August 31st, 2010

#2259: And then, he'll invent hyperdrive and antigravity!

"Obama's goal: End Iraq war, then win Mideast peace" goes the headline.

...

Obama's already shown that his template for ending the Israel/Palestine conflict is "Israel loses, Palestine wins". For the Palestinians, ideally that means "no more Israel"; that's kind of the sticking point here. The instant Israel makes any kind of concession, Palestine goes right to the line and begins to scream bloody murder for more. The Israel-Palestine conflict has defied solution by anybody, including Presidents a hell of a lot smarter and more effective than Boss Tweek.

Meanwhile, "Obama's stand is that the Iraq war, at a costly price, distracted from the cause in Afghanistan." Nobody can do anything in Afghanistan; the Russians tried to take over the place in the early 1980s and they left with egg on their faces--and all they were trying to do was to annex it, make it part of the USSR. Iraq at least is reasonably modern; Afghanistan is stuck in the 8th century.

The war in Iraq concentrated islamic terror efforts there: the islamic terror organizations were so busy making life hell in Iraq they didn't have anything left to cause trouble in the US. The Bush Doctrine worked very, very well, and the policy of removing Saddam Hussein and building a new democratic government there was a good, reasonably well-defined goal.

The goals for Afghanistan are inchoate. What are we there for? There is no real central government to replace. "Eliminate the Taliban"? You'd have an easier time exterminating cockroaches in a slum. "Get Osama bin Laden"? Look, that man is either dead or else is so far underground he's halfway to China. "Hinder terror organizations"? That's an ongoing operation that won't end until islam joins the rest of us in the 21st century. (And even then...)

So Obama's "goal" is to end the Israel-Palestine conflict, eh? Having made a complete mess of the dog's breakfast this administration calls its "domestic policy" he's doing what Democrat Presidents always do when their ideas fail and their approval ratings drop: move to foreign policy. Carter did it; Clinton did it; now Obama's doing it.

*sigh*

* * *

You'd think the most-feared drug kingpin in Mexico would have a slightly more macho nickname than "The Barbie".

...that's really all I had to say about that.

* * *

I am surprised and amazed almost beyond rational thought that the two men have islamic names.
Two men on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Amsterdam were questioned by Dutch authorities after U.S. officials found a cell phone taped to a Pepto Bismol bottle and a knife and box cutter in checked luggage connected with the men....
Their names? Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi and Hezam al Murisi.

Not "Bob Dollingsworth and Philip Zagniewski" or anything. "Cell phone taped to a...bottle"--gee, you don't think they were trying to figure out the limits of what the screening equipment can do, maybe? I really doubt it was in order to pack more efficiently: "Damn it, I can't fit the cell phone anywhere--oh, wait! I'll tape it to the Pepto! That'll do it!" Give me a break.

On the other hand, "a knife and box cutter in checked luggage"--that's a non-issue. You don't have access to checked baggage when you're aboard the airplane. In the US, people travel with firearms in checked luggage.

* * *

I still can't believe how much fun it was to do my car work at Og's place.

Today, then, I went to Advance Auto to order the TPS sensor and the rear wiper motor assembly. The "check engine" light has been illuminated since Sunday morning, so I figured that there's no getting around replacing the TPS.

Well: it develops that Advance can't get the rear wiper motor assembly; neither stores nor warehouses have it in stock. Argh etc. And it's been my experience that as goes one parts chain, so go the others; so I'll check at O'Reilly's and AutoZone, but without much optimism.

Options:

1) Go to Jeep. HAAAAAH HA HA HA HA HA HA!! Oh Lord, I'm so damn funny... Yeah, I think I could reasonably expect to pay only $ASSRAPE for an OEM part, assuming they can still get it.

2) Go to boneyards. This is not a bad idea; the only real problem is testing the damn thing before removing it. We have one of those "booster" packs, for jump-starting a car; all I have to do is make the right kind of patch cord and I could use it to power the wiper motor and make sure it runs.

3) Disassemble the unit I have and see if I can make it work. This is what I'm going to try first.

The thing is not meant to be disassembled, really. The gearbox cover is riveted on and the motor is held on with bent metal "ears". But I have a drill press, and machine screws will serve to hold the cover on once I'm done mucking about inside.

Worst case, I end up going to a boneyard anyway. Whee! Actually "worst case" is having to buy the new part from Jeep. It'd probably only cost $200 or so. I'll buy it from an on-line dealer before I go to Jeep. (Ebay or something.) The rebuilt unit Advance can't get runs about $70, so that's the price I'd be looking to pay for one.

* * *

Oh: right after I got done ordering the TPS, right after, I started the Jeep and the "check engine" light went off. Argh.

* * *

I stink at this kind of thing:
Just spent an amusing couple hours with Ed Hering of Atomic Fungus. He’s as engaging and amusing in real life as he is on the blog, and has a great grin. He also has conversations with inanimate objects and has more knowledge of electronics than anyone should dare. In other words, he’s one of us. it was great to meet him in the flesh and cool to work with him.
I always find it hard to encapsulate my opinions of people like that. People generally fall into "great people" and "dickheads", and Og's definitely no dickhead.

I have trouble saying why Og is a great guy, though; it's just obvious that he is. Besides, I'm new at this "actually meeting people whose blogs I've read for I-don't-even-know-how-long" thing. But I like it; and Og's said he's going to introduce me to other people from around the area, many of whose blogs I also read--and I'm probably going to be just as incapable of describing them as I was with Og.

I just wanted to make sure everyone understood that.

But WTF, if you read Og's blog, you know what he's like. That's really about all I can say; but IMHO that's saying a lot. I really like people who are comfortable in their own skin, partly because it's taken me so long to get comfortable in my own.

* * *

Speaking of blogmeets, one of the things talked about in #gunblogger_conspiracy is a thing called "Blogorado": various gunbloggers descend on a farm out west for a weekend or so of shooting things and socializing. And the people who go to it are all people whose blogs I read, and I always find myself wishing I could go, before and especially after.

Well, someday.

Here's TD's after-action report to give you some idea of what I'm talking about.

* * *

I like this: "Why are Americans so hostile to muslims? ...because they keep blowing us up. And the latter phrase is a link to a list of islamic attacks in the Wikipedia entry "Islamic terrorism".

Hehheh.

* * *

YEAH, BABY! Illinois is in the bottom 20% of "free states"! Woohoo!

Indiana is in the top 40% (as is Iowa).

* * *

Just don't forget about it. Yeast can make enough CO2 to blow up a 2-liter bottle.

This sounds like fun, though. And tasty.

* * *

I had a gander over at BakaBT today, and found the Toradora! light novels, all conveniently packaged in one torrent. I grabbed them and stuck 'em on the Aluratek; they're in PDF format, so the illustrations are in the text where they are in the book.

My only quarrel is that the quality of the writing isn't as good as I'd hope for. I'm not sure how much is due to the translator and how much is the translator trying to keep the flavor of the original.

But, hey--bonus points for using the right homophone when he wrote "unfazed". When you're not taken aback by something, you're "unfazed". When your waveform's peaks and valleys cease to match another similar waveform, then you are "unphased".

Anyway, it's been a while since I watched Toradora!

* * *

...so I'm trying to figure out when that was, and I thought I could use Google. One big problem with the search gadget on LJ is that it'll find only groups or tags; it doesn't do a text search.

Against all odds, Google finds one hit with both the keywords "atomic fungus" and "toradora":



...and it's not even this site!

You know, normally, when I do a search for anything, I get 50,000,000 hits (literally in some cases) on things which aren't even remotely close to what I'm actually searching for, and usually half of the hits on the first dozen pages are for aggregation sites.

On the other hand, some strange links do come up--I have to wonder who comes here and reads the Fungus based on accidentally finding a link to it via some anime-related search. Heh.

(If I had a real blog, I could check my refers, I guess.)

Thanks to my obsessive logging of what anime I watch and when, though, I was able to discover that it was only about 11 months ago that I watched the anime in two sittings.

I just binged on the entire series, 25 eps, in order to distract myself from the GOD AWFUL EVIL BITCH FROM HELL EX-FIANCEE proving that she had all the fidelity of one of those cheesy records embossed into thin plastic.

25 eps--that's ten freaking hours of anime. Not that I had anything else on my mind at the time and needed a distraction....

* * *

Need to have some records restored? I found this while trying to find a name for those embossed-thin-plastic-record-things. I doubt it's cheap but if you've got no other alternative, maybe it's worth it.

* * *

...been a while since I watched Toradora! so I didn't really remember how things started, but now that I've gotten to chapter 4 it's starting to come back to me.

There are ten volumes of this. So I know what I'll be reading for the next few days.

* * *

Meanwhile, Mom is reading Don Quixote on her Aluratek. Well, I guess she had to start somewhere.

#2260: That was fast.

In the prior entry I complained about my Google search on "'atomic fungus' toradora", and how it returned one hit which wasn't even a link to this blog.

The same search, a little while after the previous entry was posted:



I guess I can't fault their speed. I laughed.

#2261: "Smoot-Hawley, you f-ing morons...?"

The latest issues of Model Railroader and Trains arrived today. The first damn article I read in Trains is about a recent uptick in steel-related loads, and what I said in response to that article became the title for today's post.

"Steel Traffic: Back From The Dead", the headline of the "News and Photos" section proudly proclaims.

Steel haulage via railroads is at something like 73% of capacity, 'way up from its nadir in 2008 of around 40%. The railroad executives who are quoted in the article lay that increase at the feet of government spending, though they don't say it that way: government auto industry bailouts, they say, and infrastructure improvements are two of the three things driving the upswing in steel traffic. "Rising consumer demand" is the third, but the largest consumer use of steel is, generally, automobiles...and the upswing in automobile sales is mostly because rental companies are replacing their fleets as they age.

I had to read between the lines to figure that out, though. Trains is normally pretty good about keeping obvious politics out of their writing, but I've been a subscriber for three years or so now, and I estimate their editorial slant to be somewhere in the middle of the Democrat side of the political spectrum.

Another quote cites the energy industry as a reason for the uptick, but how much of that is the result of government stimulus spending? "Wind turbines" is one of three things mentioned as reasons for the uptick in this sector, the other two being pipelines and drilling equipment.

Yeah, "drilling equipment"--with a moratorium on all offshore drilling until when?--so much for that.

But what got me to come here and post about all this was what I read further down:
However, the industry is closely watching what's happening in China. It worries the Chinese steel industry is benefitting from government subsidies, and the fact that the Chinese government has artificially kept its currency value low, whcih makes Chinese products cheaper.

"We are hoping for some tariffs to respond to the lower artificial level of China's currency," [Nancy Gravatt, vice president of the American Iron and Steel Institute] says. "We forecast around 23 million tons of imports. China's government owns the majority of steel producers in that country, and most economists think they undervalue their currency by about 40 percent."

There is legislation in the U.S. Congress proposing a tariff on imports. "Also, countries such as India, Brazil, and China don't have the same emissions regulations, which helps keep their costs down. Here in America, we produce steel cleanly," Gravatt says.
Emphasis mine.

Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.

The Republicans did it once; now the Democrats want to try it. *sigh*

* * *

Oil should cost about $10 per barrel. This makes sense to me; with the big Brazil find last year (or the year before?) and with the other finds expanding supply, the high price of oil has to be due to other factors skewing the price upward.

Look: it costs about $15 per barrel to extract oil from the ground. Everyone who produces crude oil wants to maximize their profit; they do this by limiting the amount they produce. The entire point behind OPEC is to keep oil prices high, by limiting supply.

Meanwhile, the oil futures market also benefits from fluctuations in oil prices. Futures are a bet; one guy bets oil will rise in price and another guy bets it'll drop in price. If prices rise, #1 makes money and #2 loses money. If prices fall, #1 loses money and #2 makes money.

If everyone thinks oil will rise in price, though, it magically rises even though the supply remains constant. That's what happened in 2008; China's rising demand for petroleum made prices go up, which triggered an artificial inflation of oil futures prices. As soon as the recession hit, prices dropped precipitously.

(That rise in oil prices in 2008 are what started the economic downturn, IMHO. But that's a rant for another time.)

It's a shame we can't get back to simple supply-and-demand for such a necessary commodity. *sigh*

* * *

Steam locomotives are classified by how their wheels are arranged. The common steam locomotive you see in Westerns is the 4-4-0 "American"; it has a leading truck with 4 wheels, four driving wheels, and no trailing truck. A small switch engine would have no leading truck, four driving wheels, and no trailing truck, making it an 0-4-0. Get it? This is known as Whyte Notation.

There were some monster steam locomotives towards the end of the steam era which had two sets of driving wheels; the "Big Boy" configuration is 4-8-8-4: two sets of eight drivers in the middle. Each set of drivers was a complete steam engine; some were set up such that one engine used the exhaust steam from the first one, getting more expansion (and thus more work) from a given volume of steam.

(Note: saying "steam engine" to describe the entire works is incorrect. The "engine" is just the steam cylinders, side rods, and wheels connected to them. The whole thing--boiler and all--is a "locomotive".)

So they don't have to recite strings of numbers to identify locomotive types, people involved in railroading came up with names for each type. (See above, "4-4-0 'American'".) Most of the names have interesting origins, and I'm not really too "up" on what they all are much less where they all came from; but reading railroading magazines you'll read about "Mallets", "Moguls", "Mikados", "Gobernadors"...and "Berkshires".

The latter is my favorite, solely because I like the sound of it. It's arranged 2-8-4.

Nearly everything you might want to know about steam locomotives.

* * *

Steven Den Beste debates the desirability of thorium reactors. Specifically, he brings up an anti-proliferation argument: "burning" thorium makes U-233, which is usable in atomic bombs.

On the other hand, though, I don't know how much is known about the critical properties of U-233. Well, there's this stuff at Wikipedia, so I guess we know quite a bit about it.

The process which makes U-233 also makes U-232, which is pretty nasty. And the only way to get rid of the U-232 is to use isotope seperation; think "Oak Ridge, Tennesee"--that town exists primarily because that's where the government built a uranium refining facility during WW2. The only good way to do isotope seperation is to have a lot of machines working on doing it; that's why there's so much concern over how many centrifuges Iran has.

Look: the isotope of uranium we generally use for fissile applications--U-235--has a half-life of 704 million years. The longer an isotope's half-life is, the less intensely radioactive it is. U-238's half-life is about 4.5 billion years, which is why you could live next to a one-ton block of U-238 for the rest of your life and not significantly shorten your lifespan.

U-233's half-life is 160,000 years; U-232's is just 69 years. Yeah. Where the guys of the Manhattan Project could work with bomb-grade stuff in their shirtsleeves and then contract cancer 30-50 years later, trying to do that with U-233 would put you underground in a matter of months. You couldn't even use a glove box to work with it and expect to improve on that; you'd need inches of leaded glass between you and the stuff, and you'd be using robotic hands to do the assembly work.

In general I like what I hear about thorium reactors, but I have to wonder how necessary they actually are. We've been generating power for sixty years using uranium, and in that time there have been two significant failures, only one of which killed people. (Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Yes there have been safety failures with nuclear power which killed people, but the deaths were confined to personnel who actually worked at the facility, and the fatalities were limited in number. Hell, according to the UN, Chernobyl only killed about sixty people.) We know just about everything there is to know about using uranium peacefully; the technology for dealing with it is pretty mature.

If we could just recycle our goddamned spent fuel....

* * *

Unless you are actually Santa Claus, never, never, ever try to use a chimney as a covert entrance to a house.

(Hint: you are not Santa Claus.)

* * *

This is a really good examination of how the media's liberal bias is destroying it.
The left's hijacking of American culture has turned institutions into rags and rubble, and it will only get worse. Because the left does not know when to stop. Does not understand that it should stop. That is why left wing revolutions that do succeed, eventually culminate in multiple levels of purges that exterminate many of the original revolutionaries, or send them off to fight and die somewhere else, turning them into convenient martyrs who look good on blood-red T-shirts.
(Via.)

* * *

Are humans naturally promiscuous? There's a lot of effort being expended in anthropology to demonstrate that we are, that the idea of monogamy runs completely counter to our biology. I think there's some ideology driving this, because liberals like there to be all kinds of sex all the time; they view it as the do-all-be-all of human existence. Ace's post is a pretty good refutation of the idea.

One of the most profound truths of Christianity--which I only recently learned--is that all of its rules have one basic function: make it easy for people to live together in harmony. One of the ways Christianity does this is by forcing us to repress and channel our animal instincts, to make it a sin to act like an animal.

There is a passage in the Bible--I can't remember where, or even the exact wording--where a prophet is told by God to lead a group to a river. Those who went down on their knees and lapped up water directly from the river, or who waded in and stuck in their heads to drink, were to be excluded from something; the men who used their hands to dip water from the river and bring it to their mouths were to continue on with the prophet. "What does God care how they drink? What if they're really thirsty?" I thought. And when I realized that suppression of the animal was one of the reasons for religion, this passage suddenly made a hell of a lot more sense to me. Besides being a relation of what a certain holy man said and did, it's also a metaphor: control your base impulses, act with decorum and dignity, don't be like a wild animal.

Absent civilization, humans are animals. Civilization is just a thin veneer over millions of years of primate evolution, and primates are animals. Without the rules of civilization, humans revert into savages pretty freaking quickly, and in fact we have crime because some people just don't want to obey the laws of society.

Whatever our instincts may demand of us, we are supposed to subordinate them to the rules of civilization not because society is mean and wants us to be unhappy, but because most of the time acting on our instincts will be detrimental for us and society at large.

Look: when you're out on a date with your girlfriend and some guy starts flirting with her, you might start to feel jealous, especially if she responds favorably to the attention; that's an instinct in operation: That male is trying to take my mate! Your instinctive reaction would then be to fight the guy. This is how it works in the animal world. Like all animal species, humans have a pecking order, and fighting is how conflicts are resolved. In the wild, the conflict normally only lasts until one or the other surrenders; status is adjusted and that's the end of it.

But humans make tools, and our tools enable us to kill before a surrender signal can be recognized. Also, the addition of sentience has changed the dynamics of how we respond to surrender signals. When two dogs are fighting, the instant one of them surrenders the other dog will stop fighting seriously; it might harass the other dog a bit just to make his higher status stick, but usually the stronger animal will not fight much past a surrender and kill the weaker animal. Humans, though, we can just ignore the surrender signal and go for the kill.

(Dogs can, of course, be trained to go for the kill past a surrender. But it's not how they behave in the wild; it takes human meddling for that.)

But human society can't work if people are always killing other people over mating rights and what-the-hell-ever. That's why murder is illegal; long experience has demonstrated that society works better if people are not allowed to kill each other indiscriminately. The same thing goes for other actions which are proscribed both by law and religion: theft, dishonesty, rape, and so on.

In fact, that's the entire reason for the existence of morality. It's not just against the rules to commit murder; it's wrong. It's not wrong because someone thought we should all be denied the pleasure of killing our enemies; it's wrong because it's bad for society. There have been societies where murder was acceptable, and those societies did not work.

"Dueling"? Look at any society with a dueling custom, and observe how strict the usages for a duel are. Notice also that the duel could usually be avoided simply by either party giving ground and relinquishing "status"--honor or what-have-you--and did not have to be fought if either party decided that he had to be alive to worry about having a diminished reputation. A public apology might place a pox on your escutcheon, but if the matter simply wasn't worth dying for, you didn't have to fight...and you could stay alive to repair the blemish at another time. Both parties had to agree to the duel, and either one could bow out and take the hit to his honor at any time prior to the commencement of the duel. A duel isn't really "murder" in the sense I'm talking about here.

(Interestingly enough, though, a duel is exactly the kind of mechanism I'm talking about for adjusting status. It's highly formalized, though, precisely because society places a premium on human life, and frowns on indiscriminate killing.)

Thanks to the sexual revolution, a lot of the morality around sex has changed drastically; a lot of it has simply been jettisoned. I still don't think that was such a good idea.

* * *

More deficit spending is on the way! Obama always doubles down on socialism.

* * *

This is hilarious: Unions hire people to protest for them, and pay them minimum wage. Got to love that--the union goons make 400 times what they're paying their nonunion protestors!

Liberals are hypocrites. I can't help saying it; it's the truth.

* * *

Federal government says immigrants no longer have to show a green card to get a job. Isn't that what this new lawsuit is saying? That the feds don't want anyone to have to show that they're legally eligible to work?

What's the freakin' point of even having a bureaucracy to regulate this stuff if we're not going to bother enforcing it?

I can't remember: does INS actually prosecute employers who hire illegals? Back when I was an on-site computer tech, we briefly had a Polish guy working for us. He was pretty good with the machinery, but one day he was no longer working there because the boss learned he was an illegal--the guy had come to the US on a tourist visa and stayed past its expiration--and didn't want to risk a visit from INS.

Look: you can be in the US legally and still not be eligible for employment. There are several kinds of visas--tourist visa, H1-B "guest worker" visa, immigrant visa, etc--and not all of them allow you to hold a job while in the United States. The guy named in this article could easily have a driver's license and social security card and still not be eligible to work here; presenting his green card would be irrefutable evidence that he is, which is probably why the college in question wanted to see it before it would hire him.

Our government sucks. Can we blow it up and replace it with something that actually follows the Constitution and makes sense?

* * *

Something useful from Arse Technica, for a change: fixing your own game consoles.

* * *

Nerd Jokes.

Favorite: "Schrodinger's cat walks into a bar and doesn't."

Heh.

But this one is pretty good: "Why do computer geeks get Halloween confused with Christmas: because Oct 31 = Dec 25."

This also made me laugh: "Selenium walks into a bar. It has an atomic weight of 78.96 and is rarely found in its elemental state in nature." It's an anti-joke.

* * *

It led me to this, Dan Brown's worst 20 sentences.

And I was aghast at number 14: "14. Angels and Demons, chapter 100:"

How the hell do you get 100 chapters in a book that's smaller than an encylopedia?

Shit.

Oh, wait: "Dan Brown". NVM.

* * *

You think "grammar nazi" is a joke? Government regulation has officially gotten out of hand. Jesus.

* * *

So it's Tuesday night. Whee!

Tomorrow I'm running errands and hitting the grocery store for our weekly victuals.

Forecast for tomorrow says "rain". I hope so; we need it. I've been putting off cutting the grass because it's simply not growing all that much, but it's starting to look ragged enough that I really ought to cut it. Well, it's been hot, and I'm a weenie. What can I do?

#2262: Ordered wiper motor.

I ordered it from Rockauto per PDB's suggestion.

...I took the cover off the wiper motor's gearbox, and pulled the motor off, and then just put it back together again.

When you pull a cover off a gearbox, and dry powdery residue leaks out, it's generally not good. The stuff in there which had once been grease turned into dirt. The shaft which drives the wiper arm is seized. There is no good way to disassemble the drivetrain without destroying half of it.

I'm pretty sure I'll get my core charge back even though I did this, because the thing's in rebuildable condition. I can guarantee that the rebuilder would drill out rivets exactly the way I did. (The cover stays on since I didn't remove them entirely.) It's totally screwed, anyway.

And if I don't get my core charge back, I'll just chalk it up to experience: Next time, just replace the goddamned thing, doofus.

I wish I'd known about this place last year about this time; they actually have the backup switch I needed for the Escort. The switch that no one else in the universe had, NOT EVEN FORD.

...it might not have mattered, though, since it's a 2-prong switch and they want $90 for the damn thing. (4-prong? $22. Shit.)

A cam kit for the Escort: SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS! Jesus, no wonder the cars in the boneyards haven't got any freaking cylinder heads!

Well, a class III trailer hitch for the Jeep for $130, but no clue what shipping would add to that. And it doesn't say it includes the wiring kit, so I'd still have to go get one of those.

Hmm....

* * *

Damn, it's freaking hot outside, even at 10 PM. I was sweating my ass off while working in the garage.