Re: Strindberg, thankfully, remains plentiful.

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new sources of helium
What's this, now?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:23 AM
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Who could have foreseen that turning over a limited natural resource over to the free market would result in us blowing it all in an orgy of party balloons? Not the neoliberals, that's who.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:30 AM
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I'm mostly embarrassed that when future generations want an MRI, we're going to have to be like, "Guys, we're really sorry, but you have to understand how incredibly funny our voices sounded while squandering the stuff."


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:32 AM
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Another Joe P.! The boys from Brooklyn?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:37 AM
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There's plenty of helium in stars. The free market will inexorably figure out a way to efficiently mine it. Hopefully the Sun-miners will be unionized, because that's gonna need some safety regulations.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:39 AM
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3: We don't have tell them, we can show them on YouTube! You really are getting old, aren't you Stanley?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:39 AM
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5: because that's gonna need some safety regulations.

Or not. Were the original 49ers unionized? You need to listen to more Rage Against the Machine.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:41 AM
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Someone was recently giving me an excited account of how affordable it would be to mine the moon for iron, but they kind of trailed off in response to my withering glare. I mean, iron?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:45 AM
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One of the recurring fantasies of space junkies* is mining the moon for Helium 3 to fuel second-generation fusion devices. Presumably we could tap the He4 produced as a byproduct. After we develop second generation fusion machines and an infrastructure for lunar mining. And ponycorns for all.

*Full disclosure: I am one of these and only differ on the lunacy of helium mining and space elevators and shit. Asteroids are where it's at, baby!


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:59 AM
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Lots of plants are coming online, so it's believed that the long-term supplies (projected out to 2030) are relatively stable. But in the short run, yeah, oops.


Posted by: Chemjobber | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:29 AM
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9.1: sucks for the clones, of course.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:30 AM
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10: How do helium plants work?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:38 AM
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And when are we going to get airships filled with non-flammable helium?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:39 AM
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12: Fucking magnets.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:46 AM
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Anyway, without MRI images and algebra, I wouldn't have a job.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:53 AM
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Or at least, I wouldn't have this job.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:54 AM
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I'm now wondering how insane it would be to try to manufacture helium by spallation.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:58 AM
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I keep thinking that the hazards of hydrogen are overstated. Bring on the mildly-flammable balloons!


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 9:08 AM
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Is 13 an Archer reference?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 9:19 AM
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18: I think you are correct, but getting FAA approval for an upgraded airship in the Hindenburg class would be hard. I bet you could get a very high degree of safety by putting the hydrogen ballonette inside a larger helium filled one, and using active venting of the interior spaces to keep hydrogen from building up. It would be awesomely cool to do Cape Town to Cairo in a Zeppelin.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 9:20 AM
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19: Yes.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 9:41 AM
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Back of the envelope, 17 does seem kind of crazy, I think. Maybe for absolutely vital, small amounts in some kind of awful "in a world without helium..." scenario, but unlikely to beat mining on any sane timescale.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 9:47 AM
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The free market will create cold fusion! Then we'll have all the helium we want.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 10:15 AM
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Perhaps Ryan can talk this up as the free market responding to reduce the cost of medical care.


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 10:16 AM
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I think the idea with the plants is that there's more than enough helium being released by natural gas mining, but that you need a plant to actually sort out the helium from the rest of the gasses.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 10:18 AM
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Sorry, those were me. At any rate, sounds like things are bad in the short run, ok in the medium run, and big trouble in the long run (unless we get fusion working, in which case ponies for everyone).


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 10:19 AM
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25: Yes, but how do you sort helium from other gases? (One thing that comes to mind is cooling until everything else liquefies. But I wonder if there's a simple way to actually separate the gases.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 10:24 AM
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Sometimes it occurs to me how much of my (negligible) peace of mind relies on putting my likely lifespan against vaguely imagined time frames for various shit hitting various fans. Happily, I don't know enough about why we need helium to do much with this one. My birthday parties will survive the helium drought unless it takes helium to make gin.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 10:35 AM
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28. Let me google that for you. Looks like you personally will be OK until you need an MRI or heart surgery. The advanced manufacturing sector, not so much.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 10:43 AM
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Total HTML fail, there.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 10:44 AM
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Right, the MRI thing I knew from this thread. But, uh, thanks for googling that for me.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 11:26 AM
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22

... Maybe for absolutely vital, small amounts in some kind of awful "in a world without helium..." scenario, but unlikely to beat mining on any sane timescale.

Helium is 5 parts per million (by volume) of the atmosphere so there is plenty around. Extracting it is just a matter of cost. According to wikipedia:

Helium must be extracted from natural gas because it is present in air at only a fraction of that of neon, yet the demand for it is far higher. It is estimated that if all neon production were retooled to save helium, that 0.1% of the world's helium demands would be satisfied. Similarly, only 1% of the world's helium demands could be satisfied by re-tooling all air distillation plants. ...

which seems to have absolutely vital small amounts covered.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 11:45 AM
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The source of the potential price spike is that for some reason the government has been selling off its reserve at below market prices.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 11:54 AM
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33: "for some reason"

Ahem.


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 12:14 PM
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That was you?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 12:21 PM
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12, 25: It looks like it's fractional distillation of natural gas and then subsequent purification (by low-temp distillation, and then filtration) that gets to high-purity helium. High capital cost, high volume, paper-thin margin, I suspect.

As for supply shortages, here's the relevant bit from a recent Chemical and Engineering News story (http://bit.ly/LSc6Se) (you have to be a ACS member to log in):

Two helium plants in Algeria run by the national oil firm Sonatrach have recently been operating at about half of their normal capacity because of low natural gas demand, says Air Products' Van Sloun. When demand for gas from helium-containing wells goes down, or wells deplete, less helium is available. Production shortfalls from small plants in Russia, Poland, and Australia have also limited global helium supply, Van Sloun points out.

Some relief will come starting later this year when nearly 2 billion cu ft of capacity fires up. A 200 million-cu-ft-per-year plant in Big Piney, Wyo., originally planned to open in 2011, should begin operating by the end of 2012. Owned by Air Products and Matheson Tri-Gas, the plant sits idle while the project's crude helium supplier, Cimarex Energy, completes work on its own facility.

Sometime next year, an expansion in Algeria will add 350 million cu ft of capacity, industrial gas suppliers say. But the biggest addition of them all is the 1.3 billion-cu-ft Qatar Helium 2 project, scheduled to open in early 2013 by the Qatari firm RasGas. Together with the 660 million-cu-ft Qatar Helium 1 plant already in operation, RasGas says, the new capacity will make the country the world's second-largest helium producer.

And Russia could also enter the major leagues of producers. In 2014 or sometime thereafter, large new helium reserves are likely to be tapped in Siberia, says Peter J. Madrid, a helium analyst with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages the government's pipeline.

Incidentally, I'm no MRI technologist, but that bit about quenches ruining magnets sounds a bit alarmist. While I don't doubt that quenches can do a good bit of damage (especially uncontrolled ones), I'm not convinced that we're ever going to get to that point w/r/t this particular shortage.


Posted by: Chemjobber | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 1:45 PM
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A basket of fruit unusual fluorine compounds for Chemjobber, I think!


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 2:03 PM
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37: to tie different apocalyptic threads together, perhaps some cyclic fluorocarbons!


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 2:20 PM
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One particularly disastrous magnet quench comes to mind, but that was more the shoddy engineering of some connections than the quench itself that caused so much trouble...


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 2:22 PM
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I'm no MRI technologist either, but it's worth remembering that these are extremely delicate machines and the other side wants fucking balloons.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 2:29 PM
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fucking balloons

Fucking magnets, fucking balloons: the MRI niche pr0n just gets more and more sophisticated.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 3:04 PM
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14, 39: Those magnets won't fuck themselves.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 3:05 PM
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42: I believe that in an MRI, you're inside the magnet. So guess who's fucking who?


Posted by: Chemjobber | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 3:14 PM
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fucking balloons:condoms::fucking magnets:x

x=singles bars? highballs? some kind of complicated sex aid I can't google up because of too many ICP results/my wife is 3 feet away on the other computer.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 4:17 PM
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Incidentally, I heard that there's an additional shortage of Helium-3 (a rare isotope), which is used in dilution refrigerators. The shortage is because Homeland Security has been buying a lot of it to use in high-end radiation detectors.


Posted by: YK | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 4:37 PM
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44 is hauntingly in the style of Alameida.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 4:38 PM
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Wow, between 2009 and 2010, the price of one liter of He-3 jumped from $100 to over $2000. (Although I don't think there's really a free market for He-3.)


Posted by: YK | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 4:50 PM
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Target sells a disposable helium tank for filling party balloons for $49.99, which leads me to believe that hel-pocalypse hasn't quite arrived. Or maybe it's here.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 5:11 PM
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48: maybe that's the seventh seal?


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 5:13 PM
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Whom.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 5:45 PM
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Wake me up before you go-go


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 6:00 PM
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Funner helium balloon trick* than breathing in the helium is to tie it to the gearstick of your car and watch it as you accelerate, brake and turn. There are several levels of analysis you can use to explain its behavior, but I think the neatest is appealing to the equivalence principle.

*And it doesn't use up the helium so you can donate it to the MRI place when they have to look at your knee after you wreck when the balloon un-intuitively ends up in your face during a left turn**.

**In the Northern Hemisphere ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 6:06 PM
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You must have a really big ballon.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 6:25 PM
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fucking balloons

You must have a really big ballon.

Neunundneunzig fickballons
Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizontal


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 6:31 PM
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I probably shouldn't try to make jokes in languages I don't understand.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 6:38 PM
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Si, pero a tiempos, no puedo quitar.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 6:41 PM
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A veces, quizás...


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 6:44 PM
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53: I have 99 luftballons.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 6:51 PM
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The people who just sat next to me are speaking Spanish. Somebody say more German and see what happens.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 6:54 PM
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Schwarzgerat.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 6:58 PM
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54 to 58?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:01 PM
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Google Translate told me "Schwarzgerät" meant "black unit", and I thought that was going somewhere entirely different until I googled and saw it's from Gravity's Rainbow.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:05 PM
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Never mind German on my account. I have to leave. Unrelated: The bartender called me an old man for ordering a rusty nail.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:10 PM
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Old men don't liveblog from the bar.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:16 PM
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I'd always heard it as "device" rather than "unit". You know, because of the dimensions.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:19 PM
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63: I've finally looked up a Rusty Nail and it sounds a lot better than I'd have guessed from the name. Is it expensive? I'm assuming not since it's a Moby staple, but maybe I've misjudged you.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:48 PM
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66: Drambuie is kind of expensive by volume, and if they're using actual Scotch, I think you'd normally be in the $7-14 range. Here, at least.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:51 PM
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It's $5 to $7 where I go, depending.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:55 PM
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67: That was my thought, and fuck a six-dollar drink. (I had one tonight but I go out, like, once a month. Plus there was a shrimp in it and that's worth something.) I just asked Lee if she ever had one when she was a bartender and said no because it's an old lady drink. Sorry she thinks you're girly, Mobes, though on the plus side (?) she has a thing for old ladies.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:55 PM
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It's possible to get drinks for six dollars? Craziness.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:56 PM
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I guess I already threw away my chance to move to an inexpensive city.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:58 PM
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I just asked Lee if she ever had one when she was a bartender and said no because it's an old lady drink.

Huh. As a former bartender, I think of a Rusty Nail as an old man drink.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 7:59 PM
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Essear, darling, I'm sure with hometown drinking you could find cheap stuff. My well g&t, good or not, is anywhere from $2-5 and beyond that I feel like I should be getting something fancy that's worth $9-12. I'm not comfortable in the middle.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:00 PM
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72: She only ever worked at a gay bar, which may have skewed it. I think your version is closer to canonical.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:01 PM
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They have $2.50 well drink night at one bar. One guy counted it as a well drink, but I think he was doing me a favor because I was there a lot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:02 PM
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Anyway, I have no exact idea what it costs. I think some bartenders use better scotch by default for it. Also, I usually order them after a few beers, so I don't remember exact numbers so well.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:29 PM
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It's possible to get drinks for six dollars? Craziness.

Let me be the first to recommend Fresh Salt.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 8:40 PM
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I guess I already threw away my chance to move to an inexpensive city.

You could get another in three or six years!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-19-12 9:56 PM
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61: 54 to 58?

Ah, yes it is. So 55->me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-20-12 7:10 AM
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66: Depending on your taste in Scotch, it may not be that expensive when made at home.

Alternately, you could sneak a flask of Drambuie into the bar and order a well Scotch (or some kind of well Whiskey) on the rocks, and make your own cocktail.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-20-12 8:40 AM
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You could just sneak the whole drink in, but that would be unethical.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 08-20-12 8:40 AM
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You could just disguise yourself as LB's dad and she'd probably mix one for you.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-20-12 9:23 AM
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The OP struck me as funny because probably the first political book I ever read outside school was Parliament of Whores, by P.J. O'Rourke, and in the chapter on the budget he specifically discusses the Helium Fund as an example of what not to do. He says that would-be-budget-busters go after programs like the Helium Fund that sound unimportant and funny, but he wanted to avoid that because a lot of such programs really are things that no one but the government could do, and are small change compared to the federal government as a whole.

Five years later, Congress did think it was worth going after the small change after all, and there was absolutely no need the private sector couldn't meet, apparently. Funny how that worked out.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 6:57 AM
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Dammit, we need that helium to build our hypersonic ion-drive space airships. How are we going to keep our two-mile-wide floating hotels up without adequate supplies of helium? The whole project becomes ludicrous!

http://jpaerospace.com/


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:21 AM
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83: gosh, he really didn't use to be braindead, did he?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 7:21 AM
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85: There are lots and lots of people who seemed more or less sane - right overall IMO but wrong on a few minor issues, or wrong overall but respectable about it - until 9/11, and it's tempting to lump him in with them. But I have to wonder how sane him, or for that matter any of them, were to begin with.

(For years I had read a comment of his in that very chapter as being just so unserious that it made me question the quality of his thinking in general, even for someone who's a humorist first and a political commentator second, but when I looked it up for this thread I realized he meant something completely different than I thought. Oops. I may need to reevaluate him quite a bit.)


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 8:44 AM
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86: He was always basically a dick, even if a quite funny one. Over time the dick ate the funny.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 10:37 AM
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Did you know there's a global shortage of BCG vaccine? Because some filthy Canadian monster let mould grow in the factory and birds nest in the air conditioning.

I say, WAR WITH CANADA!


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 08-21-12 2:53 PM
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Yet another important scientific use for helium (hope I'm not pwned on this).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19348123


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 10:15 AM
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83

Five years later, Congress did think it was worth going after the small change after all, ...

The helium program was a notorious government boondoggle.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-23-12 5:36 PM
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