BOOK Review: The Berlin Project

The Berlin Project
by Gregory Beford
Saga Press
Copyright 2017 by the author

“What if we had the atomic bomb a year earlier? The easiest and least expensive method of separating isotopes, a method used throughout the world today, is based on a centrifuge procedure that Harold Urey proposed in 1940. General Groves chose the diffusion method instead. Karl Cohen, Urey’s able assistant during that period, believes that Groves’ decision delayed the atomic bomb by a year.

“If Dr. Cohen is right, atomic bombs of the simple gun design might have become available in the summer of 1944 and, in that case, would surely have been used against the Nazis. Atomic bombs in 1944 might have meant that millions of Jews would not have died, and that Eastern Europe would have been spared more than four decades of Soviet domination.”

– Edward Teller, Memoirs

Benford posits that the team working on the centrifuge method got enough independent funding to fix the engineering problems they were having, and got their method chosen over the diffusion method.

This alternate history novel takes it from there, and follows the career of Karl Cohen, the lead engineer-chemist on the centrifuge project.

That Cohen happens to be Benford’s father-in-law, well….

Continue reading


The Greatest World Series Ever

With Spring Training underway, baseball is back in the news!. One of the many things we’re pondering (Will Mike Trout ever get another MVP award? Are the Rays and Marlins really trying to lose?) is the eternal question: Who is going to win the World Series this year? It’s a teeny bit too early for predictions – so I won’t make any.

Instead, I’ll note that we’ve had some really great series recently. Exciting games, teams ending championship droughts, classic matchups, the works. It leads one to ponder – just which WS was the most exciting of them all?

Seems like one cannot quantify “excitement” in that manner. Surely, it’s an objective matter. But hold on a minute. The huge body of statistical records in baseball, with details down to individual pitch counts, makes it a bit easier than one would expect. There’s something called “Win Probability” which, as it suggests, gives a team’s chance of winning a game at any specific point in any given game. Atfer a play, the difference in Win Probability becomes “Win Probability Added” (WPA). The bigger and more important a play, the greater the WPA. (more on WPA in this post ) In a World Series or other playoff game, one can calculate the odds of a Championship Probability – the chance a team has of winning the actual series – for each situation. The Championship Probability Added (cWPA) is therefore how important a given play was in determining the outcome of a series.

Naturally, people have done this to figure out the biggest and most important plays in World Series history. Over at The Baseball Gauge, Dan Hirsch has crunched all the numbers and made the database.

Continue reading

This Year’s Cold

Well, it’s not so much as a “cold” as the world’s most evil cough.

No headache, no fever, no chills, no congestion, no general achiness. But every couple of hours, the body decides it’s time to turn the lungs inside out.

When I wake up, I feel fine. “Okay, no problems today, I must have beaten it during the night!” So it’s off to work….only to be hiding in the rest room three hours later coughing into the sink wondering just how much slime can be in my lungs without my noticing it. And holding my stomach in, because I don’t want to cough so hard I pull something or give myself a hernia (which actually did happen to me some years ago).

I suppose I could be mainlining cough drops, but that doesn’t help much when I’m in bed trying to sleep. At the drug store, I’m confronted with the Paradox of Choice. Which over-the-counter medicine is most appropriate? Extra-strength? Nighttime relief? The one loaded with ingredients to deal with symptoms I don’t have? Name brand or store brand? Should I care about the flavor? AARRGGHH!!

The worst part is that because there are no other symptoms, I’m never going to be truly certain that it’s gone…..

Book Review: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

By Edward Gibbon
Published in six volumes, 1776-1789
With commentary by Henry Hart Milman, 1846

(Project Gutenberg edition)

“It was Rome, on the fifteenth of October 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefoot friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind.”

Some months ago, in a discussion of “Great Works”, a friend of mine had mentioned that she’d read Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall”. Intrigued, as I was nearing the end of Durant’s “Story of Civilisation”, and looking for something to load onto my mini-tablet for further lunchtime reading, I was pleasantly surprised to find an ePub version of all six volumes available at Project Gutenberg. I quickly downloaded and installed them.

Continue reading

Overrated – Underrated 2

Movie Presidents

Every so often, around Presidents’ Day, you’ll see lists of “Best Movie Presidents”. Well, if you look in the right places, you might. Dramas at the level of the federal government serve us in place of tales of palace intrigue (without a king or nobility, we have to have something), and have served Hollywood well when it comes to story ideas.

Glossing over the fact that the realities of government do not make for good cinema, there have still been plenty of movies – both good and bad – in the genre. And when anyone starts making lists or doing rankings, there are going to be some that are overrated and underrated as a matter of course.

Continue reading

How Else Do You Explain It?

Last week, we witnessed one of the biggest farces in recent memory with the release of the Nunes Memo. Intended to prove that the Mueller Investigation was compromised because the document that spurred the investigation was a partisan attack, it actually showed the exact opposite.

One continues to see all manner of windbaggery claiming that the entire investigation into the president and his campaign’s ties to Russia is nothing more than a treasonous witch hunt. While it is still remotely possible for it to turn out to be a great “nothingburger”, I have yet to see anyone put forth an alternate explanation for the events of the past year or so.

Anyone trying to claim that the Russian Collusion theory is false needs to answer some questions:

Continue reading

Going it Alone in Pyeongchang

Once again, it’s time for people in the United States to give cursory attention to winter sports. In about a week, the 2018 Winter Olympics being in Pyeongchang, South Korea. As always, the hubbub over scandals and costs swamps the news in the run up to the Games, knocking the actual athletes off even the back pages of the sports sections.

Even with normal coverage, it’s easy for an individual athlete to get overlooked. Over a thousand athletes in attendance, the big powerhouses of winter sports getting all the glory…. How must it feel to be your country’s only representative?

Here they are (asterisks indicate a country’s first appearance in the Winter Games):

Continue reading

The Hall of Fame Class of 2018

The Baseball Writers Association of America has announced their choices for induction into the Hall of Fame. Add their four choices to the two selected by the Veterans Committee, and there’s a total of six players going in this year. That’s a huge crowd! You can easily look up their stats, and the Hall itself produces and publishes “highlight” films for each of them.

Rather than reiterate all that, I thought I’d post a Fun Fact about each.

Note that I’m not going to make a distinction between those voted in by the writers and those chosen by the committee. The plaques in the actual room don’t care; neither should you.


His older brother Wilton had an eight-year MLB career; the two played together on the Expos for three and a half years.


When he was six weeks old, he had a kidney removed because of an arterial blockage.


Finished his career with more walks (1512) than strikeouts (1409). On a per-season basis, he did that in 12 of his 19 seasons. Only about 30 players have more seasons doing that over their entire career.


Was on the winning side in three World Series, for three different teams. Only four other players can make that claim (John Lackey, Stuffy McInnis, Wally Schang, and Lonnie Smith).


His aunt, Carolyn Thome Hart, is in the National Softball Hall of Fame.


Inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Managed the Arizona Diamondbacks for three games in 2014; went 1-2.

Bond vs Bond vs Bond vs Bond vs Bond vs Bond

A fan going under the name of “TolkienEditor” merged and recut the three Hobbit films into one single movie. A different movie buff combined the Star Wars prequels, cutting out all the boring stuff, and came up with a surprisingly coherent – and entertaining – movie.

Now Team Spyral has taken all the James Bond movies, and done the same:

Read more about this here:

If you ever asked the question, “Which ‘Bond’ was the best?”, this should give you an answer.