Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Bishop's Sea: Saint Colman, Saint Boniface and St. Tridwell, Pray for Us

I'm not going to go pointing fingers, but someone underperformed on the writing front this holiday long weekend. (In completely unrelated news, Captain Marvel was okay, but I --excuse me, someone-- was a bit disappointed by his first visit to Pineapple Hut on Burrard above Fifth Avenue Cinemas since Wonder Woman.) February technology postblogging comes next week. This week, I've practically been commissioned to put on the tinfoil hat and look at the Atlantic on the front porch of history --the phase in which Europeans might have crossed it early. 

I know, I know, it's inconsequential in the long run. The most plausible explanation for the historic trajectory of Eastern Woodlands civilisation remains endogenous change. The appearance of the cross motif in the earliest phases of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, about 900, has provoked wild speculation since the Nineteenth Century, which itself has tended to discredit the idea that known European activities on the western shore of the Atlantic in this period had any larger impact. The subsequent sequencing (1250--1450 for the mature "Southern Death Cult;" 1350--1450 for the attenuated Cult period; 1450--1550 for the post-Cult) is almost aggressively dissociated from the closing of the Atlantic gap. 

And yet there are the gaps, the mysteries, the attenuations that the crackpot loves. And, surprisingly enough, when we turn to northern Britain, it seems that crackpottery is all but triumphant.

Shell gorget recovered at Spiro Mounds. By Herb Roe, CC BY-SA 3.0, The cross motif has a number of interpretations, none of which involve missionary Scandinavian bishops wandering the wilderness preaching the word of Christ to the Lost Tribes of Israel.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

A Technical Appendix to January, 1949, II: Machine Tools, 1943 and 1949

According to Ibis World, the British machine tool industry had a projected revenue of £1.1bn, an annual growth rate for the period 2014--2019 of -5.4%, employed 15,181, and involved 1,027 businesses, compared with £30 million and 42,700 in 1948. (And £8.9 million and 22,400 in 1935). The negative growth rate is due to the downturn in commodities (so oil and mining dominate the British scene, I guess.) To frame these numbers, the "red-hot" American scene is projected to buy $8 billion in machine tools in 2019. (Note that I am not adjusting for inflation.)

That reminds me of last week, when I took my bike into the shop for the first time in over two years, and got the usual mechanic's litany of "We had to replace this, and this, and this, and then we discovered that this had to go. Then there was labour, and the GST, but we cut you a little break on that, so," with a pause and an apologetic look, he ended up, "It'll be $450."

If you drive a car, that's the punchline. If you don't, I'm not sure what I can do. My instinct is that bikes are getting cheaper, although some time spent noodling around looking at historic cost of living figures isn't exactly confirming that. The idea here is that, while the machine tool industry has lower employment than in  1949, it's just about as big as it ever was. It's just a bit irrelevant, because making things isn't such a big deal any more.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, January 1949, II: Long Playing

Edit: While I've left an incorrect title stand for a week without the sky falling, correcting it will be helpful to me.


We've been treated to three technology stories worth following up on this last week. The first, which should be the most pressing, is the loss of the third Avro Tudor airliner, which, incredibly, is not the end of the Tudor's time on the cross, with the Llandow disaster still to come. Second, Farnsworth Television has just been caught in a little fib. Somehow, the Fort Wayne, Indiana company has managed to lose money making televisions, and the NYSE takes a dim view of companies that issue stock to cover losses without mentioning the losses in the prospectus.  ITT will buy out Farnsworth in 1951, but, as near as I can tell, the takeover will be put in motion a bit sooner than that. Third, in contrast to the sordid tales of two unrelated business failures, Columbia has just introduced its new 33rpm long-playing vinyl record format, which will soon come to dominate the industry. I wouldn't say that these are related stories, but they do belong in some kind of compare-and-contrast discussion. 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Postblogging Technology, January 1949, II: Our Hearts Go Out for Avro

R_. C_.,

Dear Father:

Thanks for your kind concern. I am bearing up, I think, considering that I shot a man two weeks ago. Like you said, we tried to bring Mr. A. into the picture, since a foreign sailor found floating in the Bay is a matter for the spybusters, especially after we arranged a "tip" about his Green Tong membership. Unfortunately, the FBI immediately stepped in, with someone coming around to his office to tell him that he better keep his nose out of it, just like in a movie! This wasn't the end of it, because of course A. isn't without his own influence. I'm a little flabbergasted to report that no less than Shirley Temple was invoked. You'll note below that she was in Washington for the Inaugural, and of course she and A.know each other. The really flabbergasting part is that she knows ME! I am frankly beyond words that teenaged-me met Shirley TEMPLE(!!!!!) at a family gathering and didn't realise it! It says something about Temple that she can work a room so slickly.

Ahem. Close encounters with Hollywood stars in incognito aside, the upshot is that A. will be allowed to take over the case as soon as the Hoover Report leaves the front pages, so alphabetically-named agencies can step all over each other's feet again. In the mean time, everyone assumes that if you find a Tong man floating, it's because another Tong man's bullet managed to hit the target. (Insert hilarious joke about Tong men not shooting straight.) 

So, anyway, I mean, it's an urgent matter to me, but I've flowers and an apology wired from Shanghai in my room, which is either a bum steer or something is up. (The girls think they're from Reggie, and are wondering what he could possibly have done.) What could possibly be so sensitive about the Oregon Scandal seventy years on???

In other news, the millionth (okay, third) Avro Tudor to be lost is now history. I hear that James is telling everyone in sight that this is what you get when you let Don Bennett into your business, even though Bennett was out of BSAA well before the loss of Star Ariel. He is, however, creating a stink in the dailies about it being all due to "sabotage." What kind of maniac would sabotage an air liner? The suggestion that it is Avro's incompetence won't do, so I suppose we're all going to settle for blaming the Ministry of Civil Aviation. 

Yours Sincerely,

I'm a little surprised that the Tudor losses in the "Bermuda Triangle" don't get more play in the legend. In the mean time, I'm not going to let you forget some good old Marv Wolfman/Steve Gann goodness.