Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nuclear Accidents, Beatles, Mean Snakes

Today is one of the worst cases of “I’ve got nothing” in the history of this blog.

I was actually doing a lot today, there were a lot of things I could have written about, but I just never got around to writing anything. Soon—I don’t know when—I think I will have some good stuff. But I don’t know when. Certainly not today.

So, like an old fashioned kind of blog post, from the early days of blogging, I’m just going to jot down a few things that I’ve been doing lately.


I’ve been paying a lot of attention, of course, to the strange goings-on in Japan’s nuclear reactors. Fukushima is the most obvious case, but many of Japan’s reactors seem to be having problems. It makes me wonder if their embedded systems have been infected with a computer virus.

At any rate, a lot of the coverage on the internet comes from bizarre websites that have almost a lunatic fringe kind of feel to them, with extreme left-wing views and extreme anti-nuclear views. As bad as the situation seems to be with Fukushima, it is very hard to trust information from many of the websites that spend a lot of time talking about it.

One good resource I’ve found is MIT. They certainly know their science and engineering there. Here is a quote from an MIT educational site, and a link:

What is criticality?

The words “criticality” and “re-criticality” have been used extensively in the media coverage. Criticality is a nuclear term that refers to the balance of neutrons in the system. “Subcritical” refers to a system where the loss rate of neutrons is greater than the production rate of neutrons and therefore the neutron population (or number of neutrons) decreases as time goes on. “Supercritical” refers to a system where the production rate of neutrons is greater than the loss rate of neutrons and therefore the neutron population increases. When the neutron population remains constant, this means there is a perfect balance between production rate and loss rate, and the nuclear system is said to be “critical.” The criticality of a system can be calculated by comparing the rate at which neutrons are produced, from fission and other sources, to the rate at which they are lost through absorption and leakage out of the reactor core. A nuclear reactor is a system that controls this criticality or balance of neutrons.


Right now I’m reading this book by George Martin. The trouble with reading about the Beatles is that almost every account provides some narrative that clashes with an earlier narrative. But I like George Martin. Out of all the characters connected with the group he seems the most level-headed.

Except, of course, for Jane Asher. She’s written three fiction books, but she’s never written directly about the Beatles. I strongly suspect she knows what might be called the Q-document about the Beatles. But I also strongly suspect she will never publish it.

Mean Snakes

Right now I’m watching this movie.

Last week when I was looking around for Benadryl—all the stores around my house were sold out—I finally found some at a store that also had DVDs on sale. One of the sale DVDs was this snake movie so I bought it.

I wouldn’t say I like Tara Reid, but she’s one of those bad actresses who always seems at least to put her heart into her bad performance. Her movies are usually awful, but kind of fun to watch.

And I like monster snake movies.

Although, to be exact, in my scheme of things this is not a monster snake movie, it’s just a killer snake movie. The snakes aren’t giant, just very poisonous and very mean. It’s pretty bad, but the characters are all kind of pleasant and I think a would-be writer like me can learn a lot from second-guessing efforts like this and thinking of ways to tell such a story with a more focused effect.

That’s about it for today.

Not much.


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