March 15th, 2011

#2600: No sense of proportion whatsoever.

So Japan suffers an immense catastrophe: the fifth most severe earthquake in history strikes a couple hundred miles off the coast of Japan, sending a wall of water towards the island nation which inundates hundreds of miles of coastline, utterly smashing at least one major city in the process. At least tens of thousands of people are dead and it's going to take them years to rebuild the ruined areas.

What does the American media focus on?

...a couple of old nuclear reactors which were damaged, resulting in the semi-controlled release of a few dental x-rays' worth of radiation. There's been no loss of life--there's no potential for any--and the nuclear material is contained, and will continue to be contained.

Yet this is the headline: NUCLEAR HORROR IN JAPAN!!!!!!1`11

Or something approximating it.

WSJ editorial, "Nuclear Overreactions".

I'll tell you what: given the choice of living next to that LNG facility that caught fire, or the nuclear plant, I'd take the nuclear plant, hands down. Do you know how much freaking natural gas is in one of those gigantic silver tanks? If one of those things goes up, it would be bad--and there are near a dozen of the damn things, side-by-side. If one tank blows, chances are they all blow, and even if you were a mile away from that you wouldn't be safe.

"Oh," you say, "but they take precautions to prevent fire and there are a whole bunch of safety systems in place!"

Just like the nuclear plant: the reactor core is housed in a thick shell of stainless steel and concrete.

And just like the nuclear plant, the LNG terminal suffered a catastrophic failure due to the earthquake and tsunami. The only difference is, no one died because of the nuke plant.

"Yet!" You say. "People will get cancer and die from that!"

...25 years after Chernobyl, the death toll stands at 57--and most of those deaths occurred because of acute radiation poisoning, firefighters and plant personnel who were exposed to whopping big doses of radiation. There were a handful of thyroid cancers which killed some people--less than five--and otherwise, nothing.

I do concede that exposure to nonfatal doses of radiation raises one's risk of cancer. But the amount of radiation being emitted by the two failed plants in Japan does not rise to that level. In fact, at its worst, the radiation exposure amounted to a single CAT scan.

Do you know how many CAT scans my Mom had just after her stroke? At least three. And that doesn't include the two or three she had in year prior to that. No one was worried about her dying of radiation exposure.

My Dad had at least three angiograms in his life. A CAT scan is nothing compared to an angiogram. He didn't die of cancer, much less radiation poisoning.

The reactors are damaged: they suffered a loss of coolant, and that damaged the cores. The operators had to release steam from the reactor core, which resulted in some scary fireworks, but everything is still locked behind steel and concrete, and it's going to stay there, because the people operating the things are not morons and the guys who designed them weren't, either.

In this kind of event, the reactor core can't go critical again: the partial melting of the core ruins its geometry. All the control rods are in, which drops the reactor beneath critical; the only thing creating heat now is the short-half-life isotopes which are a natural byproduct of burning neutrons. It's a lot of heat, but it's not enough to melt steel and concrete; and even if the entire core melts and lands on the bottom of the vessel, it still won't melt through. And the entire core isn't going to melt; there isn't enough heat being generated for that, because they're dumping seawater into the core to keep it cool.

So no one's died from these reactor troubles, and no one's going to die--unless they suffer a hysterical heart attack from reading the headlines of American newspapers.

* * *

US investors put $1 billion into Japanese economy...before the quake.

* * *

Copper is a really important resource; anything that uses electricity is guaranteed to have a bunch of copper in it. If the global economy is rebounding, why is the price of copper falling?

* * *

It's not an energy source, but it lets us extract more energy from sources. They use CO2 under high pressure to act as a working fluid: get it really hot and run a turbine with it, recondense it, and use it again.

I'm all for increasing the efficiency of existing power plants; but we still need new ones.

* * *

Japan is already out of money because they've been running sizable deficits for the past decade. Now they have to print more yen to fix all the earthquake and tsunami damage.
At a time when Japan already is close to reaching its debt limits, it will have to dig deep to find significantly more funds to finance recovery. Some commentators are already saying that this additional spending will actually have a positive impact on the economy and GDP. In the short-term this may be the case, but it is actually a classic example of the “broken window fallacy.” Every penny that the government spends on the recovery has to be borrowed or taxed away from the productive economy, where it would have been spent on increasing prosperity. Instead, Japan will now spend trillions of yen just to get back to where it was a week ago.
...and it's going to have to borrow a lot of money to do it, too, because so much of the industrial infrastructure has been lost. (C'mon: Sendai was a major city. What's the opportunity cost of replacing an entire city?)

Sure, Japan's GDP will look fine and dandy--but GDP is not a measurement of a country's economic output. It's an indicator: if GDP is rising it only tends to indicate that the economy is doing well.

Example: the US GDP is rising, albeit very slowly. How's the economy? Official unemployment--U3--is still standing at 9% and the larger measure, U6, says 16%. And in fact the real number may be as high as 22.5%, because neither of those numbers takes into account that the labor participation rate has fallen since 2008. Housing prices and housing starts are 'way down, and wage growth is minimal.

And guess what?
...yen repatriation can easily impact the U.S. bond market. Japan is the third-largest purchaser of U.S. government debt and may exit the market for awhile in order to conserve funds to pay for recovery. When a market player the size of Japan exits, even for a short period, it will have an effect. Expect the U.S. government to have to pay somewhat higher interest on new debt for an unspecified period.
That's not going to do us any favors, let me tell you.

* * *

But enough about all that.

I watched the playlist, and got to the last extant ep of the subbed Yawara! Two things stand out to me:

1) Fujiko and Hanazono are totally nuts about each other, though I'm not sure they realize it yet; and
2) Most of the women in that series are idiots.

And I mean idiots, as in "too dumb to be allowed to breed". Jesus.

Ep 58 introduces two new characters, Kyoko and Mari. The latter is a girl with big breasts, and holy shit is she stupid. "Why are men always groping me on the train?" she complains, bending over just enough to let the guy she's talking to take a long look into the Mariana Trench her cleavage, which is visible because she wears tight clothing with deep necklines. Guys like Hanazono and Matsuda do their best not to gawk at it, because they're nice guys, but--let's face it--they're guys. I feel their pain.

And other female characters are pretty dumb, too. Okay, Yawara's friends in high school: none of them believes that Yawara is a judo expert even after she becomes famous. None of Kazamatsuri's girlfriends ever twig to the fact that he's a philanderer. (None of the women in the series do, in fact.) Sayaka--Yawara's rival--doesn't even appear sentient, most of the time. Kuniko Kaga, Matsuda's second photographer, never seems to get that he does not consider her his girlfriend and never will.

Yawara herself is prone to moments of abject stupidity.

Fujiko is approximately on Yawara's level. She's not abysmally stupid like most of the other women in the series.

To be sure, the guys aren't exactly mental giants, either, but at least they seem capable of stringing together a couple of thoughts once in a while. Unlike many of the female characters.

Okay, it's sports anime; it's not supposed to be an in-depth character study and the stupidity drives the comedy. I know all this.

OreImo--good God I wish Kyousuke would slug his little sister. Jesus. I can't talk about ep 11 without giving away the plot, so I won't.

But damn--every other girl in the series (just about) is awesome: Saori, Manami, KuroNeko, they're all great characters. Ayase is a bit of a bitch but not nearly as bad as Kirino is; if I were Kyousuke I would have told the shithead off ages ago and stopped doing anything for her.

He's a nicer guy than I am. Or else he's just a weenie. I don't know.

Yosuga no Sora--ep 11 ended on a scene that made me laugh out loud. It wasn't supposed to be funny; it was supposed to be high drama. But it's a case of me saying to the TV, "What did you think was going to happen, you idiots?"

Fairy Tail continues to be awesome.

* * *

Amaleni gradually crawls towards level 85.

I finished all the Vash'jir quests. The only ones left are the Throne of the Tides quests. I had actually ventured to Deepholm to have a look around, and did some quests there before returning to V. to finish those.

There's an area of Deepholm that makes me cringe. I can't remember the whole name of the area but it's "Silverlight" something-or-other; and you know what it is?

A freakin' MERCURY swamp!

That's right: there's mercury dripping from somewhere far above, and it collects there; and to do one quest you have to swim in it, and fight off animate blobs of mercury, and the whole damn thing gives me the heebie-jeebies. I think I'd rather bathe with reactor water.

When you're swimming in mercury you shouldn't be able to see a damn thing, because it's not transparent. Shit. (BTW mercury does not float on water, either--mercury is almost as heavy as gold is--so don't try to tell me it's a thin skin of mercury atop swampwater.)

But I lined up for a random the other day and ended up in "Throne of the Tides", so when I go in there to do the quests at least this time I'll know what's going on.

* * *

I am worried that I may be coming down with something.

The first guy I talked to at #2 told me he'd just gotten over being laid up for a week with the flu.

I've been sleeping more than usual, and I haven't had the energy to do a damn thing. I figure that it takes 2-5 days for an illness to incubate. Today is day #3; if I don't show any symptoms by Thursday I'll breathe a sigh of relief.

...and then probably be sicker than a dog on Friday. *sigh*

#2601: Well, that didn't take very long

...I'm starting to feel sick already. Headache, nausea, general malaise. *sigh*

* * *

"Broken windows":

"Japan will be poorer, for this disaster.... Rebuilding will run down Japan's financial wealth."

"tocks plunged Tuesday, and bond prices rose, as the nuclear crisis in Japan intensified following a deadly earthquake and tsunami. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 200 points."

* * *

The Japanese aren't looting.

Why aren't they looting? Because their culture frowns on misbehavior, that's why--unlike ours.

* * *

Will someone please clue the Obama White House in on the whole theory of "separation of powers"? The executive branch can't tell the judicial branch what cases to examine, the same way the judicial branch can't tell the executive branch what laws to sign.

* * *

"Radiation levels soar" but the article that headline comes from is woefully short on specifics. It'd be nice if the reporter actually mentioned, y'know, radiation measurements from the stricken plants rather than just say, "Whoo! Radiation levels sure are high! They're dangerous! There's UP TO 100 times normal levels! (I ain't gonna say what 'normal' is though!)"

Medical science and the regulations covering nuclear power plants all operate from the theory that any exposure to radiation is cumulative and therefore bad for you--the "one cigarette will kill you" thinking--which is why the reporters can get away with talking about how "dangerous" it is to be exposed to a couple chest x-rays' worth of radiation.

The real danger with these plants is that some of the stuff coming out of them is particulate matter. The uranium fuel pellets are clad in various metals, and--of course--because there are neutrons passing through it, the cladding becomes radioactive. Now, because the reactor is in an unusual regime, some of that metal is ending up in the air, as dust. It's got all kinds of weird isotopes in it.

Here's what you do when you get some on you: wash it off. But if you don't know it's there, or if you don't have enough water for bathing for some reason--such as, I don't know, you're in the middle of the worst disaster your country's seen since 1945--yes, it could be dangerous.

That's why, by the way, you see pictures of bunny-suited technicians scanning people with geiger counters. They're trying to see if those people have any radioactive particulate matter on them. It's why the plant workers are wearing those bunny suits, too; they want to keep whatever might be present off their skins.

If you don't have a bunny suit, you stay indoors, seal the doors and windows with duct tape, and don't run the furnace. Your biggest worry from this kind of contamination is alpha and beta radiation, and the walls of a typical house will stop both. (There isn't enough of that junk in the air to make neutron, x-ray, or gamma radiation a serious threat to health.)

(Incidentally: rice paper is enough to stop alpha radiation.)

Rod Adams has more of the same and he knows what he's talking about, being in the nuclear industry.

* * *

Vox Day gets it wrong.
How did that M.I.T. PhD-backed prediction hold up? "Dangerous levels of radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear plant forced Japan to order 140,000 people to seal themselves indoors Tuesday after an explosion and a fire dramatically escalated the crisis spawned by a deadly tsunami. In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said radiation had spread from the four stricken reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant along Japan's northeastern coast."

And now we know what an assurance from an M.I.T. PhD is worth.
As noted above, the people are sealing themselves inside as a precaution. And there's that phrase, "dangerous levels" again, without specifying what those levels are.

If you listen to the NRC and the anti-nuke crowd, any exposure is dangerous--including all those medical images ordered by your doctor and dentist. "We have to weigh the benefits of having the images against the radiation exposure," they say, "and besides, it really isn't that much."

Well, if an angiogram is "not dangerous" why is a nuclear accident exposing you to 10% of the angiogram's radiation "dangerous"?

How disappointing: Vox Day normally has his head screwed on straighter than this.

* * *

I had this awesome dream that I'd just taken delivery of two new pistols.

One was the standard S&W revolver. .38 I think. The other was a compact S&W semiauto, chambered in .40, and it fit in my hand rather nicely. I was sitting here at my desk and admiring it; but then I had to put it down and go get in line to ride the roller coaster. Priorities, you know.

#2602: Should I go back to that maid cafe after this?

I paid extra to have her write something with ketchup on my omelette, and this was the result:

Man, that just hurts.

* * *
Of course that's the breakfast I made my own damn self, and it amuses me to no end to write "baka" on my omelette, exactly as if a waitress in a maid cafe had done it, because I'm a loser otaku type who's easily amused by stupid things.

But! This post is to commemorate the fact that I now have the entirety (or nearly so) of Kaichou wa Maid Sama and space in the playlist to view it.

I don't like to have more than five series going at a time; five 24-minute eps works out to two hours and if I do more than that it begins to get tedious. Since Yosuga no Sora is now over ("Thank God!" I said, and meant it) and OreImo doesn't have new eps until August, there's room for new stuff.

Damn it, I like Misaki. I like Misaki because she's about 95% of Sayoko Igarashi, a supporting character in American Dawn who threatens to take the whole damn thing over.

Like Sayoko, Misaki is smart and tough. The voice actress who does Misaki's voice--Ayumi Fujimura--even sounds the way I imagined Sayoko sounding.

The missing 5% is the hairstyle. Sayoko doesn't wear her hair the way Misaki does...but damn it, if I could even draw hair like that, she probably would.

I have 23 of the 26 episodes. I'm working on finding the rest. At the rate I'm watching anime these days, I have time to find the last three.

My impressions of the show after the first ep: I really like this series! Hopefully it'll keep on that way.

* * *

When I have a character like Sayoko--smart, tough, hard-working, self-reliant--she tends to take over whatever she appears in.

Okay, like Ayumu "Osaka" Katsura in Chicory. Ayu-chan's the same way, and it's a struggle to remember that the freakin' story is about Subaru.

In American Dawn I actually broke away from the Asa-centric narrative and started doing a story about Sayoko; I couldn't help it. It's slowing down the story I wanted to tell, which mainly centered on Asa and her rivalry with Amanda; but Sayoko's such an interesting character that it just kind of happened.

That's why I like Erza in Fairy Tail so much; she's the same kind of character.

Maybe if I ever really learn to draw....