28 Apr 2006, Comments Off on Cucumbers and the art of Motorcycle maintenance

Cucumbers and the art of Motorcycle maintenance

Author: Helen

Nick Possum sent me a link:


Check out this crazy-mad Ukrainian girl’s website.
She’s into fast motorbikes and riding through Chernobyl. Also digging up relics from the vast grizzly WWII battlefields that she grew up amongst …
and visiting people in gaol.
Lots of great pics and downloadable movies.

Image from http://www.elenafilatova.com/
On the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, I find myself getting depressed that the push is on to sell yellowcake to China. I don’t much care, to be honest, whether the intended purpose is for nuclear weapons or “peaceful” purposes. To me, it makes little difference, because – sorry to quote myself, but I’m lazy-


U-235 has a half-life of approximately 700-713 million years
U-238 has a half-life of approximately 4 billion years plus.
Plutonium is relatively benign with a mere 24,000 years.

Compared with:

Roman empire: 5th century BC to 5th century AD: About 1000 years
Byzantine Empire: 4th century AD to 13th century AD: About 900 years
Mayan empire: 4th to 16th century: About 1200 years
Imperial China (from Qin dynasty): 3rd century to 20th century: About 1700 years
Kingdoms of ancient Egypt: (Click here for a breakdown) about 3100 BC to 4th century AD: 3500 years, and as with China, weíre cheating by including
multiple periods, kingdoms and dynasties, so these periods, while the longest, are hardly stable.
British empire: Approximately 1700 to 1980s/1990s: A mere 300 years, being generous

Compare and contrast:

Engineered systems which have remained completely error free (including transport accidents, terrorism and sabotage) for at least the span of the British empire (the shortest example above): 0

Anyway, Elena is considerably more fun:


It is hard to find mechanic who does not drink. Sometimes, when they repair your engine they leave tools inside. Once while adjusting valve clearance on his car, my neighbour discovered a rotting cucumber under the valve cover.
We were amazed. There is no other way for a vegetable to get inside an engine, unless it was bolted down in there by some drunken mechanic. Perhaps it was a misplaced snack – but better than leaving a beer bottle in compression chamber!

Now go here for a haunting photoessay on Chernobyl.

Safe riding, Elena.

Comments (0)

  • desert pea says:

    Helen, I feel your depression. I’m not sure if you’re in Brisbane, but if so you might have seen local MP Andrew McNamara’s support for selling Uranium overseas. Given that I deal with this man in professional capacity, was deeply disappointed with his position, and took him to task on Friday. What’s changed since Chenobyl?

    Has the technology for nuclear power improved? Marginally. Never really been the issue (despite the propoganda for better energy because of nuclear warming)

    Has the technology for disposal of nuclear waste improved (and this is ultimately the REAL issue)? And I KNOW you’ll be suprised by this, but the answer is again no, in fact its actually gotten worse, as the stored nuclear material in poor countries is starting to overflow its confines and become someone else’s environmental problem.

    so what’s changed in the last 20 years? China and India are emerging as super-economies – and EVERYONE wants to have a hand in, particularly in CHINA. so it doesn’t matter that China’s economy is teetering on an energy precipice, where should the economy crash (which given the number of peasant riots is HIGHLY probable) every major energy investor (and not so major) will go down with it. Lets not forget that people in China’s major cities are dropping from air pollution, and they have the worst mining safety record in the world – so I don’t think a little bit of radioactive nuclear waste is going to overly concern them – especially as John Howard has already made his citizen of the world address that states “if we sell it, we have an obligation to store it” – and unfortunately, I can’t help but think that there are enough Australians dumb enough to buy the argument!

  • Greg says:

    Selling uranium to China (and India and on and on, now that Bush has opened the nuclear club doors a good deal wider) is one thing, and worth the concern, but we also face governments newly embracing the technology for energy production and using global warming as their excuse: Peter Costello being the latest example. He’s been reported now as saying that he’d support nuclear powered electricity plants to reduce greenhouse emissions is the technology is economically feasible, and we all know by now that the economics often touted to promote nuclear energy are seriously flawed, if not in the government subsidies required for start-up and on-going then for the disposal – read storage – of the waste, the long-term implications of which your statistics give an important indication. By all means, let’s get off coal, but let’s not make our situation worse in some other way in exchange.

  • Kate says:

    The Elena story is questionable. Parts of her story were apparently faked, she was debunked last year, or so says a lot of the Internets. Sorry.

  • Helen says:

    If she doesn’t exist it would be necessary to invent her.

    *Goes over to Snopes*

  • Helen says:

    Here’s a comment on another blog;

    y Maven. Comment posted 27-Apr-2006 @01:00am:
    I also read Elenas site a few years ago and was surprised to hear it was a “hoax”. So I looked it up.

    Here’s a good page for you, major_danny:
    http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/weblog/comments/1026/
    Also:
    http://www.uer.ca/forum_showthread.asp?fid=1&threadid=8951

    The way I read it, she really did go through the area, and really took the pictures. The poetic license was that she was by herself (she was with a tour) and on a motorcycle (she was in a car).

    So, find the pictures fascinating, but take the story with a grain of salt.

    OK, so it appears the photos are real. As for her character, well, it’s a good subject for a novel. But the photos to me are what counts, although it’s less of a modern day romance if she didn’t really drive around on a black motorcycle at night shining the headlight into the windows of lonely, abandoned buildings. (Shiver)

    Googling this, I found another good (but harrowing) photoessay, Chernobyl Legacy by Paul Fusco, here.

  • Kate says:

    Yes — it would have been a good photoessay without her fabrications.

  • Kate says:

    And yes, that Magnum photoessay is harrowing.

  • TimT says:

    There is a big difference between using uranium for peaceful purposes and using uranium for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. It’s true that power produced from nuclear sources is not absolutely one hundred per cent safe, but nor is energy produced from other power sources. And the risks aren’t necessarily greater, either: if a dam collapses, it can causes thousands of deaths virtually instantaneously; if a nuclear reactor malfunctions, people can be evacuated.

    Storing nuclear waste isn’t such a problem, either; we have several different ways of dealing with nuclear waste, including burial, storage in SYNROC, and recycling in breeder reactors. We have enough flexibility to deal capably with the safety issues.

  • Helen says:

    We have enough flexibility to deal capably with the safety issues.

    …For twenty-five or so milennia…

    Where to start? I can only agree to disagree with every single point, Tim.

  • brownie says:

    I hope she owns her home.
    Landlords lay awake at night worrying that their tenants have motorcycles in the living room.

  • TimT says:

    …For twenty-five or so milennia…

    That’s true.

    It’s also true that people live with widely varying levels of natural radioactivity from day to day. There are many places in the world where the ‘natural’ levels of radiation exceed the levels prescribed as ‘dangerous’ at facilities such as Lucas Heights, but it has no ill effects on people.

    I simply think that radioactivity is not as dangerous as some people make it out to be.

  • david tiley says:

    Brownie – at least the bike is not in pieces. What landlords really fear is valve grinds in front of the fireplace.

    “I simply think that radioactivity is not as dangerous as some people make it out to be.”

    That’s what Marie Curie thought, too.

    Look, I am racist about this. I worry enough about our ability to run a big reactor, given the safety record at Jabiluka. (Wow, who would’ve thunk it. That damn just went and leaked..)

    But the concept of our cousins in Indonesia and suchlike places happily popping up reactors in much less geologically stable places is a worry.

    And what really shits me about this argument is
    a) it does increase the risks we pass on to our children and
    b) if we develop a nucular solution we will then collapse in a heap and continue to run a profligate economy with no attention to alternative approaches until the world’s uranium runs out or we have a few unpleasant bangs in crowded places.

    Let’s not forget that the Left and the anti-uranium movement etc etc kept on saying that “the peaceful atom” with “electricity too cheap to meter” would allow proliferation. Oh no, said the proponents of the thing. We have inspections and safeguards.

    Now, we have Israel, Pakistan, China, South Africa (once upon a time) India, North Korea and possibly one day Iran with the bomb.

    And scarey amounts of bomb grade fissile material still wandering around as a consequence of the collapse of the USSR. Remember all that stuff about the Ukraine?

  • Andrew McNamara says:

    Hi Desert Pea, I don’t recall being “taken to task” on the 28th of last month, but perhaps I have just become used to it. What has changed since Chenobyl is that the world has finally woke up to the fact that our oil supplies can’t keep up with demand and worse, that they are about to go into irreversible decline. Accordingly we are faced with the civilisation threatening problem of how to electrify our society, while at the same time locking down our remaining hydrocarbon reserves. Policy makers somehow have to ramp up electricity generation capacity, but need to not tear through the world’s supplies of natural gas and coal. Hence uranium, or thorium, but not the tedium of 1970’s orthodoxy. Cheers, Andrew

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