Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On the subject of microfracking chemicals, my father forwarded this link to me last night. I was looking through the list, and X-Cide 207 caught my eye - it's an industrial microbicide and fungicide, and is pretty nasty. It's explicitly labeled for fracking, and most of the rest of the chemicals look like similar biocides, industrial solvents, surfactants, and the like. Hrm, also Bio Clear 1000 and its relatives, which are also nasty microbicides - "slimacide", "algaecide", etc. Various caustic and acidic agents....

The nasty stuff looks like it is used to keep algaeal blooms from forming in the fracking circulatory system.

For the nasty stuff, it depends on concentrations, I suppose. This sort of stuff will be present in industrial brownfields. But as the article points out, these are all essentially trace substances in a slurry whose vast bulk is composed of the pure drinking-class water the Marcellus operators are extracting out of my industrial park's pumps. The list includes a number of rather dubious-looking environmentally-sensitive replacements for dirtier compounds. I say "dubious" because these sorts of substitutions tend to be less effective than the old poisons.

Eh, it's possible that somewhere down the line some of this stuff could get out into the general water table. But keep in mind that the old mines are volcanoes of nastier stuff all over this state's minefield regions, and all of them were cut right into the water-table, open sieves of heavy metal seepage. Even the worst case isn't going to be anything like the old mercury poisonings of the "golden age" of industrial mining operations. Heck, there are flooded, abandoned quarries all through this region with crystalline-clear water the color of nothing in nature - crystal-clear because nothing can live in the waters. I've been told that if you go swimming in some of them, you're going to get skin burns.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Did y'all know that indie comics god Wil Eisner wrote a Vietnam-era illustrated maintenance comic for the M16A1 assault rifle? It's very distinctively Eisner-esque. I knew he wrote some sort of book about the war, but I never got around to reading it. His best book is still probably A Contract With God... but this pamphlet is surprisingly engaging for something about equipment maintenance.


Friday, June 25, 2010

If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna!

Likewise, if you have to buy a "bimbo box", buy one. Don't try to cushion the blow to your manly ego by buying something some idiot in marketing decided to label a "man van". Hell, I kind of like minivans. They aren't wire-rimmed milquetoasts playing cowboy dress-up like your average SUV, or pickup trucks languishing in two-car garages like big sheepdogs stuck inside a bachelor box with their townhouse-dwelling overcompensating owners.

h/t, although I'm seeing this one everywhere today.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I went on a hell of a DVD-buying binge this last month, due to a confluence of online sales at Deep Discount & My "to-watch" shelves are groaning under the pile, and I'm spending a lot of time in front of the TV, alternating between the box-set of the Shield & various anime series. This week it's Clannad.

I never watched Clannad in fansubs, because I had a bias against Key visual-novel adaptations. I was so utterly bored by Kanon (the awful 2000 Toei version) that for the longest time I referred to the whole subgenre as "retard moe". But I've been favorably impressed by Kyoto Animation's production style, the roseate skin-tones and gorgeous backgrounds, and Sentai's ads on their other releases for Clannad made me regret my initial refusal. So, I bought it expecting "scenery porn" - which means I'd basically be watching it for the landscapes.

So far, the backgrounds are ok, but nothing quite as gem-like as The Second Raid; at least not yet. But the story and writing is unexpectedly amusing, and not nearly as emo & overwrought as online commentary about "Jun Maeda's sad girls in snow" leads one to suspect. The protagonist is a mischievous liar, who likes to amuse himself by staging manzai routines with his gullible nakama of haremettes & token beta-male sidekick. It's nothing great, but so far it's an amusing way to waste a few hours of my life...

Oh, BTW - "clannad" isn't a word - there's a Celtic band which abbreviated "an clann as Dobhar" into "Clannad" for their name, and somebody at Key decided it meant "family" in Gaelic. It doesn't, it doesn't mean anything. But apparently Key intends "Clannad" to refer to the protagonist's search for family via nakama formation.

Oh, and btw - Sentai? If you feel the need to bombard the viewer with heaping piles of on-screen cultural note subtitles, it'd be nice if you put them in a secondary subtitle track. It's a little intrusive, and since I've been watching these things for nearly twenty years now, pretty redundant. Especially all the blow-by-blow details about what the various politeness-level gags mean in the Kotomi arc.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yeah, if Obama thinks that he's Lincoln, he's apparently settled on Petraeus as his McClellan. Is he going to run CentCom remotely at the same time he's directly commanding in Afghanistan?

The general should remember what happened to Our George. Petraeus' little fainting spell even has a small parallel in McClellan's repeated bouts with typhoid fever [?]

Friday, June 11, 2010

So, the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale boom has touched down here in Bellefonte. At least some of the microfracking operations north of I-80 are pulling some fraction of their millions of gallons of water needed for the fracking process out of two small pumping stations here in the industrial park I work in. These days, there's usually at least one tanker-truck topping off for the trip upcounty to feed the new well-systems, and this Tuesday when I was walking around the loop there were three tankers hooked up to the pumps, and a fourth one passed one of the finished tankers as I headed back to my office.

They must have made arrangements with the Chamber to buy water from the industrial park's permits. Since the park is, at best, one-third full, I guess they had capacity to spare. Freakily enough, one of the regular tanker-trucks was originally a milk tanker, and still has milk placards all over it. I guess the boom came on so hard and fast that they've been re-purposing equipment like the milk tanker.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

South Carolina continues to appear collectively determined to prove itself "too small for a country, too large for an insane asylum". The last month's deranged pig-pile on Nikki Haley aside, it appears that an unemployed, incoherent veteran with an outstanding felony charge for mopery has become the state's Democratic nominee against Sen. Jim DeMint.

Oh, well, at least the state's offering a congressional run-off between the state assembly's arguably most conservative (and only black!) Republican and the son of the late Strom Thurmond, one in which said conservative black Republican, Tim Scott, at least has a chance to win, since he did come in first during the primary proper. I entertain myself with the mental image of the old Dixiecrat rotting in his coffin, at a loss on whether to spin clockwise or widdershins.


Update: Oops. I don't know why, but the fact that South Carolina's felony-charge senatorial nominee is black makes it less funny and a lot more sad. I guess it's easier to laugh at a crazy good ol' boy than a wrecked black vet. That's too much like a guy I knew in college...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Quoth the Professor:

Brooks writes: “If you go through college without reading Thucydides, Herodotus and Gibbon, you’ll have been cheated out of a great repertoire of comparisons.”

I took a BA in History from PSU over a dozen years ago. While I *did* read all three of the above, it wasn't because we studied them in class, nor did they appear on any syllabus of any class I took for credit. I had to seek them out and read them on my own hook, usually in between all the busy-work rubbish which clutters up the modern undergraduate experience.

I got more out of my proximity to the library stacks & the bookstores in town than I ever did from in-class assignments. Penn State in the early Nineties had simply assembled the elements for a first-class auto-didactic experience. Whether you did anything with it was your own look-out.

There's a quote from Carlyle carved into the facade of Pattee Library on campus: "The true university is a collection of books". At times I think the faculty took that sentiment a hair too seriously.
I love these sorts of stories. They make me feel like it isn't all sliding into the sewers, and the pipes are starting to back up. Basically, there's a pan-Asian boom in "Gobar Gas", which is a cute South Asian euphemism for dung-fermentation engines which produce quality biofertilizer and limited biogas for home use. The Gurkhas, who are mercenaries recruited from the back hollers of Nepal for those of you who don't really pay attention to British regimental culture, got deployed to Afghanistan, and noticed that the locals, who live in pretty much the same sort of country as back home, hadn't heard of Gobar Gas.

There's a push on to get the Afghans started on a Gobar Gas installation path - if there's a place on the planet with a greater need for fertilizer, cheap local energy, and the preservation of what few trees remain, it's back-country Afghanistan.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Further note on Death and Life of Great American Cities - boy, Jane Jacobs hated cars. Not necessarily on an intellectual level - she tries her damnedest to be even-handed and fair - but you can just smell the fury burning off the paper. A smouldering stench of fried ink. She sounds like a farmer on the losing end of a range-war, seething about lawless cowhands and sheep-herding savages. Lots of bloody-minded fulmnating about "attrition of automobiles by city" and plots to deliberately obstruct vehicular traffic.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Just checking in, I've been pretty busy since Memorial Day weekend. I'm reading Jane Jacobs' Death and Life of Great American Cities which is interesting, but since I'm not finding much to argue with, there's not a lot I can fruitfully write about. I get the impression that she's too infatuated with pointless bustle for its own sake, and I'm not convinced that her diversity is proof against racial tension. I keep thinking that she under-appreciates the logistical horrors her beloved mixed-use economic chaos imposes upon city infrastructure, and I'm having difficulty disassociating my post-modern assumptions that small-scale city commerce is inherently expensive and inconvenient - my childhood experience of going into Pittsburgh and other big-city downtowns mostly in search of rare and old books & anime back in the pre-DVD days.

Also, I have the nastiest suspicion she's working her way into endorsing rent controls, but I haven't finished it yet, so maybe not. I'm still working my way into the opening chapter in the last section, on policy prescriptions.