Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

  • Still sniffling, still congested, still coughing, and still mostly lying on my back, taking a Zicam every three hours like clockwork. I feel better generally, but the growing pile of Kleenex on the floor next to the bed provides time-trend rather than anecdotal data. This has been worse and tougher to shake than I had hoped.
  • The Cassini Saturn probe can actually watch ring disturbances occur, especially those caused by the way-far-in moon Prometheus. Here’s the culprit making tracks in the ring system, courtesy Astronomy Picture of the Day.
  • There is a portable version of Scribus, the only open-source desktop publishing system that I respect. One key principle of degunking Windows PCs is to staythehell away from the Windows Registry, and portable apps, almost by definition, leave no fingerprints there. There’s more here than most people understand, and Wikipedia’s list of portable apps is a very good place to start. (I advise reading the entry talk page.) Here’s another big list.
  • Another key principle is to avoid software that insists on launching services all the time, having tray icons, etc. Most of these are commercial packages that are desperately trying to upsell you. Best path here is to avoid commercial software as much as possible, especially trialware and “basic” versions that are invitations to install nagware and are often very hard to get rid of.
  • (Next morning.) The nose is drying out (finally) but the cough is still with me. About to head out for some yummy McDonald’s iced coffee, with sugar-free vanilla flavoring, to chase a delectable Sausage McMuffin with Egg. I’m stuffing my pocketses with Kleenex, but after two days of self-enforced isolation, it’s almost within my grasp: The Contrarian Breakfast of Champions!
  • (Later.) It’s been a bad season for the Global Warming crowd. Freeman Dyson jumped the Tiber, and now says that the whole thing is a religion. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has admitted under duress that its Antarctic bases have shown a cooling trend since 1980. Another Australian, albeit a hated Tory, penned a pretty good summary of the problems to be found when you study the data and not the dogma. Word seems to be getting out: Only 30% of Americans support cap-and-trade, which has become corrupt even before becoming law. And here’s what one of the sponsors of the Waxman-Markey bill has to say about the dangers of global warming. OMG, if that tundra at the North Pole ever emerges from under the ice, we’re all gonna die!
  • Remember Global Cooling? I lived through it. It was scary. The lesson? We knew shit about how climate worked in 1975. And today? We know shit plus 15%. Some humility (and caution) are called for.
  • (Still later.) Gosh. I really must be feeling better. The needle has climbed out of “groggy” and is rising rapidly through “puckish” on its way back to “jovial and unprovocative.” Dare I hope to get all the way to “serene”? Not likely; the viruses are surrendering, but I still have 35,000 words to go on the book–and I can’t find any Diet Green River!


  1. Bob Halloran says:


    On Scribus: have you ever looked at LyX? It’s a cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) GUI front-end for TeX that can also output in PDF format as well.; just a thought…

    1. Ironically, my publisher is having my assembly book typeset on a LyX system, though not in-house. (Few large publishers do much in-house typesetting anymore. Coriolis got its start by doing typesetting to subsidize our magazine, and that was in 1990. ) I like Scribus because it’s shaped like InDesign and “feels” natural to me. I’ve heard of LyX and intend to install it and take a look, especially if that’s how my third edition is going to happen. I have a long and somewhat conflicted history with TeX, largely because of its “command line” philosophy. Knuth had a catchphrase back when WYSIWYG was first reaching the radar, holding that “What You See Is ALL You Get”–and this may have been true in our first (lousy) attempts at WYSIWYG desktop publishing, but has been less and less so as the years have passed. I hand-coded TeX documents when I was at PC Tech Journal (’85-86) and had access to good laser printers for the first time, and while the results were very good, it was clearly a system conceived by a programmer and mostly embraced by people who think like programmers. I can walk both sides of this street, but I’ve been walking on the visual side for some time now.

      It’ll be interesting to see if LyX finds that sweet spot somewhere in the middle.

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