Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ravenna, revisited

I'm back in Ravenna for a conference this week, the weather is
cool and crisp, all the Italians are beautiful in their
scarfs and boots, the only change I can detect after 6 months
absence is my bank has been renovated and the people that work
there have become efficient and friendly. (2 years here, no one in
that bank was ever friendly, is there something in the water?)

I went to visit our old neighbors and they gave me an excellent
lunch, spagetti a la speck and vitello and about 9 glasses of
wine and noccino. I need to go up to the office and say hi, but
I suspect I'm too drunk to go at the moment, I may have to go
in the morning. doh.

I like Mexico, the people work really hard, and I fit in because
I look like I could drive a bus there. I really love Italy, I
just could never fit in, everyone here is tall and elegantly
dressed, and even if I bought new clothes here I'd look like a
bus driver wearing Italian clothes.

Italy is like a country filled with the cool people from high school,
all dressed right, even if it's a battered old coat they manage
to pull off being cool. The food is just right, wine is perfect,
but every time I try an italian wine outside of Italy it's crap,
as if here is a bubble of perfectness, once you carry things out
of here they take up the local properties. Maybe Italianness isn't
exportable like French wines or irish beer.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Machiavelli and Muamar

It looks like Sarkozy is actively starting the no fly zone
over Libya. I think it's too late and the USA will lose credibility
and create another enemy, from yahoo:

After weeks of hesitation and divisions among his advisers, President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed military action against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, saying U.S. values and credibility are at stake to stop "the potential for mass murder" of innocents.

I hope it's not, but I think it's too late to help the rebels,
and without going all the way for regime change we'll have pissed
off a guy with a lot of oil income and an army, we'll be looking
at blowback for the next 20 years. As Machiavelli said:

"Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge."

If they had done something a few weeks ago, it would have been
like Afganistan in 2001, just a few cia guys with laser designators
and a few planes with LGB's. Muamar's forces are mostly mercenaries,
just a few magic bombs that kill large groups with unerring accuracy
and they would have headed back home without waiting for paychecks.
That's really the only hope here, (it would have been much easier
back on the coast road though) as Machiavelli said:

mercenaries are disunited and without discipline; bold among friends, yet cowardly among enemies; they have no fear of God, and keep no faith with men. In a word, they are unreliable. If a nation, against his advice, relies on mercenaries for its protection, it keeps its ruin at bay only so long as it can postpone an attack.

(I couldn't find the exact quote, my copy of the prince is still in
a box amongst 25 other boxes of books. I really admire Machiavelli,
when I toured the Palazzo Vecchio I was very interested to see his
office. The Prince is biting satire, but still mostly good advice
if you want to be evil)

It really annoys me that no one in this super intelligent administration
read the prince, or read the history of the africa corps in WW2.
The coast road is the key, the rest of the country is desert. All
of the battles were at one end of the road or the other, in the
middle they were chases supported by air support. It would have been
easier to redeem the full faith and credit of the USA if things were
done two weeks ago.

If I were king, I'd go all out now and shut down the Libyan air force
now and land the marines behind the mercenaries south of bengazi. I
would bet they'd fold up their tents and go home without us having to
retake a city by force.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan Syndrome

I was thinking that the worst thing that would happen
would be a melt down that would stay in containment, but
this guy says it could be worse:

If workers are unable to get additional cooling water into the reactor vessel, the molten fuel core will collapse into the water in bottom of the vessel. Eventually the heat from the decaying fuel would boil away the water that's left, leaving the core sitting on the vessel's lower head made of steel.

Should that happen, "It'll melt through it like butter," Allen said.

That, in turn, would cause a "high-pressure melt injection" into the water-filled concrete cavity below the reactor. Because the concrete would likely be unheated, the reaction created by the sudden injection of the reactor's ultra-hot content would be immense, he said.

"It'll be like somebody dropped a bomb, and there'll be a big cloud of very, very radioactive material above the ground," Allen said, noting that it would contain uranium and plutonium, as well as the fission products.

I'll say it now: GAH!

That sounds uncomfortably close to what was described in the China

Tsunami and nukes

Here we only have Fox and Cnn international and
neither one ever says anything new, they keep talking
about the nukes, when even the worst case exposures would
be a few REM. I've worked with logging sources, and over
about one year I got around 600 mREM, to no negative effect
(twitch twitch). When they mention a dose of 400 uSieverts,
that is a pissant's fart worth of radiation.
[edited after I had a cup of coffee, i meant dose, not rate]

What they seem to be missing is the rest of coastal northern Japan
has been nearly wiped out, the nytimes has an article about
several small towns that were hit by 60' waves. I don't see
how the death toll can't be less then 30 or 40k. Hopefully
no one in the government or the navy is watching Fox, they
need to move ships and helicopters to the more remote towns
where they can do some good.

I would bet the only real danger would be to the 50 guys who
have to go in and fight the fires and keep the plant cool. I
hope they are rotating them enough that no one gets more than
several REMs, and not doing the chernobyl technique of sending in
50 men to die.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I'm trying to work on a presentation for next week, with
around 20 ppt presentations open as I shuffle slides around,
but I keep going back to various news sites to see what is
happening in Japan. The videos of the tsunami are much worse
on the net, when they showed the water crossing farmland on
CNN friday it looked like a thin film of water seeping across

My scale was wrong, watching the full video on
the web, the water is carrying houses and cars and even a
boat that must have set the record for farthest inland boat.
In the video, finally the water approches another town with
a highway with cars that are stopping because they see that
the thin film of water is bearing down on them. One white
car pulled off the road, reversed direction and was last seen
leaving ahead of the water, but the helicopter cameraman
didn't keep him in frame. The guy must have had a pretty
horrifying rear view mirror view.

Even in the most prepared country in the world, if the disaster
is big enough no one is coming to help for 3 days. yikes.
We're out of the Oughts, this crap should stop now.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

President Carter redux

I'm watching CNN as the worst case scenario seems to be
unfolding in Japan. Once again the question is edging towards
"why isn't the US Navy there yet?", and the CNN announcer doesn't
seem to understand that the Pacific is freaking big, anything not
there in Japan won't be there for a few days.

The next story blinks up; Qkadafy is taking the city of Ras Lanuf,
and I really don't see how the rebels can win without outside help.
One side has more modern weapons and air support, the other side has
15 year old boys and 30 year old weapons. I'd ask again, where is the
US Navy?

Two big problems doom the rebellion in Libya by preventing outside
assistance (meaning help from the USA). The intervention clock has
been reset to 1990, it's a bipolar or tripolar world again and we need
the consent of Russia and China to work through the UN. (not happening)
We also have the 1990 post-vietnam(Iraq) perspective of we don't want
to get involved in something that probably would become a quagmire.

The other problem is Arab fatigue. We really don't know the language,
culture or beliefs of anyone there, and my give a fuck level is very
low with anything that happens south or east of Italy. Neptunus Lex
says it better:

It would be the profoundest irony if, after having broken our hearts and the bodies of our youth for nearly 10 years now in the Middle East we have come to the conclusion that “these people” cannot be saved at precisely the same moment when they finally became ready for salvation.

Because that’s what just happened, if you weren’t paying attention: We’ve gotten tired of them. We’re tired of their ululations, their savagery and their conspiracy theories. We’re tired of their backwardness, sloth, dependency and fatalism. We’ve gotten tired of trying to accommodate a modern day, pluralistic and tolerant society to the religious dictates of a military adventurer dead some 1400 years.

The same people that called me a facist motherfucker in 2003 are the same
dickheads saying we should intervene in Libya. My GAF level is low enough that President Carter's dithering over the problem doesn't send me writing emails
hither and yon to various congressmen that could be representing me. More of
a sense of a missed opportunity, we've recreated an enemy in Libya by Carter's calling for him to go, but didn't do anything to make him go. I don't think the current President Carter included "The Prince" in his extensive, elite education.

[just to translate from Joe to english: I'd support support the current
President Carter if he'd do his job and swat khadafy duck, and I think that
is a consistent position. Hussein was a dick and he made war on us, we made
war on him and now he's gone. Khadafy is a dick, and has made war on us off
and on for 30 years, he should be made to go, not told to go. Don't do a
powerful enemy a small hurt]