I Hate When I Forget: Banting’s discovery of Insulin is 100 years old

You’d thnk something this important would be remembered.  I’m mildly annoyed at myself because I mentioned it previously.

Frederick Banting announced the discovery of Insulin to the world on November 14, 1921.  And it was first administered to 14 year old Leonard Thompson on January 11, 1922.  While Thompson only lived until 1935 (age 27), that’s more life than he would have gotten without Banting’s discovery.  Prior to that, Type 1 diabetes was a short and painful death sentence, surviving only a few weeks or months.

Knowing how important the discovery was, Banting forewent the patent and gave his discovery to the world for free.  He wanted to save lives, not profit from it, which makes the US medical industry all the more deplorable for holding people’s lives hostage with excessive prices.

Insulin was the first hormone therapy, something commonplace today, especially important to Transgender, Non-Binary, and Intersex people.  The discovery of Insulin earned Banting and his team the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1923, the shortest time ever between a scientific discovery and awarding of a Nobel prize.





How Time Passes: The Commodore 64 turns forty

The Commodore 64 (base 10) turns 40 (base 16) years old this week.  How fitting.

The C64 was first displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show, January 7–10, 1982.  It became available in stores in August 1982, and was only discontinued in 1994.  Over those twelve years, the C64 sold (depending on whose estimates you believe) anywhere from ten million to thirty million units.  Even at the low end, the C64 is the best selling computer of all time.

This is why the C64 has not increased greatly in value despite the nostalgia craze of recent years.  Millions of them have survived, making them easy to find on the market.  The real value in them, and what set the C64 apart from all other computers of its era, is the SID chip.

The SID chip (or MOS Technology 6581/8580 Sound Interface Device, to use its full name) was arguably the first general use and popularly used sound chip.  It was capable of three sounds simultaneously, eight octaves, ADSR envelopes, four different waveforms, a random number generator, and other features.  The C64 was capable of sounds that weren’t matched until the Tandy 1000 series and later dedicated sound cards like the Adlib and Soundblaster.

The three voices of the SID were not fixed, and could be changed on the fly.  This allowed creative composers to change each voice constantly, giving the illusion of more than three voices.  Kits exist now that allow people to combine two SID chips into one C64 and have six voices (video: 8bit Guy). But that means raiding old C64s and leaving them without chips.  MOS Technology ceased producing SID chips years before it went out of business in 2001.  C64 fans thought the supply of SID chips was limited until the SwinSID was created.  While not a perfect clone of the 6581 or 8580 chips (video: Adrian’s Digital Basement), the SwinSID is reportedly 99% compatible, making it a suitable modern replacement.

The C64 was also capable of advanced graphics for its time, with sprites, scrolling, bitmaps and other features.  It’s even possible to browse the internet with the C64 using the Contiki operating system and the CaTeR unix/linux terminal for the C64 (with CaTeR).  or even the 64NIC+ card or other terminal software and dedicated hardware.  If you don’t want to use the built in Basic-based operating system, there are others such as GEOS (from the 1990s) and Final Cartridge III (from 2019) or C64OS (2021).  Sadly, while CP/M was available for the C64 and it worked, few examples exist because it failed in the marketplace.

The biggest failure of the C64 had to be its floppy disk drive.  Unlike the Apple II which was fast and easy to use, the C64’s commands were obscure and the drive was slow.  There were fastloaders available which increased performance, but these were after market cartridges which meant they were best used for file transfers or playing disk-only games.  Today, you can get Flash memory card loaders like the SD2IEC.

Below the fold are a few links to videos of the C64’s history.  But more important, how the C64 changed electronic music, both how its made, and how game music influenced a generation.

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I Can’t Wait To See All The TERFs’ Heads Explode

Normally I pay zero attention to any awards shows.  If an artist or their work was good, they usually get the attention and recognition they deserve.  Awards shows are public masturbation.

However, I am gleeful with the news that Michaela Jaé “Mj” Rodriguez (“Blanca”) has won the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a TV drama.

Cue the racist TERF trash of the world calling this “erasure”.  They’ll probably call this “rape”, too, devaluing the word.

Mj Rodriguez becomes 1st transgender actor to win a Golden Globe

And the category is…Golden Globes history.

On Sunday, Michaela Jaé “Mj” Rodriguez, 31, took home a Golden Globe for best actress in a TV drama for her role as housemother and nurse Blanca on the FX show “Pose.” It marks the first time in history a transgender actor has won a Golden Globe.

This is also the first Golden Globe win for “Pose,” which premiered in 2018.

Rodriguez made history for the first time last summer after becoming the first transgender performer to be nominated for a lead acting Emmy. Rodriguez did not end up winning that award.

While “Pose” has been hailed for the largest transgender cast in a scripted series, the show’s stars have been vocal regarding the lack of award recognition they have received.

In 2020, “Pose” co-stars Indya Moore and Angelica Ross spoke out against the Emmys for overlooking the show’s Black transgender cast in its list nominees that year.

“POSE” was groundbreaking.  For the first time, Transgender people were presented not as the four most common stereotypes (serial killers or monsters; “traps” and sexual predators; comic relief; tragedies who must die) or the fifth from OITNB (criminals in prison).  We were shown as normal human beings living normal lives, shown as people.

POSE was especially important for Transgender People of Colour, those most likely to suffer discrimination, violence and murder.  Already in 2022, there have been two murders of Black Transgender women in the US.  Showing people as normal human beings is the best way to counter hateful propaganda.

I’m Sad To Announce: Sidney Poitier, 1927-2022

Sidney Poitier has passed, age 94 (February 20, 1927 to January 6, 2022).  Here is an obituary from CNN, and an obituary from the Guardian.

An acting legend and all round decent human being, Poitier changed hollyweird.  Though racism precluded him from romantic roles in the 1960s, his choice of films and performances smashed through barriers that denied other Black actors and actresses leading roles and quality parts.

“To Sir With Love”

“In The Heat Of The Night”

“Blackboard Jungle”

“Porgy & Bess”

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”

The list goes on and on.  Even in his later commercial films, he was memorable (“Shoot To Kill”, “The Jackal”, “Sneakers”).  The only regrettable part of Poitier’s career was the films he did with Cosby, and I doubt Poitier knew of or approved of the other’s prurient behaviour.

You can tell yourself a thousand times that no one lives forever, but that doesn’t make someone’s death any less shocking. I grew up watching Poitier, he was a massive influence on me.

I do NOT believe in superstition, such as “deaths in threes” nonsense.  But if someone else dies in the next week after Poitier and Betty White, I’ll be pissed.

You Ought To Read: Oughtred’s invention at 400

In 1622, four hundred years ago, English clergyman and amateur mathematician William Oughtred invented the Slide Rule.  It was one of most important inventions in the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, used in mathematics, engineering, physics, and many other sciences.

Like the navigation compass (11th century), the printing press (1440), the microscope (1590), the telescope (1608), the manual typewriter (1867), and other technological leaps, the slide rule remained in constant use from its invention until the age of transistors (1947) and microchips (1958).  It was digital computing that made these devices expendable, not because they stopped working.  For almost three hundred and fifty years until the first portable calculators in 1970, the slide rule was THE mathematical computer.

The slide rule was used in the construction of buildings, bridges, ships, trains, cars, airplanes, and other constructions.  Isaac Newton used them to solve cubic equationsAlbert Einstein used them to do his groundbreaking work.  It was used by NASA, both by Katherine Johnson to compute flight trajectories and by the crew of the Apollo 13 to do the calculations that brought them home safely.

As with other inventors and inventions (e.g. Johan Gutenberg and the printing press), Oughtred didn’t create every part of the slide rule.  He took the works of others before him and put them together in a way that made the invention useful and indespensible.  The slide rule provided the ability to do fast and accurate calculations which previously were prone to error when done by hand.  The slide rule he invented was a simple design, refined over the next 300 years with additions like Newton’s cursor.

Slide rules aren’t limited to logarithms and trigonometry.  There are slide rules for engineering, airplane pilots, music, chemistry, astronomy, welding, metallurgy, and many other uses.  They’re portable and accurate quick references.  The slide rule and the other inventions mentioned above still work (the microscope, the typewriter, et al).  They only fell out of use because newer inventions do the work faster.  (Do a least squares regression with a slide rule?  Only if there’s no other way!)

Over the coming months, the plan is to write multiple posts on Slide Rules: the mathematics that made them possible, the invention, how to do math on a slide rule, the different types, how to make your own slide rules, where you can still buy them, and possibly others.

For now, a little fun: below the fold, slide rules in popular culture.

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Where It All Started: “The Night Stalker” turns 50

For those who lived through the 1970s, “The Night Stalker” doesn’t just mean the serial killer Richard Ramirez.  It also means the film starring Darren McGavin as reporter Carl Kolchak.  It first aired on January 11, 1972, fifty years ago this week.  It was the highest rated TV movie of its era, and it’s 33 rating is good even now.

There’s one thing that sets the two movies (this and 1973’s “The Night Strangler”) and TV show apart from a lot of action, horror or drama shows that have come since then.  Kolchak is a reporter, armed with only a camera and a tape recorder, not a gun. He’s not a tough guy hero, he’s a coward, a vulnerable and normal person, which makes him easy to identify with (similar to the vulnerability of John McClane in the original “Die Hard” movie).  But he’s also a nosy parker interested in getting the story and as abrasive as #60 sandpaper, which gets him into so much trouble and makes him fun to watch.

The movie has an 88% score on Rotten Tomatoes.  Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz cited the “Night Stalker” films and TV show as inspiration for “The X-Files”.  Legal or not, the movie can be watched on youtube.

When Events Coincide: Bicycles beat religion

I keep expecting no more of these stories.  Maybe the increasing number of them is a good sign for the environment.

You might remember the news items about Ireland and the catholic cult’s reduced attendance due to the pandemic.  Now they have another problem: the loss of parking spaces on public roads.

In Fingal County, a protected bicycle lane has been created to allow cyclists (mostly commuters, children, and families) to use the roads safely.  This cycling lane comes at the cost of parking spaces along a stretch of road, which would require the catholics to park elsewhere and walk.

They’re griping that it’s “not viable given our age profile”.  Translation: the only people attending church are the old and wealthy, and they want everything for themselves, even at the expense of children’s safety.  And since they are all old, they’re not going to live as long as the kids they want to endanger.

I don’t see how this is a problem.

Right to worship being overtaken by right to cycle, church elder claims

The “right to worship is being overtaken by the right to cycle” under plans to install a segregated cycle path on the Howth Road in Dublin, the local Presbyterian church has said.

Fingal County Council plans to install bollards from Howth to Sutton to segregate the cycle lane from traffic. The intervention will prevent on-street parking for several kilometres, including in the area in front of the Victorian church.

Church elder Michael Sparksman said the congregation comes from a wide area across north Dublin and many elderly parishioners would be cut off from the church if unable to access it by car.

“The council suggested people walk, cycle or take public transport but that is really not viable given our age profile and the distances people come from,” he said.

[. . .]

“The council suggested parents could park in Howth and walk with the children. That would take 15-20 minutes, and what are they to do in the rain? It is an attitude that beggars belief and borders on arrogance,” he said.

In a statement, the council said the installation of bollards was “intended to improve road safety and create a safe environment for vulnerable road users and children to safely walk or cycle”.


The Last Two Years Summed Up

First, an image seen this morning:

Second, a friend reposted a story from the Taipei Times newspaper, January 1, 2020:

CDC to check flights from Wuhan, plays down SARS rumors

Addressing online rumors, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said that an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan, China, is not known to resemble SARS, although lab tests are needed to clarify what virus is causing the infections.

Yesterday, a rumor spread online that the outbreak in Wuhan was a SARS-like infection, raising public concern.

The CDC announced that effective immediately, all flights into Taiwan from Wuhan would be boarded by CDC officials and inspected before passengers are allowed to leave the aircraft.

[. . .]

“If the health commission’s information is accurate, then there is a low chance that the infection is SARS,” he said.

However, lab tests would be run to identify the virus that caused the outbreak, Lo added.

If only other countries’ health authorities had taken notice and action as quickly.  Governments were too busy appeasing the PRC for “the economy”, and now the entire PRC economy is on the verge of collapse.  COVID-19 has been to the CCP as Russian winters were to French, German and other invading armies.