- 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.
- The media loves to build its own myth: Orson Welles’ famous “War of the Worlds” broadcast did not cause panic.
- Had this last night, over dinner with friends: Zinzilla, a monster zin that could be the perfect Halloween wine.
- BTW, “monster zin” is not a term I made up: It’s winespeak for a zinfandel with alcohol content over 15%.
- The Neanderthal in me rejoices at body hair. Wax is for candles.
- Why are so many kids myopic? This article says it’s about not getting outside enough. I’ve read that it’s about not sleeping in darkness, but don’t recall ever seeing an actual study. If lack of exposure to bright natural light is the issue, a population study somewhere with grim crappy weather could nail it. I nominate Chicago.
- The Feds are repurposing an old technology in use at least since Vietnam for domestic spying: radios inside rocks. If it ever becomes clear what frequencies these are on, I could imagine a massive national radio foxhunt. There’s some mythspinning about their batteries, and it would be fun to see what dissecting such a device would reveal.
- Related: If you’re an anal-retentive spy, this page might interest you. Scroll down to see why. Scroll further to see a genuine CIA turd radio. These were once sold on the surplus market. I almost bought one.
- More spy stuff: Bondian gadgets from the movies that have (more or less) become real. I notice the absence of the James Bond assassin ball-point pen that dorkeroo Alec was fiddling with in Goldeneye. I used to do that a lot, which is why I no longer use retractable ball-point pens.
- From the Global Calming Department: The Atlantic hurricane season still has another month to run, but so far it’s the quietest we’ve seen in 45 years.
- From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: rodomontade, defined as swaggering boastful talk without any grounding in reality, which makes the speaker look like an utter moron; see political bullshit. (Thanks to Ernie Marek for dropping the word in my presence.)
- Shades of Newsweek’s execrable “The Case for Killing Granny“: Slate endorses death panels. Way to make friends for health care reform, guys. Sheesh.
- People can live in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not Chernobyl. Here’s a decent explanation why.
- It would be a little embarrassing to the US if Britain beat us to the Pan Am Clipper, but by God, I would stand with Arthur C. Clarke and the Queen and cheer if they do.
- Satire is the soul of civilization: A Colorado town wants to issue drone-hunting permits. All methods allowed…and no bag limits!
- In 1890, England had Eiffel Tower envy. So…let’s have a contest! The winner was never finished, and was dynamited and sold for scrap in 1904.
- Sorry, guys. You learn how to be a writer by…writing. And reading. And thinking critically about your own writing…along with everything else in the universe. Worked for me.
- I drank wine out of a Dixie cup once, and I didn’t explode or turn green. However, if you want to learn to be imbibably correct, here’s a good place to start.
- That said, canned wine seems to be making a comeback. One of the first wines I ever drank as a legal adult (summer 1973) was white zinfandel…out of a can. No wonder I didn’t drink wine again for another ten years.
- Speaking of wine: Wine 1.6 has been released.
- The pitch drop has fallen.
- And given that I fell in love with her a week before I met her, I have now loved Carol for 44 years.
- Wow. Dig with a backhoe, and then spray a target with a machine gun. Only $384. Writers should get out and do all kinds of things that aren’t part of everyday life for writers. I’m not a big fan of Las Vegas, but I could see myself doing this.
- Ok, this is clever. Forgive me if I don’t believe it will work.
- Here’s a service that the world needs, but I don’t give it even a year, especially now that Wired has launched it into high visibility. Big Print doesn’t want us too comfortable with the notion of scanning books we own to ebooks.
- Here may be one reason why: A consortium of tech book publishers is going after two anonymous Usenet posters who have posted literally hundreds of thousands of books (including several of mine) on alt.binaries.e-book.technical, not once but many times over the past several years. I’ve monitored that group since 2008 or so. It’s astonishing.
- Yes, I’m a crank. I hope to be a crank who lasts awhile. Shorting sleep will kill you. There are some excuses (small children at home being the biggie) but I also wonder if college life makes us night people. Most of the morning people I know (Carol and myself included) lived at home during college. (Thanks to Alan Zeichick for the link.)
- And though I’m not a necromancer, I know that you’re bound to answer when I propose: Everything’s SCO’s!
- Baby armadillos are cute, but I’m not sure I’d hold one, because they can carry leprosy. (Ok, ok…just wash your hands afterwards!)
- After all, armadillos are all that’s left of my favorite Pleistocene megacritter, the glyptodont. (Pssst: Mister pinch-hitter, that’s not a good stance to take!)
- Paywalled, but read it if you’re a subscriber: Ford is putting buttons back on their dashboard. I’m having some reliability problems with my new knob-less car stereo, and if I return it I may insist on something with a volume control knob at very least. They exist.
- And they exist in half-height too. Now I’m wondering if I can get a 2M/440 mobile rig that will fit in the other half of the bay…
- I had one of these once. I was called a “young punk” on occasion, by those who had reason to think it was true. So I was a steampunk long before it was cool.
- I was a little early for the Lego phenom, and was quite happy to be a Meccano kid. Here’s a great overview site for all the metal constructions sets I’ve ever heard of. (Except for Buildo, which was obscure even in 1960.)
- That said, don’t tell Certain Small Girls, but one of these may be under A Certain Christmas Tree this year.
- Colorado and Washington State will make this at least possible. But…but…what if your dog is under 21?
- My four-year-old niece Julie is working on a pair of roller skates…built from the Lego set we gave her for Christmas. Somewhere her engineer grandfather is smiling.
- Stay up too late and damage your genes. You cannot win by shorting sleep. Somebody, somewhere may be able to survive on five hours a night. It almost certainly isn’t you. (Thanks to Mike Bentley for the link.)
- We have just lost Jan Howard Finder. No details available yet. I only met him once, but he bought my story “Marlowe” for his anthology Alien Encounters in 1982. 74 is too young for a man of his energy and high spirits. (Thanks also to Mike Bentley for letting me know.)
- Here’s an interesting story about a major publisher (unnamed) who won’t sell an indie bookstore more than 200 copies of a book at a time, even if the store buys them on a nonreturnable basis and pays cash. Happy ending: The indie bookseller drove down to Target, bought 300 copies of the book at 45% discount, and pulled off the author signing, no thanks to the idiot publisher. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- Refining certain rare earth metals from their ores is about to become easier and cheaper. Alas, ytterbium is not on the list. Bummer.
- As much as we support Girl Scouts, I must warn that their Samoas coconut cookie contain sorbitol, to which some people (me included) are sensitive. I don’t think this was always the case. Be careful. (Their Savannah Smiles are just as good, and do not contain sorbitol.)
- If the PadFone 2 is too big for you (see yesterday’s Contra) ASUS announced the FonePad, a…7″…smartphone. The notion of holding a thing like that up to your face doesn’t bother me at all, but I’m just weird.
- Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio may buy the bricks-n-mortar retail arm of the company, but does not want the Nook division. This could be trouble…I’m just not sure which side the trouble is on.
- Discovered an interesting new wine: Middle Sister Rebel Red. Dry but in-your-face fruit-forward, almost no oak (a big plus for me) and very spicy in a wonderfully peculiar way. Highly recommended.
- We could see a comet hit Mars in 2014. Just our luck that it might happen on the hemisphere of the planet that we can’t see.
- Oh what a feeling, to drive a…
- Here’s a nice summary of the current state of the Sun. Something truly odd is going on: We’re getting very close to the predicted solar maximum, and yet yesterday’s sunspot number was…25. It should be more like 250. I built a steerable 10M dipole for this?
- While perusing solar activity graphs such as the above, I discovered that IPCC climate science chairman Dr. Rajendra Pachauri has admitted that there’s been no global warming for seventeen years. I guess Dr. Pachauri has joined the Deniers Club. Then again, because he isn’t a climate scientist, I guess there’s really no reason to believe anything he says.
- From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: Rageaholic , someone who simply cannot resist expressing anger, either in person or online, especially in comments sections or discussion forums.
- Related to that: Larry Gellman of HuffPo describes anger addiction in terms of rage against the Other, which is basically my longstanding definition of tribalism: Tribalism is the reflexive demonization of the Other. There can be many overlapping tribes, each with its own Others.
- And, of course, anger’s nonobvious implication: Whatever or whomever makes you angry owns you.
- I recently reinstalled Windows on a 120GB Samsung 840 SSD, and have been wondering how long it will last. Here’s a nice intro; read the comments too. I’m guessing that it will last longer than the system itself–especially given my recent history.
- Here’s a good overview article on SD card speeds, and where the extra money for a faster card could be worthwhile.
- I ordered a digital flash unit board from a surplus house, to see if it could generate 800-1000VDC (at virtually no current) for my Geiger counter circuits. I was surprised to see that the unit works perfectly while generating only 325VDC. I don’t have the schematic and so jiggering the circuit is probably not an option. I’m guessing that some sort of ladder multiplier is now the way to go.
- Although the majority of Sherlock Holmes stories are pre-1923 and thus in the public domain here in the US, the author’s estate is still demanding licensing fees from authors using the characters in new works. Now someone is suing the estate to get a court to declare that the characters (and not just the text) are in the public domain. Go for it!
- Does anybody remember Ann Hodges and the Bruise That Came From Outer Space? What I’ve never quite understood is why there’s any question about whether or not you own a meteorite that falls on your property. (Even if it doesn’t fall on you.)
- People are still fighting about camelcase (i.e., CamelCase) versus underscores (i.e., under_scores). Well, duhh. Fighting’s fun, eh? The gates of hell open upon my head every time I suggest that Pascal’s reserved words should be in uppercase. The bigger question is this: Why does such piddly crap make grown men so violently angry? (Thanks to Nick Hodges for the link.)
- A Napa winery is trying aging its wines by submerging them in the Atlantic Ocean. Hey, whatever floats (or sinks) your bottles. But…if you’re in Napa, wouldn’t it be cheaper to dunk them in the Pacific?
- From the I-Never-Thought-I’d-See-This-In-My-Lifetime Department: Yesterday the Denver Post published an article on how to grow your own marijuana.
- 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.