Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

January 3rd, 2009:

Odd Lots

After giving it much thought, I’ve decided I rather like gathering links and other short items into lists rather than publishing each as a separate entry. Don’t know why, and I may change my mind. But for the time being, I’m continuing the ancient Contra custom.

  • While in Chicago over Christmas, we watched a movie I wholeheartedly condemn: Knocked Up. The film was completely unlikeable, and consisted almost entirely of out-of-control people screaming obscenities at one another. Sheesh.
  • That was depressing, but the other thing we did that same evening was play Rock Band, a Wii app with a string-less guitar and drum-less drum kit. That was way more fun. I’d hoped it would be a sort of Miracle Rock Music Teacher, but that’s not its mission. However, I did reasonably well at the drums and quite well on voice, even though there were only three songs on the whole list that I had even heard of, and none that I especially liked. You have to choose an animated avatar (there’s that word again) and after much searching for a bald-headed middle-aged white boy, I had to settle for the wonderfully named Duke of Gravity. The Duke was my choice because he had big bushy sideburns, which (apart from the color) resembled what I used to have in the 70s. Next time, can I be the Duke of Electromagnetism? (I didn’t know codpieces could have teeth.)
  • Spaceweather posted one of the spookiest sky photos I’ve ever seen, and I take some delight in the fact that atmospheric experts can’t explain it. If things like this happen every so often (even if only every 30 or 40 years) no wonder our ancestors believed in gods and angels.
  • The BBC has a very nice article on the mysterious Soviet Buran shuttle, which made precisely one flight comprised of two orbits plus an effortless return to Earth, all without a single human being in the cockpit. Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.
  • Pete Albrecht reminded me that, sandwiched between the end of the steam era and the beginning of the diesel-electric era, we had a very thin sliver of railroad locomotive evolution called the steam turbine-electric era. Behold the most formidable example, the C&O M1, a 4-8-4-8-4 (!!) in which a coal-fired steam turbine spun a generator, producing electricity that turned electric motors over the wheels. Man, they don’t make trains like that anymore. But they could. (After all, we have more coal than they have oil.)
  • The teeny, gummy Cruzer Micro Skin (so named because the whole thing is encased in a soft and slightly sensual plastic sleeve) is available in an 8GB version, and Amazon is now selling them for $12.99. (Marked down from $90!) I grabbed one; every MP3 I’ve ever ripped from my CDs will fit on that, with room to spare. The “big” 16 GB Cruzer Micro is already out there for $32.99–that’s a thousand times the capacity of my first thumb drive, which I bought back in 2001 for $50.
  • Here’s The Secret Origin of Clippy, a 15-slide retrospective based on Microsoft’s patent filings for animated screen assistants, of which Clippy was the least obnoxious. Tapping on the inside of the glass was clever and funny for the first twenty minutes, but now (with a plastic flat screen in front of me) it’s just, well, tired.