Bill Eccles: March 2011 Archives

The U.S. problem of what to do with spent nuclear fuel has been highlighted by the problems that the Japanese are experiencing at the Fukushima plant as pointed out in this CNN article. The problem is that the spent fuel is stored in… well, I’ll let one scientist put it out there for you:

David Lochbaum, a nuclear physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists…:

“At many sites there is nearly 10 times as much irradiated fuel in spent fuel pools as in the reactor core,” he said. “The spent fuel pools are not housed in robust concrete containment structures designed to protect the public from the radioactivity they contain. Instead the pools are often housed in buildings with sheet metal siding like that in a Sears storage shed,” Lochbaum said.

“I have nothing against the quality of Sears storage sheds but they are not suitable to nuclear waste storage,” he said.

Not suitable, indeed.

However, the bigger question is, why are we bothering to store it in the first place? Why are we (1) storing the stuff in places it’s not safe like a Sears storage shed or (2) hauling to a place where it might be safe, namely Yucca Mountain, which isn’t even ready and may never open in the first place?

There is an alternative, one in which the French (who have an extremely good track record with nuclear energy) and the Japanese (who have a good track record, too, but maybe planned and built this particular plant a bit too hastily) have had much success with for decades: reprocessing.

In a nutshell, reprocessing takes the old, spent fuel and makes it reusable with just about the same amount of energy the second time around as it had the first time. However, Jimmy Carter killed that option in 1978 because of “concerns” over nuclear proliferation, and we’ve simply never recovered. What the French and Japanese do is much like recharging the batteries in your iPod (which do eventually wear out, true), but the United States has declared that we’ll continue to use alkaline batteries, thankyouverymuch, because rechargeable batteries are just too scary.

So. Now what?

Well, first, I’d say that we—the U.S., that is—will never get to be a more nuclear-dependent state. It’s unfortunate, but unless there are some significant policy shifts, there is a change in the technology to something more stable such as pellet-bed reactors, and there is an end to the fearmongering that the anti-nuclear community persists in conducting, we’ll never get there. Second, we do have nuclear plants which currently generate 9% of our electrical needs, and they aren’t going away; so, third, there will continue to be waste. Finally, we will never restart waste reprocessing—it’s not economically feasible anymore.

With all that in mind, I recommend that we send our spent fuel to France and other states which have embraced and perfected the nuclear reprocessing cycle. Ship it in small-but-inconveniently-sized-to-prevent-easily-losing-them bits at a time. Sell it to them, or even give it to them. Either way, it gets the spent fuel off our hands and into the hands of people who can use it, and ends the renewed debate (and commensurate spending) over Yucca Mountain at the same time.

If only CNN would would publicize something so radical as that idea…

The whole story is here, but the headline tells it all, and it ain’t a secret anymore.

It makes me wonder just how much of my confidential information I want my government to have when it can’t even protect things that are secret.

ALa makes a pretty good argument that the left continues to let Birthgate go on because it suits their needs. Yeah, I wish he’d just show the certificate so we can get on with it.

But then I got to thinking, who’s in charge of checking? I mean, we have to produce every form of identification to get into school, and there’s a person who’s in charge of checking it. Passport? Birth certificate. Want a driver’s license? Produce a birth certificate. Run for President? Sign right up!

Seriously: Who’s in charge of checking this kind of thing out? The rules in the Constitution are pretty specific:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

But it doesn’t lay down the rules for the Office of The Guy Who Checks to See if The Presidential Candidate Meets These Criteria. So whose job is that?

Just wonderin’, ‘cause I’m curious.

PC World’s Katherine Noyes:

Mark my words: [The iPad]--and all the others of its ilk that have sprung up for a piece of the action--are nothing more than a passing fad, at least in the mainstream.

John Gruber’s reaction:

Words marked.

However, John, she will be right. All she has to do is show that tablet sales were oh-so-much-smaller than something bigger and more “mainstream,” such as cars or cell phones.

Analysts like Ms. Noyes (any coincidence on the name?) will find a way to be right, no matter what.

This piece by Stephen M. Walt is very interesting and well worth your time. Obama-worshippers and -haters alike should find it interesting that Walt’s position is that the centrist movement is at work here and that the one guy who might be able to change things, didn’t.

Unusual for Apple.

Develoerp.png

Others have said that this release feels a little rushed. I’d have to agree with them.

(I wonder if I addressed 10.6.6? Guess not…)

As usual, as is clearly stated, this update is not PHP-neutral. Apple installs PHP 5.3.4 over your custom PHP installation.

I looked at the configure that Apple uses and it looks about like our usual configure info.

So the steps required to make this all work with what we have from our previous expeditions:

  1. Keep copies of the Apple binaries and how they configured their installation:

    $ php -i > ~/php-config-2010.02.22
    $ sudo cp /usr/libexec/apache2/libphp5.so /usr/libexec/apache2/libphp5.so.old
    $ sudo cp /usr/bin/php /usr/bin/php.old
    
  2. Get the 5.3.6 tarball and unpack it. (5.3.6 seems to be a good drop-in replacement for 5.3.3, which is where I was.)

  3. Move the libpng headers around a bit so that configure doesn’t find old headers for use with the new libraries:

    $ sudo mv /usr/X11R6/include/png.h /usr/X11R6/include/png.h_old
    
  4. Append the new flags to the configure statement and configure away:

    $ ./configure  '--prefix=/usr' '--mandir=/usr/share/man' '--infodir=/usr/share/info' '--disable-dependency-tracking' '--sysconfdir=/private/etc' '--with-apxs2=/usr/sbin/apxs' '--enable-cli' '--with-config-file-path=/etc' '--with-libxml-dir=/usr' '--with-openssl=/usr' '--with-kerberos=/usr' '--with-zlib=/usr' '--enable-bcmath' '--with-bz2=/usr' '--enable-calendar' '--with-curl=/usr' '--enable-exif' '--enable-ftp' '--with-gd' '--with-jpeg-dir=/usr/local' '--with-png-dir=/usr/local' '--enable-gd-native-ttf' '--with-ldap=/usr' '--with-ldap-sasl=/usr' '--enable-mbstring' '--enable-mbregex' '--with-mysql=mysqlnd' '--with-mysqli=mysqlnd' '--with-pdo-mysql=mysqlnd' '--with-mysql-sock=/var/mysql/mysql.sock' '--with-iodbc=/usr' '--enable-shmop' '--with-snmp=/usr' '--enable-soap' '--enable-sockets' '--enable-sysvmsg' '--enable-sysvsem' '--enable-sysvshm' '--with-xmlrpc' '--with-iconv-dir=/usr' '--with-xsl=/usr' '--with-pcre-regex' '--with-freetype-dir=/usr/X11R6' '--enable-zend-multibyte' '--enable-zip'
    
  5. Use four cores to make PHP. It’s a lot faster to use the -j 4 option, and if you have more cores, make the number match:

    $ make -j 4
    
  6. Install.

    $ sudo make install
    
  7. Restart Apache.

    $ sudo apachectl restart
    
  8. Clean up what we did to the libpng headers:

    $ sudo mv /usr/X11R6/include/png.h_old /usr/X11R6/include/png.h
    

Done.

Alternatively, if you have already installed 5.3.6 before, all you need to do is:

  1. Keep copies of the Apple binaries and how they configured their installation:

    $ php -i > ~/php-config-2010.03.22
    $ sudo cp /usr/libexec/apache2/libphp5.so /usr/libexec/apache2/libphp5.so.old
    $ sudo cp /usr/bin/php /usr/bin/php.old
    
  2. Install.

    $ sudo make install
    
  3. Restart Apache.

    $ sudo apachectl restart
    

Done!

Sermon Starter: Speed vs. Area

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In Sunday School today, we watched a video from NOOMA. Though I can’t quite agree with everything that the host said, the discussion sparked in me an interesting comparison.

We oftentimes look at the technology that we have in our lives today and wonder how we aren’t getting any less busy as a result of our increased capabilities. I made the following statement:

There’s a thing about driving. It gets us farther, faster, certainly. But the net result is that we open up so much more territory. Whereas with walking at 4 miles per hour might limit the area you can reach to about 50 square miles, in a car we can go 10 or 20 times as fast, so the area we deal with is 20,100 square miles. It’s not simply 10 to 20 times as great an area, a mere 500 to 1000 square miles. No, it’s an exponentially-greater area that we deal with because of the faster speed.

I liken our technologies and “improvements” thereto to the faster car. Sure, we can get there faster, but for some reason our scope doesn’t stay the same size as before the improvement in technology. Instead, the area, or scope, of our lives and what we focus on increases exponentially. There’s more to take in, there’s more to see, and there’s considerably more area that needs to be taken care of and dealt with.

Do I know the solution to this problem—if it is, indeed, a problem? No, I don’t. I suspect for some people the additional area’s not a problem. Business is what they are designed for. For others, it might be 100% of the problem.

Anyway, this is just an observation. Feel free to expand it into a sermon for your own congregation.

The title says it all. The chart is here.

Brent Simmons makes some good points in this article. Fortunately, the only time I ever got Fireballed, I was doing just about everything he mentions. The only problem with my being Fireballed is that I was (at the time) on a single DSL, so my Mac OS X Server on a dual G5 wasn’t the chokepoint. Nonetheless, the pages were served, peaking at 150 requests per second.

If only people who used WordPress would get a clue…

[Via DaringFireball.net.]

A serial rapist is behind bars. The coolest part of the story, though, was this:

The September arrest occurred when Thomas tried to buy a tire at Amity Bicycle in Woodbridge for a bike rim from a $9,000 bike. The bike shop employee noticed pry marks on the rim, and realizing that no one uses a screwdriver to remove a tire from such an expensive bike, made the call to police. The resulting investigation showed the bike had been stolen from Devil’s Gear in New Haven on Aug. 10.

(Emphasis mine.)

I found this tidbit from CNN.com interesting:

According to an analysis by Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, if you replaced the lowest-performing teachers in our country (roughly 5% to 10% of the teaching work force) with just average performing teachers, America’s students as a whole would rise from the bottom of the performance ladder on international tests to a Top 10 ranking. What would this mean for our GDP, by the way? Tens of trillions of dollars.

Anybody know how we can replace the lowest 5-10% of our teachers? Is there anybody willing to take their place? I’d be willing to try (or vote in someone who would try) if this were a viable option.

From ZDnet, this gem:

Microsoft officials have attempted to distinguish slates and tablets running full Windows 7 from those running Compact 7 by saying those running the Windows Embedded Compact OS are meant to be consumption devices, rather than consumption and creation devices.

A few questions:

  1. Do they really think that the public cares about what sub-brand of Windows they have? If a consumer picks up a “consumption” device and likes it, he probably won’t care that he doesn’t have the “creation” version of Windows. Simplify. Call it Windows Mobile, Windows Desktop, or Windows Server.
  2. How many “Microsoft officials” were involved in this tragedy?
  3. And why nameless officials in the first place? For comparison, can you name Apple’s primary spokesman?

[Via DaringFireball.net]