Saturday, May 18, 2019


There's a new HBO drama about the core breach and fire at Chernobyl. The 2nd episode became available today. Here's the trailer.

YouTube will provide you with all the documentaries and information you could possibly watch but this drama makes it real.

Here is the story you need hear. There were huge water tanks under the reactor. They needed to be emptied before the core melted through and contacted them. If that had happened, the resulting explosion would have been between 3 and 5 megatons. Megatons. Remember the Hiroshima bomb was 20 kilotons**. It would have torn open the other reactors at the site and dispersed enough radiation to make the western Soviet Union and most of Europe uninhabitable.

Three men volunteered to enter the flooded basement under the burning reactor to find and open the valves. They succeeded. They took high doses of radiation and some reports suggest they died but from what I can find it appears they survived the initial period of acute radiation sickness.

Their names were Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bespalov and Boris Baranov. They saved millions of lives and a continent.

UPDATE: In the comments, the physics and math question of the potential size of the explosion is generating some thoughtful questions. It may be like the old game of "telephone", where the actual risk was of the steam explosion ejecting the core material into the atmosphere along with all the radioactive water, resulting in a down wind radiation fallout equivalent to a 3-5 megaton bomb. If it had done that as well at causing the other reactors to fail, the outcome would would have been bad enough. I am genuinely curious now and want to understand. If I find a definitive answer, I'll post it.

**Edited to correct yield per Old 1811


Yes, I am a nerd - I still remember the mnemonic for the colors on the resistor.

Hat tip: Chris Lynch.

Under appreciated talents: Doris Day and Christopher Lee

Both Doris Day and Christopher Lee got type cast, and it hurt both their careers.  Day was seen as the Virgin Queen; Lee as the great Hollywood Bad Guy.  While they both excelled in these roles, their talents went much deeper.  Here are a couple of (perhaps unexpected) examples of their deeper and less remarked on capabilities.

One of Day's greatest films was, Love Me Or Leave Me.  She was so, so not the Virgin Queen:

Ten cents a dance.  Oof.

And Christopher Lee - cast as Dracula, The Man with the Golden Gun, and Saruman - his basso profundo (and very classically trained voice) never failed to impress.  He really was the actual Most Interesting Man In The World:

The world is diminished by their passing, Day this past week and Lee these four years ago.  But a short time on Youtube listening to Lee's Heavy Metal or watching Day's finer performances will be a breath of fresh air in this later day of jaded "entertainment" options.

Requiescat in pace.

Lee Moore - The Cat Came Back

Grumpy Cat is dead.  But since cats are said to have nine lives, we can hope that Grumpy Cat will be around for a long, long time.  You bet, there's a country song about that.

Lee Moore was Yankee born and bred, an Ohio boy.  He found himself in radio in West Virginia playing for coal miners in the 1930s before settling down for a long stint as a late night entertainer on WWVA AM in Wheeling.  WWVA could be heard across most of the eastern USA at the late night hours when Moore was on the air, and he built up a following among truckers and other night owls from Newfoundland to Bermuda.  Nighttime AM travels a long, long way.

Moore retired to Troy, New York and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000, three years after his death.  This was a song that he popularized (and which I remember from my youth).

The Cat Came Back (Songwriters: Harry S. Miller)
Well old Mr. Johnson had troubles all his own
He had an old yellow cat that wouldn't leave home
Tried everything he knew to do to get the cat to stay away
Even took him up to Canada and told him for to stay
But the cat came back, the very next day,
Thought he was a goner, but the cat came back
`Cause he wouldn't stay away
Well they give a boy a dollar for to set the cat afloat
And he took him up the river in a sack and a boat
Well the fishin' it was fine till the news got around
That the boat was missing and the boy was drowned...
But the cat came back, the very next day,
Thought he was a goner, but the cat came back
`Cause he wouldn't stay away
Well the farmer on the corner said he'd shoot him on sight
And he loaded up his gun full of rocks and dynamite
The gun went off, heard all over town
Little pieces of the man was all that they found...
But the cat came back, the very next day,
Thought he was a goner, but the cat came back
`Cause he wouldn't stay away
Well they finally found a way this cat for to fix
They put him in an orange crate on Route 66
Come a ten ton truck with a twenty ton load
Scattered pieces of the orange crate all down the road...
But the cat came back, the very next day,
Thought he was a goner, but the cat came back
`Cause he wouldn't stay away
Now they gave him to a man going up in the balloon
And they told him for to leave him with the man in the moon
Well the balloon got busted, back to earth it head,
And seven miles away they picked the man up dead...
But the cat came back, the very next day,
Thought he was a goner, but the cat came back
`Cause he wouldn't stay away
Well they took him to the shop where the meat was ground
And they dropped him in the hopper when the butcher wasn't 'round
Well the cat disappeared with a blood-curdling shriek
And the town's meat tasted furry for a week...
But the cat came back, the very next day,
Thought he was a goner, but the cat came back
`Cause he wouldn't stay away
Well, they took him to Cape Canaveral and they put him in a place
Shot him in a rocket going way out in space
Well they finally thought the cat was out of human reach
Next day they got a call from Miami Beach and...
And the cat came back, the very next day,
Thought he was a goner, but the cat came back
`Cause he wouldn't stay away
This song dates to 1895 (!) but was updated for the Space Age.  The song had nine lives as well, it seems.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Rest in Peace, Grumpy Cat

Found dead on May 16.  Cause of death is under investigation.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Goodbye, Doris Day

Doris Day has passed at 97.  The Guardian has a good obituary here.  I think that she was under rated both as a singer and as an actress - not at the time of her peak fame, of course, but when the revolution of the 1960s made her "girl next door" appeal passé.  She was no longer "sophisticated" enough for the Baby Boomer world.

Bah.  The lack of self-awareness among the Boomer generation is epic.  Day had a great, expressive voice as you can hear in this.

She (and Rock Hudson) starred in what is perhaps the finest Romantic Comedy of all time, Lover Come Back.  She is really funny in this - somehow she never got credit for her comedic timing.  This is an excellent New York Times review of the film.  If you haven't seen it, you're in for a real treat.

I always enjoyed both her music and her films, and thought it was a shame that she didn't get the recognition that she deserved.  Rest in Peace, Doris.  Thanks for all the great times.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Obit watch

Dwight has two for you:

Tim Conway, perhaps the funniest man to ever live.  The Queen Of The World and I are sad about his passing - we really enjoyed his comedy.

Medal of Honor recipient dies at 98, 75 years after falling on a grenade to save his buddies.

I'm on the road and crazy busy, and so will post a retrospective on Doris Day in the next day or two.  She was terribly under rated, both musically and as an actress.

ASM826 Edit: Tim Conway was one of the funniest comedians. Here's two examples from the Carol Burnett show. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

The song almost writes itself, doesn't it?

Seen on the Book of Faces by the Queen Of The World, who is patient when I rant about self-driving cars.

Friday, May 10, 2019

AirBnB: Let the buyer beware

Spycam found in AirBnB rental:
An Airbnb "superhost" has been arrested and jailed after a guest discovered a camera hidden inside an internet router placed in the bedroom. 
The perv had picked on the wrong woman. Yunfei (her online alias) works in IT security and always checks hotel rooms that she stays in. She became immediately suspicious when she arrived at the apartment in Qingdao in China's Shandong province. 
"I found a motion sensor monitor at the flat's entrance and two in the two bedrooms, which is odd since the flat had not been renovated for smart-home automation," she told the Beijing Youth Daily. 
She stuck stickers on the sensors and turned them toward the wall before embarking on a deeper search, checking the TV and smoke detectors for hidden cameras. It was when she spotted the internet router in the bedroom, facing the bed, that she began to get really suspicious however. 
One of the lights that indicates an Ethernet connection to one of the ports in the back was slightly different to the others. On closer inspection it turned out that the four-port router had five lights. She found a picture of the same router online: it only had four lights.

Wolfgang gets a raincoat

The Queen Of The World got Wolfgang a new raincoat, since it's now far too warm for a winter coat but the smell of wet dog is not our favorite.  She calls him the "Morton Salt Dog" which I think is hilarious.

Actually, it's what we call a "slicker" up in Maine.  Of course, they say "slickah" but that's because it's Down East.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

World War II Field Kitchen

Via #2 Son, here's a great overview of the WWII Field Kitchen.  It's a lot more interesting than you might think.  As they say, amateurs talk strategy but professionals talk logistics.  A logistics system that gets hot chow in the troops even at the front is something that will help you win.

I hadn't known that they ran on gasoline.  That would eliminate the need to find firewood and would almost eliminate smoke (don't want the Bad Guys to use your kitchen chimney to walk the artillery in), but you obviously need gas.  Nobody had a gasoline supply like we did, so I expect other army's field kitchens were very different.

Adam Corolla explains the Big Bang to Neil deGrasse Tyson


Linux on the Desktop - it's finally here

For the last 20 years we've heard that the next year will be the year that Linux comes to the desktop - each and every year, we heard it.  Well, it actually looks like it's here, because Microsoft is shipping it:
The biggest news of Microsoft's annual developer get-together, Build, this year was the arrival of the Linux kernel as part of Windows Subsystem for Linux 2. Oh, and a new tab-happy Windows Terminal? It's in GitHub. 

Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 

The Windows Subsystem Linux (WSL), which lets you run Linux programs on a Windows box, has seen some serious love from Microsoft as its engineers attempt to demonstrate their commitment to open source and Linux.
And it's even GPL'ed.  By Microsoft.
Just stop and think about that for a second. It means when you come to run a program, the Windows kernel will either interface with it directly if it's a Windows application, or allow the Linux kernel to manage it if it's a Linux application. Now you can run Linux software truly natively on the world's largest desktop OS platform, developed by a company that once declared Linux "a cancer."
I did not expect the future to be so weird.