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.

No comments:

Post a Comment