Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Atoms splitting and such

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you want to split the atom. You've determined that you've had enough of the drudgery of your day job (whatever that might be), and you want to be one of the few famous geniuses that can split the atom. Perhaps you want to make a bomb (that is the example I will use), or perhaps you want to own a nuclear power plant. Thus fulfilling your lifelong dream to emulate Monty Burns from the Simpsons. Both of these goals, in their own way, are fine goals, and they are going to take a lot of work to achieve.

But, you're a hard worker, the best in fact just let anyone ask you, and you will tell them how much more work you do than the average worker bee in your hive.  However, there are a few important steps you are going to have to take before you build your bomb, and show the world how pure your genius is.  One you are going to HAVE to get your hands on the raw material(s). You have that understanding that you want to produce a nuclear bomb, designed to release all of its energy at once, as opposed to a nuclear reactor that is designed to create a steady source of nuclear power. That is a good solid first step, it will help you understand what it is you will require.

And what you are first going to require depends on a very important question. Do you want to use the 'gun' method of setting off your device, or would you like to try the fancy way, and use the implosion method. If you choose the former then your starting material choices are a bit more flexible. You can use Uranium 233, Uranium 235, Plutonium 239, or more rarely Neptunium 237. If you decide to build the gun method then you HAVE to acquire some Uranium, for reasons that I don't really understand, but have on good authority, Plutonium can not be practically used in this method. Either way these types of raw materials aren't just laying about for some unrecognized genius like yourself just to scoop up like ice cream from your local Ben and Jerry's. No, sad to say, this shit is regulated quite strictly and that just doesn't seem fair to you.  Also, you are going to have to obtain quite a large chunk of high explosives, something like TNT for example. This might be somewhat easier to obtain, but you're going to need lots of the shit, because you are going to need to make an explosion big enough that forces your nuclear material to go 'critical'.

And critical is important because if you cannot get the density of your raw nuclear material to increase in density by a factor of between two and four, then you've wasted a lot of time, and are probably going to be in prison for a very long time. Since you've probably had to either buy, at some very high price, that Plutonium or Uranium from some Libyans, or you nicked it from your local nuclear power plant whilst no one was looking. Both of those scenarios are really quite unlikely, and therein lies the rub. The one fundamental problem with this idea brilliant idea of yours. You're not a fucking country like France, you don't have easy, or any, access to fucking Plutonium, and you're not ever in your life going to come within stealing distance of either Plutonium, Uranium, or that much TNT.  Even if, heaven forbid, you did. You're also not a nuclear scientist you are not Robert Oppenheimer, and your degree in some social science did not provide you the correct background in the field of splitting the goddamn atom.

Hopefully by now, if you have any sense whatsoever, you've come to realize that maybe, just maybe atom splitting is something you either need to leave to the professionals, or start the long, arduous trek that will lead you to becoming a professional atom splitter yourself. After all, you're a bright lad/lass and if you put your mind to it, and borrow about a million dollars in student loans to finance the gazillion years of schooling you will need, you too can, if you are lucky, smart, and good enough split your very first atom. I suspect that it must be a very wonderful feeling, like touching the face of the Mona Lisa, or some other great human accomplishment, but I wouldn't know after all I haven't yet split the atom, nor do I have any plans to try.

That shouldn't stop you from your stated goal, and if you get all those materials and all that knowledge maybe some nice country like North Korea will offer you a well paying job as the head of their rogue nuclear programs. A boy or girl can dream can't they?  Just remember it is a marathon not a sprint, like most things in life, and it probably not going to come in 6 months or even 2 years for that matter. But things worth having are worth waiting for aren't they?  Remember that old saying about putting the cart in front of the horse, or the other one about learning to crawl before you walk. Well those type of saying exist for a reason because if you lack a fundamental item, say Plutonium, or fundamental knowledge,(like you think that neutrons involve some sort of dance) then maybe, just maybe you need to go back to the basics. Those fundamentals that we all hate, but find necessary to accomplish our day to day tasks. You are not the Michael Jordan of nuclear fission (of fusion for that matter), and it might behoove you to try being a bit humble, and a bit of a team player. Of course team playing has it own pitfalls, and those can sometimes leave behind large mushroom clouds than the nuclear bomb you so desperately want to build. Sometimes it doing the small things that count, you master those, and then you can lay waste to all the cities you choose. Good luck, you are going to need it. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Alice, Unchained

A bit of a step out into the unknown, bear with me.

Recently in a fit of conspicuous consumption, I purchased satellite radio for my vehicle. It was a purchase that I did not really need, but one I felt the need to make anyway. Well, after a couple of months of listening to this purchase.  I have now realized that one of the main stations I listen to has an Alice in Chains addiction. Meaning that they play the ever living fuck out of the band Alice in Chains. A LOT.  It has gotten so bad that when I tune in the station I am beginning not to just predict that it will be playing Alice in Chains, but I am now trying to predict which song by that band will be playing. It has happened three times in the last week that I got both song, and artist correct when I got into my car. That is beyond sad, and leads, however crookedly to the point of this post, prediction.

I have a job, not a career, a job. This job requires my presence during a certain time frame 5 days a week. Outrageous I know, but such is the fate of modern men that aren't independently wealthy, or that haven't married money, yet.  This job leads me to arising out of my nice, warm bed at pretty much the same time everyday, getting myself cleaned, dressed, and out the door of this coffin I call an apartment to drive myself to my place of work.  I take the same route to and from work everyday, and this had lead to two more predictions about my life (such as it is) that I can make with almost complete accuracy.  One of them is that I will catch the same light RED everyday, it has been almost three weeks since I started counting, and everyday so far, I have caught this one particular red light everyday. Now that is a bit annoying, but I do catch my fair share of the other lights green, so I figure it's a bit of a wash, but what are the odds of catching this one light red all the time? It has gotten so I expect it, and just sit there waiting for the light to change listening to Alice in Chains, and accepting my lot in life. The other prediction is that almost everyday someone will turn off of the street I am taking to work onto a certain, poorly lit and sort of a dead end street, in front of me. I am not sure what happens on this street that makes it such a popular place at 6:40 in the morning, and I am sort of afraid to find out.

All of these sad predictions have lead me to realize that I can predict other things in the circus I call a life, and I am getting quite, quite good at it. I can predict what people (the ones I know, and the ones I have to deal with in regards to my job) will do, before they do it. One of my favourite sayings is "that if people were horses, I would never have to work again." Meaning, clearly, that if I could predict the ponies as well I can predict the people in my life, then I would be in the south of France, piss drunk, typing this as a farewell to all of that type of post. Sadly, the ponies just don't seem to be as willing as the people in  my life to cooperate with my predictions.  This is why I am not quite able to chuck the job over, and live the life of leisure that I feel I deserve.

I understand the outrageous arrogance that the above statement sounds like, and I own it. I can not help that either my life is so sad (probably) or that the people are so easy to predict (less likely) that I know what is going to happen before it does. This must be what the Dennis Bergkamps of the world feel like. Being able to see the pattern of the defense, the movement of your teammates, and the path the ball must take in order to end up in the back of the old onion bag before anyone else on the pitch, teammates included, have a clue.  It is a gift, or so I've been told, but as usual I don't quite see it that way.

In fact, like most of the things in my life, I see it as a curse. The curse that Sartre saw, and wrote about so well in his novel Nausea. The curse that Camus wrote about in 'The Stranger' where the main character kills an Arab just to break up the monotony of his days.  My days, or at least 5 out of every 7 of them form almost the exact same pattern. A pattern that is so easy to predict that I can tell you Alice in Chains is playing on a radio station before I even turn on the radio, that isn't cool, it isn't neat, it isn't even creepy (though it is closer to the latter) it is just sad. Sad that I realize I am, in less that 11 hours, going to be whistling my way through "Man in a Box" while I wait for a red light at a certain intersection to turn from red to green.  Sad that I will once again wonder, but fail to investigate, what is going down on that lonely side street that all those people turn down upon at 7 a.m. every morning.

These days of 'quite desperation' that strung together represent my life. The 5 out of 7 days where I do not step out of a life so boring to entertain anyone (not even all you readers at home). The fact of the matter is that most of this desperation is my own fault, and in many ways I should be thankful for it. After all that job I possess does provide me food and drink, and those bills are not inconsiderate.  It allows me to have a car, a place to sleep, and a clothes to wear (a prospect that makes the rest of the world happy as well).  However, I can not but feel the siren's call of something else, something that I am not quite sure how to describe, a type of seven year itch perhaps, or a call of the wild. The whispers on the edge of my hearing that are saying to me that 'there is something else out here for you GI, you just have to have the courage to grab it.'

However, I have yet to screw my courage up to that particular sticking point, and so I will wait, and predict my way through another day, annoy my friends by telling them I can do it, and wait with bated breath for 'The Rooster' to come over the airwaves. Alice really, really, needs to be unchained.

Monday, March 04, 2013


'Come closer' she murmured lazily, as if it took all of her effort to force those two little words out from behind her perfectly straight teeth. I glanced over at her, and said ' we are in bed less than two feet from each other, how much closer can I get?'  It was, in retrospect, a particularly bad thing to say, and it was a bad time to say it. But my sense of timing has never been what you would call well planned. As expected, this idiotic comment led to her getting further away, not closer, and in the cold light of the morning led to an argument that did not go especially well for yours truly.

It was not a comment on physical distance is the gist of what she was trying to say, it was an invitation for me to come emotionally closer. Closer to the ideal of what a relationship should be rather than the poor imitation that we were presently 'living out'.  It almost always befuddles me when I get this type of comment, mostly because I know exactly what kind of jackass I am, and generally cannot fathom why anyone in their right mind would want me closer, physically or otherwise.  Yet I hold on to the hope that I will one day get it right, and hope that despite my growing fears, I will be able to change my ways, and become closer to someone.

It wasn't to be her because once I made that off hand, poorly thought out comment, we both knew that closer wasn't going to happen between us. It was the death knell of a relationship that was already sailing through some rough seas, and this was the last leak sprung that would lead to the ship of our relationship foundering upon the rocks of my emotional unavailability. Quite sad really, but the idea of closer was just something I've never been good at (expect in the physical sense of course). It is a article of my (lack of faith) that when I hear that sentence (said in various forms) I hit some sort of panic/eject button, and shit starts to break bad.

It is also a sign of my immaturity, my inability to 'come closer' in more than the physical sense. Something that a person of my advanced years should be able to do. However, the valley of my heart seems to be empty, and all I can do is walk away when I heard the words 'come closer'. I am holding out the slim hope that I will find the moral fortitude to change this fatal (at least to relationships) flaw that I possess.  However, as I laid there next to her I realized that I could not confess my follies, and could not confess any sort of long lasting love.  I am not that good at expressing the few feelings that I do actually have.  Those feeling are kept very close to the chest, in a tightly lock compartment in my mind. Kept apart from the heart strings, those things that people like her attempt to pluck just to see what kind, if any, of a reaction they get.  Those strings are not ever going to become a noose that can be slipped around my neck, and that is probably part of the problem. They are there but they don't vibrate when plucked, instead they because painfully still.

And so I couldn't come closer to her, and I like to think part of her knew it. I like to think that because it takes me off the hook a bit. It makes it less my fault and more her fault. And to me that is important, it allows the guilt I should feel to slide past me like an out of control duck on a sheet of ice. It makes me blame her, even though I know I shouldn't and that blaming her is a cowardly thing to do. I am trying, and probably failing, to shoulder my part of the blame in the disaster that followed. A disaster that took me (surprisingly enough) way too long to finally process, and put away in its allotted compartment.  It was a tight fit, and I had to push a lot harder than I figured in order to get the door shut, but shut it did. And a rather large, rather clear 'DO NOT OPEN' sign was placed on the outside for future reference. Of course this compartment exists in a row full of similarly marked compartments that, in spite of the warnings, I do sometimes open. Usually to my cost.  This post being one of them. Ah, well the desire to come closer, much like wisdom, seems to come late.