- I confess to some surprise at reading that we really don’t know yet whether antimatter falls up or down. Falling up might explain why we don’t see a lot of antimatter in these parts.
- By now I’d guess you’ve all seen the movie. Now see how it was made. (We used to do animation with that few pixels. But the pixels were, well, a lot bigger.)
- There’s been much discussion recently about bitcoin mining using GPUs, including some systems designed specifically to mine bitcoins and not do much of anything else. Such systems basically turn electricity into money, and you have to make sure that the bitcoins you get are worth more than the juice you have to spend to mine them. So…how about using solar panels? I have easier ways to make money (and don’t trust the bitcoin infrastructure to begin with) so it’s not an experiment I’m willing to make, but with enough solar panels and a bitcoin box, how long would it take to break even? Bitcoin math is pathological, but I’m aware that the more people start mining with such rigs, the harder the mining becomes.
- Here’s more cautionary advice on bitcoin.
- Somebody thought that mining bitcoins on user PCs while they play your games could a new business model. Mmmm, no.
- We are already shoveling our way through the second-coldest spring on record. If May doesn’t warm up quite a bit (it’s still going below freezing at night here) we will soon be facing the coldest. The photos of my deck under 4″ of snow on May 1 continue to boggle. I may have one of them framed.
- Suing your customers for criticizing your business is epic dumb, as Chicago’s tort-happy Suburban Express has discovered.
- I don’t use Visual Basic so I’m unlikely to try it, but OsenXPSuite could be useful for creating embedded database apps without a great deal of coding. The screenshots are intriguing. $150 for a single-seat license. They also have a freeware SQLite management app that I will try.
- There’s nothing healthy in most “health foods.” (It’s PR.) I like the bit in Men In Black III. K: “Do you know the most destructive force in the universe?” J: “Sugar?” (Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.)
- From The-Ghosts-of-Friendships-Past Department: LinkedIn just sent me a message telling me that a friend had just celebrated his fifth anniversary at a local firm–even though he died four years ago. This led me to check my Facebook friends list, and sure enough, there are two dead people there as well. This is a weird business.
- May 1 here in the Springs will see a high of 36, and a low of 16…with 2-4 inches of snow likely. I’m thinking I’m going to have to drain the sprinkler system yet again.
- The end must be near: Jeff spent some time fooling with a Samsung ATIV running Windows 8…and was impressed. It’s a 12″ tablet with a dockable keyboard, not unlike a bigger version of my Transformer Prime. The first thing the Best Buy sales guy showed me was how to flick away the Windows 8 UI like a bug. What remained was enough like Windows 7 to be usable.
- Alas, Office 2000 will not run on Windows 8. Nor will Office 2003. But Atlantis will. As will Libreoffice. Not sure about AbiWord.
- Something shot a hole in one of the ISS solar panels. Guys, the Universe is armed and dangerous.
- And unpredictable. There are now more spots on the Sun than I’ve seen in years. Will need to spin the dials a little later today to tell if it’s doing us any good.
- Wikipedia’s psycho editing community got on the wrong side of feminists recently, and Salon did a nice piece on “revenge editing.” Requiring that real names be published for all editors would help this problem a lot. (If I had a Wikipedia entry, I’m sure I’d be vandalized for saying this.)
- Poking around Salon led to this: We once tried to weaponize the weather. (So much for those bucolic 1950s that everybody seems to love.) Of course, the key to weaponizing the weather is knowing where to deploy your butterflies.
- Suddenly I’m seeing the word “adorable” used with what appears to be a straight face. Is this a hipster thing?
- These see-through highlighter pens were a long time coming, but they’re simply adorable.
- The only thing harder than selling a novel is finishing one.
- From Chris Gerrib comes a link to Smithsonian’s marvelous tale of The Great New England Vampire Panic.
- At least “vampire” isn’t a funny word. I can’t say “tatzelwurm” without giggling.
- From the Things-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: The “dead men” in that fine old drinking song “Down Among the Dead Men” are empty bottles, generally set on the floor under the tables.
- From ditto: Rice is an arsenic magnet. Eat with care.
- Here’s a gallery of applications and utilities written in Lazarus.
- The original 6-CD changer stereo in my 2001 Toyota 4Runner has failed, after working flawlessly since April 2001. Any suggestions as to a replacement? The car’s great. But I won’t drive very happily without music.
- As we gradually replace hundreds of millions of print books with ebooks, what will happen to our print books? Well, at least some of them may become color-coordinated accessories for people who don’t read. (Thanks to Esther Schindler for the link.)
- The price of bacon is about to skyrocket, while Americans enjoy the cheapest beer on Earth. Why do I always back the wrong horse?
- I guess compensating for a bacon shortage may be the striking tornado shortage going on right now.
- Be careful what you try to invent. You might succeed. More or less.
- For readers who are in the Colorado Springs area: All Breeds Rescue is hosting the 14th annual Romp in the Park this Saturday, August 11, at Norris Penrose Event Center. The event runs from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Carol will be working it, and I should be there midafternoon with QBit.
- The Curiosity rover has a trick I didn’t hear about until after it landed: Its treads imprint a Morse code pattern in the sand or soft soil it crosses. The pattern spells JPL. Now that’s DX!
- From Ernie Marek comes a link to DRB’s very visual article on Project Orion, including a sketch of Niven/Pournelle’s Michael spacecraft from Footfall. I would have called it OBB, for “Old Boom-Boom.”
- Weird clouds are a minor interest of mine, and here’s a compendium from Wired that I missed when it first appeared in 2009.
- New Zealand’s Tongariro volcano just erupted–and it was a complete surprise. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned Erik Klemetti’s Eruptions blog on Wired before, but it’s well worth following if you have any interest at all in volcanic phenomena. Erik has a helluva constituency: The comments occasionally contain better insights and links than the blog itself!
- Memories sometimes just appear out of nowhere, and the other day I remembered these. My next thought was, Nah, you imagined that! But they did exist, and when I was 13 or 14 they were first-run and I used them.
- Ballotpedia has a fascinating listing of the net worth of congresspeople and senators. First insight: We are ruled by multimillionares. I am not disturbed that some of our representatives are multimillionares. I am disturbed that virtually all of them are. Second insight: Compare the net worth of Democratic vs. Republican senators. Things are not what you’d expect.
- From the Hardware WTF File: The ASUS Transformer Prime’s otherwise excellent keyboard dock does not have a delete key. Shift-Backspace is as close as it gets.
- And on the outside chance that you too have a Transformer Prime keyboard dock, here’s a list of keyboard shortcuts.
- Newsweek will probably cease print publication later this year. A lot of people have never forgotten their mean-spirited and idiotic 2009 cover story, “The Case for Killing Granny,” and I personally cannot wait to see that thing rot in its grave.
- David Plotz does not like August. Me, I could do without March.
The Springs got hit by near-hurricanic winds last night, stronger than I’ve seen since the infamous New Year’s Day storm in 2004 that threw a piece of the back fence of our rental house through the window, and demolished a nearby house that was under construction. We don’t have a fence here, and the roof shingles are concrete, so as best I know the house itself took no hits. However, the wind howled all damned night with a fury that suggested 80-90 MPH sustained gusts. I have wanted a weather station here from time to time. This morning, I want one a lot more than I did yesterday.
We looked out on the back deck when we got up and found that our gas grill and all of our deck furniture had been tightly packed onto the south end of the deck. There was some snow, but it had been blown around and drifted so heavily that it was tough to tell just how much. (I’m guessing 2″.) What was there was wet and very dense, suggesting that we might have had 10″ or more this morning had the temps been ten or fifteen degrees colder during the night.
I’m still under spousal orders to stay in bed as much as possible, and probably will until this terrible cough goes away. (My chest has gone into it-hurts-to-breathe-too-much mode, suggesting that the cough will pass away sometime this afternoon. It had better.)
How much wind does it take to do that? Yikes! I’ve stopped thinking about a weather station and have started shopping. If you have any recommendations, I will enthusiastically hear them.
- Here’s something you could give your geeky sweetie for Valentine’s Day next year: A giant pink 3-D printable heart made of gears. I can’t quite see enough of the mesh to know if the gears actually turn. Someone in the 3-D printing community might know more.
- I certainly didn’t expect this: One of my manuscripts is in the University of Kansas collection of Ted Sturgeon’s personal papers. (Look for item 61b.) It’s the Clarion first draft of “Our Lady of the Endless Sky,” which I wrote at the workshop, the story that went on to be my first professional sale in SF.
- My Favorite Extinct Creature of the Month: Cynognathus, which was half-wolf, half-tiger, half-dinosaur, and all trouble. (No wonder we’re descended from him.)
- From Tom Roderick comes word of a Harvard engineering project that assembles robot bees on a little scaffold only a little bigger than a quarter. Each bee weighs about 90 mg. The bees interest me less than the assembly technique, which suggests that we have barely scraped the surface in the micromanufacturing arena.
- I was having a hard time finding news reports on the killer cold weather in Europe (my older nephew is there now, studying at the London Business School) until I happened upon Ice Age Now. Good aggregator on cold weather issues, to which the MSM is peculiarly averse these days.
- This may be true if you’re a trilobite. It may be less true if you’re a jellyfish.
- From the Tell-Me-Something-I-Didn’t-Already-Know Department: My hometown has the most corruption convictions of any city in the country. Backstory: I used to repair Xerox machines in City Hall circa 1975. Nobody pays attention to the Xerox repairman. But the Xerox repairman was paying a great deal of attention to City Hall. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- Also from Pete Albrecht comes a link to something I might characterize as The Couture from the Black Lagoon.
- Bill Higgins points us to a brief collection of rejected Tom Swift, Jr novels.
- The person ahead of me at the Safeway autocheckout machine did not pull his receipt, so when I grabbed my bag and ran earlier today I took the wrong one. What I found was evidence of someone on the Cross Purposes Diet: three line items, of which two were Atkins bars. The third was DONUTS BULK. Good luck, dude.
- Fairness requires that I point this out: An article in the Guardian that I cited in my last Odd Lots was in error. NASA had nothing to do with the paper in question, which was written in his spare time by a postdoc who happens to work for NASA. That makes the paper no less ridiculous, but at least NASA isn’t doing stuff down that far along the dumb spectrum.
- And I’ll give this project a fair shot, though I would prefer to see NASA do this on a non-exclusive basis rather than for a particular publisher only. No word on whether and what Tor/Forge is paying for the deal. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- Samsung has cited Kubrick’s film 2001 in a patent prior art case. (Engadget has a shorter entry with a still.) I wasn’t aware that fictional concepts can be raised in prior art challenges, but evidently it was done back in the 1960s when waterbeds were coming into common use. Robert A. Heinlein had described a waterbed in his 1942 novel Beyond This Horizon, and it was cited in a prior art challenge that cost Charles Hall his patent on the waterbed in 1968.
- My computer books and articles have been cited in patent applications 37 times, but I don’t know if it’s possible to look up prior art case citations. Will have to research this.
- While we’re citing citations, I was recently cited in a book by Paul J. Nahin, Number Crunching: Taming Unruly Computational Problems from Mathematical Physics to Science Fiction . The citation, on page 281, briefly describes my reprints of the Carl & Jerry stories from Popular Electronics. Alas, he cites me as “Copperhead Press” but mentions of the boys are way down in the last year and I’m glad they were mentioned at all. Thanks to Bruce Baker for letting me know.
- If you’re interested in hurricanes, here’s a nice summary page with automatically updating satellite imagery and lots of interesting graphics. The satellite imagery can be animated to show changes over the last several hours.
- I didn’t think this was new news, but apparently star formation is slowing down, as material that was originally hydrogen is “locked up” in white dwarfs, neutron stars, and heavy elements, even after a supernova has blasted a star’s substance back into interstellar space. I didn’t think that 70% of a supernova’s mass fails to return to the gas pool, but that seems to be the case.
- Jim Mischel sends along a link to a marvelous homebrew bandsaw made mostly of wood. (The blade and the hardware may be inescapably metallic.) The site as a whole has lots of interesting woodpunk concepts and projects. I especially like the wooden gear template generator, which calculates a gear outline that can be printed to paper and then cut out from wood.
- Whew. We get the message, guys.
- I’ve just added a book catalog page to my primary WordPress instance of Contra. There’s a link on the title bar at the top. If you’re using LiveJournal, here’s the direct catalog link. From my WordPress instance you can also go direct to an individual title within the catalog by clicking on one of the cover thumbnails in the right sidebar. It’s a little barebones for now, but it’ll do until I finish getting the Copperwood Press site rehabbed.
- This sounds worse than it probably is: B&N has restricted sideloaded content to only 1 GB of the Nook Color’s internal memory. The NC has become very popular as a somewhat broader device than an ebook reader, and I’m sure B&N is worried that people will fill the little slab up with so much of their own stuff that there’s no room to buy more from B&N. The key is the MicroSD slot, which (for the time being) can hold up to 32GB. If sideloaded content stored on the MicroSD card is completely accessible to the Nook’s machinery, it’s really not a terrible problem. (I don’t have an NC so I don’t know for sure.)
- B&N’s certainly been busy: There’s a new, inexpensive, smaller, lighter e-ink Nook in the pipe called Nook Simple Touch. 6-inch display and two months on a charge (sheesh!) will appeal hugely to commuters who just want to read books and not do seventeen things at once. $139; mid-June arrival.
- Then again, if you want a cheap Nook ($99) and don’t mind the orginal model, go to eBay.
- Here’s an expert’s braindump on ebook creation/formatting, which clearly highlights the appalling nature of ebook formats and ebook creation tools. Mobipocket in particular comes in for some (well-deserved) hard whacks with the baton. None of this crap should be necessary. An epub file is basically a collection of HTML documents with an external TOC, all wrapped up in a ZIP archive. Why is this so hard to do? (My thought: Immature rendering engines, like Web browsers in 1994. We are compensating for bad software.)
- This is the high road toward SSTO, and I hope to hell they can pull it off. The trick isn’t so much getting to orbit as getting back intact. We’ll see.
- From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-March-But-Forgot-Until-Yesterday Department: oneiric; meaning of or pertaining to dreams. Also the adjective in the next Ubuntu animal version code: Oneiric Ocelot, due this November. Not new news, but I forgot to mention it in March. Dreams, sure. But having read some of the fights that the discussion of Ubuntu Natty’s Unity desktop has triggered since then, I also picture an ocelot that lost one ear in a bar brawl.
- Bichons are notoriously hard to housebreak. Carbreak too, evidently.
- From the Painfully Obvious Research Department: A study (PDF) suggesting that when we see people breaking the rules, we assume that they’re powerful. Duh. (One wonders if a lifetime of watching powerful people be abject shitheads could have anything to do with it.)
- And a much more interesting study on the role that some airborne bacteria play in acting as seeds for precipitation. Get a look at that hailstone! (Duck!)
- Amen, brother. (Thanks to John Ridley for the link.)
Well, it’s the end of a long March, either way you want to see it, and finally we’re starting to get a little weather I’d consider springish. Old Dan Beard had this at the start of the kites chapter in his Outdoor Handy Book (1900):
Though marble time can’t always last,
Though time for spinning tops is past,
The winds of March blow kite time here,
And April Fool’s Day, too, draw near.
The winds of March were way too strong for any kite I have in the house–they were shoving my 200-pound gas grill all over the back deck and making my fireplace vent pipe sing like Lady Gaga–so here’s hoping April calms down a little and I can get something in the air again.
And on the air, too: For the first time in six or seven years I’ve been seeing daily sunspot counts (not smoothed sunspot numbers) greater than 100. Here and there midafternoon I’ve actually heard human voices on 15 and even 10 meters. Time to get the inverted vee off the shelf and set it up off the back deck again.
The long march this March was getting a new book produced in cooperation with Jim Strickland. I haven’t said much about it because I want it to be available before I start talking it up too much, but we’re finalizing the cover art and getting the ebook versions prepared, looking toward a launch on or about April 15. We read from the book (which consists of two short novels) at Anomaly Con last weekend. I hadn’t read publicly from my own fiction since the mid-80s, specifically at a 1984 SF event at SUNY Brockport where I read one of my stories (“Marlowe”) between Nancy Kress and Norman Spinrad. (No pressure!) I need to work on my presentation skills, which were honed in eighth grade, when I was chosen to be one of the readers for the daily morning masses at Immaculate Conception grade school. Carol critiqued me prior to the con, and suggested that I strive to make Drumlin Circus sound a little less like Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.
If I didn’t intend to make all of my work available in ebook form before, I certainly did yesterday, after finally getting a little hands-on time with the Motorola Xoom at the Verizon kiosk at Chapel Hills Mall. Unlike the Galaxy Tab (which I briefly groped a few months ago) the Xoom has an ebook reader demo, and I spent a minute reading Jane Austen on its very crisp display. I would like to have loaded a technical PDF, but the Xoom’s XD card slot isn’t (yet) recognized by the OS, and that will keep me from pulling the trigger right now. My former collaborator Joli Ballew (Degunking Windows) is much of the way through a Xoom book, and she thinks that the XD slot issue (and a few other loose ends) will be corrected by summer. Let us pray.
And triggers, yeah. One of the most popular events at Anomaly was a do-it-yourself maker session for building steampunk ray guns. Pete Albrecht sent me a note about a whole category of real-world firearms that has a certain steampunk whiff about it: free pistols, which are highly evolved single-shot .22 caliber handguns designed and often hand-crafted to excel at target accuracy. They must be held in one hand only, and aimed using purely mechanical (i.e., metal) sights. The outlandish-looking wooden grips are designed to enclosed the entire hand for maximum stability, and are often sculpted specifically for a single competitor’s hand. The idea is to sink 60 rounds into the two-inch center of a target at fifty meters, each round loaded by hand and all within two hours. The sport is very old and was practiced in the Victorian era, so it has a steampunk pedigree, at least, even if the machinery is inescapably high-tech.
Much remains to be done here. The SF portions of my Web presence haven’t been touched since the release of The Cunning Blood in 2005, and need to be completely rewritten. The goal is to mount something useful on hardsf.com, a domain I’ve owned for over ten years without ever quite deciding what to do with it. I’m sure I’ll think of something.
We’ve had a miserable cold winter here, and whereas we haven’t gotten any more snow than average, the snow that we’ve gotten has been a long time leaving. Over the past four or five days the temps have finally been trending up, and as the snow melted on our sidestreets I once again noticed something I’ve seen the last few winters: The uphill lane melts first.
It’s a fascinating business. It’s consistent, and there are a lot of stiff inclines here on the slopes of Cheyenne Mountain. No matter what street I drive on after a snowfall, it’s the uphill lane that melts first. So the citizen scientist in me started chewing on the question: Why?
My first hypothesis was that on the eastern slope of a mountain, roads running east and west have the uphill lane on the north side, meaning that the southerly winter Sun is more likely to fall unshadowed on the north-lying lane. This may be a factor on some streets, but I quickly found hilly streets running north and south and at odd angles. In all cases (I didn’t find even one exception!) the uphill lanes melted first. This was true even on the north sides of small hills where the road surface got little if any sunlight at all.
This left me only a single hypothesis: That car engines have to work harder to move a vehicle uphill, and therefore the undersurface of the car (engine and exhaust system) are hotter going uphill than downhill, when the engine is basically idling. Heat radiating from the undersides of uphill-traveling cars melts more snow than vehicles idling their way downhill. This is a suburban area rather than rural, and there are a lot of houses up here, all on smallish lots. So traffic is significant, especially at rush hours, when conga lines of minivans and four wheelers (necessary on winter roads with 12% grades) commute down and back to Colorado Springs.
I don’t know how true this is, nor how to test it in a controlled fashion. The snow is now gone, but come next week another experiment will be set up, and I’ll have a chance to look again. (I need to keep a camera in the car so I can snap a picture of the effect in action, something I haven’t done yet.)
If you’ve seen something like this happen in your area, let me know.