Sunday, March 13, 2011

One Hour Behind.

It says something, and probably something pretty scathing, about me and my life at present that I spent the entire day today completely unaware that I and my entire family were an hour behind the rest of the world.

Yep. Daylight savings time? Missed it completely. It wasn't until I was sitting with the Boy watching (Jesus wept, the things I do for my offstpring) "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" that I noticed that the time on the cable directory was an hour ahead of the clocks in the house.Mind you, the cellphone that I'd been carrying all day, and the computer that I had checked once or twice were "correct". I just never really noticed the difference.

Of course, it was a lazy Sunday, and we had no agenda, so, really, who cared? Mind you, if I hadn't caught it before tomorrow morning there would have been hell to pay. But it made me wonder about our obsession with time. All four of us lost an hour today, lost it from dawn to dusk, never once even knew we'd lost it. And it made no difference whatsoever. We went where we needed to go (Goodwill, the grocery store, the little wargame store to pick up the rule for "Axis & Allies", the latest in the series of games the Boy and I have been fooling with), did what we needed to do, got our meals and our work and our entertainment without ever needing that hour.

All in all this wasn't a bad weekend. We got some relaxation in, the Boy and his little army cleaned me out of my village defense with the help of some aggressive mistakes on my part and a 4-2 advantage in tank strength). We picked up a kabocha squash at Beaverton's wonderful Uwajimaya market, tho we were sad that they didn't have a live octopus in the tank.

(This is, obviously, NOT the Beaverton store, but old man Moriguchi's Seattle store in 1946; fun article about the clan and their business here.)

I finally got the downstairs shelves cleared up and took the expired paint, leaky tarps, broken tools and a hell of a lot of stuff that was simply dunsel to the dump. That includes the two discarded computer towers and monitors; something like $2,500 1990 dollars now worth approximately...nothing. Not that the computers themselves don't WORK, mind you. They simply lack the memory now available in the smallest laptop, lack memory space to the point where getting them to run the most mindless Windows crap would result in a shower of sparks and a puff of smoke, the perfect symbol of sudden technological death. To the dump with you, then.

Oh, and, not so delightfully, I discovered the clowder of small black ants that had taken up residence under the downstairs laptop. I hauled some clothes from the worktable and was dismayed by a sudden scurry of insects. Damn. I couldn't find any food scraps - I don't usually eat downstairs - and I think the damn beasts were drawn by the warmth of the running electronics. So I had to haul everything off the table and ant-spray the entire work area before vacuuming up the little bodies. Ugh, nasty. I have GOT to get a contractor in to replace the old basement windows. They are open to the entire wild woods and the transient insect traffic can get truly ridiculous.

The thing is, though, that the entire weekend centered around the kiddos. Not that everything we did was of , by, and for the kids. But they were there, they couldn't be disregarded. And when they were - if, for example, we wanted to do something that held no child-level entertainment value or even distraction-value - the whining began quickly, if not instantly. This could be dealt with, but then the result was a sullen silence, tolerable only if you had the temperament of an antihero of one of the more biting Jane Austin novels. It reminded me vividly of this post by Carrie over at Clueless in Carolina. She went to some website and made some do-it-yourself "demotivational" posters. Once of them included her family above the caption "Parenting: Because We Couldn't Figure Out What To Do With All That Money And Spare Time".

It ended up being posted (without her knowledge) to the site's homepage where it garnered a ton of nasty comments and about 700 "dislike" votes.


Here's my take on this; anyone who "hated" this, first, has no real life, and, second, either has no children or is one of those sorts of people who come from one of those goofy Christian sects where they teach you that kids are God's little miracles and how you're supposed to walk around all day in a sort of religious/oxycontin haze with a big, goofy smile on your puss.

Because parenting DOES suck up your time and money.

Because for every lovely moment there's a "Will you PICK UP the damn shoes like I asked you FOURTEEN times already?" moment.

It's hard, often grinding work, it never stops, and if you think your kids are grateful for it you're smoking crack.

Parenting is a good thing and a great thing, often a rewarding thing, but anyone who thinks its easy, or that as a parent you're supposed to be going through the day singing because its just a ceaseless parade of wonder and delight has been doing their parenting whilst licking lead paint off old kids toys.

So. How about some other random bloggage?

Speaking of overwhelmed technology, I am very uncommitted on the subject of nuclear power in general.There seem to me to be considerable risks, but also significant advantages, to a source of electrical power that doesn't rely on short-term, nonrenewable consumables but produces such such long-term, nondisposable wastes.The U.S. problems with it seem to stem as much from our approach to plant design - most of our plants are, I understand, literally one-offs; each designed more-or-less anew every time a new plant comes online - as it does with any sort of larger nuclear power issues. The French, for example, seem to do a decent job of running a large-scale nuclear grid. The Japanese, too, seemed to be a model argument for nuclear as an alternative power source, especially given that the Japanese have even fewer options that the U.S. does.

But the aftermath of Friday's earthquake two of the commercial nuclear plants in Fukushima Dai-ichi in Japan's Tōhoku region seem to be running considerable danger of dangerous core meltdown failure, which reminds me of the single biggest difference between nuclear and other forms of power: there's just no way to "turn off" a nuclear reactor.

My understanding of the way nuclear power works is that the process depends on hear generated by controlled nuclear fission. And that the main controls for this reaction are the so-called "control rods" which are designed to absorb the excess neutrons that propagate the chain-reaction and thus end it.

But the difference between this, say, and a coal or gas plant, or hydroelectric dam, is that there seems to be no way to actually "shut down" the nuclear core. Shut down the coal or gas, fully open the sluicegates, and the energy powering the conventional plants or the dam is gone. The turbines will stop spinning, the fires in the boilers go out, the dam pool drain, and the danger will end.

The nuclear core doesn't appear to follow this pattern. Even with the control rods fully inserted it seems to need to be actively cooled or it will overheat, and if it overheats it will melt. (Here are some discussions of the problems of cooling a shut-down reactor) It seems physically impossible to extract fuel cells from a reactor where the cooling system fails (or else you suspect that someone would have done it in one of the several major failures, including this one) and thus drop the reactive mass below criticality. So without continuous and effective cooling in the week after shutdown some sort of major disaster seems certain.

And, again, the difference between nuclear disasters and the "other" power plant disasters seems to be not so much in the scale as in the permanence of the former. A dam breaks and the resulting flood devastates the valley below. A gas plant explodes and the neighborhood around it burns.

But after the waters return home, and the fires are put out, the people around the destroyed gas or hydro plants can rebuild. A major nuclear core melt, a real "China Syndrome" containment breach, and the area around the plant is poisoned for years, possibly for generations. This, for example, is what was once a primary school in what was once the Ukrainian town of Chernobyl.Mind you, I also realize that there are massive long-term problems with fossil fuel power generation. So there doesn't seem to be a "good guy-bad guy" here. But it seems to me that the active-cooling issue is a problem that needs to be solved before nuclear power is more widely used here. There should be some way to passively flood the reactor vessel and cool the fuel for the week or so until the heat dissipates. Without power, without the need for generators or electricity, which the Sendai Earthquake has shown will not be there when needed.

There; that's nuclear engineering taken care of.

This from Karen Traviss' blog; a eulogy for the latest young man to die southwest Asia. Say what you want about the decline of the British Empire; they still know how to mourn their war dead. I don't pretend to know young Liam Tasker. But after reading the Ministry of Defence press release, I at least have some dim sense of the young dog handler who will be sadly missed by his mates, his family, and in his home of Kirkcaldy. I know that if I was to be killed in some Third World shithole the least I'd want is something like this, a real forget-me-not, a chance for a stranger half a work away to read "I am the proudest girlfriend there could ever be and there will be an LT-sized hole in my life forever. Sleep well my darling, my soul mate, my best friend." and, however briefly, feel the emptiness in the heart and soul of a young woman from Scotland who will never see her man again. There's something extra there, something the U.S. Army doesn't seem to bother with, something that all the boilerplate "for God and country" eyewash just can't give you.

Speaking of King and Country, the Little Girl's latest "Iwant" is the Zhu Zhu Princess hamster toys, complete with castle and coach and little ballroom. Mind you, I have no idea where her LAST "zhu zhu pet" has got to, but the magic of pink plastic appears to be irresistible; she Must Have Them. Every time they appear on the television she swirls into rapture; "Iwantthat, Iwantthat, IREALLYwantthat!"

(My personal favorite is the Prince Hamster, who goes by the improbably monkier of "Prince Dashington". And even he is pinky-purple and soft with fake fur. Little girls...sigh.)

The whole set is being offered on EBay for something like $140, but I'm damned if I'm going to pay the price of a new stereo for a pink plastic hamster palace. Hopefully I can find some hamster-princess parts that will serve to entertain. This is a little girl who finds endless amusement in cutting up construction paper; I can't think that the hamsters are a must-have in the Big Picture. In the small, unfortunately, I fear that there must be pink hamsters in the 5th Birthday present pile or there will be Sadness.

I'm just tired of the damn politics. I just want to be domestic and small-minded tonight, because otherwise, at home and abroad, there seems to be no refuge from the sad and the stupid. I, the hell with what I wish; it's not gonna happen. A hell of a lot of us are gonna ram our pecker into the meatgrinder just because we refuse to hear any alternative; we seem bound and determined to prove that we're just homicidal, hairless apes without a clue that the rest of the world is an hour ahead of us and all the chest-beating, stick-pounding and shit-flinging isn't going to make the time up, make us smarter, or richer, or happier.Just a pack of goddamn brain-damaged bonobos one hour behind.


Pluto said...

Chief, sounds like you had a PERFECT Sunday! We were on the road and so HAD to be aware of time changes or be charged for an extra day at the hotel but I personally would have preferred to spend it your way.

Minor points:
Don't let the boy beat you too easily. Otherwise he'll expect you to be an easy mark in the game forever and want to play (beat) you continuously.

I always warned my boys when I played games like that with them either that I was holding back or that I was playing at full capacity. Occasionally they'd ask me to change my play mode before we started.

I'm terribly ambivalent about fission nuclear power. There are countries that do it pretty well, but as the Japanese are in the process of demonstrating, when things go bad, they can go REALLY bad!

The other problem is the wastes. The French deal with them by dumping ordinary 55 gal drums full of the stuff in the Pacific off Tahiti (which is getting increasingly unhappy with this).

The Yucca mountain solution appears to have been an expensive bust, mostly because of a flawed initial geological survey than anything else as I understand it. I don't have a good answer on the waste.

I am also tired of the damned politics, partly because the Tea Party has lowered the level of our national discourse with alarming speed.

Lisa said...


I love the trope of an hour swirling about these thoughts. Time means nothing, and yet it's all we have. Mostly, we are oblivious to our stations in life, though some proudly sport the Breitling to convince they are not witlings ...

Thanks for explaining nuclear reactors (though the link would not work for me). I cannot understand why Japan would have built them on the coastline -- that seems so vulnerable.

The words of the young Scottish lass are most moving. Americans seem lacking in the art of heartfelt expression (and feeling?) The soldiers are at heart, good lads and blokes, whereas we so often like to cast ours as hard automatons.

Per your insect problem, we share yet another natural world blight: Wasps are coming into the house this winter as you say, for the heat. Paper wasps, mind, not ants (though fire ants are the devil's own scourge). Anyway, they are quite lethargic by the time they fall into the house and I usually scoop them up in a cup and drop them back outside. Except one night, whilst walking barefooted, I chanced to step on one -- OUCH!

His stinger was obviously still functional, for the slightest prick elicited a huge histamine response and swelling up to mid-calf. Thank goodness I had Benadryl and baking soda. (I not have an Epi-Pen on hand, too.)

Well, an eventful winter's end what with the poison ivy and wasp sting ... I swear, I'm not a hypochondriac or anything, but the last year has brought a bevy of blights -- where are the locusts? I'm feeling quite biblical about the whole thing ...

FDChief said...

Pluto: It's just embarassing to miss something like that; like waking around wondering why the stores are all closed and it's Christmas Day...

Kiddo has real issues with getting beat, so we have worked out a system just like you discuss. He either asks me to "go easy on him" and I agree, or we debate how full-bore I can go to beat him.

But in this case it was legit, more or less (He ended up with two decent medium tank outfits (Pzkpfw IIIF and T-34c) and two decent light tank units (Crusader II and BT-5) and I had two decent medium units (Sherman M4A1 and Cromwell II) and one total shitbag (British-captured Italian 11/39) - I was too aggressive in defense, committed my tanks piecemeal and he picked them off, then proceeded to just overrun my infantry in the town objective. It wasn't exactly Heinz Guderian, but he had a simple, workable pland and succeeded, whilst I made two major errors and paid for it.

I always thought that the opposition to YM was driven more by hysteria than sense. The original geologic study downplayed the groundwater infiltration, but I think the rebuttals assume way too much precipitation; it is unlikely that we'll see the sort of rainfall we had at the last glacial maxima in 5-6,000 years.

But it is a done deal, and the waste problem is a significant one, and, like you, I'm not sure if there really IS a good answer. I think nuclear has to be seen as a transitional source to truly renewable means in the future.

And that's exactly what I meant by "sick of politics". The GOP has been captured by the Teatards, who have zero interest in real politics as opposed to playing kids games with homos, taxes, and abortions. And the Dems have just given up; they're not even trying anymore.

Lisa: Napoleon said it best, I think: "Vous pouvez me demander que pour quelque chose vous aimez...excepté le temps."

Water. You have to have huge amounts of water to cool the damn things; if you've been following our conversation at MilPub you've probably heard me whining about what seems to me the really simple question of why these aren't designed with gravity-flow water cooling systems. Btu in Japan, well, the coasts are where the people are, and ther's really nothing BUT coasts, and high, high mountains...

I liked the girlfriend's little eulogy, too. We seem to have some sort of odd compunction to hide the simplicity of our war dead behind official press releases, formal obits, ranks of "Patriot Guard" bikers...I don't get it. The British press release seemed so much more humane; words about the guy from the people who were closest to him.

The thing I've always got a kick out of is the dissonance between the way we talk and think about twentysomethings in general; slackers, vidiots, dudes, and boners...and the way we suddenly genuflect to them when they're all kitted out in boots and a rucksack. They're the SAME fucking slackers, vidiots, dudes, and boners, just all dress-right-dressed and covered down. WTF, people..?

Curse these insect plagues! I've half a mind to put some blood on the doorframe.

But your reaction to the barefoot sneak-attack seems a little extreme, anamchara - are you or have you been allergic to beestings previously? Because it seems that you are now. An epi-pen might be a good investment for the summery months. Those rascals are quite aggressive in late summer around here, and although none of us has shown any sort of reactivity yet, the histamine system seems to behave cumulatively, and at some point the next sting activates the Nuclear Option. I worry about you flitting about, the feet beneath your petticoat like little mice stealing in and out, just tempting those terrorist hymenoptera.

And wear your slippers!

Lisa said...


1) I agree with you:

"I think nuclear has to be seen as a transitional source to truly renewable means in the future."

Once we can see this, then the nuclear waste becomes a universal issue, and hopefully a protocol can be established.

2) Yes -- how inconsistent we are in the way we view others, and how obedient in our ritual expression.

3) I have always been terribly reactive to wasp stings. This was the slightest tap b/f I withdrew my foot, and it was a powerful reaction. (I could not even detect the point of entry for the sting.)

The last full-on wasp sting was behind my knee, and that sent me to the ER for steroid shots. I should always have an Epi-pen on me, and I do now.

... and no more barefoot walking, always slippers to guard vs. the terrorist hymenoptera :)

FDChief said...

Not that I would demand you forswear going nude below the ankle; for such a graceful foot it would be like hiding the sun in a gunnysack.

Which reminds me - I have a funny little human interest story from the Goodwin Lincoln book I should tell. That's for the next post.

Lisa said...

I'm rather still enjoying the the imagery of my feet scurrying like little mice :) (It brings me to mind of Sandburg's Fog, and little cat's feet.

I shall always be shod, now. It is horrible to look down and see you've no turn of ankle left due to swelling. While it may befall us all one day, just not yet ...

FDChief said...

The little mice are from John Suckling's (which is a terrible name for a poet, BTW) "Ballad Upon a Wedding":

"Her feet beneath her petticoat,
Like little mice, stole in and out,
As if they fear'd the light :
But O, she dances such a way !
No sun upon an Easter-day
Is half so fine a sight."