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wine

Odd Lots

  • 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.

Yearwander

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.

Daywander (Again)

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.

I find myself renewing an old friendship while writing a chapter on programming. (The book itself is largely about hardware.) Back in the early 1990s I spent a certain amount of time with Tcl/Tk and much enjoyed it. Visual Basic was brand new, and creating GUI apps was still mortal drudgery facilitated by the king of mortally drudgerous languages, C. In 1993, all you got with Tk was Motif. Funny to think of Motif as a bottom-feeder GUI now, when back then it was nothing short of breathtaking. Today Tk gives you native look-and-feel, and there are bindings for just about any language you’d ever want, and there are more computer languages these days than mosquitoes in Minnesota. I’m using a binding for Python called TKinter that basically gives you Tcl/Tk without Tcl. That’s good, since Tcl is a bit of a dud as languages go and the main reason I dropped Tcl/Tk like a hot rock when the Delphi beta wandered in the door at PC Techniques. Python isn’t Pascal but it’s way better than all the toothless C wannabees that represent the sum total of recent language research, especially JavaScript, the Woodrow Wilson of programming languages. If you just can’t bring yourself to use The Kiddie Language without falling into fits on the floor and drowning in the dog’s water bowl, well, Python and TKinter represent the easiest way to lash up a GUI that I’ve ever seen.

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.

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • I hit a milestone the other day: 40,000 words on Ten Gentle Opportunities, which is at least halfway there and maybe (if I’m willing to settle for a 75,000 word story) more than halfway.
  • One of my readers sent a link to a page describing how to install the Insight debugger under Linux Mint. As my ASM freak friends will recall, I no sooner described Insight in Assembly Language Step By Step, Third Edition than Debian pulled it out of their distribution. Supposedly this method will also work for newer versions of Ubuntu. I need to test the repository under both distros, and will report when I do.
  • There’s a new nova in Sagittarius. (Is that redundant?) Mag 7.8–which is easy to see with binoculars, if you can separate it from the stellar mosh pit in which it appeared. Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.
  • Michael Covington sent a Google Ngram for the words “whosever” and “whoever’s” indicating that “whosever” has been on the run for a couple of centuries. It became the minority player about 1920 and has been down in the mud since about 1960.
  • Ok, I agree: This is the most brilliant kitchen gadget since the salad spinner. Or before.
  • I used to do this a lot, though I haven’t done it since 1977: pull the guts out of a photocopier. This guy’s blog, by the way, is news to me but should be on every techie’s blogroll. (Thanks to Jack Smith K8ZOA for the link.)
  • Haven’t heard much about software radio recently. Ars Technica just had a nice overview piece on it. The hardware keeps getting better, but all the promised weirdness (including new types of pirate radio) hasn’t happened yet. My theory: Wi-Fi is just a better weirdness magnet.
  • Foxconn is releasing a fanless nano-PC toward the end of summer, and I like the looks of it, at least if it’s got something better than an Atom in it. Roughly 7.5″ X 5.25″ X 1.5″. No optical drive. 5-in-1 card reader on the front panel. Under $300.
  • Talk about nutty brilliance for film promotion: RC drones in the shape of superhero-style flying people to hype the film Chronicle, which is evidently about…flying people. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • To inflate a Buckyball, just use a laser.
  • This sweet merlot (scroll down) was lots better than I thought it would be, especially for a hot summer evening’s barbecue. May be hard to find outside Colorado. No least hint of concord grape, for you mutant-blueberry purists. About $15.
  • Yet another sign that we may be winning the Fat Wars: Fat-free dressing is bad for you.
  • Still yet another sign may be that the grocery store near our condo outside Chicago carries a sort of spreadable lard called “smalec.” This is the best-kept secret in the food world; it took me ten minutes to even find a picture of it. It was brought here by Polish immigrants and is no less healthy than butter, though I have no clue as to its taste.
  • As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, well, the latest home hazard is swallowing loose bristles from your grill brush. My brush is at least five years old and failing. Looking for another technique. (Again, thanks to Pete Albrecht for pointing it out.)
  • This sure sounds like a hoax, but there could be a zombie apocalypse theme park in Detroit’s future. The concept suggests that time’s about up for the zombie craze, so I’d better get my novel (which contains dancing zombies) shambling on to completion before the whole thing caves in.

Odd Lots

  • I’m behind on a great many things, especially fiction writing and replying to email, so bear with me until I get dug out from under the pile. Exchanging offices within a house is precisely the same as moving two offices, and that means a lot of boxes and a lot of bother, exploding intercoms being the least of it.
  • I didn’t expect this wine to be as good as it actually is. About $11.
  • The weather’s been beautiful here, so yesterday I was going to get out on the back deck with my Icom 736 and work the world. That was, of course, the day that sunspots basically vanished on the visible face of the Sun. What does it mean to have solar flares but no sunspots? Nobody knows.
  • Thanks to many people (Jim Strickland being the first) who wrote to tell me about a “smart sand” project at MIT that is the first step toward the sort of nanoreplicator I postulated in my Drumlins stories: Tap in a 256-bit code, and some “smart dust” (very smart) in a stone bowl assembles something for you. I love it when my crazy dreams come true!
  • Single-atom nanotransistors can now be reliably made, rather than hunted for. (Thanks to Roy harvey for the link.)
  • From Michael Covington comes a link to a fascinating article about the other kind of abduction: abductive logic. If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, don’t miss it!
  • The Colorado state law that led Amazon to nuke my Associates account has been declared unconstitional. No word from Amazon as to whether I can have my account back.
  • I would probably buy one of these if I could find one in stock somewhere.
  • Jack Tramiel has left us, having created quite a raft of famous computers, including the very best forgotten computer ever.
  • I checked the date on this one, but it was nine days too late to assume it’s a hoax. One might argue that solar panels are more elegant, but you can’t make buffalo spaghetti sauce in a solar panel.
  • I’ve seen more dumb YouTube posts than I’m willing to admit, but this one takes the cake for sheer willful stupidity. I knew how this worked in 1959, when I was 7.
  • Kids, this is futurism. All we need now are better tacos.