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Odd Lots

  • Don’t forget the annular solar eclipse that will touch the Southwestern US this Sunday, May 20.
  • From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: Ignorosphere, the region from about 120,000 feet altitude to the lowest stable orbit. (It’s a flip term for the mesosphere.) It’s too high for winged aircraft or balloons, and not empty enough for orbiting spacecraft. Sampling it is difficult (one-shot sounding rockets are all we have in terms of tools) and we know less about it than any other region of near space.
  • After a long conversation on the subject with mobile developer David Beers the other day, I stumbled on an article that drives home the problematic nature of Android app development: There are actually four thousand different Androids. (Maybe more.)
  • I’m seeing more and more videos in, um, bad taste being posted to my friends’ Facebook feeds by something called Socialcam. The suggestion is that those who post have actually viewed the videos, but that’s not true. Socialcam reserves the right to post stuff to your Facebook feed that you have not viewed and have no knowledge of. Tear that damned thing out by the roots.
  • This certainly makes me wish that I liked corn more than I do.
  • An interesting study here adds fuel to the fire over suggestions that keeping a consistent sleep schedule helps you lose weight. I.e., don’t try to “make up” lost sleep on the weekends. Doesn’t work. I’ve been saying this for years, based on a lecture series I took at the Mayo Clinic: Getting five hours of sleep a night will make you fat and kill you before your time. People get angry at me for suggesting that they be in bed, lights-out, between 9:30 and 10 PM if they have to get up at six to get to school or work, but that’s probably what it takes. A handful of people may be able to get by on five or six hours a night. The usual human-traits bell curve suggests that you are almost certainly not one of them.
  • If you remember a speculation I made some time back about dogs and human origins, well here’s another: That dogs helped us drive the Neanderthals to extinction. I’m dubious. My sense is that their lack of dogs allowed the Neanderthals to drive themselves to extinction via dawn raids. Dogs made dawn raids difficult, and so we failed to wipe our own species out. (I haven’t seen any evidence yet that Neanderthals kept dogs, but of course I’m still looking.)
  • If you don’t know what a “zoetrope” is, go look it up before you behold the pizzoetrope, which is essentially an edible animation created by spinning a pizza. Sounds loopy (as it were) but it works.

Odd Lots

  • From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: mobula, a genus of fish in the general category of ray or skate. They can weigh as much as a ton, and get as high as two meters out of the water when they breach. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for pointing it out.)
  • From the same department: bodge, a UK-ism for a clumsy or ineffective repair. I’m guessing it’s a portmanteau of “botched kludge.” (In the US, see There I Fixed It.)
  • And for the deep history of the silly, probably racist, and still-undefined phrase “bunga bunga” you can’t do better than the Beeb. (Another one from Pete.)
  • Almost everyone else has aggregated this, but it’s important: A brilliant chart showing relative radiation risks, from (not all that remarkably) xkcd. Everything is radioactive, from bananas to the family dog to…you.
  • I got a smile out of seeing that the latest ABEBooks email newsletter featured (mostly) Victorian-era etiquette guides, and it arrived during Anomaly Con. Do we even know what “etiquette” means anymore? It sure looks like they did.
  • Heat capacitors for your coffee! I put too much cream in mine for these to be useful, but for a novel application of real physics Joulies are hard to beat.
  • For a couple of days now, any attempt to access modernmechanix.com has hung waiting for yui.yahooapis.com. This used to happen, and then it stopped happening, and then it started happening again, and then it stopped (and not just on that site) and nothing has changed here on my part in the meantime. It hangs in all browsers I have installed here. Do I have to call the programmers morons to get their attention? Do I have to call their software dogshit? YUI doesn’t work. It doesn’t. Stop using it.
  • Don Lancaster has just put his two-volume Apple Assembly Cookbook (1984) up on his site as free ebooks. (PDF format.) I guess I should remind the young’uns that these are books focusing on the 6502 assembly language that was used on the Apple II/IIe machines in the 1970s and 80s. Don has been significant in my life for a number of reasons (I learned IC technology from his books back in the mid-70s) but most of all because I learned how to do technical writing by studying his technique. He’s one of the best tech writers ever. Period.
  • You could probably have figgered what this was even before I told you: a steampunk wrist radio.
  • And at the other end of the spectrum (as it were) we have a very nice DIY tutorial on building a standalone Wi-Fi radio. My first thought was to put it into the cabinet of an old “All-American Five” tube radio, but somebody beat me to it.
  • Even more radio: I bought a nice Standard Communications SR-C146 on eBay, for $30 inluding shipping. The unit is dusty but works fine, and looks like it had not been used much. I have a couple of repeater pair crystals for it (though I haven’t tested them yet) but what I really need is a pair for the National Simplex Frequency of 146.52 MHz. Trying to figure out who might still make/sell crystals for the unit.

Odd Lots

  • Okay, I promised more about circuses and steampunk today, but odd lots are piling up.
  • From the Words I Didn’t Know Until Yesterday Department: spudger, a small tool like a miniature putty knife that helps you pry the backs off of watches and electronics, like the monitor I repaired last month. (Thanks to Tom Roderick for alerting me to its existence.)
  • Also from the Words I Didn’t Know Until Yesterday (ok, last month) Department: algophilist , a person who takes sexual pleasure in pain. Broader and more ancient term than “masochist” or “sadist.” (One such appears in Drumlin Circus.) And to think I first thought it was a guy who liked algorithms…
  • Given that Amazon buries the cost of Kindle’s 3G connection in publisher content fees, the lack of graphics (big) within text (small) makes sense. I always thought it was about the crappy low-res e-ink display. It’s not. Here’s how it works.
  • Alas, this may be too late for me. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • From Bill Higgins comes a link to a list (alas, not searchable) of the 200 Borders bookstores that will be disappeared shortly. (PDF) Bogglingly, neither of the Colorado Springs stores are on the list, even the small, always empty, and mostly pointless one at Southgate. I will miss the one in Crystal Lake, though.
  • Guys who come up with schemes like this talk about avoiding government censorship and such, but what will actually drive adoption (if it ever happens) is anonymous file sharing. And nertz, I outlined a novel a couple of years ago describing a technology very much like it. The late George Ewing called this The Weaselrats Effect.
  • Years ago I remember reading somewhere that steam calliopes are hard to keep tuned because the metal whistles expand as steam passes through them, throwing their notes off enough to easily hear. Can’t find a reference now. Running a calliope on compressed air from a tank might be problematic as well, because air stored under pressure gets cold when it’s released. Surprisingly (perhaps unsurprisingly) good technical information on calliopes is hard to come by.
  • Whoa! If you’re interested in solar astronomy, do not miss this video of new monster sunspot 1158 forming out of nothing. It will give you a very crisp feeling for the tubulent nature of the photosphere. Those aren’t spots: They’re solar hurricanes!
  • If you’re reasonably high-latitude (45+ degrees) look north after dark for the next few days. That giant sunspot 1158 is spitting a great deal of energetic chaos in our direction, and the sky could light up as a result.
  • Samsung has announced a new, larger 10.1″ Galaxy Tab, running Android Honeycomb. Details are sparse, but I’m wondering if we’re not ultimately going to see the slate market divide into 7″ and 10″ form factors.
  • Beating cancer may mean we’ll have to be three and a half feet tall, like these mutant Ecuadorians. I’d be good with that–as long as everyone else was three and a half feet tall as well.
  • Gawker Media has a new Web UI that I find so annoying that I’ve mostly stopped reading their sites, which include Io9 and Gizmodo. I could do without sites like Jalopnik and Jezebel, but damn, I’m gonna miss those other two.
  • I have yet to find a good popular history of refrigeration. Somehow I doubt people are going to feel sorry for me about that.

Odd Lots