Bad news continues to arrive from Japan. The MSM, of course, focuses on
the nuclear reactors, although as far as we know there's been no
significant radiation release. The greens and environmentalists are all
over it, but the message they're sending is diametrically opposed to
the real story. Just as at TMI, where everything that could go wrong
did go wrong and the radiation release was utterly trivial, the lesson
here, at least so far, is that even an elderly nuke plant that was
scheduled for decommissioning has withstood a nearby 9.0
earthquake and the resulting tsunami apparently without releasing
significant amounts of radiation. There'll be a mess to clean up, no
doubt, but so far the containments are doing what they were designed to
do. Let us all hope that continues to be true.
TMI killed new
nuke construction in the US. We should have a thousand nukes operating
today. Instead, we have a handful of aging, elderly plants with no
replacements in prospect. I do disagree with the pro-nuke spokesmen in
one respect. I don't think we should be siting nuke plants in areas
subjects to extreme earthquakes. Any nuke plant is immune to nearly all
natural disasters, including Category 5 hurricanes and F5 tornados. But
no nuke plant, no matter how heavily constructed, can be guaranteed to
be immune from an 8.0 or greater earthquake. We should be building many
more nuke plants, certainly, but we should not be siting them in
California or in other regions subject to extreme earthquakes.
California already imports much of its power from out-of-state. There's
no reason they can't continue to do so from new nuke plants sited
And it does disturb me when I see Jerry
Pournelle, who understands nuclear radiation well enough to know
better, talk about laying in supplies of duct tape to seal his Studio
City, California home against radiation. Come on, Jerry, you know as
well as I do that even if every affected reactor failed
catastrophically the vast majority of the radiation plume would quickly
fall out over the ocean near Japan. By the time any residual
particulates crossed the Pacific Ocean, it'd be difficult to
discriminate their radiation from background.
Although one would never know it from reading the MSM, radiation
releases are the least of Japan's problems. Even the horrendous loss of
life and the lack of food, water, shelter, and heat in the affected
areas are only distractions from the real problem. Japan's economy has
just suffered a blow from which it may never recover. The US deficit
pales next to that of Japan, which has been on a government spending
binge for more than 20 years now. Japan now needs to borrow on a
massive scale to replace damaged and destroyed infrastructure, and will
have great difficulty finding anyone who is able, let
willing, to lend them the money they need.
For the last several
years, it's been obvious to anyone paying attention
that governments have been robbing Peter to pay Paul, but that
game of musical chairs is coming to an end. The government of every
major country on the planet is bankrupt, but continues to pile debt on
debt. We're rapidly and irrevocably heading for a crash that will make
the recent economic unpleasantness look trivial.
I often disagree with him, but Eric Raymond sums things up
well in Politics
as Usual is Over.
I do think he's overly optimistic. We're not "fast approaching the
point of no choices left". We're already there and have been for quite
some time. The question is no longer if but when and how. Default or
hyperinflation? I'm hoping for the former, which will be bad enough but
not nearly as bad as the only alternative. If it is managed properly,
the US--along with its de facto satellite states, Canada and
Australia--can remain standing after a general default. Badly beaten,
but still standing.
crap. I see there's a run on potassium iodide tablets and solutions.
That would be understandable in the affected areas of Japan, but the
run is in the US, particularly in California, where no risk exists.
What's worse is that some people are buying tincture of iodine or other
solutions that contain elemental iodine. So I decided to write a sanity
None of this is necessary for US residents. Nuclear
reactors produce I-131, a radionuclide with a half-life of about eight
days. It's nasty stuff, because although it's only a beta emitter, it
accumulates in the thyroid where it can cause cancers. US residents are
not being exposed to I-131, and won't be short of nuclear war or a nuke
plant next door melting down.
The palliative for I-131 exposure
is to ingest non-radioactive iodine in the form of iodide ions, which
competitively inhibit thyroid uptake of any I-131 ingested. The WHO
recommends a daily dose of potassium iodide of 16 mg for newborns, 32
mg for ages 1 to 36 months, 65 mg for ages 3 to 12 years, and 130 mg
for ages 12 to 40. Adults over age 40 should not take potassium iodide
unless they have been exposed to large amounts of I-131.
ions and iodine are different things. Iodide ions are similar to
chloride ions, so potassium iodide is little more toxic than common
table salt (sodium chloride). Iodine in its elemental form, on the
other hand, is toxic and corrosive. Drinking tincture of iodine is a
good way to earn a fast trip to the emergency room.
If you feel
you must have some iodide on hand and you can't buy potassium iodide,
go ahead and buy tincture of iodine or Lugol's iodine at the drugstore.
Both of these contain a mixture of elemental iodine and potassium (or
sodium) iodide. Fortunately, it's easy to convert the toxic, corrosive
elemental iodine to harmless iodide ions. You can simply dissolve
vitamin C tablets in tap water and add that solution to the iodine
solution until it becomes colorless.
In order to calculate the
proper dose (not that you need the stuff anyway...) you'll need to read
the label on your iodine solution. It should give percentages of both
iodine and iodide in the solution. For example, the label may list the
contents as 2.2% iodine and 5% sodium iodide. That means 100 mL of that
solution contains 2.2 grams of iodine and 5 grams of sodium iodide.
You'll need to do some calculating if you want to get the dosage exact.
iodide, KI, is 76.45% (.7645) iodine by mass, which means the
WHO-recommended adult dose of 130 mg of KI contains about 99.39 mg of
iodine. (I suspect they semi-arbitrarily decided on 100 mg of
iodine-equivalent and rounded 130.80 mg of KI down to 130 mg.) Sodium
iodide, NaI, is 84.66% (.8466) iodine by mass, so the equivalent dose
of NaI is about 118 mg. (These numbers assume a 70 kilogram adult, so
you can modify them accordingly for people of different masses.)
that an iodine equivalent of 100 mg is the proper dose for your body
mass, you can then calculate the amount of iodine as both elemental
iodine and iodide in your iodine solution. Using the example given, 100
mL of the solution contains 2.2 grams (2,200 mg) of elemental iodine
and 5,000 mg of sodium iodide, which is 84.66% iodine. The total iodine
equivalents in that 100 mL of solution are therefore [2,200 + (5,000 *
0.8466)] = 6,433 mg of iodine equivalent. At 100 mg per dose, that
solution is sufficient for 6,433/100 = 64.33 doses.
the bottle actually contains one fluid ounce of iodine solution, a
common size, that is sufficient for about 18 adult doses. Transfer the
one fluid ounce of iodine solution to a 500 mL soda bottle half full of
tap water. Add vitamin C tablets and swirl until the color disappears.
Fill the bottle with tap water and swirl to mix. One tablespoon (15 mL)
of that dilute solution contains about half an adult dose.
that, despite the fact that I can't convince the Wake Forest University
Bowman-Gray School of Medicine that I am not a physician, I am not.
Follow these instructions at your own peril. And you don't really need
to be taking iodide anyway. But if you decide to drink iodine tincture
or Lugol's iodine, please use vitamin C to decolorize it first. You'll
still get every atom of iodine that was present in the bottle, but your
throat and internal organs will thank you for giving it to them in
- Thanks to Rob Clay for this
Isn't it nice to know that our surgeon general is radiologically
illiterate? At least the California Emergency Management Agency appears
to have its head screwed on right.
Hmmm. Apparently, the prices
on eBay for potassium iodide are skyrocketing. I just checked, and I
have about 5,000 adult doses worth of reagent-grade potassium iodide on
hand. If I didn't despise profiteering I might package up some
centrifuge tubes with 13 mL each of 10% KI solution stabilized with
vitamin C and sell them as "10 adult doses" for $20 a tube.
Several emails and posts on the forums convinced me that it's not
profiteering to sell people things they don't need. So, not being an
eBay person, I spoke to a woman in our neighborhood who sells stuff
full-time on eBay. I told her if she wanted to sell potassium iodide
I'd package it up for her and we'd split the profits, if any. I left
everything eBay-related up to her, including setting prices. I emailed
her this morning to say that I think she has the prices set too high,
at $30 buy-it-now for 10 doses and $150 for 50 doses. I think she's
going to drop that down to $20 and $100. She's going for all the
traffic will bear, which is fine with me. As I said, I don't really
care if we sell any or not.
The product is basically distilled
water with reagent-grade potassium iodide at 130 mg/mL, which means one
mL is equivalent to one adult dose as recommended by the WHO.
Atmospheric oxygen reacts with KI to produce elemental iodine, which
means that the solution turns pale yellow even as you stir it. As
Kristen said, people aren't going to want a product that looks like
urine, so I'm adding one 500 mg tablet of vitamin C per 500 mL to keep
the iodide in ionic form and the solution colorless.
I wanted to
label it "Love Potion #9" because I'm using the Madam Ruth
manufacturing method, making it up right here in the sink. Well, I
don't think Madam Ruth autoclaved her bottles.
on the 32 GB Lexar thumb drives I used in the latest edition of
Building the Perfect PC. I've been using these things every day for
several months for doing my own backups, and they continue to function
better than advertised. They're rated for 10 MB/s writes, and I'm
actually doing better than that as long as I do it correctly. A typical
backup might include zip files of mine and Barbara's home directory
plus a couple thousand individual files, totaling maybe 500 to 800 MB.
If I write that directory to the thumb drive, my transfer rate overall
is typically in the 6 or 7 MB/s range, but can drop to as low as 3
MB/s, depending on how much cruft is on the thumb drive. If it's
freshly formatted, the 6 or 7 MB/s range is typical, but when I've
deleted a bunch of stuff and fragmented the drive the rates drop down
toward 3 MB/s.
So, a few weeks ago, I started zipping up the
entire backup directory before copying it to the thumb drive. Doing
that adds maybe 30 seconds to zip the backup directory, but the trade
off is worth it because writes to the thumb drive are so much faster
when writing just one large file. Even after the drive has been churned
for a long time, writing the one big zip file is fast. The slowest I've
seen is 9.7 MB/s, and that's counting the time needed to flush the
cache and unmount the thumb drive. Most of the time, the write speed is
between 11 MB/s and 12 MB/s, and on one or two occasions it's exceeded
- I almost forgot. Happy Saint Patrick's Day. Here's a biologist doing a traditional Irish song.
Kristen started getting orders last night and this morning, which
she'll ship by 11:00 a.m. today. She has 1,500 ratings for her eBay
store, 100% of them positive, and she says one of the keys to
maintaining that high rating is to ship fast. I suspect another key is
to deliver more than promised, so I'm overfilling containers slightly.
I don't want anyone who orders 50 mL to receive only 49.9.
on FoxNews that the FDA has issued a warning that some Internet sellers
are offering "potassium iodide" products that don't actually contain
any potassium iodide. There are also quite a few that are confused,
unintentionally or intentionally, about the difference between
milligrams (mg) and micrograms (mcg or µg). The standard adult dosage
is 130 mg, which is the same as 130,000 mcg. But many vendors are
offering nutritional supplements that contain, say, 65 mcg of potassium
iodide, and telling people that two pills is an adult dosage. In
reality, of course, one would need to swallow 2,000 of those pills to
get 130 mg of potassium iodide. Not to mention Thor knows how much
The bad news is that there's no potassium iodide to
be had anywhere. I had an order in for 2 kilograms, but my
supplier tells me he ran out and doesn't expect to get any more in for
at least three weeks. Oh, well.
It's started. Barbara just emailed me to ask me to buy two Eveyln David
titles for the Kindle, one at $0.99 and one at $5.00. I won't pay more
than $2.99 for a fiction ebook, but Barbara's entitled to set her own
limit, so I went ahead and ordered both. I then emailed her to say I'd
ordered them, and included a list of that authoress's other titles, all
of which sell for $2.99. Apparently, she has two series whose names are
confusingly similar. Barbara had just read a paper copy of the first
book in one series, the Sullivan Investigations Mysteries, so she said to go ahead and order her the first title in the second series, The Brianna Sullivan Mysteries.
I haven't checked, my guess is that the first series is from a
traditional publisher, which accounts for the ebook versions being
priced at $5 each. I suspect David is self-publishing the second
series, which are all priced at $2.99. (She'll earn $0.87 on each sale
of the $5 titles and $2.04 on each sale of the $2.99 titles, which is a
strong motivator for self-publishing.)
This, of course, means
that Barbara is going to have to read them on the e-reader formerly
known as my Kindle. I told her I was going to tell my readers I was
already waving bye-bye to it. Barbara stomped her foot and says that's
not true. We'll see. In my experience, Kindles have to be pried from
the cold, dead fingers of their users.
- This is interesting. I just ordered two items from Amazon for my Kindle, both priced at $0.99. One was J. A. Konrath's Origin, another of his early books, and the other was Scrabble,
which Barbara wanted. When the email invoices showed up a moment later,
the first one I looked at was for Scrabble. It was for $1.07. Amazon
had charged sales tax. Okay, that was new. I figured that North
Carolina must have finally convinced Amazon to start charging tax for
buyers in North Carolina. Nope. The ebook invoice total was $0.99. I
don't understand why one was taxed and the other not.
I commented over on the forums this morning that everyone knows what I
look like, but none of us knows what most of the other regular
participants over on the forums look like. But it occurred to me that
that image at the top of this page was shot back in about 1998, so I
figured I'd better post a more recent image. Here's one Barbara shot of
me a month or so ago. I'm down in the basement doing laundry, smoking
my Dunhill and reading my Kindle.
Malcolm is the first dog I ever had. All of the others liked someone
else better, first my mom and later Barbara. But when Malcolm came home
with us as a 6-week-old pup, he actually preferred my company. He'd
curl up in my lap, ignoring Barbara. Then when he was a year or so old,
something happened, and he decided he liked Barbara better. Now, unless
there's a thunderstorm (when he comes to me for protection), he
tolerates me, at best. If he's curled up against Barbara on the sofa
and I pet him, he growls at me.
I see the same thing happening
with my Kindle. From the time it arrived here in mid-January until very
recently, it pretty much ignored Barbara. Then, yesterday, I downloaded
and installed the Scrabble app on it. When I looked over yesterday
afternoon, there sat my Kindle, curled up in Barbara's lap, playing
Scrabble with her. I can see the writing on the wall. At least my
Kindle hasn't growled at me. Yet.
We've been churning through Gossip Girl.
If you haven't seen it, give it a try. Don't let the description of it
as a "teen drama" turn you off. Barbara thinks it's one of the best
series we've ever watched. I agree. The cast is first-rate, as is the
writing. The Parents' Television Council hates it, which is a strong
endorsement in itself.