- Yes, I know: I haven’t posted an Odd Lots since late October. A few of the items here have been in the notefile for awhile and may be a little stale, but I’ve had other things on my mind than scanning the Web for links, heh.
- Forbes.com will not let you in if you’re using an ad blocker. G’bye, Forbes. You were barely worth reading even without the risk of your ads serving malware.
- Vegetable oils can kill you. If you must use them, use coconut oil, which is by far the best of the bunch. As for me and my house, well, we serve butter. (Thanks to Tom Roderick for the link.)
- Nice short historical piece on the Apollo Guidance Computer.
- Global warming may be caused, in part, by ozone depletion, in a subtle pas de deux with volcanoes. We’ve done a good job protecting the ozone layer in recent years, which may account (again, in part) for the Inconvenient Pause.
- Related: Excellent long-form article on climate and human civilization over the past 18,000 years. Make sure you get a good close look at that poster.
- Free Pascal 3.0 is out. Get it here. Lazarus 1.6 is being built with it, and should be out later this month.
- While you’re at it, see this interview with Florian Klaempfl, creator of Free Pascal.
- A satellite abandoned almost 48 years ago has begun transmitting again. Nobody knows why. (Thanks to Jonathan O’Neal for the link.)
- The common contention that 97% of the world’s scientists agree that global warming is an urgent problem is a lie. Repeating that lie doesn’t make it true…but it does make you a liar. (Thanks to Charlie Martin for the link.)
- When electronic surplus shops die, a little bit of geek culture dies with them. We have OEM Parts in the Springs, and Apache Surplus and Reclamation here in Phoenix, but I’ve seen any number of others go belly-up in the last twenty years.
- A gunmaker is going to carve up a chunk of meteoric iron and create a number of pistols. Not quite the “space gun” we imagine (and nowhere near as badass as Vera) but a space gun nonetheless.
- $40 of the $100 or so you pay for cable TV goes to sports content. This is one reason (and perhaps the main one) that Carol and I dropped TV when we ordered cable here in Phoenix. TV sports can’t die fast enough to suit me.
- Winemakers say that consumers want fuller-bodied and fruitier wines, but less alcohol. Those two factors are incompatible with the winemaking process, so wineries routinely under-report alcohol content in wine. Incredibly, the article’s author managed to blame part of this on global warming.
- 12 reasons you should not own a bichon. Hey, I own four. I’m a contrarian, after all.
- 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.
I’ve been trying red blends lately, and stumbled upon a very good one last week: 19 Crimes Red, 2013. Smooth, extremely dark, and highly drinkable, with enough residual sugar to banish the bitter pox of oak without making the wine taste perceptibly sweet. Falls somewhere between Middle Sister Rebel Red and Menage a Trois Red on my Chart of Wine Esteem. 19 Crimes is Australian, and a mix of shiraz, pinot noir, grenache, and cabernet sauvignon.
Somebody put a fair bit of money into their marketing campaign, which focuses on a peculiarity of late 18th Century British law: the list of 19 crimes that made you eligible for a one-way trip to Australia. They all seem like pretty minor matters and were mostly petty larceny: stealing cash or goods with a value of less than a shilling; stealing shrouds from graves; clandestine marriage; bigamy, and so on. Keep in mind that crimes like murder or treason were not on the list because those (and a great many other things) were hanging offenses, and as Colin Wilson vividly described in The Criminal History of Mankind, the British were not squeamish about executions circa 1800.
Then there’s Crime #5: Impersonating an Egyptian.
Tut, tut. Can’t have that. My WTF meter was pegged, and it took a little online research to figure this one out. First of all, it isn’t on all online copies of the list of 19 Crimes, and several lists give #5 as Stealing Ore from Black Lead Mines. But there it is, right on the 19 Crimes wine site itself, and a number of other places. The gist of Crime #5 is actually this: Don’t be a gypsy. The Romany in that period were thought to be wandering Egyptians (though they are in fact of East Indian stock) and were accused of all sorts of things, from idolatry to thievery to fortune telling. Like the Jews, they were convenient scapegoats, and subject to many of the same persecutions that Jews suffered down through history. Genetic testing didn’t exist back then, so if you looked more or less like a Gypsy, wham! Off you went to Oz.
It’s unclear from my reading how many of the Romany actually ended up in Australia, so maybe Crime #5 wasn’t enforced as ruthlessly as the other 18. (If any of my Australian readers know more about this, please share in the comments.) In fact, the greatest Romany population of any country is right here in the US, at about a million.
The wine itself is excellent. About $10. Highly recommended.
- Although I created a Twitter account back in November, I haven’t done much with it until a day or so ago. I’ve begun posting what amount to instant Odd Lots on Twitter, so if you were waiting for me to do something useful before following me, well, the wait is over.
- Twitter has been using its own link shortener t.co to shorten all links in tweets since 2011 or so. It’s automatic and requires zero additional keystroking. Why, then, do tweeters still use services like bit.ly and goo.gl?
- The FCC may change the definition of “broadband” today, which could demote tens of millions of people (mostly DSL users) to some weird limbo between dialup and broadband. Most of the DSL connections I’ve used have been hideous, some providing measured speeds right down there with 1994 dialup, along with weird lockups and general bit-mayhem.
- Update to the above: Yup. It happened. Next on the agenda: net neutrality.
- NASA’s New Horizons probe is now waking up. We’re about to get our first close-in views of the last (known) un-visited planet in the solar system. Pluto and its gigantic moon Charon are only 12,000 mles apart and orbit one another in 6.3 days, so I’m expecting that some of the upcoming images will be startling, to put it mildly.
- Your coding style gives you away. Mine certainly does–all my reserved words are in uppercase. Why run with the pack?
- Wired tests five wine-stain removers. $18 a bottle? I dunno. At $3.50 or so, Spray & Wash Resolve Stain Stick always works pretty well for us. (Me, actually. Carol drinks white wine.)
- Apple’s app store billed more than Hollywood’s entire box-office take last year.
- It’s easy to say “We’re going to tie health-care payments to health-care outcomes. It’s a lot harder to measure those outcomes objectively.
- This thingmajigger–called a “Panjandrum”–is almost certainly the silliest weapon in 20th century military history. I invite you to nominate competitors, but I warn you, it’s a tough act to beat. (Make sure you scroll down to the video, even if you don’t read the whole thing.)
- Finally, from the Global Vaporizing department: 2,960 degrees in Cave Creek. Boy, it didn’t get quite that hot back in the 90s… (Thanks to Bill Roper for the link.)
- Verizon refuses to stop using tower-side cookies (which can’t be deleted by mobile device users) even as AT&T has caved on the issue. The solution is to stop using Verizon. That’s what Carol and I are about to do.
- Relax. Microsoft did not pull the plug on Win7 updates on 1/13. That won’t happen until 2020. What’s going away are new OS features and phone support, two things I don’t think the world desperately needs.
- I like molten lava as much as the next guy. (Just wait until you read my novella Firejammer, coming out–finally–this spring.) That said, I’m not sure I like it quite this much…
- With January only half over, the Great Lakes ice cover is now up to 34%. Lake Erie has pretty much iced over completely.
- Britain’s Royal Society has published some evidence that people born during solar maxima do not live as long as people born during solar minima. It may be folate depletion by UV. Or something else. However, the correlation appears to be real. (Thanks to Neil Rest for the link.) Carol and I are solar minima babies, whew.
- Discovered two very good red wines recently: Menage a Trois Red, and Menage a Trois Midnight. Both are dry reds, both are fruit-forward, and (in contradiction of the vintner’s Web writeups) neither has any detectable oak. I guess if you’re going to get the hipster market you have to claim oak, even if you lie about it. In this case, nothing of value was lost.
- I doubt that my readers are dumb enough to think you can lose weight by ingesting chemistry sets like Slim-Fast. But just in case, read what Tom Naughton says about recent diet rankings in content-free publications like US News. Hint: The same doofi who bleat endlessly against “processed foods” (which now means “any foods I don’t like”) are endorsing fructose cocktails like Slim-Fast over Atkins and paleo.
- Popular Mechanics lists the 14 best cities in America for startups. None are in Silicon Valley, and all are in relatively low-cost areas. Maybe hipster city cachet is finally starting to lose its cachet. Or so we can hope.
- Lots has happened in CPU architectures since the 1980s, when a lot of us learned it. (I started a little earlier, but the IBM PC brought most of us to a new starting gate at the same time.) Here’s a decent summary. One consequence of all this is that human-written assembly language is less of a win over compilers, and the best reason to learn assembly these days is to understand what your damned compilers are up to in there.
- Before he broke into the SF business, Keith Laumer was an ace model airplane designer. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- Physically small, fanless PCs have been around for awhile, and I was bullish on them until I began using Dell USFF (ultra-small form factor) machines like the Optiplex 780, which are pretty small and almost entirely silent. Should we settle for 1.6 GHz? Only if there’s a specific application in mind, like education (think RPi) or embeddedness.
- Bill Cherepy sends us news of a thermostatic butter keeper that can keep a stick of butter (block? It’s a form factor we don’t make in the US) at any arbitrary temp from 15 to 23 degrees C. Butter is definitely coming back into its own, bravo halleluia!
- This overlong, (10,000 word) wandering, muddled, and occasionally brilliant essay is a must-read if you feel (like I do) that tribalism and tribal hatred are the greatest threat facing humanity today. We’re precisely one month away from the midterms, and my phone is ringing a dozen times a day with haters demanding that I hate whole groups of people who have little in common with one another beyond their being hated by the callers. Here’s a clue, folks: Politics does not give you permission to hate. If you hate, you’re a hater…and those of us who don’t hate know who the haters are.
- Jim Strickland sends a link to new research on creating organic solar cells based on short vertical nanopillars that look like well-trimmed blades of grass, or a short-pile shag carpet.
- Here’s as clear a statement as I’ve ever seen why not to play with bitcoin, quite apart from the fact that law enforcement probably considers posession of bitcoins ample evidence of criminal activity. No thanks.
- There was 53K of RAM on our planet in 1953. And damned if the computers didn’t want 64.
- A case that was a long time brewing may establish additional precedent that DRM is an antitrust violation. Actually, what DRM really does is turn honest customers into pirates.
- Michigan vineyards are having their worst grape harvest ever this year, thanks to last winter’s record-breaking cold. That’s a shame; Michigan makes some damned fine wines, especially sweet wines, which we drink when we’re in Chicago. (I don’t see them here in Colorado.)
- Wines, yes: Back in 1973 I had my first can of wine. The other night I had my second. My first thought: The Seventies are returning, egad. My second thought: Hey, that’s not bad wine!
- The real reason there will be no Windows 9: Some lazy code jockeys will mistake “Windows 95” and “Windows 98” for “Windows 9.” This makes sense to me, and if it reduces the universe’s bug supply even a little, it’s a very, very small price to pay.
- Wow. There are no longer any cartoons on Saturday Morning broadcast TV. Which doesn’t mean that the universe is not awash in cartoons, most of them simply hideous.
- Before reading this article, I had never heard of Axe Deodorant. Now, all else being equal, I’d rather smell like nothing. But do I read here that there’s an SKU with the scent of…solder? How about Bakelite terminal strips plus capacitor wax?
- Pertinent to the above: The last aftershave I think I ever used regularly was called Nuts & Bolts in, I believe, 1971.
- The forms are in place. The new roadbase fill has been leveled and compacted, and the rebar laid. Concrete should be here in less than an hour. Damn, we’re ready.
- Here’s a concise (and hilarious) summary of everything wrong with science journalism, which is (alas) pretty much everything.
- If the human mind can’t be modeled, it can’t be emulated. Which makes me wonder what sort of non-human intelligence we may be able to create computationlly, and whether we’d recognize it as intelligence if we did.
- One of my very favorite scientists, the Vatican Observatory’s Dr. Guy Consolmagno, said four years ago that if aliens come to Earth and ask to be baptised, the Church would be happy to do it–but only if they asked. There are theological questions here: Would all aliens be subject to original sin? Would each world have its own Incarnation? James Blish explored this a little (if in a rather 50s way) in A Case of Conscience . Now Pope Francis has apparently reiterated it on the Vatican news site.
- Students remember lectures better when they take notes in longhand. I’ve noticed this effect myself, and it’s real. The article suggests that writing notes longhand requires you to process information before writing it down, but that’s true of keyboarding as well. I admit I don’t take a lot of longhand notes anymore, but it’s also true that keyboarding and presenting aloud seem to use entirely separate parts of my mind. (I tried to write a story once by dictating into Dragon Naturally Speaking…and it just didn’t work.)
- In crafting parody, I’ve run afoul of Poe’s Law more than once. Far too many people are so dumb they can’t detect hit-you-with-a-shovel sarcasm when they see it. (Thanks to Jim Mischel for the link.)
- I just ordered this. Will review when I’ve had a chance to devour and digest it. Fat has certainly been good for me, judging by my weight and blood numbers since I stopped fearing it.
- Coffee is good for eye health. Isn’t it?
- Wine is a lot more complicated than you probably thought, and a whole lot less romantic. Nay, it’s industrial, almost…urban.
- And still more reasons to view so-called studies with extreme caution. If you want to pass off an agenda or some sort of ideological/political/hate campaign, the best way to do it these days is hang a sign on it that says, “Trust me! I’m Science!” (Thanks to Damon Smithwick for the link.)
- And if you’ve ever used a graph to try to prove something, this may give you pause. (Thanks to Roberta Crownover for the link.)
- There’s lots more Neanderthal in us than we previously thought. My knobby Neanderthal head is poking me in my conical ribcage…
- Google just sold Motorola to Lenovo, but will be keeping the Motorola skunkworks.
- Saturation radio advertising in the early 70s has left their jingle stuck in the far corners of my head, but I never actually tasted Zapple cinnamon-apple wine. Weird wines fascinate me (I stop well short of baby mice wine, thanks) and that sounds better than some of the gimmick wines I’ve tried in my life.
- However, I did try Mateus and Lancers back in the day, both of which were handed out to all passengers on those noisy old Fokkers I used to ride between Chicago and Rochester MN when Carol was in grad school. Both still exist. I wonder if I have the will to buy one of each and see if those old golden memories were about the wine or the woman? (Three guesses. None of them count.)
- So is it “assortive” mating, or “assortative” mating? I see both spellings online, but having internalized “preventive” I’m loath to endorse”assortative.”
- A heads-up on something I’m investigating when time allows: Running the Atlantis word processor on Windows 7 fails the first time, but launches the Windows 7 Game Explorer module gameux.dll, which for some reason causes rundll32.exe to use about 50% of my CPU cycles thereafter. This problem arises with games, but Atlantis is not a game. The machine does not have a network connection, which seems key. Still poking at it, but if you’ve seen this problem and fixed it, do let me know how. I’m starting to think that there’s a game called “Atlantis” somewhere and that Game Explorer is looking for a network connection to “do something.” If there’s a way to carve Game Explorer out of Win7 without breaking anything else, that would be not only useful, but damned useful.
- People in Colorado are already skinnier than people in other states. They may be about to become skinnier yet.
- Another revelation from the Ministry of the Painfully Obvious: Political discussions damage Facebook relationships. Since a huge fraction of Facebook posts seem to be hatehurling anyway, this should surprise no one.
- Perhaps a new way to look at the dichotomy: Weather is anecdotes. Climate is data.
Wow. Somehow it got to be a whole new year when I wasn’t quite looking. I’m not unhappy to be shut of 2013, and as usual, I have high hopes for this year to be better. The last of our parents has been released from her suffering, and while I miss them all (especially my father, who died 36 years ago) my idiosyncratic understanding of Catholic theology suggests that they’re all in better shape than I am right now.
Which isn’t to say I’m in bad shape. I had a couple of health problems this year, but nothing horrible. I’ve been able to get my abdominal fat down to almost nothing, and weigh just eight pounds more than I did when I was 24. It still puzzles me just a bit, but I lost that weight by eating more fat. I’ll tell you with confidence that butter makes almost everything taste better except corn flakes.
I scored an interesting if slightly peculiar writing gig this year. It’s been an immense amount of work, not so much in the writing as in the learning. I’ve never done a book–or part of one–with this broad a scope. I’ve touched on a lot of technologies in my career, but touching isn’t understanding, and understanding is the critical path to explaining. I’ve written code in Python and C and ARMv6 assembly. I practically buried myself in ARM doc for most of two months. That felt good in the way you feel good after walking fifteen miles…once you’ve allowed three or four days for the smoke to clear. I now know a great deal more about virtual memory, cache, and memory management units than I might have just touching on things in my usual fashion. Curiosity is an itch. Autodidaction is a systematic itch. And to be systematic, you need deadlines. Trust me on that.
No, I still can’t tell you about the book. It’s going to be late for reasons that aren’t clear even to me. When the embargo breaks, you’ll hear it whereverthehell you are, whether you have an Internet connection or not.
Every year has some bummers. The ACA did us out of a health insurance plan that we liked, but at least in our case it wasn’t cancelled on the spot. We have some time to figure out where we can get a comparable plan, if one exists. (One may not.) It could end up costing us a quarter of our income or more, and we may lose relationships with physicians we’ve known for ten years. I’ll just be called evil for complaining, so I won’t. Anger is the sign of a weak mind, after all. I think one of my correspondents whose insurance was cancelled without warning summed it up in an interesting way: “I’m not going to get angry. I’m going to get even.”
It’s snowing like hell as I write. I would have posted a photo, but as most of you are staring out the window at snow this week (in some places a great deal of it) I doubt it would have been especially interesting. Besides, a couple of hours ago, I could have just said: Imagine yourself inside a ping-pong ball. Open your eyes. In truth, the weather hasn’t been all that bad. The global climate, in fact, has been remarkably benign considering all the dire predictions of the past ten or twelve years, at least once you look at actual stats and not anecdotes or GIGO models. Science works. Back in 2007, Al Gore himself told us that we would have an ice-free arctic by 2013. (Then again, he also said that a couple of kilometers under our feet it was millions of degrees…talk about global warming!) I love the scientific method. You predict, you test, and then you learn something. Sure, I believe in global warming. I’m still unconvinced that it’s entirely a bad thing. (I remember the ’70s. I also remember Arizona.)
I’ve also been doing some experimental research on the psychology of people who jump up and start frothing at the mouth like maniacs the instant they read something somewhere (anywhere!) that conflicts with their tribe’s narrative. That research is ongoing.
I’ve discovered a lot of good things, albeit small ones: Stilton cheese pairs with Middle Sister Rebel Red. Who knew? Python is much better than I remember it, TCL, alas, much worse. And Tkinter, wow. You’re not going to spin a GUI that fast or that easily in C. Green Mountain Coffee Island Coconut beats all, at least all you can get in a K-cup. Carol and I are dunking good bread in good olive oil again, now that Venice Olive Oil Company has a retail shop in Colorado Springs.
Time to go up and start cooking supper. We’re out of egg nog but my Lionel trains are still running. I don’t care if it looks like a ping-pong ball outside. I have my wife, my dogs, my junkbox, and a head that still works more or less as intended. Happy new year to all. Life is good, and getting better. Trust me on that too.
I guess for symmetry’s sake I have to hand you two Daywanders in a row. Blame symmetry if you want; here you go:
It’s (almost) all good news. Carol is improving daily, though still using crutches for long hauls. Her foot hurts when she uses it too much. She’s about to begin physical therapy, which should help. And in three weeks she goes in to get the other one done. We knew this winter was going to be spent mostly at home, though neither of us fully appreciated just how at home we were going to be. Then again, dancing with that girl is as close to heaven as I’ll get on this old Earth. It’s not even three years until our 40th wedding anniversity celebration. Dancing you want? Dancing we’ll give you!
Our Lionel trains are up! It’s been several years, but with a little unexpected help from Jim Strickland, the Camel and the GG-1 are tearing around a longish loop that now surrounds both of our livingroom couches, powered by my formidable Lionel ZW. We put some liver treats in Carol’s 1959 hopper car, and of all the Pack, only Dash was willing to chase the train around and scoop the treats up out of the hopper. He was also the only one willing to grab Louie the Giggling Squirrel from the same hopper.
Then again, Delphi and Lazarus are just better.
Carol and I got the Christmas cards out today. It didn’t get done last year because Carol’s mom was failing and we knew we had only one more Christmas with her. Between Carol’s foot and my book project it almost didn’t get done this year either, but we’re trying to get back real life as life should be lived. Christmas cards are part of that. No complaints.
Bad news? Not much. I was pulling a pizza out of the oven a couple of nights ago, and fumbled the pan with my gloved right hand. Fearing that dinner was about to go jelly-side-down on the kitchen floor, my reflexes put my un-gloved left hand in the line of fire, and whereas I saved the pizza, it came at the cost of second-degree burns on two fingers and the thumb of my left hand. It’s not bothering me as much today as yesterday, and my typing speed is slowly getting back to my accustomed Thunderin’ Duntemann (Thanks, Fiona!) 100 WPM. But I promise you, the next pizza that gets wonky on me is gonna go jelly-side down, while I stand there and laugh. I may be 61, but I learn.
New featured pairing: Stilton cheese and Middle Sister Rebel Red wine. Very good news.
As most people have already discovered just sticking their noses out the back door, 2013 looks to become one of the ten coldest years in US history. It may not be global, but damn, it’s cooling.
And that, my friends, makes me look to my now-empty snifter of brandy and egg nog beside the monitor. Time for a refill. Long past time, in fact.