- I don’t think I’ve announced it broadly yet, but I am now agented, for both fiction and nonfiction. Either is a first for me, and it may make any number of things better on the writing side.
- This isn’t glaciation, obviously, but having been researching the coming Ice Age for a year or so now in the service of a Neanderthals novel, I was riveted: A calf-deep wave of ice fragments advances across the land like a cross between Jack Frost and The Blob.
- One way to solve the Raspberry Pi stuttering keyboard problem is to use a wireless keyboard/mouse set. The one I have (the Logitech MK520) works beautifully. Stutter gone. (The high road, of course, is to power everything, including the RPi itself, from a wireless hub.)
- Microsoft has offered B&N $1B for the entire Nook business, including the readers and all facets of the B&N store. This says a lot less about Microsoft than it says about B&N–none of it good.
- Here’s an inside look at a dedicated bitcoin mining machine. Now, could the same box mount a brute force attack against password hashes?
- A bunch of do-it-yourself Muppets present ten reasons why time travel is no good.
- I’ve discovered a spectacular new cheese: Uniekaas Black Label 3-year-old gouda. (Scroll down.) Bears about as much resemblance to the gouda I knew as a Porsche does to a Trabant. Pair it with any dry red; I’ve had it with Middle Sister Rebel Red and Campus Oaks Old Vine Zinfandel. Actually, it pairs well with Real Sangria. Or, for that matter, whole milk. Sheesh, even dead air. We get it at Whole Foods. Try it.
- Still another voice calling for an end to team sports in schools. Team sports are how we teach high schoolers that alpha males can do whatever they want to the people below them on their ill-begotten ladders.
- Want another reason? The most highly paid state employees in nearly all states are…college sports coaches. And we all know how “college” college sports are.
- Watch out, Colorado. Here come the pot machines.
- This Easter, automate your Easter-egg rituals with an open-source egg-drawing robot.
- Here’s more on the comet that may hit Mars in October 2014. Whether it hits Mars or not, that comet will come mighty close, and from here it could be a fascinating show indeed.
- Walter Jon Williams is still taking applications for his Taos Toolbox SF/fantasy writers’ workshop. I attended in 2011 and it was spectacular . (I didn’t finish the Contra series because my house almost blew up. However, I wrote a little more here.) Powerfully recommended.
- OMG! Jeff Bezos has invented mainframes!
- George Mason University has an elaborate 50-state ranking on freedom, broken out by category and pulled together by color-coded maps of the states.
- Wikipedia has a nice chart indicating the colors given off by various gases when used in gas-discharge lamps.
- People are still making cantennas to throw their microwaves a little more sharply in one direction, but here’s a cantenna that isn’t a waveguide. (Watch those edges!) Hacker Dave Mirecki builds something similar but much larger using foil-backed duct insulation, in Ten Gentle Opportunities.
- Here’s how a strike that essentially shut down the American music industry allowed unconventional (and largely non-white) music to rise to public prominence.
- Once people begin making dieselpunk keyboards, will dieselpunk itself move from being a blip to being a trend?
- Shop carefully, lest you choke on a banana bone.
- Which movie theater did you go to on your first date? Whether or not that theater still exists, this site may have a photo of it, along with other interesting historical data. The first theater I took Carol to is this one. It’s still there, and still awesome. (Thanks to Ernie Marek for the link.)
- Five years later, I proposed to Carol while we watched the sun set from a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. There are other ways of doing it. I forgot to bring a flashlight up the side of that bluff, and we had to pick our way down in near-darkness. My nerdiness has gaps. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- The Softpro retail bookstore at the Denver Tech Center is closing its doors at the end of March. Even though it’s 70+ miles away, I’ve dropped a fair bit of change there. Bummer.
- Back in the 50s, the Russians were producing an extremely interesting line of low-voltage tubes. I’m still trying to get my head around how they work internally, but hey, “Gammatron” is a wonderful name for a line of tubes–or anything else. (Thanks to Jim Strickland for the link.)
- The war on “moist” (see yesterday’s entry) prompted Bruce Baker to remind us of Moist von Lipwig, a Discworld character whose distinguishing characteristic is having no distinguishing characteristics. See Going Postal and Making Money .
- People are still selling tumbleweeds on eBay. I can’t figure it. If the world has an abundance of anything, it’s tumbleweeds. Unless maybe you live in New York City and want some Western ambience without ever actually going there.
- When I was in college, a girl told me: “The trouble with you, Jeff, is that you’re too damned happy!” Guilty. And this research sounds like BS to me, in part because low expectations are not the same as pessimism. And also in part because most pessimists I’ve spent time with seem pretty unhappy. But what do I know? I’m a pessimism denier.
- The Atlantic reports research suggesting that the Neanderthals went extinct because they ran out of woolly mammoths and couldn’t get their substantial (and hard) heads around hunting bunnies. I’m still convinced that they wiped themselves out for lack of dogs. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- Humanoid robots could make good firefighters, and the Navy is working on it. I’ll believe it when I see it, of course, but I keep thinking that a humanoid robot who can fight fires can do a lot of other interesting things. (Thanks to Bp. Sam’l Bassett for the link.)
- God sometimes teaches stupid people harsh lessons–and sometimes they’re so funny they hurt. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
I have heard the angry voices (particularly God’s and Stephen King’s–or maybe it was just Stephen King’s) raised against the spreading curse of words that end in -ly, with particular emphasis on dastardly constructs like “only” and “early.” Today, for the first time, I’ve seen lexical blood spilled on a new front, against the horror of the word people are said to revile above all others…
Well. I’m a cultured individual, long steeped in the ways of the world, and no stranger to the pleasures of the mind and the senses. I have tasted anchovies. I have drunk sweet wine. I have read Barry Malzberg. I have danced the Invisible Horse Dance with my nieces and nephews. I have cocked an ear to what was either interstellar noise or leaky capacitors. I have gazed upon the jade sculpture on my tall bookcase until I became…well, you know what I became. I signed up once to pet a naked mole rat, but the line was too long and we had to go home. Genuine WTF moments have gotten thin in this, the seventh decade of my life. But the war on “moist” caught me up short.
I thought it was the primary virtue of cakes. If not, well, what do you call a cake that isn’t dry? Wet? Damp? Sodden? Moldy? (HuffPo takes on this crucial question with elan.)
I see that this is nothing new. The war on “moist” began a long time ago, at least as long ago as 2009. I missed it somehow. The Colorado Springs Gazette did not run the story under a 500-point rendering of “WAR!” Nobody mentioned it on Slashdot, nor Ars Technica, which posts on lots of things it knows nothing about. The war on hated words was highlighted in the New Yorker in 2012, and while there was a long line leading to the word gallows (with “phlegm” and “fecund” fidgeting while waiting their turn) the word eye-to-eye with the Lord High Executioner was “moist.” Men who use the word “moist” are undateable. There is even a Facebook group called “I HATE the word MOIST!” (Well, that certainly nails it.)
So what’s the deal?
The question came up recently on the Facebook wall of a writer friend of mine. A woman whom I don’t know explained: “Just imagine your 65-year-old mother reading it aloud as she reaches a pivotal sex scene in a romance novel. Enough said.”
Enough indeed, especially if you knew my mother, who would be 88 this year if she were still with us. She spent a considerable chunk of her life keeping parts of her house from becoming a little too moist with spilled milk, dog vomit, and thrown cream-of-mushroom mushrooms, which are moist squared. I’m guessing she didn’t have to read sex scenes aloud to be moist-averse. Small children and dogs were plenty.
My view? This has already gone too far. The word “moist” has not been seen in actual use in several months, though many have spoken passionately about it. Alas, its parents “most” and “mist” have unearthed a suicide note. We bludgeoned it, we drew and quartered it, we broke it on Little Orphan Annie’s code wheel, and we mopped up the gore with a towelette. We will not have “moist” to push around anymore. Who will be next? Who? Who?
The New Yorker says: “Slacks.”
- My four-year-old niece Julie is working on a pair of roller skates…built from the Lego set we gave her for Christmas. Somewhere her engineer grandfather is smiling.
- Stay up too late and damage your genes. You cannot win by shorting sleep. Somebody, somewhere may be able to survive on five hours a night. It almost certainly isn’t you. (Thanks to Mike Bentley for the link.)
- We have just lost Jan Howard Finder. No details available yet. I only met him once, but he bought my story “Marlowe” for his anthology Alien Encounters in 1982. 74 is too young for a man of his energy and high spirits. (Thanks also to Mike Bentley for letting me know.)
- Here’s an interesting story about a major publisher (unnamed) who won’t sell an indie bookstore more than 200 copies of a book at a time, even if the store buys them on a nonreturnable basis and pays cash. Happy ending: The indie bookseller drove down to Target, bought 300 copies of the book at 45% discount, and pulled off the author signing, no thanks to the idiot publisher. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- Refining certain rare earth metals from their ores is about to become easier and cheaper. Alas, ytterbium is not on the list. Bummer.
- As much as we support Girl Scouts, I must warn that their Samoas coconut cookie contain sorbitol, to which some people (me included) are sensitive. I don’t think this was always the case. Be careful. (Their Savannah Smiles are just as good, and do not contain sorbitol.)
- If the PadFone 2 is too big for you (see yesterday’s Contra) ASUS announced the FonePad, a…7″…smartphone. The notion of holding a thing like that up to your face doesn’t bother me at all, but I’m just weird.
- Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio may buy the bricks-n-mortar retail arm of the company, but does not want the Nook division. This could be trouble…I’m just not sure which side the trouble is on.
- Discovered an interesting new wine: Middle Sister Rebel Red. Dry but in-your-face fruit-forward, almost no oak (a big plus for me) and very spicy in a wonderfully peculiar way. Highly recommended.
- We could see a comet hit Mars in 2014. Just our luck that it might happen on the hemisphere of the planet that we can’t see.
- Oh what a feeling, to drive a…
- Here’s a nice summary of the current state of the Sun. Something truly odd is going on: We’re getting very close to the predicted solar maximum, and yet yesterday’s sunspot number was…25. It should be more like 250. I built a steerable 10M dipole for this?
- While perusing solar activity graphs such as the above, I discovered that IPCC climate science chairman Dr. Rajendra Pachauri has admitted that there’s been no global warming for seventeen years. I guess Dr. Pachauri has joined the Deniers Club. Then again, because he isn’t a climate scientist, I guess there’s really no reason to believe anything he says.
- From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: Rageaholic , someone who simply cannot resist expressing anger, either in person or online, especially in comments sections or discussion forums.
- Related to that: Larry Gellman of HuffPo describes anger addiction in terms of rage against the Other, which is basically my longstanding definition of tribalism: Tribalism is the reflexive demonization of the Other. There can be many overlapping tribes, each with its own Others.
- And, of course, anger’s nonobvious implication: Whatever or whomever makes you angry owns you.
I don’t know where my ideas come from, so don’t ask. However, I do get ideas. Most of them come to nothing. Every now and again, however, I score.
Back at Clarion in 1973, I wrote an otherwise dorky novelette entitled “But Will They Come When You Do Call For Them?” in which I predicted something very like the World-Wide Web. It was over twenty years later that I realized I’d been scooped by H. G. Wells, who published his idea of the World Brain in 1937. (I’d never heard of the World Brain until I read about it on…the Web.) Hey, if you’re gonna get scooped, get scooped by the best.
In 1993, I got an idea for something I called The All Volunteer Virtual Encyclopedia of Absolutely Everything. It came out of the Information Superhighway fever (remember that?) and did not postulate HTTP, which was a new and obscure protocol at the time I was doing my research. Functionally, however, it was Wikipedia, or at least Wikipedia minus its idiotic Not Notable fetish.
Jim Strickland told me that I came very close to describing Second Life three years before it went live, with my “RAD Mars” concept piece in the final issue of Visual Developer. I think there were other stabs at that concept abroad at the time, so I don’t consider it as big a score. Still, it’s a score.
Which brings us to a news item I ran across this morning while I was scanning the World Brain. (Or the Universal Data Engineering Project, as I had more humbly named it in 1973.) ASUS has unveiled the Padfone 2, a smartphone that plugs into a 10″ “dumb” tablet. Pull that animation around–it’s very cool. The PadFone 2 is the newest rev of a product announced last spring that I missed somehow. (2012 was the second-worst year of my life. I missed a lot.) Here’s another detailed description from Engadget. The ASUS PadFone product line is the first real-world stab at a concept I described here on Contra back in 2008. That was in the thick of the netbook era, post-Kindle but pre-iPad, and the notion of a general-purpose touchscreen tablet was still obscure. What I wanted was a dockable display into which my smartphone plugged, with storage and network communications on the smartphone. And dayum if that isn’t more or less precisely what ASUS offers in the PadFone.
So forgive me if I sound like I’m gloating. I’m gloating. This may be the most accurate technology prediction I’ve ever made, and I made it almost five years ago.
Back in 2008 I considered patenting the idea, but only briefly. A patent would have cost me $10,000 and more time than I had to spare right then. Worse, I consider the idea only half a notch more than obvious, and when people patent the obvious it makes my blood boil.
I am a big fan of ASUS, and I own a much-loved and much-used Transformer Prime. I wish them no ill, but guys, put that patent application down. I thought of it five years ago.
- The 64GB Microsoft Surface Pro tablet has only 23GB of open storage. Yukkh.
- Given that I do most of my reading curled up in a monster cushy chair, I’ve begun to wonder if a tablet with a 12″ display (or perhaps even larger) with a charger dock on the adjacent end table would be useful. Such things exist, but not in great numbers and not cheap. Technical PDFs are often uncomfortable reading even on my 10″ Transformer Prime.
- Here’s yet another reason I’m not bullish on the Cloud: If all you have is the Cloud, everything has to include a rain dance. I ruled out Eye-Fi when it first came out for this reason, but the absurdity of requiring global connection to make a local connection needs to be aired every so often.
- Short summary of Bowl of Heaven by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven: Ringworld with an engine, and nowhere to go. It’s the first Larry Niven book I can recall that I genuinely hated. Save your money.
- Here’s a result of vintage calculators (well, if not “result,” what’s the proper collective?) and a pointer to what would be a stunning steampunk model, if it hadn’t been designed in 1788.
- Early heads-up for what may be a really brilliant thing: Pulp-O-Mizer, which is a sort of image generator that spits out convincing Deco/Diesel magazine or book covers. Thanks to Jim Rittenhouse for putting me on to it. I’ll have more to say when I take it for a spin myself.
- I don’t know from personal experience if this is true; I don’t drink enough, nor late enough, to be a good test case. However, I’ve been told by several in my inner circle that too much booze too late at night makes for very bad sleep.
- There are a lot more Steampunk R2D2s out there than I would have guessed. I like the one with the monocle.
- It’s as easy as fishin’? I’ll stick with bluegills. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- The big movie studios are evidently creating fake YouTube accounts with fake users uploading supposedly pirated movie trailers promoting new films. For the sake of plausible deniability, they’re sending YouTube takedown notices on the trailers. And you wonder why I see maybe three movies a year.
- This may not be a viable business model.
- In times long past, men used to wear high heels. (More recently, I remember seeing guys in platforms when I was in college.) Why? To stay on their horses. Or maybe to avoid being mistaken for Neanderthals. We may never know.
- Older people apparently lose some of their ability to retain memories via poor sleep. So how much worse will it be someday for younger people who simply refuse to be in bed for more than six hours at a shot?
- Related, and also from UC Berkeley: Refusing to sleep makes you selfish and grouchy, and in some cases incapable of sustaining a relationship.
- Steve Jobs may have died from a high-fructose vegan diet. We were killer apes long before we were peaceful farmers, and we became peaceful farmers because it was that or go extinct. I’ve made peace with my inner killer ape; in fact, he’s got a chain around his neck and he does what I tell him–which is mostly shut up and eat your steak.
- Or krill. The total mass of all humans on Earth is far less than that of all krill. (287 megatons vs. 500 megatons.) So get out there and eat your krill!
- The World Trade Organization has given Antigua permission to ignore US copyright law and sell copyrighted works (movies and music, I’m guessing) without paying squat to copyright holders. The provision under which this was granted was approved by most nations, including the US.
- A standard deviation here, a standard deviation there, and sooner or later you’re talking new physics.
- The alphas doth protest too much, methinks. (See yesterday’s entry.)
- For more on tribal psychology and how alphas use it to dominate and exploit their people, see Colin Wilson’s book Rogue Messiahs. Also, virtually anything by the formidable Jared Diamond.
- If I didn’t love Newegg before (I did) I sure love them now.
- What? Pez still exists? I broke my last Pez dispenser by trying to fill it with candy corn in (I think) 1958. I might be a little more careful with one of these.
- Why do women hesitate to date short men? My theory: It’s a primal worry that short men may be Neanderthals. (I’m serious. Ok, half serious. 47% serious? What percentage of Neander/Sap pregnancies were sterile? That serious.)
- The Neanderthals were all over Siberia, and scientists have found that present-day Siberians have cold-climate adaptations that most of the world’s population do not have. Now, where d’ya think that might have come from? (Dating short men?)
- Cisco has sold their Linksys home-router business to Belkin. I’ve used Linksys gear for ten years now, know it well, and like it as much as I like any given brand. Getting it out of Cisco’s hands, where it had languished, is a good thing.
- From a long-time Contra commenter I know only as bcl, here’s a very detailed technical review of USB chargers, which are not all the same based on equal output specs.
- I’m trying to figure out what Ten Gentle Opportunities is “like” (a comp, I think they call it) and have asked those who’ve read the first draft. Someone recommended Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series, which I’ve never seen nor heard of. Will begin looking for copies in local used bookstores.
- IBM is perfecting an anti-microbial gel that they claim bacteria cannot develop resistance to. IBM. God love ‘em–because the way things are going, we are gonna need this, and need it bad.
- Then again, IBM also says that Steampunk will be the next big thing. Wait a minute. I thought Steampunk was the last big thing. (Thanks to Bill Cherepy for the link.)
- I’m getting recommendations on surplus dealers I’ve never heard of from all corners. Here’s Twin Cities retailer Ax-Man Surplus, courtesy Lee Hart.
- Lee also passed along the sad news that Glenwood Sales in Rochester NY, where I spent a great deal of money 1979-1984, is no more.
- Pete Albrecht sent word of C&H Surplus in Duarte California. I used to have a print catalog from them and it vanished somewhere along the way, but the firm exists and sells mostly industrial surplus (motors, fans, compressors, etc.)
- I stumbled on a nice free wallpaper site while looking for wood texture images, and there’s a lot of very good stuff there. That said, the single picture they have of a bichon is awful.
- Bill Cherepy sent a link to a Steampunk workspace. Looks cool. As with most Steampunk keyboards, it looks uncomfortable. Love the tube amp, though it’s not really Steampunk. He needs a new (old?) mouse.
- Sex with Neanderthals may have ram-charged our immune system and in other ways made us stronger. Genetic diversity is always good. And I’ll reiterate here that I have serious doubts about Homo Sap wiping out the Neanderthals. I think the Neanderthals wiped themselves out. Tribalism is fatal. Make sure your loyalties are diverse. Never throw poop at other tribes. Throw it at your own tribal leaders. If you can’t do that, well, you’re pwned.
- Cats with jet packs…in 1584. Except I don’t think it’s really a jetpack. Given the bird’s unnecessary jet pack, I suspect that they are acting as living firebombs. The past sucked. I’m glad I’m here.
- We’ve had a so-so winter so far; could use more water coming out of the sky. However, it’s about to get cold again. Perhaps I could use one of these. (Does anybody else flash on H. R. Giger looking at that damned thing?)
- There are certified zombie shotgun shells. Haven’t seen Bigfoot flip-flops yet, though.