Monthly Archives: April 2012

RIP Pontiac


Pontiac (1926 - 2010)


In Remembrance – Nuclear Disaster at Chernobyl


On April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union. Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the opening days of the crisis, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

The Chernobyl station was situated at the settlement of Pripyat, about 65 miles north of Kiev in the Ukraine. Built in the late 1970s on the banks of the Pripyat River, Chernobyl had four reactors, each capable of producing 1,000 megawatts of electric power. On the evening of April 25, 1986, a group of engineers began an electrical-engineering experiment on the Number 4 reactor. The engineers, who had little knowledge of reactor physics, wanted to see if the reactor’s turbine could run emergency water pumps on inertial power.

As part of their poorly designed experiment, the engineers disconnected the reactor’s emergency safety systems and its power-regulating system. Next, they compounded this recklessness with a series of mistakes: They ran the reactor at a power level so low that the reaction became unstable, and then removed too many of the reactor’s control rods in an attempt to power it up again. The reactor’s output rose to more than 200 megawatts but was proving increasingly difficult to control. Nevertheless, at 1:23 a.m. on April 26, the engineers continued with their experiment and shut down the turbine engine to see if its inertial spinning would power the reactor’s water pumps. In fact, it did not adequately power the water pumps, and without cooling water the power level in the reactor surged.

To prevent meltdown, the operators reinserted all the 200-some control rods into the reactor at once. The control rods were meant to reduce the reaction but had a design flaw: graphite tips. So, before the control rod’s five meters of absorbent material could penetrate the core, 200 graphite tips simultaneously entered, thus facilitating the reaction and causing an explosion that blew off the heavy steel and concrete lid of the reactor. It was not a nuclear explosion, as nuclear power plants are incapable of producing such a reaction, but was chemical, driven by the ignition of gases and steam that were generated by the runaway reaction. In the explosion and ensuing fire, more than 50 tons of radioactive material were released into the atmosphere, where it was carried by air currents.

On April 27, Soviet authorities began an evacuation of the 30,000 inhabitants of Pripyat. A cover-up was attempted, but on April 28 Swedish radiation monitoring stations, more than 800 miles to the northwest of Chernobyl, reported radiation levels 40 percent higher than normal. Later that day, the Soviet news agency acknowledged that a major nuclear accident had occurred at Chernobyl.

In the opening days of the crisis, 32 people died at Chernobyl and dozens more suffered radiation burns. The radiation that escaped into the atmosphere, which was several times that produced by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was spread by the wind over Northern and Eastern Europe, contaminating millions of acres of forest and farmland. An estimated 5,000 Soviet citizens eventually died from cancer and other radiation-induced illnesses caused by their exposure to the Chernobyl radiation, and millions more had their health adversely affected. In 2000, the last working reactors at Chernobyl were shut down and the plant was officially closed.

RIP Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur

Beatrice "Bea" Arthur (May 13, 1922 – April 25, 2009)

Beatrice “Bea” Arthur (May 13, 1922 – April 25, 2009) was an American comedienne, actress, and singer. In a career spanning seven decades, Arthur achieved success as the title character, Maude Findlay, on the 1970s sitcom Maude, and as Dorothy Zbornak on the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls; she won Emmys for both roles.

Wikipedia Link

RIP Bobby “Boris” Picket

Robert George Pickett (February 11, 1938 – April 25, 2007), best known as one-hit wonder musician Bobby “Boris” Pickett. He was best known for co-writing and singing the 1962 hit novelty song, “Monster Mash”.

Wikipedia Link

Founding of the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress was established on April 24, 1800, when President John Adams signed an Act of Congress providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. Part of the legislation appropriated ,000 “for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress …, and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them….” Books were ordered from London and the collection, consisting of 740 books and 30 maps, was housed in the new Capitol. Although the collection covered a variety of topics, the bulk of the materials were legal in nature, reflecting Congress’ role as a maker of laws.

Thomas Jefferson played an important role in the Library’s early formation, signing into law on January 26, 1802 the first law establishing the structure of the Library of Congress. The law established the presidentially appointed post of Librarian of Congress and a Joint Committee on the Library to regulate and oversee the Library, as well as giving the president and vice president the ability to borrow books. The Library of Congress was destroyed in August 1814, when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol building and the small library of 3,000 volumes within.

Within a month, former President Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson had spent 50 years accumulating a wide variety of books, including ones in foreign languages and volumes of philosophy, science, literature, and other topics not normally viewed as part of a legislative library, such as cookbooks, writing that, “I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.” In January 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer, appropriating $23,950 to purchase his 6,487 books.

Wikipedia Article

Happy Birthday, Shirley Temple

Shirley Jane Temple (born April 23, 1928), later known as Shirley Temple Black, is an American diplomat and former film child actress. She starred in over 40 films during the 1930s.

Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple (April 23, 1928 – )

Wikipedia Link 

RIP Benny Hill

Alfred Hawthorn Hill, better known as Benny Hill, was a prolific English comic, actor & singer, best known for his television program, The Benny Hill Show. Since its debut in 1955 his television show has been sold to over 140 countries worldwide, with viewership in the billions.

Benny Hill

Alfred Hawthorn Hill (January 21, 1924 – April 20, 1992)

Wikipedia Link

Farewell, Dick Clark… America’s Oldest Teenager.

Bandstand in the 50s, New Year’s Rockin’ Eves for the past 30 years, Dick Clark has been around and seen (and introduced) it all… he has passed away as the “World’s Oldest Teenager” at the age of 82.



Birth of the Mustang (and the Pony Car)

April 17, 1964: Ford Mustang Starts Galloping

1964: Ford introduces the Mustang at the New York World’s Fair. It becomes an instant hit and an icon that alters the automotive landscape, giving rise to one of the most successful — and most uniquely American — automobile genres: the pony car.

The Ford Mustang was born of the simple idea that putting a back seat in a sports car would be a great idea.

The idea came to Lee Iacocca and Donald Frey in the early 1960s as the country was being overrun by European sports cars. Everywhere you looked you saw Alfa Romeos and MGs and Triumphs that dripped oil. Even French cars that would draw peals of laughter today were popular back then.

The two Ford execs saw a vast market literally rolling before their eyes, and, according to legend, the notion of a sports car with a back seat was one of those “ah-hah” moments. If Ford could dilute the European ethos just a bit by making the cars a bit more practical and a lot more affordable, Iacocca figured, the company would sell a few thousand.

He was right, but boy was he wrong. Ford didn’t sell thousands of them. It sold millions of them.

They sold 22,000 on the first day.

The Mustang was more than a success. It was a phenomenon. Ford sold 1 million in the first 18 months, making the Mustang its most successful launch since the Model A.

The pony car is easy to define. It was small by Detroit standards, with sporty styling. It had a back seat for your kids and a usable trunk for your stuff. And the rear wheels were driven by an engine — ideally a big V-8 — mounted up front where God and Henry Ford intended.

Pony cars may not have had the finesse of a European sports car, but they made up for it with brute force. A small-block V-8 can make up for a multitude of handling deficiencies.

The Mustang was successful like the Beatles were popular. Ford figured it would sell around 100,000 in the first 12 months of production. It sold 10 times that number in the first 18.

That success was not lost on the rest of Detroit, and everyone was cranking out pony cars by 1967. General Motors introduced the Chevrolet Camaro and its kissing cousin, the Pontiac Firebird. Ford offered the more upscale Mercury Cougar. Chrysler released the Challenger. Even AMC — google it, we’ll wait — got into the act with the Javelin.

Everyone had a favorite, and even now loyalists occasionally come to blows over which one was best. Countless bets have been made and races staged in displays of testosterone and bravado that would make Dr. Freud sit down for a cigar and a good long think.

And that was just in the parking lots and streets. Things really got wild when the automakers got in on the act, bringing in drivers like Dan Gurney and George Follmer and Mark Donohue to show who built the best car. The contest grew so heated it gave rise to a pony-car–specific racing series called Trans Am. (The car was named after the series, not the other way around.)

We’re inclined to give the award to the Mustang, if only because Steve McQueen drove a ’68 fastback in the most famous chase scene in cinematic history, that amazing dash through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt.

The Mustang also gets the nod for sheer longevity. Oh sure, you can get a new Camaro that looks like a vintage Camaro, or a new Dodge Challenger that looks like a vintage Dodge Challenger.

But the Mustang is the only pony car to remain in continuous production since its introduction 45 years ago.

Ford has sold more than 9 million worldwide.

100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic


RMS Titanic departing Southampton on 10 April 1912

 On April 15th, 1912, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City and sank, taking over 1500 lives with her.

Wikipedia Link

The Taxman Cometh

The Taxman Cometh

Houston, We’ve Had A Problem…

April 17th, 1970 the capsule from the Apollo 13 mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, and the whole world breathed a sigh of relief.


Apollo 13 launched from Cape Canaveral on April 11, intended to be the third manned lunar landing. The crew — James A. Lovell Jr., John L. Swigert Jr. and Fred W. Haise Jr. — experienced a slight vibration shortly after launch, but things were going normally until 55 hours, 55 minutes into the flight.

Oxygen tank No. 2 exploded, causing No. 1 to fail and start leaking rapidly. Warning lights started blinking. The astronaut’s supplies of air, water, light and electricity were imperiled … 200,000 miles from Earth.


RIP Burle Ives

Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives was an acclaimed American folk music singer, author and actor.

Possibly his most remembered role today is as narrator Sam the Snowman in the Rankin-Bass animated television special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964).

Ives’s “A Holly Jolly Christmas” is a very popular tune during the Christmas season, as it’s frequently played on the radio and was featured in the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special.

Burl Ives

Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives (14 June 1909 – 14 April 1995)

RIP Don Ho… No More “Tiny Bubbles”

Don Ho, born Donald Tai Loy Ho (August 13, 1930 – April 14, 2007) was a Hawaiian musician and entertainer. He was best known for his song, “Tiny Bubbles.”

Wikipedia Link

Abraham Lincoln Assassinated

On this day in 1865, John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer, fatally shoots President Abraham Lincoln at a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. The attack came only five days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his massive army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, effectively ending the American Civil War.

Booth, a Maryland native born in 1838, who remained in the North during the war despite his Confederate sympathies, initially plotted to capture President Lincoln and take him to Richmond, the Confederate capital. However, on March 20, 1865, the day of the planned kidnapping, the president failed to appear at the spot where Booth and his six fellow conspirators lay in wait. Two weeks later, Richmond fell to Union forces. In April, with Confederate armies near collapse across the South, Booth hatched a desperate plan to save the Confederacy.

Learning that Lincoln was to attend a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater on April 14, Booth masterminded the simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward. By murdering the president and two of his possible successors, Booth and his conspirators hoped to throw the U.S. government into disarray.

On the evening of April 14, 1865, conspirator Lewis T. Powell burst into Secretary of State Seward’s home, seriously wounding him and three others, while George A. Atzerodt, assigned to Vice President Johnson, lost his nerve and fled. Meanwhile, just after 10 p.m., Booth entered Lincoln’s private theater box unnoticed and shot the president with a single bullet in the back of his head. Slashing an army officer who rushed at him, Booth leapt to the stage and shouted “Sic semper tyrannis! [Thus always to tyrants]–the South is avenged!” Although Booth broke his leg jumping from Lincoln’s box, he managed to escape Washington on horseback.

The president, mortally wounded, was carried to a lodging house opposite Ford’s Theater. About 7:22 a.m. the next morning, Lincoln, age 56, died–the first U.S. president to be assassinated. Booth, pursued by the army and other secret forces, was finally cornered in a barn near Bowling Green, Virginia, and died from a possibly self-inflicted bullet wound as the barn was burned to the ground. Of the eight other people eventually charged with the conspiracy, four were hanged and four were jailed.

Commodore founder Jack Tramiel dies at 83

The founder of Commodore, one of the driving forces in the early history of the personal computers, has died at the age of 83.

Tramiel, born as Jacek Trzmiel to a Jewish family in Poland, emigrated to the US after the Second World War after losing his parents in Hitler’s camps. Tramiel spent time at Auschwitz and at a German labor camp before it was liberated by the US Army in the closing stages of the war. He came to the US and joined the army before setting up his own business, Commodore Business Machines, selling typewriters.

The firm switched to making pocket calculators and ended up buying its own chip business, MOSS, to provide its parts, before making an early move into the personal computer market. Commodore reportedly turned down an offer from Steve Jobs to build the Apple II and produced the Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor), in 1977.

The PET featured a 1MHz MOSS processor, between four and eight kilobytes of RAM, and had a built-in monochrome monitor with an integral cassette player to allow software to be loaded onto the machine. Later versions included a green-screen monitor, integral disc drives, and a full-sized keyboard.

The PET proved popular, and was followed up by the VIC-20 systems, the first PC to sell more than a million units, and the Commodore 64 (C64), which was the bestselling PC of its era.

In the mid-1980s, the C64 was the dominant personal computer in the industry, outselling IBM, Apple, and other contenders. It developed a huge following and was one of the first computers to be sold by retail chains rather than via specialist electronics shops. An estimated 17 million units were eventually sold.

The C64 was much loved, particularly by the gaming community for its ability to handle relatively complex graphics with ease. It proved so popular that a new version, designed to look like the original, is now being sold as a dual-core Atom system, with higher-end versions also available. There’s also a C64 emulator available for the iPhone, including some classic games.

“Jack Tramiel was an immense influence in the consumer electronics and computing industries. A name once uttered in the same vein as Steve Jobs is today, his journey from concentration camp survivor to captain of industry is the stuff of legends,” says Martin Goldberg, a writer working on a book about the Atari brand, speaking with Forbes.

“His legacy are the generations upon generations of computer scientists, engineers, and gamers who had their first exposure to high technology because of his affordable computers – ‘for the masses and not the classes’,” he said.

Commodore’s success proved hard for Tramiel, as he was blamed for kicking off a price war in the computing industry that saw many players either bankrupted or leaving the industry.

In 1984 Tramiel was forced out of the company he founded. Later that year he bought Atari’s struggling computer division and began shipping new systems, including the AtariST, its first 16-bit computer. The company went on to produce PC clones for the general market, and made a foray into the gaming sector with the Atari Lynx and Jaguar brands.

Tramiel stepped back from day-to-day operations at Atari and let his son Sam take over, although he returned to the helm briefly after his son had a heart attack. The company was eventually sold to Atari Inc. in 1996.

He is survived by his wife Helen and three sons.

Mercury 7

Mercury 7

On this day in 1959, NASA announced The Mercury Seven: the seven men to make up their first astronaut class.

The Mercury Seven were chosen in Washington, DC from a body of 69 candidates. The name comes from Mercury, a Roman mythological god who is seen as a symbol of speed. Because of the small space inside the Mercury capsule, candidates could be no taller than 5 feet 11 inches and weigh no more than 180 pounds. The initial flights took off throughout the early 1960s, though some astronauts were active in later decades. Here are the guys:

Malcolm Scott Carpenter (born 1925) was a US Navy piolot aviation cadet who flew missions during the Korean War. He was on board the MA-7 (Aurora 7) and was the first American astronaut to eat solid food in space. He successfully overcame an overexpenditure of fuel due to hardware problems on his one and only mission. Carpenter was forced to retire from spaceflight after sustaining a motorbike accident. After retiring from the Navy, he founded Sea Sciences Inc., a corporation for developing programs for utilizing ocean resources and improving environmental health.

Leroy Gordon (Gordo) Cooper Jr. (1927 – 2004) was very active in the Boy Scouts of America and achieved the second highest rank of Life Scout. Prior to joining NASA, Cooper also served in the US Air Force and Marine Corps. He was on board the MA-9 (Faith 7) and Gemini 5, and developed a personal survival knife for astronauts to carry. Cooper was the first American to sleep in orbit. Interestingly, he took photos of and reported UFO sightings to the Pentagon, but they swept the incident under the rug.

John Herschel Glenn Jr. (born 1921) began his career as a US Marine Corps fighter pilot. He was on board the MA-6 (Friendship 7) and STS-95. Noticed for his heroics in space, Glenn became friendly with the Kennedys and a prominent public figure. After retiring from NASA, he ran as a Democrat and represented the state of Ohio in the United States Senate from 1974 to 1999.

Virgil Ivan (Gus) Grissom (1926 – 1967) was a US Air Force pilot before joining NASA. He was on board the MR-4 (Liberty Bell 7), Gemini 3, and Apollo 1. Grissom was tragically killed along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission. After death, his family was involved in a spacesuit controversy: NASA insisted Grissom got authorization to use his spacesuit for a show and tell at his son’s school and never returned it, but his family claimed the he had rescued the spacesuit from a scrap heap and that it rightfully belonged to them.

Walter Marty (Wally) Schirra Jr. (1923 – 2007)’s father was a pilot, and his mother performed wing walking stunts when he was on duty. Schirra served as an officer in the US Navy, and was later dispatched to South Korea as a pilot on loan to the US Air Force. On board the MA-8 (Sigma 7), Gemini 6A, and Apollo 7, he was the only person to fly in all of America’s first three space programs. Schirra gained notoriety for playing “Jingle Bells” on a harmonica he smuggled on board Gemini.

Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. (1923 – 1998) began as a US Navy as test pilot. He was the first American in space, and flew on board the MR-3 (Freedom 7) and Apollo 14. It’s said that shortly before one launch, Shepard blurted out “Please, dear God, don’t let me fuck up.” This has since become known among aviators as “Shepard’s Prayer.” A successful businessman, Shepard was the first astronaut to become a millionaire while still in the program. His hometown of Derry, NH almost changed its name to “Spacetown” in honor of Schirra’s career.

Donald Kent (Deke) Slayton (1924 – 1993) was also a US Air Force pilot before joining NASA. He was grounded from space flight by a heart condition, but served as NASA’s Director of Flight Crew Operations. Slayton served as head of Astronaut selection. In 1972 he was granted medical clearance to fly as docking module pilot of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. At the time of the flight, he became the oldest person to fly into space.

The last surviving members of the Mercury Seven, as of April 7, 2012, are Glenn and Scott Carpenter.

Happy Keester!

Happy Keester

RIP Johnny Hart

RIP Johnny Hart

Johnny Hart (February 18, 1931 – April 7, 2007) was an American cartoonist noted as the creator of the comic strip B.C. and co-creator of the strip The Wizard of Id.

Icy Finger of Death caught on film!

Frozen Planet

As brine from the sea ice sinks, a ‘brinicle’ forms threatening life on the sea floor with a frosty fate.

A bizarre underwater “icicle of death” has been filmed by a BBC crew.

With timelapse cameras, specialists recorded salt water being excluded from the sea ice and sinking.

The temperature of this sinking brine, which was well below 0C, caused the water to freeze in an icy sheath around it.

Where the so-called “brinicle” met the sea bed, a web of ice formed that froze everything it touched, including sea urchins and starfish.

The unusual phenomenon was filmed for the first time by cameramen Hugh Miller and Doug Anderson for the BBC One series Frozen Planet