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Atomic Fungus
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in atomic_fungus' LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
8:27 pm
#5430: Well, Merry Christmas.
So, my wife's real Christmas present was installed today.

For a few years we've had a joke, based on "The Terrible Secret of Space":

Mrs. Fungus took the line, "Please go stand by the stairs," (about 2:14 in the video) and turned it into "Please bring home a Playstation 4." She did this because Square Enix announced that they were going to rerelease some variant of Final Fantasy for the PS4. For several years we made this joke to each other.

While I was Christmas shopping this year, I discovered that due to the march of technology and the pricing thereof, this year I could actually afford to get her a PS4, so I did.

When it came time for us to put presents under the tree, Mrs. Fungus noticed that there were two boxes of similar size and weight there. And when she pointed it out to me, I had a sinking feeling she was right. So, on Christmas Day, when we opened presents, I said, "It's time for us to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Let's open these at the same time."

...same thing, same exact thing, right down to being the Uncharted 4 bundle from Best Buy. I got her a PS4, and she got me one.

She got me the PS4 because I'd wanted to play No Man's Sky, and I got her the PS4 because she wanted to play Final Fantasy. It was kind of funny.

Anyway, a couple days later I took that PS4 back and got her what she'd really wanted for Christmas: a remote starter for her car. But the auto techs at Best Buy were swamped, and today was the first day this year we could get an appointment. She squealed with delight when the autotech showed her how to work the thing.

Anyway, now she can remotely start her car. I can play No Man's Sky.

And the joke has become, "Please bring home two Playstation Fours."

* * *

That was the big chore to be accomplished today, but we have other things going on. We ran errands for six friggin' hours today. *sigh* On the plus side, we've taken another step forward with the estate, and things are progressing.

Sitting in Dad's front hall closet was a friggin' all-in-one printer, brand new, still in the box. He ordered stuff from Home Shopping Network a lot, so there were also a couple of pressure cookers, with cookbooks, in there. I snagged the printer because it includes fax capability, and this will enable me to fax things without having to do half an hour of driving first. It's going to take the place of my Epson all-in-one, when I get around to it, which hasn't happened yet. The Epson will then probably get recycled, since it would cost more to get new ink for it than I paid for it originally.

We went to a locksmith to get keys made, because the second set from Ace Hardware also failed to work. WTF. I get to try them out tomorrow, after work. *sigh*

* * *

Anyway, time to relax.
Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
2:37 pm
#5429: No, TU fungah!
The minions are taking over. *sigh*

* * *

When I worked there, it was against company policy to go rooting through customer data. And read comment number 7.

* * *

This is why I don't believe polls. The mainstream media is still making up the numbers so they show Trump to be unpopular. They're lying to us.

As usual.

It's like, when I read Arse Technica, and see an article about computer technology, I can be reasonably certain that it's going to be at least mostly accurate. But when they start talking about climatology, I know it's going to be 100% horseshit. It's the same with the media: I trust them to give a weather forecast or local news, but when it comes to anything political, the filters come on and I am immensely skeptical of anything they report as a fact. I no longer watch TV news, because 90% of it is lies, damned lies, and statistics; the remaining 10% isn't usually worth watching for other reasons.

Then they wonder why newspapers are hemorrhaging money and the NYT has to rent out eight floors of its office building to make ends meet. Hmm.

* * *

One story I've seen bandied about indicates that the "Never Trump" idiots are dismayed that their phones aren't ringing now that Trump is a few days from his inauguration. They need jobs too!

Well, you know? Bed made, lie down, etc? I don't have any sympathy; if you--right out of the gate, and in public, making a great deal of it--say you can't support a candidate, don't be surprised when the elected official declines your services. That's a logical consequence of your actions.

I'm reminded of an exchange from Little Fuzzy, someone (I forget who) admonishing Jack Halloway for his treatment of a Zarathustra Corporation bigwig:

"You weren't very nice to Dr. Kellogg. He's a very important man."

"He's not important to me, and I wasn't nice to him at all."

This is how the real world works: you may be important to someone, but that does not give you license to act like a dickhead, and further when you spend your time distancing yourself from someone do not be surprised and butthurt that your opinions and feelings do not matter to him. You made that choice.


Besides that, these fuckers are delusional:
"Before he won, the conversation was, 'We really would love for you to change your mind and join us,'" Peter Feaver, a National Security Council special adviser under President George W. Bush, said of informal talks with Trump aides. Feaver, who signed both letters, added that, "Since he won . . . the conversation is, 'There likely will be a blacklist of people who signed the letters who won’t themselves be eligible for a post.'"
Maybe that was the content of the private discussion, and maybe it wasn't, but the conversation you held in public was that Trump was not your candidate and you would never, never, ever support him in any way. Now that we're a few days from him being sworn in, now suddenly it was a "conversation"? You assholes are so full of shit it's no wonder you can't help spouting it like a broken fire hydrant.


* * *

Speaking of which: it's the 17th, and we have 3 days until inauguration day. Just in case you missed the memo, dissent is now patriotic again, it's okay to insult and oppose and protest everything the President does or says, and as an American it's your duty to find ways to get the incoming President out of power as quickly as possible.

I am not going to miss Boss Tweak, the golfer-in-chief, one bit. And it's going to be amazing fun to watch the lefty heads explode, over and over again, over the next four years. Probably should start a count on public leftist fantasies about presidential assassination.

Just remember, asshats: if you somehow manage to assassinate Trump, you get PENCE as President. Imagine that: President Mike Pence with a majority in both houses of Congress. You might want to think that one over, if the mere mention of the concept hasn't already made you shit your pants.

* * *

The weather, over the past few days, has been unseasonably warm--above freezing--and damp. Most of the time it's been foggy or drizzly or both. Last night, after Mrs. Fungus and I repaired to bed for the evening, we were laying there and FLASH!

Her: What was that?

Me: I don't know; it must've been an emergency vehicle--

Nature: RUMBLE

Me: Oh, it was lightning.

A thunderstorm in January, onoes the global warmenations. *rolleyes*

I don't really mind that it's not snow, because if all the precipitation we've gotten so far this year had fallen as snow, I'd be pricing snow shoes. And one-way tickets to Florida.

Even the lack of sun isn't really bothering me as much as I would have expected it to. Sunny days, in winter, mean cold, because the clouds trap heat. (And water vapor, not CO2, is the primary greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Compared to the heat retention of water vapor, CO2 is noise.) And I'm glad that it's been above freezing more often than not.

So, yeah--the weather could easily be worse.
Sunday, January 15th, 2017
11:46 pm
#5428: U, cabbit! Jeko tio! FUNGAH!
At work the other day I was trying to write "I CANNOT HELP YOU" to an idiot who didn't seem to understand it when I was trying to explain it to him in nicer words. My fingers were on the keyboard wrong, though, and instead it came out as "U CABBIT JEKO TIO". After seeing it, I punctuated it, added the "FUNGAH!" and laughed my ass off.

The mental image, approximately:


* * *


* * *

Well, today I learned that I am the last remaining person from the team I was on last year, when they switched my weekend schedule to mornings.

The option to work mornings on Sat and Sun was offered. It was put to a vote, and I was one of (I think) two dissenting votes; and since then, everyone else on that team has left. The supervisor isn't even there any more. Now, until recently there was one other person who had been on that team, and who would be there early every Saturday and Sunday just like me; she was the last.

But now there's no one else from that team still working there, except for me, and it is stupid for me to continue to do this idiocy, where I have to come home Friday night and immediately go to bed, get only 5-6 hours of sleep, and then drag my ass all over the place all weekend because I'm not getting any frigging sleep. Today I almost fell asleep while driving both to and from work, and I'm done dealing with that horseshit.

Tomorrow I am talking to the operations manager, pointing out that this is stupid, and requesting to have my schedule adjusted to where it ought to be. I'm tired of this.

* * *

Added a couple more pages to Apocalyptic Visions yesterday. I'm not happy with the lack of progress on the story. I need to write more. Maybe if I can stop having to go to bed super-early on Friday and Saturday I'll have a little more time to bang on the keyboard.

* * *

Not much else to say today. It's bedtime anyway.
Saturday, January 14th, 2017
9:04 pm
#5427: Well, now I've got a case for the phone
What I got today wasn't an actual case so much as a holster for the thing--$13 with tax from Fry's--but at least that will keep me from having to be super-paranoid about the thing until I can get a real case for it.

Had the new phone about a week now, and I'm still convinced that the modern smartphone is an amazing piece of technology. I need to get a picture of my old phone next to my new one. The new phone has 2.4x the screen and half the thickness of the old one. It does everything faster.

It's nice not to have everything STOP when a text message comes in. It's also nice to be able to switch between apps. I can play Freecell solitaire on the thing, switch to the message app to respond to my wife, then go back to solitaire.

I haven't even begun to tap the potential here.

One of the things about my SF universe is that I never really did get around to defining how big a PDA is. I think perhaps this phone is about the size, though; the screen is big enough to be useful without being huge, and the thickness and heft are also about what I'd expect.

The PDA is essentially monolithic, though. There's some kind of dielectric substrate which has a ground plane on one side and various antennae on the other. There's a layer of battery, some kind of solid-state thing that has about the energy density of lithium ion without the nasty tendency to swell or explode. On top of that is the device electronics, the microprocessors, memory, radios, signal processors, and so on; then there's a photovoltaic layer on top of that, then a mostly transparent layer of some kind of LED display, high resolution. Some sort of highly durable coating atop that which also includes the digitizer for the touchscreen. The whole thing is encased in plastic, but for the screen, and done correctly you could have a model which would even float.

The photovoltaic layer would be a visible light rectenna, rather than a solar cell, because I would expect the efficiency of a rectenna to be greater than that of a solar cell. It could charge whenever it was exposed to light and the screen was off; of course the thing would have a charge port but you'd hardly ever need it.

If you drop it, it's not likely to break. If it does break, though, you don't have any trouble moving to a new device. Go buy a new one, log into it, put in a few bits of personal information, and presto! it's configured just like the one you broke. Anything you saved to the broken PDA was uploaded to the cloud, and is still accessible to you; the system is designed so that you can't lose anything without deliberately deleting it three times in a row, and because storage is too cheap to meter, you never have to delete anything. The design is as mature as the pushbutton landline phone; the software does not often need updating and changes are incremental.

We're a far cry from that one. Maybe not as far as we think. I don't know; the US has a rather elderly cellular system and could do with a bit of updating. Besides, I'm told that Americans pay about 2-3x what people in other coutries pay for cellular service. But at least this new phone gives me an idea of what it looks like when this or that character pulls out his PDA and does something with it.

* * *

Time to relax.


Watching today's SpaceX flight I have learned that the name of the recovery barge is Just Read The Instructions. Why did no one tell me this?
12:04 am
#5426: Still around, just swamped.
Not Og-level swamped but I am still really busy. Today I must get to bed as early as I can, since I work 8-5:30 on weekends. Last night I came home, made dinner, and we went to bed shortly thereafter.


* * *

Obama bombs everyone, he's okay, but Trump is a hazard to human rights mainly because "Human Rights Watch" would be more accurately named "Communist Shills".

* * *

"California is Chicago with good weather." Which is why I don't want to live there.

* * *

I didn't watch it but apparently Trump flattened the press at his press conference. Good.

* * *

So, the Note 7 debacle cost Samsung about $10 billion per millimeter. Interesting point, that if the phone had been half a millimeter thicker--to give the battery room to expand--the phone would now not be synonymous with "time bomb".


* * *

Well, I may have time tomorrow to hit the keyboard a few more times. Maybe. Maybe not. I need to go to Fry's just to see if they have a good case for my new cell phone; if not I'll order one from Ebay. I also want to get a wireless charging back for the thing, so I don't have to plug it in--just set it on top of my computer and let it absorb electrons that way. (My computer contains a wireless charge pad. Go figure.)

This 21st century sure is something, though.
Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
12:06 pm
#5425: Learning to fly
You know, when I watch fail videos on YouTube and they include people trying to master parkour, it makes me think of Douglas Adams and his prescription for learning how to fly. He didn't mean with an airplane; he meant just you, floating through the air.

His prescription: throw yourself at the ground as hard as you can, knowing that it will hurt a lot, and hope you miss. Repeat until successful. It usually works best if you're distracted by something mid-fall, so that you forget all about gravity. Paraphrase of what's next: "When you are finally floating, do not listen to anything anyone says to you, as they're going to say 'You can't possibly be flying!' and they will quite suddenly be correct."

So when I see someone jump off a ledge and spin in the air, only to land on his FACE, I figure he must be trying to learn how to fly. Only he didn't miss the ground. Try, try again! Or something.
11:58 am
#5424: Fits and starts
The other night, shortly before bedtime, I managed to bang out a couple pages of the new novel (now given the catchy working title Apocalyptic Visions, given here because I expect to change it when I come up with something less evocative of Ellison's Dangerous Visions anthology from my birth year. I do not like Harlan Ellison and do not seek to emulate him).

As creaky as the process was, it jump-started things. I'd gotten the story to one of those places where the next step is not obvious to me, and couldn't determine where to go; a chance trip to a Red Lobster for dinner on Saturday night fixed that: Mrs. Fungus had a dish which included crab, and that led me to think about how one might transport seafood from one world to another, and the economics of transporting live crabs across interstellar distances. So when I sat at the keyboard, I used that inspiration to add another "this is how fucked up this society is" vignettes, and that led into a vignette which advances the plot. I would have kept going if it hadn't been bedtime. Probably should have, in fact.

Maintaining the momentum is the hardest part.

* * *

Getting closer to being able to regenerate teeth. Still need a veneer of something to cover the dentin, but convincing the dentin to regenerate fully is a big step forward.

* * *

This kind of thing is why the elites lost control of the 2016 elections. If you're going to lie, you should lie in such a way that your lies cannot be immediately and thoroughly exposed as such with only a cursory check of the facts. Make your lie as subjective as possible.

Incorrect: "All Chevrolet Cruze sedans sold in the U.S. are built in GM's assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio."

Correct: "We sell good cars, some of which are made here."

In this rather simplistic example the "correct" example given above is untrue but so subjective that it's impossible to get a handle on where the untruth is. Of course, the tactic employed by GM relied on a gatekeeper press. Elites don't seem to understand that out here in "flyover country" our attitudes about the press are very different from theirs; so they came out with something blatantly untrue, expecting the press to be entirely uncritical about it.

Their attitude: if the mainstream media isn't saying it, it's inconsequential and can be ignored.

Our attitude: because the mainstream media is saying it, it's likely to be wrong or an outright lie; it's therefore inconsequential and can be ignored.

One need only look at how badly the entire "fake news" thing backfired on them to understand that point. And as long as these idiots continue to behave that way, they're going to lose.

* * *

I don't know which is worse. We had blue skies for about a week, but it was bitter cold outside. Over the course of yesterday the skies clobbered up, but it got warmer, such that when I left work around 10 PM it felt positively balmy outside.

The temperature was thirty degrees warmer than it had been for five days.

Today it's just as dreary as can be, looking more like November or February than January. But the weather site reports that it's 41° outside.

Only a couple of errands to run; otherwise the day is mine. I don't expect to do much.

One errand, though:

Over the new year's weekend, I had to get some keys made, copies of the keys to Dad's house. We had one set and needed three, so I went to the local Ace Hardware to get copies made. It worked out to about twenty dollars' worth of keys, for crying out loud, and it had to be done before the memorial so I could hand a set off to my brother-in-law.

And when the brother-in-law went to the house Wedneday morning, before going to the airport to go home, he found--to my chagrin--that none of them worked. So when Mrs. Fungus and I went to the house Saturday night we took both her set and the originals, and found that out of all the keys we had, only the originals worked.

None of the copies are any good at all.

So today I get to take the copies back to Ace Hardware and get new copies made, which they had better do correctly and free of charge, because if they don't that will be the last time I spend any money at Ace Hardware. I mean, I could understand it if one key didn't work, or even copies of one specific key didn't, but none of them work. And when I look at the copies, I can see how sloppily they were cut; comparing the copy to the original you can see curves where there should be angles. It's just shoddy workmanship, and there's no excuse for it.


* * *

So, thinking about technology--

The modern smartphone is an amazing piece of hardware. Mine's just an entry-level model and it's like magic. It occurred to me today that when I was born, computers were room-sized machines; now they're devices we carry in our hip pockets, and we make phone calls, and take pictures and movies with them. One device replaces phone, camera, movie camera, GPS, and music player; it also allows access to the Internet and provides a platform for entertainment such as videos and games.

Still can't replace a desktop computer, but that'll never happen anyway--there will be some applications for which a desktop is absolutely the only reasonable solution--but we're already seeing the smartphone take over many of the roles for which people formerly needed a computer, simple things like email and such.

In 2000 I watched Apollo 13 in my living room in Cedar Rapids. Jim Lovell told VIPs that they now had a computer which could store "a million pieces of information, yet fit in a single room", and I looked at my 8 megabyte Handspring Vizor Deluxe and laughed.

In 2017 I have a phone--a phone!--with 2,000 times as much storage, and the phone company is essentially giving it to me just to secure my patronage.

Sunday, January 8th, 2017
3:20 pm
#5423: I am in such pain right now
Went to my father-in-law's house yesterday, after work, to make an exhaustive search for vital papers and other things. Did not get home until much, much later than anticipated, hence I am at home today rather than work. When the alarm went off at 6 AM I had gotten, at best, three hours of sleep, and everything hurts a lot.

We did find some of the information we needed. Not all of it. There'll be another trip made, or two, or three, before we find everything we need. I hope they're not all as wearing as that one was. Then again, I was on a ladder a lot, moving heavy boxes around shelves, but that was the only place in the house I should need to do that.

Everything hurts. On to bloggeratin'.

* * *

In case it wasn't already obvious, people who thought Jan 20, 2009 would mean the end of "Bush's war" were idiots. Obama is the first President in US history to be at war for every single day of his eight-year Presidency. That's not happened before.

I remember when Obama was going to bring the troops home and end warns and heal the planet and fix global warming. Strange how none of that happened.

* * *

So, about that shooter in Fort Lauderdale--TSA doesn't work. Imagine that: guy was able to shoot up an airport, even though it's a gun-free zone, and TSA was on the job. But don't profile or anything because raciss, right?

* * *

Good discussion of the Democrats' "Make America SICK again" idiocy.
But the News has been sent. The Republicans want "to make America sick again," even if the signage was inept at making the point. Since Republicans do not actually want to do this, the photo op counts as Fake News.
Indeed it does.

* * *

Nova in 2022! It's expected that two smaller suns will have collided at such a time in history that the light from their collision will reach us in 2022. That ought to be quite a thing to see.

That's five years from now.

* * *

While talking about phones with Og, he sent me this link and I got a good laugh out of it. Esp the comment, "that tuba tried to confess to a murder and we're just laughing at it".
Friday, January 6th, 2017
1:14 pm
#5422: Now, that's a first.
Today I became the owner of a new cell phone. When I say "new" I don't just mean that it's never been used before; I mean that it has not been on the market for more than a year.

There is only one reason I got it, though: it's cheap enough to appeal to my parsimonious nature.

See, Verizon (my wife's carrier) had this deal running through the 4th: certain smartphones, if bought for a new line of service, are approximately free on device payment (DPP). The phone I selected--the LG Stylo 2 V--is nominally $10 per month on DPP, but through the promo I got, Verizon gives a credit of $10/mo, so the phone cost about $25 all told--the sales tax and the activation fee for the new line of service. Of course we still have to pay the line access charge, but that pays for service regardless and that represents about an $8 more per month charge over what I have been paying Tracfone for crummy not-even-3G service on my old phone.

This promotion obviated the only sticking point I had with moving to Verizon: how to get a device? I'd been thinking about using my 3G Tracfone (I ran the IMEI through the device management database at work; the phone is compatible with the network) but hadn't really made any effort. This deal was too good to pass up.

And this thing is huge. It's got a 5.7 inch screen--same size as an iPhone 7 plus--and it comes with a stylus. I haven't started playing with it yet, but it's so thin I'm afraid of breaking it, and I think the first thing I'm going to have to do is to go get some kind of case for it.

But, wow.

My first phone was a Motorola DynaTAC, given to me by a friend who had bought a newer, less brick-like phone for himself. I used it until 1997, when I canceled service, and didn't have another cell phone until November 2002, when I bought my first Tracfone. That was a Nokia something-or-other, with switchable faces, which got wet and needed replacing. And I replaced it with a Motorola phone (next post from that last link). The phone I had after that one was also a Motorola, which lasted until late 2013--at which point I got an LG basic phone with a touchscreen which seemed like black magic next to the Motorola phone it replaced. Then, 2015, the Android phone I've been using, also an LG.


The new phone is very close to the PDA characters in my SF universe use. I've talked about this before, though I can't find the specific post; in 2008 or 2009 or sometime around then Pixy talked about Samsung's new smartphone, and I thought, "That's it!" Only it really isn't, since the typical smartphone in the 21st century lacks some of the basic features of a PDA from my SF world:
* Radiation dosimiter
* Satellite communications
* Indefinite battery life
* Complete interoperability with computers
* 3D display when warranted
* extremely durable
...all for about $20 a month, more or less. It's more if you want to communicate offworld or outsystem, of course. Even so, this phone is perhaps 85% of what I expect a PDA to resemble. The form factor is certainly correct.

So, I'm still a little up in the air about the phone number. I got this phone intending to port my number from the Tracfone to it; but the big problem with this is, I get spam calls on it all the time. So part of me wants just to distribute the new number to family and friends and let the Tracfone number wither on the vine. But of course I've used that number for about a million and a half things--like shopping rewards cards and so on--and I'll forget it if I don't keep using it. I'm leaning towards "port in" but we'll see how we do.

Meanwhile, going to let its battery fully charge before I do any serious fiddling.

* * *

Wednesday night I left a 6-pack of Mountain Dew in the truck overnight, and remembered it only when I left to go to work. Half the bottles were frozen. I put the 6-pack into the fridge. This morning, they're still partly frozen, kind of slushy. Win.
1:00 am
#5421: Well, it's just too early to tell....
Black savages kidnap and torture a white man while saying things like "fuck whites!" but it's "too early to tell" if it's a hate crime.

If white racists kidnapped a black man and tortured him while saying, "fuck blacks!" it would have been labeled a hate crime before they'd even finished, but when it's black racists, well, we just don't really know yet.

Sanity prevailed, though, and it's been labeled a hate crime. Good.

There's a bunch of links to this horseshit all over the place, but they all say about the same thing, so I'm not going to beat a dead horse.

* * *

And here we go! Republicans working on repealing Obamacare, and the Democrats fire up their hyperbole generators: "MAKE AMERICA SICK AGAIN", blares the sign next to the podium, as if Obamacare had actually fixed anything rather than make the cost of health care "necessarily skyrocket" in its wake.

But, Democrats, please go on, and continue to use the same tired tactics which led you to lose big this past November.

* * *

This is really cool. It's a computer which would fit in your wallet.

* * *

Not yet, but someday it will be. Promise.

* * *

So tonight it's extra-friggin'-cold outside. I'm home and warm.

Tuesday was the memorial service for my father-in-law. It was quite nice. My wife had a lot to do, and needed help, so I spent my three bereavement days helping her; today was the first day this year that I went to work, and the first time since Christmas Eve that I worked a full shift.

It was an exhausting weekend. Wednesday, we slept in; I had to run a couple errands but that was done pretty quickly.

Really miss the guy, we do.

* * *

Not a lot else going on. Further bulletins as events warrant.
Monday, January 2nd, 2017
2:45 pm
#5420: Infrastucture
An interesting theory. Democrat strongholds don't invest in infrastructure and the result is a hidden "time tax" on producers. I don't disagree with the notion; Democrats are big on buying votes and keeping people chained to the party; notice how many prior Presidential elections contained an element of "If you vote for [Republican] he'll take away your [government program]!" Democrats hold that kind of thing over their heads: senior citizens, [Republican] will take away Social Security! Single mothers, [Republican] will take away WIC and food stamps! Women, [Republican] will take away Planned Parenthood! And so on.

...the fact that it's politically impossible for [Republican] to take away any of that--let alone reduce it or simply reduce the rate of funding increase!--notwithstanding.

But I also note that in some cases it's virtually impossible to fix an infrastructure problem without spending a highly disproportionate amount of money, or causing a severe dislocation of services.

Example: in the Fungal Vale there is a certain railroad crossing near an intersection of roads. For many years the track in question was not often used, and in fact the railroad that owned it reduced it from a double-track main line to a single-track because there simply was not enough rail traffic to justify the maintenance cost on double track. That changed, however, and now trains are much more common.

Couple that with the fact that the intersection is more heavily-traveled than it used to be. The east-west road is undergoing improvements to make it a four-lane road (something it's needed for at least fifteen years) and it now connects with Interstate 57, an improvement which only happened in the last couple of years. The intersection itself is a four-way stop, no signal, and has been for decades--longer than I've had a driver's license.

When a train comes through--and the usual train is a mile-plus long freight--it jams up traffic on that east-west road solid. The line of cars runs half a mile to either side of the north-south road. Many people, seeing that there's a train, simply turn around and detour about a mile north, where [other road] passes under the train tracks.

The ideal solution here is to build a viaduct or a flyover, so that auto and train traffic need not wait on each other. But to do that, both the road and the railroad tracks would have to be closed for an indeterminate amount of time while that was built.

Cars can easily detour around a closed road, so that's trivial compared to what it takes to keep the train traffic flowing. And shutting the tracks down is a non-starter; that's millions of dollars lost, and it's already hard enough to make money in the railroad business.

Detour the train, put up temporary tracks to go around that site? Can't--trains can't make sharp turns and the necessary detour would run through farm fields and a university campus. You can't lay down main-line track--not even for low-speed over a couple of months--without doing a lot of foundation work, things like riprap and gravel and so on, stuff that's not conducive to farming after the tracks are gone.

And then, once you've got those problems solved, there's a couple of other inconvenient facts. There are a few houses right there, so close to both road and tracks that they'd have to be demolished. "Eminent domain", sure, but that's the last step, because this is quite literally trivial compared to the problem of keeping the trains moving.

...with the result that right there, at the worst possible place, the newly four-lane road pinches down to two lanes, right at that railroad crossing. And doesn't go back to four lanes again until a mile or so westward, out near the interstate.

This is one example. I see them, every so often, in my travels; I look at a particular setup and think, "Any way to fix this?" And the answer that comes back is, "Sure, if you've got a few billion laying around you don't mind using." It can be done; as my Dad was fond of saying, "All it takes is money!"

And our government is broke.

Our government is broke because it spends money on buying votes, of course, but broke is broke regardless of how you spent the money.

Incidentally: that article also explains in loving detail why I don't want to live in California: TAXES. The cost of living out there is insane, and for what?

* * *

A confident prediction that Democrats will continue to be feckless this year. I hope so.

* * *

Modern singers rely too much on tone correction. And when the tape goes awry, they don't know what to do; certainly they can't start singing, not for real singing, because then their level of actual ability would be obvious.

When Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring was in theaters, I watched The Tonight Show one night specifically because Enya was on it, because her song "May it Be" was the end theme for that movie. And as I watched her stammer and stumble her way through it, voice quavering, I realized that the clear sustains that were one of the things I liked about her singing were nothing but computer remodulations of her voice and I began to like her singing less. (For the record, though, Amaranthne was why I stopped listening to her: when you come out with a new album every other--or every fifth!--year, your albums had better be good, else people will stop listening.)

(Enya reportedly has a bad problem with stage fright, so I expect that was also an issue, but come on already--if you're a singer, once you start singing everything else should go out the window. I'm no great shakes as a performer but even when I'm very nervous about how well I've got a piece down, when I start singing I forget about everything but singing the song.)

Lip-synching your own music is disingenuous but I'm not surprised pop stars do it.

* * *


A good rocket fuel is only a small step removed from high explosive.
Sunday, January 1st, 2017
1:35 pm
#5419: Well, that was about as entertaining as any other occasion.
Not a big partier on New Year's, and with the upcoming funeral neither Mrs. Fungus nor I were in a huge partying mood. We didn't light any fireworks or anything; we rang in the new year playing video games and drinking that fizzy wine we bought Wednesday night.

The latter aspect of our celebration is probably why we bought and downloaded Goat Simulator. I'm a total lightweight when it comes to liquor, because I don't drink at all, and half a bottle of wine approximates my annual alcohol consumption.

Anyway, Goat Simulator is hilarious and we were laughing while playing it, and for the first time in a week Mrs. Fungus went to bed with a smile on her face, so I think that was money well spent.

* * *

Obama is a complete lightweight.
Putin is a real leader—a tough, realistic player on the international stage; Barky is a punk in way over his head, an unaccomplished, egotistical cipher with nothing whatsoever to be so narcissistic about. Putin just took the high road and made Obarbie a laughingstock yet again. Not that that's at all difficult to do, mind; the whole world has been laughing at him while running rings around his smug, stupid ass for eight long, miserable years now.
I just don't know what I can add to that.

* * *

Japan's minimum wage works out to about $6.67 an hour at the current exchange rate of 117 yen to the dollar. With Japan's minimum wage at that level, they build fast food restaurants to minimize labor costs.

Making sushi is, ordinarily, a labor-intensive process. When I make it, just getting the rice made takes hours. As shown in the video, they have a machine which forms the rice for nigiri (finger) sushi, and everything else appears to be pre-packaged. It's fast-food sushi, not haute cuisine--and at ¥300 per plate, it can add up fast. But the only people working in the restaurant are kitchen staff; there's no wait staff and only one person working "front of house", checking people in and out.

Given sufficient economic incentive--say, a minimum wage of $15 an hour--American fast food restaurants can easily emulate this and eliminate wasted labor.

Also, now I have a taste for sushi. *sigh*

* * *

I now have three microcontrollers on my desk.

Mrs. Fungus bought me a Raspberry Pi kit. The Rasperry Pi is a full-fledged computer, with HDMI and networking and so on; it runs (unless I am mistaken) a variant of Linux and can be used right out of the box (some assembly required) as an actual computer. But of course it has a GPIO header, and you can write code for it, and-and-and.

This will be fun, when I have time for it.

* * *

Well, that's about all I've got for right now. I'm hoping to enjoy a relatively quiet New Year's Day, and hope you all do the same.
12:06 am
#5418: That's it! 2016 is OVER!
Happy New Year!

...bought a bottle of "sparkling wine" the other day, something called "Caposaldo". It's peach-flavored. So Mrs. Fungus and I are splitting the bottle and playing video games and not caring about the world.

Saturday, December 31st, 2016
2:30 pm
#5417: Won't be sad to see 2016 end
Not even remotely.

Today is my 4th wedding anniversary. Mrs. Fungus insisted that I open my anniversary gift before bed; it turned out to be pillowcases (with new pillows inside), one of those cutesy couples' kind of thing, but I adore it. (Stick figure guy blowing bubbles which turn into hearts, stick figure girl on the other one receiving hearts and blushing happily.)

She's been after me to replace my pillows for quite a while. This is one way to do it. Though I had trouble sleeping with the new pillow, one reason I resisted the change. I'll get used to it.

Spent our evening last night watching about the last half of the first season of Stranger Things, which is vastly entertaining. We didn't have the energy to do anything else.

* * *

Socialism always means rationing.
19 years of stupidity. It’s all the same. After all the money has been stolen from bank accounts and companies nationalized to be redistributed to idiots; malinvested into grandiose schemes of national pride that remain half-finished and crumbling into the Caribbean storms; dumped in to purchase weapons that sputter away their utility for lack of maintenance and purpose; or simply frittered away on propaganda or whatever else the Politburos come up with that morning in the shower (they, at least, still have water), we arrive at the ration card. Stability. This is what the communist regimes say it’s about. Food stability.
It's where it always ends up. Rationing for the masses, plenty for the bosses. Enjoy.

* * *

Given a choice, people will not pay to be propagandized. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Miss Sloane was going to be a massive bomb at the box office. But Ace makes a good point: if you're that desperate for liberal propaganda, all you have to do is turn on the TV. You don't have to go to the movies and pay $15; just flip on CBS-NBC-ABC-PBS-HBO etc. It's all right there, from the comfort of your living room sofa, and no one will get mad at you for texting while you watch it.

* * *

Speaking of propaganda Borepatch very neatly explains how we can bring some truth and sanity back to the discussion of global warming. His proposal is, I think, a highly pro-scientific one:
Remove all adjustments from the climate databases and then allow them back only when justified for a single day at a single weather station. If an adjustment is needed, then have NOAA specify why. And report the last 100 years without any adjustments.
This is science. Making a crapton of adjustments (which always add recent warming!) is not.

Look at the graph. The red and purple lines balance each other out, but that still makes a total net positive adjustment of +0.5°C since 1940 which is the magnitude of claimed man-made global warming in that period.

Sure, it's man-made. It's man-made because human beings adjusted it into the data.

* * *

Remember, eight years ago, how eager the commie-libs were for Obama to be President? Coming up with all sorts of extra-constitutional ways (such as the Speaker of the House "deferring", somehow?)

The Obama administration has been one of the most feckless, asinine administrations in US history. I never thought I would ever see a President who was worse than Carter, and this time in 2008 I was predicting that Obama would be as bad as, rather than worse than, the Georgian peanut farmer extraordinare. Man, was I wrong.

Obama is trying desperately to secure his "legacy"--built primarily on executive orders--from Trump, but "stroke of the pen" cuts both ways as we warned these idiots starting in 2009. Any executive order can be rescinded by the same process through which it was enacted.

Meanwhile, the liberal lunacy, expressed in "Trump Derangement Syndrome", continues to entertain. Love seeing their heads get all 'splody. Saw a bit today about a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir quitting his job because "I wouldn't sing for Hitler!" Gadzooks, these people are lunatics.

* * *

Anyway, got errands to run today. Lots of them. Got to get moving.
Thursday, December 29th, 2016
12:13 pm
#5416: It's always a long road.
My wife has to take point on the funeral arrangements because her brother lives in Georgia, and all I can really do is support her. Even so, it's been a hellish week.

The plus side is, we're getting things done, even if we do end up exhausted at the end of the day. We've scarcely spent any time on fun things; after running around all day yesterday we finally had a little time to play WoW together--first time since when?--before going to bed and collapsing from exhaustion.

I'm staying home from work today, mainly so I can clean the kitchen and rest. There simply has not been any time for anything else.

It's hit me really hard, too, because I genuinely like my in-laws. Mrs. Fungus' parents were divorced, but their relationship issues don't mean they're bad people. Dad was a good guy, and I miss him terribly, but it didn't really hit me how much until I tried going to work on Monday and was almost totally useless.

And that's just me. Mrs. Fungus has had times where she's nearly inconsolable.

It was unexpected, and it was sudden, and there was no time or warning to prepare. Unlike my parents--Dad was in the hospital for more than a month before he passed. Mom's stroke came out of the blue but her health had been declining and I know what the statistics say about what happens when one member dies of a marriage that's lasted several decades. Mom outlived Dad by a scant four years.

In this case, though, Dad (in law) was 77--though I'd thought him younger--and in poor but (we thought) stable health. *sigh*

Well: things progress. Today is probably going to be mostly devoted to resting, though I have (as I said) some much-belated cleaning to do. That'll be okay. There's still a lot left to do.
Tuesday, December 27th, 2016
12:29 pm
#5415: Not good
I was at work when my wife called me.

Theoretically, there is an emergency line that employees' families can call. If there is a problem that requires immediate attention, call that number--they say--and the employee will be informed.

In practice, it never works. Mrs. Fungus has needed to call me on several occasions, and that line is either always busy or never answered. So I have my phone set up to be in quiet mode, with a select few numbers able to ring through regardless. Mrs. Fungus is a very responsible person, so when I hear her ringtone while I'm at work I know it's a real emergency. Christmas day was no exception.

I was at lunch when she called, but they'd fed us and I'd already eaten, so I was just sitting at my desk, relieved that the day was more than half over and trying to relax a bit. Phone rang, so I locked my computer and hurried out of the call center.

Reception there is not the greatest (grounded metal box) and she was too upset to speak coherently at first, but eventually I understood: her father was dead. I told her I'd be leaving momentarily; once we'd rung off I went back into the call center, found a supervisor, explained the situation, and left. I did not ask to be excused; I just outlined the situation and said I was going to my wife.

I was perhaps a third of the way home when my phone rang again; this time it was Mrs. Fungus telling me I had to go to the house to talk to the police and get some paperwork, so I turned around and went back there.

Cops: "You don't want to go in there until the coronor has removed the body."
Me: "Yeah, you're right; I don't. How long, do you think?"
Cops: "Not more than an hour."
Me: "I'll wait."

Dad had a tendency to turn off his answering machine when he didn't want to be disturbed. He was kind of insular. Him not answering his phone wasn't unusual, but as the week progressed people began to get worried, and when he didn't answer on Christmas, his son (living in Georgia) called the police to get a health check. The rest is history.

Judging by the circumstances it looks like he passed away quietly in his sleep, laying on the floor in front of the TV set in the living room, perhaps as much as a week ago (according to the coronor). The result of the body laying in a 75° room for that length of time--well, I'm thinking I'll take a good boxcutter with me and dispose of that section of carpet. Even if it were cleaned of...residue...it's very badly stained, anyway, and will have to be replaced. I already removed the blankets and pillows he'd been using, and I did some other minor cleaning. The smell is not bad, though--certainly not as bad as I'd feared--and when we went back to the house yesterday I sprinkled some carpet deodorizer and lit some incense and opened a couple of windows, which also helped.

I had only a little time Sunday to look for the critical papers, not wanting to be away from my wife for very long. It still took me the better part of an hour to make sure I'd left no stone unturned. I found what we needed, but not all of it, hence the second trip yesterday.

I didn't realize how hard I was hit by all this until I got to work Monday. I was in a fog all day; when Mrs. Fungus and I spoke around 4:30 I was all too ready to leave. My supervisor had already been apprised of the situation, so I only needed to tell her what was going on; I took off and went home.

Both of us were exhausted, though. My wife and I had not slept at all well. We sat here at home doing nothing for a couple of hours, trying to summon enough energy to go do what we had to; finally we went and did, and came home again, stopping at a 24-hour restaurant for some food.

It's just been a whole bunch of sad and difficult and exhausting. As I've explained to my wife and my brother-in-law, this is not my first time at this rodeo, so I know what needs doing; furthermore I've told my wife that at times like this you really, really need to eat and sleep when you can. It's too easy to flog yourself into a lather, but it's stressful enough without letting yourself run you ragged. This isn't an emergency; while we don't have the luxury of waiting we also don't have to do everything right now.

The biggest time-critical factor is getting the body cremated. The place that we've contacted says it takes five days to process the body completely. My research suggests otherwise, for reasons I don't care to discuss right now (look if up if you're interested) but regardless it's going to take time to get that taken care of.

And so today is going to be consumed with phone calls and probably a bunch of other business. Tomorrow, too, most likely.


* * *

"Eh?" You ask. "You were at work?"

Yep. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I worked. Christmas Eve we had almost 60 people logged in and calls were few and far between. Christmas Day--as long as I was there--we had about one-third to one-half that number, and the queue was pretendous. At 8:15 AM there were eight calls in queue for every agent logged on.

"Merry Christmas". Uh huh.

Working on Christmas Day sucks but I got last year's off, and I figured this one made the first time in my life that I ever had to work on Christmas Day. People do it; so can I. I didn't really mind it all that much, at least not until I got the call from Mrs. Fungus.

We'd figured out how we were going to celebrate our holiday with that in mind. She worked Christmas Eve, too, so that wasn't particularly difficult. Christmas Day was the challenge, but our original plan was reasonable.

So I got home about two hours earlier than I would have if things had been normal; I tossed the ham in the oven and got started with other things. We did manage to have a reasonably merry Christmas even with the bad news we got, but that's basic human psychology: you can't be somber and crying all the time even when you've just gotten some very bad news. If you are crying constantly you have a problem bigger than whatever it is you're crying about.

Rush Limbaugh made much out of something that happened in the Clinton administration: Clinton went to a funeral for someone; when it was over he came out of the church talking and laughing with people. That is normal; you attend any funeral in north America and you will hear laughter as well as crying. The part Limbaugh focused on was how Clinton--seeing that he was being watched by the press--suddenly did a 180 and pretended to cry.

So we celebrated Christmas and held back the sadness for a while, but when we went to bed it came back. Neither of us got any real sleep; I slept for a couple of hours and then moved to the sofa because my snoring was keeping her awake, at which point she managed to grab a couple of hours. The result was that I, at work on Monday, was almost spectacularly useless, and all Mrs. Fungus did was go to work long enough to make sure all her ducks were in a row, too. And so we dragged ourselves to the house, did what needed doing, and dragged ourselves home.

And I'm going to get some more sleep now.
Friday, December 23rd, 2016
11:51 pm
#5414: Christmas Eve!
In 45 minutes. Yahoo!

I am very tired from work today. I'm still very tired from work yesterday, in which I got chewed out three times, and had a really discouraging day. Today was better, but only by degree. *sigh*

* * *

Remember the reason for the season. Hint: it's the first-ever Christmas gift.

* * *

About the three wise men.

* * *

The snow may melt, or it may not, by the time Christmas gets here. They're saying upper 40s for Christmas day.

Merry Christmas, everyone.
Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
7:22 pm
#5413: Thank GOD for autosave as draft
So, LJ went down for maintenance for a few hours, just about the time I was hitting the "post" button on "Outpost". It redirected me to a page telling me LJ was down for maintenance, and I said many bad words, thinking that two hours' work had just gone to the bit bucket. But when I calmed down I realized that it must've auto-saved the draft, so it was probable that I'd only lost some of the work.

That did, thankfully, turn out to be the case.

And so I'm pleased to continue my almost-annual tradition of throwing up a quick-and-dirty Christmas-themed short story of one kind or another. I hope you all enjoy it.

* * *

Self-hating black man sets fire to the church he attends and spray-paints "VOTE TRUMP" on it. Don't hold your breath waiting for the news services who breathlessly covered this story to post corrections now that it turns out to have been a false-flag operation.

* * *

Look: I like Pachelbel's Canon in D, but it is not Christmas music. Stop playing it.

Related: the worst version of Canon in D I ever heard? Last night, on Pandora, my Christmas music channel--"Pachelbel meets U2", which I wasted no time hitting "thumbs down" on. Really needs to be a "nuke this song and never mention its existence again" button.

Also related: Getting very tired of "Greensleeves" aka "What Child Is This?", because Pandora keeps playing it and playing it and playing it; today I hit "thumbs down" to one version of it and the very next song was another version, which I also hit "thumbs down" to. The first of this pair was a version by a group calling itself "Everstar", off their Christmas album "Christmas in the Shire". *whimper*

The "Greensleeves" thing reminds me of the "Little Drummer Boy" thing from this Christmas vignette from a previous year. WTF.

* * *

In fact, here are all the vignettes:

2015, "Wrapping Paper".

2013, "Christmas Dinner".

2011, "Another Christmas Interlude".

2009, "The Sleigh Race".

* * *

Now I have to wrap presents and bake cookies. Fun!
6:53 pm
#5412: Outpost
My duty station that year was the maintenance post for the Tombaugh Space Telescope. It's a lonely place, 'way out at the edge of the solar system, orbiting the Pluto-Charon system.

The telescope itself is mainly an infrared telescope; the location ensures that the cryostat can be kept as close to absolute zero as is humanly possible. 0.1 microkelvin was the goal, though in practice it was usually a shade north of that. Typical operating temperature for the cryostat was 0.117 uK, and that was well within the tolerance of 0.14 uK, above which the instrument lost about a third of its sensitivity to the very faint and distant sources it was built to observe. On my watch it had peaked at 0.135 uK, which happened after a helium chiller had gone out and the superfluid helium bath went viscous.

Being far out at the edge of the solar system wasn't enough; there was an elaborate three-stage sun shade protecting the telescope from solar radiation--even at 30 AU from the sun that was not trivial--and there further were other shields protecting the telescope from the heat emitted by its own radiators and chilling systems. The telescope was often referred to as "the coldest place in the solar system" but in fact it was the coldest place within a light year of the sun.

The maintenance station shared the same orbit as the telescope, twenty kilometers away. There was another heat shield between the station and the telescope, of course. In the event of a malfunction, it was my job to direct repairs.

"Direct", I said, not "effect". The heat given off by a man in a space suit would overwhelm the cryostat chiller and render the entire instrument unusable for days while it cooled off again; I couldn't go anywhere near the thing except in the most dire of emergencies. I had robots, waldoes, and telepresence gear for making repairs.

Being so far out, mail service is spotty. I got the occasional message, of course, from friends or relatives, but it takes light four hours to get from Pluto to Earth, and an equal time to get back; conversations are impossible. And because the habitat had to be small--to keep heat pollution under control--I was the only person there. It was, as I said, lonely.

Typical duty cycle for the telescope is a year. It pays well. And it's not cold--the station exists in a vacuum, and it's no problem to keep it toasty warm--but for all of that it felt like being stationed in Siberia must have, a century or so ago.

For most of the year I hadn't really noticed the isolation. I had my own research to work on (I could sneak glimpses through the telescope during gaps in its observation schedule) and I'm one of those people who can get along just fine with a computer, the right software, and my library of books and videos. But the holidays came around, and that's when I started to long for company.

It started, simply enough, with my sister sending photos of the kids dressed up for Halloween. Then came Mom and Dad, with a video shot at Thanksgiving; and the well wishes for Christmas had started coming in shortly thereafter.

The rules allowed for holiday decorations, but I hadn't seen the point of it--if I'd brought any with me it would have counted against my weight allowance, and putting up decorations meant I'd just have to take them all down again. So as Christmas came into near view, it was just like any other week. I found myself regretting not bringing, at least, a string of lights, but it was too late now, and the next supply ship wouldn't come before February.

I'd said there were robots--there are, at the telescope itself, kept at extreme low temperature and built only to operate at that end of the thermometer; but there were a few maintenance robots in the station, too, there to help out in case of emergencies and with routine maintenance. They'd been labeled A, B, and C, but of course over the five years the telescope had been in operation, the various caretakers had given them names, such that now they were named Abernathy, Balbo, and Cron.

A, B, and C were the closest thing the caretaker had to company. Each had a personality, carefully built by cybernetic psychologists, and though they were supposed to be wiped clean at the end of a caretaker's cycle, they never had been. Seems the caretakers get attached to them, and can't brain-wipe a friend. I'd thought that was silly. I mean, they're just robots, right?

It was Abernathy who spoke up first, that day. "Boss, I've noticed that you're moping." He was usually direct like that.

"Who, me?"

"Yeah, you. Right now, for example: you have only consumed sixty percent of your breakfast."

I looked at the plate in front of me. "I'm just not hungry."

Balbo, who had prepared the meal for me, said, "I have prepared that to your specifications, and when I check with Cron he tells me that this morning's urinalysis shows your blood sugar was at 67 micrograms per deciliter. You should be hungry, boss."

I looked at the two. Before I could say anything, Abernathy spoke up. "Our observation of our various bosses over the years has demonstrated that, around this time of year, some bosses get lonely. Is there anything we can do, boss?"

I said, "Don't worry about it. You guys know humans are social creatures."

"Holidays are the hardest times for you," Abernathy agreed. "But our job isn't just to maintain the station; as you know we also must care for the caretaker."

Balbo added, "Which means you should finish your meal."

Sighing, I finished the food, then handed the plate and fork to Balbo. "Any maintenance scheduled today?" I asked Abernathy.

"Not today, boss. It's Christmas Eve, so none scheduled tomorrow, either." There was a pause while he consulted the station's computer. "Cryostat shows as operating within nominal limits. There will be an observation pause from 14:32 through 15:55; shall I aim the telescope at Betelgeuse during that time and continue your observations?"

"Please." Betelgeuse had been acting funny for the better part of sixty years; some folks thought that meant it would be exploding soon. I was trying to characterize the luminosity curve in an attempt to predict how it would explode. In theory the telescope was supposed to be in use 24/7 but in practice there were always gaps in the program, which is why there was no shortage of grad students to take maintenance duty out here.

Sighing, I went to the exercise room and did cardio for the mandated twenty minutes, then had a shower. If there was no work scheduled today--and tomorrow!--what was I going to do? Mope for forty-eight hours?

I was about to take a nap when an alarm hooted. Cron was nearest to me; he said, "Boss, the telescope is reporting a cryostat overheat."

"Got it, on my way," I said, and hurried to the command center.

The command center is a round pod stuck to the side of the station. Its entire inside surface is one big display screen, and there are two circular consoles, one at the usual height and one overhead, from which the teleoperating arms--waldoes--depended. The caretaker sat in a typical office chair and did whatever he had to in order to maintain or repair the telescope.

As I sat down I was already scanning the floor console for the diagnostic codes. The computer wanted to send a maintenance bot from the storage shed to the cryostat, and I allowed that; then I dug deeper into the problem while the bot was en route. What I saw made no sense: the cryostat was colder than normal, about 0.089 uK, but the image sensor was reporting a sensitivity fail, which the computer had interpreted to mean it had overheated.

"Computer, let me see the cryostat," I said. Immediately the cameras inside the cryostat chamber went on, and all I could see was grey fog. Switching cameras didn't help, either. "Camera diagnostics."

"Cameras functioning normally."

Great. It was really there. Well, there was only one possible source for grey fog in the cryostat chamber. "Computer, check coolant pressures."

"Primary, nominal. Secondary, nominal. Tertiary, fail, low."

"Shut down coolant pumps on circuit three."

With that, the fog almost immediately began to disperse, which confirmed my fears: one of the cooling circuits had sprung a leak. It explained why the cryostat was cooler than normal--sublimating superfluid helium carried away heat--and it also explained the fog. This was going to take a long time.

"Watch what you wish for," I grumped.

"Directive not understood," the computer replied.

The repair bot was on station, so I switched over to telepresence mode and got to work. Repairing a helium leak, by remote control, is a finicky process, so I didn't bother: I just replaced the manifold, a slow, exacting process. The robot couldn't do it; I had to use waldoes and do the job myself.

As I worked on removing the faulty manifold, I became aware of noise behind me. It was periodic noise, and it only seemed to occur when I was trying to do something precise. The sixth or seventh time it happened, I snapped, "What in blue blazes is going on out there?"

Abernathy replied, "My apologies, boss. We're attending to maintenance functions."

"Keep it down, damn it! I'm trying to work, here! It's hard enough to do this shit without you guys having a friggin' rumble out there."

"We do apologize, boss."

"What a way to spend Christmas Eve," I grumped, seizing the waldo and resuming the work. Disconnecting the coolant lines was really difficult, even with the best telepresence software and hardware the robotics industry had to offer. I could feel everything the waldo touched as if I were touching it with my bare hand--well, with temperatures suitably adjusted, since actually touching something that cold would give you severe frostbite in a matter of seconds--but it was a tight space, and the parts were tiny.

Finally, though, the leaking manifold was floating free. The robot obligingly grabbed it while I leaned back and took a break. I sighed, wiping sweat off my forehead.


"What the hell was that?" I demanded.

Cron stuck his head into the command center. "Apologies, boss! Abernathy and Balbo collided."

"Am I going to have to fix you guys next?"

"No, boss. Momentary operational error. It won't happen again."

"It better not. The last thing I need right now is for you guys to go out of commission. What's the cryostat temperature?"

"0.112 microkelvin, boss." Cron paused. "That's with the primary and secondary cooling circuits running at 118% of capacity. With the repair bot in the cryostat chamber, in an hour they'll have to run at 125% of capacity to maintain temperature within limits. As you know, that is emergency maximum speed. Overheat will occur eight to ten minutes after that speed is reached."

I consulted the clock. It had taken me almost ninety minutes to get the busted manifold out. This didn't look good. If the cryostat overheated, it would take hours to cool it down again; and if it overheated badly enough the telescope would shut down. That would take days to fix.

Well, nothing for it. I commanded the repair bot to get the new manifold in place, and I'd set to reconnecting it as soon as it was. Meanwhile--

"Hey, Balbo! Get me a sandwich and something to drink," I yelled.

"Coming, boss."

I wasn't paying much attention to the robot, but was watching the screens; when Balbo handed me the sandwich, though, I noticed then. My gaze actually traveled from the robot's hand, up its arm, to its central body.

"What on Earth--" I demanded, looking at the glittery particles clinging to the robot's exterior. They were bits of foil-covered mylar, the kind of thing they made survival blankets from, but also used for the vacuum preservation of food.

"Apologies, boss," the robot said. "I had some trouble with the packaging of the rations."

"None of that got in my food, did it?"

"No, boss."

"Make sure you clean yourself up. I don't want any of that getting anywhere else."

"Of course, boss."

I wolfed down the sandwich, not paying any attention to what it was. It could have been steamed cardboard for all I noticed; I was too busy watching the robot on the monitor getting the cooling manifold in place. By the time I got the food eaten and had swigged down the drink, the manifold was ready, so I began the finicky work of reattaching it and fastening it in place.

It took concentration; it was always easier to disassemble than to reassemble. Whatever noises the robots had been making in the station had largely subsided, so I was able to concentrate fully now. The work was exacting and I had to get it done as quickly as possible; at one point Cron stuck his head into the command center and told me that the coolant pumps were now running at 125% of capacity and I told him to get the hell out and not bother me.

But eventually the job was finished, and the leak test showed that the tertiary cooling circuit was tight again; I commanded the robot to return itself to the stable and put the waldo arms into their standby positions, then sagged into the seat, sweating profusely. The diagnostic telltales were winking from red to yellow to green, and as I watched the last of them went green.

According to the log, the cryostat temperature had risen to 0.135 uK with one cooling circuit out and the other two at 125% of rated capacity, leaving my record intact. That was fine by me. And but for the few minutes while the cryostat chamber was filled with helium fog, observation had continued, unimpeded.

I got out of the seat, kinks in every muscle. Sighing, I staggered off to the hab module and had a very long, hot shower, the last half set on "massage". Once out and dressed in clean clothes I felt like I was made of rubber, and hoped there would be a moratorium on further emergencies until after tomorrow.

Cron met me in the corridor on my way to my cabin. "Boss, there's something you need to see in the common room."

I sighed. "Cron, I'm exhausted. Is it an emergency?"

"No, boss."

"Then it can wait until tomorrow, can't it?"

"You need to see this, boss."

"Damn it, Cron, I'm not in the mood for games! Tell me, what is it?"

"It'll only take a few minutes, boss."

Robots are not supposed to be able to ignore a direct order like that, but fatigue had dulled my senses and I didn't notice it. Besides, although none of the robots was even remotely android, nor capable of expression, somehow Cron gave the impression of being--well, not nervous, but anticipating something.

"Fine," I snapped, and turned towards the common room. A few frustrated steps later I stopped at the entry to the common room and gaped at the sight.

There was a Christmas tree on the table. From the door it looked almost real.

Closer inspection showed it was not, of course. Copper wire had been twisted, with shreds of green mylar entangled to resemble foliage, and the whole thing had been connected together to make a pretty decent simulacrum of a small fir tree. An LED lighting strip had been disassembled and the LEDs strung together with fine wire to make a perfectly acceptable string of lights; ordinary objects had been repurposed into ornaments, and silvery mylar tinsel completed it. There was even a star on top, foil covered plastic or cardboard, with a tiny LED at each of the five points.

I looked at the robots. "Wha--?"

"Merry Christmas, sir," they chorused, and then started singing "Silent Night" like a barbershop quartet. I don't know which one of them did two voices, but they pulled it off handily.

After that, I understood completely why no one had ever memory-wiped these robots.
1:52 pm
#5411: I've got all kinds of writing, and baking, to do.
It's Christmas! ...or will be in a few days, and I have a bunch of stuff to get done. But the final form for this year's Christmas vignette crystallized this morning, and I've got a ton of tabs open, so let's get started.

I thought hunter-gatherer societies were necessarily nomadic. I don't see how you can support a "city" full of people without agriculture. Still, interesting find.

* * *

"Fascist" may be the wrong term, but I think there are some serious problems with the Federation. The thing about the Federation: Starfleet doesn't call itself a "military" but it most assuredly is, complete with all the trappings and ceremonies of one.

The video uses the term "fascist" in place of "totalitarianist", I think because it's common for people to conflate the two. Fascism is where government emplaces heavy regulation on private industry (see also "Obamacare") but my feeling is that the Federation is more of a socialist dictatorship: government owns the means of production, and enacts heavy controls on behavior and language.

The other thing to consider here is the notion that the Trek universe is a post-scarcity society. With the kind of energy economy that exists there, why do colonists have to till the soil? Seems to me that settling a planet would involve two things: setting up the first fusion reactor, a big one, to power the first replicator...and after that, running the replicator on "max" for a couple of years to produce machinery and housing and-and-and to accommodate the influx of colonists. (First you'd replicate more fusion reactors and replicators, of course.) Yet instead, colonies are always shown as low-tech worlds where people have to perform physical labor to survive.

Two possibilities: first, that the colonists like it that way; second, that the Federation is a two-tier economy exactly like that of any other totalitarian dictatorship where the "party elites" have access to luxuries, and the proles get to grub in the dirt. So: on a starship, you can have whatever you want for dinner, just tell the replicator...but if you're a colonist, you get to have vegetable stew made from whatever you can grow, and that's it.

(ST:TNG ep "The Survivors", Captain Picard gives the Uxbridges a replicator, implying they didn't have one themselves.)

The video makes a telling point, and it dovetails with my own thoughts on the subject. Which are too voluminous for me to further discuss here, sadly. (Or perhaps not so sadly.)

* * *

The proof of relativity may actually be a disproof. The gravitational waves detected last year may actually contain information nullifying the theory they appeared, at first look, to confirm.

The article is a bit disorganized, though.

* * *

Two from Borepatch:

"Remember, the Democrats think that you're stupid, and will fall for this drivel."

How can California have an embassy? But let California secede. That way we can build a wall at the California border and keep them out, too.

* * *

This article about the decline in US/Russian relations reminds us it's because of their annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine. None of which has anything to do with the US or any of its national interests. It's not worth going to war over, so why are we antagonizing them over it?

* * *

America still works because of the people Hillary and her ilk consider "deplorable". And it will continue to work despite the elites' best efforts until they somehow manage to convince the "deplorables" to stop doing their thing...at which point the whole thing will collapse, and--like the farmer who "taught" his now-dead horse how to work without eating--the elites will call the "deplorables" ungrateful, racist, sexist, bigots.

* * *

If this doesn't strike you as satanic, nothing will. I suppose to someone who considers abortion just another form of birth control wouldn't be bothered by this, but I don't, and I'm plenty bothered.

Short form: savage death cult uses little girls as self-propelled bombs.

Notice that they sent girls? Do they have any sons? Where did they send the sons? Did the sons get used as baka-bombs, too?

Any cult that convinces people to murder their own children is evil. If you can read that article and not conclude that islam is evil, then I don't know what to tell you except WAKE UP.

If you want to convince me that it's not islam, but a handful of extremists, you're going to have to show me the hue and cry from the muslim world denying this atrocity as the work of muslims. (And I note that when someone shoots up an abortion clinic it's "all Christians" who are responsible--even when the shooter turns out to be an atheist--but islamic terror attacks are always "lone wolf" attacks.)

* * *

Regarding yesterday's rant: today, Francis Porretto talks about something I just started doing on my own, solely out of irritation with the constant drumbeat of leftist horseshit.

And not to put too fine a point on it, leftards, that kind of shit is why you got Trump. Keep it up, and there can be worse things than Trump. Trump is moderate; although I expect good things from him, he's not going to clear-cut the federal swamp before draining it and putting up a Walmart. If you keep pushing, you might get someone who is as hard right as Rush Limbaugh and as hard charging as Theodore Roosevelt, who isn't afraid to use the powers of the Presidency exactly the way the Democrats have, but in the opposite direction. Imagine yourselves having to endure a years-long review of your nonprofit status. Imagine being audited year after year. Imagine executive orders nullifying EPA regulations. Imagine a Justice Department which aggressively pursues vote fraud cases. Imagine your precious sanctuary cities being declared in open revolt against the government and having their federal funding stripped.

You keep whining about Trump, but that's only because you think you're entitled to get what you want always and forever, amen. If you want, we can show you what a real hard-line right winger would do.

Trump isn't a cause; he's a symptom. And if you don't get hep to that fact soonest, you're going to find out that the socio-political ratchet doesn't exist but the socio-political pendulum does. And then "karma hits you in the face like a eighteen pound sledge."

* * *

And now, on to the vignette!
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