February 9th, 2010

#1935: I'm not the only one.

Jalopnik is "officially sick" of Danica Patrick. Welcome aboard, guys. I've been here by myself for years.

One commentor quotes his wife, who has it right: "What's the big deal? She's an average to above average driver, but if she didn't have a vagina no one would give a shit."

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The CFC ban is totally unnecessary. "It appears that the primary catalyst of ozone depletion is atmospheric chlorine, and the most atmospheric chlorine by far is out-gassed from the oceans or emitted by volcanoes."

Not to mention, of course, that the ozone hole was first discovered in 1956 and explained as a natural phenomenon. "Hole" is a misnomer; in fact it represents a thinning of the ozone layer, not a disappearance, over the Antarctic. It opens every year around the time of the austral vernal equinox; and then it closes every year a few months later. The annual formation and disappearance of the ozone hole has not changed significantly in the 54 years that we've known of its existence.

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Meghan McCain is an idiot. Can I just get that out of the way right now?

"[Tea partiers] are not as relevant as they say they are," Ms. McCain said. "I think my father would be president if they were really that powerful."

No, your father would be President (the word should be capitalized, writer of the article, when talking about the American head of state) if he had actually run as a Republican and not a Democrat wanna-be. McCain lost because he's a RINO and ran a lousy campaign.

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Social Security is going broke.
Since 1984, Social Security has raked in more in payroll taxes than it has paid in benefits, accumulating a $2.5 trillion trust fund. But because the government uses the trust fund to pay for other programs, tax increases, spending cuts or new borrowing will be required to make up the difference between taxes collected and benefits owed.
Let's dispense with this crap right now: if the "trust fund" has been spent it is not a trust fund and never was.

There is nothing in the Social Security "lockbox" but a bunch of IOUs. That money is gone, and the way things are going the paper those IOUs are written on will be worthless.

Social Security is over.

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Dennis makes a good case for Obama having ADD. Every week he changes his mind about what is his most important task.

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Iran is promising its anniversary on Thursday will be big: "Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that Iran is set to deliver a 'punch' that will stun world powers during this week's 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution."

Wait, 31 years...that would be...1979, wouldn't it? The year Iran's current sitting president took part in committing an act of war against the United States? About which Jimmy Carter did nothing?

Meanwhile Iran is continuing its quest for atomic weapons. And the civilized world continues to do nothing.

* * *

The snow started a bit before 3 AM. We have about three inches already. Nothing earth-shattering, and it's light snow.

Some are saying "six to twelve inches" and others are saying "seven to thirteen inches" and I don't give a rat's ass. When fifteen inches got dumped on Cedar Rapids in 1999-2000 (because it happened on New Year's) my Escort had only a little trouble with it; I don't expect to have to go anywhere today but if I do, my Jeep should be equal to the task.

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A lot of the time, when I am watching House, MD, he says stuff that makes perfect sense to me. I find myself wondering: is that supposed to make him look like a jerk? Because it just makes him look like a smart guy who doesn't care if other people think he's a jerk for saying politically incorrect things.

Last night's ep focused on Lisa Cuddy and--among other things--her negotiations with an insurance company. House told her that the insurance company was doing precisely what an insurance company should do; and the insurance company was one of several antagonists in the episode.

It's probably meant to be one of those things where people on one side see that as a sign of how intelligent House is, while people on the other side nod and say, "Yeah, House is a jerk, all right."

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I tried Pepsi One, and it's a serious disappointment.

Pepsi One tastes almost exactly the same as Diet Pepsi. I had hoped that--since it is sweetened with sucralose rather than aspartame--that it would taste like regular Pepsi; but no. No, it tastes just like Diet.

Why?

I mean, there is already a Diet Pepsi. There are two of them, in fact, one variety with caffiene and one without. (And, in fact, a cherry-flavored one, and a vanilla-flavored one, and a lime-flavored one, and a cherry-vanilla-flavored one, and a caramel cream-flavored one.) There are seven varieties of Diet Pepsi.

Why does Pepsi One have to taste like Diet Pepsi? Why couldn't it taste like regular Pepsi?

In fact, why the hell don't they have a diet Pepsi which tastes like regular Pepsi in the first place? Why does diet taste different?

Quoth Pepsi's Pepsi One FAQ:
After years of being kept apart on separate shelves of the refrigerator, Full Flavor and One Calorie are now living in complete harmony inside Pepsi ONE - the drink that unites the taste of regular cola with all the things you like about diet cola.
No! No it doesn't! It in fact tastes just like Diet Pepsi!

Sucralose is invert sugar. Our bodies can't metabolize it, but our taste buds interpret it as "sweet" the exact way sugar is interpreted. This being the case, anything made with sucralose ought to taste exactly the same as if it were made with sugar.

It all goes back to saccharine.

You see, saccharine was the best non-caloric artificial sweetener around when PepsiCo was developing Diet Pepsi. (Cyclamates were outlawed.) Saccharine didn't taste like sugar but it was the best thing there was; and Pepsi made with saccharine instead of sugar tasted like...well, like Diet Pepsi.

Like it does now. Even when made with aspartame.

The problem is, the people who drink Diet Pepsi are used to it tasting like that; although the technology now exists to make Diet Pepsi taste just like regular Pepsi, the people who prefer Diet Pepsi won't drink it because it's "too sweet". So after aspartame became available, Pepsi continued to make Diet Pepsi taste as if it were sweetened with saccharine, because that's what the consumers want and expect, and they won't buy it if it tastes like regular Pepsi.

That's why I don't drink diet. It doesn't taste right.

Aspartame tastes like sugar but its "finish" falls flat. I can live with that; diet Sprite tastes fine to me--but diet Sprite is designed to taste as much like Sprite as possible.

But that's not the case with Diet Pepsi; if you look at the ingredients for regular Pepsi they consist of "carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, sugar, phosphoric acid, caffiene, citric acid, natural flavor."

Look at Diet Pepsi and it says something like "carbonated water, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, aspartame, caffiene, citric acid." The artificial flavors are there to make Diet Pepsi taste as if it were made with saccharine. (The potassium benzoate is there to act as a preservative; aspartame changes flavor over time.)

What about Pepsi One? Well: "carbonated water, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, Splenda, caffiene, citric acid, acesulfame potassium."

Why does it need artificial flavoring? The advantage of sucralose is that it is sugar; it's taste has the same "finish" that sugar does. There is no reason a soft drink made with sucralose should taste like diet. So why modify the flavor? The "natural flavor" in Pepsi comes from the basic flavors of cola nut, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and clove (all colas have these flavors in different proportions). Why the artificial flavor? What's it there for?

I believe it's there to make Pepsi One taste like Diet Pepsi. Why, I do not know. (Probably the same reason the Fiero was developed as a commuter car rather than a sports car.) Anyway, I sent PepsiCo an e-mail about it. We'll see what they say.

(Acesulfame potassium is also an artificial sweetener. WTF.)

It's probable that my taster is oversensitive. Pity I don't like wine.

* * *

Ah, maybe it's time to go back to bed for a while. It's not like there's anything that needs doing right now.

#1936: That was scary!

I got to ep 11 of To Aru Kagaku no Railgun and dang did it end on a scary note. I was actually gaping in astonishment at the screen.

Despite what Harumi Kiyama is trying to do, I still like her. And what we learn in ep 11 shows us that her motivations are not, after all, evil. I can't say anything else without massive spoilers. Suffice it to say I find her a sympathetic character. I'm probably not supposed to, but I do.

I got to the end of Haruhi and I liked how it went. Good stuff. I'm going to watch the whole thing over again.

* * *

The Corolla, now?

...the car has electro-hydraulic power steering, and apparently sometimes when the car is traveling over 40 MPH the steering goes nuts and the car suddenly veers to the left or right, requiring a large steering input from the driver to correct for it.

WTF, Toyota? This is starting to look like the first Patlabor movie.

* * *

Newsweek exhorts businesses to stop laying people off.

While I do agree with the theme of the article--"If people are your most important assets, why would you get rid of them?"--I also understand that labor is the largest cost faced by any business. Labor is expensive; you must learn to balance your need for hands and brains against what it costs to get those hands and brains. It's not just the salaries; it's all the taxes and benefits and paperwork and miscellany. A person who earns about $40,000 costs his employer some $100,000 to employ. No exaggeration.

Cutting employees should be the last resort, for a variety of reasons. Still, economics is a harsh master.

* * *

The sun is still in a minimum. Right now there are three nice sunspot groups on the sun's face. We haven't seen this level of activity on the sun for nearly two years--but the sun's magnetic field is the weakest we've ever seen it.

The solar geomagnetic index averaged somewhere around 15 until about 2004, when it abruptly dropped about seven units, and has been slowly declining since.

In December of 2009, it hit 1. One. Which is the lowest it has been since we first began tracking it.

The data goes back to about 1845, and the lowest it went in that time was to around 4 or 5, in 1880 and 1900.

Further on in the article is another graph, this one showing the magnetic field strength of sunspots--and it's been declining since at least 1992, from 3,000 gauss to about 2,100 gauss.

We don't know what the hell is going on with the sun. We don't know what it means for the climate of Earth, either.

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WoW is down. Apparently Blizzard's having the devil's own time getting the servers back up after their weekly maintenance. I guess it's another Tuesday where I do anything other than WoW until later in the evening....