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Odd Lots

  • Lenin’s head is missing. It was last seen rolling around a forest near Berlin 23 years ago, but nobody can find it now, even though it weighs three and a half tons. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • Evidently Lenin loses his head a lot. Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. Shame it didn’t happen in 1890 or so.
  • How far does $100 go in your state? (Backstory here.) Be careful; the figures are state-wide averages. It’s much worse in urban cores. (Thanks to Tony Kyle for the link.)
  • If you’ve never seen one, here’s an ad-farm article. I’ve often wondered if these are machine generated, written by people who don’t know English well, or machine-obfuscated copies of legitimate articles, intended to duck news providers’ plagiarism bots.
  • Wired volcanologist Eric Klemetti reports that a swarm of small earthquakes may presage an eruption from Iceland’s Barðarbunga volcano. The volcano is interesting because its name contains the ancient letter eth (ð) something I don’t recall seeing on Web news sites in a lot of years. To generate an eth on Windows, by the way, just enter Alt-0240.
  • Wired misses as often as it hits. One of its supposed futurists is telling us that the educated elite should be able to license reproduction, and dictate who can and who cannot have babies. By the way, his description of who is unfit to reproduce sounds a lot like the nonwhite urban poor. Articles of this sort are about as wise as “The Case for Killing Granny,” which put Newsweek in a world of hurt back in 2009.
  • To make you love this guy even more, let me quote a summary of presentation he did on Red Ice Radio: “Zoltan argues that ultimately technology will be helpful to the ‘greater good’ and must be implemented, even if by force and even if there are causalities along the way. In the second hour, Zoltan philosophizes about technology as evolution and luck as the prime mover of the human experience. He talks about maximizing on the transhumanist value for the evolution of our species. We parallel transhumanism with religious thinking. He’ll speak in favor of controversial subjects such as a transhumanist dictatorship, population control, licenses to have children and people needing to justify their existence in front of a committee, much like the Fabian Socialist George Bernard Shaw’s idea.” If I were a transhumanist, I’d be ripping him several new ones right now. Or is transhumanism really that nasty?
  • Nobel laureate physicist Frank Wilczek is not proposing thiotimoline, nor anything else (I think) having to do with time travel. He believes that he’s broken the temporal symmetry of nature…which sounds devilish and full of interesting possibilities. As soon as I figure out what the hell it all means, time crystals will land in one of my hard SF concepts in -5 milliseconds.
  • Michael Covington reminded us on Facebook that there are a surprising number of plurals with no singular form, including kudos, biceps, suds, and shenanigans. (I do wonder, as does Bill Lindley, if the very last bubble in the sink is a sud.)
  • That discussion in turn reminded me of a concept for an END piece in PC Techniques that I took notes on but never wrote: the KUDOS operating system, which lacks error messages but pays you a compliment every time you do anything right. In 1992 I was thinking of purely textual compliments, but these days I imagine a spell-checker that plays “Bravo!” on the speakers every time you spell a word correctly. Wouldn’t that be fun?


  1. Jeff: it’s actually Bárðarbunga with an eth character, not a thorn, although it is anglicized as Bardarbunga (which if you say that as written is nothing like the real pronunciation).

    (Since we’re off to England in a few days, we’ve been following news on the volcano. We were stranded in England last time with Eyjafjallajökull, which I shall never be able to pronounce.)

    Cheers, Julian

    1. Yup. That one was my bad. As per my usual policy, I will fix it in the main text and leave the comments intact to indicate that the mistake was in fact made.

  2. Carrington Dixon says:

    The difference between a ‘futurist’ and a science fiction writer is that a science fiction writer knows when he’s lying to you.

  3. TRX says:

    > Or is transhumanism really that nasty?

    No, but like the old eugenics movement, some very angry and vocal people have climbed aboard it as a vehicle to further their own agendas.

  4. TRX says:

    > no plural

    As a child, I noticed that about “pants.”

    Though there *is* a singular form, it seems to be specific to the aerodynamic shroud over a fixed airplant wheel. Any pilot will tell you it is a “pant.”

    Then, of course, there are the words with no singular, like “software.” My inner grammar Nazi cringes when I see the “a software” or “some softwares” when the speaker means “a program” or “programs.”

  5. Larry Nelson says:

    Google makes ad-farming easy.

    Here is the first paragraph from your ad-farmed article sample that has been Google translated from English>Swahili>Haitian Creole>English:

    With smog of difference to say, Native guides and sample Tuesday as sitting on the bridge in the old system to ask oil companies, passed in 2007 after some MPs called bribery, are healthier than this new system , brand taxes agreed late in seeking to draw spending from companies that oil.

    Any legitimate new article can be inoculated against plagiarism in a five minute web mash-up script.

  6. Erbo says:

    I’ve actually encountered the “eth” character before…it’s in the name of Dr. Eyjólfur Guðmundsson (usually known as “EyjoG”), the chief economist for the MMORPG EVE Online (produced by Iceland’s CCP Games), and the kind of guy who can produce economic reports on the current prices of spacecraft hulls, laser turrets, and tritanium with a straight face.

  7. Lee Hart says:

    Re spellcheckers that play “bravo”… Why not a word processor that gives you a score on your document as you type it, like a video game? It tells you that some words are misspelled, but not which ones. “Want a hint? It will cost you 10 points.” 🙂

  8. Stickmaker says:

    In re. Lenin’s Head: I understand that he has long been a hard drinker. You’d think, though, he’d be better able to handle the hangovers by now.

  9. Marie says:

    Take a look at “The War Against the Weak”. You may already know all this stuff, but most people would be shocked at forced sterilization in the name of a greater race that was practiced in the U.S. Lots.

    Wired guy is nothing new. Everyone thinks the race will be better served once people not like them stop having babies.

  10. Rich Rostrom says:

    Regarding plurals: kudos is not a plural, it’s a Greek word. Also, another plural for which there is no singular: cattle. (All English words for a single animal of the species bos domesticus are gendered.)

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