- Hurricane activity is at a 45-year low, and no major hurricane has achieved landfall on US soil in almost ten years. Tornadoes have been pretty scarce recently as well. Then again, it’s mid-April and snowing like hell outside right now. Two outa three ain’t bad.
- The Food Babe gets her you-know-what handed to her. This, after all, is the woman who said, “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.” Wow. I probably shouldn’t exist, then. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- More evidence that salt isn’t the demon that government guidelines insist that it is. Remember, you can do the experiment on this one, as it applies to yourself: Give up salt for a month and record your blood pressure every day. Then go back on salt and record your blood pressure every day. If your BP doesn’t change significantly, you can pretty much assume that salt isn’t an issue.
- Red meat is not the enemy. And yes, the science is complicated. What science isn’t?
- Crickets are not superfood. Who knew?
- Carol and I have tried this Moscato and found it good.
- Someone pointed out that my Low-Voltage Tubes page on junkbox.com had gotten corrupted. Indeed it had–and I had unknowingly copied that corruption (which was present in my HTML source files)–onto all the backups I have here. So I pulled a trick I had thought about for a long time: I looked up the site on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, and checked their images of junkbox.com until I found one with an intact copy of the article. I then just lifted the portion of the file that had gotten corrupt and dropped it into the newest copy of the corrupted file. Fixed.
- Amazon has a new contract with Harper-Collins that gives the publisher full agency; that is, the freedom to set its own prices. Amazon is posting a notice on the sales pages of full-agency titles telling the customer that the publisher has set the price, not Amazon.
- Here’s some actual data crunching of the Sad Puppies phenomenon, along with a good deal of sane and rational analysis. Stop hurling hate, and understand what’s going on. Hating isn’t helping your cause one bit.
- ESR thinks that the real problem dividing SFF right now is literary status envy. The piece goes back to last summer, which was before the whole industry went nuts over Sad Puppies. Worth reading, maybe twice.
- If you’re an SP3 supporter, you can get all kinds of Sad Puppies 3 merchandise at the logo artist’s Cafe Press studio shop.
Carol and I are planning another of our canonical nerd parties for later this month, which requires a fair pile of food. We’re tolerable cooks but we’re not foodies, and the skill of putting together enough chow for thirty-odd highly educated and culturally sophisticated eccentrics was not a gene we received. So once again, we’re looking at catering.
Which means we’re thinking about T-Bob’s Barbecue. I’d have Ted (the “T;” Bob has been gone for some time) cater the party like a shot. Only snag: He’s at Algonquin and Elmhurst Roads, which is…1,100 miles away. So it goes.
When Carol and I are in Chicago, we have an emerging ritual of piling over to T-Bob’s with my sister and Bill after they drop the girls off at school, for a late (or for us, often second) breakfast. Wonderful place, the sort of one-off eatery we don’t have many of here in the Springs. It’s got deli-style blackboards and daily specials and…egad…Diet Mountain Dew. Better still, the guy who owns the place is, as often as not, the guy you see behind the counter.
Much good stuff here. Obviously, the barbecue, which comes highly recommended from afionados whom I trust, like Bill. (For still-unknown reasons, nearly all barbecue sauce from all sources disagrees with me, as much as I enjoy it.) I’ll personally vouch for the pulled pork, which you can get as a conventional sandwich or a wrap. Ditto the fried catfish, which is about as good as catfish gets, and swims rings around any other fast-food fish I’ve ever tried. Excellent fries and cornbread.
Given that we’re there mostly in the morning, I generally have scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash-browns, and although it’s easy to say you can’t do those badly, trust me, you can. Not here. The eggs are done and the bacon is crisp, the hash browns just brown enough. Coffee’s very good, though in truth, I generally cave to temptation and have Diet Mountain Dew, even with breakfast. (I don’t drink it at home anymore, so having it at all is a bit of an event, given that Carol and I eat out maybe three times a month.) Bob’s got a number of other things you won’t see in fast food contexts very often, like pulled chicken, cane-sugar sodas from Mexico and baked sweet potato.
Open 8:30 AM to 8PM, 9PM on weekends. Caters (sigh.) Highly recommended.
- Verizon refuses to stop using tower-side cookies (which can’t be deleted by mobile device users) even as AT&T has caved on the issue. The solution is to stop using Verizon. That’s what Carol and I are about to do.
- Relax. Microsoft did not pull the plug on Win7 updates on 1/13. That won’t happen until 2020. What’s going away are new OS features and phone support, two things I don’t think the world desperately needs.
- I like molten lava as much as the next guy. (Just wait until you read my novella Firejammer, coming out–finally–this spring.) That said, I’m not sure I like it quite this much…
- With January only half over, the Great Lakes ice cover is now up to 34%. Lake Erie has pretty much iced over completely.
- Britain’s Royal Society has published some evidence that people born during solar maxima do not live as long as people born during solar minima. It may be folate depletion by UV. Or something else. However, the correlation appears to be real. (Thanks to Neil Rest for the link.) Carol and I are solar minima babies, whew.
- Discovered two very good red wines recently: Menage a Trois Red, and Menage a Trois Midnight. Both are dry reds, both are fruit-forward, and (in contradiction of the vintner’s Web writeups) neither has any detectable oak. I guess if you’re going to get the hipster market you have to claim oak, even if you lie about it. In this case, nothing of value was lost.
- I doubt that my readers are dumb enough to think you can lose weight by ingesting chemistry sets like Slim-Fast. But just in case, read what Tom Naughton says about recent diet rankings in content-free publications like US News. Hint: The same doofi who bleat endlessly against “processed foods” (which now means “any foods I don’t like”) are endorsing fructose cocktails like Slim-Fast over Atkins and paleo.
- Popular Mechanics lists the 14 best cities in America for startups. None are in Silicon Valley, and all are in relatively low-cost areas. Maybe hipster city cachet is finally starting to lose its cachet. Or so we can hope.
- Lots has happened in CPU architectures since the 1980s, when a lot of us learned it. (I started a little earlier, but the IBM PC brought most of us to a new starting gate at the same time.) Here’s a decent summary. One consequence of all this is that human-written assembly language is less of a win over compilers, and the best reason to learn assembly these days is to understand what your damned compilers are up to in there.
- Before he broke into the SF business, Keith Laumer was an ace model airplane designer. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- Physically small, fanless PCs have been around for awhile, and I was bullish on them until I began using Dell USFF (ultra-small form factor) machines like the Optiplex 780, which are pretty small and almost entirely silent. Should we settle for 1.6 GHz? Only if there’s a specific application in mind, like education (think RPi) or embeddedness.
- Bill Cherepy sends us news of a thermostatic butter keeper that can keep a stick of butter (block? It’s a form factor we don’t make in the US) at any arbitrary temp from 15 to 23 degrees C. Butter is definitely coming back into its own, bravo halleluia!
- Hachette is now doing exactly the right thing (instead of exactly the wrong thing) by exploring new sales channels. In this case, it’s Gumroad, a technology that allows retail sales on Twitter. I need to look more closely, but I could certainly get behind that. And–yeek!–a real use for Twitter!
- “Nutrition is full of all kinds of nonsense.” Boy, is it ever. (Thanks to Erik Anderson for the link.)
- Ibuprofen (Advil) appears to extend the lifespan of several species, mostly way down the complexity chain from humans. Ibuprofen is not without side effects; like most NSAIDS, it hits the stomach lining harder harder than acetaminaphen (Tylenol) and I avoid it for heartburn reasons. I’d certainly like to see further research on whether the effect still exists on much lower doses.
- I’m not sure torrenting was ever really safe, but with the disappearance of the real Pirate Bay and the appearance of Pirate Bay clones, the risks have definitely increased. I’m also guessing that a lot of the traffic that once ran through TPB has now gone “black” and moved to private trackers and seedboxes.
- Several French publishers are suing the creators of AdBlock Plus for ruining their business model. My position: Accept financial liability for serving malware in your ads, and I’ll stop blocking your ads.
- My guess is that the waittress will look at you funny if you order corned-beef octothorpe.
- Carol and I got our flu shots some time back, but it may do us (and you) less good than we all think. The virus mutated after work began on this year’s virus, and the vaccine is nowhere near as effective against the mutated strain as it is against the others. No cons for us this season.
- David Brooks generally isn’t funny. But when he is, yikes! He bends it like Jonathan Swift. (If you’re not behind the paywall, search for “Brooks The Thought Leader”.)
- Corn flakes are (mildly) magnetic. I didn’t know this.
- Government is your friend! Without it, how would you know enough not to buy vulgar underwear?
I think Chobani has figured out that we’re on to them. Therein lies a tale.
Carol and I were shopping at Safeway the other day, and were browsing the yogurt section. Chobani has the most yogurt SKUs at Safeway, and damned near all of them have long been decorated with a huge, garish “0.” This is supposed to be a signal that Chobani yogurt has no fat and is thus healthy. (What it means to me is that the nutritional value in the cup is zero, and I avoid the brand.) What I noticed today at Safeway is that the zero is gone. They’re not making a big deal of their nonfatness anymore. Wow. We won.
Anybody who reads me regularly knows that I lost weight by eating more. No, I didn’t change the Laws of Thermodynamics. What I did is give the lie to the BS that one calorie is like every other calorie, and if you eat more calories, you gain weight. That’s not true. (Really. For the love of science, stop repeating it.) When I switched from eating Cheerios in 2% milk for breakfast and went to an egg fried in butter, I lost weight. Then I began eating two eggs fried in butter, and lost more weight. There’s two parts to the method: 1) Eat less grain and sugar, and 2) eat more fat. It works for most people. You won’t know if it doesn’t work until you try it. (I’ve beaten this to death and yes, I’ll stop now.)
In the decades following WWII, there arose a near-maniacal War on Fat, which was based on dodgy or outright fraudulent science, and won the day when Ancel Keys got the Feds to back him up. Suddenly, 2%, 1%, and skim milk were mandatory, butter was demonized, and (shazam!) the country gained the weight of a minor planet. You’ve heard all this before, from me and others. What most people don’t know is that Big Dairy went along with it. You’d think they would put up a horrible fuss, but they didn’t. Why is an interesting question, but the answer is pretty clear: Alluva sudden, you could separate the cream from milk, sell the cream, and still sell the milk.
This wasn’t always the case. Prior to the War on Fat, skim milk was used in a few recipes or processed into casein (Elmer’s Glue!) and much of the rest was fed to pigs. (What couldn’t be fed to pigs was often just dumped.) People who drank milk wanted whole milk. Cream wasn’t considered dangerous. People put it on their corn flakes, for pete’s sake. Cream was considered the most valuable part of the milk, and we consumed a monumental quantity of it without gaining weight. We picked up the weight in part by eating sugar, which was added to nonfat and lowfat dairy products to make them taste like something. But more to the point, full-fat dairy causes satiation, and low/nonfat dairy does not. That’s why skim milk is fed to pigs: It keeps them eating.
Huge dairy product manufacturers could buy cheaper skim milk, make yogurt or cheese from it, and then claim that these new, 0% products were healthy and desirable. The cost to consumers was about the same as full-fat products. Do the math.
The War on Fat is pretty much over, but old habits die hard. We’re going to be mopping up for decades. The absurdity called fat-free half and half still exists. I still have to shop a little for full-fat yogurt and cottage cheese. (Look for the Big 4, though it’s still small. I expect that 4’s on dairy packaging will grow, if slowly.) We should take some comfort in small victories, like the vanishing of the Big Zero from Chobani yogurt cups. I take even more comfort from the vanishing of the fat from my waistline.
I’m still looking for potato chips fried in lard. Sooner or later, we’ll win that one too.
- Stonehenge may be the largest neolithic monument in its immediate area, but it is not alone: New research shows that dozens of smaller monuments exist around it and may be related to it.
- Here’s a beefy, detailed description of how the B-2 stealth bomber could have been something else entirely, if Lockheed’s Skunk Works had won the day.
- That piece led to this one, about the deep roots of the F-117 Nighthawk.
- Iceland’s Holuhraun eruption is throwing off a growing cloud of sulfur dioxide that has reached 1 ppm in eastern Iceland, and has been detected all the way across the Atlantic in Norway and Scotland. Please let this not be another Laki.
- Reports like that make me wonder if this won’t be a buttwhumping winter in the Northern Hemisphere. We had our first snow of the season yesterday, which is earlier than I’ve seen since we moved to Colorado Springs in 2003. Last winter was brutal.
- Most people outside the US do not refrigerate eggs. Here’s why. (Thanks to Tony Kyle for the link.)
- As I’ve said several times, Carol and I no longer refrigerate butter. A stick lasts us about five days (used to be a week before I started eating two eggs fried in butter every morning) and that’s nowhere near long enough for butter to go bad. Part of the reason is the salt. I find it intriguing that not one of ten or twelve sites I read about butter spoilage would quote a time limit of how long butter can sit “out” without refrigeration. This suggests that the answer is “so long that we would lose face for admitting it, so we won’t.”
- From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: Orthorexia, an eating disorder characterized by obsession with “righteous eating;” that is, making yourself sick over whether or not you’re “eating healthy.” (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for bringing this to my attention.)
- Cell phone location data is imprecise, to put it mildly. (I’d use stronger terms if I were in a worse mood.)
- A lousy article about apples. Plus a good one.
- I may have posted links to one or more of these DRB collections before. I don’t care. You just can’t have too many pictures of screwy little tiny cars, plus a little tank and other minuscule laughable things having wheels.
- Or screws.
- I’ve been gone for two weeks, and the pile is still pretty high. So let’s get to work:
- There are now three million Raspberry Pi boards in the world, and counting.
- This chap has designed one into a tablet. Not too surprising, as the original SoC device was created for smartphones.
- Here’s Todd Johnson’s solar triple thermoacoustic engine. I immediately asked, “What’s the physics here?” and Todd, being the consummate physicist, provided the link. Spooky cool.
- From Craig’s Lost Chicago: Photos of many extinct Chicago restaurants, some famous, some very obscure. I’m a little surprised that I had been to so few.
- Which led directly to Craig’s Lost Toys. Doesn’t list Mr. Machine, but does have a photo of the Puffer Kite in its original packaging.
- Another look at Chicago’s past: How Chicago Rocked the 60s.
- If you have any interest in the pulps at all, definitely take a look at the Pulp Magazines Project, which has legal scans of a great many pulp mags, including lots in the SFF category.
- Here’s another, similar archive for comics, with the difference that, although free, you have to create an account to access the books. May still be worthwhile if you’re big on comics. (Thanks to Stuart Anderson for the link.)
- Sounds like Facebook echo chambers to me: Groups promote anonymity, diminish personal responsibility, and encourage reframing harmful actions as ‘necessary for the greater good.’ (Thanks to Jonathan O’Neal for the link.)
- Our new concrete gets its sealer coat tomorrow, and once it dries it’ll be (finally!) done. I’ll post a photo. So far we think it’s gorgeous.
- This article has been shared again and again and again on Facebook, and it caught my attention because it echoes something I wrote about in 2009: That because our stuff is lasting longer, we need less stuff, be it forks or cars. And the cars are piling up…or are they? Alas, the article is nonsense (it did smell a little funny to me) and here’s the point-by-point takedown.
- Here’s the best detailed article on bacteriophage therapy I’ve seen in quite awhile. It’s a hard read, but a good one. Sooner or later, as antibiotics fail us one by one, we’re going to have to go this way. (Phages look very cool, as well.)
- The scientific method wins again: We thought we knew the physics behind same-material static electricity. We were wrong. Doubt really does lie at the very heart of science, in that if we don’t doubt what we think we know, we have no chance of finding our mistakes.
- Now that eggs aren’t evil anymore, it’s worth exploring all the various ways to prepare them. If you like hard-boiled eggs, here’s the best explanation I’ve seen of how to boil them so that they’ll peel easily and without divots.
- Adobe’s Creative Cloud was down for some time. The issue’s been resolved, but it just confirms my ancient suspicion that putting everything on the cloud is a really bad idea. If I can’t access my software, I can’t work. Pretty much end of story.
- Blue light keeps you awake. Staying awake shortens your life. So as the day winds down, Turn the Damned Thing Off. Then read a book until you’re sleepy. I recommend any substantial history book, with a special nod to histories of the Byzantine Empire. (Thanks to Dermot Dobson for the link.)
- This is the company that makes the machines that play the songs on ice cream trucks. Or at least the ones in the UK.
- This exploit isn’t new, but may be the most devilish thing I’ve seen in a couple of years: Using the Unicode “right-to-left override” character in a filename to make a .exe file look like a .pdf, a .jpg, .txt, or anything else. Double-click on that PDF, and you’ll get pwned…because it isn’t a PDF.
- Working 16-hour days and sleeping a couple of hours under your desk may contribute to the high percentage of failures among startups. Basically, people who short on sleep think dumb thoughts and chase dumb ideas. They seem to wear their wilfull sleeplessness like a badge of honor, even as it kills their startups. Or themselves.
- Note the near-obligatory Ekirch reference in the above article. I’ve still not found much evidence for his theory of “divided sleep” outside of his own book, but the guy gets citations all over the place.
- This article on food myths is less interesting than the comments, which generally confirm my conclusion (having seen lots of similar comment sections) that nobody really knows what healthy eating is. (Thanks to Roy Harvey for the link.)
- My own advice runs like this, with no apologies whatsoever to Michael Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. And sometimes plants.
- Much activity in this realm recently. Bruce Baker sends this link from the New York Times . Comments section very similar. The whole field, in fact, is a virtual food fight. Proving you’re right by insulting your opponents is very in right now, especially on Facebook.
- Neil Rest sends a link suggesting that exposure to bright light in the morning lowers BMI. Now, I think BMI itself is bogus–the metric doesn’t differentiate between fat and muscle, sheesh!–but if morning sunlight does indeed goose metabolism, getting out in the sun is a good thing. We should be cautious here: It’s been established that losing sleep does promote weight gain, and it’s mostly night people who lose sleep.
- Name brand diet soda sales are in free-fall. I think that this is less about health and more about cost: People are probably reacting to price hikes from Big Soda over the past couple of years by moving to house brands from Wal-Mart and the major grocery chains.
- House brands are a fascinating business, and there’s very little out there on how this titanic but virtually invisible industry operates. Who makes the Cheerios that aren’t Cheerios?
- Is the Internet taking away religious faith? Hardly. What it’s doing is providing secular religions (like political ideology) to satisfy the tribal hunger of the 50% whose disaffiliation from organized religion can’t be explained in other ways. Tribal ideology is cheap (no churches or clergy to support) and once you’ve given yourself permission to hate others who differ from you, it provides the perfect excuse.
Wow. Somehow it got to be a whole new year when I wasn’t quite looking. I’m not unhappy to be shut of 2013, and as usual, I have high hopes for this year to be better. The last of our parents has been released from her suffering, and while I miss them all (especially my father, who died 36 years ago) my idiosyncratic understanding of Catholic theology suggests that they’re all in better shape than I am right now.
Which isn’t to say I’m in bad shape. I had a couple of health problems this year, but nothing horrible. I’ve been able to get my abdominal fat down to almost nothing, and weigh just eight pounds more than I did when I was 24. It still puzzles me just a bit, but I lost that weight by eating more fat. I’ll tell you with confidence that butter makes almost everything taste better except corn flakes.
I scored an interesting if slightly peculiar writing gig this year. It’s been an immense amount of work, not so much in the writing as in the learning. I’ve never done a book–or part of one–with this broad a scope. I’ve touched on a lot of technologies in my career, but touching isn’t understanding, and understanding is the critical path to explaining. I’ve written code in Python and C and ARMv6 assembly. I practically buried myself in ARM doc for most of two months. That felt good in the way you feel good after walking fifteen miles…once you’ve allowed three or four days for the smoke to clear. I now know a great deal more about virtual memory, cache, and memory management units than I might have just touching on things in my usual fashion. Curiosity is an itch. Autodidaction is a systematic itch. And to be systematic, you need deadlines. Trust me on that.
No, I still can’t tell you about the book. It’s going to be late for reasons that aren’t clear even to me. When the embargo breaks, you’ll hear it whereverthehell you are, whether you have an Internet connection or not.
Every year has some bummers. The ACA did us out of a health insurance plan that we liked, but at least in our case it wasn’t cancelled on the spot. We have some time to figure out where we can get a comparable plan, if one exists. (One may not.) It could end up costing us a quarter of our income or more, and we may lose relationships with physicians we’ve known for ten years. I’ll just be called evil for complaining, so I won’t. Anger is the sign of a weak mind, after all. I think one of my correspondents whose insurance was cancelled without warning summed it up in an interesting way: “I’m not going to get angry. I’m going to get even.”
It’s snowing like hell as I write. I would have posted a photo, but as most of you are staring out the window at snow this week (in some places a great deal of it) I doubt it would have been especially interesting. Besides, a couple of hours ago, I could have just said: Imagine yourself inside a ping-pong ball. Open your eyes. In truth, the weather hasn’t been all that bad. The global climate, in fact, has been remarkably benign considering all the dire predictions of the past ten or twelve years, at least once you look at actual stats and not anecdotes or GIGO models. Science works. Back in 2007, Al Gore himself told us that we would have an ice-free arctic by 2013. (Then again, he also said that a couple of kilometers under our feet it was millions of degrees…talk about global warming!) I love the scientific method. You predict, you test, and then you learn something. Sure, I believe in global warming. I’m still unconvinced that it’s entirely a bad thing. (I remember the ’70s. I also remember Arizona.)
I’ve also been doing some experimental research on the psychology of people who jump up and start frothing at the mouth like maniacs the instant they read something somewhere (anywhere!) that conflicts with their tribe’s narrative. That research is ongoing.
I’ve discovered a lot of good things, albeit small ones: Stilton cheese pairs with Middle Sister Rebel Red. Who knew? Python is much better than I remember it, TCL, alas, much worse. And Tkinter, wow. You’re not going to spin a GUI that fast or that easily in C. Green Mountain Coffee Island Coconut beats all, at least all you can get in a K-cup. Carol and I are dunking good bread in good olive oil again, now that Venice Olive Oil Company has a retail shop in Colorado Springs.
Time to go up and start cooking supper. We’re out of egg nog but my Lionel trains are still running. I don’t care if it looks like a ping-pong ball outside. I have my wife, my dogs, my junkbox, and a head that still works more or less as intended. Happy new year to all. Life is good, and getting better. Trust me on that too.