- I had some fairly sophisticated oral microsurgery about ten days ago, and it kind of took the wind out of me. That’s why you’re getting two Odd Lots in a row. I have things to write about long-form but have only recently found the energy to write at all. Promise to get a couple of things out in the next week.
- Some researchers at UW Madison are suggesting that sleep may exist to help us forget; that is, to trim unnecessary neural connections in order to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in the brain. Fair enough. What I really want to know (and am currently researching) is why the hell we dream. I doubt the answer to that is quite so simple.
- Ultibo is a fork of FreePascal/Lazarus that creates custom kernel.img files for the Raspberry Pi, allowing direct boot into an embedded application without requiring an underlying OS. I haven’t tried it yet (still waiting on delivery of a few parts for a new RPi 3 setup) but it sounds terrific. Bare metal Pascal? Whoda thunkit?
- Humana just announced that it is leaving the ACA exchanges after 2017. As I understand it, that will leave a fair number of counties (and some major cities) with no health insurance carriers at all. Zip. Zero. Obamacare, it seems, is in the process of repealing itself.
- NaNoWriMo has gone all political and shat itself bigtime. You know my opinions of such things: Politics is filth. A number of us are talking about an alternate event held on a different month. November is a horrible month for writing 50,000 words, because Thanksgiving. I’m pushing March, which is good for almost nothing other than containing St. Patrick’s Day. (Thanks to Tom Knighton for the link.)
- Paris has been gripped by rioting since February 2…and the US media simply refuses to cover it, most likely fearing that it will distract people from the Flynn resignation. Forget fake news. We have fake media.
- I heard from a DC resident that there was also a smallish riot in Washington DC today, and so far have seen no media coverage on it at all.
- Cold weather in Italy and Spain have caused vegetable shortages in the UK. Millions of small children who would supposedly never know what snow looked like may now never know what kale looks like. Sounds like a good trade to me.
- Trader Joe’s now sells a $5 zinfandel in its house Coastal brand, and it’s actually pretty decent. Good nose, strong fruit. Seems a touch thin somehow, but still well worth the price.
- I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Gahan Wilson’s cartoons in Playboy and National Lampoon, but Pete Albrecht sent me a link to an interview with Wilson that explains why he did certain things the way he did, like his brilliant series called “Nuts” about how the world looks and feels to small children.
- Eating red meat will not hurt your heart. This is not news to people who’ve been paying attention. Alas, meat has been slandered as deadly for so many years that we’re going to be shooting this lie in the head for decades before it finally bleeds to death.
- There are at least two efforts underway to back-breed the aurochs, a very large and ill-tempered ruminant that went extinct in 1627. I made use of aurochs in The Cunning Blood; the Moomoos (basically, cowboys on Hell) had difficulty herding them until they domesticated the mastodon and rode mastodons instead of horses.
- Who will fact-check the fact-checkers? In truth, there is no answer to this question, which heads toward an infinite regress at a dead run. Nobody trusts anybody else in journalism today. To me, this means that journalism as an industry might as well be dead.
- Even the New York Times is willing to admit that cold weather is 17 times deadlier than warm weather. This is one reason we moved to Arizona: Winters have been nasty in Colorado for several years, and I have an intuition that flatlining solar activity may make things a lot colder before they get warmer.
- Russian scientists evidently agree with me. And y’know, the Russians might just know a few things about cold weather.
- The Army is accelerating development of a railgun compact enough to fire from something the size and shape of a howitzer. 10 rounds per minute, too. With one of those you could poke a lot of very big holes in very big things in a very big hurry. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link.)
- Can’t afford a howitzer railgun? How about a snowboard powered by ducted fans? The idea is cool. Watching the guy put it together in fast-motion is cooler.
- SF writer Paul Mauser suggests that publishing’s gatekeeper function has been crowdsourced on the indie side, and I agree. You can’t always tell if an indie book is good before you buy it. Guess what? You can’t always tell if a print book is good before you buy it. Manhattan’s imprints can barely pay the rent and want interns to work in editorial for free. Warning: It’s handy to have gatekeepers who know how gates work, and why.
- Gatekeepers? Where were the gatekeepers when Kaavya Viswanathan allegedly cribbed a whole novel together from other authors’ work and then sold it to Little, Brown for half a million bucks?
- Pertinent to the above: There’s a very nice site devoted to plagiarism, which is evidently a far bigger problem than I would have guessed.
- An obscure author (of three memoirs) claimed that indie publishing is “an insult to the written word.” Watch Larry Correia lay waste to her essay. Don’t be drinking Diet Mountain Dew while you read it, now. Green stuff pouring out of your nose is generally embarrassing.
- This item is probably not what you think it is. The manufacturer could probably have used a little gatekeeping on the product design side.
Well, we’re big clown hoaxers;
We got loads of coaxers
And they freak everywhere we go:
They freak about noses and they freak about clothes
And they freak when we simply don’t show.
We’re takin’ all kinds of risks
To get arrested and frisked,
But the risk we’ll never know
Is the risk that they’ll hail us
‘Stead of screaming to jail us
On the cover of the Rolling Stone!
- Heads up: Today is the last day you can register (for free) to vote for the Dragon Awards, which will be presented at DragonCon next weekend. The Hugo Awards have made their preferences clearly known; for the cast-out Puppy cohort the Dragons are every bit as good and probably better.
- The least affordable American cities, and how much you need to be making to buy a home in them. Do you need to live in Silicon Valley to have a satisfying career? No. Whatever salary you make will go direct to landlords, or to long-time homeowners who will take your million+ and retire. Get Thy Ass Unto Omaha.
- Zerohedge posted a chart showing how much Obamacare premiums are going up in 2017, by state. Carol and I have been paying $20,000 per year for premiums since the ACA killed our pre-ACA policy. (Didn’t somebody important say we could keep our plan if we liked it?) This is starting to make Medicare look good. (Thanks to Charlie Martin for the link.)
- The FTC is going after a large publisher of nominally peer-reviewed scientific journals, claiming that almost no peer review is done on the articles. Also, people named as editors by the publisher were often not affiliated with the firm in any way. Sigh. Peer review is not any sort of gold standard these days. I’m thinking it might be a zinc standard, or perhaps a tin standard.
- People scratch their heads when I say that Woodrow Wilson was the worst US President ever. He is also the most-bleached. The reasons I loathe him begin with his racism but are mostly about his hatred of the US Constitution. He came as close as any President ever did to being a dictator, and that’s precisely what he wanted to be.
- Here’s a map depicting every cargo ship in the world and where it was going at the displayed time. Yes, yes, the map is from 2012, but it’s a good illustration of how goods move around the world. I don’t see any action in the Northwest Passage, but there are ships going up and down the coast of Greenland, and a few crossing under South America through Tierra Del Fuego.
- Here are some photos of more Tarzans and Janes than I’ve ever seen in one place, gathered at LACon in 1975 for the 100th birthday of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
- Heh. I was a big Tarzan fan in grade school. And I actually met Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. In fact, I think she may have been about to ask me down to the bar for a drink. Or maybe not; and I wonder if I missed a chance to make a fascinating new friend that night.
- Friday was International Boron Appreciation Day, and in the excitement of National Dog Day, I missed it. How could you blame me? There wasn’t a mule in sight. (Thanks again to Charlie Martin for the link.)
- Today is Go Topless Day. Why don’t they have a National Ytterbium Appreciation Day? I can go topless any time, but damn, ytterbium gets no respect at all!
- Whew. We’re in Phoenix, now permanently, with the Colorado house on MLS. Much remains to be done, but the immense project of getting our house emptied and ready to sell has been nailed. The Smaller But Still Significant Truck Full of Stuff has emptied itself into our living room, and we have a week or two of sorting and sifting and putting away. Overall, we’re in good shape.
- Iconic Mad Magazine cartoonist Jack Davis has died, at 91. I’ll readily admit that I used to read Mad while I was in high school, though not where my parents could see me. Humor mattered to me, as it does to this day. The only Mad artist who rivaled him in my view was Mort Drucker, who is still with us. (“I don’t believe your ears either, Mr. Spook.”)
- I’m wondering if it would be possible to write a Windows-like user shell for Windows 10 IOT, which is available for the RPi. (You would be perfectly justified, this time at least, in asking “Why would you want to do that? Answer: Because it would be a cool hack, and it would probably annoy Microsoft, which is always a plus.)
- Do you see the sunspot? I don’t see the sunspot.
- We have now gone a record 129 months without a major hurricane making landfall on the US mainland. One of my friends continues to argue that Superstorm Sandy was a major hurricane because of the damage it caused. Ok…except “major hurricane” is a technical term in climate science, with a technical definition: Class 3 or above. Sandy was Class 2 when it hit the Atlantic Coast, and not a hurricane at all when it did the most damage. We’re talking about sustained wind speed, which is the only way we have to objectively classify hurricanes and get a handle on hurricane trends over time.
- I got the impression (see above) that I was supposed to bow my head and whisper, “Hurricane Sandy was a horrible tragedy,” every time I talked about hurricane physics. Uhhhh…no. That’s like requiring me to say, “Nuclear bombs are horrible things,” every time I talk about the physics of nuclear fission. Sorry. Not gonna happen. Emotion has no place in science, except to politicize discussion and demonize dissent.
- Where do Americans smoke the most weed? No points for guessing Colorado, though central Maine has a surprising constituency. What else do you do during those interminably miserable winters? (Thanks to Esther Schindler for the link.)
- Speaking of which, Donald Trump supports allowing states to legalize marijuana, a position neither our president nor Hillary Clinton has taken. This is truly the weirdest presidential election in my considerable lifetime.
- To be honest, I’m more interested in nootropics. Here’s a light article worth citing because it mentions a nootropic I had not heard of before: L-theanine.
- Which is best used in conjunction with the oldest and probably best nootropic of all. Drinking coffee significantly reduces the risk of suicide. Well, caffeine raises mood, therefore acting against depression, and depressed people are those mostly likely to kill themselves.
- Oh, and coffee acts against prostate cancer, too. I never drank coffee regularly until I was 33. I hope that wasn’t too late.
- We had numerous Nash Ramblers when I was a kid. The company just turned 100, even though they became AMC and got devoured by Chrysler years ago. Nash did a lot of good stuff, some of it far earlier than their competition.
- Why do I have to say this so much? Genuine virtue does not need signaling. I’ve come to the conclusion that all signaled virtue is fake. The rest of us are onto you. Just stop.
People misspell my name. They do. Holy molybdenum. And I have proof.
Back in 1985, when I became a technical editor at PC Tech Journal, tech companies started sending me stuff. A lot of it was press releases, some of it was swag (Carol still wears some of the T-shirts as summer nightgowns) and a great deal of it was product. Somewhere along the way, somebody misspelled my name on a mailing label. No biggie; it had happened before. It was funny, so I cut out the label and taped it to my office door to amuse passersby.
Two weeks later, I got another one. I cut it out and taped it to the bottom of the first label I had taped to my office door. For the next 17 years, I would semiregularly get shipping labels upon which someone had utterly murdered my name. And not just my last…which is understandable enough. But how many myriad ways are there to spell “Jeff?”
Lots. Each time I got one (most of the time; I let duplicates and some odd permutations get away) I cut it out and taped it to the bottom of the last label in what had become a fairly long string. At some point the string stretched from high eye-level almost to the floor, so I started a second string. Eventually I had to start a third. And a fourth. The strings of funny labels followed me from PC Tech Journal to Turbo Technix to PC Techniques/Visual Developer. When I emptied my desk on that horrible day in 2002 that it all caved in for good, I piled my strings of labels into the bottom of a box and threw a great deal of other stuff on top of it. I tried several times to empty the box, but it was so emotionally wrenching I never quite got to the bottom of the box.
Until now. And lo! There they were!
Most of them were me. A few were sent to mythical firms like The Coriolanus Group, The Cariotis Group, the Coryoless Group, and once to The Coriolis Group at 3202 East Germany. (It was actually Greenway.) The scan at the top of this entry simply serves as evidence that I didn’t make it all up.
How were all these mistakes made? No mystery there: All the people who sent the labels took my name over the phone. I had MCI Mail by 1985, and CompuServe not long after that (76711,470) but the PR universe was a generation behind us nerds. And so when I thought I spoke “Jeff Duntemann” clearly to a rep, she wrote down “Jeff Stuntman.” Or maybe “Jess Tuntemann.” Or…well, see for yourself:
Jeff Duntenann at Turbo Space Technix
Prof. Jeff Mr. Duntemann
- Somebody over at USA Today seems to think that Colorado is just a little too high… (Thanks to Sarah Hoyt for the link.)
- Not new news, but startling: They’re still digging up live, century-old ordnance in France and Belgium. I suspect they’ll still be digging it up a century from now.
- Here’s an overview of how to write custom components for the Lazarus Component Library (LCL). Doesn’t have anything on Ray Konopka’s book, alas.
- How much of each chemical element is there in the Earth’s crust? Among other revelations, there’s 150% as much ytterbium as uranium. In fact, there’s more ytterbium on Earth than tin.
- There is a small circuit-board add-on that snaps onto a Raspberry Pi and provides a tube audio amp. (Thanks to Rick Hellewell for the link.)
- Going further back in Unlikely Time reveals a plethora of Steampunk Raspberry Pi cases.
- In truth, my experience shows that you can search for images of “steampunk [whatever]” and find it. Oftentimes a lot of it. Try steampunk Geiger counters.
- Ya blink and ya miss it: Sandisk now has a 512GB SD card.
- Note well: There are also fakes. Amazon keeps taking them down, and they keep coming back. (Read the single comment.)
- Baron Waste sends a link to a marvelous gallery of high-res photos of mechanical calculator innards. One of the inspirations for The Cunning Blood was the insight that my Selectric typewriter contained no electronics at all, and could be run from a windmill or a water wheel.
- From the I-Am-Not-Making-This-Up Department: Wikipedia has a list of sexually active popes; it’s incomplete. Who knew?
- A guy at a Russian Renaissance Faire hurled a spear at a drone–and hit it. That is capital-B badassery in my book. Me, I would have used a Wrist Rocket–but I’m neither medieval nor Russian.
- Not all of us are fooled: If you have to signal it, it’s not virtue.
- Lazarus 1.6 has been released. It was built with FreePascal 3.0.0, a first for Lazarus. Mostly incremental changes, but there’s a new rev of the docked form editor that looks promising, even though it’s not quite stable yet. Wish I had more time to play with it!
- Older versions of Lazarus have run well on the Raspberry Pi for me. However, installation on the newer Raspberry Pi 2 is much trickier. This installation tutorial is almost a year old, and I haven’t yet installed Lazarus 1.4 or 1.6 on my Pi 2, but it’s the best how-to I’ve yet seen.
- From Glenn Reynolds: Indie author Chris Nuttall lays out his journey as an indie, emphasizing that all but the biggest names are being driven to indie by publishers who simply don’t understand which way the wind is blowing. Read The Whole Thing, as Glenn says.
- Back when I reviewed the Baofeng handhelds, there was some discussion in the comments about the RDA-1846S SDR chip. Gary Frerking pointed me to the HamShield project on Kickstarter, which is an Arduino add-on board (a shield, in their jargon) that uses the RDA-1846S to transceive on 2M, 220 MHz, and 450 MHz. Like the Baofeng radios, HamShield will also operate on FRS, MURS, and GMRS, though the group doesn’t say that explicitly. (This is an SDR, after all.) It’s not shipping yet, but they’ve raised a fair amount of money (well over $100,000) and appear to be making progress. Definitely one to watch.
- Cool radio stuff is in the wind these days. One of Esther Schindler’s Facebook posts led me to Beartooth, which is an SDR roughly similar to HamShield built into a smartphone battery case that snaps onto the back of your phone. Unlike HamShield, beartooth is going for FCC type acceptance and will operate on MURS. However, there’s been no activity on their Web site since mid-December and I wonder if they’re still in business. It’s not an easy hack; see this discussion from midlate 2014.
- Oh, and I remembered GoTenna, which is similar to Beartooth except that it’s limited to texts and geolocation data. (That is, no voice.) It’s a Bluetooth-powered stick that hangs on your belt and uses your smartphone as a UI, basically, and allows you to text your hiking buddies while you’re out beyond the range of cell networks. I guess that makes it a sort of HT…a Hikey-Textie. Unlike HamShield and Beartooth, GoTenna is shipping and you can get two for $300.
- Twitter continues to kill itself slowly by shadowbanning users for political reasons. What the hell is in it for them? When they collapse, something else will appear to take their place. They’re a tool. (Take it any or every way you want.) When a tool breaks, I get another tool, and generally a better one.
- In case you’ve never heard of shadowbanning…
- I stumbled on something called Roblox, which is evidently a high(er) res take on the Minecraft concept. It’s looking more and more like what I was thinking about when I wrote my “RAD Mars” piece for the last issue of Visual Developer Magazine in late 1999. Anybody here use it? Any reactions?
- Slowly but steadily, reviews are coming in on my Kindle ebooks. Here’s one that I particularly liked.
- The Obamacare exchange in Colorado “smelled wrong,” so Carol and I avoided it. We were right. (Thanks to Sarah Hoyt for the link.)
- I don’t care how many tablets and smartphones you have. Paper is not dead.
- The Army Corps of Engineers turned off Niagara Falls in 1969. It was surprisingly easy to do.
- One of the reasons Americans got so fat starting about 1980 may be the explosion in the use of vegetable oils from about that time. It’s not simply solvents left over from seed-oil extraction, nor the estrogen-mimicking properties of soybean products, including oil. It’s a subtle matter involving the balance of two chemicals that allow our mitochondria to do their job. This piece is long and in places quite technical, but it may be the most important article on health I’ve seen in the last several years.
- A Harvard study suggests that moderate coffee drinking correlates with longevity. This is good news, but I wonder if it’s less about the coffee than about what I call “lifestyle panic” on the part of people who abstain from coffee…and almost everything else.
- Deep frying vegetables makes them more nutritious than boiling them. Stop the presses: Fat is good for you!
- Somebody told me about this, but I lost the referral: The Raspberry Pi has a hardware random-number generator on its SoC that generates true (not pseudo) random numbers from thermal noise in analog components. There’s now a driver allowing programmers to use it, and the article shows the difference between true random and pseudorandom numbers with some very nice graphics.
- This is why Americans don’t think global warming is a serious problem. When the elites start acting like they believe it’s a serious problem, I may start thinking it’s a serious problem too. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link.)
- CO2 isn’t all bad news: New science from Australia suggests that more CO2 improves tree growth and drought tolerance. I keep wondering if higher CO2 levels are bad news at all.
- Also from Glenn Reynolds: The 17 equations that changed the course of history.
- From Cedar Sanderson: Magnetically levitating bonsai trees. I couldn’t see that without thinking of The Little Prince.
- Rickets, a bone disease causing crippling limb defomity in children, is coming back worldwide. The disease is caused by vitamin D deficiency, and researchers suspect that its resurgence may be due to parents’ irrational fear of dairy products and sunlight.
- The 27 Worst Things About Stock Photo University. And he doesn’t even mention how every last person attending there is drop-dead gorgeous and thin as a rail.
- Just when you thought that shabby chic was firmly and permanently planted in the trash can, Anthropologie starts selling a shabby chic trash can. This is meta. Or ironic. Or meta-ironic. Or maybe just dumb.
- From the There Are More Things In Heaven And Earth, Horatio Department: bull penis canes. (I am not making this up. I doubt I could make this up, and I am pretty damned good at making things up.)
- Amazon has announced and should now be shipping a new Kindle Paperwhite with 300 DPI resolution. That’s a magic number; it’s the resolution of most inexpensive laser printers, and will make reading on e-ink mostly indistinguishable from reading b/w paper.
- The physics behind those new “no-stick” ketchup and mayonnaise bottles.
- Egad: The 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines has omitted cholesterol from its list of “nutrients of concern” and eliminated its upper limit on total fat consumption. People, we are winning. Ancel Keys’ corpse has been exhumed and is about to be burned at the (heavily marbled) steak.
- Reason ranks states in terms of numbers of libertarian citizens. Colorado is #16. Arizona is #10.
- Amazon released a figure for June page-reads that allows us to calculate the KU per-page payout. It comes to 0.6 cents. For a 500-page novel (again, remember that Amazon defines what a page is, and the algorithm is still unclear) an author realizes $3.00. That’s actually a good chunk more that what the author would get for a $2.99 sale, and fairly close to the author payout for a $3.99 sale.
- More on author earnings: Agency pricing for ebooks, which large publishers fought so hard for, looks like it’s being a disaster for them. Higher prices have meant lower sales; in fact, Big 5 ebook unit sales were down 17% in the first four months of 2015.
- 30% of ebooks sold in the US do not have ISBNs, and this seriously distorts industry reporting on ebook sales. Conventional industry metrics don’t count ebooks without ISBNs. I have lots of ISBNs and intend to use them—hey, they’re paid for—but this makes me wonder if it really matters.
- 23 newly coined words for emotions that we feel but can’t describe. Carol and I experienced Chrysalism the other day, and anecdoche seems to be the American Way.
- Most MMJ edibles are badly labeled, and contain less THC and CBD than they imply. Colorado has a testing program in place, but it’s new and not everyone is convinced the tests are accurate. So it still pays to be careful, do a little at a time so you know what you’re in for, and try your best not to pull a Maureen Dowd.
- It’s both.
- Before you shoot your mouth of about the Confederate flag, maybe you should learn a little bit about the several Confederate flags.