June 8th, 2008

#1099: 8.5 hours without juice later....

Yeah, after I finished the prior entry--I think it was about 6:45 PM--the power quit. I had enough battery in the laptop to get it shut down. (Note to self: look into buying a new battery or two for the laptop. It's only been a year since I got it.)

I tried to nap, but couldn't since I'm such a light sleeper; every little noise disturbs me. (A 20" box fan normally provides enough white noise to let me sleep. But not without power.) By the time I gave up, it was dark, and with a few small exceptions it seemed that the entire town was without power. It was pitch freaking black from Balmoral Racetrack to Steger. It was so dark outside I could actually see my shadow cast from the light of the crescent moon

It's unusual for a storm to knock out power over such a wide area here. The last time it happened was 1985, and the power went off, on, off, on-but-really-dim, POW the line fuse on the pole blew, and then it was off for nine hours, and all over town, too. This time?

This time, the power just went off--click--and that was it. I mean, it was like someone threw a switch. I kept thinking something (like maybe a tornado) had gotten one of the high-tension lines that feed the town, just by the way the power failed. And taking eight hours to get it back up would seem to support that.

Well, it's all speculation, and I suppose there'll be a story about it in the paper or something relatively soon. Further details as I get 'em.

The power came on at 4:25 AM.

* * *

...somehow, the spellcheck got turned on again, even though it doesn't show as on. WTF.

* * *

A few links for this morning:

This guy looks like a moron, so his behavior at his graduation ceremony does not surprise. It does fall into the "what the hell is your problem, douchebag?" category. Once again proving that graduating from high school and reaching the age of 18 do not automatically mean a person is an adult. Guess someone still has a lot of growing up to do.

* * *

Non-African heterosexuals can relax! The UN says the threat of a heterosexual AIDS pandemic is over!

There were plenty of people who said that the predicted heterosexual AIDS pandemic was scaremongering. The disease just doesn't affect the heterosexual population the way it affects homosexuals and habitual intravenous drug users.

I'm also skeptical about the African exception. If, for example, you show up at a clinic in Africa with tuberculosis, you're automatically considered HIV-positive. Even if the only disease you actually have is tuberculosis, suddenly you've got AIDS, too. We don't actually know what percentage of the population of Africa is HIV-positive.

On the other hand, the Africans themselves don't help matters. Teaching them "safe sex" and providing condoms doesn't help, because they ignore the advice and ditch the condoms. HIV has little trouble being transmitted via heterosexual contact--it's not as easily transmitted as it is during homosexual conduct, but it does happen--and too many Africans refuse to accept the responsibility to act to contain the spread of the disease.

* * *

All this time we thought paper couldn't be strong. The article discusses tensile strength, which is all well and good, but it doesn't its strength in other mechanical modes.

This "nanopaper" can withstand roughly 31,000 PSI of pressure without tearing. This is for a sheet 0.05 millimeters thick--approximately normal paper thickness. Ordinary paper can only withstand about 145 PSI.

This is, as I said, tensile strength: take a strip of paper between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, and pull the hands apart. The paper is experiencing tensile stress; the ordinary stuff you get from OfficeMax or Wal-Mart can take about 150 PSI before breaking, and this new stuff can handle 31,000 PSI--about as strong as a similar-sized piece of steel.

It also sounds as if this stuff is pretty easy to manufacture; you treat plant matter with an enzyme and then throw it into a blender. (I'm oversimplifying it a bit, here.) When you're done, you've got cellulose paste; drain the water and let it dry, and you've got "nanopaper".

Not much different than how we currently make paper.

* * *

I can't take this one seriously. The big earthquake in China was triggered by an underground nuclear test? Is that what we're being told?

On the one hand, it would not surprise me at all to learn that China was experimenting with something like that. On the other hand, it would also not surprise me to learn that someone decided that this geologically unstable area was going to be a test site and that all debate on the subject was crushed.

Jerry Pournelle likes to quote--I think it was--Napoleon when he says that you should never attribute to malice that which is attributable to incompetence.

...all of this, though, presupposes that you could actually trigger an earthquake by setting off a nuclear bomb in a fault, which I don't even know. It's a Hollywood trope--heck, I've used it myself!--but I have no idea how well-based in reality it is. It should work, but as far as we know no one has ever actually tried it because of the shortage of fault lines that don't have major cities nearby. Our theories as to what earthquakes are, and why they happen, would support the idea; but we just don't know.

What I do know is that the article I've linked to is full of speculation and unverified sources; and since it's China, if the ChiCom government did cause the quake, I doubt we'll ever actually know it.

* * *

Not a lot else to report here. I looked at Commonwealth Edison's web site in hopes that there would be some kind of report or something on outages, but there isn't. (Of course.) Guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow....

#1100: Er, make that "7.5 hours".

Because I looked at my watch wrong. The power came back on at 3:25, not 4:25.

...I know this because when I set the time on my alarm clock, when I woke up this morning, I set it wrong. At 8 AM I looked at the alarm clock and noticed that it said it was nine AM.

Well, that's how it goes when you try to do complex tasks after just waking up. Especially after getting only broken sleep for the past 24 hours.

* * *

By the way, did anyone else notice the cheap-ass punk trick the producers of Battlestar Galactica perpetrated on us?

Preview: #3 (Deanna, played by Xena Lucy Lawless) tells President Laura Roslyn, "You don't know you're [one of the "final five" Cylons]?"

In the ep, she says the above line, pauses, and then pulls a "wouldn't it be funny if I said that?" kind of thing. What BS.

The last of the "final five" is either Baltar or Starbuck. Right now I'm leaning towards "Starbuck" only because she popped up out of nowhere in a brand-stinking-new Viper (well, a brand-stinking-new old Viper) and that screams "resurrection" to me.

But since it's TV SF, God alone knows what kind of BS they're going to pull out of unlikely orofices. "Starbuck is actually one of the Gods of Cobol!" "Starbuck's actually a thirteenth Cylon type!" "Starbuck just has really, really phenominal luck!" "There was this transporter accident, see, and...."

Anyway, I still haven't abandoned my notion that Baltar is the last unidentified Cylon, but Starbuck's mysterious "reappearance from certain death with amnesia about the intervening time" would suggest that she's not entirely human. Whether that means she's Cylon, "Lord of Cobol", or some kind of avatar, remains to be seen.

Again, though, this being TV SF, there is nothing actually precluding both Starbuck and Baltar from being Cylons. "All this time we thought there were only five more...but there are six!" It would even fit with the whole "baker's dozen" theme: "there are twelve colonies, but there's a thirteenth lost colony called "Earth"...." Yeah.

The more I think about that one, the more sense it makes.

#1101: Closing in on F.

...sorry. The previous entry was 1100, which is C in hex. This one is D. When we get to 1110, it'll be E, and 1111 will naturally be F.

And then I should be done with stupid and lame tech geek jokes about the entry numbers. I hope.

except 1337 will be "leet"!

* * *

Today, with the sun shining and all, they decided to have another power failure. It started mid-afternoon and ended about 7:45 PM. I somehow managed to sleep through most of it, probably because I was so damned tired from Saturday's lack-of-sleep-fest.

This happened hours after we had a thunderstorm around noonish, by the way.

* * *

May 27th, we had the heater on because it was cold outside. Now it's barely the second week of June and I've had the AC on for three days straight.

* * *

So, sum total of accomplishments for Sunday, June 8, 2008: zero. But I did catch up on my sleep. O yea.

*sigh*

* * *

It looks like opera is the new medium of choice. Al Gore's alleged documentary Give Me Money An Inconvenient Truth is going to be an opera. Now Brokeback Mountain is going to be one, too.

This is the kind of stuff that gives me a stabbing pain behind the eyes. Still, maybe I could get a job writing the libretto for some of this stuff:
I wish I knew how to quit you
I'm in love with your hot man goo
Let me rinse and lather your 'do
I should have been a hairdresser
Sorry, that got a bit disgusting, there, but at least I didn't go for a line about "poo".

And the other one?
The little people? I just laugh
They don't need hot water baths
Or cars or trucks or SUVs
Those things are Gaia's disease
They must quit their foolish ways
And live like folks in caveman days
Yes, when 30-odd was "old", and
You could die from a head cold
Humans are Earth's biggest crisis
The enviroment is what is priceless
And the worst part of it is, this shit is better than what'll actually be in the operas. Count on it.

Although I am not, and have never been, a poet (nor have ever played one on TV) I am the king of coming up with bad song lyrics. Probably because I just put my best effort into writing a poem.

For one story, set at a fictional tech college in the Pacific northwest, I needed to come up with several bad songs. Well, I managed, let me tell you:
Plastique Flowers

I grew up in the desert
Training for jihad
Then I met you, babe
I want you so bad
I live in a desert
Got nothing here for you
But I made some plastique flowers
They're an ugly shade of blue
...now just imagine it set to deathmetal music, and you've got it.

Eh? Oh: train one monkey to hit an oil drum with a pipe wrench, moderately fast: BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM. Then train another monkey to strum a guitar at about the same speed. Crank the distortion on the guitar. Then you stand in front of a microphone, put a distortion pedal (set on max) between the mike and the amp, and scream those lyrics into the mike as loud as you can.

In fact, you can probably get away with just yelling "BLAAALAAAA BLAAAAAA!" half the time, and no one will notice.

I wish I were exaggerating.

* * *

This is a bit much. The headline says "Child porn OK'd for public exhibit", but I did a Google image search for "Bill Henson" and found examples of the guy's work.

It's not pornography, not of any stripe.

What I intensely dislike about the mores of our time is the idea that photographs of nudity automatically equals pornography. How ironic it is that post-sexual revolution society is more Victorian about nudity, rather than less.

It used to be that people could take pictures of nude models without arousing any suspicion. Nudes are a traditional subject for art. And it also used to be that parents could take pictures of "baby's first bath" without getting in trouble.

These days, though, any nudity--if photographed--is automatically sexual nudity, which is a no-no under certain circumstances. Particularly if the model is underage.

In the case of the linked article, though, the stuff is not pornography; it's art. People should learn the difference.

* * *

This post by the Anchoress has demonstrated to me that my instincts with regards to the Colbert Report were dead on: a guy who is pretending to be a caricature of a conservative.

Colbert's schtick is that he's a conservative commentator a la Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh. And I am sure that he--to his audience--appears to be so. But he's not; and it's obvious to me that he's merely pretending to be conservative, like Archie Bunker or Derek Vinyard. (Both of whom, by the way, would find the other's politics agreeable.)

* * *

It's a warm evening here in the Chicago area. (78° at 11:45 PM. Yeesh.) I went to McDonald's for dinner around 9:45 and it was summer, the way it is in July and August. It's a warm muggy one tonight. I was going to sit on the back patio and watch the heat lightning, but decided I preferred to sit at the computer and do this.

"Heat lightning" is one of the cool things about summer: free fireworks. You get to watch the interplay of charge in a thunderstorm without having to worry about getting wet or electrocuted, and as a bonus you can see the whole system rather than just the underside.

A thunderhead has a complex electrical system, and a chain of storm cells is even more complex as charge is generated and distributed and--eventually--nullified. It's all static electricity, powered by the sun, and it's marvelous to behold.

We still don't really understand the ebb and flow of electromagnetic energy in the Earth and its atmosphere. We know a lot about some things, but little about others.

The Earth has its own magnetic field and it exists within the sun's magnetic field. What effect does this have on Earth and its ecosystem? We only have limited ideas, but it seems to me that when you have one magnetic field moving in another, you're going to generate electricity...and that should result in some kind of warming, shouldn't it?

The sun and Earth are connected electromagnetically, not just by gravity, and it's possible that there are more sources of heating for Earth than just sunlight. If "no sunspots", for example, means "weaker solar magnetic field", and there is a nonzero temperature forcing due to solar magnetic flux, we can't ignore that factor when considering "climate change". But we don't know. (I do know we're not looking for any such forcing, though.)

This, by the way, is not an endorsement of the ludicrous "electric sun" theory. I still think our sun's a gigantic fusion reaction, not some kind of weird analog of an arc light...but at the same time I do agree that our traditional examination of the workings of sun, planets, stars, and galaxy do not take electromagnetism into account, and I think it should. As tenuous a coupling as it is at astronomical distances, it's still coupling, and coupling means energy transfer.

* * *

Well, thanks to repeated power failures, I'm behind on my anime. I think I'll try to watch some before that squall line hits....