February 23rd, 2009

#1470: How much fun can a man have and stay sane?

Yesterday was an adventure.

My sister should not be drinking. In 2004 she was hospitalized; her liver was severely damaged by drinking rum and taking handfuls of ibuprofen because of "broken ribs". (The number of broken ribs increased over time until she had more broken more ribs than the human chest contains.) The booze and ibuprofen were to dull the pain of these broken ribs. End result: an abdomen distended with ascites fluid, which the liver produces when it's about to implode.

My sister had 8% of liver function after this episode.

One can assume that in the intervening years her liver has healed somewhat, but last spring she got back on the sauce until she turned yellow--so it's not all that great a liver. It's better than nothing, but it can't handle a lot of alcohol any longer.

She's been drinking since her husband died; and Saturday night she threw a huge pity party and decided to get drunk.

My adventure started at 6 AM EST Sunday morning, when my sister woke me out of a sound sleep and told me that I "wasn't helping her". Reason? I hadn't bought ice the last time I'd gone to the store! And I had slept for "nineteen hours" the day before. The discussion rapidly degenerated from there.

End result? Well, I got tossed out into the snow. She wouldn't so much as give me the phone number of the limosine service that had brought me there from the airport. "Get the fuck out. I'm not giving you anything. Get the fuck out."

She implied that she'd call the police on me if I didn't leave right away, so there I was, three miles from the nearest town, in 16° weather, with 90 lbs of luggage and a seven hundred foot hill between me and town. It took me two hours to get there, dragging my luggage over plowed roads and having to stop to rest frequently due to the hill climb.

Thanks to my oldest sister and my brother--and the miracle of cell phone technology--by the time I got to town, I had a cab on its way. The place with the WiFi hotspot was open so I had a warm place to wait, and I was even able to get some breakfast. (Yeah, I didn't have any food, either.)

(I'm the youngest of four. The sister in Maine was child #2.)

The trip to Portland cost $145. The airline charged me $165 to change my itinerary. From the time I was rudely awakened until I got home was sixteen hours. On two hours of sleep.

There are certain things which you simply do not do. Stranding someone in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter is one of them. It is, in the words of my oldest sister, heinous.

I'm done helping my sister in Maine. I'm done with it. I took three weeks of unpaid leave in order to be there for her, and I got thrown out into the snow over a bag of ice. I am furious enough over this that I won't even help someone else help her: the next time she needs Mom to send her money, I won't take Mom to the bank.

My sister can go pound sand.

* * *

The good part of the whole thing is that I was able to get home without enduring too much discomfort or having to pay too much money. My legs are a mass of aches from hauling the luggage over that goddamned hill, and I'm still exhausted from doing all that on two hours of sleep and a lot of adrenaline. (Anger is great motivation.)

So here I sit, with 15 days left in my leave of absence, and I'm not sure what to do. I suppose I'll cut the thing short and start work next week, once all the soreness in my muscles goes away. It's not like I have anything else to do.

#1471: Argh

My legs hurt. My arms hurt. Everything hurts.

* * *

Vox Day on the stimulus fail. Plenty of people said the stimulus would fail before it was passed. The Democrats disallowed debate and essentially shut out the Republicans from doing anything about the bill. (This is how Democrats define "bipartisanship".) The bill was passed, and Boss Tweek signed it into law, and Wall Street has reacted to it as anyone with sense knew it would: The Dow fell to about 7,500.

...it was 14,000 how long ago?

* * *

During my precipitous journey home yesterday I bought Guilty by Ann Coulter. I found that I was too upset to read anything, so I have yet to read most of it.

Ann discusses the reasons we don't celebrate "historians day".

I caught her on Hannity's show this evening. Heh.

Even better is the link I saw on Ann's page to this tee shirt!

* * *

The only solar power that makes sense could happen within a decade. I'm skeptical, though, because a whole lot of things can happen in ten years that aren't bloody likely.

Solar power satellites (SPS) represent the cleanest and safest form of energy production available to us with our current technology. There is nothing we can do on Earth which would compare to it in terms of efficiency and cleanliness. Put an SPS into an inclined geosynchronous orbit so it's never in Earth's shadow and you don't have to worry about storing power for night time. You make the thing big enough and the conversion inefficiencies stop mattering. (And the thing will look like a bright star from Earth's surface.)

There is, then, only one minor problem.

It's cheap, clean, and sustainable...once you have the infrastructure. The inconvenient thing about SPS is that the infrastructure required to build them is nonexistent. Once you've got that, you can build as many of them as you like--you could go on building the stupid things until Earth had a ring around it--but until you have that infrastructure in place, you're not going to do anything.

Building components on the ground and heaving them into orbit for on-orbit assembly is impossible with current technology. We don't have man-rated spacecraft that can make it to geosynchronous orbit, and nothing else makes sense for SPS. There is no technology for self-assembly of components boosted to geosynchronous orbit and SPS is too big to boost as a unit.

If we want to build SPS, we have to send people to geosynchronous orbit, and we have to send materiel there too. The most economically viable plan is to build a moon colony first and have the colonists mine and smelt the materials needed to build SPS, and then ship the materials to geosynchronous orbit for assembly. Move the stuff downhill rather than uphill.

Can we do that? Unquestionably; it's just a matter of will, requiring no new technology. Can we do it in ten years?

I think we could, if we put our mind to it; but one little startup company is not going to be able to manage it.

The little guys (XCOR et al) are working on small rockets which can haul a few tons of people and/or cargo; it's going to take a long time before any of those guys have a heavy-lift booster that's ready for prime-time. Right now NASA's best idea is a rocket that gets most of its thrust from solid rocket boosters. Expect delivery to low earth orbit (not even close to geosynchronous!) to continue to cost $1,000 to $2,000 per pound if you go to them, or any of their competitors such as Ariane or the Russians. If you're thinking of building an SPS and using NASA's rockets to do it, you're going to have to amortize the cost of the satellite for a long time--centuries, at least.

Unfortunately--to me, at least--the article reads as "pie in the sky". Here's hoping I'm wrong.

* * *

Let me get this straight: A faulty satellite sensor says there were 193,000 fewer square miles of arctic sea ice than there actually were, yet this doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with assertions that arctic sea ice is retreating?

They believe that the data prior to January of this year are okay but they're going to double-check.

...but global warming is happening now and we're all doomed, yadda yadda.

* * *

Michelle Malkin has a piece about an intersting story: an ACORN worker got foreclosed on, but the mainstream media is not telling all the story.

Interesting facts:

*House was bought for $87,000 in 2001
*Mortgage was refinances for $270,000 sometime between 2001 and 2006
*In 2006 the property went into foreclosure proceedings

Michelle asks the pertinent question: Where did all that money go? I mean, the woman borrowed $190,000 on a house that wasn't worth $90,000; what did she do with it?

...but of course it's because of the greedy CEOs, you know. It wasn't because the woman made a bad decision or anything.

I'd be interested to know what the fuck she spent $190,000 on, and why the hell she needed that kind of money in the first place.

It also wouldn't be a bad idea to find out what moronic loan officer thought it was a good idea to loan someone 300% of a home's value. The bank in question should fire that idiot. Or at least demote him to working the driveup window. From three jobs the woman took home about $2,800 per month--who the hell can make payments on a $270,000 loan when they clear $34,000 per year? ($87,000 loan, maybe. Even "probably" if they're careful with their money. But not on a $270,000 mortgage!)

When I lived in Cedar Rapids and was working as a technical writer, I desperately wanted--was planning to--buy a house. Property values out there would have let me get a pretty nice house for about $70,000 or so. I didn't get very far because I was worried that my salary would not be enough to cover mortgage and student loan payments. I never seriously pursued it (which turned out for the best in the long run) because I thought about my income and considered whether or not I could meet all my obligations first.

Why on Earth do people think they can just go take out loans willy-nilly? And what gives them the gall to whine about how "unfair" it all is when it turns out they made a bad decision?

Where did that $190,000 go?

* * *

God damn it: Og hung up his blogging spurs. He'll still post occasionally at Big Dick's Place but it's just not the same goddamned Intarnubs without him.

(I'm thinking about e-mailing for a guest account, myself. Then I might get more eyeballs here...)

* * *

Speaking of eyeballs, I had to share this nonsense with you.

In the comments for Atomic Fungus #1459: Lifetime of a carbon dioxide molecule in the atmosphere? some bonehead posted a spam message:
Greetings, fellow Live-Journal keeper, I saved this post.

Have you heard that Obama is giving away grants to those who earn under
120k/yr?

Let me dig up the site for you..here you go :) Obama-money.com [link redirected to Google by me]

Comment me back whenever you would like, I hope the link helped you as
much as it helped me (I was able to get about $1,000 in a week because I
earn 30k/yr at my job)
I knew it was a scam; I checked the link out of curiosity.

You see, "Obama" isn't giving away "grants". The guy's been in office for a bit more than a month. The site the link led to was one of those "we'll help you get money!" sites, where you pay them a fee and they give you a book of information that's cribbed from federal publications that you could get for free after a few minutes' work with Google and filling out some on-line forms.

(I'm not kidding. For example, if you want copyright forms, all you have to do is find the registrar of copyrights on-line and fill out a request form. The government will send you the forms free of charge.)

The information these people sell is nothing but slightly repackaged information they got from the government for free. IT IS A SCAM.

...so when I went to cut-and-paste the text, I saw the words "(Reply from suspended user)" in the comment box.

Ha ha. Fucker.

The Fungus has a pretty strict "no spam" and "comments must be on-topic" policy. I'll tolerate the occasional variance from this as long as the comment has something to do with something I recently said. People on my "friends" list get plenty more leeway than random commentors, and I have only had to block one comment since the inception of the Fungus in April of 2006. ("Block", not "delete". You never know when you might want to reinstate some prime example of stupidity in order to show other people how not to behave.)

I welcome factual disagreement; what I don't welcome is bullshit and I'll delete any bullshit that gets posted in my comments.

And I get to define what's "bullshit" and what isn't.

* * *

Speaking of bullshit, WTF happened to Roland Burris? Suddenly everyone and his dog wants him to resign. I missed something while I was in Maine, trying to help my drunk psycho sister.

...by the way, it was mentioned that she could obtain ice a variety of ways. (Not by me.) She had the option of filling ice cube trays and placing them in her freezer. She had the option of breaking off icicles from the edge of the roof. She could (as Dracphelan so ably pointed out) fill ice trays and just set them outside.

Living--as we do--in the early 21st century, in an industrialized nation, making your own ice is not a problem if you have a freezer, access to electricity, and potable water. Which she does. As much as she needs: the farm has its own well, and it's own septic system, and she gets water for the cost of the electricity required to pump it. Since the refrigerator is running anyway, making your own ice becomes an incremental cost.

But you see, she would rather spend $1.64 per bag plus the fuel required to go get it.

As I said, you cannot reason with a drunkard.