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Aug. 29th, 2013

Odd Lots

Aug. 21st, 2013

Odd Lots

Feb. 7th, 2009

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...

Sep. 2nd, 2006

Odd Lots

  • Here's one of those weird things that always made me buy Popular Science and Popular Mechanics when I was younger: A neoblimp cruise ship that isn't quite lighter than air. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the pointer.) The fourteen million cubic feet of helium gets its weight almost to zero, and lift generated conventionally by small wings gets it aloft, using a very short runway and lightweight engines of modest size. Although supposedly in prototype by 2010, this is most likely one of those loony daydreams that keep young nerds dreaming—and two magazines publishing.
  • I heard John Cougar Mellekamp's first single, "I Need a Lover (Who Won't Drive Me Crazy)" again the other day, and had forgotten how much I liked it—the first 2:30 at least, before John starts singing. It's the same thing with Bob Dylan and Laura Nyro. Some songwriters, however brilliant, are just not intended by God or anybody else to sing.
  • Halloween candy is in the stores now (two months and counting!) so how long could it possibly be until...Christmas? So to put a little contrarian Christmas cheer into the mix, I point you to a collection of so-so, bad, and really deranged nativity scenes. The comments are pretty good; read them. The bean bag game is my favorite.
  • Here's an interesting comparison of print-on-demand publishers. The creator of the site notes that there is a difference (albeit on a sliding scale) between a true publisher and what I guess I might call a publishing framework; that is, a mechanism for manufacturing, distribution, and sale that can be used remotely by spare-room publishers. Lulu falls on the framework side, but it's still the best one I've seen with respect to its structure and terms. (I am still having some very weird problems dealing with their servers.)
  • I am looking for copies of the old Carl and Jerry stories that appeared in Popular Electronics between 1954 and 1964. If you have a stash of PE from that period and would be willing to copy out some of the stories for me, do drop a note and check with me to see which ones I don't already have.