Category Archives: Random

Space Tourism is Awesome: Inspiration4

Right to left: Chris, Jared, Haley, Sian

It’s not all gloom-and-doom on the space tourism front. Despite complaining about Bezos/Branson flying into space and how pointless their suborbital hops were, there is hope for real space tourism in the future. Why? Because Inspiration4 launches this week!

First, a short history lesson. The first person to pay their way into space, the first space tourist, was Dennis Tito way back in 2001. He footed the bill and flew to space on board a Soyuz spacecraft headed for the International Space Station (ISS) and was in space for almost eight days. The price of his ticket: $20 million.

After Tito there’s be a handful (seven total) of rich people paying money to snag a ride on Soyuz. Space tourism has always been hitching a ride on an already scheduled flight going to the ISS. Sure, tourism, sure, money, but tagging along doesn’t feel as touristy as a dedicated flight into space just for the hell of going to space. Think of riding along with a stranger while they go to the store for groceries versus going on a vacation somewhere worthwhile with your friends, it’s kinda like that.

Inspiration4 will be the first flight that isn’t a “tag along” ride to the ISS. Inspiration4 will be its own capsule — flying on the SpaceX Crew DragonResilience‘ — on its own rocket, and in its own orbit. There is no faffing around with an actual scheduled ISS flight; the four of them are going up solo as tourists. They’ll get to remain in orbit just doing their thing for three days and then head back to Earth.

Let me stress that again: the four people going up are all tourists. There isn’t a single government astronaut among the bunch. You’d think that there’d be one person there that is a legit astronaut, someone who has done a few spaceflights, but no, it’s just the four of them going up for the first time. Apparently they’ve been through a bunch of training for this flight, but the Dragon was designed for purely automated flight. Since there is no requirement for a “certified astronaut” to actually fly the thing, these tourist flights might become a lot more common in the future.

Inspiration and Donations

Jared Isaacman, the guy behind Inspiration4, is a billionaire. Spaceflight still isn’t in the realm of the regular person but one thing you have to give Jared credit for is his realization that this flight is a pretty big deal. Isaacman is well aware that he’s setting a precedent here as the leader of the first legit, orbital, dedicated space tourism flight. Luckily he seems to be taking this seriously and is taking steps to show the public that this isn’t just a bunch of rich people taking a joyride. Inspiration4 is named such because the flight is supposed to actually inspire people. It’s also meant to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

(Note: It might’ve been easier to just donate the flight money directly to St. Jude, but where’s the fun in that? Plus if Jared raises more money than the flight cost it’s a net benefit. I’m all aboard the hype-train for this flight and will do all I can to get the word out about it. I’ll probably toss some money at St. Jude myself, let’s go with $100, in support of this flight. Ya know what? For every like or comment this post gets I’ll chuck an extra $20 towards them. Make me go poor guys, it’s for a good cause!)

Isaacman, instead of filling the other three seats with a bunch of rich people, had plans for offering them. The mission has four pillars — Leadership, Hope, Prosperity, and Generosity — and he filled the seats according to these pillars. The first, Leadership, represents Jared himself. There isn’t much to say about that one (he’s the leader and the person paying for all of this) so what about the other three crew members? Who are they?

The Crew

(Note: there’s a great series on Netflix documenting this flight, called Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space, and I highly recommend it. Most of the information about the crew I shamelessly stole from the show, so it deserves a shoutout. As of now there are three episodes with more to come, so go check it out!)

Haley Arceneaux — Hope

St. Jude got on board with Jared’s idea and had the perfect candidate. Haley Arceneaux works at St. Jude and is a childhood cancer survivor. Pretty good pick for “Hope” Huh? After beating cancer she decided to give back and help other kids like herself, landing a job at St. Jude as a physician’s assistant. At 29 years old, she’ll also be the youngest American to fly to space.

Dr. Sian Proctor — Prosperity

Sian was almost a NASA astronaut herself, making it to the final selection in 2009 but wasn’t selected. Winning an entrepreneurial competition (that I’m not knowledgeable about at all) gave her the Inspiration4 seat. She has her PhD and has apparently done a bunch of ‘simulated spaceflights’ studying things like living on Mars and growing food. By far the most badass of the four, she has that classic astronaut look to her, whatever that means. Steely-eyed issle man. Er, woman I mean.

Chris Sembroski – Generosity

Chris is my favorite member of the four because of how normal of a guy he is. He wasn’t almost an astronaut (until now), he didn’t survive cancer, and he’s not a billionaire. How did he end up on this flight? He donated some money to St. Jude and won. Generosity, I guess so, but if Jared made this final pillar luck it’d make just as much sense! (In fact, pushing this ‘luck’ thing some more, his friend actually won the seat, but passed it onto Chris.) Chris is a lucky guy, and you can tell he’s awestruck by how utterly unbelievable this opportunity is for him.

Inspiration4 is scheduled to launch Wednesday the 15th of September from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch window starts at 8:02 p.m. EDT (7:02 CDT, 6:02 MDT, 5:02 PDT, and so on…) and is a five-hour window (!!!), likely because there’s no ISS rendezvous orbital-mechanical bullshit to worry about; the long window gives SpaceX time to adjust to crummy weather conditions at the launch site. Weather permitting, Inspiration4 should launch at the beginning of the window.

SpaceX always has a live-stream of their launch although you should be able to find a stream anywhere on YouTube: space nerds in 2021 stream everything nowadays! I’ll be at work but hopefully I can catch the launch live. It’s the true start to space tourism, and billionaires be damned, maybe the everyday person can go someday!

For more information, check out the Inspiration4 website. Buy some merch! Go donate to St. Jude! Watch the launch on the SpaceX YouTube channel!

Space Tourism Sucks: Billionaires in Space

It’s been over a month since billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson yeeted themselves into Space aboard their own companies’ spaceships. Over a month since society unanimously eye-rolled so violently that the Earth’s rotational speed was changed by a few nanoseconds. Over a month since everyone sarcastically said, “Good for you guys! Now what about the rest of us stuck on this planet that’s going to hell? Can we go to space too?”

Billionaire hatred has been at the forefront of the zeitgeist for a few years now, maybe more, seemingly peaking during the pandemic, and at this peak is when Bezos/Branson decided to do their “courageous” voyage out of our atmosphere. I try to be pretty impartial — billionaires are people just like you and I! — but the whole trope of them being out of touch with the scumbag proletariat seems to be true.

Lex Luthor

It doesn’t seem very hard, even with a drillion dollars, to successfully read the room and realize that maybe launching yourself to space is a bad idea. It’s not a good look. Take Bezos for example, the richest man in the world and the top candidate for future supervillain trying to rule the planet. He has to know he’s despised and making a big deal out of his spaceflight seems clueless at best, out-of-touch maybe, and downright supervillainesque at worst. Like he’s well aware he’s rich, doesn’t give a shit about the people that helped him achieve his fortune, disregards any factor of luck in his life, and if he wants to go to space as a joyride well, who the hell is going to stop him? He’s basically a capitalist god and will do whatever the fuck he wants. I’m not saying that’s how he actually is — I’m not privileged enough to know the guy — but as some armchair blogger who likes space related things, this is how he appears to the masses. And let’s not even get started on him suing NASA

Sir Dick Branson

You have to give Branson some credit at least — he seemed like he wanted to fly to space before Bezos just to shit on his ego, classic troll style — and doesn’t seem to be as well-known or disliked as Bezos. Branson comes across as slightly aloof and awkward, content to do his own thing and not be (as much of) a pompous asshole as Bezos. Bezos is the bald-headed supervillain who wants to dominate the world and Branson seems like a pretty down-to-earth respectable guy, at least as far as billionaire CEOs go.

Suborbital vs. Orbital

As a space nerd the main thing that pisses me off about these two’s spaceflight is how useless they are. Tourism is supposed to be pointless but suborbital space tourism is even more pointless. You might recall the petition circulating before Bezos’ flight urging the government to “not allow him entry back to Earth,” or something like that. While pretty damn funny, it was pointless; there was no physical way for Bezos (or Branson) not to come back to Earth! The flights were suborbital — up and down like tossing a rock into the air — and you’d have to break some rules of the universe (just little-known laws such as ‘gravity’ and ‘general relativity’) to keep his ass up there.

“There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

– Douglas Adams

Contrary to popular belief, there is gravity in space. The astronauts on the International Space Station appear weightless because they’re effectively “falling” around the Earth. Going to space is easy — just go upwards about 50 or 60 miles and you’re there — but staying in space is hard. You need to be going sideways really, really fast (about 17,500 mph fast) where falling back to Earth is really falling around the Earth, constantly missing it.

At least Branson’s spaceplane looks cool, unlike Bezos’ penis-rocket. No images of that because 1. It’s probably NSFW and 2. I don’t want Bezos/Blue Origin to sue me.

All of the circle-jerking these two made about flying into space is either missing the point or blatantly lying about their achievements; likely the latter because as space CEOs they should know the difference between suborbital and orbital flight. Maybe they’re aware they didn’t do shit and are firing up the PR-hype train to save their egos. They went up and down, up really high so they made it into space, but still just a glorified up and down joyride. It’s cool and all on its own, but let’s not pretend flying into space on a five-minute rollercoaster ride is somehow pushing the boundaries of space exploration, especially after taking more than a decade to develop their launch systems. Shouldn’t they have more to show for their time than a five-minute suborbital jaunt?

(Branson’s other company Virgin Orbital has recently launched small satellites into orbit. Sure, they can’t bring people into orbit, but at least the guy has the ability to do something useful in the spaceflight sector. It’s some more “Branson doesn’t seem that bad” compared to Lex Luthor Jeff Bezos.)

I’m all about spaceflight and have been waiting a long time for legit space tourism to become a thing. This should be good, right? It’s not stated but it’s heavily implied; space tourism should allow the everyday person to take a flight to space, not just the ultra rich. These pioneering flights into space by private companies seem to miss the mark quite a bit. In time the price should go down, but we’re still talking a ticket price of literal millions to fly into space on these vehicles. A million dollars is better than a billion dollars but still leaves space access far out of the reach of the normal person. By taking the first flight themselves, surely to show confidence in the launch vehicles, they’ve unknowingly set the precedent that space is still only for the ultra-rich/1%ers or trained astronauts. If you don’t have fuck-you money, if you’re not a god of capitalism, one of the lucky people, no, you cannot go to space. You cannot see the world from heaven because you’re not a god. You’re one of the people down here but you can pray to your overlords on their next spaceflight if you’d like. Hell, you might get a fat $0.50 raise after your next review.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

[20210912 Untitled]

I suppose I should get this post out of the way sooner than later. It’s causing me a great deal of writer’s block and I think maybe I can make some long-overdue progress if I sit down and churn it out.

Last Tuesday my grandma passed away.

I kind of knew it was coming and said so in this post. She caught COVID from my dumbfuck family and her being 89 and a heavy smoker put her in about the most high-risk category possible, maybe beaten out by those with auto-immune diseases but that’s about it.

Most surprising was how long she actually survived. That post was written August 10th, exactly 28 days before she passed, and that’s a pretty good run with COVID given her age. I even got my hopes up a little; she was discharged from the hospital three weeks ago and shipped to a nursing home. My mom was all doom-and-gloom as usual and I did my best to be positive about her condition and when I visited her. She looked pretty bad, but not like “going to die in a few days” bad like my mom made it sound. She made it another week because she’s stubborn as fuck.

It’s Sunday, five days since she actually died, and it feels like I should have something to say about it. Some grand essay on life and death and all of that. Put a big *shrug* here because there isn’t a damn thing I’m magically clearer on and I have no newfound wisdom that only people who have recently experienced a death have. Sure, life is precious, sure death makes this a bit more apparent, but death also is kinda the universe’s way of saying “meh” to the whole idea of life in the first place. If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from this is how mundane it all feels. Death happens and here I am. Nothing’s changed. Still gotta wake up, eat, brush my teeth, manage my emotions, stay sober, go to work, deal with morons at work, pay bills, clean the fucking cat litter, and so on. Nothing changed and that’s kind of the point.

I’m still questioning the grieving process. I’ve only cried once, three days after she died, and it happened randomly as I was driving to work one day. I stupidly decided to listen to a certain song that I knew was risky and lost it for a few minutes. The emotions hit hard and were gone by the time the song finished. Besides that I’ve been doing pretty damn good. No missed work, no pervasive depression, although I do seem to be more snappy and short-tempered than I usually am.

I feel guilty about it too. Aren’t people supposed to be sad or upset when someone dies? I’m not. She caught COVID and what did anyone expect to happen? Maybe I’m not that upset because it was like a month coming. Maybe if she died tragically without warning it’d be harder to process. I don’t know. This is the first person I’ve been close to and lost since my grandpa — her husband — died in like 2002 or something.

To me she’s dead and nothing will help change the situation. Sitting around feeling sad and crying aren’t going to help a single thing so what’s even the point of doing so? And now I feel guilty again for even feeling that way.

The situation might be changing my latent sadness into anger though. That’s a good possibility. Anger seems more proactive than crying and moping. I’m pissed at my cousin. I’m pissed at that whole side of the family. I’m pissed that maybe she only acted like she cared so she can swoop in and get grandma’s belongings. I’m pissed at the mindset that breeds these kinds of people. The anti-vaxxers and the conspiracy theorists played a role in making my family as stupid as they are. I’m pissed at our education system, social media, and conservatism over the past 15 years for breeding these types of people, for bringing these stupid fringe views out into the open for idiots to latch onto. I’m pissed at anti-intellectualism and anti-science beliefs that allow people like my cousin to exist and thrive in our culture. Those who happily use GPS, the internet, cars, and all of the shit science provides while ignoring science when it suits their own beliefs. I’m pissed at people who say, “Everyone’s opinions are valid.” I’m pissed at those people that think masks are somehow “just like the holocaust” and are seriously an attack on their personal freedoms. You’re freedoms to be a dumbfuck only exist as far as other people’s freedoms to not get killed by a virus you’re toting around.

Basically I’m a toxic ball of anger and hatred towards about 25-30% of the US population in general right now. Sure, my family killed her off, but the other millions are just as stupid and enabled this behavior through their own ignorance and selfishness. And the sad thing is my situation is not unique. The day my grandma died I found a post on r/QAnonCasualties from someone whose mother just died. Her stepdad, another dipshit anti-vaxxer and Q’er, got his wife sick; she died the same day as my grandma. Slightly different situation, same shitty outcome.

The funeral is Wednesday (they can hold people that long?) and I’m dreading that. I wasn’t even going to go — that whole ‘she’s already dead and what’s the use?’ thing again — but apparently I’ve been “volunteered” to be a pallbearer. Everyone else in the family is in no shape to lift anything over 40 pounds so it’ll just be my sister and I doing the literal heavy lifting. I still don’t know how that’ll go and maybe there will be a post about it in a few days, but my current idea is to be as antisocial and cold as possible. Sit in the back during the reception, go outside and vape nonstop, pound coffee like I’m trying to induce a heart attack, something like that. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

Tips for Surviving the First Week Sober

The book I’m [procrastinating] working on is a guide to surviving the initial week of sobriety. Why write this? Because Why the hell not? Sure there’s a few other reasons but that’s the main one. It’s always good to have some big project to dedicate yourself towards, and besides soap making, I guess this is good enough thing to work on.

That’s not the only reason though. Helping people is also a big motivator. Sobriety sucks, especially the early period, and if I can help a single person stumble through their first week it’d be worth it. My first week sucked and I ‘discovered’ a few things that helped, so why not pass that forward to other people?

A full book aside, the original idea was for a blog post. It grew outside the scope of a short blog post so I rolled it into a full(ish) book. Abbreviating it into a post is still a good idea and can help me brainstorm what the hell I’m actually trying to say so anyways here’s my tips on surviving the first week sober.

Why A Week?

I think a week is a good goal for not drinking. It’s long enough to learn to deal with life without alcohol but short enough that it seems doable; if you’ve been drinking for years the thought of an entire month sober seems utterly impossible. After a week most of the withdrawal symptoms should be bearable and you should have a grasp on life again.

Life is structured around weeks as well. You know, seven days, five weekdays, two weekdays, so running through a whole week sober covers the entire experience. With a week sober you learn to deal with the weekends, work, school, and whatever else usually happens in your life. Sure, things vary from week to week, but one sober week should leave you with some confidence to handle the usual stuff life throws at you.

Be Honest with Yourself

This is preliminary to doing anything big like not drinking. Drinking is a sneaky bastard that uses your own flaws against you. Drinking is both physically and mentally addictive so quitting is kind of a two part process. The physical part of quitting sucks, but the psychological part is a bit harder to work around. While you don’t need to analyze the shit out of why you drink immediately, you’ll have to tackle it eventually.

You’ll have to be honest with yourself. No lying to save your ego, no denying the hard truth, no whatever, just be honest. Sounds dumb to make that a step, but let’s get it out of the way. It’s hard to stop drinking if you continually construct a façade between you and your own mind.

Do You Even Want to Quit?

I’ve always wondered why my therapist never flat out told me I needed to stop drinking. She’d always dance around the topic, asked why I drank, suggested AA as a support network that might be a good idea, among other things. I now know why: People are stubborn as fuck. People don’t do anything unless they decide they want to do it. This is normally true but even more so regarding sobriety. You have to want to quit.

Sounds stupid to even say but it’s true. You can’t push the reason to quit on someone else like your kids, your friends, or your job; it has to be you. People like to lie to themselves –”I’m quitting for my family!” — but are you actually wanting to quit for yourself or are you only doing what you think you’re “supposed” to be doing? There’s a subtle difference here but it’s important. On one hand you can quit because you love your family and want to be a better person, and on the other you can quit because that’s what people that love their families are supposed to do. See? One is you deciding and the other is you putting the reason off on someone or something else. You have to quit because you want to, and it’s a lot harder to quit if this isn’t the case.

Taper

Alcohol withdrawal can kill you. Seriously. It’s one of the few things that can kill you if you stop too suddenly. This will take some honesty to know. Are you that seasoned of an alcoholic that you could die if you stop? If you might be, consider tapering.

Tapering with alcohol sucks as many of us have a hard time stopping once we start. One beer gets popped open and the rest of the case will soon follow. Tapering isn’t easy-mode, but it might be safer than stopping cold turkey. It will also make the withdrawal a bit easier to manage when you do quit, and might make your mental state easier to manage in the early parts of sobriety. Just know that tapering might be hard, and you might find more success stopping cold turkey. Just be honest with yourself (there’s that tip again) if you’re in danger of alcohol withdrawal.

Obviously none of this is medical advice and shouldn’t be taken as such. If you do a simple Google search for “alcoholism” you’ll find countless articles directing you to a proper detox or rehab facility. “Talk to your health are provider if you think you’d like to cut down on your drinking. Bullshit. That seems like the last thing an alcoholic would want to do, out themselves to their doctor about drinking, especially if they’re doing Google searches at 3 a.m. about drinking problems. Anyways, taper smartly and go see a professional.

Know Your Drinking Triggers

You don’t need to know all the deep-down and depressing reasons why you drink — that’s going to be a bunch of nasty bags to unpack so let’s not get into that now — but you should have a decent idea of the excuses why you drink. Obligatory “Be honest” again. For me it was boredom and as lame as that sounds it us one of my triggers. You probably have a bunch of different ones. “Unwinding after work.” “It makes social situations tolerable.” “I’m anxious about tomorrow so I need a few drinks to calm down.” It could be as simple as, “My mood is shit and drinking cheers me up.” It really doesn’t matter, just be familiar with how you justify drinking.

It’s obvious to see why: when you see why you drink, how you justify drinking, you can take steps to avoid your drinking triggers. If you like to unwind after work with a drink start plotting out a non-alcohol way to unwind. Boredom? Line up shit to keep busy with (I bought a bunch of books before I stopped). Depressed? Well, that one is a bit harder to avoid but if you’re going to stop you must learn how to deal with the things that cause you to drink.

You don’t have to have a clear plan for each trigger, just be aware of them. Write them down, brainstorm, do whatever helps, just be prepared to fight your triggers when you stop.

Stay Busy No Matter What

Another side effect of being alcohol dependent is that your system seems to upregulate itself to stay alive. When you constantly flood your body with a depressant — a drug that slows things down — your body reacts by upregulating stuff. Churning out all those good hormones and neurotransmitters to keep you from dying and all of that good stuff. I’m pretty certain this is why you’re jittery and anxious as fuck when you’re hungover. Your body is still vibing right along on all of those natural uppers to counteract the booze and of course you’re going to be shaking, have a rapid heartbeat, and have crippling anxiety. It makes perfect sense if you think about it.

When you stop your body is still upregulated, but there’s no booze to balance it out. Your body is expecting one thing — more depressants — and where the hell are they? It takes time for the body to adjust, and it’s adjusted over years to having booze only to have it gone one day so it’ll take some time to get itself back to normal. But for the time being you’re in for a hell of a time.

Antsy, anxious, panicky, jittery, bored, unmotivated, like you’re skin in crawling with boredom — can I please have something to do! — but there isn’t anything appealing to do. It’s miserable. About the only thing you can do is to keep busy. You won’t want to keep busy, but keep busy you must. Making matters worse is nothing will actually be fun. Video games suck, reading sucks, going to a park is boring, nothing seems fun so what’s the point? Keeping busy is the point! You feel like shit and about the most important thing you can do is pass the time forward. The longer you go without drinking the more your body will stabilize and you’ll start to feel ‘normal’ whatever that means (and during the first week sober you’ll wonder exactly who sober you is; it’s been so long since you’ve been that person). You can either sit around and sulk in the shitty physical and mental feelings or you can be somewhat proactive and try to pass time forward as effectively as possible.

Everyone knows that the busier you are, the faster time passes. Keep busy for the sake of keeping busy. Don’t let boredom set in. You might not enjoy what you’re doing — everything might feel like a chore — but keep busy even if it isn’t enjoyable.

Ride the Emotional Waves

My mood was all over the place in the first week. I’d be high, I’d be low, and obviously everything in between. One moment I’d feel so elated that I was on my third day sober only minutes later to feel totally depressed and in shambles for no apparent reason. It was shitty and I kept trying to keep that wider mindset in prospective: I was not going to drink. Keeping my eyes on the goal if you will. That was the goal so let’s just suck it up and make it through.

I’d imagine a surfer on a paddle board in the ocean. Totally out there where he probably shouldn’t be, paddling helplessly trying to get somewhere impossible. He’s being bombarded by waves. Anytime he thinks he’s making progress another rough wave will come up, knock him around, and then it’ll pass. Sure it’s only temporary — another wave is sure to fuck his day up — but for that moment it’s all okay.

That’s how I viewed the emotional rollercoaster during that first week. My mood was turbulent and I was well aware it was from the lack of alcohol. It was part of the journey I was on so might as well deal with it the best I could. What really helped was to detach myself from my mood swings. Instead of thinking the mood swings were real I’d blame the alcohol for fucking my stability up. I wasn’t really feeling those things, depressed or happy or anything, it was the alcohol bouncing me around. If I felt upset, depressed, anxious, or hopeless I’d tell myself, “Okay, the fucking lack of alcohol is fucking my mood up,” and do my best to ignore and disregard the feeling. I’d put the feeling off for later. “I’m pretty depressed but I’ll wait a week to see if I really am depressed.”

One Day at a Time, Exist in the Moment

Not to get too metaphysical here, but only the present exists. Sure, the future and the past are sort of real, but the only people that need to worry about if the past and future actually exist are theoretical physicists. As of right now, as you’re reading this, you are in the present, not the past or the future. You can remember reading it in the past or might read it in the future, but these are only abstractions or memories that aren’t part of your current reality. Sure, they’re useful abstractions — living your life without knowing lessons learned from the past or with no regard to the future is a bad idea — but existence is in the present. That’s where you are at all times.

The whole point of that is to narrow down your sober life/year/week/day/hours to the infinitesimal present. Sobriety only seems daunting when you think of the big picture. The future is scary because are you really going to never drink again? Never again is a long time to be sober. What if you’re at a bar with some friends (because it’ll certainly happen sometime in the future) and it’ll be a challenge and can you even pass that challenge? Are you really going to be someone who will celebrate their 1,000th day sober when each hour without alcohol is torture? Looking into the future is daunting and terrifying.

But if you’re sober in this moment, you’re doing okay. To hell with the next year, month, week, day, hour, or even minute. You’re existing sober in the present and isn’t that all sobriety is? Abstract it out a bit further. If you live each moment sober, the future will write itself. Sobriety isn’t a full thing on its own, you don’t define a decade by not drinking, it’ll happen naturally as time passes.

A saying that often seems to get tossed around with sobriety is “Take it one day at a time.” As bullshit as it sounds, it does help. If you’re feeling really bad you can always drink tomorrow, but for today, tough it out and stay sober. When you wake up the next day, do the same thing. Tell yourself you might drink tomorrow, and stay sober for just that day. String the days together, forget the big picture, and you’re good to go.

Have a Support System (and Use It!)

I said you must want to quit to actually quit and might’ve made sobriety sound like a purely solo effort. I suppose it is — you’re the one being sober and dealing with your shit — but it’s not as cold and as harsh as that. Sobriety is a lot easier if you have people to support you.

I don’t even think the support needs to be firm and direct support. I don’t think you need AA or a group of sober friends to have somber meetings with. I don’t think you need a therapist or professional help. If you want and need those, go for it, it can only help. Support systems come in many different ways and forms and you’ll have to seek out what kind of support you’d like to have.

I found a great support group on Reddit, the stopdrinking subreddit to be exact. It’s great for people like myself that don’t like social situations or strangers or anything too difficult to do. Stopdrinking is great for people who like to Google questions and browse on their phones. You can go there and even set a sobriety date so Reddit will count the days for you! This is a great passive way to count the sober days without actually counting (and stressing) about them yourself.

Friends, family, strangers on the internet, find whatever will give you the support you need. Professionals are always there to help as well and go crazy doing whatever you need to do to stay sober. Sometimes it doesn’t take much support to help you through the rough times. Sometimes just complaining to a friend who is sympathetic to your challenge and struggles is all you need. Someone to acknowledge that you’re trying to better yourself and offer up a simple, “That sucks…but you’re doing good and I’m proud of you,” whenever you’re struggling. Find those people that have your best interests in their hearts and keep them close.

Love and Forgive Yourself

No one is perfect and you might be kicking yourself really hard when trying to sober up. You’ll feel like shit and ask yourself, “Why the hell did I get myself into this situation? Am I stupid? What the hell is wrong with me to even be doing ‘sobriety?’ Did I really get this deep into alcohol? What a fuckup failure of a person I am. Why can’t I just be normal?

Take comfort in knowing that you took the right step. I don’t mind people making stupid choices, all I ask is that they learn from them. It might take a long time but learning is growing. Love yourself enough to forgive yourself for your fuckups. Drinking is a drug of self-loathing and sorrow. It wants you to feel like shit, to feel guilty, so you’ll eventually pick the bottle back up. It works doesn’t it? But you can work too. It’ll be hard, dealing with your past and your endless fuckups, but everyone fucks up occasionally. Think of a friend who is a fuckup — you might love and forgive them frequently — and why shouldn’t you extend this to yourself? You fucked up, you’re an alcoholic, but you realize it and are trying to stop. If a friend did this you’d be super happy and supportive. It’ll be hard, but bring yourself into your circle of love and forgiveness. You owe yourself this!

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Saponification Value and Soap Chemistry

Part Five of a Series on Soap. Part One, On the Quest for Soap. Part Two, What is Soap? Part Three, On the Quest for Lye. Part Four, A Homemade Soap Recipe are linked if you’re interested.

Making soap is inherently chemistry. Sure, it’s relatively easy chemistry, but it’s chemistry none-the-less.

Back in high school chemistry they taught us about ‘limiting reactants.’ I always remember the bike analogy. Imagine you have two bike frames and six bike tires: how many bikes can you build? Two bikes. Each bike needs two tires and a frame so you’ll run out of frames before you run out of tires. If you only have two bike frames, it doesn’t matter if you have one hundred bike tires because you can’t build any more bikes.

My first batch of soap had zero measuring or math involved. I put some oil in a Pyrex measuring cup, mixed up some lye (meaning I just eyeballed it), and dumped the two together. What resulted was soap, and I was really excited, but then things didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. I poured the liquid mixture into some molds and let them sit. According to everything I’d read, the soap should harden over a few days and then you can remove the bars from the molds. Even after a week and a half I couldn’t remove the soap. It was hard on top but still liquid underneath. It was like each soap bar was a model for the Earth’s plate tectonics. The top layer would slide and drift over the liquid layer and any cracks would leave a volcano of beige-white soap-lava oozing out of the soap fault line. They’d eventually solidify into a soap mountain range until I messed with the bars again. New fault lines, new soap volcanoes, and the soap-mantle remained ever so fluid.

Eventually I just grabbed the whole glob, liquid and solid, of each bar and smashed them into balls. They were very oily when I hand-molded them, and it was pretty obvious what the problem was: I used way too much oil/not enough lye. Back to the shitty bike analogy, the lye I used was the bike frames and the oil was the tires. Way too many tires to make bikes out of. So the tires (oil) just kinda hung out in the garage in a massive pile along with relatively few finished bikes (soap).

This did have the nice side effect of the soap being very gentle. It didn’t dry my skin out and left my hair feeling amazing after washing with it. It also lathered really well. It felt nice to use. As for texture and consistency, no bueno, the soap would crumple with the smallest force applied to it. It’s just not a very durable soap.

So how do you know how much oil and lye to add together to make as many bikes as possible? Luckily people have already figured that out. You just have to do a little math.

Saponification Value

I stumbled upon a Wikipedia article about this thing called saponification value and it was exactly what I needed to find even if I didn’t know I needed to find it. It basically gives the value of lye you must add to oil to completely saponify it. You just measure your oil, do a little math, and the resulting number is the amount of lye you need to add. Easy!

Can you imagine making soap out of fish oil?!

The values given in the Wikipedia table are labeled as milligrams per gram. They’re also the values for using potassium hydroxide (caustic potash) and not sodium hydroxide! Oil requires less lye to saponify than KOH (due to a lower molecular mass…I think…) and luckily the page notes the conversion factor: 1.4. Divide these values by 1.4 and that’s your number for using NaOH instead of KOH.

Obviously you should use a scale if you’re really going to get into soap-making, even occasionally. I’d recommend everyone have a nice kitchen scale because, well, they’re handy. Even if you don’t have a use for it now it’s one of those things that is periodically needed. They’re like $20 so just go buy one!

A Cheap, Quick, and Easy Recipe Revisited

Referencing my last post with the cheap, simple, easy-mode soap recipe: I used 300 g of canola oil. Why? Because canola oil is cheap and you might already have a bunch in your kitchen. Why faff around using fancy, expensive, and unique oils when you can just use the trash you already have on hand? Using canola oil isn’t a rule, and once again feel free to experiment. You can use any oil you want (almost. note that mineral oil can’t be saponified; it’s a different oil altogether and won’t work), just check the saponification value and do the math.

As for the amount of lye we’re going to use the saponification value for canola oil: 190 mg/g. Firstly, divide by 1.4 because we’re using NaOH and not KOH, and this gives a value of 135 mg/g. We’re using 300 g of oil, so 300*135 is 40,500 mg of lye. Since there are 1,000 mg in a g, just move that decimal over and realize you need about 40 g of lye. I’m rounding these numbers down because of reasons…

You want all the lye to react with the oil. Lye isn’t really nice to wash your hands with (all of that stuff about it being caustic and eating flesh/metal), and as stated before an oil-heavy soap lathers better and is gentler on your skin. In short you do not want to use all the lye you need, because a little unreacted oil is good to have. Apparently pro soap makers call this ‘superfatting’ and this is another tweakable you can do with your soaps.

I’ve been using 90% lye based on the numbers and this seems to work nicely even if the soap is still a bit harsh. 40 g is the upmost limit you should use, and you can go much lower than 90% if you want. The soap will become softer and gentler to use, but this is a tradeoff that probably becomes undoable past a certain point because the soap will become soft and brittle. I haven’t found this point yet (I’m still experimenting…) so I’m going with 90% lye for a ‘safe’ soap.

The experiment. The bottom row has extra lye, the next row up has the exact amount of required lye, then 75% lye, then 55%. It’s pretty obvious that the 55% batch is way too liquidy even if it has been curing for three weeks. Surprisingly, the 75% batch is solid. So apparently the lowest you can go on the lye is somewhere between 75% and 55%.

So 90%*40g is 36g. That’s the amount of lye you’ll use. The best thing about saponification values and knowing how they work is that they allow you to really make your own batches instead of blindly relying on a recipe. Sure recipes work but what if you don’t want to make a ton of soap? What if you just want to give it a try before you make five pounds of soap and screw it all up? Or what if you do want to make a ton of soap? Saponification values and somewhat knowing the math and science behind the process lets you scale up or down your recipe and tweak whatever you want. You can play around with the formula, make some 60% lye soap and see what happens! It might be a failure, oh well, and then you can tweak in the other direction next time.

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A Homemade Soap Recipe

Part four of a Series on Soap. Part One, On the Quest for Soap. Part Two, What is Soap? Part Three, On the Quest for Lye are linked if you’re interested.

I hate searching for a new recipe, finding something that looks nice, and getting a 2,000-word-count blog about the meaning behind the recipe, how the meal tastes, or the detailed cooking process. No, I don’t need to hear how much better a Dutch oven is (what even is that?) and why I shouldn’t just use a glass baking dish. That’s all we have and that’s what I’m going to use! I know why they do this — word count, keywords, photographs, etc. — but I’m still a guy looking for a recipe and only a recipe. Where is it? Usually at the bottom of the page past all the paragraphs, photographs, and advertisements. Ignore the text, scrollscrollscroll until I see the list, screencap that shit and scurry back to Reddit for a few days before I actually try to cook the recipe.

So I won’t do that here and here’s a quick and basic soap recipe. It’s nothing fancy, nothing that’ll make your mother-in-law finally impressed with you, nothing to quit your job over, nothing to justify your lack of a real career over, but it’s soap. I’m keeping it simple and basic for a few reasons: I don’t know what I’m doing anyways, trying something new should be kept simple (and cheap), and to give anyone trying this ample room to get creative. Add your own scents! Try to mold it into animals or Christmas trees! Add color. Make it look like a cheesecake. Whatever. The fun with these projects is experimenting.

So finally, my Very Basic Soap Ver. 2.2.1 Recipe:

300 grams (about 1.5ish cups) of canola oil

36 grams of lye (sodium hydroxide, NaOH, drain cleaner from the hardware store, check the label)

3/8 cups of cold water

It’s all pretty easy to do. Dissolve the lye in some cold water (The water will heat up when adding lye so make sure you start with cold water and add the lye slowly!) and add that to your oil. Grab a blender and blend the shit out of it. It should cloud up quickly and you want to mix long enough until the oil/soap/lye doesn’t separate. This mix usually does it pretty quickly, after a few minutes. It’ll still be fairly liquid and won’t look at all like a solid bar of soap, but will have a slight ‘soapy’ smell. I’ve been letting it sit for about ten or twenty minutes to make sure it’s mixed well and doesn’t separate, and if this doesn’t happen you’re basically done.

(Note about lye: Lye is corrosive. Lye will eat your skin. Lye reacts with a bunch of stuff. Be safe with it. It won’t kill you and it’s not really dangerous as long as you’re careful. If you get some on you, just wash it off. If you don’t you’ll notice a red mark and it’ll itch. No big deal, just be aware that it’s called ‘caustic soda’ for a reason.

Also, do not use metal for your mixing bowl or mold! Lye reacts with aluminum to form hydrogen gas, and while flammable probably won’t be a fire risk, but if the lye in your soap starts reacting furiously with your container it will certainly fuck your soap up. You want all the lye to react with the oil and reacting a bunch of it with aluminum will ruin everything.

I found this out by buying those single-use aluminum baking dishes to use as cheap soap mold. I knew Al and NaOH reacted but somehow forgot about this until I poured the soap into them. It started bubbling. Instantly I recalled the Al + NaOH reaction and dumped the soap into a ceramic dish/mold. I put the aluminum, along with the soap residue, outside for the night. Most of it was gone the next day.)

Add scents or coloring if you want, mix that all together, and pour it into a mold or whatever you have laying around. Hell, just leave it in the container you mixed it in if you like. Over the course of a few days it’ll harden up and you can remove it from the mold to further dry.

Apparently this soap needs to sit a long time to properly finish, but can be used a few days after you make it. It’ll be soft and will quickly dissolve once water gets involved, but it will work. Just try to be patient and wait for it to properly cure before you get too excited to use your creation.

As for how I got these numbers, namely the amount of lye required, I’ll make another post about that. I already have it written — it was supposed to be part of this post — but it’s a totally different topic that doesn’t fit. Part Five later on today perhaps?

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Kerbal Space Program: Planets Ranked on Difficulty

I’m still on vacation, still bored, still playing a ridiculous amount of Kerbal Space Program, one of my favorite games of all time. My sorta goal is to land, and return, from each body in the Kerbol system. Easier said than done. I have two more planets left by the way: Tylo and Eve. If you’ve played the game before you know the bullshit I’m going to have to deal with.

With all that being said, I thought it’d be a fun and time-consuming project to rank all the planets and moon in this wonderful game in terms of difficulty. Obviously this is all my own personal opinions but since the game is ‘physics based’ my main points should be valid to anyone who’s played the game.

15. Kerbin

All images stolen from the KSP Wiki!

Kerbin is the Earth of Kerbal Space Program. Right away there is no “going to” Kerbin because you’re already there. And getting back down to the ground is easy enough. You go up, then you come back down. Kerbin has a thick atmosphere so plop a heat shield on your ship and a few parachutes and you’ll be fine.

Getting back to Kerbin with a spaceplane or other exotic craft can be a pain, but let’s not even consider that now. If you’re flying SSTOs around the solar system you’re probably well aware of the challenges of landing back on your home world.

14. The Mun

The first place away from Kerbin most players visit. It’s the perfect place to begin your journey exploring the game. It’s close, easy to get to, has a relatively large sphere of influence, and has low gravity. Sure there’s no atmosphere but that makes it easier in a way; you have to land with rocket engines and can’t rely on parachutes/wings/aerobraking to land.

Leaving the moon is literally the opposite of landing. No atmosphere to worry about means you can zip straight into orbit. No biggie.

13. Minmus

Minmus is actually easier to land on than the Mun, but I’m putting it afterwards just because of where it is. It’s a moon of Kerbin, just like the Mun, but it’s pretty far away. It’s also tiny and has a miniscule sphere of influence; getting an encounter is a pain. It’s also in an inclined orbit so newer players might have trouble figuring out how to deal with that.

But Minmus has laughably low surface gravity. It’s one of the few bodies in the game you can EVA jetpack down to the surface on. Yes, really. Park a ship in orbit, get a kerbal out, and fly him/her down. Sure you might get low on fuel or have a rough time getting back to your ship, but this shows how much of a joke landing here is. If you can manually fly down with a jetpack landing a proper lander is obviously going to be easy.

12. Gilly

The joke moon of them all. Gilly.

Gilly is a moon of Eve (and well get to Eve much much later…) and is one of the first places you might go after leaving the Kerbin system. Eve is close and takes little fuel to get to, has a massive gravity well, and takes the shortest amount of in-game time to get to. While Eve itself is a literal hell in KSP, it’s little shitty moon is nothing like its parent planet.

Gilly is sort of hard to get too because it’s little more than a glorified captured asteroid. It’s in a goofy inclined and eccentric orbit around Eve and is so small it’s hard to get an encounter with. But once your there you’re Gucci.

Gilly has no gravity. What applies to Minmus applies here ten-fold. Landing isn’t even a thing other than gently colliding with the large rock. Flying down via an EVA jetpack from an orbiting ship is even easier. Hell, if you accidentally hit the jump button on the surface you’re in for a ten minute suborbital flight kilometers above the ground, rocket or EVA pack not even needed.

11. Duna

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff in KSP. Duna is KSP’s Mars analogue and if you know anything about Mars it’ll probably apply to Duna. Duna, along with Eve, is one of the first places you venture after leaving the Kerbin system. Unlike Eve, you can actually land on Duna relatively easily.

Duna is easy to get to and doesn’t cost a ton of precious fuel. Duna is small. Duna has low gravity. But Duna has one thing that the other planets don’t have thus far; it has an atmosphere.

Like NASA has already realized with Mars, the atmosphere of Duna is thin enough to not be very useful for landing but thick enough that it can’t be ignored either. It either helps or hurts you depending on how you’re trying to land. This give the intrepid Kerbal player options, but options can make your life harder in a way. 

You can aerocapture around Duna saving tons of fuel but you could blow your ship up if you’re too aggressive. Landing is also tricky because the atmosphere will cause you to heat up a bit while also being too thin to make parachutes effective. Parachutes will slow you down a bit, but you can’t rely on them for a safe landing.

And a shout out to spaceplanes here as well. You might be tempted to use an airplane to land but since the atmosphere’s so thin you’ll probably land at a ridiculously high speed and have a high chance of crashing violently into a hill or something. 

The return trip isn’t too bad though. Since the atmosphere is so thin it isn’t much of an issue on ascent. Orbit is easy to achieve with even a small craft. There’s no real heating, no real air drag, and no major loss of engine efficiency.

10. Ike

What is there to say about Ike? Nothing really. Ike is Duna’s only moon and its basically a copy of the Mun. It’s a bit smaller and has all the features you’d expect from this. Lower surface gravity, lower orbital velocity, etc.

Ike is a joke to land on and I only put it here because it’s so far away. You have to fly across the solar system to get there. But once you’re there, landing/departing is easy. There’s been times I’ve landed on Duna, taken off, and had enough fuel (and boredom) to go land on Ike just for the hell of it.

9. Dres 

I didn’t have much to say about Ike and I have almost less to say about Dres. (Even one of the loading screen ‘tips’ mentions totally forgetting about Dres.) But it is it’s own “planet” so whatever.

Dres is modeled after the IRL asteroid/dwarf planet Ceres/Vesta. It hangs out between Duna and Jool (KSP’s Mars and Jupiter) so takes a bit more fuel to get to than Eve and Duna. It’s orbit, that of a typical asteroid, is goofy. It’s inclined much more than any of the other planets and is small making an encounter with Dres a nightmare. Dres also has no atmosphere so getting captured into orbit is a fucking pain. There’s no way around hauling a ton of fuel with you just to obtain an orbit before you even attempt landing.

Actually landing/departing is similar to any other mid-sized rocky atmosphereless body (like the Mun) in KSP. Use rocket engines and just land.

I hate Dres just because it’s a pain to get to and is pretty damn boring. Sure, it has the largest canyon in the game, but whatever. It’s the whole “fly across the solar system to land on the moon” thing again. There’s simply better places to travel to.

8. Eeloo

Eeloo is like Dres, but farther away. Same bullshit inclination, same bullshit eccentricity, but more enjoyable to look at and land on than Dres. When you land on Eeloo you get to say you’ve been to the farthest planet from the sun (modeled after Pluto and other Kuiper Belt dwarf planets). It takes a lot of fuel to get to, and quite a bit to return from, but landing is straight forward and you can pull it off just fine if you budget enough fuel.

The Jool System…

Jool, the largest planet in the Kerbol system, is like its own little solar system. There’s five moon, each varied, for you to land on and explore, and luckily getting to the Joolian system in the first place is such a unique and challenging endeavor that I’ll rank all five moons together. Some are easy to land on, some are hard, but all are prefixed by pulling off a Jool orbit which is its own moderate challenge.

7/6. Pol/Bop

I’m ranking these in the same category because they’re similar enough. They’re both small moons/asteroids that are a joke to land on like Gilly. Gilly has much lower gravity than these two but they’re each small enough to be basically similar.

Pol is inclined roughly with the rest of the Joolian moons making an encounter a bit easier than Bop with its wonky inclination. But at this point in the game, making it to Jool and all, you’ve probably worked out how to deal with inclined orbits; inclination is no big deal. They both have tiny spheres of gravitational influence making an encounter a bit challenging but as before, you’re exploring the moons of Jool so you’re probably fine by this point.

5. Vall

Vall is a mid-sized moon with no atmosphere. The lessons you’ve learned with Mun landings apply here, only magnified a little. No atmosphere, the gravity is stronger, the delta-v requirements are a bit more, but it’s not a huge challenge. 

Vall is also located between the other two large Joolian moons of Laythe and Tylo making an encounter a slight pain in the ass. It’s difficult to avoid the other two zipping around as you attempt to plot a course to Vall without being yeeted all over the place and pissing away fuel fixing your orbit.

4. Laythe

Laythe is the paradise moon of Jool System, and a second home to Kerbalkind. The moon is warm, has water, has a breathable atmosphere, and has the wonderful view of Jool in the sky. It’s a friendly place, a welcomed sight amongst all the other dead and hostile moons/planets in Kerbal Space Program.

Landing on Lathe is easy enough. The atmosphere means you can aerocapture. The atmosphere means you can fly airplanes around and regular jet engines work; no need to mess around with rockets and their inefficiencies.

As with Duna, this is a tradeoff. There’s more to consider when landing and when taking off. Plus, departing Laythe means you have a long way to travel back home; you might need to pack a ton of fuel or rendezvous with a ship in orbit.

Lathe is a decent challenge but one that is totally worth it. Seeing oceans and blue skies that far away from the sun — and from your home of Kerbin — is a wonderful thing indeed. You can almost see the Kerbals’ excitement as they remove their helmets after a long four year journey through space.

3. Tylo

Tylo is one of the worst places to land and return from. It’s in the outer solar system, far away from home, and you need to bring a ton of fuel to even land, let alone get your ass back home.

Tylo is about the same size/mass as Kerbin but there is no atmosphere. All your orbital velocity needs to be pissed away using rocket engines, and the same is true departing the moon. There is no atmospheric work-around to landing, no cheating with parachutes or aerobraking, it’s all “bring a big rocket with a lot of fuel and thrust and brute force it.”

I can’t even comment anymore on Tylo because I haven’t landed there yet. I’ve tried, but no success as of this writing.

2. Moho

One of the many things people don’t understand about spaceflight is the difficulty of going to the sun. Like it’s easier to send a probe out of the solar system than it is to get close to the sun. This is why I laugh anytime someone suggests flying out trash or nuclear waste into the sun. We can’t, we physically can’t. We can yeet the trash to the nearest star system, but we can’t reach our own star.

The same is true in Kerbal Space Program where one of the hardest planets to land on is the one closest to the sun: Moho. Like Mercury, the planet it’s based on, it’s deep in the sun’s gravity well. Any close encounter to the planet means you’ll be moving at ridiculously fast speeds and this speed has to be burned off to enter orbit around the planet. This is the main issue in getting to Moho, not even acknowledging the inclined/eccentric orbit, which are also pain-in-the-asses to deal with. (Inclination burns are strongly tied to orbital velocity/how close you are to the parent body. The closer you are, the more expensive the burns. Moho, being so damn close to the sun, forces any inclination changes to cost literal tons of fuel. Sometimes a rocket that has enough fuel, ideally, to land on Moho can’t after a suboptimal inclination during transfer and after the inevitable correction burn.)

Landing on Moho isn’t really hard, it’s like landing on a bigger Mun, but the initial orbital injection burn requires like 2-3 km/s delta-v And since you’re moving so fast you have to pull this burn off in about twenty minutes at most — no ion engines for you buddy! This burn is also required to leave Moho and get back to Kerbin. We’re talking like 4-6 km/s of delta-v just to get there and back, not even counting the ~2 km/s to land and takeoff.

1. Eve…

Fuck this place…

Eve is basically the final boss of Kerbal Space Program. Getting to Eve is easy, landing on Eve is a bit harder, but returning back home from Eve? Nearly impossible.

Eve is the Venus analog of our real solar system in Kerbal Space Program. It’s the second planet from the sun, roughly the same size as Earth (Kerbin in this case), and has a stupidly thick and dangerous atmosphere. What’s fun is Eve’s atmosphere is actually a bit tamer than Venus’; it’s less dense and not nearly as hot. Despite this, the Venus of Kerbal Space Program lives up to inspiration.

Eve, unlike Venus, is denser than Kerbin so has both a higher surface gravity and orbital velocity. While its thick atmosphere makes landing a bit easier (because you can rely on parachutes) the high entry speed coupled with the thick atmosphere means entries are hot and dangerous. Sure the parachutes work fine once you’re low and slow enough, but getting low and slow means ripping through the atmosphere at three to four kilometers per second and hoping your ship doesn’t blow up. This is easy and straightforward for simple one-way landers and bases, but we’re trying to get back to Kerbin as well…

Like Tylo, you need to bring a Big Fucking Rocket™ with you to Eve. On ascent you need over 4 km/s of delta-v just to make orbit because of the atmosphere, the gravity, and the high speed required for orbit. But unlike Tylo your Big Fucking Rocket™ also has to deal with the atmosphere on reentry and be able to land, meaning it needs heat shields galore and also has to be stable enough to not flip around and blow up on entry. Literally land a full-sized rocket through a fiery atmosphere on a planet with high gravity, no big deal, right?

A huge chunk of the planet is covered in an ocean as well. So good luck landing your rocket precisely on land after the totally reckless entry. You can land on the ocean but you’d have to design your rocket to do that initially. It’s also the same problem; what if you land your water-landable rocket on land? You also can land on a mountain to lessen the fuel required to reach orbit, but once again you’re landing on a mountain, precisely, after a fiery and reckless entry.

As for one final “fuck you” from Eve: the atmosphere doesn’t have any oxygen. Given the thick air on Eve, you’d think a fancy spaceplane would be the perfect descent/ascent vehicle but no, because jet engines don’t work. Sure you can take a spaceplane to Eve, but it has to be massive because you’re using rocket propulsion the entire way back to orbit. There is no easy way to cheese an Eve landing/return making it by far the worst planet in the game.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

On the Quest for Lye

This is part three in an n-part series about soap. Check out the other parts if you’re interested. Part one: On the Quest for Soap and part two: What is Soap?

Our living room reeks of chlorine. You don’t notice it too much if you sit in the room awhile, but if you leave for just a few minutes your nose adjusts back to smelling normal air so when you return you’re hit with a wall of chlorine. It smells like a swimming pool even though there isn’t a swimming pool within a quarter-mile of us. It smells like someone mopped the floor with bleach but no one did.

The room smells like chlorine because I’m making chlorine gas. That’s not my goal but it’s a side product of my goal: making my own lye.

I said in the bread post how I love getting as close to the source of things as I can. Baking bread means I don’t have to pay some guy at the bread factory to make it for me but you can only go so far back before you hit another wall. In bread’s case I still need to buy the raw ingredients. Flour, oil, salt, yeast. And none of these products are within my reach. I don’t know how to grow or harvest wheat, where are you supposed to get salt from besides the store?, and oil I could make but it would be messy and a pain in the ass. (The idea would be to buy oil sunflower seeds, the black ones, from Farm and Fleet. It’s sold as bird seed but you could smash them up and harvest the oil. Maybe I’ll actually try that…HMMMMMMM!)

Soap is oil and lye (sodium hydroxide, which sounds a lot cooler than ‘lye’). I mentioned how getting oil would be a pain in the ass, but what about lye? You wouldn’t think so — it’s a harsh industrial product — but it’s apparently really easy to make with only three ingredients: salt, water, and electricity.

If you read the sodium hydroxide Wikipedia page it tells you it’s created by something called the chloralkali process. To sum it up: get salt water, pass electricity through it, and you’re done. Sodium hydroxide. Lye. One of the two things you need to make soap.

The details are a bit tricky though. You can’t just toss a battery in a cup of salt water and get a glass of lye. As the reaction proceeds (its called “electrolysis”) it forms a bunch of nasty stuff that eats most metals. The actual wires (electrodes) you use need to be non-reactive. Good metals are crap like gold and platinum; these are way out of my cost range! I tried this with aluminum foil (it’s cheap and easy to find) and it just deteriorates after a half-hour. The aluminum doesn’t just disappear though, it reacts to form other compounds. Instead of lye you’d get something like sodium aluminate or aluminum chloride or whatever. I don’t even know. But using aluminum means there is a contaminate in the water and that’s not going to be helpful.

The two electrodes also give off hydrogen and chlorine gas. Hydrogen is cool because it’s hydrogen. Rocket fuel. Flammable balloon gas ala Hindenburg. Etc. Chlorine gas is toxic, but in the small amounts I’m making it shouldn’t (???) be a problem.

And that’s why the room smells like chlorine.

(Fun fact #1: chlorine gas is the reason cleaning products instruct you to never ever mix them with anything else! Most of them will make chlorine which isn’t good to breathe in. Go give it a shot if you’re curious. Mix some bleach with ammonia/glass cleaner/toilet bowl cleaner and take a teeny tiny smell of it. It’ll choke you, it’ll burn your nose, and it’ll make make you feel like you’re having an asthma attack. I recommend you do this outside unless you want to piss your family/roommates off.)

(On second thought, do not do this. I’m not taking the blame for your stupidity.)

If you have the two electrodes in the same glass, the chlorine and hydroxide react to form sodium hypochlorite — bleach — simple household bleach. Fun huh? If you need bleach try making some yourself. I might try to conjure some up just to try it, but bleach isn’t important enough to worry about when soap is the goal.

Here’s my setup. Two glasses of salt water. There’s a paper towel between them acting as a bullshit cheap “ion channel” so the current can flow between the glasses. For electrodes I bought some carbon ones off Amazon. Carbon, yes. It’s basically really fancy and thick charcoal. (Fun fact #2: before I ordered those I tried a few bits of charcoal from our bonfire pit. It sort of worked but the charcoal fell apart at the slightest disturbance.) The positive electrode makes chlorine gas while the negative makes hydrogen. (Another fun fact #3: if you bottle up the H and the Cl and burn them together you get hydrogen chloride gas, a toxic and acidic gas! If you bubble this through water you get hydrochloric acid! Capturing gasses is difficult though, so I’m not worrying about it.) 

How does it work? The ions in the water, the sodium and the chloride, wander near to the opposing electrode. The chlorine goes bye-bye (it’s a gas) and the sodium can’t evaporate so a hydrogen from the water goes bye-bye. This leave a lonely OH- that used to be water hanging around. The negative electrode ends up with a bunch of these hydroxide ions (OH-) hanging out around it, a sodium strolls on over, buddies up with it, and makes sodium hydroxide.

I guess the big question is “Well, does it work?” Maybe. It sure makes a ton of hydrogen and stinky, yellow-green, pungent chlorine so it’s doing something. I also bought some pH papers to measure the acidity/alkalinity of the water, and the positive one is sitting at 3 (a mild acid) while the negative glass is somewhere between 12 and 14 (a strong base). So once again something is there, but I have no clue how to get the lye out of the water or anything.

Don’t do this (obviously) but I tasted the lye-water and it doesn’t burn or anything. The pH papers say it’s basic as hell, but it does nothing to my tongue.

After letting it run on my solar power for about four days there is some cloudy white stuff at the bottom, about a half-teaspoons worth. Maybe it made so much lye it’s starting to precipitate out of the water? I think that’s what’s happening. Drain the water off and boil the solid dry I guess. Maybe find a solvent that dissolves either salt or NaOH but not the other? But is that all I have to show for the past four days? Apparently so. I put maybe a tablespoon of salt in each glass so the amount of lye created should be somewhat similar; I won’t end up with ten pounds of the stuff using a tablespoon of salt.

I’m going to replenish the water and salt and keep it running until I get a sizeable amount of lye. Is it worth it? Hell no, and I don’t know what I was hoping to accomplish. Maybe if I ever sold my soap I could slap the “totally homemade at home using solar power and range-free lye!” label on it. Someone would love to buy something as green as my soap. But I probably just wanted to try it to see if it’d work. Make some homemade soap from some homemade lye (and maybe homemade oil…); it’s about as homemade as you can get. No lye from drain cleaner and big industrial factories. Sadly that lye is a whole lot easier to acquire and a hell of a lot cheaper.

Closing Note: I moved my ‘production apparatus’ outside to our driveway. This way I don’t have to worry about filling the house of with fucking chlorine gas and having DCFS called on me.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

Vacation Sucks (2021 Edition)

It’s that time of year once again: vacation. I couldn’t take all four weeks in a row this year and had to settle for three. My job is a union job so everyone with higher seniority gets to pick their vacations first. Even if I’m about middle-of-the-pack with my time there, the full-timers above me all have like five or six weeks of vacation meaning they shit up the vacation calendar pretty quickly.

I complain about vacation once every year, sometimes twice, so I’ll just skip all of that here.

The First Goal

I’m terrible at holding clear-cut goals but here’s one of them: get 2,000 blog views this month. I’ve been slacking for awhile but July still has some hope. July 4th gave me over 200 daily views — a new record and the first time I cracked 200 — because of my The 4th of July Sucks post from two years ago. Apparently people Google “july 4 sucks” and they find my page. Cool. It was a good start to the month but I squandered it as time went on. I need about 250 more views in the next three days, so it’ll be close, and I’ll try my best, but I won’t be surprised if I end the month with 1,999 views.

And this is why I’m shoveling out this throw-away post. Better to write some trash than to not write at all.

Sobriety

This vacation is already going better than my last vacation, nearly 110 days ago, because I’m not trying to sober up. I know the exact number thanks to the r/stopdrinking ‘days sober’ feature. (I’ll never stop shilling for r/stopdrinking.) You set a date and then anytime you post it displays how many sober days you’ve accumulated. It’s a great feature because you don’t have to remember a date or go mad trying to count the days yourself.

Last vacation sucked because I stopped drinking. Anyone who has been an alcoholic knows that the first week is a rough one as your body and emotions are all over the place. I chose that week to sober up because I had a terrible habit of drinking my vacation away. Boredom is one of my drinking triggers and during vacations I go crazy. There’s nothing else to do besides get drunk, at least that’s how Jeremy usually thought about vacation. So that week was successful on the sobriety front and I haven’t had a drink since but damn did it suck. At least these three weeks I’m not battling alcoholism. Sure I’m bored and drinking sounds like a great way to spend vacation, but it’s a passing thought I can easily disregard.

Random Projects

I like to keep busy doing bullshit random things that aren’t at all related to each other. Making soap is obviously one of them, as well as a few other sorta related things like trying to make my own lye and washing bonfire ashes in water. Washing ashes in water also means I need to burn wood which also means I need trim some shrubs in the yard to have stuff to burn. Luckily my wife has done that part because my motivation is always near zero. I despise yardwork by the way…

There’s a bunch else I sort of want to do but since my motivation is basically zero it’s hard for me to get around to doing them. It’d be fun to take the family to the river and go swimming. Not legally swimming either, just get in the water and fucking swim. I want to visit my sister in Iowa because why not? Camping sounds like a fun thing, and maybe haul my guitar to a park and play some music. Maybe haul it down to the bike path and play in front of people? I want to get a cabin for my wife and I but still haven’t gotten around to reserving one. Oh, I also want to watch one of the ‘homeless’ bums that are begging for money at the corner of 2nd Street and Jefferson to see if they’re really homeless, but that won’t happen.

Bike rides, running, weight lifting. Maybe. Russia just launched a new module to the ISS and Boeing is shooting up their Starliner on its second test flight on the 30th; maybe I can go outside and try to see those zipping overhead. (I don’t understand how I haven’t written about the shitty Boeing Starliner yet. It’s fucking trash.) There’s always my giant telescope too and I’ve always wanted to haul that to a public place and let people look at Jupiter and Saturn for realzies.

Paint-by-numbers. Artwork. Drawing. Writing a story. Recording some music. Finally writing and singing some lyrics. Sitting in the yard meditating? Watching bugs in the grass and wondering what it would be like to be a dandelion. What sort of bats do we actually have here in Northern Illinois?

And this is how I am, random bullshit things I want to do with no reason or logic behind them. Is this how people are? Is this normal? Being a human being is a fucking mess…

Books

I bought three books from thriftbooks, being inspired by a Reddit thread asking about “the scariest books you’ve ever read.” House of Leaves. It. Gerald’s Game. I’m currently reading Gerald’s Game and in case you weren’t aware Stephen King is fucked up guy. The book is about a lady who get’s handcuffed to her bed by her husband in the woods. Just some good ole sexual fun that she isn’t too fond of. She ends up accidentally killing him by kicking him and giving him a heart attack, and she’s still cuffed to the bed with no way to escape. A stray dog wanders in and eats her husband as his corpse is laying there. There’s also something about an eclipse and how she was sexually molested by her dad when she was ten. I’m halfway through the book and that’s what’s happened so far.

My wife thinks some of the stuff I write is strange and disturbing, and can you imagine what King’s wife thinks of him? Does he write a story and ever once think, “My God, what the hell is wrong with me?” Either way, he apparently doesn’t give a fuck enough to not get it published.

It’s a book, but not really. A sudoku puzzle book from the store. I think it’s a Soap Opera Digest sudoku book, maybe you’ve seen them before as you’re standing in a checkout lane at Walmart. I had an earlier edition literally 9-10 years ago. Same cover design, same amount of puzzles, same difficulty of puzzles. Sure there are plenty of free sudoku apps out there, but something about having 100 puzzles physically in a book is satisfying so I bought it for $5. It’ll be fun to have it completed by the time I go back to work.

Insomnia

For the past two months I’ve been setting my alarm for noon. I wake up groggy and chug coffee and rip on the vape for an hour before I remotely feel functional. Around midnight I’m dead tired but somehow manage to stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. without fail. I get my second wind around 2 a.m. and from then on I’m as awake as I am at 5 p.m.

I thought vacation would help this a bit, maybe I could set the alarm earlier and earlier, but the problem is getting worse! I didn’t go to sleep yesterday (today?) until 6 a.m. The day before that it was 7:30 a.m. I’m pretty chill about this as well. I’m on vacation so if I’m up until the mid-morning hours who cares? No point in being upset about it.

In Conclusion

In conclusion? What the hell is there to conclude? I’m on vacation. I’m not concluding a damn thing.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.

What is Soap?

Part two of a series on soap. Part one is here if you’re interested.

Soap, in case you weren’t aware, is what you wash your hands with, usually with water. It kills germs like COVID-19 and the flu and the common cold. It’s good at getting oil and dirt off your skin. It’s common practice to wash your hands after taking a piss or a shit, you know, so you’re not interacting with door handles and people with microscopic bits of shit/piss/germs on your hands.

Soap is laughable easy to make which is what I find surprising. All it takes is a bit of motivation and effort, but it’s not hard to do. Nearly anyone can conjure up a rudimentary soap with only a few household ingredients. You take oil and add in some lye, a drain cleaner that you might have laying around in the dark recesses under the sink or in the basement and that’s it: you have soap.

Obviously the details of this are more complicated. How much lye to fat? How long to cure? What scents do you want to add? Like an onion you can always go deeper in understanding.

A fat molecule looks like this. It’s called a triglyceride and the name should tell you a bit about it. ‘Tri-‘, meaning three, and ‘-glyceride’ sounds a lot like glycerin. That comes into play later. A fat molecule is made up of three strings of something called a fatty acid all tied together by this glycerin backbone thingy.

Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide, NaOH, is a strong base. This means when you add it to water it creates a bunch of ANGRY OH- ions that love to rip other molecules apart (it can do this to your cells so don’t get it on you!). When you add the NaOH to fat, the angry OH- molecules rip the fatty acids off the backbone. These fatty acids, floating along ripped from their backbone, pick up the sodium ion (Na+) from the NaOH. The Na is positively charged and the oxygen on the fatty acid has a negative charge and chemistry stuff happens and shit. In short, you get soap.

This Na tied to a fatty acid is what is what gives soap its magical properties. Half the molecules loves polar molecules, like water, while the other half, the fatty acid tail, hates polar molecules. Everyone has seen how fat and oil don’t mix, they’re different molecules and all of that, but soap ties them together in a way. The soap can bind to fat, collect around it, while the other side binds with water. And like that you have the oil-cleaning properties of soap.

Bacteria and germ cells also are contained in a layer of fat. The technical term is “lipid bilayer” and guess what soap can do to this? Collect around it while allowing water to wash it away. And like that you have the antibacterial properties of soap.

It’s no wonder humans eventually stumbled upon this magical substance. Water is nearly a universal solvent and is required for life. Everything almost dissolves in water, except the stuff that doesn’t, like oil. You get some mud on your hands and water will wash it off. You step in some dogshit and water will wash most of it off while leaving some harmful bacteria. You mix some lye with fat to make soap and no more harmful bacteria on your shit-soiled foot. Before vaccinations were a thing good hygiene was our best defense against microbes. Not shitting near your water source. Not having dead bodies near your farms. And washing your hands. Soap, as simple and mundane as it is, gave us a huge leg-up against germs. Hell, even in 2020/2021 one of the most important guidelines regarding COVID is simply to wash your damn hands because soap is in fact magical and it does in fact work.

Check out my YouTube channel about off-grid green energy setups!

Or my Instagram where I post pointless artistic pics and shitty poems every whenever I get around to it.

Or my other blog where I sometimes post stories.