Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

January 6th, 2009:

Odd Lots

  • Quick reminder: If I’m on your blogroll, or if you have a link to Contra on any of your pages, please check to see that the new URL is in place. Thanks!
  • Pete Albrecht sent me a link to a fantastic technical animation that “assembles” the Space Station one module at a time, while displaying a timeline on the right indicating when each part was orbited and attached. I knew roughly how the thing went together, but this is almost like Cliff Notes. Takes just a couple of minutes to watch. Don’t miss it!
  • Again from Pete is a site with more information on steam turbine locomotives. I had heard of the Jawn Henry (That’s how the Norfolk & Western spelled it) but had not seen a photo until I followed the link in the article. The main problem with coal-fired turbine electrics appears to have been coal dust in the electric motors. Makes sense, but I would never have thought of it.
  • Henry Law weighed in from the UK on the merits of Marmite, the original beer yeast leftovers toast spread, as far superior to those of Vegemite. (See my entry for January 4, 2009.) I may have to let Henry duke it out with Eric the Fruit Bat over this, as I have not tasted either but will try some as soon as I don’t have to buy a whole jar. Sam’l Bassett suggests that its flavor is heavy on the umami, which makes me a little nervous. I don’t taste MSG at all–flavor enhancer is not a word I’d use for it–but it makes me feel almighty strange, even in very small amounts.
  • The Boston Globe, of all things, published a piece stating strongly that cities are really, really really bad places to live from the standpoint of health and clear thinking. I learned that twenty years ago; nice to see that the mainstream media is giving the idea some air. Alas, their answer–more parks–is treating the symptoms, not the disease. The disease is overcrowding, and the answer is to revitalize small towns. But that’s just me, and what do I know about quality of life?
  • I had long known there are “large” Lego blocks called Duplo, but it wasn’t until Katie Beth got a set for this past Christmas that I had ever seen Mega Bloks, a sort of “house-brand” Lego and widely despised as a cheap imitation. However, even though Mega has both a Lego and a Duplo clone, they also have Maxi Bloks, which are larger than Duplo and so large, in fact, that no adult human being is likely to be able to swallow them, much less a two-year-old. This was a good idea. I want Katie to be comfortable with the idea of building things, and Maxi Bloks make it unnecessary to wait any longer.
  • The February Sky & Telescope has a very defensive editorial from Robert Naeye, countering a tidal wave of accusations that S&T has gone the way of Scientific American and has been “dumbed down” in terms of scientific content. I don’t have a link to the editorial online, but its core point is so silly I groaned. Naeye basically said that “We’re not getting dumber–you’re getting smarter!” Um…no. You’re getting dumber. I had been a subscriber for 25 years or so with just a few gaps. I think I have a sense for where it was when I came to it, versus where it is now.
  • I’m editing this with Zoundry Raven, as I have since I stumbled on it a couple of weeks ago. I’ve used Raven enough now so that I can recommend it without significant hesitation. The Zoundry business model is interesting (albeit difficult to describe) but it’s also optional–you don’t need to participate to use the software.
  • Hey. I didn’t get this for Christmas. Neither did you. But boy, the 12-year-old in me ached a little when I saw it…
  • I’m amazed that I never knew this, but the Anglican term for the Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28) is “Childermas.” He doesn’t use the word, but arguably the best song James Taylor ever wrote is about the Three Kings, Herod, and the Holy Innocents. “Steer clear of royal welcomes / Avoid the big to-do. / A king who would slaughter the innocents / Will not cut a deal for you.” Indeed. Avoid all kings. Keep them in chains when you can–even the ones we believe that we elect.