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

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    Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
    4:05 pm
    #4288: Did it again
    All three Lord of the Rings movies at one sitting, back to back to back.

    That was one thing Mrs. Fungus and I intended to do with our time off, and we did it yesterday. We started at 2:30 PM with Fellowship of the Ring. After that we ordered Chinese (delivery) and continued. Halfway through The Two Towers we stopped watching long enough to hit Culver's for concretes. We finished watching Return of the King at 3 AM Wednesday morning.

    She wanted to keep going and watch both Hobbit movies on-demand, but I nixed that for a few reasons. First, I was tired of sitting in front of the TV. Second, the Hobbit trilogy isn't complete. Third, we can't see the extended versions that way. Fourth, it was already three AM and if we had, we would have been up until 9 AM.

    I still have a bunch of chores nagging at me, and I'm not going to get them done if I spend all my time watching hobbitses.

    ...not that I've managed to do anything constructive other than cutting the grass, around all the panic attacks and gut malf and everything else that's been going on. *sigh*

    Thanks to his role in Lost it is now impossible for Mrs. Fungus and I to see Dominic Monaghan in anything without singing, "You are everybody". Last night it happened half a dozen times at least, whenever Merry popped up and neither of us had said anything for a while. I did it first, when they were stealing fireworks from Gandalf's wagon.

    The scenes where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are pursuing the uruk-hai in order to rescue Merry and Pippin--moving at a trot for three days, pausing only to drink water, that requires superhuman endurance and I didn't see how they could possibly manage that. Then I thought about it: we're talking about an elf, a dwarf, and one of the Numenor; Aragorn is eighty-seven years old and probably not more than a third of the way through his lifespan.

    As an elf, Legolas is immortal, and the drinking game scene demonstrates his endurance. Dwarves are tough bastards, too, though less magical than elves, and while he was keeping up with the elf and the human Gimli had the most trouble with the trek. Aragorn has been surviving on his own in the wild for a very, very long time, and on top of that he's of a race of men that features a spectacularly good constitution.

    These are not, in other words, ordinary people.

    The hobbits could not have maintained that pace; in the company of supermen they are the "ordinary folks". They had to stop and rest and eat, and couldn't fight mobs of orcs and uruk-hai single-handed. If any hobbit showed that kind of endurance it was Frodo, and he probably got that from carrying the Ring. (Possession of which, it must be said, allowed Smeagol/Gollum to live for five hundred years.)

    My wife observed that Sam is probably the real hero of the story, since Frodo would have been unable to complete his quest without his support. I can't argue the point; I think she's right.

    All this supports my opinion, vis-a-vis role playing games, that the only people who become successful adventurers (that is, the ones who survive) are the ones who are special: who have unusual strength, intelligence, dexterity, or constitution, and who put it to use as a warrior, mage, rogue, or what-have-you. An RPG character won't survive very long against supernatural foes (for example) if he is made of ordinary stuff. Even in computer games like World of Warcraft it's difficult to defeat level-appropriate foes solely by hitting them with your weapon; you can do it, but it takes a long time and you take an excess of damage in the process. To drop a foe with a minimu of damage taken to self, you must rely on special attacks, class abilities and the like which do much more damage than the weapon itself. And it's demonstrated time and again that "ordinary" folks (non-player characters) who have only "normal" attacks will be flattened by their foes unless you save them.

    I think about all this because if it weren't for Tolkien's works it's unlikely that the entire fantasy RPG genre would even exist. Since I played FRPGs first and read Tolkien second I cannot help but view Middle Earth through the lens of the FRPG; but since the latter derived from the former, that's perfectly fine.

    Irrespective of all that, though, my wife and I had a grand old time watching those movies.

    * * *

    Thursday evening there's another trustee meeting at church, and hopefully I'll remember this one before it takes place. I forgot all about the last one, remembering it 24 hours late. Argh etc. Still, I put it on my calendar this time, so hopefully I won't forget again.

    * * *

    All that hacking and slashing I saw yesterday has put me in the mood for some WoW. Further, deponent sayeth not.
    Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
    12:05 am
    #4287: Eighteen pages.
    I don't remember how many there were when I started. I think it was three left over from the other day; but today all I did was write.

    It's the "mutiny on the way to Alpha Centauri" story--though that's really only the first part of a much larger story--and though I took time out to cook dinner I otherwise did nothing else but bang keys.

    I'm going to have to read what I wrote after it cools off a little bit, to see how I did, because I don't normally binge-write like this unless something's really burning a hole in my cerebral cortex. Fifteen pages--in about nine hours--is not too shabby, though.

    But I got the main character through the mutiny, and the next step is what happens when they get to Earth--tribunals, admiralty meetings, etc--and then other things. I'm looking forward to writing the rest of the story.

    This particular story, so far, obeys all the laws of physics. In fact there won't be any dramatic license taken until much later; for most of the book interstellar travel is limited to lightspeed, and to travel between Earth and Alpha Centauri. Figure the second third of the book is going to be a travelogue as the tourist stand-in main character explores the Alpha Centauri system; the final third--well, I have my ideas.

    It's been a while since I had this much fun writing a story, though.
    Monday, July 7th, 2014
    5:05 pm
    #4286: Returning to something approximating normality
    Yesterday Mrs. Fungus and I watched the first episode of Leftover. The premise of the story is that 2% of the Earth's population of people has simply disappeared, and apparently the entire planet has collectively lost its shit in the aftermath. No one knows where the people went, nor why they disappeared, nor how.

    Among the symptoms is this cult of people who wear all white clothing, smoke constantly, communicate only in writing, and stalk people, including Liv Tyler, who ends the pilot episode by joining them.

    There were several "Hey, we're on HBO!" moments included, of course.

    ...but don't let my disdain for these elements confuse you. I think it's an okay show and look forward to seeing what's going on. I just hope that the writers have some idea of what's going on themselves, you know, unlike what happened with Lost where the writers started with a premise and just added shit because it would be confusing, and then discovered they had to make some kind of sense out of all of it at the end, and did...poorly.

    In the same vein, we picked up the boxed set of the first season of Under the Dome, because it was $15 (less than that with my discount, actually, though not a lot less) and the trailers for it were intriguing. It's another "something strange happens that no one understands, and this is what happens afterwards" series. We seem to be suckers for that kind of stuff, having watched the first season of Resurrection and the entirety of Lost.


    * * *

    Something I've noticed from reading Sarah Hoyt is how much people on that blog--Sarah and her guest bloggers alike--love to overuse parenthetical statements. If you're embedding parentheses and you're not writing a computer program, you really have to cut it right the hell out. It's confusing to split an already complex sentence with an equally long parenthetical statement, and if you embed them you are compounding the problem.

    One of the very, very precious few useful things I learned from high school English classes was how to recognize when you are using too many parenthetical statements. I wish I could remember which teacher it was who taught me that; it was a useful lesson that I recall to this day, and it's something that I consider every time I write anything.

    Still, Sarah's published and I'm not, so who am I to judge?

    * * *

    The usual finger-wagging from nanny-staters about How Dangerous Fireworks Are. Okay, let me say it again: there is no substitue for safety precautions and common sense.

    Commercial package fireworks are almost universally labeled with the same instructions:
    Do not hold in hand. Do not hold in mouth. Place on ground, light fuse, and get away.
    And the bigger the "bang" the more careful you have to be. Last year, for the first time, I bought mortar-style fireworks. They were six shells to a box with a launch mortar, and they were something like "buy one get three" or something, and at $20 for four boxes the "dollars per fuse" equation was in the right region of the graph.

    And I was careful with those things, because the lifting charge is about the size of a large gumdrop and when you light one of those things it goes PFOOM!--very loudly--out of the mortar. "Light fuse and get away"? As soon as the fuse started I sprinted away, because anything powerful enough to blow a 1 oz shell eighty feet in the air is powerful enough to fuck you right the hell up.

    So you must be careful with them.

    The article is woefully bereft of facts. How did the victim light the thing? How was he holding it? Was he using it correctly, or was he clowning around with it? Was alcohol involved? All the article says is that the guy picked up "a firework" and lit it; it doesn't even tell us what kind of firework it was.

    Yes, fireworks are hazardous. You have things that you light on fire and which accelerate quickly and blow up and emit showers of sparks--yet millions of people manage to use them every year without blowing themselves up or otherwise injuring themselves.

    And most of the time that injuries occur, it's because someone was either misusing the fireworks or because alcohol was involved.

    Myself, I'm too cheap to buy the big stuff; but furthermore I'm simply not interested in setting off large explosions. The people who love quarter- and half-sticks of dynamite are crazy; high explosives are not toys and even M-80s are beyond the pale.

    ...but reading Wikipedia on the subject explains why--some forty years ago--four Black Cats with their wicks twisted together were able to propel an aluminum water tumbler ten or fifteen feet in the air, where today they can barely move a soda can weighing less than half as much: the feds got involved and regulated the fun out of it. *sigh*

    * * *

    As for me, I'm suffering knock-on effects of a stressful week. I think I've taken more Xanax in the past four days than in the entire previous month. Normally I only need a tablet at bedtime, because usually I'm too busy to notice being anxious, but when I lay down to sleep that's when it gets me.

    This past weekend, though, I found that I needed half-tabs during the day because the anxiety was really bad. Really bad, like "eight on a scale of one-to-ten" bad. (I hit "ten" a couple of times in my life. Both were when I was a teenager. I worry about hitting that level again.) I'm grateful that half-tabs were enough to take the edge off, because full tabs would have simply put me in bed.

    And even now I'm sitting here, breathing heavily, sweating, my heart going a mile a minute. Figure I'm at a six easy, possibly seven. Yeah.

    "Oh, just relax! What's the big deal?" You might say. That's just it; I can't relax. It's a chemical imbalance in my brain; there's nothing actually happening that demands I be in such a state of panic. There are no saber-tooth tigers about to pounce on me. There's not a thug with a gun threatening to shoot me if I don't give him the loot. I'm not in any immediate danger, yet here I sit, adrenaline flooding my system, fight or flight reflex safety-wired to "emergency maximum". I can take all the deep breaths I want, and I can think happy thoughts, and I can do all the other psychological tricks they teach you when you have an anxiety disorder, and none of them are doing me a lick of good.

    ...and it's impossible to think rationally or reasonably when you're in this kind of state.

    Guess I'm having another half-tab today. *sigh*
    Sunday, July 6th, 2014
    4:21 pm
    #4285: Achievement unlocked: grass cut!
    Yeah, I finally got it done today. Yesterday I was just feeling too beaten down, emotionally, do to anything constructive. I didn't even cook; Mrs. Fungus and I had leftovers, mostly, but I wasn't in a frame of mind where I could really stand to eat anything.

    On the plus side, I managed to get some restful sleep last night, finally. For a wonder it only took half a Xanax to accomplish, too, and I actually didn't wake up in a blind panic today. How the hell do you like that?

    Continuing my search for full-time employment, I found a lead today that's right up my alley, and if I can snag that job it'll mean good things for my personal economy. Here's hoping--and it'll be even better if it's 9-5 M-F....

    Anyway, that's a good thing, since I haven't got a CDL and don't particularly want one. Trucking seems to be the one growth industry in the area but there's a reason companies are so desperate to hire truck drivers.

    ...same as with school bus drivers, strangely enough. Seems like they can't hire enough of 'em, and the school bus companies are always recruiting. That is a big flashing "danger" sign, right there.

    * * *

    Cool night last night, hot day today; I was sweating profusely by the time the grass was done. Well, we had ridiculously nice weather for the 4th so who can complain?

    I got bit by mosquitos twice while trying to get the grill started Friday evening, though. A single application of OFF! kept the bugs at bay for the rest of the evening, though.

    * * *

    Because garbage day was a holiday I had to wait until Friday evening to take out the trash. We'd filled one barrel with stuff from the fridge, as well as the usual complement of weekly trash, so I had to use the second barrel. That was fine, though, because I had another contractor bag of trash from the basement to get rid of. Little by little the basement is becoming less of a pigsty, and I'm really pleased with the progress I've made down there.

    I threw away nearly all my micro RC cars, though I had to work for it. They've been down there for about nine years or so and I haven't done anything with them, and I paid around $10 apiece for them when I bought them; I didn't even remember which ones worked, so I tossed them all.

    Getting rid of little things was most of the work I did in the past week or so, but it's freed up a least another ten square feet of floor space, and I took the hardest step of all: beginning to get rid of the model rocketry stuff. It's all stuff I haven't even looked at since moving it here in 2004, so why keep it? Half-built kits I'm never going to finish, scraps and pieces which would be useful to an active modeler, which I am not--hell, I haven't build a model rocket start-to-finish since 1995, which is almost twenty years. Pretty safe to say that ship has sailed, and let the stuff go.

    Certain things I am keeping, like the airbrush kit and the launchers and stuff, but otherwise--

    I'm even going to be fairly draconian about what models to keep. The best-executed ones, probably, and a handful of other favorites, but otherwise I'm just going to toss them. There's no reason to keep a huge fleet of model rockets that I haven't even looked at in years.

    The "Mean Machine" is the one that'll hurt the most. I modified the original Estes design to make it less damage-prone and more easily transported. It's six feet long and the original design calls for the nose cone to come off and the parachute come out that end; I re-engineered the recovery system so that the rocket separates in the middle: it breaks down into two three-foot seconds making it much more portable and is still recovered with a single two-foot parachute. I also incorporated a longer and stronger shock cord to account for the higher separation velocity. I had many successful flights with the thing, and always recovered it in good order. Problem is, on its last flight, it fell into a pond. The water didn't damage it, and it floated, but I neglected to take the spent engine out after recovering it...and it's now permanently glued in place.

    I have a rocket that I bought at Danville Dare in 1994? 1995? ...and assembled in my hotel room. It has a 29mm engine mount, and I think I flew it once or twice, but otherwise it's just collected dust. I think that one can go; but what about the "Optima"? That rocket was a thing of beauty when I finished it, gleaming white and black and all decals correct--it could have been used in the damned catalog--but after a flight on a too-windy day it got bunged up, and while I fixed the damage to the fuselage, I never repainted it. Should it stay or should it go? ("Go", of course, but it's hard.)

    With the garage about as clean as it's going to get for the time being I need to clean elsewhere, and the basement is the logical place, but it's really not all that easy. Still, I'm making progress, and that's what counts.
    Saturday, July 5th, 2014
    4:25 pm
    #4284: I forgot to mention
    In For Your Eyes Only, the head bad guy naturally has thugs and sub-thugs working for him. The big chase scene where Bond is out skiing and the bad guys come after him includes a tense scene at a ski jump. He tries to lose them by mingling with a crowd but he's got the wrong kind of equipment for jumping. The bad guys end up herding him onto the elevator, and just as he thinks they're not going to make it aboard, the doors part again and there they are.

    Mrs. Fungus and I both recognized the one on the left: it was Charles Dance, aka Tywin Lannister. He's in the credits as "Claus". Kind of makes me wonder if Julian Glover and Charles Dance remember being in the same show before--but they weren't in any scenes together so they probably don't.

    * * *

    Bluesun links to his ginger beer recipe. Still have to give that one a try.

    * * *

    So, there are some TVs that have high frame rates--I've seen 240 Hz advertised--and I just can't get used to that. It looks wrong; the action and motion are too fluid. It's kind of like watching an old Doctor Who episode, where you're looking at an outdoor shot (which is shot on film) and then they go inside the TARDIS or something, where it's a set on a soundstage and it's all shot on video. Or it's like watching an old episode of Dark Shadows which is shot in black and white video; that's even more distracting.

    The 60 Hz refresh rate is supposed to be beyond what our eyes are capable of distinguishing, but I sure can tell the difference between 24, 30, and 60 Hz.

    It always looks to me as if the action "speeds up". It's not; it's taking place at the same rate but the frame rate is higher than I'm expecting. I suppose it's something you get used to after a while.

    Fortunately both of our TVs are 60 Hz, so it'll be a while before I have to make the adjustment.

    * * *

    It looks as though I have only a little while before I must cut the grass. There's rain a-comin'. *sigh*

    Well, I had figured on cutting the rest of it today. I suppose I might as well get cracking.
    1:33 am
    #4283: That was a good 4th.
    So this afternoon I got the immediate back yard cut. I still have the rest of the grass to cut but that was the worst of it, and I'm hoping to get the rest of it done Saturday. (Today, that is.)

    I made pasta salad, spinach dip, BBQ ribs, baked potatos, and corn-on-the-cob. The latter three were grilled, naturally, and the f-ing ribs were perfection. We ate almost the entire rack, leaving two ribs. Dang.

    I am perhaps a little too smug about my newfound ability to cook things like this that taste so damned good that my wife insists I should enter contests. Heh.

    ...but while cooking, and after dinner, we lit fireworks. We quit that at 10:10 and then watched For Your Eyes Only on the new Blu-Ray machine.

    I bought it because it was $5, and because I really wanted Mrs. Fungus to see it, because of who played the villain: Julian Glover, who plays Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones. Because he's some thirty years younger in the Bond movie, I had to point out to her just who she was looking at.

    It's been more than a decade since I last saw this movie--probably more like two--and there was a lot of it I didn't remember. I think I definitely got my $5 worth.

    * * *

    Looking up Julian Glover on IMDB led me to the link for QED, which was a TV series that ran briefly in 1982. I loved that series and was bitterly disappointed when it was canceled. *sigh*

    * * *

    Besides that, though, I watched 2001. Mrs. Fungus bought it when she brought me breakfast at the store on Thursday, because it's part of a "triple feature" (costing $8) that includes The Shining. It's been a very long time since I watched that one, too. There were a very few things about it that bothered me.

    First, the objects shown in orbit around the Earth had static shadows, except for the rotating space station. That was a detail that's hard to fault them over, because it would have made each SFX shot about five or ten times more expensive.

    Second, the EVA scenes around Discovery always showed moving stars, but in order for the stars to move like that everything would have had to be rotating around the camera, which is not possible for something in free fall, like the dead Frank Poole. But if the stars had not been shown in motion--if the depiction of those scenes had been 100% true-to-life--the viewer would have found himself wondering, "Why are they just hanging there?" The moving starfields were artistic license and not excessively used.

    Third, WTF was up with that damned light show at the end? Seriously? They spent way too much time on that.

    For the heck of it I looked at some of the supplemental material, and they showed Roger Ebert more than they showed Sir Arther C. f-ing Clarke, who wrote the damned thing in the first place. WTF.

    * * *

    So far I've watched two movies on Blu-Ray and they look fantastic. Next up: Lord of the Rings trilogy--extended versions--at one sitting. I hope we can handle this...
    Friday, July 4th, 2014
    3:25 pm
    #4282: Storm damage
    I've decided that if the immediate back yard is not a swamp I will cut it today. The rest of the grass I'll leave for tomorrow. It didn't rain last night, which makes yesterday the first day in quite a while that it did not, and I should be able to pull the tractor out and run it around the yard without leaving ruts.

    And then Mrs. Fungus and I will proceed to celebrate our nation's independence. I have a lot of cooking to do, though, which means I'd better get my butt in motion.

    * * *

    The other night I set down two pages or so of a new SF story, set in the same universe that had the hydrocarbon lifeforms on Titan that I was thinking about a week or so ago. This particular story begins with an abortive trip to Alpha Centauri, one that's cut short by a mutiny (the International Council for Space Exploration says, "Since you kids can't behave we're turning this ship right around and going home!") but that's going to take some writing to get to, and it's not even the climax of the story.

    * * *

    I'm not in the mood for further pontification at this time, and I've got work to do. Whee!
    1:05 am
    #4281: THAT is a relief.
    Well, we got power back sometime in the night. When we got back to the bunker this morning--sorry, yesterday morning, as this is being written at 12:30 AM on Friday--we were pleased to hear that no generators were running and the lights were on. Whee!

    Figure not less than 48 hours without power, then. That's a close second to 10/97 in Cedar Rapids. On the plus side, the Ace in the Hole did a yeoman's job of keeping the basement un-flooded, and the ice I put in the downstairs freezer hardly melted at all, meaning the food I put in there is still good.

    But it rained last night, and the back yard is still a swamp, so I didn't cut the grass today as intended. Maybe I can cut it tomorrow, and maybe I won't bother.

    Work today--I got up a few minutes early and left early. The line at McDonald's was long and largely immobile, so I thought I'd cut out of there and hit the Wendy's near work instead.


    ...when I got to the road that the store's on I saw that the traffic was rapidly approaching singularity status, so I sighed unhappily and gave up on the idea of eating before starting work. Maybe Mrs. Fungus can bring me something, I thought.

    She did, but I ended up having my breakfast--breakfast!--at 7:30 PM, at which point I had a raging headache and could barely concentrate on anything because of hypoglycemia.

    When I was finally able to leave work (fifteen minutes after the scheduled time) I came home to a house bereft of groceries, because so much that was in the fridge ended up in the trash can. So Mrs. Fungus and I set out to restock, and that took a good amount of time to accomplish, which is why I'm only now writing Thursday's blog post early on Friday morning.

    * * *

    Incidentally, lifelong friend of the Fungus, Dennis, gets a shout-out for giving me a call while we were in the hotel and feeling depressed. That cheered me right up. Thanks, brother!

    * * *

    Monday evening, by the way, I purchased a Blu-Ray player. Ever since the last week of May and my disastrous attempts at upgrading the old computer I have had the birthday money from my mother-in-law burning a hole in my pocket, and after I checked the employee price for the one I bought--and asked my wife's opinion--I decided I'd go ahead and pick it up.

    Did I have a chance to plug it in before the storms hit? Of course not, and no need to do so when there wasn't any power. I got home about 6:30 PM on Monday, and the power was out a scant hour later--and off for two days. Maybe tonight.

    Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
    12:06 am
    #4280: Last post from the redoubt
    The parking lot here is full of utility trucks, bucket trucks, and welder trucks. On our way back from the pool Mrs. Fungus and I encountered a couple of linemen who were preparing to retire for the evening.

    Hopefully the grass will be cuttable tomorrow. We'll have to see; first I have to get home from here, and in enough time to get the grass cut. Apparently the main drag here requires new stoplights, as the way the lines went down didn't just knock them out but fried them beyond repair. Whee! Point is, the main drag will be closed until 10 AM tomorrow, which means we're going to have to take a different route home than we'd normally take.

    Then, if we even have any power....

    I wouldn't want to stay a third night at any hotel, because this shit gets expensive fast. On the plus side it's reportedly under 60° in the Fungal Vale, so if it stays that cool natural convection should be sufficient to keep the bunker cool--but in any event our vacations begin and we can handle not getting enough sleep. It shouldn't be that long before the damned power is on....

    And now for bed.
    Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
    7:14 pm
    #4279: I sure would like to cut the damned grass.
    I really would.

    I was planning to cut the grass Monday evening after work--or at least on Tuesday!--but that didn't happen, for obvious reasons. I mean, when I left my uncle's house and drove home, half my route home was flooded; it rained so hard, the drains couldn't keep up.

    When we went home to check the bunker this morning, I checked the back yard. It was still a swamp, though at least there was no longer any standing water. I really do have to get it cut; it's been on the order of two weeks and counting since I was able to cut the immediate back yard and it's going on ten days since the last cut of the front and east 40.

    The immediate back yard is going to seed, for fuck's sake.

    But what can I do? If I use the pusher it's going to sling water and crap out. If I use the tractor it'll leave ruts. (I've been here before and tried it all; listen to the voice of experience.) That's why--last time--I cut the rest of the grass without doing the immediate back. It needed doing, but it was a swamp, and blah-blah-blah etcetera.

    Generally speaking, if I walk in the grass and then leave footprints on the patio, it's too damned wet to cut...and it's been like that for two weeks because of all the rain we've been getting.


    On the plus side, by going to the redoubt, Mrs. Fungus and I managed to salvage our days off. The humidity was the worst part, and even this morning it was simply awful in the place and I was drenched with sweat by the time I finished with the fridge.

    We both felt pretty crappy all morning, though. Once back here and fed, we ended up going back to bed and sleeping in. Let's face it: at that point we'd had broken sleep over the previous 36 hours, and to make matters worse there's all kinds of other BS going on (see also: the last 20 posts re: family nonsense) and so we've been stressed out. We are taking some vacation time next week, but it's hard to face even one day of work when you haven't managed to get any decent sleep for several days.

    I'm hoping that I'll have time over the holiday weekend to get the motorcycle chain re-tensioned. We'll see.

    And I really hope it'll be dry enough that I can get the f-ing grass cut!
    12:47 pm
    #4278: STILL posting from the redoubt.
    7:30 AM was 36 hours, it's now 12:30...[counts on fingers] that's 41 hours without power at the bunker.

    Left the redoubt, went home, found no power even though the map at ComEd's web site said otherwise. As soon as I got out of the truck and heard the song of the neighbors' generators, I knew we didn't have juice. That didn't stop me from trying the switches, but it was already a tale plainly told.

    Mrs. Fungus went and laid down while I gutted it up and tended to the refrigerator. Most of the meat was still (half) frozen but the ice cream and other prepared foods were lost causes. I cleaned out the perishable condiments and leftovers from the fridge, and then hit the gas station for two 22-lb bags of ice. I packed the salvageable stuff into the downstairs freezer and put the ice on top; that should keep it from going bad.

    Came back to redoubt, with a lengthy stop at Portillo's first for some food. I haven't eaten anything for twelve hours, and Mrs. Fungus is in a similar state. But I've been suffering from pretty bad gut malf for the last 12 hours, so I don't have much of an appetite. What I really want is to go back to bed and sleep some more.

    ...which is what I'm going to do now.
    Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
    11:09 pm
    #4277: Posting from the emergency shelter!
    Damn what a blow that was.

    Yesterday I went to my uncle's place to drop off a spare key to the bunker, as demanded by my sister. While I was there, storms came through, and they knocked the power right the hell out. As my uncle and I were chatting, the lights went out, came on dim, went out, came on, went dim, went out, and all the while I was thinking, Yeah, this ain't gonna be good.

    26.5 hours later, still no juice at the bunker.

    When I got home, the power was already off and Mrs. Fungus said that it had gone out with a "bang". That's consistent with what I've seen before; usually the lines around the bunker don't get damaged, but the fuses blow because current backfeeds (sneak circuits) and it's too much current. These are big fuses, and they blow big.

    We then proceeded to sit in the dark. We had a pizza delivered, and ate, and otherwise we chatted.

    After the sun went down another wave went through, and this one was so bad they blew the tornado sirens...and so we proceeded to sit in the dark in the basement until the worst of the storm had passed. I turned the modem back on (UPS FTW) and used the Nook to look at the weather radar; it was mostly red and yellow.

    We tried going to bed around 11-ish, but it was too warm to sleep. A while later I took a look around the bunker, outside, and realized it was cool enough to opened the windows and doors. Sadly, it was not even remotely enough. The bedroom got kind of cool, but it wasn't as cool as it would have been I could have stuck a fan in the window. (Well, I could have stuck a fan in the window. Fat lot of good it would have done, of course, without electricity.)

    One miserably hot, sticky night later....

    We woke up this morning no, that implies that we slept, which Mrs. Fungus did not. I barely did better than she; I fell into a kind of twilight state where I was sort-of asleep but not really getting any rest worth speaking of.

    I had tried calling ComEd several times during the night, wasting talk time on listening to ComEd propaganda; starting at 6:30 AM I spent 45 minutes on that nonsense before giving up. I managed to sleep a little bit after having some leftover pizza; and when I woke up again and called ComEd I got through in less than five minutes.

    Of course they didn't have any information for me. They didn't know when power would be restored; there was no ETA on a truck getting to the neighborhood.

    Mrs. Fungus and I spent some more time talking and sweltering, and about mid-afternoon I called ComEd again to see if there was any news. There was not; so Mrs. Fungus said, "I am going to a hotel!" And I said, "And I'm going with you!"

    Actually we made the determination before I called ComEd the second time--if they had no information, we'd go...and that's what we did. I turned our Internet access back on, and she looked up some nearby hotels; finally she picked one, we threw together overnight bags, and we got out.

    We had breakfast/lunch/dinner in one meal, then went swimming in the hotel pool. We're no longer overheated and we're looking forward to a comfortable night in bed.

    Mrs. Fungus had a friend of hers run by the house to check on it for us, and at 10 PM the bunker was still without power, which makes 26.5 hours without the juice.

    I am very glad Mrs. Fungus insisted on bugging out.

    On the plus side, the bunker has an "Ace in the Hole", so the basement should be okay until we get back there tomorrow. (I figure I can noodle out a way to recharge the battery if need be, but the sump's not filling too fast and the battery-backed pump ran one time the entire day.)

    At 26.5 hours this is the second-longest power failure I've had to deal with personally. The first-longest is, of course, the power failure in Cedar Rapids in October of 1997, when it snowed, and the power was off for 2.5 days.

    The thing that really kills me about this? The reason the bunker--and the surrounding houses--are out of power is because of those two fuses up on the pole that blew out. There's no lines down, no damage to the system, but because it's a mere 26 houses out, ComEd has higher-priority jobs to deal with.

    Figure it this way: if they have a single failure that will restore service to 52 homes, and a second one that will restore service to 26, they will do the one that restores the largest number of homes first. In Cedar Rapids, I waited 2.5 days because my apartment was 'way out on the end of a stub.

    So on our way out of town today, what did we happen to see?

    Out on the east side of town where they're preparing to realign the main east-west road, they bulldozed out some trees, and apparently gouged out too much of the support structure of one big tree which fell on the lines carrying power into town.

    ...but instead of having to cut up the tree and restring the lines, they merely connected the new wires they had already installed over the past few weeks, which took a different path because they're going to realign how the road runs. That was convenient, and it got power back to the town a hell of a lot quicker than it would have been otherwise.

    But of course, the bunker is still dark.

    All in all, I'm glad we were able to cut out and get a hotel room, because this is a heck of a lot more comfortable than sweltering in the dark.

    * * *

    As for posting, naturally I'm doing this from Seiren, the vintage 2008 Dell Inspiron 1525 which hasn't been taken out of its travel case since 2012 at least. The battery has died, and for a minute it looked as if the thing wouldn't even boot--but it did, and here we are.

    So I'm trying to get Diablo III to install. Whee!
    1:12 pm
    #4276: No power!
    So yesterday we had a huge thunderstorm come through, and it knocked out our power, and it is STILL out. We're going on 18 hours and counting, now, with no estimate of when power can be restored.

    What a pain.

    (How am I posting? The miracle of the UPS, that's how. And I've got to shut down now.)
    Sunday, June 29th, 2014
    9:37 pm
    #4275: Kugelblitz!
    A kugelblitz, as explained by Wikipedia:
    ...[A]ccording to general relativity, if enough radiation is aimed into a region, the concentration of energy can warp spacetime enough for the region to become a black hole (although this would be a black hole whose original mass-energy had been in the form of radiant energy rather than matter). In simpler terms, a kugelblitz is a black hole formed from energy as opposed to mass.
    Much of the physics surrounding hyperspace travel in my SF universe depends on this fact, and it's a conclusion I came to about fifteen years ago.

    Based on things I learned from Robert Forward's book Indistinguishable From Magic I postulated the existence of non-gravitational singularities, and in fact a charge singularity is what the hyperdrive in my SF world uses.

    Today, work was so amazingly slow (there were three of us there until 5 PM) that I spent an inordinate amount of time surfing Wikipedia and reading entries on such diverse topics as light propulsion, solar sails, various forms of singularities and the different metrics describing them, reactionless drives...and in the middle of all that learned of the existence of the kugelblitz.

    A black hole made of light. Yeah.

    (I also found the geon, which is interesting because an electromagnetic wave strong enough to warp space could contribute to the formation of a kugelblitz.)

    After the other two people left for the day, I proceeded to do N_O_T_H_I_N_G for the rest of the evening. I answered a couple of questions and helped a lady order a new battery for her laptop; otherwise I sat at the computer and clicked Wikipedia links. There was no work left to do that I could do, so I did that. *sigh*

    That was probably the ultimate in slow days. Things will probably start picking up least, I hope they do.

    Today's flyer boldly proclaimed that "for a limited time only!" people using their Best Buy credit cards can get 10% back in rewards points. The standard is 5%; around Easter they raised it to 6%--and now 10%? I don't know what's going on in the company but if I saw any other place raise their "rewards" to 200% of its former level I'd think, "They're really desperate to get people to buy stuff."

    That's not terribly surprising, considering how crappy consumer sales have been in the first quarter. My employer is not the only retail company that's trying everything it can think of to drive traffic. I somehow doubt that the sales numbers are any better in the second quarter, either, and--again--not just here, but everywhere. (I am not revealing any confidential information; I'm discussing things any swinging dick could see.)

    But the problem is, if people aren't buying, then there's no money coming in, and my job will become an expensive luxury for our economy. This way lies ruin. Argh etc. That's the part that worries me; my job is a pain in the ass but that's because it's a job and people have to work, and I have a strong preference for being employed.

    Well, we do what we can, I suppose.

    * * *

    Borepatch has a post up about the fiddleating and adjustering that's taking place with all the climate databases in an attempt to "prove" that global warming is man-made and happening now.

    * * *

    I really am glad to be home from work. Having nothing to do is almost as stressful as having too much, and by the time I get home I'm done.

    Well, tomorrow's another one. Whee!
    Saturday, June 28th, 2014
    11:16 pm
    #4274: Less of me to kick around
    I have been losing weight.

    I have not been weighing myself, but I've noticed that the spare tire around my middle has been deflating. I have identified three reasons for this.

    1) Less carbs. In 2011 I made the switch from sugar water to aspartame water. This removed a lot of pure sugar from my diet, vastly reducing the average glycemic index of my caloric intake. But I had pretty much hit the limit of what that could do for me by the end of last year.

    2) Less free time. Getting a job means I spend a lot less time sitting around, and if I do get the munchies I can't just stop what I'm doing and go eat. Because of the continuing "no break" situation at work I usually get to eat before work, and then maybe get a snack partway through my shift if I'm lucky, but otherwise I have to wait to eat anything until after work's over. Also, I stand a lot and walk a lot, so I burn calories that way.

    3) Stress. Having a job means stress, and since I have been diagnosed as having irritable bowel syndrome I can identify the various gut spootiness that I've been experiencing as a flare-up. (Also, taking dicyclomine helps alleviate the symptoms, but I ran out of it.) It's because of stress; and because the food I eat remains in my digestive tract for less time, I absorb less from it.

    I'm not fit by any stretch of the imagination but I am losing fat, and I count that as a good thing. I've also found that butter is better for you than margerine, and mayonnaise is better for you than Miracle Whip aka "salad dressing".

    Two years ago I tried embarking on the "couch to 5k" plan, but it made my calves hurt so badly I had to discontinue it. I suppose I ought to get advice from a professional about how to run without overstressing my legs. *sigh*

    * * *

    Last night, at about 1:30 AM, the power went off with a BANG again. No thunderstorms, no weather, no nothin'; just out of nowhere, BANG.

    It scared the heck out of Mrs. Fungus and I, but thanks to my insistence on having our computing hardware connected to UPSes I was able to shut down my computer nicely, and our Internet link stayed up until we were done with it. Because I'd heard the pole fuse go out (the aforementioned BANG) I knew it would probably be an hour or more before the power came back on, so we got ourselves ready for bed. I called ComEd to report the outage, and we went to bed.

    Without the fans running it was pretty sticky in the house. The AC had been on and the place was dryer and cooler than outside, but it just didn't feel like that. We lay in the still darkness, unable to sleep, though I fell into a kind of twilight state where I wasn't really awake but wasn't quite asleep, either. Around 4 AM I woke up and realized that there's still no juice flowing so I called ComEd again. "There's no ETA on when a truck will get out there," the service rep said. I was not pleased but it's not his fault there weren't any trucks available, so I thanked him (a little gruffly) and rang off.

    I did finally get to sleep, though I did not sleep very well; when I woke up around 6 or 7 the power was back on. It ended up being a 5 or 6 hour blackout. I would not be nearly as annoyed by all this if this hadn't happened a bare six days ago. The fuse that went last night was a different one from last week's, because only our block was effected by it. "There are sixteen other locations without power," the second guy told me.

    It's still pretty annoying. The damned fuses don't seem to hold up very well--or else someone in the neighborhood is drawing an awful lot of current, much more than the system is designed for. Perhaps I ought to see who's running a cyclotron in his basement....

    But I lived through it, and managed to have a pretty good day at work today, too. That's what counts.
    Friday, June 27th, 2014
    6:41 pm
    #4273: Tywin may be dead, but he lives on, on my desktop.
    My wife got me a "Pop!" figure of Tywin Lannister. This neatly complements the Tyrion Lannister figure she's got on her desk. Whee!

    * * *

    Og posts a copy of one of his service reports, and I have to say this is pretty f-ing funny stuff.

    I experience his pain, in miniature, just about every time I go to work. This is my best one so far:
    Phone was run over by a semi. It barely counts as a telephone any more.
    It was an iPhone, and it was so mangled that the screen was detached, all glass shattered and gone, and the guts exposed. The frame was bent.

    Second best: "This iPad was run over by a monster truck. Repair under ADH."

    ...and one client brought in an iPod which looked like it took a bullet for him. WTF.

    In theory these kinds of accidental damage from handling (ADH) claims would be denied, because if you're stupid enough to leave your iPad where a monster truck can run it over you deserve to be out the $600 it costs to replace the damned thing. In practice, however, we grunts are virtually powerless to enforce those kinds of standards, and I have given up trying. (Hence the service order for the phone that got hit by a truck. Yes, the claim was honored.)

    If I had a dollar for every client who brought in a device that was having a power issue without bringing the AC adapter I wouldn't need to work there:
    "My tablet/laptop/phone isn't charging."

    "Okay; can I see your AC adapter?"

    "I, ehh, left it at home. Do you need it?"
    This job has really taught me how not to make sarcastic replies to obviously dumb questions, let me tell you.

    What really gets me is when I hook the device up to a charger and it charges fine. "I tried all kinds of adapters at home!" is invariably the next line. Uh huh; I'm sure you did. And if you don't use the right charger, the device will take forever to charge or not charge at all. (Samsung tablets, in particular, are fussy about charging--it must be 2A at 5V, or else it won't play.) All of this relies on you not treating the USB cable like you would a piece of rope; you can't twist the damned thing around like a telephone cord--it won't take that kind of abuse for long. Also, Samsung AC adapters are made out of putty and pipe cleaners, so they go bad spectacularly fast.

    Then there are the people who buy something, break it, and insist that the repair ought to be covered under the manufacturer's warranty. Sorry; if you forget the thing is plugged in and rip out the USB port, it's not a warranty issue.

    I don't expect people to know everything about this stuff; that's why they pay us to work on their equipment. But I do expect a little common sense, you know?


    I have a lot of sympathy for the people who come to us with something that has data on it they can no longer access. If the thing doesn't work for us when we plug it into one of our computers, then we'd have to send it out for data recovery, and that starts at $250 and rapidly climbs to $YEECH!

    If you have any critical data stored on SD cards or flash drives, and you don't have it copied somewhere else, you don't have it. While it is theoretically possible to recover data from a damaged flash drive, I would not care to bet on the liklihood, and I will invariably advise you that unless the data is priceless and irreplacable, you will be wasting a lot of your money on the attempt.

    "I formatted this SD card. Can you get the data back?" No.

    "This flash drive doesn't work when I plug it in. Can you get the data off it?" No.

    "This external hard drive doesn't power on. Can you copy it to a new one?" Maybe, if you take the drive out of the enclosure; then we can plug it into our data transfer machine and see what happens. If the actual drive works, then we can usually copy the data to DVD or another drive, and we'll charge $100-$150 for that. Otherwise we have to send it out and charge you $250+. Nine times out of ten--999 out of 1000--people don't bother.

    * * *

    Today my boss said something that annoyed me considerably.

    With the holiday that's coming, and all the stuff surrounding it, I requested the weekend off. Then I learned that my wife's brother was visiting from Atlanta, so I requested a couple more days off. Yesterday the office manager asked me if I just wanted to take the whole week, since I was only available on Saturday, and after thinking it over for about fifty milliseconds I said, "Sure."

    Today, then, my immediate supervisor asked me if I was really taking that whole week off? "Yes," I said. "I've got family coming in for the holiday weekend, and then my wife has family visiting later that week, so it just kind of snowballed."

    "Well," she said, with some pique, "I'm glad [coworker] is back." It didn't really bother me at the time, but when I thought it over I realized that it had gotten under my skin, and why.

    See, a month or so ago I interviewed for a full-time position there. They decided not to fill it, but instead we now have some three or four people from elsewhere doing this job part-time. This includes a woman who doesn't really know much of anything about computers who nonetheless has worked more hours in the back fixing computers than I have. (Said woman being young enough that I was fixing computers before she was born.) Because of this influx of new talent my hours have been cut.

    ...and then my boss is put out because I'm taking an unpaid week off? WTF, if I am that damned valuable why am I not full-time? If my being off a week is that much of an imposition, how can you afford to keep me part-time?

    Meanwhile the one actual official repair agent we have ([coworker], above) has been on vacation for a while and machines are piling up on the "incoming" shelves. Has my boss made good on her promise that I'd be given hours in the back? Have I gotten the training needed to be certified on data backups and such? Noooo.

    But the thing is, I do my work and don't screw off. Today I was alone in the precinct from open until three o'clock (another coworker was actually scheduled to be in at 4 but he came in an hour early) and I got everything done that is expected of the opening shift: I checked to insure all the completed units were where they should be; I got the shipping checked in and clients called and reservations scheduled; and I handled clients as they came in. For the first three hours of my shift I was in constant motion, doing my job--without supervision.

    They know they can rely on me to do my job without screwing off, else they would not schedule me to work the precinct alone. They know I won't make a fuss about working weekends, nor do I get disgruntled about the shifts I am assigned to work. They give me hours, I work them, and I do the best job I can.

    So I guess that's why it's an imposition--but if that's so, if I am indispensable, why am I scrounging for hours?

    * * *

    Hard to believe that it's almost July already. Well, that's how it goes.
    Thursday, June 26th, 2014
    6:05 pm
    #4272: The first quarter's GDP crash
    Vox Day links Zerohedge and the link is pretty damned explicit: the Q1 GDP crash is bad news.

    Quoth Vox: "...[I]n 2009, I noted that the average GDP revisions were larger than the delta that distinguished growth from recession. Now the revisions are nearly THREE TIMES larger." Understand this: the revisions are larger than the difference between a statistic that indicates growth and one that indicates contraction by three hundred percent.

    In technical terms, a statistic of this quality is referred to "bullshit". That's when it is not referred to by using other, more colorful idioms.

    That's kind of the point I was making the other day.

    * * *

    Another case of a cop executing a bound and prone person, solely because he was becoming inconvenient. And the prosecutor is declining to press charges.

    "Yeah, I just Godwinned myself," Borepatch says after embedding an image of nazis executing jews. But as he points out there is no real difference to the dead.

    * * *

    * * *

    I realized this morning that in the big argument that happened the other day, my sister insulted me and swore at me ("you've been an asshole for years!"). (I am pretty sure I didn't swear, though I might've let one slip as an intensifier.)

    Yes, I've been an asshole for years--ever since I realized I don't have to do everything family members tell me to do, particularly not when they don't ask nicely.

    * * *

    ...and on a lighter note, I just saw an air-cooled Beetle, minus hood and fenders, go speeding down the street. I think someone got his project drivable today!

    I have always wanted an air-cooled Beetle. I had--for a few years--the VW 412 fastback, which was air-cooled and had the same engine as a Porsche 914, but it wasn't a Beetle. I took a Beetle for a test drive once, but I was too recently employed in my first job to secure financing to buy the thing, worse luck. It was a nice solid car, powder blue, and it wasn't a Super Beetle (MacPherson strut front suspension) either.

    Oh well.

    There are a lot of cars I've "always wanted" and it's likely I'll never get to own most of them. You either need to be super-rich, or to make buying and selling cars your job; such is life. None of the cars I really want is particularly expensive--I'm talking Beetles and Samurais and the like, not Lamborghinis and Ferraris--but if you want to have a stable of cars you must have a place to keep them, and you must maintain them and insure them and-and-and...and the bills add up very quickly.

    Like? A Model T and a Model A. Another 1975 Impala. The Beetle, of course. A Suzuki Samurai. A 1987 Mustang GT. I want to build a rat rod and a sand rail. Things like those.

    Even so, it's okay to dream, and I'm used to my reach exceeding my grasp.

    * * *

    In Have Space Suit--Will Travel Kip explains one of the basic equations of motion and how he uses it to figure out how long it would take him to get home (from Pluto) in a Wormface ship boosting at one gravity. He made the trip there at eight gravities, and it took five days; he is worried that the trip home would take eight times as long (40 days as opposed to five). When he does the math he learns otherwise, that it will only take about two weeks to make the 30 astronomical unit (AU) trip from Pluto to Earth at one gravity, with turnover occurring about halfway.

    I use that as a convenient yardstick when I'm thinking about moving around in the solar system--fourteen days at 1G will take you 30 AU.

    For some thoughts I've been entertaining lately, though, I was trying to gauge how long it would take to go about 90 AU, boosting at 1 G. I started with 60 AU and decided that wasn't far enough, but I knew that it wouldn't take four weeks to go 60 AU. I guesstimated about three weeks.

    Just now I did the calculations for 90 AU, and that came out to a trip time of four weeks--28 days--and was not surprised at the answer. I expect my guesstimate for 60 AU is probably somewhere in the ballpark.

    At least, a more accurate estimate than the first quarter GDP figures. Jeeze louise.
    Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
    1:56 pm
    #4271: The shifting sands
    The "discussion" that my wife and I had with my sister yesterday has been impending for a couple of weeks, and my wife and I were dreading it. But I made several predictions about what my sister was likely to say, and to my wife's amusement I had correctly predicted everything my sister would haul out while attempting to bring me to heel.

    Whenever you disagree with my sister--however reasonably--right away she raises her voice. If at any point you call her on it, she immediately accuses you of raising your voice first. This is the "volume not logic" strategy.

    Any argument inevitably includes a recitation of things she's done for you, especially if she had to go out of her way to do it, even if no one would have faulted her for not doing it and she was not expected to do it. This is the "martyr" card.

    She invokes all the problems she has in her life. If you respond with your own problems, she dismisses them by saying "That's not my fault." (Or "problem". Or she says, "EVERYONE has problems!") The point is, you are supposed to feel sympathy for her hardships but she is not required to consider any of yours. This is the "victim" card.

    She will inevitably list every way in which you've wronged the people around you. This is the "you're an asshole" card.

    If you remind her of something she said in the past which is inconvenient to her argument, without fail she will claim that you mis-remembered or mis-heard what she said. This is the "you have a poor memory" card.

    She will also complain that everyone always blames her for the various problems that surround her. This is the "unjustly accused" card.

    I had known all this beforehand, of course. It doesn't matter who she's arguing with or what she's arguing about; she always brings out every one of these. (I realized last night that the only one she didn't use--that she hasn't used for years--was her complaint about having to change my diapers when she was twelve.)

    Part of the issue stems from the fact that she wouldn't tell us when she expected to arrive here. This is our home, and common courtesy at least would seem to suggest that even if you're saying "I'm coming to stay for four days and you don't have a right to stop me" you could be kind enough to let people know when to expect you.

    After receiving her notifications early in June that she was coming, I called her to find out what was going on, and she told us she was coming "to visit". When I brought that up yesterday, she first denied saying it; when she realized that there was no way for her to sell that lie she then said "I'm not coming to visit you." She was actually upset that my wife and I cleared our schedules and ensured we had the weekend off, and she simply would not tell us when she expected to be here. Finally, we managed to extract a date from her...some four days before the date originally communicated to us.

    My wife concluded--correctly, I think--that my sister must have been lying on one of the two occasions. Either she lied about coming on the 4th, intending to come on the first, or else she lied when she said she was coming on the first. Regardless, it demonstrates that this is an attempt to rub my face in how powerful she is, and that's all it is.

    My older siblings talk a good game about how I should be more gracious and cooperative, but when the rubber meets the road they never walk the walk. Instead they bully, threaten, cajole, and punish. They have never cared about what I thought, nor do they ever take my desires into consideration. Any imposition on them is evil, yet they are free to impose on me at will. They ignore me most of the time, then accuse me of "shunning" them when I refuse an invitation; and if I do attend a function I must stay until they say it's okay for me to leave, else I am insulting them. They count all the insults against them, and never consider the insults given. And everyone else must always be the first to bend. It doesn't matter if I disagree politely or rudely; any resistance must be crushed utterly.

    Ultimately I have to do what's right for me and my wife, though. Whatever my siblings think of that is their problem; they don't care about my problems and are uninterested in helping me surmount them, which is pretty much how things have been in my family for a very long time.

    The only new thing my sister hauled out in yesterday's conversation was a threat to call her lawyer. That's a first; but I simply told her that if she was going to pursue legal action, she should consider other arrangements for her stay over the holiday weekend.

    "Is she always like this?" My wife asked me.

    "Yep, pretty much," I said with resignation.
    12:44 pm
    #4270: -2.9%
    First quarter GDP revised downward again.

    I no longer believe the government GDP statistics, of course, because the numbers are only loosely based on reality. I do believe that the first quarter of this year was disastrous, economically. I don't believe the people who are claiming it was the weather, because we have winter every year, and though some are more severe than others only an ice age would be enough to cause a 2.9% drop in GDP.

    Especially in a government statistic which is massaged to be as favorable to the sitting government as possible.

    "...[T]hese guys continue claiming that the first-draft estimates for a single month (March) are where the real story is." "These guys" being the press, of course; they're trying to spin it and protect their little (d) in the White House from the consequences of his economic policies.

    Last night I saw the figure -1.4% and -2% bandied about, and the conclusion I read was that if the figure was revised down to -1.4% instead of -1.8% or -2% the press would be able to crow about how much the economy has improved. I expect a lot of people on that side of the aisle are shitting their pants over this, because it's just plain bad.

    Denninger sometimes posts a chart which shows a few statistics, and then a synthesis of them. This chart shows GDP, the US federal deficit, and then shows GDP minus the money borrowed by the federal government. He argues--correctly, I think--that if you are adding government expenditures to GDP, you must subtract the money they borrow from that figure since that borrowed money is a liability that counts against future productivity.

    That number--GDP ex government debt--has been consistently negative.

    The argument that government expenditures are a positive influence on productivity is an entirely separate issue, of course, since government cannot create wealth; it can only consume it. The decision to switch to GDP rather than GNP was informed by Keynesian economics, which themselves are faulty (particularly in their implementation).

    The second quarter is coming to an end, and when the initial numbers are published they'll be positive and the press will crow about how greatly improved the economy is now that it's no longer winter. The real story will be how far down those initial figures are revised by September, because it's becoming increasingly obvious that while the statistics are not numbers to have much confidence in, the initial numbers are total garbage. The initial numbers for first quarter of this year were positive; I seem to recall the first estimate being about 1%. How do you get to -2.9% from a positive number unless you're making shit up? -2.9% is nearly four hundred percent lower than their initial estimate--it's not even in the same county much less being in the ballpark.

    We're not in an economic expansion. The economy has not been growing; it's been contracting and it's been doing so ever since 2007. If GDP and inflation were being figured and reported honestly, they would show that we've been in a depression and that prices (on food and energy) have risen precipitously.

    Plenty of people whose opinions I respect say that we're in a deflationary cycle--but if that's so, why does a pound of bacon now cost three times what it cost 18 months ago? No prices are lower now than they were last year and it's only a question of how much the price has risen. You can call it "deflation" when wage growth is faster than inflation, but wage growth is stagnant and our politicians are falling all over themselves in an incontinent attempt to find a way to give amnesty to another fifty million illegal aliens (which will further depress wages) without getting themselves voted out of office. Unemployment remains staggeringly high (when you count it using methods which don't exclude most of the able unemployed population) and taxation is confiscatory.

    Ultimately we're going to have to do something to fix this, something that doesn't involve wishful thinking and unicorn flatus. Ideally it would include an energy policy that pays attention to the laws of physics and acknowledges that if we want to have a robust economy, it's going to mean some people will have to live near refineries or nuclear power plants. It also means the immigration laws will have to be enforced, and our government will have to make do with less money.

    But all of that is too hard for our politicians. Expect this to go on for a while...until it can't.
    Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
    6:36 pm
    #4269: It's time to stop being afraid.
    I've been too distracted by things to really discuss the events of three years ago, but considering how those things touch on the present distracting issues I suppose it was inevitable that I'd write something like this sooner or later.

    It's been three years since I got out of the psych ward, and through steady effort I've managed to fix a lot of what was wrong with my life in 2011 that led me to where I ended up. It took me a long time to get to that place; it's taken a long time to get as far out of it as I am. There's still a lot of work to do, but it's getting done, and the place I am now is vastly superior to any place I was ever in before.

    Part of the process has been for me to periodically revisit the blog posts from that time, and read through what was happening and what I was saying, and remember what I was going through, and compare it to what I've learned since then.

    The most important thing that I learned was that one reason I ended up in the psych ward was that I am afraid of my siblings.

    For years I've let them do whatever they want, talk to me however they choose, treat me however they like, all without saying anything. My sister, in particular, flies into a rage the instant I so much as say "boo" to her, and by now it's a conditioned reflex for me to cower. For quite a while my brother made it a habit to make masturbation jokes at my expense (yes, in front of our mother--real classy), which at least was an improvement over my childhood when he consistently referred to me only as "shithead".

    In recent years, then, I have been harangued because I went to a graduation party but didn't stay long enough; then because I decided not to go to one. When I politely declined my brother's self-invitation to visit at Christmas I was accused of "shunning" them. the same person who has never, never, ever invited me to anything other than his kids' parties and major holidays. A trip to Great America? Skiing in Wisconsin? A day at the lake? No--but if I don't show up for a graduation party I am the lowest of the low.

    The same person, I might add, who skipped his last aunt's funeral because "it's spring break" and "she knew we were going". She died at about 2 PM and they got on the road that day after 4 PM; they were in Arizona on the day of my aunt's funeral, riding motorcycles in the desert. That is perfectly acceptable, apparently.

    Last year was tough, financially. Several times during the year I told my siblings that I wasn't going to be able to pay the entirety of the property taxes on the bunker, as I had hoped to. I told them explicitly that we were going to need help.

    In November, then, we got an e-mail from my sister talking about "the co-owners" and saying that they'd been more than "understanding", but now we were faced with a choice: pay the entirety of the property tax now, move out by the due date, or sign a rental agreement "at market rates" to ensure that the property taxes were paid. (I solved that issue, and the denouement to that story is a whole other situation.)

    It was convenient for them to be "co-owners" when a bill had to be paid; but a month later my brother told me, "Ultimately, we are the only family we've got," when he wanted us to entertain him and his family on Christmas. Where was all that "family" stuff earlier? Why are we only "family" when it's convenient for them? Where was "family" when our sister sent us her ultimatum? Why didn't he stand up and say, "Hey, wait a minute, let's not be so draconian." Unless, that is, he was complicit? (And then be surprised we didn't want to see them for the holidays?)

    The house is far from rentable condition. Both bathrooms need work and it needs painting and-and-and; they couldn't rent this place out "at market rates" without fixing it up and no one has expressed any interest in getting that done. No one's said to me, "Hey, we want to start getting the house fixed up." What they have done is to make vague threats and otherwise do nothing.

    So after the e-mail ultimatum, then my brother called me the next Saturday and said, "I'm on my way down there so we can discuss this" and then was put out when I told him that both my wife and I had to go to work and weren't going to be there. From the way that conversation went I realized that they had (clumsily) tried to implement a "good cop bad cop" strategy.

    Here's a better strategy: "Look, we know that things have been pretty rough for you, but this bill must be paid. When can we sit down and discuss how we're going to fix this, and avoid similar problems in the future?" Instead of doing something like that, they decide what's to be done and it's up to me to toe the line.

    That's kind of the problem.

    So in May of 2011, one reason I was stuck in that avoid-avoid conflict--couldn't do the job in Rantoul, couldn't quit--was because I was afraid of how they would react, especially my sister. That fear was part of the reason I cut myself: I needed an escape hatch not just from my own expectations but from the fear of how my family would react.

    It's why my brother telling me, "We'll get you the help you need" was so surprising. That's not how my family functions; the cajolery and the implications that I was just being lazy were much more typical, as was his final appeal to authority ("I'm a doctor and I've studied this..." and the implication that I didn't know what I was talking about because I was a layman who was merely experiencing clinical depression).

    It's part of a larger pattern: they are successful and rich, and I am not, so therefore they are much smarter than I am, and I should therefore shut up and do as I'm told. (Basically an extension of "you're the youngest so shut up etc".) And whenever I try to change that, the reaction is always immediate and hostile, because that sort of reaction has always (or almost always) cowed me and forced me back into line.

    Well, it's time for that to end. It's past time for that to end.

    The only way to end it is for me to stand up and say, "No," quietly and firmly. (And not so quietly, as needed.) I do believe I've taken the first step on that road today. It was not easy, but it was not as hard as I'd feared it was. The latest imbroglio, ultimately, is entirely about them flexing their muscles and making me hop to their tune. Well, I don't have to do that, and as infurating as they may find it, I refuse to do it any longer.

    My sister was furious that I did not knuckle under, not to the temper tantrum, nor to the screaming, nor to the guilt trips, nor to the victim card, nor to any of the other tactics she always employs when someone dares to say "no" to her. I offered her a perfectly acceptable and reasonable alternative to her plan, and compromised with another perfectly acceptable and reasonable alternative...and even after I had agreed to the latter she still revisited her usual tropes in an attempt to bring me to heel. By standing up and saying, "Look, I don't care how mad you get; this is what I'm willing to do," I think I have taken an important step forward in my life.
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