- 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.
- 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…
- Jim Strickland found a site with some of the guldurndest CP/M-80 programming tools from the 80s and maybe earlier. Most of them aren’t familiar to me, and I don’t have a machine to run them on anymore. However, if you want any of the four releases of JRT Pascal, or Turbo Modula-2 for CP/M, well, dinner is served.
- And for dessert, here’s the x86 DOS collection, including Turbo Pascal 3.02, Turbo C 2.01, and all of the original IBM PC slipcase compilers that I’ve ever seen.
- Very nice if not especially new intro to Flash and SSDs, from AnandTech.
- Another, more recent piece on Flash over there. Remember that it’s a multiparter; read ‘em all.
- Pete Albrecht sends word of a Death Star ball camera trending on IndieGogo right now. It’s a little like kite aerial photography without the kite.
- Amtrak has some new muscle: 8600 horses’ worth. I used to take Amtrak between Baltimore and NYC regularly when I worked for Ziff-Davis, and it was a wonderful thing. Now if I could only get a damned train between here and Denver… (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- Wonderful volcano photo over at Wired, which again leads me to wonder what the trends are in volcanic activity over the past century or two. Are there really more eruptions, or are we just hearing more about the ones that happen? If you’ve ever seen a chart somewhere, please share.
- Pertinent to my last Odd Lots: The correct term is “assortative,” according to linguist Michael Covington. “Preventive” and “assortative” are derived from the 4th principal parts of the Latin verbs “preventus” and “assortatus.” That’s actually more interesting, in a way, than assortative mating itself.
- The Great Lakes are now 88% covered in ice. We may not top the 1994 level (94%) nor 1979 (95%) this year, but unless things get a helluva lot warmer out east in the next month or so, we’re going to give them a very good run.
- Great perky guitar piece by Eric Johnson in the $1.29 MP3 pile over at Amazon.
- Also, my fourth favorite pop song evah, for only a buck.
- If you &*!## love science enough to believe the &*!## data, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that sugar will &*!## kill you. (Thanks to my very brilliant wife for the link.)
- The core of loving science, by the way, is questioning authority–and demanding that scientific authority be sane, calm, utterly honest, and absolutely without anger. (And so–need I say?–should the questioners.)
- Either red wine, aspirin, or both could help us beat certain types of cancer. The key may be not too much wine, and not too much aspirin.
- If this Onion piece makes you twitch even a little, well, good.
- There’s lots more Neanderthal in us than we previously thought. My knobby Neanderthal head is poking me in my conical ribcage…
- Google just sold Motorola to Lenovo, but will be keeping the Motorola skunkworks.
- Saturation radio advertising in the early 70s has left their jingle stuck in the far corners of my head, but I never actually tasted Zapple cinnamon-apple wine. Weird wines fascinate me (I stop well short of baby mice wine, thanks) and that sounds better than some of the gimmick wines I’ve tried in my life.
- However, I did try Mateus and Lancers back in the day, both of which were handed out to all passengers on those noisy old Fokkers I used to ride between Chicago and Rochester MN when Carol was in grad school. Both still exist. I wonder if I have the will to buy one of each and see if those old golden memories were about the wine or the woman? (Three guesses. None of them count.)
- So is it “assortive” mating, or “assortative” mating? I see both spellings online, but having internalized “preventive” I’m loath to endorse”assortative.”
- A heads-up on something I’m investigating when time allows: Running the Atlantis word processor on Windows 7 fails the first time, but launches the Windows 7 Game Explorer module gameux.dll, which for some reason causes rundll32.exe to use about 50% of my CPU cycles thereafter. This problem arises with games, but Atlantis is not a game. The machine does not have a network connection, which seems key. Still poking at it, but if you’ve seen this problem and fixed it, do let me know how. I’m starting to think that there’s a game called “Atlantis” somewhere and that Game Explorer is looking for a network connection to “do something.” If there’s a way to carve Game Explorer out of Win7 without breaking anything else, that would be not only useful, but damned useful.
- People in Colorado are already skinnier than people in other states. They may be about to become skinnier yet.
- Another revelation from the Ministry of the Painfully Obvious: Political discussions damage Facebook relationships. Since a huge fraction of Facebook posts seem to be hatehurling anyway, this should surprise no one.
- Perhaps a new way to look at the dichotomy: Weather is anecdotes. Climate is data.
Carol’s home and sound asleep upstairs, after having her right foot fixed late this morning. She won’t be walking unassisted for a couple of weeks. No problem; she has a knee scooter, crutches, and me. Oh, and practice: Having had her left foot and ankle repaired on Halloween, we both know the drill. Time and love will do the job. Our nephew Matt and his beautiful fiancee Justine will marry this coming August, and damn, there will be dancing.
The surgery RN asked Carol about her allergies, and Carol wore the fire-engine red badge above during surgery. No cats or mangoes were encountered, nor any other difficulty. The surgeon came out to the waiting room to let me know all was well, with an X-ray of Carol’s foot in his hand. He explained the pins and the bones and other things that lie far outside my core competence. My main question was simple: Is my forever girlfriend all right? The answer was all I needed to know: She is.
The Pack is over at Grandma Jimi’s getting washed and groomed and will then spend the night, so for now peace reigns at Phage House on Stanwell. When we dropped them off, Jimi gave us a crockpot full of home-made chicken soup. There’s most of a very good pork shoulder in the fridge and another in the freezer when we finish that. I laid in a couple of bags of Costco torta rolls and a fresh quarter wheel of Stilton cheese. We’re short on diet ginger ale, but the wine rack is full. If there’s any hunger in this house in the next week or so, it’ll be the sort of hunger where most of TV is from. (Especially The Weather Channel, more on which when time allows.)
Not much to report, which is good. I’m currently writing a summary of coding GUI apps in Python using Tkinter, followed by a summary of coding GUI apps with FreePascal and Lazarus. Then this interminable chapter will be over.
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.
- Have you ever wondered what the analemma looks like on other planets? There’s an app for that.
- If you want to cover screwheads or other elements of a laptop that would be disturbed by tampering, use glitter nail polish, the less common the better. The tampering may still happen, but glitter nail polish isn’t easy to fake, and at least you’ll know that it occurred.
- More evidence that the better part of our modern diet consists of…lies. (Thanks to neil Rest for the link.)
- The Atlantic reminds us of the 40-year war waged on coffee by Mr. C. W. Post of Post cereals, who was trying to build the market for his caffeine-free dirt-flavored cereal beverage Postum.
- Speaking of the devil, Lileks did his signature treatment on Mr. Coffee Nerves some time back. People drank a lot of coffee in the 50s to counteract all the booze that was going down the hatch to keep them from killing one another wholesale. That decade was not Arcadia. It was psychotic.
- Why did good always trounce evil in Middle Earth? It may have been the bad guys’ vitamin D deficiency.
- The government of El Salvador has released a boggling video of Salvadorian volcano Chaparrastique, just before and after its recent explosion.
- Michaelangelo’s grocery list…with illustrations, natch. (And does this remind anybody else of the handscript style used in the Voynich Manuscript?)
- A collection of science fiction postage stamps. (Thanks to Ernie Marek for the link.)
- These semi-fossilized English words escaped total fossilization by hiding inside popular idioms. The list lacks “ilk,” which sounds like it should an obscure human organ, or even a breed of horse. (Thanks to Gwen Henson for the link.)
- Both MIT and ETH Zurich have made some cool cubical robots that move and balance using flywheels. Ha! I did this in the first chapter of The Cunning Blood: I had gas-turbine powered mechanical dinosaurs that moved (twitchily) by pinching several internal flywheels under the control of a fluidic computer.
- Ceramic squirrels don’t injure people. Crazy people holding ceramic squirrels injure people. No one evidently cared what happened to the ceramic squirrel. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
I guess for symmetry’s sake I have to hand you two Daywanders in a row. Blame symmetry if you want; here you go:
It’s (almost) all good news. Carol is improving daily, though still using crutches for long hauls. Her foot hurts when she uses it too much. She’s about to begin physical therapy, which should help. And in three weeks she goes in to get the other one done. We knew this winter was going to be spent mostly at home, though neither of us fully appreciated just how at home we were going to be. Then again, dancing with that girl is as close to heaven as I’ll get on this old Earth. It’s not even three years until our 40th wedding anniversity celebration. Dancing you want? Dancing we’ll give you!
Our Lionel trains are up! It’s been several years, but with a little unexpected help from Jim Strickland, the Camel and the GG-1 are tearing around a longish loop that now surrounds both of our livingroom couches, powered by my formidable Lionel ZW. We put some liver treats in Carol’s 1959 hopper car, and of all the Pack, only Dash was willing to chase the train around and scoop the treats up out of the hopper. He was also the only one willing to grab Louie the Giggling Squirrel from the same hopper.
Then again, Delphi and Lazarus are just better.
Carol and I got the Christmas cards out today. It didn’t get done last year because Carol’s mom was failing and we knew we had only one more Christmas with her. Between Carol’s foot and my book project it almost didn’t get done this year either, but we’re trying to get back real life as life should be lived. Christmas cards are part of that. No complaints.
Bad news? Not much. I was pulling a pizza out of the oven a couple of nights ago, and fumbled the pan with my gloved right hand. Fearing that dinner was about to go jelly-side-down on the kitchen floor, my reflexes put my un-gloved left hand in the line of fire, and whereas I saved the pizza, it came at the cost of second-degree burns on two fingers and the thumb of my left hand. It’s not bothering me as much today as yesterday, and my typing speed is slowly getting back to my accustomed Thunderin’ Duntemann (Thanks, Fiona!) 100 WPM. But I promise you, the next pizza that gets wonky on me is gonna go jelly-side down, while I stand there and laugh. I may be 61, but I learn.
New featured pairing: Stilton cheese and Middle Sister Rebel Red wine. Very good news.
As most people have already discovered just sticking their noses out the back door, 2013 looks to become one of the ten coldest years in US history. It may not be global, but damn, it’s cooling.
And that, my friends, makes me look to my now-empty snifter of brandy and egg nog beside the monitor. Time for a refill. Long past time, in fact.
- I always hate to hand you two Odd Lots in a row, but I’ve been so burned out by the end of the day working on this book that there’s nothing left to craft a coherent essay with. I was going to write something insightful about Prohibition (which was repealed 80 years ago today) but about all I can muster is this: Prohibition was altogether evil and accomplished nothing. It was a cry of rage against Irish and southern European Catholic immigrants, and in one blow created organized crime and birthed a disrespect for the rule of law that afflicts us to this day. Of all the things our government has condoned, only slavery was more evil.
- ARM Holdings offers a free ARM and Thumb-2 instruction set reference in PDF format. I remember when these things folded up to fit in your shirt pocket. Not anymore.
- Somebody figured out how to hack Parrot quadricopters wirelessly, and it was done with a Raspberry Pi.
- Bill Meyer sent me a link to a nice comparison of various small under-$100 boards in the Arduino / Raspberry Pi class. The only serious omission I see are the Beagle boards, including the fascinating BeagleBone Black.
- But never fear: Make did a BBB vs RPi comparison back in August. Best I’ve seen so far. Gizmag’s is older but still worth a quick scan.
- You can evidently find out if your login or logins were stolen in the recent hack of Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Adobe, and other sites. Here’s a multi-site lookup.
- Is there any article online about the “divided sleep” concept (our ancestors retired at nightfall, slept for three or four hours, awakened for an hour or two, and then slept again for three hours or so) that does not walk back to Roger Ekirch? I’ve read Ekirch’s book very carefully, and his evidence for this phenomenon is pretty damned slim. Yet…it shows up all over the place.
- Statins may not cause memory loss or confusion. However, their primary mission of reducing cholesterol levels may not do much to prevent heart disease in people who don’t already have it.
- Eau Crappe. Newsweek returns from the death that is the Cloud, and will resume a weekly print edition. Will the magazine be awright, Uncle Lar? Well guldurn, Little Tommy, I sure hope not! (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- There are currently 35 volcanoes erupting around the world. Here’s a great site summarizing where they are and what they’re doing. I’m still curious about what the active volcano trends have been over the past thousand years or so (within the limits of our ability to determine what was blowing up on Kamchatka in the 1300s) and if you’ve seen any trend reports like that, do drop a note.
- That poor llama is finally getting a rest. After fifteen years, AOL is shutting down the Winamp page and ceasing support of the product on December 20. Winamp was the first MP3 player I ever tried, way back in 1998. One of my colleagues had to send me an MP3 to test it with: Rosanne Cash’s “Seven-Year Ache.” The song didn’t impress me, but the concept made me think: This is gonna change a few things in the music business.
- $10,000. Software written in Pascal. Windowing interface remarkably like the Xerox Star’s, on which I’d been trained the year before. I spent a wistful hour putting it through its paces at a nearby computer store in Rochester, NY. I’d just spent $4000 on a CP/M system three years earlier, and didn’t have another $10K lying around. Nice retrospective on poor Lisa, who never got the respect she deserved. Market niches matter, and it’s not always possible to create your own from the quantum vacuum.
- Solar Cycle 24 is definitely double-humped, and its second peak could well be peakier than the first. This doesn’t make it a strong cycle, by any means, but we thought the whole deal was over after the first peak in 2011. Not so.
- An amateur telescope maker in Utah bought a 70″ spy satellite mirror at a scratch-and-dent auction and built the world’s largest amateur telescope.
- I haven’t written aliens into my SF much, at least since I first thought deeply about the subject in college. This is part of the reason. I had planned out a story in which Earth contacts an alien race with so old and rich a culture that their language consists of context-sensitive metaphors within similes within puns within knock-knock jokes. I never wrote the story because I could never figure out how to crack the problem.
- Your graphics card is getting faster, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll even notice. I think this is what the term “diminishing returns” was coined to describe.
- From the Major WTF File: One of my readers sent me this link, and I’m still trying to figure out what these creeps are up to. I’ll post a separate entry on it when I have a little more time to research it. But look yourself up: I’d like to hear about it if you’re on there too.
- Little by little, people are starting to figure it out: Fat will make you lose weight and keep you healthy. Sugar will f*(&ing kill you.
- I was told by a cardiologist 20-odd years ago that gum disease was related to heart disease. It seemed like a stretch at the time, but since then I’ve seen a number of studies indicating that it’s true. Floss, don’t infarct!
- Slate has a short piece explaining what makes a continental breakfast continental. What made me laugh was an embedded Key & Peele bit in which Peele delights in discovering Fruit Loops at his hotel breakfast counter, as though they were rare treats. Bartholomew Stypek does the same thing in Ten Gentle Opportunities: “Carolyn had gifted him with sacks of delicacies that any nobleman in the realm of Ttryngg would kill for: Doritos, Cheetos, Pringles, Ruffles, and sweets baked by elves.”
- The Marines are about to begin hunting Somali pirates. If I were a Somali pirate, I would be thinking about early retirement.
- Cities, like ogres and onions, have layers. The deepest and oldest of those layers can be forgotten by all but a few. Here’s a marvelous quick tour of the some of New York’s less visible layers. No ogres. We hope. (Thanks to Esther Schindler for the link.)