who came to SF cons in the 70s with a strange keyboard instrument that he blew on through a hose, which as you might expect sounded like a piano accordion without a bellows. He was a filker and played interesting things, and I always assumed that he had somehow built the device himself. (It was much-used and taped up in several places.) But no, the chap is Irwin S. “Filthy Pierre” Strauss, and the instrument is a melodica.
  • Finally, one of the creepiest articles I’ve seen in a couple of years. I considered and set aside a plotline in my upcoming nanotech novel The Molten Flesh that involved sexbots, real, fully mobile AI sexbots enlivened (if that’s the word) by the Protea device. Maybe I should bring it back. The original 1959 Twilight Zone episode “The Lonely” has always haunted me. Maybe sex is a sideshow. Maybe it’s about having something to care about that cares back, and therefore gives your life meaning. I could work with that.

Odd Lots

  • I posted The Cunning Blood on the Kindle Store 61 days ago, and in those two months it’s earned just a hair over $3,600. 46% of that came from KU page turns. Fellow indie authors, I think we have us a business model.
  • Tom Roderick sent me a link to a very nice graphical COSMAC ELF emulator, designed to look as much like Joe Weisbecker’s unit from Popular Electronics (August, 1976) as possible. You can toggle in opcodes like we did almost forty years ago, and run them. (The Q line drives an LED.)
  • In cleaning out the garage, I took a look at the motor/battery module of my robot Cosmo Klein (which I built in 1977-1978) and realized it wouldn’t take much to get it running again. The original Cosmo had two COSMAC systems and a glass-screen TV for a head (which made him very top-heavy) along with a cranky robotic arm. (Here are some photos of my COSMAC projects and Cosmo himself.) I could hide an RPi2 in that thing and you’d never find it. Funny how stuff changes in 38 years…or maybe not funny at all.
  • From Astounding Stories: Spacemen beating the crap out of one another in zero-G with…yardsticks. By Edmond Hamilton. Not sure of the year, but you can download the whole thing.
  • From the Weirdness-I-Just-Learned-About Department: The tontine, a financial arrangement in which a pool of people contributes equally to buy a pool of assets, and as they die, each deceased’s share is distributed to survivors. Apart from an inceptive to murder your tontine siblings, what could go wrong?
  • In the fever of a house hunt, I missed this item: Amazon is going to create its own line of house brands for food. I have a peculiar curiosity about house brands, which is a sort of shadow business that doesn’t get much press. Why would an industry-leader cereal manufacturer sell its cereal in bulk to other companies to sell as competing house brands? It happens, but nobody wants to talk about it. Big store chains have house brand versions of many products, including most mainstream cereals. There’s a book in this somewhere, though I don’t intend to write it.
  • If you’re not a balls-out supporter of nuclear power generation, I don’t want to hear a word out of you about global warming. We need base load, and neither Sun nor wind can provide base load. In truth, all that stands between us and a completely nuclear future is fear (i.e., political tribalism) and money. The money issue can be fixed. Alas, the gods themselves, etc.
  • It’s been 119 months since a major hurricane (Class 3 or higher) has hit the American mainland. Unless Joaquin goes ashore along the east coast somewhere in the next several days (and current winds argue against that) it’ll be 120 months–ten years–come October 24. That’s an all-time record since records have been kept. Global warming causes everything else; why not better weather?
  • And you wonder why I’m a global warming skeptic. Hey, fellow (potential) morlocks: I hear that our Educated Elite is delicious with melted butter.
  • Americans are embracing full-fat foods, thus spitting in the face of government advice. As well they should: The War on Fat is based on fraudulent science put forth by ace scientific con-man Ancel Keys, whose only real talent was getting government to take his side. Go butter, eggs, and meat. You’ll lose weight, and feel better.
  • Yes, I bring that up regularly, because I’m trying my best to ruin Keys’ reputation. His deadly advice has killed tens of millions, and is still killing them. “I’m supported by the government. I’m here to kill you.”
  • Some good news: A judge kneecapped champion patent troll eDekka by invalidating its only significant patent.
  • And more…for some people, least: Charlie Martin pointed me to an article from Harvard summarizing a study on the beneficial effects of coffee. Coffee appears to delay, improve, or prevent just about everything but insomnia. And what’s my main problem?
  • There! A month’s worth of grouchiness in one Odd Lots! (With a few other items thrown in for spice.) I don’t do that often, but it feels good when I do.

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • Making you fat and diabetic is the least of it: Sugar (especially fructose) sabotages your brain. If it’s your first favorite organ (as it is for me) put your brain at the top of your personal food chain. Be a caveman: Eat more animal fat and less sugar.
  • Eat more fat and less sugar, but do it this way: Trade sugar for sleep. Lack of sleep makes you hungry, and I’m guessing that chronic lack of sleep makes you lots hungrier than you would be if you just admitted that you can’t get by on six hours or possibly even seven. Cavemen slept when it got dark. Dark is your friend. (Thanks to Jonathan O’Neal for the link.)
  • While we’re talking Inconvenient Health Truths, consider: The downside of demonizing salt is that people have begun to show symptoms of iodine deficiency. (I myself am…unlikely…to ever have that problem.)
  • Instagram walked back from the cliff and withdrew its mind-boggling policies on commercial use of user photos without permission or complication. The Internet firestorm was one reason, I’m sure…but I’m also guessing that someone in their legal department got the message through that the firm would be sued into subatomic particles if it went ahead.
  • I wasn’t aware that a sack of potatoes stands in well for a human being in Wi-Fi tests on networking in crowded spaces like aircraft cabins. I do wonder what happened to the potatoes.
  • “Thorium” is my answer to the question of how to best reduce CO2 in our atmosphere. We need base load; wind and solar are necessary but not sufficient.
  • There are at least five planets orbiting SF favorite Tau Ceti, and one may be in the star’s habitable zone. What the article does not mention is that the habitable planet is considerable closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, and at a distance closer than Venus is probably tidally locked on its star. That’s not a dealbreaker, but tidal locking certainly makes the journey from slime to sublime a lot less likely.
  • My ongoing (and slow-going) project of rewriting Borland Pascal from Square One for FreePascal continues, and there’s a new and expanded PDF up on my FTP site. 9 MB. 180 pages done out of about 350 or 400 planned. Not all 800 pages of the original book will be included, because some of it is now mostly useless, and some will be kicked upstream to a Lazarus book that I’m planning.
  • FreePascal contains a clean-room clone of Borland’s TurboVision, which I actually named way back in 1989. (Its original name was TOORTL: Turbo Object-Orietnted Runtime Library.) I’m going to recompile my Mortgage Vision application in FPC with FreeVision and see if it still works. That is, if I can find the source…
  • We’re getting our Mayans, Aztecs, and Oreos mixed up. Actually, I read the oreoglyphics on the cookie and it said that the world will end in 1947.
  • Furthermore, it’s a lot tougher to dunk a Mesoamerican stone calendar in your coffee.

Odd Lots

  • The United States has overtaken Germany as the world’s lead producer of wind energy, measured in total kilowatts. Way to go–keeping in mind that Germany still beats us all hollow with kilowatts per capita. I’m a big believer in NWS, in that order, and part of the reason N comes before W is that over the past few years, when Carol and I have passed giant wind turbines along I-80 on our way to and from Chicago, they were only turning about a third of the time. Wind energy is great, but it does not stand alone.
  • Small children should be allowed to get dirty as a way of building their immune systems. I was digging in the back yard since before I can remember, and never had much trouble with allergies. There may be a downside to our dirt- and germ-averse culture that has nothing to do with the risk of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. (With Gretchen’s approval, I think I’m going to buy our nieces a couple of garden trowels next Christmas…)
  • Few people today remember that Apple Computer was once a Pascal shop, and had a promo poster in the late 70s incorporating a classic “railroad” diagram of Pascal language syntax. Yes, the 70s really did look like that. (At least it wasn’t all done in Harvest Gold.) Thanks to Paul Santa-Maria for the link. Paul created his own version of the poster in black and white, which I hope he makes available at some point. The Waite Group sold (or gave away; not sure if it was a boom promo) a similar card in the same era, but it’s long since vanished from my collection.
  • Has anyone here ever read any of the Very Short Introduction books from Oxford University Press? Are they useful? I just ordered several, and I’m curious as to the quality of the series. I’ll report here once the books show up and I’ve had a chance to read them. There are many subjects I’m interested in sufficiently to read 150 pages on, but not 600 pages.
  • A German publisher wrote an article claiming that cheaper ebooks will put them out of business. (The article is in German; take what you can from the English summary or if you know the language, click through to the original.) The gist is that there are special costs associated with e-publishing that more than balance the special costs associated with print publishing. My take: If true, it’s only until we get up to speed. (I also think it may be true that many publishers don’t really understand all the forces that bear on how they make their money. Many things lead up to the cash-register’s beep, not all of them obvious.
  • I’m a lot less sanguine about the OLPC than I used to be, but the recent unveiling of future designs intrigues me: The next-gen OLPC will have two displays, and can be held and read portrait-style, like a book. When a keyboard is needed, rotate the device 90, and one of the two displays becomes a keyboard. Very cool, and something like that should be sold worldwide by every electronics retailer. (Their peculiar distribution mechanism will eventually be the end of them.)