February 9th, 2010

Odd Lots

  • Wow! The Authors' Guild finally had a good idea a couple of weeks ago: Who Moved My Buy Button, a Web site that tracks Amazon's "Buy" button for any given title. If the Buy button goes away (for example, if the book goes out of stock or if the publisher places it out of print--or if Amazon gets in another cage fight with a major publisher) you get an email to that effect. Don't miss their "Buttonology" page, which explains how to interpret Buy button disruption by inspection. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
  • So what exactly is this, anyway? It looks like what used to happen to me when I tried to develop my own film (briefly) in 1966, and found these odd (and similar) little anomalies on my negatives. Dirt, or perhaps the edge of the film contacting the center. Nothing says he wasn't using a film camera, but film is pretty uncommon these days. If I had to guess (and assuming it isn't some flaw in the camera optics) I like the idea of a meteor passing through the ionized region of the atmosphere where the aurora display was happening. (Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.)
  • While we're talking high-energy physics, I'm finding it remarkable how rapidly an apparently dead Sun came back to life, on or about January 1. We now have three significant sunspots on the visible face, including a genuine monster. (Here's an animated GIF of spot 1045 growing.) This gives us a sunspot number of 71, the likes of which I haven't seen in three or four years. I've been spinning the dials downstairs, and have heard openings on 18 MHz and even 21 MHz. Gonna get those wires shielded before the next solar minimum, fersure.
  • Integrated reader/bookstore systems have made me a little bit nervous ever since the Kindle Orwell debacle last year, and the iPad, if anything, will be even more vulnerable to that sort of remote meddling. It's not so much malfeasance by the system operators as their vulnerability to government corruption and coercion. Here's a perspective from a French chap.
  • Still wedged on VMWare Workstation, but Bp. Sam'l Bassett pointed me to a site providing lots of free VirtualBox VMs. The question of how trustworthy such downloadable images are is a good one, but they're certainly one way to mess with a new OS without having to fuss with hard disk partitioning and installation.
  • I know it's really her name, and no disrespect is intended, but when I read a headline like: "Costa Rica Elects Chinchilla First Woman President" I don't see what I'm supposed to see. Journalists used to be taught to avoid gaffes like this, and many other news organizations did. Including her first name would have helped.
  • I kid you not: Pepsico is wrapping up a limited-edition, 8-week-only campaign for Mountain Dew Throwback, which contains Real Sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. I'm a diet soda guy and won't partake, but that's a quarter step in the right direction. (My guess: The ridiculous ethanol-as-fuel scam is making corn expensive enough so that HFCS is not the big win that it used to be.)
  • Once again, XKCD scores big--and loud. (SNSFW.) (Thanks to Baron Waste for the link.)