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December 2014

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Odd Lots

  • Not posting often here, but I'm ok. Working hard on several things, chief of which is getting my office and Carol's exchanged, outfitted, and fully functional. This involves furniture, wiring, lighting, and sorting an immense quantity of glarble. I hope to return to regular in-depth posting soon.
  • I have a new favorite cheese: cave-aged gruyere, which can be had sometimes at King Soopers, and is lucious with a good dry red wine. Get the oldest cheese you can find, as young gruyere tastes nothing like old gruyere. A year is as young as I buy.
  • The asteroid that whacked the dinosaurs must have thrown an immense amount of material into space. How much rock might have made the journey, and how far far did it go? Here's a good quick take on the topic. It would take a million years or more to get to Gliese 581, but suitably rugged bacterial spores might have survived, and made the origin of life on planets there unnecessary. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • A book I'm not bullish on: Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map, which describes how the cause of cholera (infected water) was proven by the persistent John Snow through charting of cholera deaths upon a map of London neighborhood water pumps. Why? The book does not include the actual ghost map named in the title. (So what else is missing or wrong?) Whatever editor let that past should be fired and spend the rest of his/her days stuffing toddler clothes in racks at Wal Mart.
  • Could the TRS-80 Mod 100 possibly be 30 years old? Yes indeedy, and it was ubiquitous among tech journalists when I was at PC Tech Journal in '85-86. Its keycaps made a distinctive sound, and sitting in a significant press conference back then was like sitting under a tin roof in a rainstorm. I yearned for one myself (the keyboard was wonderful for such a small device) but didn't pull the trigger because the machine did so little other than keystroke capture.
  • Toward the end of my tenure at Xerox I saw the Sunrise, which was a more ambitious take on the "lapslab" concept. My department was considering writing an app for it, so I had a loaner for awhile. Even better keyboard than the TRS 100, cassette data storage, modem...but the 3-line display was harder to read. Xerox private-labeled the hardware from another company, and basically killed it with a $1500 price point. (There was a flashier version that cost...$2500!) Xerox abandoned the market in 1984, after sinking what rumor held to be an obscene amount of money into it.
  • One machine I did consider was the Exidy Sorcerer, which also had a good keyboard and didn't cost $3000. Lack of software made me spend the $3000 anyway, on a huge honking S100 system running a 1 MHz 8080.
  • One of the big issues between Amazon and the Big Six is an explosion of co-op fees, which according to some reports have increased by 30 times since 2011. The whole "co-op" business has always smelled gamey to me, but it had a purpose in the B&M bookselling world. How it fits into online ebook retailing is less clear, and in my view starts leaning perilously in the direction of bribery.
  • Most of us think that reading is in decline. Gallup poll results suggest otherwise. Nor are today's books worse than those of 40+ years ago. This quote is significant: "The bad [books] of yesteryear have gone out of print while the bad ones of today are alive and being sold in supermarkets."
  • I'm still watching the ASUS Tranformer Prime (their botch of its GPS support has kept me away for the time being) but the Prime has a little (as in cheaper) brother now, and it looks like a decent machine in its own right. Here's Engadget's detailed review of theTransformer Pad TF-300.
  • Here's another wonderful gallery from Dark Roasted Blend, this time of high-speed photos of liquids. Some of it is photoshopped, but it's all startling. (Thanks to Ernie Marek for the link.)
  • Santorini is smouldering again. Yes, the volcano that may have made the Minoans extinct and launched the legend of Atlantis (or at least put an older legend on the map) is getting restless. Like the Greeks need that right now.
  • Eating meat allowed our hominid ancestors to reproduce more quickly, by accelerating infant brain growth and thus shortening the breastfeeding period. (Breastfeeding naturally inhibits ovulation.) This on top of several other issues.
  • From the Words-I-Didn't-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: Beatboxing , which is vocal generation of sounds like drums and synthesized sound effects. I heard of this in an interesting way: There's a slightly silly commercial for the Honda Pilot that involves a Pilot full of bored tweens beatboxing the rhythm of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train," and by chance we had captioning turned on. When the kids started making noises, the captioning read, "Beatboxing."
  • Pete Albrecht sends a link to a map color-coding US gas prices by county. The very abrupt differences between states suggests that gas prices are more a question of state and local taxes than regional differences in demand.
  • It was inevitable: A 3D printer that prints chocolate novelties. Now we need a 3D printer that prints spice-cake Easter lambs with ears that stay on.

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