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

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    Friday, March 27th, 2015
    10:42 pm
    #4642: I can't believe it's Friday again already.
    Because Easter is on its way, Mrs. Fungus was able to get a smokin' good deal on a ham today. The result is ham tomorrow, and ham-and-bean soup relatively soon therafter. I'm going to enjoy this.

    * * *

    Work today was pretty low-key. I guess I can't complain about that. I'm glad of it, in fact, because I had a headache all friggin' day which was only exacerbated by the excess of noise coming from the home theater department. I don't know what the hell was going on, only that there was this wall of noise that tried to cave in my skull until about 7:30, when someone finally turned something down.

    Mrs. Fungus did some shopping on her way home--see above about the ham--with the result that we had chili dogs for dinner, which was nice and easy to make, tasty, and filling. Can't complain about that.

    * * *

    Warm weather is projected for next week. I'm hoping some of it will fall on days I have off, so I can try to get some things done outside. That would be nice, wouldn't it? But I'm not going to hold my breath.

    * * *

    Short shrift for today's blog post, I'm afraid; there's nothing in the news that inspires any real commentary and the stuff that is there is too depressing for me to deal with right now.

    Meanwhile, Mrs. Fungus is in the family room and I'd rather be with her than doing this. Sorry about that.
    4:41 am
    #4641: This makes me chuckle.
    "We're leaving Indianapolis if you pass that five years or so." I notice the the CEO of GenCon didn't say anything about their contract before the law was passed.

    Basically, SB 101 makes it legal for businesses to refuse to do business with people for religious reasons. If you run a bakery and don't want to bake a cake for a gay wedding, you don't have to, and they can't sue you for "discrimination".

    Before the law passed, though, the CEO of GenCon was threatening that they'd take their toys and go home, thus costing Indiana money. The law has passed, and now she's saying that they must remain in Indy through 2020.

    ...I have to wonder how long it will be before the idea of leaving Indy is quietly dropped. They left Geneva, Wisconsin, and I'd wager it wasn't because the LGBT community got badfeels.

    But the about-face makes me laugh. GenGon has a problem here: they don't want the law, but the last thing they want is for attendees to hurt convention attendance because they are boycotting Indiana, hence the sudden backpedal from "We're leaving!" to "We're starting to talk about the possibility of leaving."

    * * *

    The bad movie du jour was Man From Planet X. It was pretty bad.

    ...the alien looked like a bad picture of Don Ameche, the main character's mustache had a variable dihedral, and I never did understand what the evil scientist hoped to accomplish by cutting off the alien's air supply, except that was the alien's motivation to mind-control everyone it could and cause other trouble.

    The evil scientist was played by that guy, one of those character actors you know by sight, but not his name or anything. (William Schallert.)

    Og advised me to look for a movie called Monolith Monsters so we'll see if we can't find that one next.

    * * *

    Went to bed when Mrs. Fungus did, but woke up hungry and hot. I think I've cooled down now, and now I'm sleepy again.

    Guess I know what that means.
    Thursday, March 26th, 2015
    3:57 pm
    #4640: Feckless
    The middle east is getting worse every day.

    Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran, Iraq--all these places which were stable in 2008 are falling to pieces one way or another.

    In his incontinent need to make some kind of deal with Iran, Obama is now contemplating letting Iran run nuclear centrifuges in underground bunkers. Ace asks, "So, Jewish Democrats who voted for Obama: How's Obama's ass taste?"

    It beggars belief that Obama and his staff could be so fucking stupid as to think that Iran is really going to adhere to the strictures of any agreement they find inconvenient. "You're allowed to run nuclear centrifuges in underground bunkers, but don't enrich any uranium in them!" "Durr, okay boss."

    Unfortuately, though, the alternative to Obama and his staff being fucking stupid is that they are actively engaged in helping Iran get nuclear weapons. I can't find the words to express how bad that would be.

    Ultimately their motivation and rationale is irrelevant, though. What we are looking at is a self-proclaimed enemy of the United States trying to build nuclear weapons, and instead of stopping them cold the Obama administration is helping, giving them room and time to operate and forcing Israel to do nothing.

    So much stability and order in the middle east has been ruined by the idiotic policies of the Obama administration, though, the world of today scarcely resembles that of 2008. And this doesn't even begin to touch on whatever the fuck is going on in Ukraine.

    At the base of it, though, seems to be my mother's prediction for the course of any Democrat administration: ruin economy, start war. We're past the first and well into the second.

    Thanks, Obama! Thanks, Democrats!

    * * *

    Meanwhile, our government continues to demonstrate its commitment to making life easy for government employees and drug dealers.

    DEA agents working undercover! Don't you understand? These agents were under cover in Colombia. They had to have sex with those hookers so they could maintain cover! They didn't enjoy it or anything.

    Read our lips, prole! UNDER. COVER. So what if they were given expensive gifts and money by drug lords? They're working under cover and they can't exactly say, "Hey, I can't accept this lavish gift, Mr. Drug Lord! I am a government employee!"


    ...of course what it amounts to is DEA employees receiving bribes and other enticements, and it's a fine example of why the war on (some) drugs is an abject failure and should be ended.

    The fact that the guilty parties are receiving token punishments only exacerbates the problem. "I had sex with hookers provided by drug lords, and I got a 10-day vacation for it! Woohoo!"

    * * *

    So: airplane crashes in Europe, turns out to have been deliberately flown into terrain by the copilot, who locked the pilot out of the cockpit.

    But the FAA said he was a stellar pilot.

    No news yet on motive. There's plenty of speculation, of course. More and more, I am looking at the entire airline industry and concluding that the only good time to fly is rarely.

    * * *

    Easy week, made not so easy--since Sunday morning I have had twinges in my gut, the kind that happen once in a long while that are generally related to the diverticulosis. It made sleep difficult last night. It seems better today (finally) but I feel like my brain is wrapped in cotton batting.

    I ended up re-downloading Carmageddon from, and I'm pleased to report that on the MC51AC the game has a reasonable frame rate.

    Not so reasonable is the way it handles full screen. The game was not designed to be played on a system with a 1920x1080 screen, certainly, but it at least ought to be able to handle 640x480. Instead, though, I have a choice between a tiny little window, or BLOCKY-VISION.

    The thing is, when I dug out old Escaflowne and ran it on the blab slab, it looked all right. The 'slab is 1920x1080, but of course when used as a monitor it can display other resolutions. I don't know what resolution it was running in, but Carmageddon looked good and worked fine.

    On the plus side, I can always use Escaflowne or Jurai to play the game. Of late I have had a hankering to dig out Jurai anyway, just to fire up the old girl and see if she still works.

    ...right after I do the other 50,000 things demanding my attention. *sigh*
    Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
    4:31 pm
    #4639: Anti
    John Wright posts an excellent discussion of Watchmen versus Incredibles, and what makes an anti-story. This bit in particular resonated with me:
    Alan Moore, and the intellectuals of his generation, and the halfwits of ours, follow neither the noble and grim path of the pagan hero, nor the noble and transcendental vision of the chivalrous knight. What they do instead is sneer.

    They sneer, they belittle, they berate, they roll their oh-so-sophisticated eyes, and shake their heads at normal and wholesome mysticism and call it impractical, unreal.
    I've noticed that myself, the sneering, the snideness, but only recently have I come to understand how deep the rabbit hole goes.

    This morning I was thinking about a sketch on Saturday Night Live a couple of decades ago, when William Shatner was on in the wake of the release of (I think) Star Trek IV. (So, decades, yeah.) One of the sketches featured a man and woman getting ready for a party, and the man was posing in front of the mirror and cooing over his own physique. It developed that--some years before--he had singlehandedly taken out a mugger who had accosted them. The sketch started out feeling like Shatner's character was a self-absorbed dimwit, but by the time it's over you come to understand that he's a good man reminding himself of the fact.

    That sketch contained the least amount of sneering in the whole show.

    Mind you, it was a funny episode, because Shatner is adept at comedy (and who knew, at the time, that he was so able with self-parody?) and the things being joked about were actually things that happened--but snide, nonetheless.

    This is an issue I've struggled with for quite a while, and I find that even with Wright's excellent example I'm still having trouble articulating my reservations. Well, eventually, I'll figure out how to explain it, and then everyone will yawn and tell me they knew that all along, and then we can have a jolly good laugh.

    * * *

    Letting cops get away with violating the third amendment. The court decided wrongly. Look: the cops don't have a right to use your home as a surveillance post without your permission, not without first getting a court order at least. Otherwise, what's to stop them from moving in whenever they see fit, for whatever reason suits them?

    * * *

    Two from Borepatch today.

    Man-made climate change is bunkum. An interesting look at how petroleum geologists do their thing, and how it relates to their views on man-made global warming.

    Lincoln's role in causing the Civil War. Over the past several years, as I have come to learn more about the history of the United States, I've come to understand Lincoln's role as less noble and just than is usually presented in history books.

    I've further come to think of him not as one of the great Presidents, but one of the bad ones, because of this.

    The schoolbook reduction of the Civil War to being "about slavery" is oversimplified and disingenuous. They gloss over the federal government's tyrannical actions during the war and attempt to present the simple narrative that suggests the South merely wanted to keep slaves even though All Right Thinking People had decided it was time for abolition.

    Problem being that the war was not about slavery. Slavery was doomed; it was doomed from the moment that James Watt perfected the pressurized steam engine--mechanization was in the process of making slavery obsolete, because it is much simpler and easier to feed and herd a steam engine than it is to feed and keep twenty slaves under control. And it costs less, to boot.

    The war was about economic pressures, taxation, self-determination, and freedom. "Slavery" was in there, under "self-determination", but only as a component of states' rights. In antebellum America, Washington D.C. was already amassing power, seeking control over the country.

    The instant that the Confederacy was prevented from secession, "consent of the governed" began to die.

    * * *

    So today Mrs. Fungus asked me to take some clothes to the cleaners, and I did. The Jeep is nearly out of gas, though; I have enough gas in the tank to get her to the gas station, but my checking account is coughing up blood--so I took the bike. It's in the mid-forties today, cloudy, with a stiff westerly breeze--the trip out was fine, the trip back was chilly.

    The snow that fell on Monday is all but gone now, as expected, even though today's temps didn't go as high as they were originally predicted to.

    Can't complain.

    * * *

    Mrs. Fungus and I watched the end of Starflight One last night, and it was pretty bad.

    Laugh-inducing: in order to rescue the passengers of the ill-fated hypersonic airliner, NASA managed to get Colombia back on the pad two hours after landing. Two hours! They couldn't turn a shuttle around in two months, for fuck's sake, not the way that craptastic boondoggle was designed. Even if they just changed the engines rather than rebuilt them--to say nothing of the fact that fueling the stupid thing takes longer than two hours. And that craptastic excuse for a heat shield, the tiles that have to be completely replaced after each flight--yeah, sure they can do all that in two hours! Why not?

    The worst part was how they managed to get the airliner safely back into the atmosphere. There was a super-secret Air Force shuttle doing something-or-other, and it re-entered the atmosphere with the airplane in its wake, and the shuttle's heat shield protected the airplane from the heat of re-entry.


    ...there's so much wrong with that, I despair of explaining it. Most Fungus readers are smart enough to understand where the heat of re-entry comes from without me having to go into detail, anyway.

    It was, simply put, bad.

    Even so, my wife and I got some good wisecracks out of it. This is the kind of movie that could never be made today, because the Internet and social media would shred it.

    The biggest problem with the story is one of energy. Why is the government using shuttles when there's a private company that has the technology to build a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle? The plane has plenty of rocket fuel aboard to boost it into orbit--this is demonstrated when the pilot can't shut the rockets off after the thing is hit by debris--and it does so while carrying a load of passengers, to boot.

    In fact, the airplane would not be able to make orbit, not even accidentally, even if there were no passengers aboard, not unless the entire interior space was given over to fuel. At most the plane--as presented in the story--would go into a semiballistic arc, a very long one.

    It takes a lot of energy to put something into orbit. Orbital velocity is about Mach 25, and this airplane's top speed was supposed to be about Mach 5.

    There are a host of other problems with the story, problems which would have prevented the whole thing from taking place, but that one is the worst.

    * * *

    I seem to otherwise be incapable of sentient thought today. Sorry about that.
    3:10 pm
    #4638: Nine more pages
    The most interesting thing about writing stories, for me, is that I never know quite how things are going to work out. Generally I will have an idea of what story I'm trying to tell, with a basic idea of what major plot points I want to include; the rest kind of happens as I write.

    The creative process being what it is, I know that some people outline every last detail before they start writing, and if that works for them, more power to 'em. I can't outline and then adhere to it with any sort of fidelity, because I'm not capable of pre-thinking a story like that. When I outline first, I spend as much time revising the outline as I do writing text, which is no way to get the damned book done. If I force the story to adhere to the outline, the result is...sub-par.

    You can say, "Well, you just outline in your head!" but an outline is composed of headings and sub-headings, and if you took the framework in my mind and laid it all out on paper, it would be nothing but headings.

    Thirty-odd pages in, there's no sign of the shipping container being converted into anything other than on-site storage, but now we have the threat of interstellar war for the first time in three millennia along with rumblings of totalitarianism from the planetary goverment.

    And this is as it should be.

    Last night I quite unexpectedly found myself getting into the whole "war" angle of the story significantly ahead of where I had originally intended...but it fit. The scariest part is that it fell into place as if precision machined, dovetailing perfectly with what I had already written. I therefore know that--at least on some level--I am pre-planning some of these details.

    The exact cause for the war is, as yet, unknown, both to self and characters. I have some ideas, though.
    Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
    8:34 pm
    #4637: Bad movie
    Mrs. Fungus and I started watching Starflight One last night. Vintage 1983, it's about a hypersonic airliner's maiden flight, and the thing ends up in orbit.

    Best part so far: a shot of Cape Canaveral circa 1970, with a Saturn V on a lunch pad in the foreground and the VAB in the background, with the legend, "Sydney, Australia".

    Seeing this, I piped up with, "Greetings, friend! Welcome to Orgrimmar! Have you come to help the horde?"

    ...because when the whole "Warlords of Draenor" expansion was going live last autumn, I took my horde main Erogami to do the quests, and when I clicked on Thrall, that's what he said...even though we were standing in the middle of Blasted Lands, which isn't even on the same continent as Orgrimmar.

    Even better, then, the Saturn V Delta rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Sydney, Australia, and which was supposed to put a satellite into orbit, had a third stage malfunction. They hat to blow it up, and of course the debris was on a a collision course with Starflight One. Well, after all, they were launching the Saturn V Delta rocket at a forty-five degree angle!

    There are so many f-ing problems with this movie, it's safe to say that it's slightly less technically accurate than Gravity was.

    It's a made-for-TV movie made when Hollywood still thought everyone was too stupid to know the difference between Australia and Florida, so of course the plot is pretty dumb. We're getting a lot of wisecracks out of this one!
    8:47 am
    #4636: There's no algorithm for machine evolution.
    Og, who is a robotics engineer, talks today about the whole "rise of the machines" concept, and how it can't happen with current technology.

    The spontaneous evolution of machine intelligence lacks a mechanism by which it can occur. Simply connecting a huge number of machines together (the critical mass conjecture) isn't going to do it, any more than you can get a functioning computer by tossing a bunch of transistors and passive components into a box and applying a current.

    Present state of the art for evolutionary algorithms is pretty primitive, particularly since they are built around solving specific problems. There is no generic evolutionary algorithm into which you can input the parameters of whatever problem you happen to have, and this would be a crude first step towards an auto-evolving machine. In fact, there's a thermodynamic problem with a self-programming computer, and most of the time even self-modifying code is supremely limited in what it can do to itself. Certainly there is no way to design a computer which can program itself--or even other computers!--which would be a vital component of machine intelligence.

    Neural networks are also too primitive. A neural network simulates the activity of neurons in a brain, but at present we can't even simulate an insect brain let alone self-awareness or sentience--and even if we could simulate the number of neurons in an insect brain, there's still the underlying behavior of an insect; we have no idea how a biological brain is pre-programmed with certain behaviors, and programming a computer of any kind to--for example--build a web like a spider does would be a herculean task.

    Think about that example. A tiny spider, which has a brain the size of a pinpoint, is capable of building a web that spans a certain space, using whatever anchor points are convenient. It does this under completely uncontrolled conditions, and it does it so well that the spiderweb has a characteristic shape which is consistent across species.

    We can't program a robot to build a spiderweb in a random bush, carefully selecting anchor points and spinning silk and-and-and. We can program a robot to build a web on a carefully placed framework with known anchor locations, and it'll build a million webs with micrometric precision, but if you drop it in the woods and command it to start making a web, the arm will smash branches and wreck things, and--most likely--not even end up building a proper web.

    Continuing with this example: when we have a robot which can analyze a random bush and decide where to place anchor lines, and then reliably spin a web that looks like any other, then we have made the first step towards machine intelligence. The first step, because the robot no longer has to be told how to make the web in each specific case.

    ...and this hypothetical web-building robot will be unable to do anything else, because being able to build a proper web in a random bush is trivial compared to being able to decide when and where to build a web. The web-bot will make webs all day long until your entire forest is festooned with them, but it won't make them under its own initiative.

    You can give your robot a convincing simulation of initiative, but what you'll actually be doing is writing a random number generator.

    Our machines are complex, but they're inert matter. They cannot do anything by themselves. Even programs which execute automatically are simply watching a timer or a count and then executing when certain values line up; it's not sitting there and then thinking, "You know, I haven't run a virus scan today; I'd better get after that." It's merely waiting for the right pattern of bits to show up and then running a program based on preset conditions. Absent those preset conditions the machine will never, never, ever run that program.

    If we want killer robots, we're going to have to go to a great deal of effort to build them. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to auto-evolve.

    * * *

    The Anchoress comments on the whole "SF arch diocese hoses down the homeless" thing, and says--in kinder, gentler fashion--approximately the same thing I said about it.

    * * *

    I would really like to be able to write "about it" without first writing "abou tit". I don't know what abou tit is, and don't want to know.

    My spacebar timing is too far advanced.

    * * *

    High school is an incandescently stupid waste of time.

    I was acquainted with someone in high school--I never spoke to him, but knew his name and career aspirations--who was considered one of the top students of my class. He got excellent grades, he was an athlete, and he was popular. He was intent on attending the Air Force academy, and showed every sign of being headed for great things.

    Reportedly, he flunked out of academy in his first semester.

    The problem is, public high school in America is easy. The toughest courses you can take are watered down, predigested pap. The class I shared with this guy was college prep physics (it would be "AP physics" these days) and it was taught at such a glacial pace that I learned more from reading the book than I did from the class itself. This was thirty years ago and I know that the situation has not improved since then.

    ...but when you present a real intellectual challenge to a guy like that, a guy who was in contention for valedictorian in high school, who never had any trouble scoring highly on tests or pulling down a 4.0 GPA, suddenly he is faced with something he never had to face before: difficulty.

    When I learned the guy had flunked out of academy, I felt sorry for him. But the fact that he did so was not remarkable, because a certain number of guys flunk out every year, usually for the same reason. It's not that they're stupid; it's that they've never faced a real challenge, and when they get to a place where they do, some of them can't rise to it. Sometimes it's not the intellectual challenge, but the social one--hazing, and so on--as these guys are typically not on the bottom of the social ladder in high school, and quite unexpectedly find themselves way down the food chain.

    Certainly I do not (and did not) think I would have--could have--fared any better than he.

    It used to be that high school was necessary. That was a long time ago, though, back when they still taught useful things in high school. It used to be that a person with a high school diploma would be able to read, write, figure, and know history, to one extent or another. These days we allow people to graduate who cannot read much of anything, can barely write, who are utterly ignorant of history, and cannot comprehend any mathematics more complex than "2+2=4". (Example.)

    But they sure know how to use condoms, apply for public aid, and vote Democrat!

    * * *

    Democrat Senators want Obama to delay the implementation of the law they voted for. Obamacare is going to cause a lot of problems, over and above the problems it has already caused, and the Senate Democrats want Obama to (unconstitutionally) delay the implementation of parts of the law so that small business owners won't get shafted, long and hard and dry, by the law.

    Problem: they are going to get shafted, long and hard and dry, just like the rest of us. It's a question of "when", not "if".

    Obamacare has turned out to be a royal mess. I'm not surprised; I predicted it would be--a lot of us on the right did--and it didn't take any special training or prescience to make that prediction, because all we had to do was to look at how similar programs have fared, both here and abroad.

    Which is to say, "not at all well".

    Obamacare is foundering for all the predicted reasons, and the Democrat response is to pretend that the law doesn't say what it actually says and--where necessary--get the Supreme Court to rubber-stamp their prevarications.

    But the entirely predictable negative consequences of Obamacare continue to arise, because once the thing was signed into law those consequences were as inevitable as the tides.

    * * *

    Obama was crowing about what a success Yemen is, but Yemen is not a success. Out here in flyover country, Obama's Yemen policy has all the appearance of being something we call "an abject failure". That's because we lack the sophistication and nuance of the D.C. elites, you see, and we insist on calling things by their proper names instead of using terms our betters deem more appropriate. We're hicks! We don't know any better.

    Anyway, "abject failure" is a term we also apply to our sitting President, because, well, we're all racists. You know how it is.

    * * *

    I got to bed after 4 AM, because I was up watching YouTube videos by a couple of guys who took a wrecked Harley and rebuilt it. Go to YouTube and search for "auction bike build" and you'll find it. It was pretty interesting stuff, at least if you're of the "take it apart and put it back together again for fun" persuasion.

    But since Mrs. Fungus had to get up early, I only got a couple hours of sleep; and since there is nothing I absolutely must do today, guess what I'm going to do now?
    Monday, March 23rd, 2015
    8:26 pm
    #4635: That's when it hurts
    Through very careful budgeting, I managed to get to my Friday with $8 left in my checking account. Both utility bills hit last week and it just about cleaned out my account, but at least I was able to pay them, right? I merely had to be very careful, otherwise, about what I spent money on, and with the $14 I put in the tank on Thursday I knew that I could now make it to payday without having to spend any more money. It left me with that $8 in the account, but it's all good, because the way this week is scheduled I won't need to go anywhere until Friday (real Friday, I mean) comes, when there'll be more money in my checking account.

    Breakfast, of late, has been bagel sandwiches. Mrs. Fungus started that, at least a month ago, when she bought lunch meat and bagels, and I realized that a ham and cheese bagel was cheaper and better for me than anything from McDonald's. But because of finances, we were running out of lunch meat, and cheese. Since we'd had corned beef last week, Sunday's sandwich was corned beef and the last of the salami, and two slices of pepper jack. We had dinner out Sunday evening as a special treat and this morning I--with permission--used the meat from her entree, and the last bagel, and two slices of pepper jack, to make a sandwich.

    I figure that I can go on Thursday evening and buy bagels, ham, and cheese, and be okay.

    Still--the bagel sandwich is tasty and filling, but some days they don't hold me as well as others, and today was one of the "less well" days. Well, after four hours anyone's going to be hungry again, and since my checking account is coughing up blood there's no way for me to buy a snack; I just have to tough it out until I can go home.

    ...and then, today, a client tries to tip me.

    We're not allowed to take tips, of course. There are a variety of reasons why, but as far as I can tell from the various training modules I've see, tips are verboten, so I always hand the money back and express my thanks and regrets. In the past few weeks, attempted tips have come to about $40, which sure would be nice to have, especially now when my personal economy is moving on fumes and momentum.

    I sure wanted to keep the $10 the guy handed to me today. (I really wanted to keep the $20 the guy tried giving me about two weeks ago, too.) I could have used it, really I could...but policy is what it is.


    * * *

    I am afraid to ask if tips are okay, because if someone tells me they are, I'm going to be unhappy about it. But perhaps I should, so that if this happens in the future, I can accept with great gratitude. Everything I've seen, read, and heard, however, says otherwise.

    * * *


    For most of my life, manned space exploration has a been a series of disappointments. Let's face it: from the time I was seven years old until I was fourteen--seven years--there were no manned space flights originating in the US. The last gasp of manned spaceflight, until I was fourteen years old, was Apollo-Soyuz, which was nothing but a publicity stunt for both NASA and the USSR's space program. And when they started flying the space shuttle in 1981, it turned out to be a government boondoggle, about nothing but having a reason to employ government bureaucrats and engineers. "We're going to low Earth orbit to do science! We're advancing the boundaries of human spaceflight! Look, this year our greatest achievement is to have an all-woman crew!"

    Going to orbit is great and all, but it's a select few who get to do it, and it doesn't do anything to make space more accessible to the average person or business. It's not even a case of "practice makes perfect" because nothing changes between flights even when NASA discovers something's seriously wrong. (Making changes--too expensive. We'd have to update all the documentation.)

    So from 1981 through the end of shuttle operations in 2011, there were no advances, no new platforms, no nothin' that a man with the space bug could get excited about. There were some moments where some interesting things happened, and there were a few where there was some pride in how we'd come back from this or that setback...but in retrospect, and against the backdrop of what SpaceX is doing, I've come to realize how pale those proud moments were.

    The first flight after the Challenger explosion pales in comparison to this photograph:

    ...which is a Dragon capsule descending on parachute after re-entry. That's a privately-owned reusable spacecraft, there.

    Privately owned.

    Reusable spacecraft.

    I just can't get enough of SpaceX. And damn it, they're making space exciting again.
    5:05 pm
    #4634: IT'S FRIDAY NIGHT!!! ...on a Monday.
    I actually clocked out at 3:59 because I couldn't bear to wait any longer.


    Today is March 23, and when I got up this morning it was to snow. Whee!

    And when I left for work, visibility was about 1/8th mile and the roads were rapidly becoming snow covered--so much so that by the time I got to the highway, I had to switch on 4WD and drive at 40 MPH.

    Passing one major road, I espied in the median a car which had first collided with something very solid before winding up with its rear end in the ditch and its mangled front end facing traffic. Further along the road, there was an SUV which had spun out; traffic slowed to a crawl and I saw the guy as he began to turn around. Further there was a semi there with one of its trailer doors open; I'd thought there had been a collision but apparently not.

    It's almost as if people forgot that snow is slippery, and that when you can't see pavement through the snow you'd better slow the hell down.

    Got to work a bare five minutes late, and there was no one waiting which seemed miraculous to me. Not only was there no one waiting but my first scheduled appointment wasn't until 11 AM, which was awesome. In fact, the weather kept things calm for most of the morning, and things only started picking up after it stopped snowing around 1 PM...which was when another person came in anyway.

    Can't complain.

    But as quickly as the ground turned white again, it's going to go back to being greenish-brown; in theory it's supposed to be about 60° on Wednesday and it's supposed to hit 45° tomorrow.

    Even so, I took time today at work to put on Pat Metheny Group's "Spring Ain't Here", as I always do when it snows in springtime.

    * * *

    The big plan for right now is to go take a nap. Mrs. Fungus is going to be home in about an hour or so, and I'll have to make tacos and probably wash the dishes, so I'd better get a few winks while I can.
    Sunday, March 22nd, 2015
    8:22 pm
    #4633: Well, one more day to go before my weekend.
    Today is my Thursday. I actually had a very good day today. It wasn't too busy, I singlehandedly hit 174% of today's sale budget, and I only had two stupid people to contend with--and they weren't too asinine.

    Kind of makes me worry about what tomorrow is going to be like.

    * * *

    If you make unskilled labor too expensive, it will be replaced with robots. That is what will happen; it's an economic inevitability. In fact, once robots can do the kind of jobs humans can do after a few minutes' simple instruction, without lengthy and complex programming, human labor will be priced right out of the market.

    Imagine how gleeful UPS would be if they didn't have to pay guys $14 an hour to unload trucks. Presently it's a job that must be done by humans; we currently do not have the technology to program a robot to pick up boxes from the random jumble that is a semi trailer after a brisk ride on the freeway, at least not as quickly as a human can do it.

    But the day is coming when robots will replace humans in that task.

    Make the production of fast food expensive enough--by pricing labor too high--and your local McDonald's will turn into an automated burger factory.

    There will continue to be tasks for which robots are ill-suited, but none of them are going to be low-skill jobs. Anything that requires repetition without thought is a prime candidate for automation, and that describes nearly the entirety of manufacturing: once the assembly line is set up and all the bugs are out, no intelligence is required--and robots are perfect at doing the exact same thing over and over and over again, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. With micrometric precision and zero wasted energy.

    This can, in theory--and in a sensible world--usher in a new golden age of leisure and plenty. Since we do not live in a sensible world, though, what it will do is enable higher profits without any reduction in prices while vastly increasing unemployment, because the current crop of elites running the show want anything but deflation.

    Technology is a deflationary pressure, though, and it's inevitable that things will get cheaper to make over time.

    Example: who darns socks any more? Your sock gets a hole in it, you throw it out, or you toss it in the rag bag for use as a shop cloth. You don't spend time and energy repairing the hole, though, because you can buy socks for $1 a pair, and it is literally not worth the effort.

    Computers are getting to be the same way. If you don't need a high-zoot machine, you can get by with a $250 budget laptop that runs rings around anything that was available even a decade ago at twice the price. Certainly when your livelihood revolves around selling people service contracts at $200 a pop, the allure of a new machine for $250 is stiff competition, let me tell you. if you want to have a job, you'd better figure out how to get one that involves performing tasks that can't be done by a robot.

    * * *

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to 4 PM tomorrow, because after that I have some time off. Six hours of labor seperate me from my weekend.

    That'll do.
    Saturday, March 21st, 2015
    3:39 pm
    #4632: The Badge Gang
    Advice Goddess has a post up about "asset forfeiture". Worth reading.

    Asset forfeiture is, of course, the governmeng presuming guilt: if you're carrying $10,000 in cash of course you are planning (or did) something nefarious, so they'll just take it from you. Since taking the money from you is the goal of the program, they don't need to arrest you, and the unconstitutional law which enables this kind of thuggery does not require that any charges be filed against the person. (You do get idiocy in the records like "Cook County vs. $250,000 cash", of course, but that's just to keep the records straight and The Law Is An Ass.)

    So you have a situation where a law abiding citizen who just happens to be carrying a large sum of money ends up being fined for...nothing. Remember, he's not been found guilty of a crime, nor even charged with one; most of the time the victims of asset forfeiture aren't even arrested, let alone booked or arraigned. Yet whatever amount of cash they had on hand is taken by the government on the presumption that a crime has occurred.

    But we were born free.

    This law is another reason the war on (some) drugs is an abject failure.

    * * *

    I can only conclude that Obama is bound and determined to help Iran get nuclear weapons.

    Of course, Obama hates Netanyahu and Israel because they're telling him he's doing something egregiously stupid. Israel is continually reminding Obam and the State Department that if Iran has nukes it will use them and it will use them on both Israel and the United States.

    Obama is, of course, teh Smrtest Man EVAH and since everyone else is stupid he gets angry when they tell him he's wrong. But Netanyahu is not going to back down and decide to give in because All Opposition To Obama Is Just Racism--Netanyahu doesn't give a wet fart about Obama's skin color, as far as I know, and has absolutely no white guilt because slavery--and Obama cannot make him shut up about threats to Israel.

    The President needs something he can point to as a success; the agreement with Iran is nothing more than legacy building, and he wants to have a foreign policy issue that he can claim is a success even if it only works out on the level of "we did everything we set out to do".

    Part of the problem is that he's got John F'in Kerry as his Sec'y of State, and he basically embodies Dumb and Dumber. But that is only part of the problem; the other part is that it's bleeding obvious to anyone who's not a D.C. insider that Iran isn't going to keep their word and they're going to go right on doing whatever they want.

    The only way to civilize Iran is to nuke it and start over. No one wants to do that, so the second best option is to isolate them and do everything possible to keep them from developing nukes on their own. Ordinarily that would include allowing Israel its own head with regard to strikes on Iran, but of course Obama wants the deal and Iran has probably said they'll walk if Israel hits Iran--so Obama tells Israel to back off, and makes it stick with the threat of economic sanctions against Israel.

    Israel is an ally of the US. Iran is an enemy--they say so themselves--placating our enemies at the expense of our allies is a surefire way to make sure that we end up eating a bucket of dicks.

    * * *

    Lately, at work, I have been noticing something. I don't know if it's new, or if I've just been oblivious, but of late there's been a definite uptick in the "obvious marajuana user" category.

    I mean, there's one guy who comes in every once in a while who has relatives in Mexico and I'm pretty sure he loves him some ganja, but he was one guy. Last week this other dude came in and his laptop reeked of pot. I mean, as soon as I opened the thing, I'm pretty sure my pupils dialated--that's how much it stank.

    I didn't say what I wanted to say: "Why are you bringing this in? Did you spill bong water on it?" But fuck, I had to work for it.

    This past week, then, I've had some three or four people who were obvious users. One guy was so toasted he couldn't understand the concept of us reinstalling his operating system. I had to explain it about five times. This other guy came in--eyes red--and he was kind of out of it, too, and his odor was pretty spliffy. Then I got buttonholed by a guy in the camera department, and it was obvious he'd been smoking the stuff, and yesterday this woman came in and I could barely stand to be in the same area as her, because whatever sort of ditch weed she'd been smoking was probably only anecdotally pot.

    Well, whatever--I don't really care all that much what people smoke, but it'd be nice if I didn't have to smell it. Regular cigarette smoke smell is bad enough, but pot just smells bad.

    * * *

    Today is a day off, and I can spend it with my honey. She's just as happy about this as I am, which is a miracle.

    Like any couple, we have arguments from time to time, and as usual it was my fault. But there is always a silver lining in every cloud, and in the case of a marital argument it's the "making up" part. I think we scared the cats, and I had to search for my underwear, but it's all good.
    3:07 pm
    #4631: What the hell do YOU know?
    The arrogance of these people knows no bounds. And the whole schmeer leads with CO2 content of the atmosphere.

    Apparently climatologists have decided that 350 ppm is the "right" concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and above that All Is Lost, Earth Is Doomed.

    Horseshit. I'm not going to embed, again, the various graphs showing the demonstrated relationship between atmospheric CO2 and temperature because I'm tired of doing that every damned time someone says something stupid like this. (You can see them here. Oh, and here for a discussion about how climatologists are doctoring the records.)

    There is no evidence that our carbon emissions have any effect whatsoever on the climate, nor is there any demonstration that higher temperatures would be bad in the first place even if our carbon emissions did have an effect on climate. There is just as much--and better--evidence to suggest that human carbon emissions have a beneficial effect on our climate.

    Next bugaboo, "biodiversity". We don't know what is going on with "biodiversity" on the planet. There is no basis for saying what level of "biodiversity" is good and what level is crisis, nor is there any way to prove that that "90% biodiversity" is a critical level below which All Is Lost, Earth Is Doomed, let alone asserting that it's more desirable than the 84% they cite it's at in "some parts of the world such as Africa".

    To say nothing of the fact that if it's only happening in "parts of the world", chances are that any unfilled ecological niches will not remain long unfilled, because--gasp!--animals can migrate. Real world example: after the big West Nile epidemic killed off all the crows around here, suddenly biodiversity increased, and now we have owls and finches and hawks where once there were crows and, uh, robins? Maybe a blue jay once in a while?

    The use of phosphorus and nitrogen--they claim we're adding twice as much phosphorus and almost three times as much nitrogen to the environment as it can handle, far exceeding the levels at which All Is Lost, Earth Is Doomed.

    Question: what percentage of the Earth's annual nitrogen and phosphorus budget does that amount to? I know in the case of CO2, human contribution to CO2 in the atmosphere is about 3%. I also know that the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens by itself spewed more sulfur dioxide and other crap into the atmosphere than man did in the entirety of his history on this planet.

    I tend to take this kind of grave pronouncement with a grain of salt, because every time--every time--the people making the pronouncement that All Is Lost, Earth Is Doomed don't tell you by how much the human contribution is dwarfed by the natural contribution. The human emissions basically amount to noise in the data.

    And the last reason All Is Lost, Earth Is Doomed: deforestation. Oh gawd, the land mass of the planet should be covered 75% with forests, and it's only at 62%. First off, there's a major problem with how we tally deforestation. A lot of the time, these goobers count previously cleared land, which has since grown back over, as "deforested" even though there is forest there. Simple fact is, even where people are hacking huge rents in the Amazon Jungle, it grows back very quickly because the jungle is, well, a jungle. There's a lot of competition for resources, and because of that stuff grows very fast to take advantage of a newly available resource such as, oh, sunlight. Yeah.

    The cleared jungle grows back very quickly unless you keep hacking it back, and in most cases the people cutting down trees aren't going back to cut the grass and weed, you know? They cut down trees because lumber is valuable, and then they walk away and find more trees to cut down. Meanwhile, the clear-cut areas immediately recover, and within a few years you can't really tell what was cut where, unless you get above the canopy and look at the height of the trees.

    Simply put, I don't believe their figure, because I know this shit is constantly misrepresented on purpose. (Kind of like global warming and-and-and.)

    So that gets us out of the "All Is Lost, Earth Is Doomed" categories, but let's look at the rest of them, too.

    Emissions of aerosols: again, one erution--Mount Saint Helens in 1980--dumped more aerosols into the atmosphere than Man has in his entire history. There have been several eruptions since 1980, and the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1992 was so dirty it cooled the whole planet by half a degree.

    Human aerosol emissions are not even noise in the volcanic emissions signal.

    Ozone depletion: Hoo boy.

    What I like about this is the chart's tacit admission that ozone levels over Antarctica recover after they hit their nadir. It says it drops to (not even below!) 200 dobson units (DU) "every spring". It can only do that if it recovers afterwards.

    And I'll say it again: the Antarctic ozone "hole" was discovered in 1956 by Dobson himself, and it was explained as a phenomenon related to the antarctic polar vortex, which happens every year...and then the whole thing was quietly forgotten, of interest only to meteorologists, until suddenly All Is Lost, Earth Is Doomed because onoes teh ozonez.

    1956 was, by the way, long before CFCs came into common use.

    Next up, ocean acidification. Now, I give them points for saying this one's okay, because a lot of econazis are insisting that the ocean pH is already too far out of whack, All Is Lost, Earth Is Doomed, etcetera. The problem is that it's not that far out of whack, and we're really not sure what "normal" is. On the other hand, though, it's already been shown that the link between atmospheric CO2 and ocean pH is questionable at best, and given the fact that climatologists LIE ABOUT GODDAMNED EVERYTHING I for one don't buy the causal link at all.

    Freshwater use: this might be of concern on a planet where fresh water does not LITERALLY FALL OUT OF THE FUCKING SKY.

    Lastly, the dumping of what I'll lump together under "kitchen sink"--basically anything man-made--and again they get a few points for admitting that they actually don't know what the "boundary" is. But I take those points back for the way they try to scaremonger it by adding that we don't know how much crap is being dumped. That is bullshit; if you can tally fertilizer use and all the other figures that need summing in order to issue a chart full of grave pronouncements like this one, you for damned sure ought at least to be able to come up with some kind of estimate.

    But the idea here is to scaremonger: "Well, we don't know at what level All Is Lost, Earth Is Doomed, but we don't really know what we're dumping, either."

    In fact, the idea of the whole stinking chart is to scaremonger. None of these things are crises, and the Earth is not going to suddenly turn into a barren, searing desert.

    What a load of fatuous crap.
    Friday, March 20th, 2015
    10:40 pm
    #4630: Well, I have fixed another appliance.
    Last night, Mrs. Fungus brought home tilapia and some other stuff. I was going to cook it, but first I needed a stove that could broil!

    Pulled the stove out, unplugged it, removed board, unsoldered relays, soldered in new relays, installed board, plugged in, tried--whoops, forgot to reinstall broiler element--unplugged, installed broiler element, tested--works!

    The oven went on and the oven went off. No problem.

    The relay that switches the broil element on and off showed signs of having overheated--the potting around the contacts that carry the high current for the element had turned dark brown--and the circuit board itself showed signs of overheating. So that's what caused the relay to fail closed, and that's why the stove went haywire.

    The stove is thirteen years old. Theoretically, this repair should last a similar time. Here's hoping!

    * * *

    I continue to reacquaint myself with the 1390.

    * * *

    Way to go, San Francisco arch diocese! California continues to face a serious drought, but apparently there is plenty of water available to keep homeless people from sleeping in the church doorways.

    Have to wonder how fervently the San Francisco arch diocese argued for SF to become a "sanctuary city" that doesn't regulate the homeless, you know, like making a crime out of vagrancy.

    Now, the Catholic Church was arguably started by Saint Peter, to whom was given the charge by Jesus Christ Himself to, among other things, "feed my sheep". Yet here we have a Catholic arch diocese saying, "Well, we certainly don't want those homeless people here being all vagranty! Just think of what it does for property values!"

    Yeah, it's going to be kind of hard for them to defend that when they're up in heaven. Priests don't get a break just because they're priests; in fact priests are held to a higher standard of behavior because they're supposed to know better.

    ...I knew, briefly, a retired priest who was scared shitless of dying. He had to have his scapular on every night, no ifs ands or buts, because he was petrified that he'd die without it. I'm not going to speculate why, but whatever sin he'd committed that he'd never confessed to haunted him. (IDK what it might be. For all I know, he took a buck from the collection plate to buy a candy bar.)

    Well, it's not for me to judge, and I'm certainly not in a position to be critical, but I do happen to think that hosing the homeless down with water is not what Jesus meant when he charged Peter with the maintenance of His flock.

    * * *

    If you have a large quantity of cash on hand, it must mean you're a criminal. That's dangerously close to "presumption of guilt", which is verboten...but then again the only people paying attention to the Constitution these days are crusty bloggers and right-wing nutjobs (self included).

    * * *

    Thanks to the use of Social Security funds, the national debt looks like it's about $18 trillion. The linked article makes the point that it could actually be more than ten times that much.

    Yeah: all the IOUs collected in the Social Security "lock box" (and other places) tally up to about $205 trillion dollars. Trillion, with a "T" at the front: two point oh five times ten to the fourteenth power, basically a 2 with fourteen zeros after it. $205,000,000,000,000. Yeah.

    That is heart-stoppingly bad.

    * * *

    Global trade is slowing way the hell down. You can ship a 20-foot container to Europe for a bit more than $600, which is depression-level.

    I remember several years ago talking about how global shipping was down some 17%, and then finding an article showing vast fleets of container ships just moored and doing nothing...and it turned out that some 17% of the world's container ships were, guess what, idle.

    How much worse is it now?

    * * *

    "The price of electricity will necessarily skyrocket," said Prince Barack Hussein Obama before his coronation. So he's working mightily on making that happen--or, rather, his lackeys in the EPA are working mightily, as he watches from the comfortable confines of the nearest golf course--and we're going to see the result really soon.

    Illinois, I find, is pretty fair dinkum for the price of electricity, which shocks me to no end.

    * * *

    The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Notice that this is happening under leftist governments, because leftism is inveterately nepotistic.

    * * *

    I really do think that I'm going to have to get myself a wrist rest for this keyboard. The Gateway keyboard I've been using since time immemorial has one, and I've gotten used to it. So when I switch to this highly non-ergonomic but supremely nifty keyboard, that doesn't have a wrist rest, I find that the heels of my hands get roughed up a bit. *sigh*

    Well, it's a process, right?
    Thursday, March 19th, 2015
    4:44 pm
    #4629: For future reference
    The Asus M51AC has a PS/2 keyboard connector. *whimper*

    The PS/2 to USB adapter arrived today, so once I had assembled my lunch and got everything else out of the way I got the connector out, plugged the 1390 into it, and ducked under the desk to plug it in. The flashlight I keep on the side of the computer was not there, so I tried to plug in the USB dongle by feel, but couldn't; finally I went and got the flashlight (which I'd left in the kitchen during my stove diagnostics) and had a gander at the back of the machine to see where I could plug in the dongle. And what did my inspection reveal?

    Right above where the keyboard had been plugged in, a PS/2 connector. I said some bad words.

    So here I sit in solemn joy! The IBM 1390 is connected through the system's keyboard port and working splendidly.

    In my defense, though, is the fact that I handle brand-new computers all the time, and none of them have any PS/2 connectors on them.

    The worst part is, it's not even worth sending back the convertor. It'd cost me more to ship it back than I'd get for returning the f-ing thing.

    Still: IBM 1390 connected to Floristica! WIN.

    * * *

    I love this headline: "Harry Reid Filibusters on Behalf of Slaveholders".

    See, sometimes people come to the US thinking they're going to get a job as a domestic servant or something, only when they get here, their "employers" take their passport and other papers, make them work for free, and then tell them that if they try to get help from the authorities they'll be arrested for being in the country illegally. Etcetera, etcetera.

    Slavery, by any other name....

    Human trafficking, regardless of purpose, is wrong. It's time for the Democrat Party to join the rest of us in the 21st century.

    * * *

    Okay, so let me make sure I understand this. If white people refuse to let black people in, it's racism. If black people refuse to let white people in, it's "creating a safe space". Is that how it goes?

    Let's try an experiment with the first two paragraphs of the article linked by Ms. Alkon:
    In the wake of a controversial aryan-students-only assembly at Oak Park and River Forest High School, members of the School District 200 Board said Monday they're worried about potential legal consequences.

    OPRF gained national attention for an "Aryan Lives Matter" assembly held Feb. 27 after parents of Jewish students who tried to participate in the assembly complained they were turned away. Principal Nathaniel Rouse, the assembly's organizer, said he thought aryan students would speak more freely among members of their own race, a model known as affinity grouping.
    No, no problems there!

    Meanwhile, Starbucks is trying to find newer and more efficient ways to get people to stop buying their overpriced caffiene slurries. Lecturing paying customers on race is a great way to make sure people don't want to visit your business.

    * * *

    Same vein, different minority. Transsexuals are screaming over a bill that makes it harder for people to claim they're transsexual, particularly when they do so only for the sake of an expedient: "Heh heh, yeah, I know I look like a guy, but I'm a woman, so I'm going to go into the girls' locker room and change. Heh heh heh."

    If your driver's license says "F" under "sex" or "gender", you go into the women's locker room. This law doesn't change that. It just keeps the f-ing perverts in line.

    * * *

    Karl Denninger applies the Laws of Thermodynamics to economics.

    The thing I find most interesting about the Laws of Thermodynamics is how closely they apply to just about everything. I'm not surprised by Denninger's discussion, though I would have been a few years ago; but since then I've learned that the Laws of Thermodynamics apply to a whole bunch of processes that we wouldn't consider to be physical ones, subject to such constraints.

    Like economics.

    * * *

    More global warming is headed for Massachusetts. That's right--a major snowstorm on the first day of spring can only be further proof that global warming is going to destroy us all. You have been warned.

    * * *

    $5 says my wife is going to hate the clicky-clicky coming from the 1390. *Sigh*

    It doesn't have a Windows key. CTRL-ESC switches between the Start screen and the desktop, but I don't think there's a combination that'll bring up the power user menu (which is WIN-X on a keyboard with a Windows key). Well, life is a compromise, and if you want the mechanical switch clickiness of the best computer keyboard EVAH you have to be willing to give up a few things here and there.

    This keyboard was manufactured on September 15, 1986--it says so on the model/serial plate--which makes it a mere twenty-nine years old and still going strong.

    Because it's been about eight years since I last used one more than incidentally, though, it's taking me some time to get used to it. It doesn't have a wrist rest, and the key spacing is a bit wider than I'm used to. But that will come with time, and I can buy a wrist rest for a few bucks at work, so none of this is really an issue.

    Ahh, clicky goodness. How much I missed you.
    Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
    4:22 pm
    #4628: Return of the rounding error
    What we need to do is stop pretending that ten-year budgets mean anything. Because the Congress we have right now changes in January of 2017, and the Congress that we get in 2017 is not beholden to anything the present Congress decides.

    So when you look at that budget, it's a lot more realistic to assume that the "savings" they are crowing about will not happen past FY 2017, and that means it's only $459 billion "savings" over two years, rather than $5,500 billion over ten.

    And given the way that the GOP rolls over for Democrats in every last case I don't even believe that they'll cut that much. Besides--this is why I scare quoted the word "savings"--I'd bet money that these "cuts" are the typical reductions in the rate of growth, rather than actual for-real honest-to-God reductions in spending. "We're not going to increase spending on X by 10% next year. No, we're only going to increase it by 5%, which means we're cutting $XYZtheta billions in spending! We're awesome!"

    The "cuts" get larger every year, of course, because the Congress of 2015 really has no say in what the Congress of 2025 is going to be doing.

    Summary: this budget is 100% horseshit. They're not cutting anything, the government will spend more next year than it did this year, and all this bullshit is meant solely to keep the GOP base from voting all these shitheads out of office.

    Bonus points: Social Security is on the first line of the chart, and it claims they'll save a billion dollars per year from 2020 through 2025. They then add up these six billion dollars and claim it represents a savings of four billion dollars. THESE MOTHERFUCKERS CAN'T EVEN ADD.


    * * *

    Shithead is unhappy that he got what he voted for, and he got it--borrowing a phrase from Karl Denninger--long and hard and dry, and now his man-vagina hurts a lot.

    Well, dude, you helped to saddle the rest of us with the turd burglar in chief, so my suggestion to you is to stock up on Preparation H and get used to it, and learn how to stop voting with your feels! and start voting with your f-ing brain.

    * * *

    Heh. Vox Day talks about a Firefox plug-in which turns feminist extrusions into nazi extrusions, and I think that's pretty f-ing funny.

    It looks like it takes the word "man" and replaces it with "Jew", and likewise swaps "aryan" for "woman"...and suddenly mainstream feminism is placed in stark relief: "To be Jew is to be deficient, emotionally limited; Jewness is a deficiency disease and Jews are emotional cripples."

    And then commenter Porky adds a real feminazi quote:
    "The most merciful thing that a Jewish family does to one of its infant members is to kill it."

    Margaret Sanger
    Sometimes you don't need to do anything but present the things they themselves say.

    * * *

    Continued working on the story last night, only I got stuck after adding about four pages and ended up surfing YouTube and looking at utterly useless dreck for two hours. On the plus side, over the past few days I've written perhaps 20-odd pages of this stuff. I still don't know whether it's worth anything, but it's writing and it's SF, rather than blog posts, so if it helps me get back into the swing of a proper writing schedule it's worthwhile. IMHO.

    The writing part--the part where you actually put words down on paper (or into memory)--that's the easy part. The hard part is knowing what you're going to write, having the stuff in the output buffer ready to go onto the page.

    The nascent ideas are percolating in the back of my head, and just now while I was thinking about it I realized there's a couple of ways I could take the story that would make it all make sense. Thanks, brain! Nice of you to share. *sigh*

    But because I was up until 4 AM, and awoke again around 6-ish (and then was up until 9) I ended up sleeping until it was almost 3. My wife should be home in about an hour, after which I'll be paying attention to her rather than banging away at the keyboard...and I have to go to bed early tonight.

    Well, it could be worse.

    In any case, the PS/2-to-USB dongle is supposed to arrive tomorrow. I look forward to seeing if Floritica can use the IBM 1390, or what. I think that--regardless--that keyboard will go with El-Hazard into the Monk's Cell. But come to think of it I just so happen to have two 1390s, and as long as I kept at least one of the DIN-to-PS/2 convertors I had, I can then daisy-chain DIN-to-PS/2-to-USB and have 1390s on both computers. Whee!

    Otherwise I'll have to find one, or maybe a PS/2 cable for the 1390. (Or maybe just get a PS/2 plug and put it on the existing cable.) WTF, I'll figure it out; I'm smart.
    Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
    3:23 pm
    #4627: What's "grand" about this?
    Boehner, the Democrat majority leader in the House of Representatives, is a skunk. "Wait," you say. "John Boehner is a Republican!" Indeed, that's what his party affiliation is, and it says "Republican" on the Ohio ballot.

    But despite the fact that he ran on opposing Democrat policies in general and Obama in particular, since January 20th the GOP has done nothing but cave, give in, submit, and yield to Democrats, to the point that any challenge to Boehner's leadership will be opposed by Democrats. Well, hell, why wouldn't they vote for Boehner, when he's giving them everything they want without even token opposition?

    Under Boehner's leadership--if you can call it that--the GOP has raised spending on items even George W. "I still have checks left!" Bush thought were excessive.

    That's why he's got to go.

    * * *

    Aaron Shock is stepping down.
    Schock had come under Question by Extremist Right Wingers for misrepresenting $3000 in costs for a private jet flight as a purchase of "software," and for his lavish $40,000 decoration of his congressional office.
    It's worth noting that the private jet flight in question actually cost $13,000 and was provided by a constituent, but Shock only paid $3,000 for it. It therefore counts as a bribe or, at least, an unethical campaign donation.

    I'm glad this guy is leaving, but I'd wager he's only doing it to avoid prosecution.

    * * *

    Borepatch links to a story by a "nationally known author" who writes about the decline and fall of Detroit. I am just cynical enough to expect that this woman votes Democrat, and does not see the connection between her votes and the current sad state of her childhood home.

    * * *

    I touched on this one last week. "Big Data shocker: Over 6 million Americans have reached the age of 112," goes the headline. The lede adds, "Just 13 are claiming benefits, and 67,000 of them are WORKING".

    So there are even more methuselans around than we thought there were. Who are these people? Are they Heinlein's Howard Families? Is there some kind of secret society of people who are getting anagathic treatments from space aliens, but are insufficiently "with it" to cover their tracks? Is there actually spring water from the fountain of youth for sale somewhere?

    Or is it--as seems more likely--that illegal aliens are using the social security numbers of dead people in order to avoid having their illegal status detected?

    I'm going to have to go with Occam's Razor on this one and assume it is the latter.

    * * *

    I think Vox Day is right about this. The problem with Adolf Hitler is, he wasn't a madman; he was too high-functioning for that. He may have been a psychopath; certainly he was evil--but he wasn't batshit insane. He was able to present his ideas in a cogent and reasonable fashion, and he was very persuasive.

    That's what scares people about Mein Kampf. It shows that Hitler applied reason and thought to achieving his goals, however wrong they may have been, and it forces people to confront the fact that Hitler wasn't a monster. He was human.

    And if Hitler was merely human, it means that people are capable of great evil. That simply does not fit with the leftist world view, which holds that people are inifintely perfectable and that everyone wants to help out and fit in and follow the rules.

    The leftist world view maintains that only monsters are bad. Problem is, "people who don't agree with us" is the majority of their definition of "monster".

    Vox Day concludes:
    ...[T]hat is possibly the best reason of all that it should be published; it is a vivid reminder that far from being "outside of human logic", every rational man is capable of choosing between good and evil, and choosing between setting himself to achieving great good and committing great harm.
    There's not much more I can add to that.

    * * *

    When I build a world and write about it, one of the things that I think about are the rules of that world. There's nothing unusual about that; all SF writers do it. You have to establish rules and follow them--or if you break them you must do it in creative and limited ways--else your story becomes a mishmash where anything can happen and logic is worthless. You end up with a severe "Mary Sue" story, or worse.

    The problems come in when you establish a world that looks a lot like ours, but isn't. It has to be obvious that it's not our world, else you get objections from readers who didn't notice the differences.

    That's all right, though.

    * * *

    So I can say that Velocity's new YouTube mining show, Wheels That Fail, is approximately as bad as I'd feared it would be. The voiceover is what kills it dead, exactly as expected, and I knew that there would be one. The comments made in the voiceover add nothing, are not funny, and frequently are simply stupid.

    A better way to handle it would have been to have the voiceover explain what was going on around the clip: "Joe Blow had finally figured out how to do a stoppie with his motorcycle, and had done four of them perfectly. Then he had his friend videotape the fifth." Something that adds information and context without trying to be funny.

    This kind of thing is why I can't watch Mystery Science Theater 3000. When something is stupid or bad I make my own comments; I don't need a bunch of cretins on TV to do it for me, especially since they typically say things that I don't find even remotely amusing.

    The YouTube fail vids don't need commentary. That's why there are so many of them; people aggregate the clips and patch them together, and other people (like me) watch them: look at the idiot doing a wheelie at 70 MPH--is he surprised that he gets into a wreck? Certianly I don't need a voiceover to tell me what's happening on the screen.

    I used to watch Velocity more than I do now. There are too many idiots and dickheads on there now; all the shows feature some morons with bad facial hair and tattoos going on and on about building this or that car for some rich asshat, or which they plan to sell for scores of thousands of dollars. There's no reality in these shows, nothing useful or interesting to me. Wheeler Dealers, at least, takes on different cars than the same old Camaro/Mustang/57 Chevy/hot rod/Challenger/pickup truck/v-twin Harley clone stuff we see over and over and over again from all the other car shows in the universe.

    I want to see people do interesting things with vehicles. I don't want to see people buy a brand new car, then upgrade it by bolting on a bunch of parts from a kit they got out of a catalog.

    That's also why I stopped watching SpikeTV's Powerblock. It got to the point that's all they were doing; even Extreme 4x4--which had started out fabricating just about everything--had begun to move towards assembling kits. "Today we're going to install a Skyjacker 5" lift kit on a brand new truck!" Thrillsville. Wake me when it's over. Horsepower TV was the first to go, and by the time I quit watching all they ever did was to buy kits or assemblies and put them together. They stopped building engines, for the most part, and just swapped parts on already-running engines to compare effects on their engine dyno. Occasionally informative, but always boring.

    Wheeler Dealers is the last gasp. They do interesting things, though, and every week features something different. A Citroen 2CV, for example, or a BMW Z1. They go all over the world, just about, to get cars, and there is very, very little duplication. (They've done two VW buses that I know of, for example; they might have done two Beetles. I know they did at least one Beetle and a dune buggy.)

    What they do not do is what the American shows do ad nauseum: keep bringing in Camaros or Mustangs or Chargers or 57 Chevies or hot rods, wash rinse repeat, over and over again, doing exactly the same things every time: change engine and transmission, add aftermarket brakes, 20" wheels, lower car, add high-flow exhaust. Blah blah blah etcetera.

    ...I'd like to see WD do a Fiero, though. That would be fun.

    * * *

    Well, today is Saint Patrick's Day, and I've run my errand for the day: I went to the store to buy corned beef and cabbage. It's simmering on the stove, and it's going to take a couple of hours before it's ready for the potatoes and carrots, so I've got some time. And so I'll now turn my attention to writing fiction. Whee!
    12:07 am
    #4626: Here's what you can do about it: NOTHIN', THAT'S WHAT!
    California is turning back into a desert. California was a desert for quite a long time, and only through the application of modern technology was it able to be, temporarily, anything else. Now the water is running out, and it's running out because human beings do not have nearly as much power to affect the environment as they like to think they do.

    As I said the last time I commented on this, there is one thing we could do: build lots of nuclear-powered desalinization plants along the seashore. It will take a lot of very large nuclear reactors to process enough seawater per day to meet California's need for fresh water.

    Otherwise, we might as well abandon the idea of cheap produce year round.

    * * *

    So a dollar spent on lobbying the government returns some $775 to the drug industry. It's official: we live in a crony capitalist society now.

    * * *

    Whore. I suppose she wasn't listening when the pastor/priest/officiant of her wedding said the part about "forsaking all others", or maybe she's one of those ninnies who wrote her own wedding vows so they wouldn't give her badfeels.

    Either way--whore. With or without her husband's permission, whore. Plain and simple.

    * * *

    So: last night I found myself writing, and banged out a crapton of pages on the "agricultural world" story, including getting into the story about the kid who converts a shipping container into a house.

    I'm not sure where all this is going, but it's looking pretty good to me. We'll have to see how it works out. On the plus side, it's nice to be able to concentrate on writing well enough that I was able to write more than a couple of pages at a time. Minus side, it kept my wife awake and I had to stop in the middle of a roll, but since I woke up early today (by a couple of hours) I was able to get down the rest of the stuff I'd intended to write last night.

    This guy's art is helping me to envision what some things in this world look like. I really like the look and feel of his paintings. Bonus points for his painting, "Hacking the Loop", where the guy is using an old Compaq computer, and has stacks of floppies in front of it.

    This image is my current desktop, because awesome.

    * * *

    I started out feeling pretty crummy today--knock-on from yesterday--but as the day wore on I started feeling better, and by the time I came home I felt all right. The fact that I've got a couple days off probably has a lot to do with this.
    Sunday, March 15th, 2015
    4:25 pm
    #4625: This is what passes for today's post.
    I woke up today feeling well embalmed. No energy, no gumption, no reserve, no willpower. Ended up calling off work because I just could not move.

    Five hours of sleep later I feel better but not good, and regardless of other factors I have to run to the store. I do not want to go. I don't want to go anywhere but back to bed.

    The only real symptoms are the fatigue, a generalized ill feeling below my diaphragm, crampiness, and a headache. I am hoping this is not merely a precursor of a worse illness because I can't afford to take another day off.

    Today is a very warm Sunday for mid-March in the midwest. 64°, partly sunny, a bit of a wind--perfect for riding a motorcycle if you're so inclined, but I am not, and nothing's going to change that. Tomorrow's supposed to be over seventy. I'm not riding the bike tomorrow, either.


    * * *

    Last night Mrs. Fungus and I watched Juggernaut expecting it to be a bad 1970s disaster movie. Instead it was a really tense thriller about bombs aboard an ocean liner, and there were a ton of actors in it that I recognized.

    First up: Richard Harris. He played Dumbledore in Harry Potter and was in several other movies, though the one I knew him from was Patriot Games.

    Anthony Hopkins was in it, though that was obvious from the get-go. Omar Sharif, too; in 1974 he was the biggest star in the thing. But then we got to other roles. In no particular order, and the shows I remember them from:
    Julian Glover (most recently Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones, but a host of others)
    Ian Holm (Bilbo from Lord of the Rings)
    Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett from the first Star Wars trilogy)
    Freddie Jones (Thufur in Dune)
    Tom Chadbon (Duggan in the Doctor Who episode "City of Death")
    Clifton James (Sheriff Pepper in Live and Let Die and Man With The Golden Gun)
    Seeing these people made it even more entertaining than it already was, and at that it was a good movie. (I feel as if I'm forgetting someone, too, but oh well.)

    The bomb defusing scenes were really tense, because unlike modern movies there's no hints, no formula being followed, so you feel as if people could die any time they touch the damned bombs. (And there are seven bombs aboard.) It was shot and directed really well, too.

    There is the fact that we weren't expecting much from it, except maybe a source of wisecracks, and instead got a well-made movie, so that may be coloring my impressions of the thing. It's probably not very high on rewatch factor. I was expecting a "Me, too!" movie made after the success of The Poseidon Adventure but in fact this movie is a lot more suspenseful than that movie was.

    All told, a worthwhile effort.

    * * *

    But I still feel rancid, and I think I'm going back to bed now.
    Saturday, March 14th, 2015
    6:26 pm
    #4624: Marches of the past.
    The ides of March (tomorrow) and I'm looking at previous Fungus posts, thinking about how the world has changed over the last nine years. April 3rd will be the 9th anniversary of Atomic Fungus. When I started this, I didn't envision 4,600 posts; it's something I started as a lark, "Let's see how this goes." I've met plenty of people I wouldn't otherwise know if it weren't for the bloggeratin', and that's good.

    I'm doing this in lieu of anything useful or productive, because I just don't have any energy. Today's not a hell day--I didn't have to work a shift today, just go in for that stupid meeting at 7:30 AM--so I was able to come home, post, and sleep for a while. But I'm still all floppy, because the meeting was stupid, full of the usual cheerleading bullshit that you see at any retail organization. It's hard to be enthusiastic about this job anyway, when nearly all the feedback I get is negative--"You're doing it wrong!"--and every judgement call I make results in more negative feedback. The happy horseshit would be tolerable if I weren't dealing with a cliquey organization where the supervisor's friends can leave early but I get taken to task for leaving on time as directed by the store's general manager. Retaining a firm grip on my temper requires far too much energy, and when I get home I am exhausted.

    My next day off, temps aren't even predicted to hit 50°. *sigh* But we will have warm weather soon enough. Most important is for me to be ready to go on my projects when it is consistently warm. Anyway, if I have the gumption to work on something, I have no trouble with 47° weather; that requires a sweatshirt but otherwise as long as I'm moving it won't be an issue. (Provided it's not raining, but the forecast says "partly cloudy" and I can live with that. And heck, I have enough room in the garage that I can work with the door closed.)

    * * *

    On my way home from work today I was thinking about my skill set, and started getting really unhappy about things. The stove went haywire a week ago; within about two hours of the failure I knew what and why and how to fix it. Who else do I know that can do that? I am friends with one person who can, and acquainted with another (Og and Partner, respectively). Otherwise, I don't know anyone who could do that kind of thing.

    I've worked with my hands since I was a freshman in high school, fixing engines, cars, computers; I've worked with computers daily since I first got my C-64 in 1983, which is not quite 32 years. I learned BASIC in 1981, PASCAL in 1990, C++ in 1992. I routinely solved intractable problems with computers and printers and was the "go-to" guy the entire time I worked as an on-site computer technician. I trained other techs, one guy almost from scratch, teaching him DOS and interrupts and everything back when "Plug and Play" was still in the future, when you had to worry about terminating resistors and cable polarities on hard and floppy drives, when you still had to set DIP switches on motherboards. And I taught myself that stuff, before I taught him or anyone else.

    I am good with machines. I am not just good with them but 99th percentile good. There are very few people out there who have the kind of innate understanding of machinery like mine--not everyone has a knack for that--so why the hell am I working retail? Why am I not repairing machines instead of trying to sell service plans? My talents are grossly underused in the work I'm doing, and in fact they'd be underused even if I were a full time repair agent at that place.

    The repair process there is "paint by numbers". The tech connects the computer, then puts in a disk which almost entirely automates the repair process, requiring almost no human input. The only time a repair tech has to do anything technical is when the computer doesn't boot, or won't connect, or otherwise cannot be repaired using the software tools. Even then, most of the time the answer is to do a system restore on the computer. A monkey could do that job, most of it.

    Certainly it does not require any real skill or talent.

    Well, no one cares, anyway.

    * * *

    But for now I've got some time to myself, and some nice dinner to eat, and I'm going to go on WoW and slaughter a few monsters with my wife. That's always worthwhile.
    11:37 am
    #4623: Hey, there are folks who are 112 years old in the USA!
    According to E-Verify, about 4,000 of them! Not only are these people elderly, but they are apparently Methuselan in their lifespans because they are still WORKING! I mean, E-Verify is a system meant to determine whether someone is eligible for work in the United States, and if (as Dennginer says) these people were approved to work, well, hot damn. I want the kind of vitamins those people are taking, because I've met one person over the age of 100 in my lifetime and she was confined to a wheelchair.

    Okay, so let's drop the sarcasm and look at reality: there is no living person in the US who is 112 years old or older. Most people do not live to be much older than 100, regardless of circumstance, and the typical life expectancy for an average person is still the biblical "threescore and ten". These 4,000 centegenarians are fraudulent users of social security numbers which do not belong to them, and by definition they are criminals of one stripe or another.

    Karl Denninger asks a perfectly reasonable question: why are these numbers not flagged "used and invalid" when the person dies and they stop sending checks? Why are they allowed to function in every other way except for the purpose of retirement checks? There are a billion possible social security numbers; it's not like we have to re-use them.

    Except, as Denninger notes, that this way it is possible for the numbers to be used by illegal aliens.

    The government wants illegal immigration to take place. They don't want to stop it. If they did, they would be trying to stop it. Example: the government really doesn't want private ownership of firearms, but has not (so far) been able to prevent it. So the BATFE(eieio) says, "We're going to ban the ammunition which is most commonly used in the rifles that government least wants people to own, Because Crime And Murder."

    It is fortunate that they must still ask the people for permission. Absent the Second Amendment, they wouldn't have to.

    ...but in many places government needs not heed the public. Environmental regulation, for example, is a place where public input is utterly disregarded. Education is another. And immigration.

    The only concession made to the immigration question is the GOP's lame attempt to cover its ass--said attempt being insulting in its transparency, since the cover story can probably fool a toddler or the average Democrat voter--and otherwise no one is even trying to limit the influx of illegals. No one wants to stop illegal immigration, though they have different reasons for it.

    Democrats like it because they want to turn as many states into Democrat strongholds as possible. They know that immigrants will tend to vote Democrat, and they know that immigrants will tend to stay in the border states like California and Texas--large electoral count states which, if they get a lock on them, will guarantee them Presidential victories ad nauseum. (This is also why they want an imperial President when it's their guy: if they get a lock on the Presidency, they can get their way without pesky voting.) Also, it keeps wages down, and big business donates heavily to Democrats.

    Republicans like it because it keeps wages down, and big business also donates heavily to Republicans. (Some Republicans think that conservative elements of immigrant culture makes them naturals for joining the GOP, but those Republicans are idiots who don't understand demographics.) GOP also thinks that more workers equals more tax revenue, but this thinking is also faulty because illegals don't pay taxes like legals and citizens do. Finally, there is an element in the GOP leadership's thinking that if they pander to hispanics, they will naturally turn to the Republican party the same way blacks turned Democrat after Johnson's efforts in the 1960s. This is also in error.

    So we have a situation where the government is uninterested in enforcing the laws that are on the books, but it's politically impossible simply to strike them down. Anyone who votes to eliminate immigration restrictions is going to lose his next election, because the people are not so stupid as to uncritically swallow the horseshit spewed by both wings of the Government Party. That's why we're getting "executive amnesty": Obama's not facing another election, and the only thing Congress has to do to get the amnesty they want is disagree enough, in public, to let it happen...all the while meeting after hours for cigars and brandy and having a congenial laugh over how easy it is to get rich while doing effectively nothing on the taxpayer's dime.

    * * *

    "Of the 102 million working-age Americans without work today, only 8.7 million are counted by the BLS as unemployed. Out of all working-age Americans, over 92 million are without jobs and are not counted by the BLS as unemployed." Why? I'll tell you why: because if the reality were reported, there would be a lot of bankers and politicians hanging from lampposts. That's why.

    The truth is, under Obama, the rich have gotten much richer while the poor have gotten poorer. 23% unemployment reported as 5.5%, a GDP figure that's pure fiction, inflation that's not counted as inflation--all kinds of funny numbers being promulgated let people pretend that the economy is not in the shitter, but the people on the bottom who are actually in the job market know what's going on. The problem is, many of them aren't being told the facts, and they just listen to what the talking heads on ABC NBC CBS NYT say and accept it as fact, and figure, "Well, I guess it's just me."

    Well, it's not just you. It's everybody. 44% of employable adults in the US have full-time jobs. The median income is under $30,000 a year and the median net worth is barely $45,000. Health insurance has seen double-digit percentage price increases every year since 2010 and the price of food has risen 10% or more while wages have remained stagnant. A gallon of gas costs 40% less than it did a year ago, but no one has any extra money because everything else has gone up--and at that, the price of gasoline has nothing whatsoever to do with anything our government has done, because given their druthers our leaders would just as soon have it be $5 a gallon. (Our sitting President campaigned on the price of electricity "necessarily skyrocket[ing]", for fuck's sake.) Meanwhile, the population of the country has increased by fourteen million since 2007 and there has been no net expansion of the number of jobs. We are actually losing ground.

    I don't know what else to say about this.

    * * *

    It's Saturday and I had to attend a stupid and useless meeting at the store today, from 7:30-9:30. I'm tired and irritated.

    On my way to work today I was again struck with the stupidity which is solipsism. I'm all alone in a world of my creation? I'd like to think that if that were the case, I'd at least generate a better world to live in. WTF.

    Solipsism is why I categorically reject philosophy as useless dreck. I'm sure that there are plenty of useful bits in philosophy, but 90% of everything is crap, and it seems to me that the entire discipline of philosophy has been constructed around making it a herculean task to find those useful nuggets in the vast ocean of useless navel-gazing horseshit. I don't have that kind of time.

    The only philosophy I need is "God loves you, and Jesus died to save you." That's more than enough for me.
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