Sunday, January 20, 2019

Recapping 2018 In Technical Appendices (With Some Cheating)

Tell me what you see.
In Gordon Dickson's knights in shining armour are the standard solution to bad dragons, because a charging knight concentrates all that momentum on the lance point, allowing it to penetrate the heavily-armoured, fire-breathing pests. It's probably more complicated than that, because there are many sequels, but I'll move on now to the fact that this is an homage to one of Lynn White Jr.'s many brainstorms, and a pretty good indication of the impact of White's approach to history of technology, which was basically reading medieval comics and telling everyone about what he saw. 

It turns out, Lynn tells us, that much technology, and therefore technological change, is too quotidian for anyone to have ever bothered to write a description and earnest account of its historical impact. Without unconventional sources, we're left to wake up one day in our fifties and say, "Duh, of course iron axes and early glass making are related through soda ash!" The knights and stirrups lead to modernity thing might not be one of his best, but we're not going to get anywhere without investigating these things.  

So history of technology turns out to be pretty invisible. Writing the technical appendices for this blog has brought Lynn White's insight home to me repeatedly, and it occurred to me that it was time for a summary recap. (Also, I am not going to have Sunday off, so I can't get the next postblogging installment done this week.)

Since this is the first time I've done this, and there were technical appendices before 2018 that could do with revisiting,  I am going to do that. Ideally, I'd go back to the beginning and do them all, but that seems like work, so I'm going to start with my favourite, "The Science of Cozy," posted on 26 October 2017. That's the cheating in the title.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Postblogging Technology, November 1948, I: "The Republican Party Versus the American People"

R_. C_,

Dear Father:

I. Cannot. Believe. I. Wrote. This!!!!!

I want to be dancing in the streets! Still! Please, please do not believe any stories you might have heard about persons of your acquaintance leading the sisters of her hall down to the Hoover House and shouting chanting "Give 'Em Hell, Harry," at the provost and the campus police until dawn was peaking over the horizon; Or that, perhaps, her tips suffered that morning because she hadn't slept a wink. Because that story would be untrue. Poetically untrue. (Which is the same, but opposite, of something being true, allowing for poetic license.) I'm going to go take a walk and try to calm down.

Back! Reggie is in a funk over the election results. He understands that the Wallace campaign could easily have led to a Republican win, but is still waffling over the argument he hears from his die-hard Wallacite friends, that a disastrous Dewey Administration would have led to a better, stronger America. 

Then I had the brilliant idea of talking about his post-graduation assignment, because there have been some very exciting prospects opening up. The patrol wing of the Navy is coming on strong right now, due to both the B-36 and the the super-carrier being in big trouble. I don't think anyone takes atom-bomb flying boats from submarine tenders seriously (see below before you roll your eyes), or for that matter the successful deck takeoff by a Neptune, which is obviously just a stunt. The point is, a turboprop flying boat and a turbocompound patrol aircraft both have exciting possibilities. Even more exciting, Reggie's old CO is managing the Navy's "special" Constellation programme. It's all very hush-hush, but Reggie figures that they are being set up for either radio snooping, maybe over the Black Sea, or for radar advance warning. "You can't use a radar to tell where your plane is, but they're pretty good for telling you where everyone else is." If that's what's up, Reggie is a shoe-in for the test flying, which will surely be out of Alameda. And, with any luck, I will be at Stanford Law. California here we come, again already!


Yours Sincerely,

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, October 1948, I and II: Prestressed Concrete

You know the story: The world is without form, water fills the void; Pregnant girl falls from the sky; Turtle saves her by bearing her on her back; Muskrat dives to the bottom and brings up mud to build an island on top of Turtle's back; Girl gives birth to the ancestor[s] of the human race. I think this is the story behind James Fenimore Cooper's The Deerslayer, but the important point is that the picture is of Rita Moreno playing Hetty Hutter, and carrying Killdeer, the American Excalibur.

The moral of the story is that Rita Moreno was a very attractive woman in her time; and also that I need to talk about rafts underneath the world. Really! This isn't my obsession with James Fenimore Cooper! It's an important bit of the history of technology that I have inadvertently exposed to the light in the last month of postblogging, and I'm actually quite excited about it because it might shed some light on something that I've been wondering about on my commute, ever since I began doing the part in Vancouver on  a bike in 2014.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, October 1948, II: Santa's Sleigh

Edit: Oh, heck, I'm leaning in on this one.

If you're missing Dolly Parton down at the mall in the midst of all the versions of Winter Wonderland and much, much worse, you're welcome.

Anyway, since the idea that the Brabazon failed because it was predicated on "prewar standards of luxury" came up:


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Postblogging Technology, October 1948, II: The Dewey System

R_. C_.,
The Peninsula,
Hong Kong

Dear Father:

Happy Birthday and many happy returns to your wife! See you Friday! I am dashing this off because I am invited over for dinner with Professor K. and family. I think we're celebrating the fact that I'm in San Francisco on a Thursday, but it's a good trial run for the festive season. I am bringing a pumpkin pie that I am making myself, as advance practice for not having anything else to bring aside from a distinct shortage of relatives who will tolerate me at their Thanksgiving or Christmas table. Have you ever made one? I know you dabble. I will have --soon. The trick is the pastry as  usual, and at that, I say, hopefully, I am getting better. Practice makes perfect! Then it is to the train station to await the 4AM for Seattle, connections to Vancouver on those hard, narrow chairs. Reggie is flying. I'm sure that you've heard by now that he is held over in St. Louis by weather and so will miss his TCA connection, and won't be arriving at Vancouver until tomorrow afternoon. Between picking him up at the airport and me at the station, the dacoits will have a full day of chauffering and looking discreetly menacing. 

I've bought them gifts. In the future, it would be easier if I had sizes. Subtle hint. I hope that they're not too disappointed. I may have shaved some money off that cheque you sent last month, for which I am very grateful, even though I am pretty sure that "Thanksgiving Gifts" are not actually a Canadian tradition. 

Yours Sincerely,

Friday, December 14, 2018

A (Mostly) Technical Appendix to Postblogging Technology, October 1948, I; Hydraulic Despotism

This was going to be a 100% technological appendix, albeit with a reference to Karl Wittfogel, about this.
Then I scanned the election numbers of Time and Newsweek and decided that I couldn't pass up a bit of digressive cultural look-what-I-foundism.

At an earlier date, it was going to be part II of October postblogging, but my work schedule was massively upended mid-week. I know that this is an old song, but, point is, my writing plan was shot, and that's that. I'll add, again, that the aging Canadian workforce is increasingly a disaster like that 1919 molasses flood that killed 21 people. It doesn't matter if the flood wave is slow as molasses if you don't get out of the fucking way!* Since this is tied to a labour shortage of twenty years standing that isn't eliciting the textbook response (MOAR MONEY), one is left with the conclusion that it is some kind of collective action problem. So, hey, Canada, get with the collective action. 

One more plea for Something To Be Done fired off into the uncaring ether, it's on to the substance of the post. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Postblogging Technology, October 1948, I: Best Laid Plans


Dear Father:

Well, here she is, your future daughter-in-law (she said very, very firmly, though all the fires and floods of Hell and a frantic mother bar the way), back in hall for one more year at good old Stanford Junior College, and, yes, it's not called that, and, no, you may not ruin my fun. All the girls are back, and we have a novelty, a genuine English girl, enrolled because her Father is doing something for Mr. Giannini at the bank, and she can't be a continent away from her Mother, no matter that her brother is living high off the hog at Oxford on American dollars. 

We sympathise with each  other, and I am going crazy trying to catch her way of speaking without just imitating her. Classwise, it is all about the senior thesis; and at work, I am having to come down to being a waitress again. Though there's something to be said for working for work, instead of (mostly) learning how to do work, fascinating as fashion buying is. 

Except, that is, when I am called at the last minute to work the morning shift after a night shift, and lose a night's sleep for the sake of work, and end up having to rush my very important letter to my future father in law. (She says, firmly.)

James was in town for something to do with Warren for Vice President (and that Dewey fellow, too), I think is the official name of it, add capitals to suit. We had lunch, and agreed that Grace be none the wiser for it. I got caught up on Santa Clara, and Reggie and I await the Great Thaw. Perhaps after the wedding. Which will be June after next(!!!) 

Yours Sincerely,