Sunday, August 19, 2018

Postblogging Technology, June 1948, II: Blockades, Airlifts, Antitrust and Floods


(The surprisingly apropos theme for the Vanport Flood documentary, embedded below.)
R_. C_.
Oriental Club,
London,
U.K.

Dear Father:

I don't know if I've mentioned that Ronnie had a Monday in lieu of the 4th, and that we're flying spares out to the Zone and then turning the planes right around. 

Put two and two together, and here we are in our weekend boudoir in beautiful (not!) Frankfurt. I can't imagine what Ronnie is going to be like at work on Tuesday morning, but, as she says, she's flown the Atlantic more often than I have, and she aims to keep it that way! I'm not sure that that's going to happen. I may be back in Arcata soon. Right now, we have more planes and pilots in Germany than we have landing slots, which is the reason my CO sent me over with his Skymaster. (That and he's probably tired of me complaining about having to land on a Ronson.) The idea is that the Navy's instrument-flying whizkid will suss out the tricks to keep landings up. I'm not sure what ideas I'm supposed to be coming up with, but I will be doing a night flight into Templehof in six hours to see what's what. Then, who knows, I'll probably be in London on my way to Boscombe Down. Perhaps I can drop in and see you, if you're not off to Aldermaston to talk about sniffing for Russian nuclear tests. 

When you do get back home, watch out for trouble from the kin down California way. Uncle George had no sooner got Uncle Henry settled down over the Vanport floods when US Steel got the go-ahead from the Supreme Court to buy into Los Angeles. Uncle Henry can't blame that on us, but he is wall-eyed angry, and testing out the idea that if we'd only invested in Fontana, he'd be strong enough to keep Big Steel out of California. It's gibberish, but it gives  him someone to blame. Meanwhile, Grace and James are off to meet her father in Macao now that a Communist victory is more than a cynical joke. It's an all-the-stars conference on the question of whether we can get back into Hong Kong. The important point is that Grace isn't in California to manage him. I almost wrote "here!" This flying around the world is disorienting! 

And as if that's not bad enough, R. is going through the wringer. He is getting divorced, which is normal enough for the Hollywood types, but which has brought out H. He had this bizarre notion that his youngest son could have followed him into the Presidency, unlike his legitimate sons, with their habit of sticking their hands out. Can be? I doubt it. Divorce, you see. And family drama, because it turns out that H. has been talking to some friends at GE about promoting R., now that his movie career is, uhm, well . . . 

I had a thought in there, but I've lost it now. That's probably a little angel whispering that I should take a nap while Ronnie's out.

Your Son,
Reggie


On the same theme, the music from the documentary on the Berlin Airlift, embedded last week.

The flood occurred on 29 May 1948, and President Truman toured the damage on 11 June, so I guess I can forgive Time for having dropped the story by the June 18th issue. But 39 people died! 



Sunday, August 12, 2018

Postblogging Technology, June 1948, I: If We Don't Believe in the European Recovery, Maybe It Won't Happen


"Peck a hole to see if a redwood's really red"? It's almost like there's a subtext

R_. C_.,
Vancouver,
Canada.

Dear Father:

You will have my postcard announcing my promotion to Lieutenant, which I sent because I am bummed out about Glenn and Ed. The last time I talked to Ed, he was all test pilot bluster until he had three drinks in him, at which point he used some language about the YB-49 and Jack Northrop that was not complimentary at all. Preliminary talk is that they'll pin this one on the pilot. I'm told that he wasn't as easy to like as Glenn, and Northrop isn't about to let reality invade the private room he shares with his flying wings.

Maybe, just maybe, the Air Force will grow the nether appendages needed to cancel the damn plane. Then if it goes infectious,  the Navy gets rid of Fido, too. It's a dream.

I would say more, but as I'm writing, word's come down about Berlin and Ronnie and I are making plans to meet, in case it's the last time we can get together this summer. The CO says there's a good chance I'm going over at some point.




Your Loving Son,
Reggie
Source



Monday, July 30, 2018

A Second Technical Appendix to Postblogging Technology, May 1948, II: Mr. Smith Goes To Ground

"Heath Row." I probably shouldn't dwell on it as much as I do, but there's something ineffably weird about Britain's inability to decide what to call London's main airport in the first generation of its existence. As the statistics show, it was also a very foggy place in the late 1940s and 1950s, due to all of that low-quality coal being burnt in power generation facilities which really ought to have been retired, but weren't, as electrical demand was growing so quickly. If only those old-timers had grasped just how easy it would turn out to be to stifle demand and stop economic growth in its tracks!

Ah, well, we have to let bygones be bygone, and focus on the important part, which is the development of automatic landing capabilities to the point where, even if the modern Vancouverite can't afford a house, they can afford to fly to Mexico or the Caribbean and back at Christmas, and never for a second think that they might land into the runways at YVR, instead of on them.

From Sir John Charnley, "The RAE Contribution to All-Weather Landing." [msword document]

Along the way, we'll learn a bit more about the coming of the transistor era; and, specifically, why it happened in America. Well, okay, we don't need to learn that. "Military Industrial Complex" and all of that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Technological Appendix to May 1948, II: Somewhat Germane(ium)



(Michel Colombier composition: Somewhat better known than his music for Colossus: The Forbin Project)

So this week we have news of two British computers, clearly described as such. This is pretty damn interesting! Hitherto, I've spent a lot of time emphasising the "prehistory" of computers.

Look! An automatic computing device for engineers! It's like CAD before computers! However, today's first article, which is about the EDSAC, or Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, is clearly identified by The Engineer as being about an "electronic digital computing machine." Yes, we still have qualifications, but the transition from the human computer to the machine that old-time academic historians, immersed as they are in their Kuhnian framework of paradigm shifts, has been made. 
The A. O. Smith automatic frame factory will make all auto-cars for the North American market. The day of the "robot" is at hand! 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Postblogging Technology, May 1948, II: Black Out And Honey Trap




R_. C_.,
The Astoria,
New York

Dear Father:

I hope this letter finds you well, and I hope there's enough money in newsprint to justify those swanky digs!

You asked about the Arcata flying.  I know it's hard to believe, but the FIDO installation and the lights rigs on the runway is about the extent of the  highly advanced not-flying-into-mountains rig-up that the Navy's got going here. There is a war-surplus ILS and also a GCA and a pretty good HF beacon not linked to either, but we're not really testing those so much as giving me access to them in case I can't find the ground for it being on fire. 

So I've been doing a great deal of weird flying instead, since the station also has quite the boneyard, and I can see the difference between landing in the dark in a Jacobs Anson or the amphibian Catalina. (Absolutely the best, since it's already going like it's landed at 1500ft. Though, on the other hand, it floats like it's on water at 50.) I've been lobbying the brass to let me take a trip to Blighty, just to check out the automatic landing talk.

In the mean time, I can't really complain, because this summer's a cushy gig and no-one's stopping me from swinging down by the Bay. I've even pulled the old Indian out of storage (sheepish look at Grace as I go --I hope this thing blows over eventually, 'cuz I miss my Auntie!) so I can tootle around town in style. Ronnie's taken to bringing trousers to the office so that she can change before she swings onboard. Miss K. seems ever so jealous, and there's a joke there given --Well, given. Not that I'm going to say anything about it, considering. I am not going to be the man that breaks her up with her boyfriend.

Her boyfriend, on the other hand . . . 

Not entirely irrelevant, went down around the Bay to see V., whom we last left with a vague promise to do something for. Did you know that he's writing for television, now? Also entertained us with a reading of a bizarre story about magicians with strange names in the last days of the world, a la the end of Time Traveller. Can't see it selling, myself, but Miss K. loved it, if not V. 


Ronnie's been taking up so much of my time that I haven't even had a chance to volunteer for the campaign, which I'm sure you'll be glad to hear. Don't you worry, though, because once Wallace is President, I'm for an Admiral's flag for sure.

Kidding! Obviously the campaign can't expect to win in '48. We have to play the long game, looking forward to '52, when America will be tired enough of Dewey or Taft, or, who knows, Vandenberg, and ready to return to the New Deal.

I think I'll leave it at that, because somehow another weekend's gone, and it's off to fly the fogs of northern California for another week.


Your Son,
Reggie

People pay these guys.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, 15 1/4: Wool And What Came Before

Silver Star, the Valhalla range, and the backs of one of my cousins' families.

Taken half a hip swivel to the left of the first. Humans change alpine landscapes.


The earliest date at which I could expect to finish my next postblogging has receded towards next Tuesday in a gradual way, so I could say that I'm setting out to write a little jeu d'esprit (go France!) The truth is that it was not until Saturday morning, surrounded by my grandfather's books and preparing to climb a mountain on a family occasion, that I thought of something worthwhile to say: a quarter's worth of a legitimate installment in the Sacred Spring series, a very modest contribution to Getting Technology Right. This is a blog about restoring grass to its place at the centre of technological policy; a new horizon was opened up over at Brad Delong's the other day, and there is something to be said here about that.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Postblogging Technology, May 1948, I: Jigging For Subtext

She just wants to be alone!

R_. C_.,
The Waldorf,
New York, New York,
Canada

Dear Father:

Here I am back in California, and you're off to the East again! I understand, though. A Celanese contract would be very sweet. Speaking of the industry, there is also some movement on newsprint pulp in Newfoundland. It is buried deep in my letter, but Labour is backing away from the stringent early limits on newsprint next year. Whether that means the syndicate can salvage the new Newfoundland pulp mill is another question. I'm just a simple flyboy, but it seems to me that a mainland site would be a better idea, anyway. 


Speaking of flying, I've been billeted at Arcanta, but I have a plane, so it is easy to get down to San Francisco. Ronnie and Miss K.'s apartment is nice, if cramped. I don't think Miss K. likes me very much. Well, I don't like her boyfriend, so it's sort-of mutual.

I'm also a little surprised that she has a boyfriend, but what do I know of the ways of the human heart? I would tell you a bit more about the Arcanta flying, but so far I'm less than impressed with the Navy's approach to things. Better runway lights are all very well, but I am aching to try out those British automatic-landing gadgets I read about. And the less said about Fido, the better.  

Your Son,
Reggie

Strange question in 1948.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XIV: Geoffrey Crowther's Take

"Cottonopolis." Probably a factory, not a tenement, not 1930s construction. I just liked the name.

It's not uncommon for me to find myself a little behind in writing a Postblogging Technology update at this point in the month; it's also common enough for me to find myself inspired by my reading. That is, after all, why I'm doing it!


This is not going to be a post about soapmaking, however. It's relevant, and also something that I can't get into the postblogging series, since it comes from a 21 May 1948 leading article in The Economist, and comments on an article in the previous issue. Well, I guess I could choose a different format . . . 


Anyway, point is, the leader writer, who may or may not actually be Henry Luce's favourite "stout" boy, has a take on the dark old days of the 1930s. That old fuddy-duddy, Keynes, did much to illuminate the problems of a general glut, The Economist concedes, and was useful in the way he focussed on oversaving as a cause of the terrible economic privations of the 1930s. 

Now, however, the Voice of Neoliberalism points out, in the light of last week's article on "the capital budget," it is time to focus on a different issue. Overspending, it points out, is only an issue when there is no commensurate investment, and it must now be acknowledged that there was a terrible lack of capital investment in the Thirties, with the exception of residential spending and electricity. 

Bam! Substitute IT for the building of the National Grid, and you've got ancestral voices speaking ancient truths to us moderns. Indeed, much of the argument against the secular stagnation thesis turns on that IT spending. Something, usually AI, now that Big Data has proven disappointing, will very soon now, unleash a new era of technological progress. Self-driving trucks was the thing, as from a few years ago, and the recent travails of Uber, Google and Tesla haven't penetrated the trailing edge of our thinkfluencers. 

Never mind that, what about the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age transition? No new insights today, just some thoughts, all rather tenuously grounded in archaeology that might reverse itself tomorrow.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XIII: A Midsummer's Night Update

I hope that you've had a restful June. I have, with the family visits and the vast amount of standing around involved in closing a grocery store. (Sigh.) I also hope you've learned new things. I have!

By Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA - Barley (Hordeum vulgare), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25486048
For example, did you know that Hordeum vulgare counts as a marginal halophyte due to its ability to tolerate up to 5 g/litre of salt in water, compared with the 1-3 g/litre tolerance of other cereal and legume crops? That's why it is so widely planted on irrigated land, and, in particular, on the alluvium of southern Iraq ("Sumer and Akkad.") That fact might have slipped into an earlier post in this series, and appears in J. G. Manning's intellectual armature, as of The Open Sea, a monograph already noted here, although one that I took some time to get my brain around due to a certain lack of patience for wheels spinning. It's also something that I learned at 53, thanks to following links on Wikipedia, once again underlining the sheer intellectual dilettance of agrarian history.

Admittedly, technical dilettance is an occupational hazard for the historian in general. Take, for example, a blog post based on three monographs that pretends to develop the state of the art at the end of the Iron Age. Oh, well. Three books isn't much by the standards of comps reading, but I didn't have a fulltime job in those days, either. (We'll pass over the time I was able to spend at work, reading, last week, in silence.)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Meta-Technical Appendix to Postblogging Technology, April, 1948: The Two Secrets of the Fiscal 1948-9 British Budget


So this started out as a smartass answer over at Quora to the question, "What did Britain lose in World War II?" The expected answer is, of course, "the Empire, which was awesome," so you can see why my push back was "Houses. Everything else was upside."
It might also not surprise that the post has not elicited any great number of positive responses. Whatever: The first important point is that I'm off to 100 Mile House for my niece's birthday this week, I wanted to post something light, and the first part of this post, which is about the budget presented by Stafford Cripps in April of 1948, is something that deserves to be shoved out into the Zeitgeist. It's pretty much set-in-stone wisdom that Britain "bankrupted itself fighting the Second World War, and that narrative goes on to shape our understanding of the consequences of running up a large, public-sector deficit to address an existential emergency.

Which is an important point for these days. Global warming and all that, you know.

The second important point is that my purely rhetorical codicil about how Britain was unexpectedly innovative in the 1950s, turns out to be far more cohesive than I realised. Picking three exemplars of British innovation at random, and then exploring an alternative to the over-worked third one, I discover that it's all linked, due to the then-secret British atomic weapons programme.
Which also brings in 100 Mile House, thanks to Leonard Cheshire, part time giant-bomb dropping specialist, part-time cultist, full-time humanitarian. 

Pictured: Not the modern descendants of the Emissaries of Divine Light, down in 100 Mile's suburb (I know, I know!) of
Exeter, whatever you hear around here. However, the girl on the left is my man Brandon Konoval's sister. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Postblogging Technology, April 1948, II: Accidents Will Happen Is Not An Excuse



R_. C_.
Vancouver,
Canada.

Dear Father:

I'm dashing this off before my Philosophy exam because my house sisters have told me that I'm not going to be allowed back in here after I'm done. Junior year is done! Give or take some German Romantic Idealists, and perhaps a dash of the Nietzsche and Heidegger for extra credit. So, in spite of my promises to catch you up on the gossip, all I can fit in (The screed below went on a bit, thus the cramped brushwork --why am I wasting space for apologies?), is this. You can tell that I'm excited. My digressions have digressions! So, to catch you up, I have found rooms for the  summer in the city. I will be living with Miss K., who has decided that she needs a room of her own, for reasons I will be interested in nosing out. (Cherchez l'homme!)  She won't be cutting the apron strings entirely, as her mother owns the building. It turns out that whatever you make of Ishi, he is good for the pocketbook!




This letter, as you know, is my last until October, as Reggie will be taking over for the summer. As he says, the only thing he'll be doing this summer is teaching a dog (FIDO) new tricks. Which is another way of saying, if he hasn't told you already, that he will be at Arcata, practicing ILS in a C-54. He's a bit disgruntled about flying a gooney bird, but glad there's room for extra fire extinguishers.

Far too much of this newsletter would be about politics this week, if I let it. Besides Stassen's win in Nebraska, Time and Newsweek are both at nerves' end over the Italian elections at press time. It all seems a bit distant now, although, who knows, perhaps the next Italian elections really will see the Red Menace sweep to the Channel. Stassen's "Paul Revere" riders look a lot like the GOP's version of Wallace supporters on the Democratic side, and are probably as clear a sign as any that Warren will not somehow take the Republican nomination, not that I ever expected that to happen.

Now, a little more about that. Newsweek's Moley had an interesting back page column about "dark horse" candidates in American politics, pointing out that no dark horse has ever won a second term, and that the last, Harding, was the worst of all, suggesting a downwards trend. The idea that Warren will sweep out of nowhere in July and take the Republican party in a progressive direction is actively a problem for the California progressives. (Not that the rise of men like Representative Nixon doesn't show that those days are behind it, whatever Grace thinks.) But! Warren isn't even the talk of the dark horse enthusiasts. That would be Vandenberg and, recently, Martin, especially after that recent stunt "settling" the coal strike. Polls show that both men have no base at all within the Republican party or the nation. Stassen is the progressive's best hope, and an illusory one. The Paul Revere Riders are just projecting their hopes on him, just as are Wallace's followers, although you mustn't tell Reggie I said so. The simple, boring reality is that if you want a progressive outcome in November, you have to back the President.

I know! I know! For a girl who cares not a penny for politics, I sure come off strong on this!

Of course Henry Kaiser pioneered aluminum siding. 



Sunday, June 3, 2018

Postblogging Technology, April 1948, I: Blockades and the Revenge of Money



R_.C_.
Vancouver,
Canada

Dear Father:

Between exams and work, I am in a tearing hurry, and I'm down in the dumps because Reggie is in the same boat, and we only put $30 in Ma Bell's pocket last night. I promise to catch you up next week!

Yours Sincerely,
Ronnie

If you don't mind me repeating an observation in the body, it's strange that the Berlin Airlift has started, and  no-one has noticed. We still have to wait two months for the official start. Which, just to bring the threads together, will be triggered by the introduction of the Deutschmark. I did not know that.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XII: The Queen of May


Most publicity shots from Duel in the Sun feature Jane Russell's boobs against a backdrop of hay. Jennifer Jones is this blog's Queen of May for 2018. (Thanks to all the gals who came out: Also, if it comes up, the blog's choice is distinct from the author's.)


And this image of a British wildflower meadow is cheerfully scraped from a "How to" article in the Daily Telegraph explaining how to go about creating your own wildflower meadow on a few hectares of your land for which you can't think of any other use. But setting my clumsy attempt to start class warfare aside (we're all in this together, you know!), let's just stop and meditate on spring and flowers and fertility and the mysterious way in which they're connected, deep in the human psyche.  

Done? Enough meditation! What about scythes?
Er, yeah. No, I mean like this,


as it turns out that haymowing re-enactors are seriously a thing these days. The idea of dueling with scythes isn't completely preposterous, given that the fifty-centimeter-plus long scythe is the second largest Iron Age toolblade after the sword, and your typical scythe saw fan order of magnitude more use during its lifetime than your typical sword. That quietly and unobtrusively puts it in position to claim the title of apex technology for hand blacksmithing, which makes it all the more remarkable that its history is so obscure. I do have some results to report, or I would be talking about my recent correspondence with Dietrich Eckhardt, but I want to be brief, since, in pursuing the subject, I was sidetracked into buying Manning's "major new history of economic life in the Mediterranean in the Iron Age," and Marc van de Mierop's Philosophy before Greece, and may eventually have something to report. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Bishop's Sea: Nanook


The Nanook, or Tanfield Valley, site, has appeared in these pages before. Lying along the southeastern coast of Baffin Island, it is a fairly prominent site of prehistoric settlement. Michigan anthropologist Moreau Maxwell excavated here from the 1960s to the 1980s, apparently informed of ancient relics by a local informant.

As for "Nanook" itself, I'm reminded of Henry Collins' excited description of the Sadlermiut site, published in a 1954 National Geographic, and inspiring generations of speculation that appear to end, sadly, in concluding that there is no there, there. I'm obviously very impressed by the fact that the population of the high Arctic did not exceed 5000 people at any point in prehistory, because I repeated it twice in two paragraphs in my last "Nanook" post. It remains, I think a fair point that any site with eighty house ruins, several hundred graves, and hundreds of meat caches is going to bulk very, very large in the human story of the high Arctic. Something significant happened here. The  disappointing thing about Sadlermiut is that it happened too recently to be romantic. Nanook is another matter.

Unfortunately, it is not similar to Sadlermiut in having numerous ruins. The far southwest of Baffin Island is resource-rich, for the High Arctic, and had a high prehistoric population, and within the region, the Tansfield Valley stands out  as what pioneering investigator, Moreau Maxwell, called an oasis. Although tending to damp in the summer, it is an obvious camp ground. The problem was the lack of obvious ruins, although that can be explained by the absence of good building stone, and alternatives such as ivory, sea mammal bone, and caribou antlers, all unavailable for various reasons. Instead, Moreau concluded, structures in the area would be cut from sod, a scarce resource in the area, in general, but copiously available here.

Maxwell's excavations justified the hypothesis. In particular,  he was struck by ruins that could be interpreted as the foundation walls of a (Norse-style) sod longhouse, although many other explanations have been put forward. Along with the exciting discovery of muskoxen fur, analogous to the bison, muskox and brown bear hair found at the famed "Farm Beneath the Sands," the prospect beckoned of larger exchange networks uniting the farthest northern reaches of the High Arctic with the Canadian boreal forests, and perhaps beyond.

This attracted Canadian Museum of Civilisation (now "History") archaeologist, Patricia Sutherland,  and her Helluland Project, with the usual (or "highly controversial," choose your preferred modifier) agenda of looking for Norse, which she tentatively concluded she had found. As is equally usual, in the absence of anything signed in authentic, contemporary handwriting, nothing definitive was found, and killjoy DNA studies soon revealed that the supposed exotic hairs were nothing of the kind. Good thing hair analysis was never relied on for anything important! The problem is that the carbon dates have yielded Medieval, that is, pre-Norse carbon dates. Since we seem (for now) to have moved beyond dismissing paradigm-upsetting carbon dates as Bad Science, it is at least worth considering what that might mean. Sutherland is willing to go for "early Medieval" seafarers, and points to the new, early dates for the settlement of the Faeroes and the situation in Iceland as a license for going halfway towards full "Wayfarer-"dom. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Postblogging Technology, March, 1948, II: Necessity is to Invention As . . .




R_. C_.,
Vancouver, Canada

Dear Father:

I hope this finds you well, as I'm personally a bit frazzled, having been up to the city again, this time to look for a place to stay, as it would be a scandal if I moved into with Queenie or the Cs. I've even resorted to the 'Ks.", so if I end  up staying in an (indoor) tipi, you will know why!

Not only to the city but to Oakland, as Mother made a flying visit to her sister's nurses. (Who were a bit mystified by  the origins of her authority, or why she looked like her sister.) My presence was commanded, so that Mother could snub me --although she relented when I asked whether I had had rubella far enough to promise to send me my medical records. A nurse dismissed for the crime of getting too close to Uncle Henry, she was off to Chicago, cool and distant as ever, and me to work.

I have decided that I do not like work. I  hope lawyering is nothing like it.


Yours Sincerely,
Ronnie

Happy Mother's Day!


Monday, May 7, 2018

Postblogging Technology, March 1948, I: The City and the Stars



R. C.,
Vancouver,
Canada

Dear Father:

You were right to tell me not to worry about Magnin's, and for the good of my ego I will not question the way you put it. "I shall give them another call if I have to," means that some of my natural charm was not lost on them, after all!

The disadvantage of sealing the deal is that I my little course on how to be a shop assistant required me to drive up to San Francisco through fog and rain, and then down again, at which point the old Lincoln was so ungallant as to be a regular John Lewis, although it turns out that it was striking for a new distributor, and not portal-to-portal pay. And so much for fetching bacon and eggs for a week on the morning shift. Speaking of which, I need to get this done, as Andy Chu must be getting tired of sitting out in his car for me to bring it down to him. Can you imagine the scandal if I invited him up to wait in the living room with the beaus? I have no idea how I will summon up a smile if Mr. Straight is there again tomorrow, and I must, because so much for a week's pay!
Yes, it's anachronistic. That's why I softened you up at the head! This post isn't late because I had to drive somewhere, but it is late for work reasons. 

So, yes, I was having second thoughts about giving up the life of a spoiled heiress --until Reggie called to see why I'd missed my call, which is because I was stranded by the roadside outside Redwood City. As for Andy cooling his heels outside now, and at the Benevolent Association all yesterday, part of that is down to me being on the phone too long --but as you pay Reggie's bills, you will know that anyway.

Perhaps I'll back Andy's stake the next time he has to spend a day playing penny-stakes mah jongg while he waits for me to finish. No. . . I should probably have to claim it on my income tax.


Yours Sincerely,
Ronnie.

Sacred Spring, indeed.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XI: Ancestral Voices


As a city gradually dissolves under the pressure of a labour shortage About-Which-Nothing-Can-Be Done-And-I'm-Sorry-There-Are-Too-Many-Employers-For-"Monopsony"-To-Be-An-Explanation, this ends up being a truncated and slapped-together post; but at least there is some interesting scholarship to report. Part of it veers close to a new version of linguistic determinism that I'm dubbing "Calligraphic Determinism. (Basically it's about how speculative thinking within a knowledge community requires a script that can support new concepts by generating new words. You can compound them all you like; they need to generate spoken words, and that means some kind of rules of grammar? I think?

This might suggest to you the direction of a post put together all too quickly under pressure of loss of free time to overtime pay, coffee intoxication, and some scholarship about Sumerian and the emergence of the Mediterranean oecumene. But first, in due deference to the stimulative effects of morning coffee on top of all-too-little-sleep, a digression about sibyls.



They're the ancestral voices prophesying war, by the way. First, "ancestral." I continue to be struck by Niall Sharples' picture of Early Iron Age Wessex reviving the pre-Bronze Age tradition of ancestors of whom they in fact knew exactly nothing, and who were probably not their ancestors at all. (Since the current hot take is that the Beaker People replaced Neolithic Britons in the Early Bronze Age. Colour me skeptical, but the Beaker People did gussy up Stonehenge. Maybe they were appropriating the ancestors, too?) Second, "prophesy," because, in spite of what seems obvious about oracles and sibyls, sibyls don't do prophecy. Something much, much more interesting is happening. I guess that should be obvious from the fact that sibyls have been a big thing in literature ever since Virgil made the Cumaean Sibyl into Aeneas' guide to the underworld. That Sibyl admittedly did then predict the rise of the prototypical early Iron Age state, the Rome of the monarchy, but that is where literature differs from reality, and that distinction is possibly even at least glimpsed in Iron Age writing.  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Iron Age/ Industrial Revolution Origins, Plus Housekeeping

By Stone Monki - 100_9866.jpg.ok.jpg, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28214332
So Chile's Bernardo O'Higgins Research Base was inaugurated on 16 February, 1948, by President Gabriel Videla, "the first head of state to visit Antarctica." It is officially the capital of Antarctic Commune, and the way things are going, will probably be the northernmost inhabitable place on the planet in fifty years or so. The Wiki article  says that Chile began to perform acts of sovereignty in the Antarctic the year before. 

Either someone's been Google Translating out of the Spanish, or this might belong on Pornhub. 

President Videla and some Wehrmacht cosplayers enjoy an old time Antarctic summer. (Enjoy some Chilean goose-stepping here. It's oddly compelling, I have to say.)
The Economist does not mention that the Chilean Antarctic Expedition was a response to Operation Tabarin, and the islands in question were actually the South Shetlands, and specifically, Greenwich Island, on which Chilean "Base Arturo Pratt" is located. My bad! As for The Economist, it is not clear that President Videla was ever on Greenwich, and it is certainly not clear why it would be trying to start a war with the southern cone of Latin America over possession of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Maybe there's coal there?  

In other news, the prototypes of the Neo-Assyrian Royal Annals might be epic literature, with an "Epic of Sargon" predating and informing the more famous Epic of Gilgamesh? I don't know that this gets us anywhere: We've reached the point where writing about technology is batting its wings against the same cage as writing itself. Ancient scribes aren't up to anything as ambitious as a year-chronicle, so they're not up to telling us how iron was made. 

Okay: Enough of that. I started this post with the idea that I was going to recap my explanation of the origins of the British Industrial Revolution. (Spoiler: It happened because of export subsidies, high taxes, especially revenue-raising tariffs on imports, and persistent, large, state deficits. If you're wondering why I decided to talk about that this week; Yeah, me, too. Kidding! Before the week turned out to be about porn stars, there was a stir on the tariff front. If I were postblogging Monday --and I'm frankly beginning to think that someone needs to make that project happen-- you'd know what I mean.)

Unexpectedly, the post did not develop in the direction of recapping state spending on wars, generating foreign exchange for the use of, and export bounties/tariffs. Recall that I jumped aboard a project of reinterpreting the beginnings of the Iron Age because I'm all about the relationship of early iron production to woodland management. At first the connection seemed obvious. Iron axes are good for woodland clearance; charcoal is necessary for making iron; more woodland clearance makes for more charcoal. Positive feedback! (Or, "hysteresis,"  if you're an economist and want to show off your Latin, rather than a former physics undergrad, and want to show off your Introduction to Partial Differential Equations scars.) It was only recently that the revelation that salt, soda and potash are made from charcoal as well, impinged. Soda, being a primordial industrial component (and substituable for potash) leads to glass and detergents. The latter, in turn, leads to the production of "luxury," that is, clean and dyed, cloth.

Okay, well, my postblogging has directed attention to British exports of coal, and natural resource exports have also been in the news of late. Rather than directing you to the political side of the Kinder Morgan question, here's a link to a recent post by Liveo di Matteo at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative. So what about coal and the origins of the Industrial Revolution? A scorching hot take would be that, if "Dutch Disease" were real, British exports of coal ought to have retarded industrial development. Certainly the old time English were obsessed with the idea that exporting raw yarn was like exporting jobs and revenues!(In the stone age of economics, people thought that a combination of tariff barriers and subsidies could be used to promote industrialisation and national prosperity. Nowadays, we've turned economics into a science, and can resolve such questions by simply inputting some data series into one of those computer models I hear so much about every time we ask at work why computers can't order carrot juice.*)

On the other hand, English exports of coal were subsidised. One way of understanding that is that by undercutting competitive fuels, coal might have made those competitors cheaper, and promoted growth in other industries. Since charcoal and firewood make salt, soap and glass,there's a valid line of inquiry here. In Iron Age or even Industrial Revolution studies, it's hard to get at soap, and even hard to get at salt, but glass is pretty robust. What might turn up if one pursued that line of inquiry?
Vann Copse, Waverley, Surrey. It's the local government area that includes Godalming, if you were wondering, and it is in the Weald, as probably doesn't surprise you at all.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Postblogging Technology, February 1948, II: The Dipstick Problem

Star Leopard
R_. C_.
Vancouver, Canada.

Dear Father:

So, the truth finally came out about Don Bennett in Britain, last week; and I, as a seasoned Atlantic crossing veteran of two round trips, could not be more pleased! It's bad news for the British aviation industry, but perhaps we'll forgive it when we're enjoying the two promenades, complete bar, and roller-skating rink they're putting into the Brabazon. 

Speaking for myself, you may still hear about me roller skating around a drive-in this summer. My interview with Magnum's was a DISASTER!! They told me I'd get a call later this week, but that was just pity. I don't know what went wrong? I waltzed in there like I was going to own the place and. . . 


Wait, never mind, I know what went wrong! It was Ronnie being Ronnie. 

Also, and to be hundred percent fair to myself (because someone has to), I was agitated by some unexpected difficulties regarding interviews for my Senior Thesis. Someone very important to the history of it all has gone missing, and no-one knows or cares where he is? Hmmph.

Uncle George (and Grace) used to do a thing where, if an article was particularly important, they did a separate letter. This month's Fortune has a huge article about weather control (you know, cloud seeding and the like).  It gets a little bit non-technologically technical, with a discussion of the insurance implications, which are obviously huge. If this works (and it looks like it does), it's only a matter of time before some of our neighbours try using it to protect their orange crops, and we need to know where we stand, soonest. Also, I thought it would be fun to march right into the law library and find out what's what! I hope that you like my little paper!


Yours Sincerely,
Ronnie.
Obviously the real point is that Fortune has fallen hook-line-and-sinker for this b.s. At this late date, we're talking more sociology (anthropology?) of science than history, but' it's still an interesting bump on the road to our modern world. Along with Armstrong of FM and Ventile fabrics (illustrating that fashion doesn't have patents, but does have innovation), there's a lot in here to justify a "Patent Troll" tag.


Friday, April 6, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, IX: Chariotry, Cavalry, Infantry and Casseroles

Pinned twice from a website where this is buried deep in the archives. It's an "Iraqi casserole." That's all I know.
The words of Tiglath-Pileser I (1114--1076BC), strong king, unrivalled king of the universe, king of the four quarters, king of all princes . . . attentive purification priest, to whom by the command of the god Samas the holy sceptre was given . . . whose weapons the god Assur has sharpened and whose name he has pronounced eternally for control of the four quarters, capturer of distant districts to borders above and below, radiant day whose brilliance overwhelms the regions,splendid flame which covers the hostile land like a rain storm, and who by the command of the god Enlil, having no rival defeats the enemy of the god Assur; . . . 

At that time I marched to the insubmissive land Katmuhu which had withheld tribute and impost from the god Assur, my lord. I conquered the entire land of Katmuhu. I brought out their booty, property and possessions. Their cities I burnt, razed and destroyed. The remainder of the (inhabitants of the city of) Katmuhu, who had fled from my weapons (and) crossed over to the city Seressu which is on the opposite bank of the Tigris, made that city their stronghold. Taking my chariots and warriors I hacked through the rough mountain range and difficult paths with copper picks and made a good way for the passage of my chariots and troops. I crossed the Tigris and conquered their fortified city, Seressu. I spread out like grain-heaps the corpses of their men-at-arms in the battle. I made their blood flow in the hollows and plains of the mountains. At that time mL laid low like sheep, with the army of the land Katmuhu, the army of the Paphu which had come to the aid and assistance of the land Katmuhu. I built up mounds with the corpses of their men-at-arms on mountain ledges. I allowed the River Name to carry off the bodies of their warriors out to the Tigris. I captured in battle their king, Kili-Teshub, son of Kali-Teshub, who is called Errupi. I carried off his wives, his natural sons, his clan, copper kettles, five bronze bath-tubs, together with their gods, gold and silver, the best of their property. I brought out their booty. I burnt, razed (and) destroyed that city and its palace."

Welcome to the Late Bronze Age.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Postblogging Technology, February 1948, I: The Great Soul





R_. C_.,
Vancouver, Canada

Dear Father:

It has been a wearing week, and not just because I am a working girl, now. I've been invited to give a talk about my senior thesis, I think mainly because I am the only Junior who knows what her senior thesis is going to be! I've had to do some fast footwork over the fact that it is Californian history, and not French literature, but Stanford tends to be easy with these things if you're eager and smart. (And rich, Reggie would say.) And I'm told, with a heavy hint that it's my fault, that my Mother is drinking again, and that Dad is acting as though his ulcer is flaring up. He, of course, won't say anything, in case it makes me feel guilty. He'll just rant on about how Indians, Mexicans, Coloureds, Jews and Communists make  him sick to his stomach. I can't say I find that much better. 

So that's me, so obviously the most important bit; but, you might have heard that Gandhi is dead. I feel a little like I'm supposed to be sad about it. What hits a lot closer is that President Tressider is dead. He was only 53! The rumour around campus is that he was in New York to "manage" President Hoover --One more thing to blame the Wonder Boy for. 

So that's it for me, except to mention that Mrs. Delano called back about my application for a summer job at Magnin's to offer me an interview. It's quite exciting, and makes me wish that I'd thought to apply to Magnin's! 

Thank you, is what I'm trying to say. 


Yours Sincerely,

Ronnie.




Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, VIII: Return of the Dead

Bernie may be dead, but he sure can dance! It's hard to believe that this movie is 29 years old, meaning that it is separated from us by a recession, the dotcom boom, the 2008 crash, and whatever it is we've been living through since.

That, of course, was a blatant attempt to work the 2008 crash into the conversation. Niall Sharples waits until the conclusion of his book to do it.
"It is a little easier to to explain how catastrophic the end of the Bronze Age was, given the collapse of the financial markets that devastated national economies in 2008. In the Bronze Age, bronze was as important as money is today; it connected people and created a system whereby other people relied on others to provided materials that were not locally available, animals when they were needed for consumption and sexual partners necessary for the continuity of human communities. In times of crisis, the credit built up through the long-term exchange of gifts would enable people to acquire the essentials to rebuild their lives. It also provided a way of classifying and contrasting people and communities by status and identity. The complex system of exchange relationships, and indebtedness, which had been operating for over 1,000 years, was completely undermined and abandoned at the end of the Bronze Age." (Sharples, 312--13.)

I am very impressed by Niall Sharples' Social Relationships in Later Prehistory (2010), and, in my personal opinion, it would have been a barn burner if he'd gone back over it and sharpened up this point. But, of course that would be my opinion, given that my interest in the Late Bronze Age Collapse was revived by the 2008 collapse. I had a sense that this was where Sharples was going in the main text, but he waited for the conclusion to spring the analogy --if it is an analogy. There's lots of material in the main text that "hangs a lampshade" on 2008, as the kids say, or said several years ago. And then, in the conclusion, he drags out the literal lampshade. "This is what I was talking about."

Which means that it is time to forage in the communal graveyard of ideas that is academic publishing, bring to light the relics of the heroes, and expose them to celebrants of the mystery. If you don't have an epiphany, lie back and think of the polis. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Postblogging Technology, January 1948, II: Demand Outpaces Supply





Mayhem! I have no idea what this is about. Maybe?




R_.C_.,
Vancouver,
Canada


Dear Father:


First of all, thank you for your kind offer, which I've decided to decline. I know that I cried during our phone call, and it's really dirty pool to turn around and say, "Oh, it's not so bad," but my sisters have been a rock! We went over my finances, and have concluded that I should be able to complete my undergraduate degree if I just get a job. (Gasp! I know!) Law school is another matter, and I may be begging you to revisit your offer next year! So there's no need for you to get into trouble with the family --they'll know that it's you, even if my fiance doesn't figure it out and fink, which he might, because he's a rat. 

So, no money from you, and my parents can just grit their teeth at their daughter getting some plebian job (Mom will throw a fit!). It's not as though they've grounds to stand on. They disowned me. (And please let's not get into tawdry details, as my fiance has less attachment to me than his damned dachshund.) 

On the other hand, (and here Ronnie puts on absolutely her sweetest, puppy dog eyes and leans close), if you could put a word in with any employers who might find me worth a bit of a premium on sixty-five cents an hour, that would be swell! Because my first stab at this has me working behind a soda counter, and it turns out that work is a lot of work!


Yours,

Ronnie.







Sunday, March 11, 2018

One, Two, Many '48s: Somewhere Between a Technical Appendix and a Sacred Spring Installment

Von David Hawgood, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13972302
This Irish National Heritage Park exhibit is a reconstruction of a "Fulacht Fiadh," or cooking pit. About 8000 are known in Ireland, and are characterised by mounds of broken stone and charcoal, adjacent to a trapezoidal wooden trough. The "cooking pit" interpretation sees them as locations where venison was cooked by stewing, using fire-heated stones to maintain water temperature. In Britain, the same features are known as "burnt mounds," signifying a more agnostic take on their likely ancient use. Scandinavian exemplars are sometimes seen as saunas. In Britain and Scandinavia, burnt mounds are a phenomena of the Bronze Age, with dates clustering around 1500BC and 1200--800BC. German Wikipedia has a more complete writeup than the English-language version

So far, so good. This is a placeholder posting. I was led to the "burnt mound" problem by Niall Sharples, but I can't say that I've digested Sharples, never mind finishing his monograph. That's because I have been working on the Postblogging Technology, January 1948, II; but after losing a day to an overtime shift, I've had to concede that there is no chance of finishing it tomorrow. You will have to wait for my report on the debate between Ernest K. Lindley and Henry Hazlitt on the Marshall Plan, in which Lindley vainly attempts to explain economics to the author of Economics in One Easy Lesson, while Hazlitt stubbornly insists that there is no chance of the Plan working, on account of the Europeans being collectivist socialists and all, and that it would be better to save the money and use it for tax cuts. There is, in fact, in January of 1948, something of a full-court press on for tax cuts, or at least an attempt to head off tax increases, on the grounds that they will cut into business investment. Since Robert Taft has boarded this bandwagon, it is not entirely clear whether partisanship is driving ideas; or ideas, partisanship. What we do know is that arch-internationalist GOP Senator Arthur Vandenberg will soon drop Taft and begin promoting MacArthur's candidacy. It's a weird old world.  

Lindley's argument, which you've heard before in these pages, is that without the Marshall Plan, Europe will go Red. The Economist has already been there, announcing that 1948, "The Year of Revolutions," was nothing special, and neither will be 1948. As it happens, 1848 was the year of The Communist Manifesto, and 1948 will be the Year of the Berlin Airlift. It's an interesting conjunction, although you'd have to be a pretty desperate blogger to make a connection between the Communist revolution and  the practice of adding soda ash to the smelt to produce higher-quality steel and trying to carry it back to the beginnings of the Iron Age. 

Well, it's Saturday night before time change, and I'm working at 9, so here we are.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Postblogging Technology, January 1948, I: Third Party Challenge




R_.C_.,
Vancouver,
Canada

Dear Sir:

I promised you a full report on my travels, and I wish I could supply it, but,somehow, in spite of it all, I managed to fall asleep on the plane, and was still asleep, it seems, when I made my train connection; and, somehow, did not wake up when I changed trains in Cleveland. So wafted on the sweet arms of Morpheus (it's a Classics reference), I was carried across the continent to San Francisco, at least awake enough to pick up the Lincoln, which, blessed fortune, carried me to Santa Clara, as promised, before (late) supper on New Year's Eve. 



And so the news, such as it is, is that I had a wild fight with Reggie about Henry Wallace that continued in the privacy of your grandfather's old sitting room in the north wing until he put his hand to me, and . . . well. WELL. Needless to say, as intimate as this correspondence has become . . . Besides, you will have heard the details from Grace, who is far too nosy for our own good. 

I do not know yet if I have finally thrown away my freedom here in California; but right now I cannot say that I regret it, as I sign myself,

YOUR DAUGHTER,
Ronnie.