back to article 'I knew the company was doomed after managers brawled in a biker bar'

Welcome again to On-Call,The Register's regular... hang on, isn't On-Call a Friday thing? Why yes it is, but in the week before Christmas there's so little news around we need something to run on the site. And it's only fair that we empty out the On-Call mailbag, which is full of fine stories that aren't quite enough to …

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  1. m0rt Silver badge

    "...but in the week before Christmas there's so little news around we need something to run on the site."

    Easy. Put it into the hands of commentards. We'll look after it for you.

    Alternatively do a Today and invite Apple, IBM, Oracl.....sorry i just can't stop laughing.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Invite Apple, IBM, Oracle, Google, etc... all round to the biker bar. Get them to thrash out their arguments in person instead of hiding behind PR speak, corporo-bollocks, and lawyers.

      Unfortunately Larry would probably win.

      1. Jason 24

        I dunno, Bezos has that new 'ard man look about him...

        1. m0rt Silver badge

          Bezos will have henchmen. The guy is archvillainary material.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Larry would send Safra, you don't want to mess with her.

          2. kain preacher Silver badge

            Lary will have sharks with freakin lazers.

            1. m0rt Silver badge

              They will be monster sharks with huge chemical lasers.

              Bezos will just have millions of normal sharks with tasers* attached. My money, laughable though it is, will be on Bezos.

              *Yeah I know. The physics don't add up whilst the sharks live in salt water but if that is what you focussed on - you realise that you still WENT TOO FAR down this rabbit hole.

              1. kain preacher Silver badge

                "*Yeah I know. The physics don't add up whilst the sharks live in salt water but if that is what you focussed on - you realise that you still WENT TOO FAR down this rabbit hole."

                See you just had to bring reality into this.

      2. Johndoe888

        Lawn chair Larry ? But that's Helium not Nitrogen.

  2. Muscleguy Silver badge
    Boffin

    It is a VERY bad idea to secure the lid on a LN2 flask except during temporary transport. Otherwise what you will have is a bomb. The LN2 will slowly vaporise, raising the pressure and the temperature meaning more will vaporise and the pressure will continue to build until the structure of the flask (lined in glass remember) fails.

    In Biology we use it for fast freezing things, very useful stuff. And we instruct every naive student/postdoc in how to do so safely. When dispensing you must wear cryo gloves and the face mask (think wood turning).

    When we have finished with our LN2 we simply leave it on the bench with the top off to vaporise in safety.

    1. Fursty Ferret

      When dispensing you must wear cryo gloves and the face mask (think wood turning).

      Think I'm showing either my age or my university's lax attitude to the welfare of its students, but at the time the only requirement was to make sure the room was ventilated* and gloves were forbidden (the risk being, apparently, that momentary contact with skin wouldn't do any harm due to the insulating effect of the gas, but if it fell between a glove and the skin it'd cause nasty burns).

      * I'm almost certain they found this out the hard way.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        that momentary contact with skin wouldn't do any harm due to the insulating effect of the gas

        Concur - wearing gloves is a risk in itself. If it gets into the glove you are royally screwed. You are better off to use a trivial towel if the handles are too cold. No gloves unless they are at least elbow length ones.

        1. the Jim bloke Bronze badge

          Economics - the real reason

          Gloves would have to be replaced if damaged, but students fingers will probably heal...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "and gloves were forbidden"

        Same here.

        I also remember our physics teacher suspending the inside of a Thermos flask in a sort of string cage, filling it with liquid oxygen and then getting the enormous Eclipse horseshoe magnet to show that liquid oxygen is paramagnetic by making the flask move. I sat there thinking how fragile those flasks are, and how sharp contact with the magnet could cause a cascade of LOX all over the bench.

        This was the same man who, annoyed by a flickering fluorescent over the bench, climbed on the bench to remove it ignoring the fully charged and operating van der Graaf at one end. Predictably he removed one end of the tube, the other end fell out onto the van der Graaf dome, and the tube lit up. The shock caused him to drop it; it survived. A few seconds later he dusted himself off (chalk in those days) and asked us to explain the phenomenon we had just witnessed. I believe he ended up in charge of the science education at the LEA. Nowadays I suspect he's have been subject to a disciplinary enquiry.

        He's the man who caused me to go into science rather than law, I look at my lawyer kid's mini-mansion and my own humble 4 bed detached and I'm not sure what I think of that.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

          "A few seconds later he dusted himself off (chalk in those days) and asked us to explain the phenomenon we had just witnessed."

          In my yoof (O & A levels), I'd have come back with "The four pints at lunch, Sir?" ... I got yelled at a lot as a yoof, but my grades were good enough that I got away with it ... usually.

          1. philthane

            Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

            When I was in the lower VI I once met my Chem teacher in the pub at lunchtime, we never mentioned it back at school. He was sacked a few years later fro running a still in the prep room.

            1. Chris G Silver badge

              Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

              I was in the 5th form out country pubbing with some mates one weekend. We walked into a favourite pub and there was my form and physics Master sitting in full Morris Man regalia with a pint in his hand, he just nodded to me so I bought him a pint, a favour which he duly returned, he just grinned and said 'Don't I know you from somewhere?'

              He was one of the best teachers I ever met, he could teach physics ,chemistry and maths, he was also an Oxford rugby blue and being a Morris Man could drink ale at Olympic level.

              1. Barry Rueger Silver badge

                Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

                Canada, grade 11 and 12 math teacher, who always reeked of cigarette smoke, also worked as a waiter at a local beer parlour.

                "Beer parlour" was a 70s term that carried a significantly seedy overtone. A large room with 24" round tables, covered with terry cloth. Beer was commonly drunk with either tomato juice or salt

                No entertainment, no hard liquor, just serious drunkenness.

                Until the 70s there were separate entrances and areas for "Men" and "Ladies with escorts."

                Anyhow, the same math teacher refused to teach or test us on factoring square roots because "there's a table in the back of your book."

            2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

              He was sacked a few years later fro running a still in the prep room.

              One of the boys ahead of me by a year or two did this as a Senior science project. Can't remember if he won or not, but one of the other projects was a relay-logic tic tac toe game with a telephone dial as input.

              Gunpowder was frequently made. And a mercury vapor lamp, using an old oil burner ignition transformer, a couple of pieces of copper wire and a pool of mercury. No protective gear needed because we were oblivious of the hazards. As far as I know, we're all still among the living.

              // icon seems appropriate

              // today, we'd all be in prison. or worse

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

                "Gunpowder was frequently made. "

                The VIth form was quite small - so the Science stream used the prep room for their practical work.

                One day the senior Science master was teaching in the adjacent lab. A lad came out of the prep room and asked for glycerine off the shelf - which the teacher handed him without a pause. Then a little later he came out and asked for concentrated nitric acid. Again the bottle was handed over without pause. After a few moments the master suddenly stopped stalking - he had made a niggling connection between the requested chemicals and the particular pupil asking for them. Sure enough P** was intent on making nitro-glycerine.

                One of our authorised experiments was making nylon. A boy's father arranged for a full size bottle of nitrogen - that was then lashed to the end of the bench. The gas passed through a tube of heated chemicals - and a noxious stream of smoke came from the rubber tube at other end. Quick thinking stuffed the rubber tube down the sink plughole. Problem solved - until the adjacent lab was evacuated with the fumes coming up on every bench's sink through the shared drain.

                We never managed to get any nylon out of that experiment.

                A chromium compound precipitate was drying nicely in a flask over several days. Then it mysteriously was filled with water. The senior chemistry master knew that when dry it was likely to spontaneously explode.

                1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
                  Boffin

                  Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

                  Also brings to mind my old chemistry teacher (and safety officer) at high school, who also had a penchant for making Nitrogen Tri-Iodide (and the fool taught us how to make it too).

                  He used to enjoy putting small quantities of it under lab stools, especially when the stool occupant was a girl wearing a long skirt so that the resultant draught when they moved set the stuff off.

                  Apparently in the year after I left the place he got a little overenthusiastic with how much he used at once, resulting in it going off on the bench in front of him and so I'm told he "came flying backwards through the door to the prep-room in a cloud of purple smoke".

                  He also enjoyed doing end-of-term "chemistry displays", basically all the kind of experiments that would today be utterly banned under health and safety (and probably terrorism) laws. Nothing quite like the red lead thermite reaction to fill the lab with dense acrid smoke ;)

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

                    "Nitrogen Tri-Iodide"

                    We came into our small office after the Xmas break and noticed the occasional cracking sound as we walked. The floor had been thoroughly washed - but the sodden card tray labels on at floor level suggested some enthusiasm.

                    Apparently one of our juniors had spread copious amounts of the chemical on the floor. In the darkened building the security guard had seen the floor glowing and applied the fire extinguisher. It was a severe breach of discipline but the junior wasn't sacked.

                2. BostonEddie

                  Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

                  Back when I was in college a all knowing under grad chem major would mix ammonia and Iodine to produce Amonium Iodide, a low level contact explosive used mainly by students to amuse unsuspecting visitors. One day he set a batch on the windowsill to dry; a breeze came up and scattered the sample over his dorm room, producing unexpected small and occasional larger unexpected explosions until the room was thoroughly cleaned.

                  In high school the teacher demonstrated the effect of a small amount of adding Phosphorous to a small beaker of water--mainly bubbles, hissing and similar low level effects. This was mildly amusing so the next day a student decided that if a little was amusing, seeing a large amount dumped into a nearby pond would be a most spectacular sight. Unfortunately in haste he grabbed the wrong sample bottle--it was not Phosphorous but Sodium. The most unfortunate part of this episode was that the resulting explosion broke all the windows of the assistant principal's apartment building. The student might still be in the detention room

              2. CentralCoasty
                Pint

                Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

                .... a long, long time ago, in a place far, far away... well, actually at SWCFE we had to come up with a nice pretty experiment to demonstrate at the open day.....

                .... needless to say we managed to talk our chemistry lecturer into "donating" a few goon-bags of cheap red wine & spent the day merrily distilling it......

                Wasnt until late in the afternoon when one visitor actually asked what it was that we were distilling.... by then none of us cared..... and it all gets very hazy around that time.......

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

              "When I was in the lower VI I once met my Chem teacher in the pub at lunchtime, [...]"

              After the Prize Day at a local hall the headmaster would take the platform guests for a drink. A member of staff would discreetly signal which pub they would be using. The rest of the staff then retired to a different pub. The staff used the saloon bar - so they could turn a blind eye to the mostly under-age VIth form boys in the public bar - perfectly visible across the centralised dispensing counters.

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

              "He was sacked a few years later fro running a still in the prep room."

              Our school had a legal still in the senior chemistry prep room. Periodically someone from Customs & Excise would make an unannounced visit to check what it was being used for and to remove a sample of product for analysis. I'm surprised they needed a whole litre just to check it was plain ethanol.

            5. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

              When I was in the lower VI I once met my Chem teacher in the pub at lunchtime,

              I stayed late after school with the chem lab tech, my best friend, and we're doing some "tests" in the lab. The Chem teacher walks by at one point and asks what we were doing..

              "Nitrating glycerne." we responded.

              "Oh.. ok.". He suddenly stopped and slowly turned around with this pale look of fear. "What?" And then carefully took the test tube and took it outside. There was a loud "bang" when he tossed it in the field behind the school. Surprisingly, no cops showed up, no neighbors were upset. All we got was "don't ever, ever do that again".

        2. james_smith

          Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

          "He's the man who caused me to go into science rather than law"

          We had a similar teacher for physics. He used to come up with elaborate but entertaining reasons to smoke in the class room. Diffusion of gases in the air was explained with the help of a cigar and a request to tell him when the pupils at the back of the class room could smell the smoke. Conductivity of heat was demonstated by wrapping a ten pence coin (acquired from the class reprobate) in a lace edged hanky (acquired from the class posh girl). He then stubbed out his lit cigar on the hanky wrapped coin, much to the distress of the hanky's owner. He then unfurled the coin and dropped it into the hand of the class reprobate, who of course got mildly scorched, and proceeded to brush out the superficial ash mark on the otherwise undamaged hanky.

          All of this came back to me when I read of the passing of Heinz Wolff ... where's El Reg's obituary for him?

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

            the passing of Heinz Wolff ... where's El Reg's obituary for him?

            Indeed, that should fill a few pre-Christmas column inches.

        3. philthane

          Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

          A colleague of mine in the 80s had done National Service in the RAF just after the war. As a rookie tech he was a vital part of the Radar testing regime. His job was to take a flourescent tube and stand in the middle of the airfield. The operators stopped the radar dish sweeping the sky and pointed it at him, if the tube lit up it was working.

          1. W4YBO

            Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

            "The operators stopped the radar dish sweeping the sky and pointed it at him..."

            I hope his cataract surgery went well.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

            "The operators stopped the radar dish sweeping the sky and pointed it at him, if the tube lit up it was working."

            In amateur radio we used to hold a small neon bulb near the transmitter output. If it lit up red then everything was ok. If it had touches of purple then their were judged to be spurious parasitic oscillations present.

        4. Huw D

          Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

          "He's the man who caused me to go into science rather than law, I look at my lawyer kid's mini-mansion and my own humble 4 bed detached and I'm not sure what I think of that."

          I'm jealous, but at least I'm not a lawyer?

        5. SteveK

          Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

          The 'head of science' at my school seems to have been equally bumbling.

          He set up a wave generator (water, not sound), somehow connected it up to AC rather than DC from the multifunction power supply. Then when it a) didn't work and b) started smoking, lunged for it and knocked the whole thing into the basin of water.

          While teaching about electricity and transformers, set up a pair of step-up/step-down transformers with a low voltage source and just as he was about to invite us to grab the far end, realised he'd connected one the wrong way round and had actually set up step-up/step-up with the resulting voltage now in 4 figures.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

            The 'head of science' at my school seems to have been equally bumbling.

            One of my science teachers was going to demonstrate that a short-circuited coil wants to enclose as small a magnetic field as possible. For which you take a (conducting) ring, an U-shaped core and an appropriate primary coil. On powering the primary, the ring will fly off its leg of the core.

            Which it did.

            Smashing two fluorescent tubes, despite those being protected by a physics-classroom-grade mishap protector.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

              My chemistry teacher once went to demonstrate what a stochiometric mixture is, by filling an empty paint tin with natural gas. The tin has a small hole in the bottom and one in the lid, so that gas escaping from the hole in the lid is replenished with air through the bottom hole.

              You light the gas coming out of the hole in the lid, then wait for the gas/air mixture to become stochiometric. At which point the flame will ignite the gas mixture, and the lid will pop off.

              Or at least, that's the theory. If you use a small tin and reasonably-sized holes.

              In this case, the holes were quite small and the tin, well, one-fifth its size would have been a better choice.

              Due to the volume and the small holes, the mixture was slow to reach its kaboom point, so the experiment was put aside to do its thing while other experiments were demonstrated. And with no-one paying much attention any more, the kaboom caused a lot more consternation than it normally would have.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

                You light the gas coming out of the hole in the lid, then wait for the gas/air mixture to become stochiometric. At which point the flame will ignite the gas mixture, and the lid will pop off.

                This, incidentally, is why you should not try to light your farts. There's no lid to pop off...

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

                "Due to the volume and the small holes, the mixture was slow to reach its kaboom point, so the experiment was put aside to do its thing while other experiments were demonstrated."

                In other words, you were being shown why you don't put an experiment aside until you're sure the reaction has actually completed.

                I nearly took off a science teacher's eyebrows with the sulphur and zinc reaction. Mine studiously failed to go off until he quizzically leaned over it to see what was wrong - and it went off about a minute after it'd been taken off the bunsen.

        6. Alister Silver badge

          Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

          My secondary school Head of Chemistry used to walk around with a mixture of mercury and iron filings in his lab-coat pocket, and he used to walk behind the pupils and throw pinches of the mixture into the lit bunsen burners on the bench. Very hard to concentrate when a low-grade thermite reaction is going off in front of you!

          1. Alister Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

            a mixture of mercury and iron filings in his lab-coat pocket,

            Magnesium, dammit, not mercury

            1. jake Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

              Been there, done that :-)

              I often think that the "post" button activates my internal parser/splel checker.

              Relax and have a homebrew.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          " the AI lady's LN2. (She keeps her semen in it.)"

          There's a warning about 2 letter abbreviations!

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Mushroom

          We made a 'bomb' in the pub carpark out of a 2 litre Coke bottle and the AI lady's LN2.

          Dry ice works as well.

          Boy Scout Thanksgiving at the camp. The scouts had the brilliant idea of doing this experiment. Having once been a boy of that age, I knew talking them out of it was futile, so I imparted a few suggestions: throw it out in the middle of the pond, remember that the neck and cap are fairly solid and likely to come whizzing by, so find a friendly tree to shield you...and returned to wait for the inevitable with the rest of the adults.

          My son came in, mentioned casually that the neck and cap had come fairly close to his tree, and there was general hilarity and amazement at the volume of the explosion (which was, to be honest, louder than I had expected).

          When I discussed this event with the parent of another scout, he mentioned that he and his buddies used to do this with *glass* Coke bottles in a more densely populated location (the loading dock behind a restaurant). Braver than I.

          // again, probably terrorism charges today...

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            For me, it was a 2 liter soda bottle, ~1 square foot of tinfoil, and muratic acid. fold the the tinfoil and slide in the neck of the bottle, add ~2 inches of acid, cap tightly, and throw as far away as you can, and avoid the giant white cloud of gas when it finally blows.

            There was some lesson to be learned after that, but I don't rightly remember what it was. (it was an allegory or something- this was a sunday school lesson at the church I used to attend.)

        3. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          and the AI lady's LN2. (She keeps her semen in it.)

          Is that what they call it these days? It's hard to keep up with euphemisms.

      4. Sammy Smalls

        'gloves were forbidden'

        Ah yes. Happened to me whilst measuring the 'magnetic screening properties of a high temperature superconductor'. High Temp, in this case, meant liquid nitrogen. Being undergrads, the kit was all a bit Heath Robinson, including the clamp holding the sample in place. As you might suspect, it fell off once or twice. Only once did I put my hand in (with glove). There was a hole in the thumb (Dear Liza) which promptly filled up. Cue spilled liquid nitrogen all over the desk/floor.

        This is when I learned that liquid nitrogen is cheap, so the easiest way was was to pour it out, salvage the sample and start again.

        My first encounter with liquid nitrogen was during an open weekend at the Physics dept in Exeter. A group of us walked into one lab, where some prof decided it was fun to pour it all over our feet.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: 'gloves were forbidden'

          Ah yes, Exeter uni physics department, where, due to a couple of MRI machines, they have their own gas liquification plant out the back. What this meant for us students was effectively unlimited amounts of LN2, stored by the back door in massive dewar flasks.

          Of course, as budding scientists we used it to investigate things, eg, can you touch the bottom of a bucket of LN2? (yes you can, if you're quick, and all you get is a slightly chilly hand). Another fun experiment was testing what happens when you freeze the various ingredients in someone's lunch box, with the extension of "what happens when the subject tries to eat their now solid sandwich". Of course, this was best performed under blind conditions, ie we wouldn't tell someone that their entire lunch was now two hundred below...

          1. BostonEddie

            Re: 'gloves were forbidden'

            Sure. Mars Bars. My lab had a burn-in oven, purged using several good sized tanks of LN2. The usual habit was to freeze the candy bars with the LN2 and then slam them down on a bench, resulting in handy sized fragments.

            In the old days film for the instant photo head of the macrocamera needed to be coated with a preservative. The preservative would be packed in a one time use sealed tube about the size of your thumb. Load the tube with a few CCs of LN2 and carefully chewed up fragments of paper and place it in an inconspicuous spot. The pressure would build up and eventually the tube lid would pop off with a loud POP and a shower of confetti would fill the air. "Veddy Bootiful" to quote the Three Stooges

        2. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: 'gloves were forbidden'

          "This is when I learned that liquid nitrogen is cheap..."

          My boss used to say that it cost about the same as milk.

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