- Hurricane activity is at a 45-year low, and no major hurricane has achieved landfall on US soil in almost ten years. Tornadoes have been pretty scarce recently as well. Then again, it’s mid-April and snowing like hell outside right now. Two outa three ain’t bad.
- The Food Babe gets her you-know-what handed to her. This, after all, is the woman who said, “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.” Wow. I probably shouldn’t exist, then. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- More evidence that salt isn’t the demon that government guidelines insist that it is. Remember, you can do the experiment on this one, as it applies to yourself: Give up salt for a month and record your blood pressure every day. Then go back on salt and record your blood pressure every day. If your BP doesn’t change significantly, you can pretty much assume that salt isn’t an issue.
- Red meat is not the enemy. And yes, the science is complicated. What science isn’t?
- Crickets are not superfood. Who knew?
- Carol and I have tried this Moscato and found it good.
- Someone pointed out that my Low-Voltage Tubes page on junkbox.com had gotten corrupted. Indeed it had–and I had unknowingly copied that corruption (which was present in my HTML source files)–onto all the backups I have here. So I pulled a trick I had thought about for a long time: I looked up the site on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, and checked their images of junkbox.com until I found one with an intact copy of the article. I then just lifted the portion of the file that had gotten corrupt and dropped it into the newest copy of the corrupted file. Fixed.
- Amazon has a new contract with Harper-Collins that gives the publisher full agency; that is, the freedom to set its own prices. Amazon is posting a notice on the sales pages of full-agency titles telling the customer that the publisher has set the price, not Amazon.
- Here’s some actual data crunching of the Sad Puppies phenomenon, along with a good deal of sane and rational analysis. Stop hurling hate, and understand what’s going on. Hating isn’t helping your cause one bit.
- ESR thinks that the real problem dividing SFF right now is literary status envy. The piece goes back to last summer, which was before the whole industry went nuts over Sad Puppies. Worth reading, maybe twice.
- If you’re an SP3 supporter, you can get all kinds of Sad Puppies 3 merchandise at the logo artist’s Cafe Press studio shop.
On more than one occasion, a reader has emailed me to ask why he or she couldn’t see me on Twitter. My answer might have seemed inconceivable to them: I’m not on it. I never have been. I’ve researched it and thought about it and waffled about it almost since there was a Twitter. I still haven’t gone there. And at this point, I’m unlikely to.
One reason has always been that I don’t think in 140-character text bites. I’m a careful and methodical writer on both the fiction and nonfiction side, and being methodical (not to mention fair) requires more than 25 words, or five words and a hotlink. I’ve recently experimented with what I call nanoarticles on Facebook. I’m currently on Day 13 of a 50-entry meditation on writing over there, with individual entries running from 40-100 words or so. I’m still not sure it’s useful.
I like epigrams, and I’ve written a few. I’ve gotten hundreds of Twitter posts and retweets of my statement: “A good tool improves the way you work. A great tool improves the way you think.” A few have liked “If you see a pinata, remember that somewhere close by is a blindfolded person swinging a stick.” I’ve gotten some pushback on “Self-esteem is confidence without calibration.” (This leads me to believe it may be truer than I thought.) It might be in the family; my father said, “Kick ass. Just don’t miss.” I guess I’m good enough at epigrams to post them publicly, and Twitter is epigram-sized. That said, I don’t think I want to be known primarily for my epigrams. On Twitter, you pretty much have four choices:
- Forwarded links.
Note that novels, technical books, and long-form journalism are not on the list. I already do Odd Lots here on Contra. One cannot retweet without tweeting.
So then there’s Number Four.
“Shouting” is the short form. It’s almost always indignant shouting, self-righteous shouting, or outright hateful shouting. The basic Twitter mechanism is a sort of amplifier, and once the person doing the shouting gets above a certain level of popularity, a runaway feedback mechanism ensues. Boom! (Squeal?) We have a mob. And far oftener than you might think, we have a lynch mob.
It struck me a few months ago: Almost all the current Internet wars are Twitter wars. Gamergate could not have happened without Twitter. Neither could Donglegate. Mobs require the sort of immediate feedback that only immediate presence provides. Twitter is as close as you come online to immediate presence.
Twitter wars would be mere popcorn fodder (low comedy, actually) and easy to tune out if there weren’t real-world consequences. There are. Adria Richards eavesdropped on two dorks making dumb jokes at a conference, took photos without permission, and tweeted them. One of the two dorks was fired from his job, as (a little later) was Adria herself. People have objected angrily to a Twitter lynch mob’s reducing Rosetta mission scientist Matt Taylor to tearful apology over his dopey Hawaiian shirt. I have a suspicion that he had no choice but to apologize. It’s not easy getting a probe to a comet, and it wasn’t easy for Dr. Taylor to be part of the team. Had he not made obeisance to the lynch mob, he might well have lost his job, and in fact his entire career. Employers can be cowardly in this fashion without much cost to themselves: There are always 400 people waiting to fill the void that you make when your company shows you the door.
We have a phenomenon here related to what I call “comment harpies.” There is a psychology that feeds on outrage and hate. Comment harpies are this psychology’s manifestion in blog comment sections. On Twitter, the psychology is amplified way past absurdity, and becomes an online lynch mob. It’s so easy to join in: Are you an umbrage vampire? A recreational hater? Choose your hashtag and join the mob!
I don’t associate with such people, and I don’t want my participation on the Twitter system to be seen as validating what might well be the Internet’s most efficient hate machine. Whether Twitter would be good for my writing career is still an open question, and while Twitter leaves an ugly smell in my nostrils, I rarely say never. Attention amplifiers are very good things, if they can be controlled, and somehow prevented from melting down or blowing up in your face. This happens; there is an SF writer I once respected who has frittered away much of his reputation on laughably rabid Twitter attacks. This may be a calculated strategy: Is he deliberately trading the broad but shallow support of his casual readership for the slobbering adulation of a Twitter mob? If so, he may not be as smart as he looks.
I strive to always be smarter than I look. The smart path may be to avoid Twitter entirely. Time will tell. In the meantime, watching the Twitter lynch mobs at work has put new steel up my back. If some jackass umbrage vampire ever calls me some sort of ist or phobe, I will reply: “No, I’m not. Now back off.”
I might be thinking worse of them inside my head, but…civility matters. And civility is the exception on Twitter.
Every so often I moderate a comment, and the commenter objects: “You’re censoring me!” (Most of the time I just nuke it, and that’s the last I hear.) Granted, it isn’t often, though it’s happening more and more over time. I’m discussing it today because of an interesting phenomenon that other bloggers may have seen, one I call comment harpies. It works like this: Some whackjob swoops in and tries to post a nasty comment on Contra, generally to an entry that happened months or even years ago. I’ve never seen the poster before. The comment is invariably angry, often insulting, and sometimes obscene. The general impression I get, however, is one of out-of-control desperation.
I picture a person awash in cortisol sitting at a machine, googling topics that the harpy’s tribe disagrees with, plowing through long lists of blog hits with shaking hands and attempting to post condemnations anywhere the blogs will let them. This is the terminal state of the “someone, somewhere on the Internet is wrong” psychology. Disagreement used to be a learning opportunity. Then it became insult. Now it appears to be declaration of total war.
I moderate all comments from newcomers, and I pay attention to everything said by everyone. I began moderation to throttle comment spam, which tries to come in five or six times a day, sometimes more. You’ve probably seen these slightly surreal cookie-cutter posts on unmoderated blogs, invariably accompanied by one or more links:
“It is of nothing enjoyed to be better apart than reading insights of distinction sourced with your sight. Links are of to be permitted, yes? I make a mind out to return of oftener.”
Links are of to be permitted, no. Lost, get apart now forever and my sight out of.
The harpies are different. The English is good, and the posts generally pertain to whatever topic the target entry discusses. There’s rarely any link. Though usually short, there’s an occasional multi-hundred-word rant. As a general policy I delete them immediately. Now and then the indignant harpy emails me and demands an explanation. When asked, I answer: “I don’t allow angry/abusive/obscene comments.” End of story, usually. Sometimes the cortisol-tripper reponds again, claiming that I’m engaging in censorship. At that point, their having crossed the bright line into delusional, I delete and forget them.
Some comments fall into a gray area. A year or two ago, when I began talking about my research into ice ages for my caveman novel, I got a one-liner:
“Don’t be an idiot. There will never be another ice age.”
This is less angry than most, and I’ve certainly been called worse. With faint hope that he/she might have something interesting to say, I wrote back and suggested a politer comment with factual content, links permitted. The email address (which was qwertygargle and suspicious to begin with) turned out to be fake.
So what can we make of this? Some of my friends have suggested that posts like these are paid compaigns intended to discredit the blogger or the topic the blogger is discussing. That seems unlikely to me. Anger and insult won’t change anybody’s mind except perhaps in the direction opposite the harpy’s intent. And when someone calls you a “Foux News watcher,” what else can you do but giggle? I wonder if these people have any least idea how utterly pathetic they make themselves and their ideologies look.
Are they bored? Unemployed? Crazy? Are they crawling with toxoplasma gondii? As with all manifestations of tribal fury, the comment harpy phenomenon probably has deep roots in our primate past, where the addled tribal footsoldiers throw poop at each other while their alphas live the good life at their expense. If you have any better explanations, I’ll certainly hear them.
Back in mid-January, the Weather Channel went dark on DirecTV. There’s been a great deal of drama since then. Losing 20M viewers is one helluva kick in the crotch when you have, at best, 100M viewers and are struggling to keep the ones you have. If online comments can be believed, they’re bleeding eyeballs bigtime.
Carol and I are two of them.
I’m not a big fan of TV, which eventually turns everything it touches to crap. Carol and I never even had cable until we moved to Colorado ten years ago. The Weather Channel was a pleasant surprise. It was founded by John Coleman (of “thunderboomers” fame in Chicago) and Frank Batten in 1981. We appreciated having a detailed forecast with radar every ten minutes, and some of their people were inexplicably likeable, especially Mark Mancuso, Mike Bettes and Stephanie Abrams. We’d put it on during breakfast or anytime it looked like things were getting ugly outside.
In 2008, NBC bought TWC. That was the beginning of the end. They fired about 10% of their on-air staff, started airing content-free MSNBC news, began pushing weather/climate hysteria of every species every chance they got, and then…the coup de gras…went to the Reality TV Model. They weren’t the first; Discovery Channel and others had pounded that unmistakable path in the grass long before TWC ever found it. One lame series after another began airing anytime there wasn’t a storm that they could get breathless about. I almost understand “Storm Stories,” which at least had photos of things you’d just as soon not see every day, or maybe ever. After that, each season got weirder and weirder. “Turbine Cowboys” croaked early, because there are only so many shots you can get of daredevils repairing 100-foot-tall wind turbines. But…”Prospectors”? It’s “Duck Dynasty” with pickaxes. Now their big deal is “Highways Through Hell,” which is about roughneck Canadian tow-truck operators pulling semis out of ditches in the Canadian Rockies and getting in arguments. There’s no Local on the 8’s during any of these increasingly irrelevant reality shows. Nor, I’ll tell you with fair confidence, is there a great deal of reality.
That’s my big gripe. There are others. People online seem peculiarly agitated by TWC’s recent gimmick of naming winter storms. After Creon and Dion I was expecting Eon, Freon, Leon, Neon and Peon, and perhaps Xenon before this long, cold, ugly winter peters out. No luck so far. (After all the high-end mythological characters, the “W” storm is named “Wiley.” The hell?) Naming winter storms may be dumb. Getting upset about it is dumber.
The business model puzzles me a little. Is it cheaper to buy episodes about trash-talking Canadian truck drivers than just present the weather? Perhaps it is, once you lay out major cash for irritating New York celebrities like Al Roker. However, the people are on staff, the studios are paid for…where’s the win in reality TV? TWC seems to think that people turn on their TVs and sit down to watch The Weather Channel as a species of entertainment. For the most part, they don’t.
Anyway. DirecTV replaced TWC with WeatherNation, which resembles what TWC was when they first started out. The formula is simple: all weather, all the time. The cameras are on tripods rather than dollies, the studio is small, and there are no expensive celebrities. The computer graphics are good, and if I could get it on cable I’d wave bye-bye to TWC. I’ve begun to experiment with streaming video, now that our local Blockbuster has closed down. Said experiments have shown that I can stream WeatherNation, and once the new technology is all in place (more on which in an upcoming entry) I will.
Most of this wouldn’t even be worth mentioning at length if The Weather Channel had not begun to throw increasingly desperate tantrums, slandering DirecTV by name in house ads and claiming to be some sort of essential disaster management information service; i.e., if we don’t have a monopoly on weathercasting, people will die.
This is typical behavior of the Coastal Elite: We know what’s good for you, and if you don’t like it you’re an evil something-or-other funded by the infinitely rich Koch Brothers, or maybe the Illuminati. NBC has long had that sort of internal culture. I smell the presence of one or more Right Men–and maybe a few Right Women, though women are generally too smart for that sort of BS. Leaders earn our respect by acting with calm confidence. Calm confidence is what wins. Leaders who throw tantrums are the archetype of The Weak King. Once the tantrums start, those wooden-wheeled gallows carts can’t be far away.
What broke it all open for me was this video, which shows some guy acting like a Jack Nicholson-class psycho, tearing his DirecTV dish out by the roots and beating it with a baseball bat, until the neighbor kids run screaming and local mothers start to cover their toddlers’ eyes. C’mon. I’m supposed to flee back to The Weather Channel after seeing a revenge fantasy like this? Not fracking likely.
Being a strong king means taking your lumps, learning from your mistakes, and turning the situation around by setting ego aside and just making things work–all with calm confidence. In TWC’s case, this means dumping the unreality shows, firing Al Roker and Sam Champion, and just presenting the damned weather.
Sheesh. How hard could that be?
I’m trying to write 38,000 more words on Ten Gentle Opportunities (basically, the rest of it) by Worldcon, so I won’t go on at length about this, but today I stumbled on some information on a topic I mentioned briefly several years ago: The weird way used book prices wobbulate around on Amazon. As it happens, the goofuses are apparently using software originally developed for high-speed stock trading. Techdirt explained the process in a little more detail last year, providing us (finally) a clue as to how a mild-mannered book on the genetics of certain flies could come to command the super price of $23,698,655.93. Lots more out there if you’re interested.
In short: If you define your book’s price as 1.270589 times that of your competitor’s, and your competitor defines his price as 1.270589 times yours, well, you’ll both be rich in no time…or at least pricing your books as though you were. Fly genetics never had it so good.
What remains a bit of a mystery is why you’d want to price your books above your competitor’s and not below. Unless…the game is to buy the book from your competitor when you find a buyer so dumb as to buy the book from you, at 1.270589 times the price they could get it elsewhere. It’s likely that the fly genetics book was not in either seller’s hands at any point.
Such clueless buyers may exist–after all, people are still installing smileys and comet cursors and anything else on the Internet labeled “free.” This implies that the magic number 1.270589 is in fact the atomic weight of Sleazium, which absorbs certain subatomic particles, particularly morons, better than anything else ever discovered.
Because as best I can tell Zoundry Raven is abandonware (it hasn’t been updated in almost four years) I’ve been sniffing around for a client-side blog editor that’s still alive and kicking. I came across something peculiar the other day, which highlights a trend in small-scale commercial software that I find extremely annoying: Hiding your pricing structure and obfuscating your business model.
The product in question is Chrysanth WebStory. I went up to the firm’s Web site to see what it is, what it does and what it costs. Figuring out what it is was not easy. Figuring out what it does was easier, though I keep getting the creeping impression that I don’t have the whole story. Figuring out what it costs is impossible, apart from near certainty that it is not free. (More on that shortly.)
When I evaluate commercial software, I do a certain amount of research before I even download the product. I look for a company Web site. I look for buzz, in the form of online discussion and product reviews posted by individuals on their own blogs, and not sites supported by ads. I make sure I understand how the company makes money (one-time cost? subscription?) and how much money is involved. Only then do I download the software and give it a shot.
The first red flag with WebStory is that there is almost no buzz online. The free download is available all over the place, but almost no one has anything to say about it. The site itself is extremely stingy with hard information. I managed to dope out that what WebStory really is is a blogging service. There is a free client-side editor app that connects to the company servers, where blog entries are stored in a database. From the database you can feed one or more blogs hosted elsewhere, or a blog hosted on the firm’s own servers.
There are two license levels for the service, casual and professional. The casual license is limited, and to activate it you must present a certain unstated number of undefined “credits.” Here’s where it gets a little freaky: To find out more about the service’s cost you have to establish an account with WebStory, which involves handing them an email address and creating a password.
Read that again: You have to create an account before you can even find out what the service costs. Nowhere on the public portions of the site do I see any mention of what credits cost, nor what the professional license costs. It’s true that they do specify that credits can be earned by writing reviews of the product, but for people who would just prefer to pay for the service, there’s no clue at all. The service is thus “free” in the sense that you can use it without paying money for it as long as you keep reviewing it and earning credits. (Or something.) In my view, it doesn’t matter if you are required to pay in money or credits. Paying anything at all for the Chrysanth WebStory service means that it is not free.
The almost complete lack of discussion of the product online makes me wonder if more than a dozen people are actually using it. The online forums have 14 posts total, across all forum topics. Discussion of the product in other online venues is virtually absent. Of the handful I found, this one was not reassuring.
I do not object to paying for software or online services. I do it all the time. I have a lot of sympathy for developers who want to explore new business models and ways to make money. I can also understand that linking a piece of client-side software to a server-side system is one way to eliminate software piracy as an issue. None of that bothers me in the slightest. What I object to is the secrecy. Tell me up front and in big type: What does your product/service cost?
And how in any weird dimension of the multiverse can it help sales to keep the price a secret?
- Here’s a nice graph of the smoothed sunspot number for the last four solar cycles (21-24.) Our current Cycle 24 is still young, but it stands fair to be the weakest solar cycle in 200 years. It may mean nothing, but 200 years ago we saw cycles like that frequently and were in the worst part of the Little Ice Age.
- Darrin Chandler pointed out Maqetta to me: an HTML5 WYSIWYG Web editor, free and open-source. And from IBM, yet. Haven’t tried it but hope to in coming days. Has anybody else played with it at any length? I use Kompozer for Web work right now, and it’s not evolving very quickly, let’s say.
- And what we may need more than Maqetta for Web pages is Maqetta for epub ebooks. I remain appalled at how much kafeutherin’ it still takes to do an epub with a cover image and even the simplest forms of paragraph differentiation. (Like no first indent to indicate a new scene in a story.) People continue to hand-code ebooks. This is idiocy to the seventeenth power.
- Sometimes you read a short, casual mention of something in a book or article, and the weirdness of it doesn’t really hit you. So stand ready for some pretty boggling astronomical weirdness: A 400-meter asteroid that moves in a horseshoe-shaped orbit. And guess who’s in the gap of the horseshoe?
- At our most recent nerd party, my new friend Aaron Spriggs mentioned Chisanbop, a method of finger arithmetic created by the Koreans and little known here in the US. This is very cool, and would be extremely handy on fictional planets (like my own Hell and the Drumlins world) where electronic computation either doesn’t work and hasn’t been invented.
- A brilliant new method of imaging underground structures like magma plumes shows that the Yellowstone supervolcano is bigger than we thought. The imaging is done by measuring electrical conductivity in the rock rather than the transmission of physical (seismic) vibration. The images give us no additional information on how close (or far) we may be to another eruption, but it may help us to interpret what little data we already have.
- Hoo-boy, here’s a problem I don’t think anyone anticipated in the wake of Japan’s recent catastrophic tsunami: Safes full of (soggy) money washed out of individual homes are now washing up on the seashore.
- From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: mobula, a genus of fish in the general category of ray or skate. They can weigh as much as a ton, and get as high as two meters out of the water when they breach. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for pointing it out.)
- From the same department: bodge, a UK-ism for a clumsy or ineffective repair. I’m guessing it’s a portmanteau of “botched kludge.” (In the US, see There I Fixed It.)
- And for the deep history of the silly, probably racist, and still-undefined phrase “bunga bunga” you can’t do better than the Beeb. (Another one from Pete.)
- Almost everyone else has aggregated this, but it’s important: A brilliant chart showing relative radiation risks, from (not all that remarkably) xkcd. Everything is radioactive, from bananas to the family dog to…you.
- I got a smile out of seeing that the latest ABEBooks email newsletter featured (mostly) Victorian-era etiquette guides, and it arrived during Anomaly Con. Do we even know what “etiquette” means anymore? It sure looks like they did.
- Heat capacitors for your coffee! I put too much cream in mine for these to be useful, but for a novel application of real physics Joulies are hard to beat.
- For a couple of days now, any attempt to access modernmechanix.com has hung waiting for yui.yahooapis.com. This used to happen, and then it stopped happening, and then it started happening again, and then it stopped (and not just on that site) and nothing has changed here on my part in the meantime. It hangs in all browsers I have installed here. Do I have to call the programmers morons to get their attention? Do I have to call their software dogshit? YUI doesn’t work. It doesn’t. Stop using it.
- Don Lancaster has just put his two-volume Apple Assembly Cookbook (1984) up on his site as free ebooks. (PDF format.) I guess I should remind the young’uns that these are books focusing on the 6502 assembly language that was used on the Apple II/IIe machines in the 1970s and 80s. Don has been significant in my life for a number of reasons (I learned IC technology from his books back in the mid-70s) but most of all because I learned how to do technical writing by studying his technique. He’s one of the best tech writers ever. Period.
- You could probably have figgered what this was even before I told you: a steampunk wrist radio.
- And at the other end of the spectrum (as it were) we have a very nice DIY tutorial on building a standalone Wi-Fi radio. My first thought was to put it into the cabinet of an old “All-American Five” tube radio, but somebody beat me to it.
- Even more radio: I bought a nice Standard Communications SR-C146 on eBay, for $30 inluding shipping. The unit is dusty but works fine, and looks like it had not been used much. I have a couple of repeater pair crystals for it (though I haven’t tested them yet) but what I really need is a pair for the National Simplex Frequency of 146.52 MHz. Trying to figure out who might still make/sell crystals for the unit.
- Okay, I promised more about circuses and steampunk today, but odd lots are piling up.
- From the Words I Didn’t Know Until Yesterday Department: spudger, a small tool like a miniature putty knife that helps you pry the backs off of watches and electronics, like the monitor I repaired last month. (Thanks to Tom Roderick for alerting me to its existence.)
- Also from the Words I Didn’t Know Until Yesterday (ok, last month) Department: algophilist , a person who takes sexual pleasure in pain. Broader and more ancient term than “masochist” or “sadist.” (One such appears in Drumlin Circus.) And to think I first thought it was a guy who liked algorithms…
- Given that Amazon buries the cost of Kindle’s 3G connection in publisher content fees, the lack of graphics (big) within text (small) makes sense. I always thought it was about the crappy low-res e-ink display. It’s not. Here’s how it works.
- Alas, this may be too late for me. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- From Bill Higgins comes a link to a list (alas, not searchable) of the 200 Borders bookstores that will be disappeared shortly. (PDF) Bogglingly, neither of the Colorado Springs stores are on the list, even the small, always empty, and mostly pointless one at Southgate. I will miss the one in Crystal Lake, though.
- Guys who come up with schemes like this talk about avoiding government censorship and such, but what will actually drive adoption (if it ever happens) is anonymous file sharing. And nertz, I outlined a novel a couple of years ago describing a technology very much like it. The late George Ewing called this The Weaselrats Effect.
- Years ago I remember reading somewhere that steam calliopes are hard to keep tuned because the metal whistles expand as steam passes through them, throwing their notes off enough to easily hear. Can’t find a reference now. Running a calliope on compressed air from a tank might be problematic as well, because air stored under pressure gets cold when it’s released. Surprisingly (perhaps unsurprisingly) good technical information on calliopes is hard to come by.
- Whoa! If you’re interested in solar astronomy, do not miss this video of new monster sunspot 1158 forming out of nothing. It will give you a very crisp feeling for the tubulent nature of the photosphere. Those aren’t spots: They’re solar hurricanes!
- If you’re reasonably high-latitude (45+ degrees) look north after dark for the next few days. That giant sunspot 1158 is spitting a great deal of energetic chaos in our direction, and the sky could light up as a result.
- Samsung has announced a new, larger 10.1″ Galaxy Tab, running Android Honeycomb. Details are sparse, but I’m wondering if we’re not ultimately going to see the slate market divide into 7″ and 10″ form factors.
- Beating cancer may mean we’ll have to be three and a half feet tall, like these mutant Ecuadorians. I’d be good with that–as long as everyone else was three and a half feet tall as well.
- Gawker Media has a new Web UI that I find so annoying that I’ve mostly stopped reading their sites, which include Io9 and Gizmodo. I could do without sites like Jalopnik and Jezebel, but damn, I’m gonna miss those other two.
- I have yet to find a good popular history of refrigeration. Somehow I doubt people are going to feel sorry for me about that.
- Please read this short article by Mark Shuttleworth. I’ve been saying this for years, but he’s a lot more famous than I am: Tribalism makes you stupid. It also means that you are owned, and are not a free man or woman.
- The Insight debugger front end for gdb has been removed from all Debian-based Linux distributions, and is not present in Ubuntu 10.4. The Debian package for Insight has been criticized as “insane” and unmaintained, and I’m curious: Has anyone here used it in recent releases of Fedora or OpenSuse?
- Autodesk founder John Walker has an interesting free Web toy for Greasemonkey, which attempts to spot “media trigger words” and alert you when weaselspeak is being attempted. (Thanks to Jason Kaczor for the tipoff.)
- Oh, no! It’s the Pluto Effect for dinosaurs! Triceratops is actually an immature Torosaurus!
- Man, turn your head for ten minutes and there’s a whole new kind of punk out there. But this one I may actually like: Dieselpunk. Think Art Deco urban fantasy, with the cultural clock set at 1920-1945. This might include the first Indiana Jones movie, and certainly one of my personal favorites, The Rocketeer. Lessee, we still need Musketpunk, for gritty urban fantasy in 1780 Philadelphia. Ben Franklin with tattoos. Could work, no?
- Don’t be drinkin’ Diet Mountain Dew while reading this site. Trust me.
- There is an entire news site devoted to good news. Perky people like me and Flo read it every day now.
- Sheesh. What’s wrong with “Hi! Is this seat taken?” (Wait, no, that was the 70s. And purely analog.)
- I don’t think I posted a link to this back in April, but I should have. There’s a rectangle of this identical cloth hanging on my workshop wall as framed art. Pray without ceasing, even when you’re soldering up a regenerative receiver.