Saturday, December 25, 2021

Postblogging Technology, September 1951, I: The Age of Inflation

R_. C_.,

Dear Father:

Well, you can see that the distractions of  setting up housekeeping, motherhood, my husband being on the other side of the country, and, oh, yes, second year law school isn't keeping me from my newsletter! I shall perhaps have more gossip to report when we are separated by more than the week since I saw you off on the train. There seems to be some glimmer of hope on the horizon that my magazines will finally start reaching me soon. In the meantime, Aviation Week is still the exception and the local library has The Economist and Newsweek. I could also get my hands on Time easily enough, but I'm happy to let Mr. Luce's organ take a break for a week. 

In the mean time, at least rubber balls full of gasoline are not plunging to the ground around us, which is always good news. (I tried to think of a joke that I could make about the scheme, but how do you make it more ridiculous?)

Your Loving Daughter,

Saturday, December 18, 2021

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging, July and August 1951: The Avon State


Way back in the 28 July number, The Economist wrung its hands, as The Economist was wont to do, over the aero-engine problem. This is a problem that, as far as I know, no-one else has ever heard of, but which is well worth another look, once extracted from my historicised postblogging voice and given the longer perspective that history of technology has denied it. It seems especially pressing when I am preparing to postblog September. We have a new month's worth of handwringing to deal with, this time over "the inflation state," Attlee calling the election, and the annual Farnborough show. I can't help but think that the last two are linked, that one reason The Economist is banging on about airplanes so much is that the Farnborough show has turned into a very exciting demonstration that the Attlee government is doing something right. It would, as usual, blow The Economist's cover to be too down on Farnborough and planes, in general, but one can get there by a short detour if the flesh is willing. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Bishop's Sea: Fine Corinthian Leather


There's something a little unfair about remembering a great actor and a great guy like Ricardo Montalban for a tagline from a commercial, but, come on, "Fine Corinthian leather." It's hilarious, and it reminds us of a distant day when Mediterranean leather products had a cachet of quality that industrial leather from more northerly climates just could not match. 

The product that comes immediately to mind when I think about this is chamois leather, which turns out to be a southwestern French product, but close on its heels in my free-associating mind is "Moroccan kid leather," an advertising tag rather than a specific industrial product. This turns out to be a specific product of exactly a national industry, "Morocco leather."  Per Wikipedia, it was a goatskin product, usually dyed, especially associated with the port city of Safi, imported into Europe since long before the late Sixteenth Century, when it became the bindery leather of choice for expensive book editions. Not surprisingly given that it is sourced to an entrepot city, the Wikipedia article goes on to indicate that much Moroccan leather was not from Morocco at all, and singles out northern Nigeria as a source.

Which, sure, why not. But today I want to talk about the Canary Islands.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Born For This Battle: An Update From the Leading Edge

It's time for an update from the Carbon Crisis!

 The North American craton has been heading west into the Pacific for some 200 million years. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels only exited the historic regime during the Korean War. Both historic trends are important as we put November to bed on Canada's West Coast. The direct cause of the tricky situation in which the Lower Mainland of the province of British Columbia, home to 3 million Canadians, now finds itself is admittedly a climate-change driven weather event, but the actual problem we now have is related to the untidy way that our home tectonic plate has been sorting out the terranes it has been acquiring for the last few geological ages. 

The  story is that Two weeks ago, on November 14--15, a major weather system made landfall on the West Coast, and delivered an unprecedented, or almost unprecedented amount of rain to the region. The Nooksack River, which usually drains Mount Baker (Boeing's Mount Baker) directly into the Salish Sea, unburdened itself of the resulting floodwaters into its big brother, the Fraser, via a long-since reclaimed slough, the Sumas Prairie. The flat land of the area having had an irresistible attraction to freeway engineers, the result was the closure of the Trans-Canada as well as significant flooding in a lightly-populated but heavily farmed area. The exact impact of this on local supplies of milk, eggs, poultry, and Christmas trees are unclear at this point. Flooding also affected two towns in the watersheds on the lee side of the coastal mountains. Downtown Princeton was flooded by the rising Tulameen and its distributary, the Similkameen, itself a tributary of the Columbia via the Okanagan, while  the town of Merritt on the Nicola, a tributary of the Fraser via the Thompson River, suffered an altogether more devastating flood when the flood breached the protection of the municipal waste water plant and knocked out all water services, forcing the complete evacuation of the community. 

At the same time, heavy water loads on unstable slopes denuded by a devastating summer fire season, and high water in mountain creeks damaged highway infrastructure. By the end of the rainstorm on Tuesday afternoon, all four highways and both of the two railways connecting the Lower Mainland and the Port of Vancouver with the rest of Canada were closed. Two highways, 99 and 3, were reopened on Friday the 19th on a limited basis. 

We have had two subsequent storms of equivalent magnitude, but as is not entirely uncommon with rain storms, without the same degree of devastation. Between emergency work on flood protection systems, and the blockage-clearing efforts of the first flooding, the rainfall of the subsequent storms was able to find its way to the sea without inconveniencing us too much. Unless something worse happens, this is the new normal for my province. And by this I mean a complete logistical fuckup, which  I will explore in this post.