December 20th, 2010

Odd Lots

  • I've been maxed out for the last week or ten days on numerous things, not excluding Christmas, which is why you haven't heard from me here. So even if the Odd Lots file is a little short this time (who's had time to wander online in search of Interesting Things?) it's the best I can do for the moment.
  • There is a very-close-to-optimal total lunar eclipse tonight, with totality beginning at 11:40 Pacific Standard Time, 12:40 Mountain, 1:40 Central, and 2:40 Eastern. Totality lasts for 72 minutes. Because we're at the Winter Solstice, the eclipsed Moon will be as high in the sky for North Americans as it ever gets; you will be looking very close to straight up, especially if you're on the West Coast. Here's the NASA page on the eclipse. I don't boggle at this kind of trivia anymore, but we haven't seen a total lunar eclipse on the WInter Solstice since 1638. (I believe there will be another, however, in 2094.)
  • In other astronomy news, the Sun is dead quiet again, and we are in our second day without sunspots at all on its visible face, at a point in the sunspot cycle when the sunspot number should be at least 30 or 40 at minimum. With the solar magnetic field continuing to drop, suggestions that we are in for another Dalton-scale solar minimum seem less outlandish than they did a year or so ago. So much for 10M DX.
  • I'm still trying to determine if this is a hoax or not. If not, I might order some to calibrate my still-incomplete (if haltingly functional) Geiger counter. Don't skim past without reading the first comment: 4,182 of 4,252 people thought it was useful!
  • Apple is keeping certain iBooks layout features to itself, sharing them (under NDA and perhaps at a high price) with large publishers only. WTF? How can this possibly help them?
  • Perhaps (finally!) realizing that annoying your honest customers is a dazzlingly stupid thing to do, Microsoft has quietly retired its Office Genuine Advantage program, which required users to verify the propriety of their copies of Office before allowing them to download templates and so on. This does not mean that Office activation has been abandoned, only that MS will no longer give you the third degree for existing Office installations, especially 2000 and 2003.
  • The term "non-Newtonian fluids" makes them sound a lot more exotic than they really are, but as materials go, they're pretty cool. I borrowed the concept (which I read about years ago) for a bullet-proof cloak in my in-progress short novel Drumlin Circus, but it looks like that idea may become real-life at some point. (Hey, doesn't "Bullet-Proof Custard" make a great imaginary band name?)
  • Not sure what to think about an assertion that C. S. Lewis is the Elvis Presley of Christian publishing.
  • Don't have a Chester A. Arthur bobble-head? Want one? Grab some old photos online and send them to Sculpteo, and get a hand-painted bobbler of the guy and his muttonchops. Not cheap--$80 to $100--but we're seeing the first wave of commercial 3-D printing apps here. Why not be an early adopter?