Wednesday, December 25, 2019

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, September 1949, II: Ferrite Age

That's the spirit. Now for something whitebread. CBC Radio's old time stable of local Can-Con did a Christmas album together! 

Christmas is a time for being nostalgic and remembering old-timey things. The problem here is that British Columbia is such a young province, that, apart from some generic big-band music, I'm digging into the Nineties here. Does that even count for nostalgia yet? If it does, Canada's Metal Queen  has some seasonal stuff. "Peace on Earth," And, yes, Michael Buble has a Christmas album, because of course he does. I'd honestly rather a tribute to the ancient concrete barn to which I will say goodbye on 16 January:

A Youtube search for a "Vancouver Christmas" does turn up something. It's tongue-in-cheek, but it is this year's Christmas in Vancouver.

(Bike lanes are funny.)

Speaking of old-time British Columbia, here's the picture I've been pushing down the page with gratuitous video inserts so that I can post it in its glorious original size. 
This is the Kemano high-voltage ("high-tension") line. It runs from Kemano Powe House 75 kilometers to the Alcan plant in Kitimat, British Columbia.  Kemano generates 890 MW from eight turbines that receive water from the twenty-six and a half million acre foot Nechako Reservoir on the high upper reaches of the Fraser River. The water is diverted through a 16km tunnel carved through  the Coastal Range, falling 800m from the heights of the Interior Plateau to sea level. Built from 1951 to 1954 by the province and Alcan, working together, because the provincial government could not be persuaded that such a project was feasible in such a small and remote province, the power lines are less interesting than most other aspects of the project. Nevertheless, the twin 300kV lines carried fully 35% of the power generated in the province in 1956. (And a super-imposed telephone voice channel, if you remember that bit of mid-century technology from earlier installments.)

Kemano I would not have been built without Alcan. There was no point in generating electricity so far from a major market. It would also not have been built for a plant at Kitimat much earlier than it was. Even a 75 mile high voltage (tension) line would have been too much. Nowadays, the Kemano project is controversial because Alcan would like to go through with Phase II, which is controversial both because of environmental reasons and because Alcan is suspected of wanting to shut the aluminum smelter down and selling all the power into the continental grid.

That's where this digression gets me to Engineering this month, and a vague awareness that we are getting an opening-night ticket to the Ferrite Age. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Iodised Salt and the Problem of Money in Science: A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, September 1949

Where I got this. (Not exactly the source, but fair's fair.)

So I was pretty gobsmacked when I discovered that a lobby of salt manufacturers were holding up salt iodisation in the United States in 1949 (and for a long time after that!) on the grounds that it amounted to "medication by legislation." I got a lot more gobsmacked when I learned just what the scale of the problem was, and one more time when I learned that salt iodisation still isn't mandatory in the United States. I guess I shouldn't have been, given that I grew up during the tobacco industry's rear guard fight, and am facing, like the rest of the world, the consequences of global warming denialism today. 

The actual issues involving the "medicalisation" of iodine have little to do with the tragic death of Little Nell, although iodine tinctures were important to the revolution in public health that prevented many tragic Victorian-era deaths. Here's a link to documents on sickness in the Royal Navy related to "Malta disease," which, in the literature, is actually brucellosis, against which the zealous application of tincture of iodine to all cuts and scrapes is a preventative, but not the cure-all the Granny thought it was.  I could have used actual images of goitre and cretinism as this post's thumbnail, but they're usually horrifying. I guess I'm complicit in sanitising the health risks of iodine deficiency, too. (Attention, salt industry, I want my Bjorn Lomberg money!)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Postblogging Technology, September, 1949, II: The End of the Great Siege

(When Suzy was due to come back from pregnancy leave in '53, her boss told her that "they'd decided to go in a different direction," and that's how Frosty's career was born.)

R_. C_.,
Lahore, Pakistan

Dear Father:

I hope this finds you well after your long flight. We have a telegraph from Rangoon. Wong Lee is going on to Shigatse, while Mrs. C. remains in seclusion at the Benevolent Association for coordination until we decide how to move a white woman across the frontier. A Sakya guide is being sought. You will be coordinating things at your end, but, if not, Wong Lee thinks he may have a way of getting you across the border in Ladakh. It's a formality by now, but we have definitive confirmation that the new American Oriental secret service fund is prepared to pay out if the Panchen Lama does not go to Shigatse. We are working on an angle where challenging Lhasa is "objectively" anti-communist. I have no idea how we're going to sell that, but I sure will be impressed when we do! Nothing like a share of seventy-five million dollars to get the blood flowing!

As for San Francisco, well, it's boring by comparison, that's all I can say. I'm enjoying law school and we took the Jeep up into Sonoma over the weekend, which was great fun. But driving a Jeep, even  a brand new Jeep around in tamed American hills isn't nearly as exciting as visiting the Tashilhunpo Monastery on yak-back. (They do ride yaks, don't they?) 

Yours Sincerely,

It's not Christmas music, but I don't care. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Postblogging Technology, September 1949, I: Viscount Ordered

R_. C_.,

Dear Father:

First week of law school, all that I hoped for! Reggie's getting a car! A Jeep, actually. I'm talking like a telegraph, because of a sudden we're helping Mrs. C. with the babies due to Fat Chow being called away to India and points beyond! (News from Lhasa re. Red Hats versus Yellow Hats Not Good.) Driving up to San Francisco for the weekend as soon as I mail this! Sally coming with to read me case files from the front seat of my luxurious new convertible, top down, beautiful Bay day, etc.  

Yours Sincerely,