Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

steampunk

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • Carol and I are now home from Chicago, still bumping into walls but doing better. If you haven’t heard from me in a couple of weeks that’s why.
  • Chicago burned on October 8, 1871. The cow did it, right? Well, there were a lot of other serious fires around the American midwest that same night. Tucking my ears into my tinfoil hat here: What if a cluster of biggish small meteorites hit the country that night, sparking fires wherever they fell? The more Russian dashcam videos I see, the less outrageous I think the idea is. (Thanks to Michele Marek for the link.)
  • And for people who say that the Russians seem to attract meteorites, look at this. I’d say The Curse of the Splat People has been laid upon northern new Mexico.
  • Why am I so fascinated by the Neanderthals? Aside from the fact that I may well have a Neanderthal-ish skull and ribcage, it’s hard to beat our big-brained, musclebound brothers for idea triggers. I had never considered Taki’s startling question: Would they vote Republican? Or would they just tear your arm off for asking? (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
  • Search Google Patents for Edward F. Marwick, and you will find 205 different patents filed by my very own late high school physics teacher. He told us about a few of them (like this one) in 1969. We thought he was kidding. The man was a damned good physics teacher, and he thought big.
  • Bill Beaty posted a comment on Contra for my September 7, 2011 entry describing a very simple solid-state equivalent using an MPF102 and a 9V battery. A full description is on his site, and it’s worth seeing if you have an unscratched itch for a half-hour project.
  • I think I aggregated the Steampunk Workshop before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Beautiful stuff, startling craftsmanship. Like this Mac Mini mod. Wow. (Thanks to Bill Cherepy for pointing it out.)
  • Carol and I had to cancel our entry of Dash and Jack in the big Rocky Mountain Cluster dog show for obvious reasons, but one of our Bichon Club members posted a wonderful video of her seven-year-old son Adam showing their puppy, Ruby. Ruby and Adam got a blue ribbon. The kid is amazing. Sheesh, when I was that age I was still throwing mushrooms at my sister at the dinner table.
  • I guess this was inevitable, at least in Washington State and/or Colorado. I suppose the research is useful. (Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.)

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • 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.

Does Steampunk Really Humanize Our Gadgets?

Bill Cherepy (and a couple of others since) sent me an interesting link to a piece on Boing Boing arguing (I think) that steampunk makes our gadgets more human. It’s a headscratcher, since I don’t think the article text supports the author’s contention. However, it’s an idea worth some thought. I actually agree, if for different reasons:

  • Steampunk gadgets are comprehensible. Most of the tech in our modern phones and computers is black art, even to guys like me with considerable background in electronics. Electric, mechanical, and chemical tech circa 1900 was accessible to anyone with an ounce of brains and some willingness to study.
  • Steampunk gadgets are reproduceable. At home. In your basement. Sure, it would take a little research and pratice, but with nothing more exotic than a lathe and basic chemistry gear you could build most of what we connect with steampunking. Dare you to do that with an iPad.
  • Steampunk gadgets are personal. This is going to earn me some heat, but I think it’s true: Steampunk thingies are in-your-face, not on-your-friends-ist. One of the charms of the steampunk idea is that people interact face-to-face. This keeps trolling to a minimum and fosters at least superficial courtesy, which certainly beats the slobbering hatred that now dominates Facebook.

All that said, I admit that the majority of what I see under the heading “Steampunk” is a species of fantasy, be it of the supernatural (vampires and zombies) or just wildly off-the-edge assumptions of what 1900 technology could accomplish.

The big turn-off I found in cyberpunk was its coldness. Granted this was cultural and not really necessary, but when I played at the edges of cyberpunk years ago it stopped me in my tracks. Cyberpunk was cynicism writ large, and steampunk is optimism gone nuts. Given that cynicism is cowardice (it is, in fact, the fear and loathing of all things human) you can guess where I’m much more likely to tell my tales.

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • I was wrong about Diesel engines being easy to make, as I suggested in my entry for March 5, 2012. Fuel injection, as it turns out, is a bitch. You’re trying to divide oil into a multitude of very small droplets of (reasonably) consistent size. Gasoline carburetion, by comparison, is a snap. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht, an automotive engineer, for the reminder.)
  • I suspect it’s easier to produce wood gas (AKA “producer gas”) at a small scale than gasoline. In a future where large-scale oil refiners are no more, a Dieselpunk society could power internal combustion engines with wood gas. This has been done a lot around the world, especially during WWII when oil supply channels were disrupted.
  • This has little or nothing to do with the Holy Roman Empire, but if you’re a map freak, boy–budget a day for it. Wow.
  • This looks like a good book, especially if you’re finding it hard to keep track of genre mutation within SFF. Will order and report after reading. (Thanks to Trudy Seabrook for pointing it out.)
  • We found one of these in a drawer in my late grandfather’s workbench after my grandmother died in 1965 and we had to sell their house. I never knew what it was until it made the A-head story on the front page of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal , in an article about…olympic sheep shearing. My grandfather lived a quiet life in a modest house on a tiny lot on Chicago’s north side. There wasn’t a sheep for miles. (I hope he didn’t use it to cut my father’s hair.)
  • I’ve noted some confusion about this: “Retina display” is not an Apple trademark, but a technical term: a display with such high resolution that the eye can’t make out individual pixels at typical reading distance. Here’s a good explanation of the whole retina display concept. The new iPad certainly qualifies, but it wasn’t the first. Asus’ Tranformer Prime was there some time ago. Retina-quality displays are made by several vendors, and will eventually appear in other high-end tablets.
  • The Lytro camera has been mentioned in a lot of places, but here’s the first in-depth description I’ve seen. A camera that allows you to fiddle with the focus after the shot is taken is FM, if you know what I mean. I ditch about a third of my digital photos (mostly taken in bad light) for focus problems. It’s an awkward form factor, but if it’s the first of it’s kind, I’ll assume the next one will fit the hand a little better.
  • The mad scientist in me cried out when I saw this. I need a castle. I need a kite. I need a monster.