Friday, December 25, 2015

Postblogging Technology, November 1945, I: Home for the Holidays

Mr. R_. C_.,

Dear Father:

Thank you! A million times thank you! What a Thanksgiving this will be! James walked in our door this Thursday last, done, we hope, with the Admiralty and the Engineering Branch forever. He met his daughter for the first time, 
Not exactly as pictured, but I work with what I have
And walked the twins over to Fanny the next morning. 

He will be meeting with his solicitor and some friends in San Francisco later in the week, and has been down to see Bill and David amongst other of our friends of the water, and was happily tinkering with an "8 track writer head" when I stopped in to collect him for lunch. I do not know what you told people, although Major Blackburn's revelation to the press that "there existed a device which, coupled to an aircraft, will reveal with certainty atomic bomb development," is, I take it, a hint about your old unit's more successful recent work. Have you been promising Russian atomic secrets in high places? Is it really so impossible to make U-235 and plutonium without venting radioisotopes into the air? I am going to guess that the scheme of detecting fissioning uranium from whizzing neutrons hasn't gone very far!

I am pleased, if surprised, to hear that the Earl will be flying over to Germany to assist "Miss V_.C_." in her meeting with the General. I suppose that this means that he will be buying German steel for the contracts. The price must have been very competitive. I am packing along a fine, antiquarian copy of the generals' great-grandfather's book, interleaved with a Chinese translation, signed by the author, with Great-Uncle's chop. I hope it will buy us a few extra tons of steel!

Speaking of young ladies with a secret, "Miss v. Q.," as I suppose I will say instead of "Mrs. Chow," has been summoned at the double to Virginia on a matter that has her smiling from ear to ear, and dropping heavy hints of secrets none can know. Under the circumstances I do not think it safe to transliterate the name, but the substance is that the FBI has just had a Washington courier of the Cheka walk in to them with the  names of various persons of the Roosevelt Administration who were providing the Cheka with information. The idea is that with the information this person has provided, the papers Wong Lee removed from the legation might reveal some of their secrets. Reading one-time writing out of the cribs of other documents ought not be possible, but perhaps the Cheka got careless. 

Mr. Johnston, you may have heard, is having a somewhat more consequential term in office than I, or anyone, expected. So if anyone asks why Uncle George isn't approaching him over the matter of his friend, it is because the last thing we want to do is appear in the press under the heading of the strike or the anti-trust case, or his friend. It might all wash out in favour of his friend, but Uncle George thinks that discretion is the order of the day. 


Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Soldier From the Wars Returning: Recap, Part the Second, New Technology, New Jobs

So I don't like doing this, but I lost another writing weekend this week, this time to eldercare issues: I'm going to see if I can write both November tech blogs next week, because, you know, it's only Christmas. This week, because I cannot do anything substantial, again, I want to tackle some recappable issues. Without ruining immersion, it's hard to say more than that tackling postblogging from a contemporary, local perspective makes it hard to step back and say, "Oh, wow, look what I found out!" That can be a little tricky, and never less so than when I discovered Alvin Hanson, somehow transmogrified into "Richards Hansen" in my last recap.

By the way, for the vanishingly small number of readers of this blog who might have heard of, much less seen, the City of Kelowna, new retirement/recreation/medical care centre of the southern interior of British Columbia, the mad, out-of-control building along the highway will be memorable.

A little bit of local history: British Columbia is on the edge of development on this continent, and it has suffered some setbacks have left a very peculiar pattern on its landscapes. The First World War, and the perhaps not-entirely unrelated crash in copper prices left its mark on the countryside.

The crash of 1929 led to a fall in property values and incomes that left our cities more-less unbuilt for thirty years afterwards. The highway through Kelowna from W.A.C. Bennet's floating bridge north towards Vernon led, in my childhood, through neighbourhoods of tiny old bungalows on drainage ditches so wide as to be practically canals. Much further north, it went by an airport with a terminal building approximately the same size as a one-room schoolhouse. By my 20s, the open ditches were gone, but the airport was still the same size. Today, north of 50, I am beyond astonished by the expansion of the airport.

However, our route to the laser surgery outpatient clinic took us up  Sutherland, the next major traffic artery south of the highway:

It turns out that the bungalows aren't gone, and, although I hadn't the patience to find it on Google Streetview, one of the ditches is still there, too. The houses look to be ninety years old, and old Kelowna's canal-sized drainage ditches are still open, although no longer large enough to have boats moored in them. Having lost three days off this week to various ramifications of our ongoing demographic crisis (NB: Author's Opinion), I may be seeing ominous signs where there's nothing to see. That Kelowna's topsy turvy development along the highway strip has not penetrated three blocks in is one of those Ominous Signs. 

Alvin Hanson was right, we have a problem, we should fix it, and the key to fixing it is to be found in the economic history of the war and postwar era. Etc, etc. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Rain Follows the Plough: Harappa and the Cultural Defectiveness of Swarthy Foreigners

Edit: Just throwing in the whole crockpot: here's the link to the argument that a Bactrian king, Diodotus I,is the historical Ashoka. Pretty interesting from a linguistic point of view, since it raises the question of whether Sanskrit predates, or postdates the Hellenistic Prakrits.

Not exactly long on time this week, so I'm going to pull some old reading out of my --pants. It is, however, a bit of a response to various provocations. (Lameen sends me here, if you're interested.)

Wallace, Kansas. Source: Photo by Diddleysquat. (Probably not their real name.)
The joke here is that back in the late Nineteenth Century, a supposed "frontier of settlement" that delineated populated America from the "Old West" was passed by wheat farmers headed west. Supposedly, the improvements changes made by settlers would cause the micro-climate to become wetter. Rain would follow the plough, they said. Incorrectly, though there are other reasons for the abandonment of Kansas's numerous ghost towns. I could also make some strained point about the Middle East being dry, and the home of "Islamic extremists," and Kansas being dry, and the home of. . . But who would that be helping? The issue here is that we keep talking about culture (and language), where it wouldn't be unreasonable to start with rainfall.

A week ago, Brad Delong took us on a dive into the superb research of Islamic medievalist Eduardo Manzano, who asks just how medieval Islamic institutions became so different from "Western." The implication is that this is going to  matter for the divergence between "Western" and "Islamic" economies. Why are we European-descended, give or take, people so rich, while Middle Eastern-descended (look, let's just go with it, okay?) so poor? It's because of  Roman law something Benedictine monasticism something feudalism something private property. Or so I imagine the argument. The fun thing about this is that we have someone with a fingertip feel for Islamic history sketching an overly broad and schematic history of medieval Europe, with the ultimate outcome teleologically explaining the outcome of the assorted crisies, reformations, renaissances and revolutions of European history. Well, fine. Once we've excluded other possible factors, surely institutional history is a thing to look at, and Manzano is exquisitely sensitive to precisely the objections I've suggested here, and does his best to guard against it. 

The question is whether we have, actually, excluded other factors.  Like rain. The Middle East is dry, or so I've heard. Not that this is going to be about the Middle East, Islam, and the Clash of Civilisations, because it is actually about something I've researched in the past, which is not that. It is Bench Grassish, though. Notice the new label!

East of the "Middle East," where Islam failed to thrive, lies the the Indian subcontinent, long since split from its Antarctic motherland, collides in slow motion with the Eurasian plate, producing the Himalayas, lies the Punjab, Land of the Five Rivers. (Maahi Ve, by Josh.) Much of the Punjab has been incorporated in the Muslim League's national home for Indian Muslims, Pakistan.

Before that, we are told, between about 2000BC and 1500BC, it was the home of something which we agree to call the Harappan Civilisation, after the archetype, an archaeological site fifteen kilometers west of Sahiwal, on the Lahore-Karachi Railway, on an abandoned bed of the Ravi River. Well-known to locals, who pointed it out to antiquarian Charles Masson, who described it in an 1842 book, Harappa was first excavated in 1925 by a team led by D. R. Sahni, commissioned by the Director-General of the Indian Archaeological Survey, Sir John Marshal. Subsequent digs, especially that led by British '50s television archaeologist, Mortimer Wheeler, have consolidated Harappa's reputation as one of the great Lost Civilisations of antiquity. 

Qualifying the adjectives, the Harappan Civilisation is great because, apparently, it had a lost language, written in an undeciphered script. (Whether there's anything in it about the the Hiss case, we may never know.) It is lost, because, Mortimer Wheeler says, because Indo-Aryan, Veda-reciting, chariot-riding, bronze-axe wielding warriors of the north descended on them and destroyed the mud-brick citadels. 

Later intepretations favour climate change or systems collapse or what-have-you, and absolve the Aryans on grounds of chronology, because the collapse actually happened about 1900, and everyone knows that the Aryans arrived at the stroke of 1500BC. Just count the generations back from the Trojan War. Uhm, science. Specifically, historical linguistics.  If you are not moved to follow links, pioneering German Indologist, Max Mueller, argued that since the Buddha lived c. 550BC,* and the Vedanga and and Sutra Vedas are in dialogue with him, they must be the latest of the Vedic writings. The chain of listed Brahmanic teachers of these Vedas takes us back to 800BC. The Samhitas, which are before these, must have been composed over, oh, say, 200 years (1000BC). The Vedic hymns were composed over about 200 years. (1200BC), a date confirmed by the date of the Trojan War archaeology's first good date for chariots down in these parts.  

Fine, fine, whatever. I'm not going to be the iconoclast here. As Terence D'Altroy points out, we probably would not infer the existence of Tawatinsuyu from the archaeology of Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, either. Having already used that excuse to suggest that the Uruk Expansion really might have been an empire, I am not going to exclude the idea of a vast, Indus Valley Civilisation/Empire, just because its existence would make modern Hindu nationalists very happy. As for kicking Veda-chanting, Indo-Aryan warriors out of the picture, at least since we realised that Conan the Barbarian isn't real, we haven't been big on the idea that barbarians burn down cities without replacing them, if at all possible. (In other words, our barbarian invaders have to be subordinated to a "systems collapse" model.)

So, uhm, about that "lost" part.

Harappa (1):
Harappa (2):

By Sam Panthakya. Getty Images, scraped from Slate.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Postblogging Technology, October 1945, II:

Source: "Television's Early History"

Mr. R. C.,
Vancouver, British Columbia,

Dear Father:

Before you blanch at the thickness of this week's missive, do take a look down at the bottom. Only a month into the subscription, and already Ziff-Davis has let me down with a July number of Radio News packed in the October sleeve. So it could be worse, is what I am saying. I thought about talking about it (there's a very interesting piece on attempts to establish UHF radio service in Britain, and another on radar, so my last chance to write "Radar is (Secret/Not Secret) This Week," but it isn't topical, and that is the theme of this correspondence, such as there is one.

Now that you're not blanching, may I broach a proposal? You will see below that the General has involved himself in the question of German industry. If I read the story right, the British have thrown in with the idea of reviving the German steel industry, and the General is advocating for it at Eisenhower's headquarters. Now, I do not know the General well enough to know whether he's in Krupp's pocket, but the left press certainly thinks that he is. My question: we, or, rather, the Earl, obviously needs a lot of steel to hit the shipbuilding targets he has set. Could we steer a contract to the Germans via General Draper, in return for getting him to roll over the Harriman papers? I do not think that Averell will care. Admittedly, I am having trouble understanding why I care. The "junior university" can go hang, for all that I care, and the Engineer simply isn't capable of gratitude, in my judgement. 

On the other hand, the Engineer, as we know, arrived at his "uncle's" school under his birth name. It wasn't until Leland, Jr. died, that little "George MacKay" was sent off to be "buried" on the Colville Reservation, and a little Engineer "arrived" to take his place. Now I have word from Fat Chow that he found a scrap of the Agent's letter register: "George MacKay" received an annual statement (or so I conceive it to be) from the Oregon and California Railroad in 1887. (Don't you hate it when a correspondent fails to update his information by letting you know that he has died?) If there are more, they are not in the Agent's fonds in the State archives. But they may be in the papers Great Uncle asked his son to leave to the university, to keep them out of Bancroft's hands. Access to that, and we may yet find proof that the Engineer is the actual beneficiary of some of the university's endowment. Not enough to cover the Earl's friends' losses, so many years ago, but enough for revenge. . . Obviously the Engineer will not go for this, but he is far from the only man to make decisions on campus. 

So with that in mind, and with your permission, I shall bring "Miss V.C." before me and entrust her with a more confidential mission to the General than we had previously imagined. But I need the Earl's permission. Money does not grow on trees, and a sweetener to the General adds to the cost of the ships. (See, I am not a complete ninny about business!)

On travel plans, though, perhaps. . . Now we have news that, due to the strike, the Engineer's son is at loose ends. He is talking about shooting something in Canada, and has gallantly offered to conduct the Santa Clara collegiate 4H to a Christmastime show in Montreal. Our young housekeeper (barely that, as she can only work half a week) is over the Moon about it, understandably, and now there are all sorts of plans afoot to reunite the whole gang --her, "Miss V.C.," your son, Lieutenant A-- in Montreal in December. It seems like an awful lot of travel and trouble, and I am sure that you are going to claim to detect feminine wiles, no matter how many times I tell you that "Miss V.C." is too obedient to her parents' wishes to give in to your son's blandishments. . . No matter how "sweet" she says he is. 


"When praises mean raises!"

Friday, November 27, 2015

Postblogging Technology, October, I: Forest for the Trees

Mr. R_. C_., 
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Dominion of Canada.

Dear Father:

I hope that you had a Happy Thanksgiving. Uncle George certainly did! When we collected him at the airport, he claimed that he was still so stuffed with turkey that he might as well have flown south on his own. (Turkeys can fly, right? I've heard that they are so inbred that they cannot, any more, but what would they do will all that breast meat, otherwise?) 

It will, alas, be a while before Uncle George takes up the brush again. He claims that he is more than ready to enjoy retirement, but in his eyes you see that it will not be easy for him.  

Now, as to Christmas. You have asked about plane tickets. I have bad news. It turns out that Lieutenant A_. has official business in Montreal this December, and our Chicago relations have kindly offered to foot the ticket for a return flight to San Francisco for both the lieutenant and their daughter. So "Miss V_.C_" will be flying from Montreal to Santa Clara via Chicago, where her parents will join her. Your son will now be returning by rail after the end of exams. 

Miss v. Q. and Fat Chow were married in a quiet, civil ceremony last month. They are still at loose ends in regards to a place to live. It's all a bit complicated, in that they are trying to find a place where they can also accommodate Queenie, and a neighbourhood which prizes the necessary privacy and convenience. Miss v. Q. argues for the Mission district, although the rents are high, Fat Chow for Chinatown --the difficulty there being a Berkely instructor with that address. 

Speaking of Queenie, Tommy will be getting Christmas leave --and then on to the South Pacific, where he has a confidential mission of some kind. 

As for Fat Chow, well, your commission was a bust. Your equestrian neighbour is not a blowhard. His stable reallly is doing well on the California circuit, and we did not need an ace private investigator to discover it! We did, however . . . Well, therein hangs a tale, or half of one. You will by now have heard of Eric W. Johnston's new position. I therefore notice with raised eyebrow that Fat Chow was so bored following up on your neighbour that he put some time in, and located the new head of the MPAA's father. "Mr. Johnston Senior" turns out to be living on the Colville Reservation with his third wife. Exactly what I am to do with this information is not clear to  me, but Fat Chow is keen to blackmail the network over Uncle George's friend, if some leverage vis-a-vis the MPAA and Columbia can be found. 

Essentially, we have some first-grade blackm,ail material, and no real reason to use it. Perhaps Mr. Johnston can get the Engineer off our backs? I am beginning to get a bit itchy about the FBI, for all that they owe us over the break-ins last summer. (We might hear more about that soon, I am told.) The first special delivery went well, but the next one is next month via San Francisco, and the port authorities on the Bay are more familiar with the old tricks and are close to the FBI. 

By the way, speaking of large commitments hastily entered into, I have recruited our old merchant marine friend for some of the work on the water with our special delivery. He is glad of the money, but reminds me about his his writing career, and I am still anxious about satisfying that promise. I have recruited Miss K. as a second eye --she is young, but has good taste, and she assures me that his stories are "fun." 

I just don't know. Placing a few shorts in pulp magazines is not going to make a career. . . Perhaps we could arrange for him to sell some movie rights?

Your suite in Arcadia will be ready by the middle of next month, if you care to join us for American Thanksgiving. If not, enjoy your November, and we will see you at Christmas.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Christ Stops at Kingcome: Yarns of the Plantation

A Viking Yarn
Kingcome Inlet is, as has been mentioned before, a mainland region opposite Port McNeill, the site of my senior high school. The site of the Dzawada'enuxw First Nation reserve, it has sent its children across the strait to be educated in Alert Bay (First Nations) and Port McNeill (White).

So I could say something about how poisonously racialist policies work on the ground, but I won't. The point here is that Kingcome, to which I have never been, is a bog-standard "early" mission site, where a small number of early missionaries, along with some provincial technocrats, established a cattle-raising, pastoral society on land previously used to grow camus bulb to eak out the returns of the sea. The ranching days didn't last, and they're now trying to restore the estuarine meadows to their "pristine" state, but Kingcome may, or may not be a model for understanding Gardar. (More dramatically, Erik the Red might, indeed, be an Eskimo.)

"Christ stops" at Eboli, the end of the rail from Naples. The action in Christ Stops at Eboli takes place beyond Eboli, in the hills of the Basilicata of Lucania, where an internally-exiled Carlo Levi ministers to poor, ignorant peasants, far beyond the reach of modern civilisation. More dramatically, I always think of a Venetian mariner, who once told me about sailing out of Naples at night, and seeing the light of fires above the forest belt, high in the mountains, and supposing to himself that those primitive hill folk lived a life unaltered since the days before Christ. 

Either he'd read Levi, or this was a common cliche. Probably the latter. As it  happens, if those primitives emigrated to B.C., they would live in nice houses, just a little outside Prince George, so that they could afford big back yards, screened from the road by a woodbreak, so that Mama won't be ashamed of the big backhoe discretely parked away on its semi-trailer bed, waiting for Papa to hitch it up again and head out into the woods on another two-week stint of building and maintaining roads and bridges for logging operations. 

I don't know what that says about anything, except that Levi was pedallling patronising cliches. It is a shout-out to my sister-in-law, although her papa had a place to put his machine, and didn't have to take it home with him, which meant that he could live in the city, back in the day before he retired to follow his grandchildren to Campbell River. And as I love my sister-in-law and my nephews and neices, so I am not inclined to believe that Christ really stopped at Eboli. (There's an entire section of Corrupting Sea about Christ not stopping at Eboli, so it's not like I'm being original, here.)

Specifically, the question is whether he stopped at Nanook:

If you're thinking "Nanook of the North," you can be forgiven. Nanook is one of a number of archaeological sites near the old Hudson's Bay post of Kimminut, on the south (Hudson's Bay) coast of Baffin Island. and archaeologists were directed to it by local Inuit. 

Well known, easy to reach, available to archaeologists --a perfect place to look for Norse. Nor were the scientific archaeologists from the south by any means the first.

A Dorset drum recovered from Bylot Island, now at the Canadian Museum of Civilisation.  Source.
To Eastern Arctic Inuit, the Tuniit were  an enigma and a legend.. Who could resist a piece like this, recovered from an ancient site? Surely these ancients, giants, dwarves and shamans, had a connection with the spirit and the land that could be recovered by beating their screaming drums. Driven off the land by the ancestors of the Inuit, the shades of the Tuniit lingered in the mossy tent rings of their people. 

Or, they're Irish. Crazy as Farley Mowat was, the bits of The Wayfarers that wanders along the coasts of Newfoundland touches real, if neglected history --Nineteenth Century history, to be sure, when the Beothuks "disappeared" by becoming ordinary Newfies, but neglected history, all the same. The point is, giants, Irish, if everyone else can be romantic about the Tuniit, so can I.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Benedict's Atlantic: The Last Emperor, the Second Crusade, the Fall of Lisbon, and the Plantation of the Atlantic

It's not a point that gets the attention it deserves, but on 23 May, 1147, an army of, uhm, let's say, ten thousand men, embarked on 150--200 ships, sailed from the Dartmouth, bound for the Holy Land --and fully expecting to get there. 

Dates can get a little unmoored. We have an image of a "medieval" feast as involving candied citron, figs, dates, raisins and sweet Malmsey, and sailing from Devon. That's where Sir Francis Drake comes from, after all! The diet implies the Levant trade. Ladies of Spain, and the wind, imply the West of England. "From Ushant to Scilly is forty-five leagues." 1147 is "medieval." Sou'west winds carry Joseph of Arimathea, citron of Candy, out of the Levant, from Santiago de Compostella to the pastures green. As if to make it all the more uncanny, we have the vast deposits of sub-Roman African Red Slip Ware at Tintagel Castle, where Arthur was conceived, at least as of 1135.

The problem comes when you try to moor 1147. It is seventy-nine years from the conquest, for example, 158 years from Erik the Red's arrival in Greenland, 94 years before the death of Snorri Sturlusson, nine years after the Battle of the Standard, in the midst of the Anarchy of Stephen and Matilda, just after Geoffrey of Monmouth writes, and while William of Malmesbury was composing. It is also not actually the earliest date at which we know North Sea society could mobilise such an effort, since an English fleet appeared off the Levant in March of 1098, pushing the economic context back another two generations, with Sigurd the Crusader's six-year adventure from here to there and back again to place in between. Which I will, if only to get in mention of Sigurd's crusading around Lisbon. If the Levant trade is, indeed, already centuries old in the Twelfth Century, then Sigurd's sailors would have known the Tagus-mouth well. That it is about to become Portuguese in no way erases an obscure past in which it was already a waypoint on the Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land in spite of lying well within al-Andalus, as we anyway know from, of all sources, Adomnan, for a Gallic bishop fetched up, shipwrecked, on the Iona of Adomnan, and furnished him with the information he needed to write a guidebook for the Holy Land, presented to a Northumbrian king in 698.

The difference is, before 1147, these are rousing adventures. In 1147, it was a crusade, and it stuck. There's a difference. I'm guessing that it has to do with St. Benedict.

St. Benedict, not exactly as pictured. Tangent Cafe on Commercial, so way too cool for school.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Recap, II: Economies, 1939 to 1943 as the On-Ramp to 194Q (Learning By Doing Number)

Koxinga: Because Taiwan is rich, and who, in 1950, would have thought it?

What do we make of Henry Luce? One thing we make is the terrible old man of the China Lobby, Madame Chiang's dupe, the patron of Whittaker Chambers, the enabler of McCarthyism. Or you could dig down, notice the Wikipedia article's provocative language in describing Luce's "lifelong partnership" with Briton Haddon. Suddenly one imagines a gay demimonde around Luce, Chambers and Alger Hiss that puts the whole McCarthy era in a framework of an intimacy that dares not declare itself, sordid only in its secrecy, infinitely less consequential than ever supposed. (And how did William F. Buckley go on through the forty years in which his wife appears to have been an invalid and shut in. Once we start inferring and implying there is no end!) 

Or I could talk about politics: about China, and about Chiang's Taiwan, advancing so improbably (at least by comparison with America's Latin American clients) into First World status. Surely that is a vital part of the story of 194Q! If I did, I would talk about family politics, too. Luce, like my maternal grandfather, was born to Presbyterian missionary parents active in China. Luce, however, was born in Penglai, Shandong, my grandfather in England, while his mother was on leave from Xiamen, Fujien. The doctor of Vernon, British Columbia, was thus linked to Xiamen in Fujien the remote, pirate-beset land, far beyond difficult mountains, poor and sea-girt, which produced Koxinga, last Ming loyalist and the conqueror who colonised Taiwan with Hokkien speakers. Shandong, in contrast, plays a central role in China's earliest history. The state of Lu in Shandong is the birthplace of Confucius, and the old implication was that he was born near one of the early capitals of the Shang dynasty. Shandong is older, and more purely Chinese, than even the heartland of the later Shang, never mind of the  latter-day Zhou dynasty that was declining away in Confucius' day, But, that Shandong is on the lower reaches of the Yellow River, where "China's Sorrow" curls like a snake against the mountains of peninsular Shandong, uncertain whether to lunge to the sea to the north or the south of the peninsula. Those mountains, in Confucius' time, were inhabited by barbarians, and so there you have Penglai, close, but not too close, perhaps not close enough, to the heart of the Chinese state. In the end, Luce's friends evacuated to Taiwan and imposed a north Chinese, Mandarin-speaking superstructureon the Fujianese, and the aboriginals before them. So, also, my Grandfather became a Marxist, where Luce was a Republican, and engaged in screaming rows with his mother China that disturbed family harmony and passed into legend.

That's my way of trying to imagine Luce as an insider-outsider-insider, enacting terrible politics out of an alienation he could never acknowledge, because now I am going to talk about Fortue as optimistic and progressive, a voice that deserves revival.  Fortune said that there would not be a depression after the war, that there would not be unemployment and misery, and against the doubters, conjured up a near-future postwar year of full prosperity, a year of televisions and deep freezes, Minute Maid in the fridge and Eggos in the toaster. As it turns out, Fortune was more than right. America had not one, but thirty, more or less, years of "Q." I leave it to economists to explain this, and social critics to unpack its various dark sides. The world is richer than even Luce's Fortune imagined it would be in late 1943, certainly richer than good Communists thought it would be when they argued with their mother's in the Okanagan gloaming of the mid-1950s. Who, again, would have thought that Chiang, of all people, would make Taiwan, of all places, work? 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Postblogging Technology, September, 1945 II: Praying for a Good Victory

Group Captain R_.C_., OBE,
c/o Chateau Laurier,
Ottawa, Canada

Dearest Father:

This package may be held for you at the desk for quite some time, the way things are going, but I am aiming at you via the most likely destination, and this means that our courier will not have to carry it across the Atlantic, instead of other important materials. 

I know that I sound like a shrew, nagging you this way, but now that you have confirmed your Christmas visit, may I appeal to your better nature for a visit to Santa Cruz for Thanksgiving as well? The reason is that the university's San Francisco benefactos have proved less than forthcoming, and the Engineer's son believes that a winter trip to Europe will be fodder for the gossip columns. I think he may be overestimating his stardom, but the business demands a healthy ego, and I am anyway not eaget to spend time in his company, reforming his ways. This is not another waspish comment on his personality. He's just a flake, and it is  hard to restrain myself and be ladylike when he starts talking about politics in terms of things that belong in pulp magazines. 

My point, before I digressed into saying unpleasant things about a distant relative, is that since he is not going, "Miss V.C." must. Hopefully, she will charm the general's toes into a curl, win a renewal of the papers he holds, and earn the Engineer's gratitude, if there is such a thing. She will be flying out early (it has been arranged with her instructors), so that one of the Fathers can chaperone her on the way. Unfortunately, he will be in Rome for his full sabbatical, and "Miss V. C." will fly the Atlantic alone in charge of BOAC, picking up your youngest as a travelling companion in Montreal for the trans-continetal leg. (Whether you and your wife want to meet them in Vancouver and fly down together is up to you, as we haven't bought the tickets from Montreal on, yet.) She very much wants to pick your brain about of Atlantic air, especially after the oh-so colourful stories our courier likes to tell. 

Fat Chow returned, not coincidentally, on the same ship he travelled out on. He formally proposed to Miss v. Q. in the brotherhood's garden. It will be a civil service, since Fat Chow does not believe it will serve his bride well for their union to be widely known, even at Berkeley. I was there to see Queenie's relief when she heard, and young Miss K, ostensibly immersed in childhood things, perked up noticeably when Queenie talked of lynchings and beatings.

Wong Lee tells us, in strictest confidence, that the beneficiaries of the mortgages are not  named, which means that the papers are not sensitive. Though it is possible that the materials in the Harrimans' hands are more sensitive. 

Uncle George writes from Vancouver, where he is meeting with Easton. As you will have heard, with the war over and reconciliation achieved, the young man will be taking over active management of the shipping side of affairs from Hongkong. This is rather tricky business, as the first special load is expected, in San Diego, next week. He is still waiting on you before flying to Los Angeles, where he hopes to close out his friend's business with the network, which is about to go very sour, as his friend has decided not to return to his show when it resumes in a week's time. This will trigger the breach-of-contract clause, and since the network cannot use its "morals" weapon, it will presumably turn on the pre-recording issue. Our friend can now show that there is a better alternative than disc recording, and, hopefully, separate from the network. Whether the young men down at Santa Cruz can actually deliver an equipment that will operate in studio conditions is, unfortunately, another question. The best guess now is, not until next summer.

Speaking of business indefinitely delayed, Tommy Wong writes that the business of his squadron has picket up in recent weeks. It might be, he says, two, or five, or even twelve years before they need to do this work for real, and they need to get some practice in before returning to weather flying.  

In the meantime, you will have heard from your youngest, at least if I can twist his ear by long-distance. He tells me that he is settling in at school, although he is not used to being held to account on his maths!

I should finally mention that your newest grand-daughter is a charmer, and you should not delay a second before you meet her!  


Friday, October 23, 2015

Postblogging Technology, September 1945, I: Family Atomics

From Nyrath's Atomic Rockets site. Best webpage ever!

R_. C_. (Group Captain, RCAFVR, Ret.),
The Athenaeum,
London, U.K.

Dear Father:

Please accept everyone here's congratulations on taking the bull by the horns and tendering your resignation. I had the feeling that with all the atomic fever these days, you might have been held in limbo for as long as you chose to delay your decision, and you are needed far more in Vancouver than in endless meetings, trying to peer in through the clouds that hide the future of our new atomic age.

You will be glad to know that I am out of hospital and fully ambulatory, although I shall not be able to ride until after surgery and rehabilitation, which Doctor Rivers has me down for in December. And that is probably as much as you, a man, wants to know! I have been introducing the twins to their baby sister, who was in such a hurry to see the world, and making their acquaintance again. Thank Heavens for Fanny and Judith!

Thank Heavens, too, for  Uncle Henry, who visited me repeatedly in hospital. Ironically, he could not see me during my time in Permante, Oakland, although I was in no shape to entertain visitors! Still, he is enormously pleased at the work done by his hospital, and has been working up a speech on the importance of health and highways in the postwar world. Ideally, he needs a few more alliterating desireables for his "Post-War Four Points," but Permanente and an American autobahn are a good start. Now if only I can persuade him to leave the Satsuma money where it is. The last thing anyone needs to hear is of Japanese investors in Frazer-Nash.

As for our business here, Miss v. Q., your correspondent of the last month, has at last made her much-talked of journey to Virginia, to gingerly feel out just what kind of work might be available for a polyglot of her talents in the new work of no-more-Pearl-Harbours. It was very much a rush, as she had to be back in town for the beginning of classes, so she will be return in December, hopefully this time as a married woman, for Fat Chow is now expected at the end of the month. Your youngest practically flew over us in his haste to reach MIT and "real engineering" classes, with so little time in San Francisco on the layover that we ended up sending "Miss V.C." out with a care package. She has since been amusing us with unladylike improvisations of a chant which begins "Rooty-toot, rooty-toot, we are the girls [lads] of the Institute. . . "

Speaking of "Miss V.C." she is now fully roped into Lieutenant A_.'s round of San Francisco visits around the Gold Coast. As he is perhaps not the most charming of spokesmen for this oh-so-sensitive business, our old friend, the Engineer's natural son, is in for the ride as well. (Actually, he is charming enough, if he can avoid making a bad impression by breaking an antique vase. Just ask your cousin about that, as any excuse to talk about it. . . ) This makes "Miss V.C." all the more important. Not only does she have working tyres on her car, but she is the only one of the three who is actually attending the university! To the extent that the mortgage holders are at all motivated by the Governor's oh-so-noble goal of educating the youth of California with ill-got British investors' money, perhaps a representative of the new generation will help. 

If, on the other hand, it is a matter of the interest rate which the university can afford to pay on the instruments, probably not. I hear that the Trustees are increasingly focussed on the paper held by this general in Berlin. It's the Harriman stake, and might be enough to cover the university's needs, with stringent economy. Will "Miss V_.C_." might soon be taking her European grand tour under the most unusual circumstances?

The thought of "Miss V.C." having a Berlin adventure is, almost, enough to make me hope for the success of the project. After all, if exchange controls are maintained in Britain, we shall not need to take up another line of work to keep the Earl and his friends in sorts, after all. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Soldier From the Wars Returning: A Recap: And the First in a Series, It Looks Like

Chris Friedrichs reminds me of the need for a recap, which is nice, since mining my own archives is something that I don't need library time to do. 

It also makes me feel bad, because he also told me about hosting a TV event connected with the NDP childcare promise (which I totally support!) for Thomas Mulcair in his garden, because now I am going to be a bad student and betray my family's long tradition of NDP support by endorsing the Liberal Party. 

Bench Grass endorses the goober. Notasshole who is the second choice, and certainly not the asshole we have right now. And not the Greens, because, well, Kotos explains. This isn't a decision reached out of some deep commitment to principle. Bench Grass is very, very tired of scraping up labour at work, and sees a lot more of that in a future in which we elect a government committed to reducing the Canadian public debt. The problem is that there's too little debt already.

Moving right along, it's time for the recapping. What needs recapping? Technology? That's . . .kind of a big thing to recap. Also, if you've been paying attention, my view is that the history of technology is not exogenous to economic and social history; something of relevance to both 1945 and 2015. 

So, if there's a single thing that jumps out at me in the news from August of 1945 that doesn't involve the end of World War II, the atomic bomb, and the transformation of the Japanese state, it is Alvin Hansen's departure from the Federal Reserve. He's the soldier, and he's going home to teach at Harvard. Get it? Time to drink stone wine, etc? 

I tried. So. Time magazine is not kind to Professor Hansen in that 23 August, 1945 article. It's a coup against the old Keynesian by the President and his preferred monetary adviser, the superbly-named "Marriner Stoddard Eccles." (He's no Kennesaw Mountain Landis, but who is?) Hansen is a dangerous "left winger," whose policies are likely to stoke the inflation that Eccles sees coming. 

Well, my friend, consider that battle won. Inflation turned out not to be the problem. I might write a different sentence if this was the 1970s, but I'm choosing to declare 2015, instead, as the end of the short run and the moment when we have to face the problems that stem from mistakes made in 1945. .
The CSLP was introduced in 1964.  It was designed to supplement the resources of individuals and their families by providing loans to full-time students who could demonstrate need.  The Government of Canada set the interest rate, and paid the loan interest during. . . enrolment and for six months afterwards . . .  Borrowers were given up to 9.5 years to repay . . .

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Postblogging Technology, August 1945, II: Unconditional Love

Group Captain R_. C_.,
OC Special Intelligence Interpretation Unit,
RAAF Richmond,
NSW, Australia. 

Fatherly Brother:
One more note from me from San Francisco. You will be glad to hear that your daughter-in-law is to be released from the hospital next week, that your grand-daughter flourishes, as also the twins under the care of Fanny and Mrs. Judith. Babies, babies, you will say, and well you might! Certainly I shall, at least when I get back from Napa, and before I am off to Virginia. What an exciting life I lead! 

Things will not be all domestic for your return, however. We have word that the Navy is to send your son to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the Fall term. But Brother George's ship is expected in Vancouver next month. All are disappointed to hear that you must fly to London before your release. Nevertheless, Christmas in Santa Clara!

Here at home, "Miss C." and "Miss V.C." combine to bring interesting word. Apparently, the low interest rates are presenting some difficulties to the university as it seeks to renew certain mortgages written at its foundation. Their sixty year terms are up at the end of the year, and the holders have expressed some reservations about renewing at current terms. The interesting point here is that the  instruments are said to be very candid in certain matters, specifically in naming a certain former President as co-beneficiary. And so did the Governor provide for his bastard, you might say. But the point is an individual is not, and cannot be, a charitable institution. Investors with long memories, I am told, might still take some personal satisfaction in getting their money back. 

Or, more likely, a bit of judicious blackmail --it is not as though this is likely tobe allowed to become public! Now here is the thing. The Engineer has conceived the notion that "Lieutenant A" is the young man to call around San Francisco, and perhaps elsewhere (I am told that there is even  a brigadier in Berlin holding a note) to get the matter settled and the mortgages rolled over. This is where "Miss V.C." is concerned, because somehow an arrangement for her to drive Lieutenant A around the city has been proposed. Well, driving is courting in these parts --I am not sure about espionage!

We shall see if there is a safe in a Gold Coast mansion for Wong Lee to investigate at the end of this; and whether the Engineer is more embarrassed to be known as the son of the Governor, or as a half-caste, whether or not his mother was an "Indian princess." 
There's something about Mr. A if she's still willing to see him after three months of B.O. . . .

I Remain Your Most Humble and Obedient Little Sister,
v. Q

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dandridge MacFarlan Cole and the Educational Complex State

Federal student loan principal relief is granted through a complex process which considers the interests of all stakeholders.
While I try not to overload this blog with my personal life, I do not think that it is entirely irrelevant to the idea of an "Educational Complex State" that I am working closing manager shifts from Sunday to Friday continuously this week. It is for that reason that I propose to spend next Saturday watching Netflix and gently drooling on myself, and if guilt does drive me to the library, it will certainly not drive me to finish "Postblogging Technology, August 1945, II." In fact, popping into the library for a few hours might be a nice compromise. 

Edit: Forgot to link to myself!

So. Statscan yesterday:

On July 1, 2015, Canada's estimated population was 35,851,800, up 308,100 or 0.9% over the last year (2014/2015). Although this was the lowest population increase since 1998/1999, it was the largest increase among the G7 countries over the most recent comparable annual period.
For the first time, the number of persons aged 65 years and older exceeded the number of children aged 0 to 14 years.
Population growth slows
Preliminary estimates show that the annual population growth rate slowed to 0.9% in 2014/2015, down from 1.1% in 2013/2014. This was mainly driven by a slowdown in international migration growth, from 0.7% in 2013/2014 to 0.5% in 2014/2015.
Chart 1
Population growth rate in Canada
Between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, Canada received 239,800 immigrants, down from 267,900 in 2013/2014. In addition, the number of non-permanent residents decreased (-10,300) for the first time since 1997/1998.
Although international migration growth slowed, it remained the main lever of population growth, accounting for 60.8% of the population growth in 2014/2015. In comparison, natural increase accounted for 39.2% of the population growth.
Canada's population growth is the highest among the G7 countries
For the most recent comparable annual period (see the note to readers), Canada's population growth rate (+0.9%) was the highest among the G7 countries, exceeding that of the United States (+0.7%), the United Kingdom (+0.2%), France (+0.2%), Germany (+0.1%), as well as Italy and Japan, whose populations were stable.
The big takeaway here in the news is that the number of old people keeps growing. Hey, that's me! The one that I want to look at is the datum that the rate of population growth in Canada declined again.  This isn't unprecedented, but it is the lowest figure since 1998, and the 1998 figures are adequately explained by the whole "Boom, Bust and Echo" thing. 2015 has no such excuse. 

We're also clearly bad at predicting stuff. When will Canada reach a population of 40 million (low count)?  2036, Statscan said in 2009. Wait, no, 2060! I'd give the number from the 2000 projections, but apparently the Statscan server has eaten it. 

I point these things out because, if you're living in Vancouver, and unless you're looking for work as an LPN (good news!) or RN (not so good news!), the issue is real estate. Is there a housing bubble in Vancouver?

No, said the Real Estate Board in 2014: a net 30,000 people will move to Vancouver each year through 2041, leading to an increase in population from 2.2 million to 3.4 million, and a requirement for 574,000 additional housing units. The chart accompanying their optimistic projection, which shows interprovincial migration to the province going positive for the first time since 2011, is entertainingly described as indicating the beginning of the trend that will continue for the next generation. Metro's data from the summer of 2015, when we were having an argument about new taxes to fund transit expansion (it's totally meany-pants to keep funding the busses with property taxes, you see) shows a net increase of 1,068,000, 2011--41. The major difference between Metro's numbers and the Board's appears to be that the population changes that have already happened have been adjusted down to what has actually been observed. Going forward, we'll be back to the +30,000 number in jig time!

It takes some digging to discover that these numbers are all "medium growth" projections. Until the day that Statscan buys a new TRS-80, it will be impossible to say for sure whehter its numbers have continuously disappointed on the low side of the "low projection," but all signs point to "yes."

In conclusion,

Well, not actually a conclusion, as such. You've never heard of Dandridge MacFarlan Cole, and neither, frankly, have I. I just followed a "notable Martin Marietta individuals" at the bottom of the Wiki page, only to find that he's not actually a famous aerospace person. That is the entire sum of this week's profound thought. That and pictures.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Louche and Technical Appendix About Colour Fixatives

Dragon trees,by Ludwig. Source.

On 22 March, 1951, Ian Douglas Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll (1903--1973), married Margaret --Sweeney, I think?-- anyway, the woman born Margaret Wigham (39), a Celanese heiress, of all things.  This post is apparently not going to get very far past chemical engineering! A "few years later," per Wikipedia, the jealous Duke arranged to have a locksmith break into a secured cabinet in their Mayfair pied-a-terre.

Compromising pictures were found, and some other evidence leading to a long list of suspected lovers, including Sigismund v. Braun, the diplomat older brother of rocket scientist Wernher v. Braun, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Duncan Sandys, former son-in-law of Sir Winston Churchill, upon whom suspicion immediately fell --but, on that, I'll let the point of this post hang for a moment. The divorce trial ended with the Judge observing that Lady Argylle's insatiable sexual appetite was such that, well, the divorce could proceed, and a private investigation came to the conclusion that "the headless man" could not be Sandys, as the pubic hair shown curled wrong, or something.
One of these is Argyll, the other isn't. Photographer not named, from Pinterest: Shelley Gibbon via Shinjanee

This, it turns out, was a mistake. There were actually "two headless men," and one of them was Sandys. Margaret, apart from almost certainly suffering from some kind of bipolar disorder --like virtually all the principals except perhaps Ritter v. Braun, albeit his brother being very much involved in things going up and down-- went about as far as she could to hint that the headless man was Sandys. They were Polaroid pictures, she pointed out, and in those days, the only Polaroid ---"polaroid" camera in England was held at the Air Ministry, where Sandys was. . . 

Well, here we are again, circling the story back. Sandys was a Churchill man in the late 1930s, attacking the Ministry for being wet on defence. In 1937, he was made a Royal Artillery officer in Anti-Aircraft Command, and on 1 June 1938, Sandys asked a question in the House which cited the actual number of the new 3.7" AA guns in Army service. The information was secret, and although Sandys was eventually not prosecuted on grounds of the immunity of the House, the question of just where he had received the information from remained a problem until his father-in-law became Prime Minister.

God only knows what would have happened had his father-in-law been aware that Sandys was cheating on his wife, that he was sharing his lover with a German diplomat, or that he had borrowed a polaroid camera from the Air Ministry to take salacious pictures. And why was the only polaroid camera in Britain kept under security at the Air Ministry, anyway? 

Also, ick. Like I said, I have some sympathy for Margaret, but, contra the Australian patent troll, the medical uses of lithium were known in 1937, lithium bromide having been isolated in the 1850s as an active ingredient in some of the chalybeate springs traditionally resorted to by maniacs or their families. So she could have sought treatment; but as for maniacs who don't, people, and that most definitely includes Duncan Sandys, shouldn't take advantage of them.

Off the soapbox, and on the problem here.. Polaroid camera? Didn't Edwin Land premiere the first instant camera to a breathless New York audience on 21 February 1947, and wasn't the first "4lb Polaroid Land Camera Model 95 was on sale at the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston for $89.75?"

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Postblogging Technology, August 1945, I:Polarising Moments

Group Captain R_. C_.,
OC Special Intelligence Interpretation Unit,
RAAF Richmond,
NSW, Australia. 

Venerated Fatherly Elder Brother:Greetings to you and the Brethren of Australia:

With apologies for my presumption, I have taken up the brush for Mrs. C. You will be pleased to hear that Doctor Rivers has had her transferred from Oakland to more suitable care in San Francisco. The good doctor is still on furlough, although there is now no chance of his being called back to the Corps, and he is able to give mother and daughter his full attention. He hopes that Mrs. C. will be discharged within the next two weeks, and says that our little Vickie will suffer no long term effects, although Mrs. C. will require minor surgery when she is well. and of course she is under strict instructions to rest for at least another week whle she recovers from her ordeal. The twins, luckily, are too young to understand what has happened, and seem content enough in Fanny's care. 

And that is the private business! Of course you will have heard of Hiroshima and of Nagasaki, only a few days later. My heart was, understandably, in my throat, until I heard from Admiral Stump through private channels that Fat Chow was hale and hearty and in Tokyo. I gather that your youngest had something to do with this, and that it will be an interesting story if it ever comes out, which the Admiral has promised it never, ever will. It seems a little reckless for an American plane to land in Japan hours after an atomic attack, but I gather it was decided that Mr. H. had to be in Tokyo that night. Admiral Stump did suggest that Eldest Brother might want to look into the decision to attack Nagasaki. I hadn't the heart (or perhaps the recklessness, since his reputation protects us) to tell him that Eldest Brother is fading quickly. I have, however, mentioned it to "Miss V.C." And who knows? Perhaps someone will mosy up to me while I am in Virginia next month and volunteer the information. 

I hope that my lack of technical education will not leave these letters entirely barren of interest, but if I have not cared much for technological news in the past, technology, it turns out, has cares for me. I also apologise for not having more details about the "atomic bomb," but none of the papers we have been following have recovered their wits enough to give an account, and the ones I have read in the papers make no sense to me at all. One has left me with the distinct impression that the Air Force must have dropped a swimming pool (full of "heavy" water, no less) on Hiroshima, 

 I have had Tommy Wong at my side, fortunately, and he has explained the confusion well enough, but then he screwed up his face and stressed very heavily that some of these details really were secret, all slips and revelations in the press aside, and now I am petrified of sharing them with you, even in the old code --not least because I would need a whole slew of words that do not appear in the Classic of Documents! Or the Romance of the Nine Kingdoms, which I actually have read now. 

Queenie, if you were wondering, had a most undramatic delivery, and will be home tomorrow, ending my precious week's freedom as a glamorous San Francisco single gal with her own flat and inaugurating my new career as associate volunteer aunt. 

I Remain Your Most Humble and Obedient Little Sister,

v. Q.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Technical Appendix That is a Bleg for a Water-Cooled Slide Rule And Better Cashiers

Edit: Material completely not relevant to post, as opposed to comments, way down at the bottom.

I had not intended to do a technical appendix this week; but looking at my work schedule, I'm not sure I want to rush into August I

Besides, losing a day's work in a second failed autsave fiasco in two weeks leaves me with a backlog of images to inflict on you.

You've seen this one:

Horace, the Tame Stressman, is my hero. Look, a nerd before their time! Shackleton is also burying the lede here, because Horace is blowing smoke rings (although he describes them as "stationary vortices," which is hilarious if you've read too many first-half-of-the-last-century aerodynamics papers than any sane man should), and you know who else blows smoke rings?

Sure, the joke has been revised for our times. (Heh, heh, he said "revised.") But I like to think  that we're actually tapping into the mind of 1945 here. Horace is a wizard, but he does it with a slide rule, and not magic. Not that Gandalf does much magic, either, fabulous smoke rings apart.

Also, I'm posting enough multimedia to push this down far enough that it won't jigger up the front page. 

Speaking of culture, there's a lot to be learned about a British "engineering industry" work culture from the old Desoutter ads. First, forget the mustache. It's just a running gag. (Ordinarily, thirteen year-old boys don't normally have handlebar mustaches. Come on, it's funny!) 

"Our oldest employee" neither likes, nor is afraid of his boss. He's immovable, though, because he knows what he's doing, "not good enoughs" notwithstanding. He's been training thirteen year-olds for years, gruffly, but probably not badly. Those thirteen year-olds go on to make patterns and jogs. amongst other things. There's no implications that they do designs on drafting boards --I might be old enough to have to explain with tongue out of cheek that the academic-looking fellow in the bow tie is holding a drafting tool for producing right angles called a T-square under his arm, so that, in spite of his other-worldly, English-professor mien, we can take if for granted that he's a good technical drawer. This is harder than it looks, especially if you've a less-than-average endowment of manual dexterity, and your instructor will probably prefer to work on the basis of a course in Euclidean geometry, but it is not really necessary. 

Just stop here for a second and wrap your mind around a time when good illustration skills are complementary and substitutable for math. Horace, and our grumpy, mustachioed old toolmaker are interchangeable on the Hawker Hart. 

Yet the times are a-changin'. The toolmakers aren't going away, but Horace is coming up. Desoutter needs a "water cooled slide rule" now. That much is conventional history. What we too rarely ask is to what extent it needs it because it's too much work to do all the drawings.