The Last Alchemist and the Appeal of Conspiracies

As some of you know because your gift helped us do it (Thank you.  No, we’re not broke, we’re just trying to support two young men in very long courses of study, and in he case of one we were informed we’re going to bear the full cost of tuition until and unless he gets an internship) we went to a hotel in center-Denver for the weekend.  Mind you, we live less than half an hour away in the burbs, but if I’m home, I’m always cleaning/cooking/trying to figure out how to FINALLY get cat pee out of the carpet (the previous owners’ cats had spots, and you know what that did once our cats came in) etc.  There’s a million things that need doing, and usually I can’t stop myself doing them, not even to write for 10 hours a day, (which I need to.  This month has been very bad for various reasons not for a public forum) and I love writing.  It’s harder to stop myself working when it’s “just” my birthday and I’m supposed to relax.

So we went up to a hotel on a romance package, which meant champagne and strawberries the night of my birthday and breakfast in the room in the morning.  Only it didn’t work out exactly that way, but more on that in a moment.

We took advantage of “two twenty year olds coming in on a romance package is to be expected; two people in their mid fifties is endearing” or rather we didn’t, but they gathered it was my birthday, plus the romance package, so they gave us a top floor room, with a panoramic view of downtown Denver.

It was glorious and mostly we sat/lay around reading/talking/etc (well, we ain’t dead yet.)  We also went to the zoo, the Natural history museum and the botanic gardens, so we got in a bit of walking, and we went to our favorite “hole in the wall” grill.

It was very nice, and no complaints.  The one small thing marring it is that the only way to order the in-room breakfast was via the TV which had a connection to the kitchen, or something, so we had to go down to the buffet.

But because we’d paid for in room breakfast, we first had a guy come in to our room, to try to fix it.

I could resent that half hour, I could.  Except it made me realize how far off “normal” people we are, and how strange normal people can get given our haphazard system of education.

The man wasn’t stupid, and he wasn’t even uneducated.  He had been a hardware technician for a computer firm before the tech implosion.

However, in the half hour, he suggested at least five new “there ought to be a law” the only relatively valid one (relatively valid, because it can lead to physical crimes against innocents, though there are psychologists who dispute that, and very valid against that generated from minors, but not valid against CGI.  Eh.  Just because I find something despicable, it doesn’t mean a law against it makes sense or is enforceable) was “people shouldn’t be able to watch child porn on the computer.”   And we couldn’t convince him that law already existed.

Among other ideas he vented the idea that we all should have a… electronic signal on our thumbs that we use when we start any computer, so the government would know everything we were doing online.

He also told us that if we were sure we were good, we had nothing to fear from such a code.

And just as I was sitting there in shocked horror, he then let it slip that he thought our government controlled our net access as much as China does (!) and that this was why he couldn’t find any information on how to make gold or diamonds online.

Needless to say, ladies, gentlemen and echidnae, that’s when he walked into the upcoming Dyce mystery as “the last alchemist.”

However the combination of believing you could make gold “in your garage” if the government just stopped blocking your access (and when we told him that was impossible he gave us that smart-fool look of “yeah, that’s what you’d say”)and wanting the government to have a lot more power to control you seems insane.  It is, of course.

But both ideas are very old, and a cherished part of the human psyche.  The first is that you can have something for nothing and that you’re so clever no one else has figured out — throughout history — how to do this, but you, you will use this “one clever hack” and set world financial markets on its ear.  And it combines with the conspiracy theory: the urge to believe someone REALLY is controlling everything not even necessarily for our own good.

They both of course merge well with what I call “the special few” theory: the special few who can make gold, or achieve enlightenment through drugs, or read ancient Sanskrit the first time you see it, or whatever, which make you special, even when you’re not.

The truth is, it’s less frightening to believe that someone — even an enemy — makes everything happen “for a reason” because then there’s rhyme and reason in the universe and someone is “in charge” (anyone remember the pink gentleman who kept asking us who controls society?)  If someone is in charge, you can overturn them and it can be you.  And then you can eliminate “evil” (whatever your definition) and bring about paradise.

Of course it’s not like that.  The world is a chaotic system; society is a chaotic system; we, ourselves are chaotic systems.  That which brings great benefit can often bring evil, and our greatest qualities can be used against ourselves.

Sure there are little conspiracy theories among semi-closed professions (jornolist!) but a vast conspiracy theory?  Our government controlling all our communications?  Bah, even China doesn’t have perfect control, and they have culture on the side of the oppressors.

The world is a dangerous place, though sometimes liberty and prosperity flourish.

Go out there and make more of both.  (The last alchemist notwithstanding.)

 

298 thoughts on “The Last Alchemist and the Appeal of Conspiracies

              1. I must admit, I am sort of surprised Baen has not already added Greebo to their web pages somewhere. After writing that, I did a quick web search to confirm they had not done so already…

  1. “Bad things happen because the witches hexed you”.

    Note, African “medicine men” were called “witch doctors” because people believed that illness was caused by “witches”. 👿

    1. “Bad things happen because the witches hexed you”.

      A lot of people today seem to share this belief: anything bad that happens was due to human malice. The facts that some things are hard, that nature and systems are sometimes obsteperous, seem beyond the comprehension of many. An example was provided by reactions to the lithium battery problems with the Boeing 777 a few years ago…. some blamed the eevil corporation, some blamed the unionized workers, some blamed the Chinese, and so on. I captured some of these reactions at my post here:

      https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/34475.html

      1. A few years back when I watched Iron Man 3, something in the villain’s monologue struck me, and I commented on it afterwards to my friends as we were walking out of the theater. The villain went on a long “Why I’m justified” rant during a lull in the final confrontation, and one of the things he said was (paraphrasing from vague memory): “An oil tanker spills a million gallons of oil onto the beach, and nobody goes to jail.” And while Tony Stark refuted some of the villain’s “I’m just cleaning up a corrupt society” speech, he said nothing about this line, because (I believe) the scriptwriters agreed that the villain had a point about this one.

        I pointed this line out to my friends afterwards, and said, “They want us to think that someone is always at fault for complex accidents. It can’t be that it was just bad luck, it has to be someone’s fault.” For example, the Exxon Valdez spill (which was the one the scriptwriters wanted you to think about when the villain said that line) was often blamed on the captain of the ship being drunk on duty. (C.f. the joke, “How many Exxon ship captains does it take to create an environmental disaster? One and a fifth.”) But in fact, the captain was not on duty at the time of the accident: he was sleeping off his drink in his cabin, and the third mate was on duty. There were a combination of factors that led to the accident, including a shorthanded crew tired from working too many hours, and a change of course to avoid icebergs believed to be in the area, so that the tired third mate on duty wasn’t in the parts of the waters he was most familiar with. So the only real blame that can be assigned is to the company decision to run with smaller crews to save money. And that’s not something that anyone should go to jail over. The company should be hit with fines and the costs of the cleanup, yes — that feedback will cause a different decision about the cost of prevention vs. the cost of cleanup (and thus, larger crews so that people aren’t working constant 12-hour shifts). But no individual should have gone to jail over the Exxon Valdez incident. The scriptwriters were wrong.

        1. Thinking it might be a simple preference for an alternate form of government.

          1) ex post facto law 2) rule of men not of law 3) ‘environmental’ harm is a special class of ill, with which one cannot take reasonable risks

        2. The same dynamic is gearing up in the aftermath of the MGM Grand shooting. Plaintiffs are demanding to know how the guy could get so many rifles up to his room, how he could get so much ammo in and the hotel not know (among other complaints.) As if he brought the rifles in in a wooden crate marked RIFLES like a character from The Wild Wild West.

          Meanwhile, any hotel demanding to check guests’ luggage would be shut down for violating civil rights so fast it would leave scorch marks in the lobby air. Most of y’all have been to cons — ever notice the stacks of bags, boxes, coolers and such on the typical cart? Then there’re the cos-players …

          1. These are the same guys who think they can tell when someone is carrying– and all their “tells” just mean the person has something in their pocket.

            These dum-dum experts have assured me I’m packing in my pants when there’s nothing more deadly than a credit card.
            (…nobody’s noticed the diaper bag, at least not the obnoxious “I can tell when there are guns” folks)

        3. It’s common sense – or using practical models if you prefer.
          There’s presumed to be some measures for quality/safety assurance.
          When quality or safety turns out to not be assured, someone probably snored through it or was “asked” to look the other way.
          Sure, there always are “a bird flew there in the worst possible moment and short circuit everything” cases, but sloppiness or corner-cutting turns out to be a good guess more often than not.
          When redundant safeties fail, some combination of deep-seated sloppiness, endemic corner-cutting and/or habitual sloppiness due to corner-cutting become much more likely answers that “suddenly three birds accidentally flew right into three different parts at the same time before anyone could notice and pull the switch” sort of coincidence.
          And in any organisation old and big enough to have bureaucracy, even if no one brazenly steals/defrauds, “there’s some corner-cutting and number-juggling chicanery going on” is a foregone conclusion.
          The net result is Conquest’s 3rd Law:

          The behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by
          assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.

      1. Well, GE did make diamonds in the fifties from graphite; after all, diamonds are stable at something like 162 atmospheres at 25 degrees Celsius. Make your adjustments so that you M. Clapeyron can be in agreement and, voila. Of course, if you want just a coating of diamond you may want to start with methane gas.

        For gold you have start with a linear accelerator….

            1. Stone, I think. Turning carbon to silicon. Though he might have done gold, too, the stone version features in Three Hearts and Three Lions and Operation Chaos.

            2. RAH’s protagonist in The Door Into Summer made sure he had jewelry grade gold for his trip back in time for just that reason.

              One thing that Heinlein didn’t anticipate was that the major use for industrial gold these days is in electronics – where you really, really, really don’t want stray subatomic particles wandering around.

              1. Intel… business clever, ethically challenged.
                “Hey, our memory is getting errors.”
                “Seems it’s the ceramic casings. Slightly radioactive.”
                “So we switch to plastic.”
                “What do we do with our stock of ceramic packages?”
                “Sell ’em off, let other have bugs.”

                And yes, I recall the time of FDIV and despite claims, it could show in the second decimal place (enough to screw up financial stuff): Intel Inside; Don’t Divide!

                The ‘processor within the processor’ thing creeps me out, too.

                Maybe it’s nothing, and maybe I’m paranoid. But right now I feel that little bit better about the less costly AMD stuff.

                1. My dad was one of those financial people the floating point bug effected. He had to code around it in the modeling software he was writing. Once they replaced all the problem machines he did a rewrite to speed things up without the kludge working around the bug.

          1. It came up as an idle topic of conversation, when Rhys and I were musing about how we’d like to have our remains handled. I did think briefly about how hard it would be to do (read: expensive) with the two sons we’ve lost, since that way I could ‘have them with me all the time’ but … eh. We still prefer cremation. I did joke though that if I went ahead of my Rhys, he should make me into a diamond, and wear me as an ear piercing, and I’d whisper mischief into his ear for the rest of his remaining days.

          2. In a book on ceramics, the author wrote how he used his dog’s ashes to make a very black glaze. The diamonds tie the glaze on the Eww! factor.

      2. I believe that you might have the order in reverse … I have never know anyone capable of finding items such as a lump of coal before they were born.

    1. Like this one?

      “Stripping the process of all technical terms, it is simply this: I take water and air, two mediums of different specific gravity, and produces from them by generation an effect under vibrations that liberates from the air and water an inter atomic ether. The energy of this ether is boundless and can hardly be comprehended. The specific gravity of the ether is about four times lighter than that of hydrogen gas, the lightest gas so far discovered.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ernst_Worrell_Keely

              1. Don’t be too hard on yourself; I have the advantage of being Canadian, which mandates compulsory education in French in elementary school.

    2. How to make diamonds in your garage using an “engine” run by water.

      Step 1: Find yourself a good location for a small hydroelectric generating station. Lots of places all over the U.S. that would work; but they either already have one there, or you have to grovel to the Feds to put one in. Here’s an example in Perthshire, Scotland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lochay_hydro-electric_power_station_tailrace_-_geograph.org.uk_-_745436.jpg

      Step 2: You need a reactor in your garage. Presumably electrically powered from the above source. See “How Lab Created Diamonds are Made”, Brilliant Earth, January 15, 2017. https://www.brilliantearth.com/news/how-lab-created-diamonds-are-made/

      I sincerely doubt Mr. TV Technician had the wherewithal to get all that; but at least as far as a small hydro plant is concerned, he’s probably correct in that the government (EPA and Army Corps of Engineers) is stopping him from building one.

      1. And the State Water Engineer, who in CO, NM, and a few other states has pull far in excess of any fed besides the IRS and rivals [DEITY] in inspiring fear and trembling, along with weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

      2. “Since no mining is necessary to produce these gemstones, they are an especially environmentally friendly choice.”

        I guess they didn’t notice the 3-4 weeks of being cooked at high temperature… energy is free, right?? [facepalm]

          1. Hrmm…
            I’ve heard that in one stunt when artificial diamonds were still a fairly newish thing, someone used peanut butter as the starting material. There is carbon there, of course, and ‘contaminants’ (which, as I recall, gave the resulting diamond a greenish color.) Blood has some carbon in it… so it should be possible to make a very literal blood diamond – though it would not be the same thing.

              1. Ooh, that would be a LOT.

                Based on data from a couple of sites, depending on the sword being made, and considering wastage in the forging, it works out to about 500 average humans per 1kg of sword.

    3. No no. The power comes from taking a bicycle wheel and mounting magnets on it, then giving it a spin to activate th3 perpetual motion.

      1. A bicycle generator’s usual maximum sustained power output is only about 0.6 hp. If you’re using that to generate a plasma arc, it should take you about 20 years to produce a diamond.

  2. But Sarah, you don’t make liberty, for it exists external to us. Instead, you prevent others from extinguishing it, to whatever extent you can, by refusing to allow them to dictate your actions to you.

    As for prosperity, working on it… Not so much for myself, understand, as for society as a whole. Actually, a few folks are in discussion about how to guarantee long-term financing for interstellar exploration (on the order of a few centuries). Nothing concrete yet, but interesting thoughts.

      1. Ah, but true liberty is freedom coupled with responsibility.
        Far too many seem to think it means license without consequence.

        1. Liberty is not made, it is defended. Once upon a time we tried to establish governments for the purpose of such defense but too many people thought liberty a thing for them but not for others.

          1. Agency is real and inherent.

            Liberty is artificial, a centuries-long experiment of finding the answers to the question of, “If the government can do _this_, can you still call yourself free?”

            As long as men can be conquered and enslaved by other men, there will be a need to safeguard liberty by establishing sovereignty over the land you inhabit. Given the organization of the use of deadly force required – at a bare minimum you must prove able to suppress banditry within your territory, and that’s before we consider wars – in order to maintain liberty from the executive commanders of that force you must then limit what that government is permitted to do in customary practice. (Which is close to but distinct from laws.)

            It’s not that some want liberty for themselves and not for others, it’s that having power over others necessarily means limiting their freedom, and whether you call them progressives or kingmen or tyrants the diabolic urge to dominate others is built into our mutated chimp brains.

            1. “Agency,” in the sense you are using it, would be better expressed as “free will.”

              “Agency” in its newest sense cracks me up. People say, “I have agency,” and I start looking behind them for their government bureau.

              1. “I start looking behind them for their government bureau.”

                Not to say their Psychotherapist, their medicating Physician, and their string of emotionally battered partners.

                *spit*

        2. Responsibility is much alike to gravity, in that the heavier it is and the further from down-to-earth it gets, the harder it hits when it finally gets back to where it belongs.

  3. If you think you could make diamonds and gold if only the government would stop hiding the secret on the internet, you haven’t the ability to actually make use of it.

    1. Synthetic diamonds are possible, but the equipment, etc… is I think a wee bit expensive, and you wouldn’t make anywhere near much back because the value of non-synthetic diamonds is artificially inflated by the diamond cartel.
    2. Playing with fissile material is very expensive. It’d be cheaper to mine and refine ore. Better RoI. Cheap nuclear transmutation to Gold might also decrease the value of Gold.

      1. There’s always the (sometimes hidden) assumption that “only I should have access to this medium-of-exchange creation process”.

        Like the guy who does xkcd, once answered a question about forging money, where he pointed out that there’s so much value in the US economy that you could print out a million forged dollars a day and there wouldn’t be much of an effect, because the economy is worth over ten trillion, so the effect of every day’s funny money inflation would be less than one ten-millionth

        What I couldn’t help but notice – aside from questions of liquidity – was that he did _not_ mention that this only works if you have _one_ counterfeiter. Because if the technology for these perfect counterfeits gets out, then soon you have millions of people printing their own money every day and we get a hyperinflationary spiral.

        And hey, hyperinflation _does_ happen when people in charge try to print money to get out of financial troubles. Only reason the dollar didn’t collapse during the misrule of Shrub and O’bummer is that the dollar isn’t just backed by the US economy, it’s unofficially backed by the global GDP due to so many governments using it to back _their_ currencies.

        1. Part of the backstory of Jack Vance’s Gaean Reach books was the Standard Value Unit, or SVU, defined as “one hour of unskilled labor.” Currency was authenticated by the cheap and easily-available fake-meter, which worked to prevent counterfeiting… until one of the bad guys blackmailed one of the handful of people who knew how the meter worked.

          Oops.

          Though I expect currency itself is of little importance in modern American society, where debit cards are becoming more common than cash, and trillions of dollars of profit and debt are entirely virtual, “created” by processes that when closely inspected, appear to be little more than moving money from one pocket to another.

          1. One of the first method of computerized bank fraud I’d heard/read of was what might be called “sweeping the goldsmith’s floor.” Fellow set things up so that miniscule rounding errors were accounted for… and the ‘positive’ ones deposited into his account. Truth Coefficient: Unknown.

              1. It was used in that movie. I have heard that it was first done by a couple of COBOL programmers originally back in the 70’s. It’s one of those urban myths that keep popping up. Was also done badly in “Office Space”.

                1. It was done in the first Stainless Steel Rat book, too.

                  Me, I use the Acorns app, which does round up my credit/debit purchases to the nearest dollar and them takes that amount out of my account and puts it into an investment account. But that’s all my own money.

                  1. And it was done in Sneakers. It’s what separated the protagonist and antagonist, leading to the tension of the story.

            1. Happened at our bank about 15 years ago, not with rounding errors but with “fees.” Guy put in like .75c fees to a huge number of accounts, went through a few other loops and then into his account.

              I only heard about it because my mom was part of why it got discovered– my sister’s best friend’s mother worked at the bank, so when mom was going nuts trying to figure out why there was a re-occurring charge she went to that lady instead of calling the help line, and that lady went at it on the assumption it was some kind of screw-up from the then fairly recent buy-out/merger.

              If everyone had done what they were “supposed” to do, it would’ve worked out much better; the guy was just refunding anybody who called up and removing them from the auto-charge.

          2. Segment on this morning’s local AM radio chat about ATM ‘skimmers’ and how to avoid them. I wasn’t able to get on with my answer/solution to the problem – PAY CASH. And they say the only ones objecting to a ‘cashless society’ are criminals and tax scofflaws . . .

    1. re: #2

      Nuclear transmutation would have certain … radiological side effects. You’d spend all you gold on treating the cancers. Or you’d turn into Dr. Manhattan, I haven’t fully worked through the math.

      I vaguely recall a short story in which somebody had mastered the transforming lead into gold process, but the demands in energy and other materials cost more per ounce than the gold produced.

      1. I’ve read pseudo-medieval fantasy works where the alchemist gently explains that the purpose of achieving the process is to purify the alchemist.

    2. Actually, synthetic diamonds are made in commercial quantities. They’re used in all sorts of industry as abrasives.

      Gem-grade diamonds are also made and sold to the jewelry trade, though the politics behind that is facepalm-worthy. The cartels try to keep the price of natural diamonds as high as they can; that in turn makes synthetics economically feasible. So they try to use lawmakers and trade restrictions to combat the threat…

      1. Yeah, but the equipment is perhaps more expensive than dreaming-of-riches can afford, and he’d find it less lucrative than he imagines.

        1. Business opportunity: You own the equipment and rent time at some appropriate rate to others.

          Might take a while to get back your investment though.

    3. Tom Holt is nowhere near as good as our late lamented Sir Terry, but he does come up with a few gems;

      “Making gold out of base metals is simple, but compared to getting a pick and digging the stuff out of the ground it’s a waste of time.”

      My father (who once held the Lynn Thorndyke Professorship for the History 0f Magic and Experimental Science) told me that the business of Alchemy and the Hidden Wisdom tradition was a matter of shifting definitions.

      Take some Hittite goldsmith. He’s been told by his King to make a crown of such and such size, and he doesn’t have the gold on hand. The king isn’t known for his patience and the deadline is looming. So the goldsmith takes some gold and some other stuff, and melds them together, and behold! he has enough gold where previously he didn’t. That’s handy, so he writes the formula down, and in tike gives those note to a son.

      Time marches on. The definition of Gold gets a little more sophisticated. Maybe in the original Goldsmith’s day it was “A yellow metal” (I’m oversimplifying). Now it’s “A yellow, ductile metal”. The old formula doesn’t work. But the Goldsmith’s note are clear; they obviously BELIEVED it works. SO obviously he left some secret out of what was written down. Gotta figure out what that was.

      And, sure enough, it isn’t too hard to ‘figure out’ how to take the original goldsmith’s formula and tweak it until it makes gold, by the new definition of gold. That’s handy. White that sucker down, making a point of mentioning the ‘secret’.

      Time marches on. Each generation has passed down to it a formula that ‘makes gold, but needs a ‘secret’, because the definition of gold has become more sophisticated (in part because of all these idiots ‘making’ gold).

      1. Alchemy was actually based on what was once considered sound theory, just the theory was wrong. If all a matter were made of no more than four elements, then gold would be a compound of those four, as would base metals. Of course, we now know that gold is an element, so they weren’t going to be successful, but they didn’t realize that.

        1. According to Father, there was that, too, but the sequence of formulas that HAD worked (by the definition of their time) and now didn’t fed into the ‘secret knowledge’ trope and reinforced the idea that it could work.

        2. Of course, we now know that gold is an element, so they weren’t going to be successful, but they didn’t realize that.

          That’s just changing definitions.

          1. Because matter is NOT infinitely divisible, as those foolish ancients thought. It’s made up of atoms, and that’s all.
            If course, the atoms are made of -trons. And those are made of quarks. But, ignore that for the moment….

      2. Tom Holt, Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde… there are probably others out there equally demented. Part of me cringes at the thought. The pains seem to come from the vicinity of my wallet.

  4. If you don’t much care about the color of the carpets, hydrogen peroxide is the only thing I’ve found to get the smell of cat pee out of various fabrics, including leather. (Do not scrub leather with hydrogen peroxide unless you have conditioners on hand to restore it afterward. Hydrogen peroxide will dry out the leather badly otherwise.) As a side note, I live in a climate that has five hot and dry months, and when the kids go to grandma’s for part of the summer I taketh opportunity to sterilize their mattresses with hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and a hose outside. I recommend this for anyone who lives in a dry climate.

      1. I have had some luck with the enzyme stuff they sell in pet stores. Mind you, that was for more recent problems. I would try soaking with it for a day or so. If that does not work, I suspect that remove and replace, perhaps including the sub-floor will be required.

        1. I just ordered “industrial” enzyme stuff. I was thinking paint subflooring with KILZ, three coats, then put in unfinished boards, finish with four coats polyurethane. If the little bastages still pee there afterwards, I can at least wipe with bleach wipes and move on.

              1. When we redo the carpet in the bedroom, my wife wants the Shaw Pee-proof material. The enzyme works for immediate cleanup, and on upchuck as well as pee. Haven’t tried it for cats, though. The carpet was supposed to happen this year, until Cheop’s Law* came into effect in the pumphouse project.

                (*) Just winding down. I’m now installing the new sunroom windows that were built this Spring. I like silicone caulk that applies down to near freezing.

      2. I had to sell a house once that had dogs locked inside for days at a time. To get rid of the smell we actually had to rip up the plywood and start again with bare joists.

        1. I helped a friend do that. It cost him a lot of ginger beer. Because we then had to cut the plywood into smaller chunks to dispose of. Ick.

        2. There are ways to get that smell out. Trust me. But you are probably better off going with “rip out and replace.” Because the ozone smell alone persists, let alone the cost.

          I once had to get a car ready for sale that had a family of skunks die in it, closed up, in high summer. I’m talking chemical weapons grade nasty. Gasmask was *not* optional. There have been swamp cars, made-moonshine-in-the-trunk cars, and houses that were better used for biology experiments (or demolitions training) that have made it to the clean stage…

          But I’d not say they were worth the effort involved. In my defense, I was so broke at the time I considered food stamps.

          1. Mythbusters did that with a couple of expired pigs in an expired Corvette. As I recall, it got up to “almost OK”, but that was it.

      1. Ah, but we know what a gov’t conspiracy looks like: Watergate.

        * Looks around, being suspicious of everything. *

        Unless that was a brilliant act of distraction to hide the real, clever, stuff…

        [More seriously: How much longer would it have gone on had whoever ‘taped’ the door open at DNC HQ done it correctly so it didn’t get noticed?]

        1. The horrible government conspiracies you know about are an even bigger conspiracy to supply plausible deniability for the important conspiracies that have not yet been uncovered.

          Just thinking about all the things that The Illuminati have gotten away with while George Soros and his ilk were distracting us by arranging for Hillary to store classified e-mails in a disused lavatory makes me shiver.

          1. Had an idea for a story once where it turned out conspiracy theories were a government conspiracy to convince people that they really were in control. Otherwise they’d have to admit how powerless they really were.

          2. There was a political photo today that showed Hillery and was captioned “with makeup” and Soros “without makeup.”

            I wonder if the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission members commiserate at a bar in Davos about how they get all the blame for all the stuff Soros has mucked up.

            1. I wonder if Soros used to be a part of the team, but later the rest of top oligarchy quietly abandoned him. Or rather decided that he becomes too obvious and infamous too fast, thus it’s best to encourage, but not approach, so that he would run off alone (not counting the swarm of shrieking pets he feeds) and become a distraction.
              Then he ended up going all-out “Leeroy Jenkins!”, and when Hillarity ensued, it’s just his problem. Meanwhile, damage control.

          1. I do love how her sycophants rant about how great her hillaryness is in part because she assisted in the case that took down Nixon.
            Ignoring the fact that man she “assisted” thought she was an unethical sack of $#!+ who needed to find another line of business.

    1. Oh, governments produce more than sufficient economic chaos on their own. The gold that Spain brought from the new world, for instance, caused something like 400% inflation. There was more gold, but in terms of actual purchase power nobody was richer.

      1. Actually some people were, the ones who didn’t have gold in the first place but got New World gold were richer than they were before, while those who wanted to simply live on the gold they had from generations past got hit hard by the inflation.

        1. I recall a very short story from the Probability: Zero column/series where the problem was hitting the hard limit of c. Someone working on that rode along with someone complaining that no matter the speed limit, someone just HAD to pass. And so one highway got its limit raised to c and they’d just wait for some speeder to work it all out.

    2. Yeah, our gaming group basically destroyed the economy of Greyhawk (the world, not the city) by sailing up to the Tomb of Horrors, taking the 2 wide open doors made of mithril 10’x10’x1′, loading them onto our ship and sailing away with them…… The GM needed some time to recover his poise after that.

        1. Yeah, especially when one of his gaming group who happened to be an accounting major (whistling innocently) figured out the total price of the city of Greyhawk (less than the value of 200 cubic feet of mithril) and arranged for us to buy the place……

          At that point the Glenfiddich came out…. 😉

          1. Oh, and let’s not forget that the rulebook (2nd edition AD&D) awarded xp for gp on a one for one basis…… which meant we had the levels to hold it….

  5. Not sure about the “in the garage” part, but it is of course possible to make gold. It is not a profitable endeavor, given the energy requirements and most have no idea how many stable isotopes mercury (better, closer than lead in the nucleon count) has and how few gold has. Yes, I did look into this once upon a time, ages ago. I did not look very long.

    1. Pour mercury on old cell phones then apply heat (in a sealed container) to drive the mercury out of the resulting amalgamation?

      1. Glucose test strips could probably be a decent source, if you had enough of them. The end that goes into the meter have little gold lines on them, which make electrical contact.

        Of course then you’d need to take precautions against blood-borne illnesses, since getting gold in commercially meaningful quantities would require getting test strips from hundreds of people.

            1. There are some articles out there describing the processes they are/were using in China to recover gold from e-waste. All of them are extremely destructive from a surrounding environment point of view.

              1. I know an old guy who rummages through dumpsters to get e-waste to recover gold from. Of course I don’t think he is extremely concerned about environmental hazards, and I don’t know that he actually recovers that much gold, but he will tell you about it in excruciating detail if you want to listen.

        1. Old computer parts, like RAM and such, were used to recover some small amounts of gold I recall, from a youtube video I watched out of curiosity. The other metals would have been interesting too, in my opinion.

          There was another video that I saw that did similar for soda cans, and smelted them down into ingots. Was entertaining to watch.

  6. In our experience the best (and only) way to get cat pee out of carpet is to trash the carpet and go to hardwood floors. When we bought our current domicile we happily were able to budget for that and, the prior owner’s cats having gone through Hurricane Hugo before moving here, it was unquestionably the only option.

  7. Your alchemist is a fine example of the effects of people not learning History. (History, not Zinnstory!) They therefore lack understanding of how spontaneous order develops and instead resort to conspiracy theory and worse.

    There oughtta be a law against such miseducation! (Sigh. a 😉 is probably needed for the alchemists.)

  8. Isaac Newton spent twenty years working on alchemy without success, what makes tv repairman think he can do better?

  9. If you wish to be precise, social and biological systems are organized complex systems, rather than chaos.

  10. “If someone is in charge, you can overturn them and it can be you. And then you can eliminate ‘evil’ (whatever your definition) and bring about paradise.”

    Brilliant: you just summed up the entire philosophical history of every Gnostic movement ever in two sentences.

  11. There are all sorts of vast conspiracy theories. What we are mostly lacking is vast conspiracies. (The Democrat party is and exception although even they are not a secret vast conspiracy just a vast conspiracy.)

    1. Given that the whole point of a truly effective conspiracy is for most of its agents not to know they’re in one, I should think a “vast” conspiracy of any type kind of misses the point.

    2. Since they have the adherence of only roughly half the populace, (yes, I’ll go there) they are generally only half-vast.

  12. You can make gold in your garage, it involves running used circuit boards through an appropriate acid bath. Much more economical than creating it out of thin air in a particle accelerator, still not sure it’s economically viable.

    And you can find the instructions for this on YouTube.

  13. I think it’s probably cheaper in the long run to extract the 38 pounds of gold dissolved in a cubic mile of sea water than it is to try to produce it in a nuclear reactor.

    1. I think some criminals would rather “Stick it to the man!” or feel like they got away with something rather than make more money.

  14. On the “making gold” thing, a few years ago I read a Mack Reynolds story where several world government were extremely concerned about extremely pure gold coming onto the world gold market.

    While was possible to refine gold to that level of purity, the cost of getting gold to that level of purity would be extremely expensive, much greater than the price of gold on the world gold market.

    So people were wondering if somebody had found an inexpensive way to create gold.

    One of the individuals investigating this was a KGB agent, actually portrayed as a “good guy” as in the story universe the Soviet Union had been moving away from communism.

    As it turned out, the gold was coming from a rogue nation that considered itself the “Last Stronghold Of True Communism”.

    Their “Fearless Leader” (my term) wanted to destroy the world gold market to bring about “True Communism” and didn’t care how expensive it was to purify the gold.

    IE His nation had been using “standard means” to purify gold even though it made the gold more expensive than he was selling it for. 😉

    1. Probably Ilya Simonov, who shows up in a lot of Mack Reynolds’ stories. But I don’t recognize that one.

      I’m still boring through the magazine collection at archive.org. So far I’ve found at least a dozen Reynolds stories I’d never seen before, along many from other writers, including Laumer, Zelazny, and Vance.

      Our Gracious Hostess might already know that RAH’s “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” was printed under the pseudonym “John Riverside” in the October 1942 edition of Unknown, and the story “The Devil Makes the Law!” from the September 1940 edition of Unknown is more commonly known as “Magic, Inc.”

  15. At my job we had a kid like the alchemist you met. He was convinced that there was a way to make infinite energy, but the government and other industries were keeping it from being made available to maintain a monopoly on the economy or some such. He’d tell us all about it, even had a name for it, one that I can remember. I do remember doing a bit of research and coming to the conclusion that most of what he was talking about was an equal mix of buzzwords and nonsense.

    Actually, most of his plans were like that with just about everything he talked about. Like most college kids his ideas were too big for his head and he’d just keep blurting them out, occasionally I’d humor him and we’d talk about his ideas, but what always got to me was that none of them would ever get past the idea stage. He had an idea for a revolutionary turbine blade, something like greater than 130% efficiency for what he figured it would be used for. He was sure that if he started making ’em he’d end up with millions, but he never wanted to go and get it patented for vague reasons. And don’t get me started about his plans to make a house in the woods and make a greenhouse that would produce enough fruit and vegetables year round and live off the gird for free, or his plan to buy a sailboat and do the same, the only money necessary being for the initial purchase of the boat and the hydroponics he planed on using to grow all his food.

    Of course eventually he was fired for his inability to get to work on time, or at all some days.

    Some day he might end up a character in something I write, because wow, he was too much of a character to waste.

    1. Back in my misspent youth, I had an idea for a new type of generator. I pulled my first all-nighter on that one, working out a rough set of plans.

      My father took one look at it at breakfast and said “Why are you drawing an alternator?

      Yep. That’s what my “:new” type of generator turned out to be.

      1. My nephew knows I’m a fisherman, and had this really great idea for a new kind of rig for using frogs as bait for bass without harming them in the process. I went to my old tackle box that I’d gotten from my grandfather (from whom I’d acquired the fishing bug) picked out a @1930’s rig there and handed it to my nephew, asking “You mean like this?”

        1. I once explained, online, to some young writers that their brilliant idea of writing a novel in fictional documents was known as the epistolary novel, and in fact, one of the contenders for the first novel in English was written in that point of view.

            1. eh, there’s a lot of room left for new epistolary novels. It’s a point of view. You can do a lot of stuff in ’em.

    2. In regards to alternate energy, there’s this bit I’m stealing from the “Atomic Rockets” website, attributed to the name of “Comic”:
      “So you know, university Physics is essentially three years of this discussion among like-minded enthusiasts. Done with supercomputers, access to the textbook collections of five continents and thirty languages. On four hours sleep a night. With no sex. You’re not going to find the loophole these guys missed.”

        1. My brother’s a physicist and he got married. She was a biologist. Took her a while to figure out just how to get him to notice she was dropping hints….

          Cheer up! It can happen!

        2. Well, if I remember right…

          Wouldn’t math and physics be the best way to meet a nice were-shoggoth girl with cute tentacles?

      1. My father and I used to look at alternate energy, but could not make the numbers work. Back then, the best resource was Mother Earth News, which is out-there politically, but at least had people living and working with the tech they proposed. That alone was an eye-opener.

        The numbers still aren’t that favorable for most instances. I remember when our EE told a customer that there was a thirty-year payback on the initial investment, and was informed they’d double the size of the installation.

        1. In the late ’90s, it was Home Power. The small scale hydro was neat, but we don’t have any convenient waterfalls to take advantage of it. I see PV as a viable backup. The ranchers put in a bunch of grid-tie systems to offset the load from the irrigation pumps.

          A nearby substation has a large solar array being built nearby. Not sure how many acres it is, but the panels all seem to be on motorized trackers. Oh well, it’ll be lots better on the birds than a wind turbine.

          Meanwhile, there’s still a fight over whether or not to keep the dams on the Klamath River. I think the damn-busters will win out.

          1. Of course the damn-busters will win out — they’re damn relentless and unhampered by human reason. Eventually they’ll raise the cost of defending those dams to the point at which it’s time to throw in the chips.

            1. Pac Power already figured the cost to remove the dams was less than to build fish ladders. They got authorization to collect removal money from ratepayers when it looked like Congress was going to approve; they’re still collecting money, but it’s somewhat dubious as to whether they actually can. Of course, hydro is the only renewable energy source that the treehuggers dislike.

              1. We now have the tech for selective blackouts. Here is how it would work:

                A treehugger chooses a “renewable only” option. The utility replaces their meter with what’s know as a “disconnect under glass” meter, or adds a disconnect collar. These are remote controlled devices that allow power to be disconnected from the office.

                When there is a shortfall in wind and solar, instead of buying “dirty” electricity, they send a text to those who chose “renewable only” that their power will be disconnected for the duration. At the appointed time, their power goes off, dropping load. Power remains off until wind and solar capacity comes back online.

                Of course, their neighbors who haven’t chosen “renewable only” continue to have electricity. The tree huggers will squawk at that. But why should everyone else have to suffer for their folly?

                1. I like it, though the treehuggers/SJWs seem to be allergic to actually accepting the consequences of their actions.

          2. Oh well, it’ll be lots better on the birds than a wind turbine.
            Yes, because it’s harder to cook them in flight, than to cusinart them.
            (And, yes, some places have had that problem, finding cooked birds throughout their installation.)

            1. Steven Haywarc at Power Line has put up this useful chart for evaluating the contribution of Avian-Cuisinarts to the power grid:


              Go to A VISUAL LESSON IN ENERGY DENSITY at Power Line today for fuller explanation.

        2. they’d double the size of the installation

          Thus making up in volume what they lose on every individual transaction. Genius, pure unadulterated genius.

    3. eventually he was fired for his inability to get to work on time

      Sure, that’s why they did it. You’re safest saying that.

      As for ideas that he won’t put effort into … any professional writer, I daresay, can provide multiple instances of folk coming up to them with “a great idea for a book” as it that’s all that’s needed.

    4. I once had an idea for a product (not enough of a jump to call it an invention) that I think the world really needed…and which I kniw could have worked because somebody else produced it. Foiled once again by my innate sloth.

      Basically, I thought there was a market for short extension cords, just long enough to get the transformer block away from the power strip, so you could use all the sockets on the strip. And I’ve seen them in Staples. Don’t know if they sold well.

      1. Ziotek calls it the Power Strip Liberator. They have an ‘improved’ model that includes a pass-through outlet in the plug, so you can plug twice as many things into your Power strip. There are also power squids with their outlets on cords. I’ve purchased both from Cyberguys.

    5. *chuckle* the idea of living on a boat being cheaper is apparently not a totally boneheaded one; just cheaper for different reasons. It’s apparently cheaper to have mooring fees with water and electricity connection, than it is to have a house, I’m told. No council rates too.

  16. World government conspiracy? Bah. Everyone knows it was that blasted serpent in the garden what is the reason we can’t have perpetual motion machines, unlimited gold, clean cold fusion, and self-cooking turkeys.

    I will note, however, in fairness, that there do seem to be a lot of cooked geese appearing in the media at the moment.

  17. Conspiracies don’t have to be secret. There are all sorts of conspiracies, things like the Federal Reserve system, the accreditation of universities, and the governance of various athletic associations. They exist as a matter of law or custom and not one person in a hundred understands how they work how they came to be, or cares to expend the energy to find out. This may be rational since they have no real leverage to change any of it.

    1. And then there are the ‘prospiracies’ which are not secret, but also just arise as various people go about (what they believe to be?) their business. Funny/sad part is how in many of these, the committing/enabling participants are the very same that criticize others for being self-centered and “only looking out for No. 1.” So many projectionists, so few cinemas.

  18. I used to have a bumper sticker that read, in Russian, “The world is run by a small secret group to which I do not belong.”

    I should get one in Hebrew.

      1. …anyone remember the pink gentleman who kept asking us who controls society?

        I have a confession to make: It’s me. Yep, I’m the one in charge of world society. The whole thing.

        Note I’m not ‘controlling’ the world, I’m just the one responsible, who has to write up the reports for higher on what happens, mostly when things go wrong, for various definitions of wrong. You have no idea how many definitions of wrong. It’s turtles on top of turtles all the way down in galactic politics.

        Sorry about the mess, but see above – I have the responsibility but not the authority, so I can only do what I can on the side.

        Anyway, it’s good to get that secret off my chest. I feel much better. Thanks.

          1. Sorry about that. It gave you something to do that kept you out of our hair and it made you feel important so none of us had the heart to tell you that it was disconnected years ago.

  19. Glad to hear your romantic weekend went off relatively well. I think I would probably have gone to the buffet anyway if it were me. I love breakfast buffets, particularly if they have an omelet station.

    Although one thing I don’t love is those stupid computer/TVs that all the hotels seem to have these days. I remember one time when my husband and I went to Vegas, it got stuck on the resort channel. We couldn’t change the channel, mute it, or turn it off. We just had to listen to endless advertisements for the spa and the lobby bar until they finally sent someone up to fix it.

    If those a global conspiracy, I think its most likely a conspiracy of trolls who’s only real goal is to be as annoying as possible.

    1. “I think its most likely a conspiracy of trolls who’s only real goal is to be as annoying as possible.”
      Yep, the Discordians won. Hail Eris!

  20. Easy to make gold: all we have to do is get off this rock, establish a space station at L5 and a moon base, as well as an orbital skyhook for making transferring cargo up and down easier, and then start scouring the asteroid belt. Some of ’em got to have platinum, diamonds, lithium, and gold. Oh, and an orbital refinery, to harness sunlight for easy refining that doesn’t produce any earthly pollution.

    1. Oh, we already know the metallic ones have a small but significant percentage of gold, and platinum group metals, rare earth metals, and so on, from the ones that make it to the ground. With enough solar energy, refining is actually relatively straightforward too, and the ‘slag’ is iron and nickel and other useful stuff, not to mention the volatiles like water ice.

      It’s just a will to do it thing at this point, which is why I’m rooting for the asteroid mining ventures to generate some momentum. Once they actually get going, though, look for the commodity side of the planetside economy to take a major shock.

    2. Ah, but that’s not manufacturing/transmutation, but mining.

      Of course, when you get right down to it, as is said:

      “If you can’t grow it, you have to mine it.”

      I wonder if those who dislike windmills would have more effect by calling wind ‘farms’ “atmospheric strip mines” or such.

  21. One really annoying factor about conspiracy theorist in general is they will come up with a theory that is genuinely frightening, and will pretty much fight to the death to hang on to it.
    One would think that presenting evidence to the contrary would be a relief, that they would be happy to find out that they don’t need to be afraid.

    The real fear for them is not the idea that the world is under control of sinister agents. They really fear the idea that the world is not under anyone’s control. That bad things just happen.

    1. “I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?’ So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

      – Marcus Cole, Babylon 5, “A Late Delivery from Avalon”

      1. Were life fair…

        There would be absolutely no redemption. Once guilty, you would be punished, without fail. There would be no luck, no fortunate occurrances. It wouldn’t be “life” at all.

          1. I Just what I asked from my Diffy Q instructor. (Took me about 6 months to figure those out; but I squeaked by.)

        1. Richard Biggs and Jason Carter had a great actors workshop they would put on together at SF Cons, even small ones. I got to see them put it on shortly before Biggs’s sudden death at only 44. I had no interest in becoming an actor but they had me in stiches and I could tell much of the audience was learning a lot.

          1. I never met Richard Biggs but I worked on Richard Hatch’s (rip) Magellan project with Jason Carter. He was great to work with.

  22. The surprising thing is that some repairmen/builders/techs will start such conversations with their clients. That was always considered a no-no. We’re there to do a job, and that’s not part of it. If the customer tries to bring it up, you try to side step it. I don’t remember it ever explicitly stated anywhere I worked; it was always understood. I know some do, and remember a repairman who did some thirty odd years ago, but I don’t understand why.

    1. Servers should follow that rule as well. There’s nothing like being almost done with a $40 steak and all the sudden your waiter starts going on about ‘I think Obama is going to be the greatest President in US history’.

      What really frightened me about that is he was actually a former Navy vet. I am starting to get a better understanding of why the Navy keeps crashing into ships.

        1. If a bunch of racists all have firearms one would see that as incentive for minorities to become armed (if they aren’t already).

          One day I hope to live in a Conservative bubble!

      1. “why the Navy keeps crashing into ships”

        I see the problem. The Navy is supposed to be inside the ships from the start, not trying to enter crosswise after the fact!

        1. The thing that worries me is there should have been at least 2 people physically standing on the exterior of the ship who are supposed to be looking for things like ships that are potentially going to be a hazard.

          There should have also been an entire crew of people in the bridge of the ship who are also supposed to be paying attention. (Depending on how things have changed 4 enlisted people, 1 on the helm, 1 on the lee helm, 1 at navigation, and another with a link to operations plus an officer who has responsibility for the ship during the watch).

          1. Last time I heard anything, it was a pretty standard “there are only two guys, low-level enlisted, even qualified to be in the navigation slot and the guy in charge generally ignores them because the computer is Way Smart.”

          2. At least one of them was a tragic comedy of errors by the bridge crew (led by the captain) that caused them to turn left into oncoming ships. Oh, and they weren’t at sea and anchor detail despite moving into a high-density shipping lane.
            The other was partly because no one was looking the right direction. (All of them were on starboard when the approaching ships were to port.)
            Google for “navy destroyer collision report alternate bridge” and click on the Defense News link.

      2. I bet he never clued into the fact that he cost himself several dollars’ worth of tip by opening his mouth. As a general rule, if you see me calculating a 15% tip, I’m probably not too happy with the service. If I’m happy, it’ll be in the 20% to 25% range. So if you’re the same, that’s 5-10% of a $40 steak that he didn’t receive, and he probably never realized why.

        1. I would have simply said something along the lines of “I think he’s a flaming idiot, but I’m a Crank.” For some reason this seems to shut down the Lefty babble without (very often) messing uo the service.

          *shrug*

          These days, what 8 mostly have to deal with is bitching about Trump getting elected. There my resonse is “Hey, I had a choice between Trump and Frump, and I voted for the clown on the grounds we might as well go out laughing.”. No outrage yet.

          1. You’ve got more guts than I do. I’ve never had a server rant to me about anything political (up here in Canada I think they’re trained to be a little more discreet), but I have to admit I’ve always followed a policy of not ticking off the people who handle my food.

            Given that tips generally make the difference between whether a server can live off her wages or not, it would have to be really, really bad service — i.e. to a degree I literally don’t think I’ve ever received — for me to withhold it.

            1. I’ve *very* seldom withheld a tip, entirely. The one time I remember distinctly was when the waitress filled in the ‘recommended tip on our receipt. (Not on the side – actually on the line for the tip. For a party of three, including one child.) At a buffet. Where we barely even got drinks brought to us.

              I scratched through it, wrote a zero to the side, and made sure I wrote in the actual amount on the final line large enough it couldn’t be missed. Oh, and I made sure to inform the maître-d on the way out that I would never be back.

              No politics necessary.

        2. The last time I was very displeased with service, I have a 2 cent tip. That way, they’d know I didn’t forget one. Knew someone once who would leave knock-out plugs such as found on metal outlet boxes on the grounds that pretend service deserves a pretend tip.

          1. Last time I was seriously displease with service, I talked to the Manager about it. Since I have previously spoken to the manager about how good his people were and how much I enjoyed my meal, I got a serious listen. Never saw that particular waiter again.

            I try to be nice almost all the time. I have told a manager who was apologizing for a screw-up that his people took care of it quickly, didn’t make excuses, and I was happy. I get great service 99.99% of the time when I go to a restaurant at all regularly.

            And on the rare occasions when I complain, the restaurant staff really react.

            1. My expectation is that the occasional mistake or failure will happen and I rarely blame the staff or management for that … but I do very much hold them accountable for how such incidents are handled.

              Take responsibility and make an effort to remediate the matter, no problem. Insist that the fault is mine or that there never was a problem and I’ll regard you as I would any liberal politician or bureaucrat (but repeat myself.)

            2. Same reaction I got from a fast-food joint today. I actually drove back when I got a break from work, since it was the second time in a row I had received this particular food with a problem (overcooked on one side). The manager was apologetic (but not obsequious) and got me a new sandwich quickly.
              It helps not being angry, letting them know that I wanted to come tell her since it was the second time I’d had the problem, so it seemed to be a training issue.
              I’ll go back there.

        3. Of course he never clued to it; only greedy, selfish hate-filled right-wing extremists would dock his* tip for that kind of thing.

          *Be confident he assumed that tip was his by right.

        4. I don’t think it actually occurred to him that I wouldn’t share his progressive beliefs. We’d actually been having a pretty good conversation up until that point. I’m so glad I’m not in the Navy now!

          For really good service I’ve been known to tip higher but yah, usually right around 30% for good service.

      3. https://news.usni.org/2017/11/01/uss-fitzgerald-uss-john-s-mccain-collision-report

        Both were CFs, with the Fitz collision appearing to be something of a “no adult supervision” event with the OOD screwing up by the numbers while the CO and XO were asleep, while the McCain collision was more of a “How does all this stuff on this boat work again?” issue along with a demonstrably dufus CO, sitting there on the bridge directly supervising the collision exercise.

        Both are not shining examples of anything except for the DC folks who worked to rescue their trapped shipmates.

        1. I gather the effort to replace the old competent officers with PC careerists was quite successful. I wonder how many can quote from Mao’s Little Red Book.

      4. In fairness to your waiter, I’ve observed every president since Kennedy (#36) and none of them grated near as much as Obama.

        1. I simply ignored the news for eight years. I figured it would keep my blood pressure out of the hazard zone. For the most part, it worked.

          Now… I’m not persuaded we’re getting *good* government, but it sure it entertaining lately.

          1. Since the GOP can’t seem to actually pass anything at least Government isn’t actively making things worse.

            1. As has been asserted, “The best government is that which governs least.”

              So by that standard the current GOP has been remarkably good. Especially when you consider the regulatory roll back achieved by the executive and legislative branches and the judges appointed (and avoided; contemplate Hillary’s likely list and go on your knees to give thanks.)

    2. The old saying, “The customer is always right” is mistaken. What it truly means is, “Nobody ever won an argument with a customer.”

      Funny how such conversations tend to run Left. It’s almost as if they cannot understand anybody thinking differently than they do.

  23. For the cat pee / smell, an industrial product called KOE (kennel odor eliminator) has worked for us on semi-sealed hardwood floors. For plywood, I think that kilz and paint should do it.
    JPDev

  24. In our house we call the female compulsion to be “cleaning/cooking/trying…” all the time: this-ing and that-ing.

  25. You just have to add some protons. Well, and a dash of neutrons to make it stable. The electrons just take care of themselves!

  26. “… he then let it slip that he thought our government controlled our net access as much as China does (!) and that this was why he couldn’t find any information on how to make gold or diamonds online.”

    You wasted precious minutes of your life talking to this idiot?

    … 0.o …

    Why?

    1. Oh, I don’t know, I’ve alway had a kind of morbid fascination with the beliefs of the ostentatiously mal-educated. There are just soooooo many ways you can screw with their world view if you are patient.

      It takes listening to them first, mind. And you want to avoid flat out p “You’reac wrong, and here’s why.”

      But they give you opportunities to say, “That’s interesting, but…”

      The first race riots were in the 1960’s. “That’s interesting, but what about the New York Draft Riots, during the Civil War?”

      All Buddhists are completely pacifist and non-political. “That’s interesting, but what about the Shaolin in China and the Yamabushi in Japan?”

      9/11was the first terroist attack on US soil. “That’s interesting, but what about the Molly Maguires?”

      And they say “What?” And you explain.

      1. All Buddhists are completely pacifist and non-political.

        May as well remind of one rather famous book, and its context. The full title is “The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman”.

      1. There ought to be a word for that sensation when you think your talking to a perfectly normal guy, and then something so completely looney tunes comes out of his mouth that you wonder why he hasn’t been put away for his own safety.

        1. There’s an obscure Yiddish expression that translates as “glass buttocks” which might serve.

          (The story: New doctor tours the lunatic asylum to catalog each inmate’s insanity. He interviews one person who seems completely sane, and whom he is about to recommend for release—until he invites the fellow to sit down to continue the conversation. “No, Doc—my buttocks are made of glass and if I ever sit down I’m in danger of shattering them.”)

    2. A good conspiracy theory can be fun, although frequently they hit the wall– I jsut spent three minutes at least trying to remember one I use to listen to, a sort of Christian half-angel/lizard-men sort of thing. They eventually hit the wall because they wanted to make some deep conspiracy out of the place in the Vatican that they put all the pre-Christian and gift type statues, and there’s a pineapple. (I want to say the wife’s name is…Shannon? Sherron?)

      Darkness Radio is pretty good, and of course Coast to Coast AM when it’s hitting a stride……

  27. Ah, but there are people in the world that make gold. They’re called “writers.” They make it out of fruitcakes.

    There is a bit of a process involved, and not everyone can do it…

  28. I am having flashbacks to a terrible childhood diapering incident and this article has me triggered!

    You Can’t Be Safe by Making People Unsafe
    By Sarah Hoyt
    I’ve mocked safe spaces before, mostly because what they actually are, most of the time, are segregated spaces: spaces for one race, one sex, one whatever.

    They are the result of heads being filled with way too much neo-Marxism, in which humanity can be infinitely divided into endless little classes and groups. By definition, each group must strive against the other.

    Why must the groups strive against each other? I don’t know. Also shut up, racist.

    [END EXCERPT]

      1. It is easy to tell them apart.

        N.B.: unlike the original, this version certified 100% dwarf free! No dwarfs were exploited in production of this video (although there is one short guy.)

        1. Whereas the Neutron Dance was famously part of the Beverly hills Cop soundtrack, musical accompaniment for a vehicle chase establishing a certain reckless tone for the film …

          N.B.: No anime charcters were abused in production of this video.

  29. Somebody bin bizzy:

    How to Deal with Leftist Turkeys on Gobbler Day
    By Sarah Hoyt
    My very first day in America as an exchange student was in summer. But the place hosting us served us a Thanksgiving meal as an introduction to America.

    Four years later, when I came over to marry my husband, his Connecticut family gathered the tribe and had Thanksgiving in July to welcome me.

    Weirdly, Thanksgiving isn’t my favorite holiday – that’s the Fourth of July – but it is a very American holiday. I don’t know any other country that has a holiday solely dedicated to giving thanks.

    Now there might be one or two. I don’t pretend to have carried on an extensive survey of countries of the world. But I’ve never heard of one, through all my years and my connections.

    In America, we have Thanksgiving because we are a miracle nation, and it’s impossible to look at us and not be filled with wonder and joy.

    We’re here despite all the errors the Pilgrims made; we’re here despite all the times we’ve been subverted, perverted, and attacked — often from inside — and we’re still one of the freest and most prosperous nations in the world. Yes, I know. We’re not as free as we used to be. But liberty is always one generation away from destruction, and fighting for it is the price of keeping its blessings for us and our children. For our ability to fight, I’m thankful. For all those who have fought for centuries against enemies domestic and foreign, I’m doubly thankful.

    Thanksgiving is not just a holiday celebrating the past and our history, but also celebrating family, friends and present prosperity.

    No wonder the left hates it, and not just because they’re never grateful for anything.

    [END EXCERPT]

    1. All Buddhists are completely pacifist and non-political. “That’s interesting, but what about the Shaolin in China and the Yamabushi in Japan?”

      And Myanmar is what happens when Muslims push Buddhists too far.

      On that note, there’s this troll that… sounds remarkably like a certain digital disease.

      1. Not…really on the Myanmar thing. The Rohingya are just the latest victims in the Burmese government’s longstanding quest to break their ethnic minorities.
        Now, the reason why they’re getting more attention from the mainstream press than the Karen, Kachin, and others raises some very interesting questions about the press’s priorities.

        1. You might look at some of the Rohingya background. Granted, the Burmese are not saints, but what I’ve been able to find on the mess suggests that the Rohingya started some things, and then they tolerated hard-core Islamists moving in to “help” them, with predictable results. This is just the English-language sources, some from India, some from other places, so YMMV.

          1. Yeah, the more recent stuff really was Rohingya started. They’re so bad as a group that I remember reading the neighboring Islamic nations don’t want them specifically because they have a locally known reputation for starting trouble within communities. That got my attention, because even the country they’re ostensibly historically from (Bangladesh) were NOPE.

            Granted, it could be just even more tribalism reasons, but it was interesting to me that several countries were rejecting them as refugees because of a tacit “Nope, these idiots started it, don’t want them here, we’re only starting to become stable ourselves. And they burned their own villages to try get to the non-Muslim ones, what did they EXPECT would happen?!”

            1. Heh. I was looking at an Amazon listing for a documentary on Director John Ford and it has a single negative — two star — review from some nut who clearly despised John Ford as a racist whose racist portrayal of Apaches was raaaaacist.

              1. Ford, if you look at his movies without prejudice, was pretty respectful in his portrait of the American Indian, defending a way of life and a culture against American incursions. His is not the simple depiction his detractors would have you believe.

              2. As we all know, Apache, Comanche and thers of the American Indian warrior tribes were peaceful, friendly, amiable gentle nurturers of Mother Nature until oppressed by the White Man. They were the Rohingya of the American Southwest.

              3. Given the obvious hostility that reviewer held for Ford, one wonders why he even watched the documentary.

              1. “3. Given the obvious hostility that reviewer held for Ford, one wonders why he even watched the documentary.”

                Presumably for the “Verified Purchaser” checkmark on the review.

              2. I almost bought three gorgeous books about various native Indian tribes in the US– Apache, Comanche, and I can’t remember the third.

                They lost the sale when I flipped through the table of contents and found that the Apache supposedly hardly ever killed anyone in their Pre-European days, and that the Spanish made them “feel bad”* by capturing and enslaving some of the guys who were doing raids on them.
                ….yes, it’s aimed at six year olds, I wasn’t really expecting a clinically accurate account, but that is misleading as heck (what happens when you steal all the food from someone just before winter?) and left out big chunks. (They didn’t kill many during raids because they were capturing slaves, too.)

                * “They raided the Spanish, too. The Spanish killed many of them, captured and enslaved some of their people, which made them feel very sad.”

          1. Like I said. I could go with the “poor, pitiful Palestinian equivalents” theory if the Burmese government didn’t already have an established track record of going after people they don’t like.

            1. I’d match them to the Palestinians only because of the same way they would attack their non-Muslim neighbors first then run to Western media to cry about prejudice and victimization when retaliation occurred. I was reading about this some years ago when the Rohingya first cropped up and, frankly not trusting Western media, went looking at the English-language local news in the region. They were notably not sympathetic to the Rohingya as a group.

  30. And just as I was sitting there in shocked horror, he then let it slip that he thought our government controlled our net access as much as China does (!) and that this was why he couldn’t find any information on how to make gold or diamonds online.

    *almost has a heart attack because she mis-read that as “he DIDN’T think our gov’t controlled net access as much as China*
    Oh, thank goodness that was my brain misfiring… I was not looking forward to that argument. 😀

    Yeah, that’s bonkers. Well before the “making gold and diamonds” part.

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