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Odd Lots

  • German model train manufacturer Marklin has filed for bankruptcy, though there is still some hope that the 150-year-old firm will remain in business. Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.
  • Scientific American has an interesting retrospective on the infamous nuclear-powered B-36 that actually flew back in the late 1950s, with a live, air-cooled fission reactor in its rear bomb bay. I’m less twitchy about nuclear than almost anyone I know, and that item still gives me pause. (I do think that the stock B-36 was the coolest military aircraft of the transition period between props and jets, and one of the coolest of all time, period.)
  • From Rich Rostrom comes an aerial photo of the Fovant Badges, which are a group of military insignia cut into the Wiltshire chalk downs in southern England. They date back to WWI, and have been laboriously maintained since then–a job and a half, considering that some are over 200 feet wide.
  • When I first heard Cher’s uber-irritating hit “Believe” years ago I wanted to know what sort of processing was going on with her audio. I didn’t want to know enough to search too deeply, but it recently turned up on Slashdot. The gadget is called Auto-Tune. And Cher can actually sing when she wants to; one wonders what it could do for no-voicers like Bob Dylan.
  • I’ve never paid much attention to KDE’s Kate editor, but discovered today to my delight that it has syntax highlighting for NASM. I’d basically given up trying to find a lightweight Linux assembly language IDE to describe in my book, but half an hour of lightweight fooling around with it makes me think that Kate might be the one. Now all I have to do is become an expert in the next couple of weeks. Are there any books on it, print or e? I looked around and have found nothing so far.
  • From the Words I Didn’t Know Until Yesterday Department: interpunct, which is a small dot used originally in Latin to unambiguously mark the spaces between words. It’s still used today to show you where the invisible characters are on your screen, and I recognized the concept immediately, but never knew what it was called.
  • From ditto: A placket is a flap of cloth that hides a button on fancy clothes. I have a pair of pants with one, and again, never knew what it was called until very recently.
  • Pete Albrecht pointed out a source of very nice cast aluminum house numbers in the Craftsman style–though at prices like these, I’m glad I have only a 3-digit address.
  • From the Painting the Devil on the Wall Department: One of the nation’s leading promotors of monster truck shows was run over and killed by a monster truck at one of his own shows. (Again, thanks to Pete for the link.)
  • From Ed Keefe comes a pointer to a stunt kite fitted out with a microcontroller, an accelerometer, and LEDs so that it could be flown at night and turn different colors depending on how fast it’s going and which way it’s pointing. I flew a kite at night in 1965 and only knew what it was doing by the crackle noise it made and how hard it pulled on the string. Technology advances…


  1. Dave Sorgen says:

    My father worked briefly on the flying reactor project and then on the “nuclear” rocket engine. Both were canceled. He’s still alive at 84 and has interesting things to say about both projects. The B-36 was “HOT” as in very radioactive. The rocket engine made everything ELSE hot. Good thing they were both dumped (at least for in the atmosphere use)…


  2. Bob Fegert says:

    Ford Nucleon, A Nuclear Powered Car Researched In The 1950’s

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