Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

  • It was inevitable: Be the Balloon Boy for Halloween. However, as the ad says, don’t get carried away… (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • I downloaded an Xubuntu 9.04 LiveCD, and (interestingly) the OS does not appear to be able to identify my Samsung 1600 X 900 display, and thus defaults to a 4:3 something too narrow and a little too high. More interestingly still, it shows a blank field for the current display resolution in the Settings dialogs. Ubuntu and Kubuntu 9.04 have no trouble with the display, and I’m wondering if the xfce resolution is hardcoded. Either way, it didn’t leave me with an especially good impression of Xubuntu.
  • There’s something telling about my feeling it necessary to tell you that there’s a spot on the sun! I’ve done screen-projection sunspot observations at, um, spotty intervals since 1970, and until quite recently, sunspots were more or less always there when you wanted to look. Not so for the last two or three years, when sunspots–and band openings–have become something of a novelty.
  • Heath-Zenith still exists. They make doorbells. (Thanks to Bp. Sam’l Bassett for the link.)
  • Use your deordorant and become a better person. (Clean the catbox, ditto.) I’ve sometimes wondered what odors are actually for, and whether there’s an evolutionary reason that humans are so much lousier at detecting and discriminating among them than other mammals.
  • Oh, and you may be more productive with your shoes on. (If that’s true, how the hell have I ever gotten anything done?)
  • Wired Magazine has a cover story on the antivaxers, and whatever your views on the issue (mine are so strong as to be essentially unprintable, so don’t look for them here) it’s worth reading.
  • The New Yorker always has clever covers, but this is the best one I’ve seen since the Mullahs on Segways.
  • Recommended Obscure Halloween Reading for 2009: Jonathan Carroll’s The Land of Laughs, which was published in 1980 but can still be had for cheap on the used book sites. The biographer of a legendary (deceased) author of children’s books travels to the small Midwestern town where the author once lived and finds that fantasy is blurring into reality in some odd and very creepy ways.
  • Is there a more modern technical term for those jokes/inspirational/polemic notes that people email out to their entire address book, with instructions at the bottom to send this to 10 people / 20 people / everyone you know? I call them chain letters, but wonder if their email incarnation has a geekier term attached to it.


  1. Carrington Dixon says:

    ANTI-VAXERs: Ah, it’s about vaccinations. For a moment I though it would be about old DEC hardware. 🙂 Sic transit …

    1. Bob Halloran says:

      Feeling a little less ancient, knowing somebody *else* had the same passing thought (and I’d read the article in print already…).

  2. Brook Monroe says:

    What are body odors for? A number of things, I suppose. Spend any time around gorillas and you’ll note that any individuals stress level is reflected in the amount of foul body odor it exudes. (The smell is a cross between flaming brake pads and elephant dung.) The stronger the odor, the worse the smell.

    Humans have extra modes of communication that other animals don’t have at all, or as much. We have more varied facial expressions. As sight hunters, we have sufficient eyesight to detect intruders or attackers visually, rather than relying on sound (too slow) or smell (even slower). We have spoken and written communications, too, and the more we use those, the less we need to use the others.

  3. Bob Halloran says:

    Jeff, if you’re that interested in tweaking up the Xfce display settings, you might try this link.

    On the anti-vaccine crowd: we’re of an age where the polio vaccine was still a recent discovery in *our* childhood, and the thought of not protecting my kids and grandkids and relying on “herd immunity” to keep them safe borders on child abuse, especially given the fluffy “reasons” (oh wait, that implies *reasoning* was employed) used to avoid the responsibility.

    1. For reasons unclear, I had to hand-edit xorg.conf in Xubuntu to get things right. I had to do that with an early release of Ubuntu (Feisty? Don’t recall…) and found it annoying in the extreme. Linux has to Just Work, or it will never break out of the geek ghetto. Probing the graphics system accurately isn’t easy–I appreciate that–but neither is it optional, especially when distros as different as Ubuntu and Puppy can do it without any apparent trouble.

      But thanks for suggesting that it was an xcorg.conf problem–I didn’t quite get that far before I had to set it aside and work on something else.

      1. Bob Halloran says:

        I just reloaded my system Friday with Kubuntu 9.10 (finally jumping to the 64-bit build) and everything Just Worked. Xubuntu is meant more as a “lightweight Ubuntu” using a less bulky window manager, but said manager isn’t as hardware-friendly as GNOME or KDE. It’s for the tinkerer wanting lean-n-mean.

        1. That’s my impression from what I’ve read, but in truth, I don’t know how much lighter Xubuntu is from a user-response standpoint than Ubuntu. My old machines are in a pile in a corner downstairs, and even my second and third stringers are P4 3.2s. (I gave my last Pentium 2 to the recyclers last year. Still have my 2002-era Xeon, and a few others that were gifted to me.)

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