September 12th, 2021

#7811: The Chinese don't even like him

China's official position on George Soros is that he's the "most evil person in the world" and a "global terrorist".

Blind squirrels and nuts, stopped clocks, etc.

Technically, the Chinese communists and George Soros are fellow travelers; they both follow the same religion and worship the same icons (socialism and Marx, respectively). It seems counterintuitive that they would be at odds, doesn't it?

But the simple fact is that both Soros and the communists are after the same thing--global domination--and there can be only one on the throne. Soros is trying, in China, the shit he has managed here in the US and elsewhere. The Chinese are, quite sensibly, trying to stop him from wrecking their system to suit his own ends. The world that both parties want is antithetical to freedom, but they differ on who'll be in charge once the dust settles. The Chinese communist party (CCP) wants it to be them; Soros wants it to be him and his cronies, the self-styled "elite". Further, the latter want to effect some kind of mass depopulation in the pursuit of some chimerical "sustainability" (and still further, because a smaller population will be more easily controlled) while the former don't seem to give a rip one way or the other as long as China is running the show.

In neither case does the entire rest of the world get a say in how things operate. Both of them need to be stopped.

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Actually, I think China's in the process of stopping itself, because their economic model is unsustainable. Communism is incapable of creating wealth; it can only consume it. China's semi-fascist model enabled them to sidestep a lot of that, but since fascism is a form of socialism, it also cannot create wealth; the destruction of wealth is simply slower under fascism than under communism. China's version wasn't even fascism, but a weird form of crony capitalism, where people were allowed to get rich as long as they paid lip service to the CCP and made all the right lustrations and sacrifices at the altar of Mao.

But the problem there is that a select few became very rich, while the rest of the country stayed dirt poor. Mind you, this is the model for every leftist government ever--the commisars of the USSR never waited in line for toilet paper--but in China they took it to an extreme. Still, a rising tide lifts all the boats, which means people who move to cities make a lot more money than ever before. Wealth makes people restive, because when you earn ten dollars an hour but the government takes away eight of them--even if the remaining two dollars is more than you used to make in a week--that doesn't sit well. Especially considering what work conditions are like in China, even for their burgeoning "middle class".

ADDENDUM How China is clamping down on its richest serfs. END ADDENDUM

To make things even more entertaining, now--on the horizon--they're looking at a problem with feeding everyone. This has been looming ever closer, slowly getting worse, over the past five years at least and probably longer. Which begs the question: why do so many strange new diseases keep cropping up in China? There's one that is causing a huge problem for their pork industry. This is on top of the avian flu that was a huge problem for their poultry industry however long ago that was. (Not to mention the other various new diseases that affect humans.) A porcine virus that forces you to cull 2/3 of your national herd is no laughing matter, particularly when your cultural menu features so many pork dishes. (Put a pin in that one.)

CCP's answer to this is to clamp down, so they're moving away from their pseudo-fascism and back to full-bore communism. They can't feed everyone without the outside world's help--they couldn't before and still can't--so they know they have to tread carefully lest people stop selling them food, yet they have a unique opportunity to seize Taiwan and all its high-tech goodness and all the money they need to prop up communism for a few more decades. They have a very fine line to walk, here, and if they fuck it up, their proles are going to have to learn how to eat microchips.

The disease thing--by now it's pretty much an open secret that the Wuhan Flu was China's fault. China's government and our elites are complicit in pretending really hard to the contrary, but let's face the facts: it's an escaped experiment, probably an intermediate step towards some kind of bioweapon. So, what about the other ones? SARS, for example? The avian flu? The pig blight? Where did these diseases come from? We've seen that China's idea of "good enough" isn't even close in a lot of ways. Are these other diseases also escaped biological agents? You would think that one fuckup like that would be enough to put the fear of God into them, but apparently it's not, unless that's because no one found out about the other ones. They weren't bad enough to worry the rest of the world to the point of asking, "No, really--did you guys cook that up in a lab?" as they have with SARS-CoV-2.

But all this adds up to a single conclusion, I think. China's position is not as strong as they pretend it is, and a lot of sitting politicians have been bought off to the extent that they're not at all interested in pointing out how weak the Chinese position actually is.

Like all communist dictatorships they have a strong military. They have advanced weapons and nuclear warheads. They can make a lot of trouble for anyone they attack. If they decided to go to war against the United States, they could hurt us.

But then, who would feed them? Who would buy their products? How would they make up for the fact that every last yuan they'd invested in American bonds had just gone up in smoke? That last is not a trivial number, either, and it would probably wreck their economy.

China cannot go to war with the United States and eke out anything other than a pyrrhic victory, not as things stand now, and the war would have to be a short one because half their country would starve, even if everyone else in the world still played nice with China--and I have my doubts about that happening, because if China won a war against the United States, the damage to the US would be enough to hurt everyone else in the world.

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That's actually good for us, by the way, considering the circumstances in this country since Jan 20th.

#7812: Pot roast! Pot roast!

When I went shopping at the far grocery store last week, to pick up my pills, I chanced upon a fantastic sale on chuck roast. Ended up getting a good-sized chunk of meat for under $10 (2.6 lbs, about) and that meant we'd be having pot roast; I'd decided on Sunday.

I put it in the crock pot at 10a, and it'll go on "low" until at least 5 or 6, at which point it's going to be dinner.

A friend in Iowa always made a huge production about making pot roast, with cans of soup and such, but my wife showed me that all you need is a few basic ingredients and it comes out fine: meat, carrots, onion, potatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

I do like a good pot roast.

* * *

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the early years in my SF universe's timeline. I've been doing that because of the nascent project--the one I'm having trouble getting started, the one that's four pages of prologue--which is set early enough that hyperdrive is still a new thing.

I've got some 'splainin' to do.

Look: every year we get a better picture of what the universe around us looks like. Every star that is within reasonable distance of ours is being looked at for signs of planets, and a lot of those planets are no good for my purposes. Like, "all of them".

Today's example is 82 Eridani, a G6V star that's only visible from the southern hemisphere. It's a bit cooler than the Sun is (which is a G2, if memory serves) and it is a perfect place for a habitable planet. You'd want to put the planet a bit closer to the star than Earth is to the sun, because the spectral class is cooler, but it's not that much cooler and G-class star systems are generally good places for earth-like planets.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you what we currently know about 82 Eridani.

Okay, how about WikiPedia? It's not much better.

82 Eridani F, they believe, masses about ten and a quarter Earth masses, and it orbits a shade too close to its primary, such that its average surface temperature is 239°F. Just inside the habitability zone, and crushing surface gravity. There is no planet further out than F that they've found.

Problem: my SF universe puts an earth-like world in orbit around 82 Eridani, about where F is--just a bit farther out, and so a bit cooler. But that orbit is so close to F's real-world orbit that even if that planet had ever existed, it would be long gone now, pulled out of its orbit by F.

I have this problem everywhere. When I started creating my SF universe, not only did I not have access to star catalogs, but I didn't even realize how important spectral class was. (C'mon--I was twelve.) I thought, hotter star? Move the planet farther out. Why does it matter if a planet has a year that's 400 days long, or 4,000? So I put worlds around stars that actually have no business hosting habitable planets. In an email exchange with an actual astronomer, around the time I was revamping the canon, he pointed out that hot stars sterilize their planets because they emit so much UV and x-rays. Not to mention that atmospheres absorb some of the UV and x-rays, and get hotter as a result.

I've used tricks to get around a lot of that. One star, the habitable planet is the moon of a gas giant and the star itself is far enough away that the UV isn't a problem; and I was fortunate in that the planet was already a lush jungle world with perpetual cloud cover, as SF writers of the pulp era imagined Venus to be. But the colonists there are all dark-skinned, because they have to be, because even though the UV is low enough not to sterilize the planet, it's still pretty high compared with Earth normal.

Another star, there's a dust ring that blocks the light from the star, and absorbs much of the UV and reradiates it as IR. The planet is very far from the star and the extra IR helps keep it warm. This one's special, though, for reasons I don't care to discuss here. Uh, "strong indications that it's not a naturally-occurring system".

So I generally use "lots of cloud cover" and "far away" as ways to keep places habitable--as well as other "outs" afforded me by the usages of SF--so I don't need to totally revamp my universe from the ground up; but that's only possible as long as the astronomers don't go and dump ugly reality all over the painstakingly-created maps of my star systems.

I can't be mad at them. They're working out what reality looks like, and how it works, while I'm a guy that writes stories about bug-eyed monsters. But it is frustrating, even so. "Hey, you know that really neat world that is the focus of about a third of the backstory for your universe? Astronomer says it's not there," really puts a damper on things.

I've got two things going for me.

1) "Alternate universe" stories are common enough now that I can claim my universe is one where 82 Eridani has a 100% earthlike world orbiting it, right where we'd expect to find one.

2) Science is not infallible.

I am, for the moment, going with the latter on this point. Recall the story I talk about, when I want to point out what real scientists look like: this group of guys thought they'd found a planet orbiting a star that had a 365-day year, and they had a paper written and a talk ready to present their findings...only while going over things before the conference, they discovered that the 365-day oscillation they'd discovered was, in fact, Earth's motion around the sun...so they got up and told everyone how they'd managed to confirm that Earth's year is 365 days long and did not, in fact, discover the exoplanet that they'd thought they found. Forgetting to compensate for Earth's motion--it's not just for rank amateurs. But they admitted their mistake and didn't try to hide it. They certainly didn't do anything like taking the database of surface temperature measurements and adjusting everything to introduce a warming trend that didn't actually exist...but I digress.

My thesis here is that--well--astronomers just got it wrong, though they're not sure why. At this point, this is the second star system that's been visited by humans, and the first one (Alpha Centauri) was so wrong they were flabbergasted, but are not terribly surprised when the second one is also wrong.

There's a fundamental limit to what you can tell with a telescope and a camera. Sooner or later you have to go there and kick over the rocks and see what's what. My story isn't going to go so far as to claim that exoplanet astronomy is founded on junk science, like climatology; it's just going to say that they made some honest mistakes and LOOK, HALLEY'S COMET!!! in order to keep me from having to rebuild the entire fricking thing from the ground up.

It's a fine tradition in science fiction. Everyone does it. So, what the hell.