atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#4090: ¡Nacho picoso!

I never did understand the reasoning behind the upside-down punctuation that precedes any sentence in Spanish which is not a simple declarative sentence. Some early Catholic monks have some explaining to do.

Anyway, Doritos makes this snack thing called "Dinamita" which is essentially a tortilla chip that's been rolled into a tight tube. The most common (perhaps the only) flavor is "nacho picoso", which essentially is "hot nacho cheese flavor". It's a major improvement over the regular nacho cheese flavor, and the denseness of the rolled tortilla makes for less breakage and better crunch, and it requires a conscious effort for me not to eat the whole damned bag at one sitting.

Dinner last night was tacos, and I tried adding chorizo to the ground beef. The flavor change was subtle, but we enjoyed it. The brand of chorizo I bought was cheap and greasy, and I drained most of the grease from the meat after it was browned; that probably took a lot of the spices out of the pan. But any time I see red grease that just screams "gut bomb!" to me, and I have to be rid of it. And the chorizo may just have been on the mild side; who knows?

Still, we don't learn anything if we don't try, and for my next trick perhaps I'll try cooking huevos rancheros.

* * *

Today is another winter day. Right now the sun is setting, lending a curious warm note to the grey clouds overhead. In a few minutes it'll be completely dark.

They say that a solar storm is hitting Earth tonight and it should cause aurorae to be visible quite far south, but I won't be able to see them through the clouds. Oh well.

We had some flurries today, but nothing significant. It was a reasonable temperature outside, though--23°--and the roads are gradually getting better.

* * *

Borepatch has a post up referring to a story about the body count of environmentalism.

As bad as energy costs are here in the US, they're five times worse in Europe. There, poor people are literally freezing to death in the dark because they can't afford to pay for enough energy to keep their homes warm.

The rich elites, the ones who push greenie policies, they couldn't care less. They can pay their bills and keep warm. And after all, there are too many proles around anyway, right?

Borepatch's commentor LabManager asks:
But I thought those socialist governments took care of their people?
When I was in high school I had a talk with a self-identified liberal who claimed we needed socialized medicine because "We need to take care of our people!" Well, letting the poor freeze to death in the dark is the latest example of how leftism "takes care" of people it deems unimportant. One of the examples given in the article Borepatch links is that of a woman who is on the dole in England, who must sometimes forego eating in order to keep the light and heat on.

Yeah, that's real compassion the leftist elites have, there.

* * *

Last night, Mrs. Fungus put on Moon, a movie about an astronaut managing a robotic Helium-3 mining operation on the back side of the Moon. The movie begins with a corporate advertisement for the company that employs the astronaut, and it shows all the wondrous benefits of cheap and clean fusion energy.

First, the movie--it was surprisingly good and it avoided a lot of the pitfalls that are typical of space movies. No aliens, no weird lifeforms that are nonetheless somehow compatible with Earth life, no asinine scare takes; early on I thought I'd identified the tropes the movie would use but it turned out to be going in a different direction entirely. I can't really explain it without spoilers but as science fiction the movie worked extremely well--a lot better than most Hollywood attempts.

But that beginning--

The real kicker about it is that we don't have to wait for fusion to do all those things. Fusion has been RSN ("real soon now") for about fifty years--we're not much closer to commercial fusion power than we were in 1964--and waiting for it is a fool's game because the technology is obviously quite complicated.

We have fission power right now.

We understand extracting power from uranium to a fairly high degree. We're capable of building nuclear reactors which cannot melt down and which revert to a shutdown condition if anything goes wrong; with the recycling of spent fuel we could conceivably generate electricity which is so cheap that metering it becomes unnecessarily expensive. All of this is possible with technology we have right now and which requires no development or research.

In the movie, fusion requires Helium-3--that's a pretty standard model for fusion power--and it can only be had from the Moon. (As far as we know, no other body in the solar system has the right properties to collect the stuff. So....) How much does it cost to establish an He-3 mine on the Moon? How much does He-3 cost per gram on the world market? How many megawatts do you get from a gram of He-3?

My point is, He-3 catalyzed fusion would cost more than the widespread use of fission power. We can get uranium from the ground, after all, and we need only find it and dig it up. (If low-yield ore is your bag, try your back yard. The top meter of soil contains quite a bit of it all over the world.)

The problem with nuclear power is political, not technological, and the political opposition to nuclear power doesn't all come from the econut quarter; some of it--lots of it--comes from the people who dig up coal and drill for oil. Cheap electricity requiring no fuel threatens their livelihoods.

You don't see widespread opposition to "renewables" like solar and wind power because everyone who might oppose that nonsense knows that such diffuse sources simply can not replace dense energy sources like coal, oil, and nuclear. It can't; you're not going to see anyone try to run an electric arc smelter off a windmill because it's physically impossible. There's no opposition because it's not competitive, because it can't be competitive, because of the laws of physics. That's why solar and wind power must be subsidized in order to exist; otherwise it is economically inviable on virtually any scale whatsoever. (There are a few very limited situations in which solar is advantageous. None of them revolve around industrial--or even municipal--quantities of power.)

Cost on electricity generated by burning coal is about $0.05 per kilowatt-hour. That is to say, that's what it costs the utility to generate and distribute the power, including building the plant and maintaining the distribution grid (and employing all the people that requires) and buying the fuel and figuring in all the other costs. No other system comes close to that; even using natural gas costs more simply because it requires more fuel per kilowatt-hour generated.

But nuclear power--in a world where it's allowed to perform to its potential--would cost less than coal, enough so that coal would fall by the wayside. And once that low cost power became commonplace, we'd see more electric vehicles and less gasoline sales.

I don't really have a conclusion to this meandering, but the fact remains that all of our problems with the high price of energy are political ones, not technological, engineering, or supply problems. It's all due to powerful people trying to feather their own nests, or powerful groups trying to remain so.

* * *

Related: every time I look at my gas bill I am dismayed at the charges on the thing that surround delivery and taxation. The gas itself is a fraction of the whole charge. WTF.

* * *

Last night I had to go through a procedure to get my computer to upgrade to Vista Service Pack 1. I tried running the update but it kept dying (and claiming it was successful) so I had to use a special method, found on-line, that explained everything in detail. (No, I don't have the link. Who uses Vista anyway? Besides me?)

Speaking of computers--this week I'm scheduled for 10 hours, but next week I'm scheduled for 17. Hopefully this week is the nadir for the post-holiday season.

After all, energy and Doritos aren't getting any cheaper.
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