April 13th, 2017

#5535: Going right for the panic

Chemical spill in Indiana, but look at the headline and the picture. The picture is of the Michigan City NIPSCO plant, which is a coal-fired power plant but has a cooling tower because it uses water from Lake Michigan to generate steam. The water must be cooled to a certain temperature before it can be returned to the lake.

And the plant isn't the source of the chemical spill.

No, the chemical spill came from US Steel. They spilled hexavalent chromium into a waterway some 100 yards from the lake itself; the article does not say that the waterway is connected to Lake Michigan.

Buried way down at the end of the eighth paragraph, we have this: "[The EPA] claims it is reviewing the results of a long-term 2008 study that 'suggested that chromium-6 may be a human carcinogen if ingested.'"

The 2008 study suggested that the chemical might be a carcinogen. This is enough for the headline to read "Cancer-Causing Chemical Spill"? With a picture of a power plant frequently confused for nuclear by the pitifully ignorant?


* * *

And speaking of pitiful ignorance, MIT is publishing a book about Communism for kids which is trying to sell the failed ideology.
Once upon a time, people yearned to be free of the misery of capitalism. How could their dreams come true? This little book proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism. Offering relief for many who have been numbed by Marxist exegesis and given headaches by the earnest pompousness of socialist politics, it presents political theory in the simple terms of a children's story, accompanied by illustrations of lovable little revolutionaries experiencing their political awakening.
That's the problem, though: communism will not work without the "authoritarianism". Without the iron-shod boots stomping on human faces, communism comes apart.

Hell, even with the iron-shod boot stomping on human faces, it comes apart. It's economically impossible. It does not work. It is counter to human nature.

But, hey! It only killed 100,000,000 people in the 20th century! Let's give it another shot!

* * *

We've been fighting "the war on terrah" since late 2001. Why is this the first time we've used the biggest non-nuke we have?

* * *

Kim du Toit tells the tale of how H1-B fuckery can bite you in the ass.

* * *

I used to have all kinds of maps in my car, too. Back when I was an on-site service tech. These days, I too have a GPS, and can't fathom someone not having one. They're cheap (mine was under $100, shipped) and they make going anywhere unfamiliar a breeze.

But the larger sense...I know people who are like that, who act in their daily lives as if they are lost: frantic and angry, ready to blow up at the slightest provocation.

I agree. It's no way to go through life.

* * *

Compress CO enough and it becomes a reasonably stable solid. They think it my polymerize, and stay that way until something sets it off, at which point foom! it reverts to being CO gas again. If this is so--and if it's stable at a reasonable temperature--they may have discovered a revolutionary new explosive.


* * *

Why was a thirteen-year-old handling a firearm unsupervised?

How did he get the firearm? Where did it come from? Whose was it?

Cue the blood-dancers from the left: ban guns faw the CHAWWDREN!

* * *

No real explanation for why Charlize Theron, having adopted a black African boy, has him wearing a dress. "Virtue-signaling" seems as good an explanation as any.

* * *

This is art. Let me point out that the image at that link is a painting, not a photograph.

Compare the technical ability required to paint that to anything Jackson Pollock ever drooled. In a world where visitors at an "art" exhibition walk carefully around someone's lost glove, thinking it to be one of the exhibits, artists who have actual skill are derided.

* * *

Today I am going to attempt to repair my wife's car. We've had the headlight for several weeks, but having good weather when she had a day off and when there was nothing more pressing to be done--well, today's the day.

Turns out you must remove the front fascia to replace the headlight assembly, but that's a few screws and not terribly complicated.

Off I go.

#5536: That was surprisingly painless.

I didn't get started until 3 PM, was done before 5, and only had to improvise once.

I'll say it again: Toyota engineers really seem to know what the hell they're doing. Removing the bumper fascia was easy. Reinstalling it was easy.

The hard part of the repair was getting the fender sheetmetal straightened out so I could bolt the new headlight assembly into it. When the headlight got hit, the fender got damaged; correcting that was the most difficult part of the whole thing.

There's a black plastic thingy which bolts and clips to the fender. The bolt also holds the headlight in; the clip was busted off in the impact. Looking for a nut and bolt to hold it in place, I found a plastic expanding fastener from an Escort; its head was too big but it was otherwise perfect for the job. I ground off the excess head with the Dremel, then popped it in, and it held that plastic thingy in like the Rock of Gibraltar. This thingy is where the front fascia clips to the fender. Not a problem.

Headlight in, lights tested, all working; it took me fifteen minutes to put the bumper cover back on, and most of that was making sure I was using the right shoulder bolts in the right locations.

Got the fender and the ding in the hood fixed. A little Bondo and paint would make the repair invisible.

The rear passenger-side door, though--

We didn't realize until several weeks after the accident that the door was involved. I thought it was a single dent, but it's not; whatever the car hit, it was big and flexible enough that it bent the door skin around the impact beam. I can't get that one out. We'll have to see if a body shop can do it using a paintless dent removal technique, but I for sure can't. (Yes, I tried the plunger trick.)

But: new headlight fits and looks great, and from twenty feet you can't tell the front end was ever damaged. Not too bad for a couple hours' work.

* * *

I kind of surprised myself, though. Using a rubber mallet and my body hammer set, I was able to get the hood crimp most of the way back to where it should be, leaving only one low spot. It's almost like I know a little about shaping metal, even though I know approximately fuck-all.

It reminds me of that time I knocked the dent out my bike's fender; I spent an hour working at it with the hammer and dolly but managed to remove the dent almost invisibly, but for a couple of high spots. And I don't know what I'm doing.

Maybe it's just a matter of being patient and watching the metal's movement carefully. Light taps, just enough to move it.

It helps that once metal is formed, and has retained that shape a while, it wants to be in that shape. Removing a dent is simply a matter of coaxing it to resume its former alignment. You can take a BFH and beat on it like a chimpanzee and force it to resume its old shape, but if you do that you'll leave all kinds of high spots and hammer marks that you then have to remove.

...and maybe I know a little more about metalworking than I think I do.

* * *

My wife is happy that her car is fixed, at least mechanically. I'm happy that she's happy. Win-win.


This AoSHQ starts off talking about aether dark matter but then goes on to talk about asteroid mining:
"Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion."
Asteroid about 100m across could be worth about $50 billion, so the profit is there.

Usual warnings about crashing the world economy etc. But making raw materials cheaper won't crash the economy; it'll only crash the holdings of people who have a stake in keeping them expensive. "I'm Joe Ironmineowner, and I oppose asteroid mining!" "I agree! I am Cheng Palladiummineowner and I want asteroid mining stopped now!" "I'm Bob Aluminumcancollector and I hate asteroid mining!"

It's the entrenched interests that are the problem. But like Democrats in antebellum America, one may as well shout at the wind; you can fight against the coming changes all you like but economics rules with an iron fist.

Thing is: with SpaceX poised to reduce the cost of getting a pound into orbit to stupid-low territory--well, one of those Falcon 9 boosters that makes 10 flights before requiring any overhauling would reduce the cost of the booster by 70%, enabling a significant cost reduction over "use it once and toss it". It's going to happen. It's economy of scale.

Economies of scale also work for robot prospecting probes. "Tens of millions of dollars each" if you're building one-off probes; the instant you set up an assembly line, that price drops.

And think about this: corporations originally were formed to finance expeditions to the new world. Once we had the ability to reliably cross the oceans, people would pool their money to hire a ship and crew and outfit it, and send 'em off...and then reap the rewards when the ship came back, or wonder idly whatever happened to that ship...? (Hence "Someday, when my ship comes in....")

There is absolutely no reason people could not do the same thing today with a robotic prospecting probe. They buy the probe and the launch, and when the probe strikes paydirt, they place a claim and sell the asteroid to the highest bidder.

But then, one corporation's probe finds something unusual and spectacular, and then the race is on to--whoops, I'm sorry, I slipped into SF writer mode for moment there.