Sunday, May 29, 2022

Postblogging Technology, February 1952, II: Elizabeth Again and Again Forever

R_. C_.,
Oriental Club,

Dear Father:

It looks like you'd better book your passage home with Canadian Pacific, because there might not be any airliners flying in America at the end of the month, to read the aviation press. All the stalwarts are sure that the three crashes at Elizabeth are just a terrible coincidence. If it's not, it has to be somethign serious. Reggie suggests that the CAA might have been allowing the airlines to get away with skipping maintenance and training, and the winter weather is catching up with us. If that's the case, planes are going to keep on falling out of the sky, and I don't know what will happen. The President is hiding under a rock, the Kefauver and Eisenhower campaigns are stumbling, and Taft and McCarthy are everywhere. I know I am not usually much to worry about politics, but I'm just off the phone with Reggie, who had some pent-up opinions about Kefauver and Stevenson that he wanted to get off his chest. While he personally supports Kefauver, he figures that Stevenson will get the nomination (the President can't win), because he is more "moderate" on civil rights. (Translation: He won't do anything.) Stevenson will promptly proceed to not win the election because he is, let us face it, a divorcee, and if Eisenhower doesn't come through, we are stuck with "Mr. Conservative," who will be as bad for the country as Hoover, and lose the Cold War in the bargain. 

Happy thoughts!

Your Loving Daughter,

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Postblogging Technology, February 1952: Elizabethan Age

The inclusion of a train into the funeral procession is interesting

Oriental Club,
London, England

Dear Father:

I hope you're enjoying the funeral! It sounds like so much more fun than the Bay in February. Well, I mean, it's a funeral, but it isn't like any of us knew George VI. Well,  you might have known him. Although his brother seems like more your speed. Who knows? Maybe Uncle George knew him? Probably not. We'd have heard about it.  I feel badly for the new queen, especially since I haven't been able to warm to her husband. At least over in Europe you can't hear the screams of anguish from the aviation industry, and possibly you can even pick up a newspaper that isn't front-to-back stories about whether Governor Stevenson will run. Good for gloomy old Britain!

Your Loving Daughter,

Saturday, May 14, 2022

"I Would Run Away to the Air:" Industrial History of Strategy, Great Britain, and WWII: Preliminary Comments on a Projected Outline


Morbid thought for the day: No book is ever finished, except by the author's death. Not that I have that to worry about a posthumous edition, having failed to sire me a Brian Herbert or Christopher Tolkien. 

On the other hand, I don't think I've ever committed an outline of what "I Would Run Away to the Air:"  Industrial History of Strategy, Great Britain, and WWII would look like. Which is just as well, considering my early notion that it would include a comprehensive wiki of mid-century industrial technology, a project that, in draft, was spiraling into hundreds of pages while being blatantly, obviously incomplete. 

I mean, what are you going to do with a project that needs to take synthetic poop and the Unified Thread Standard into account? The whole project would be completely insane were it not a response to Correlli Barnett's Audit of War, which essentially achieves the same project by simply spamming "If it's British, it's crap" for every entry. Any reply to Barnett's thesis would then appear to require going through the complete list of mid-century made things and explaining why Barnett is wrong about it. (Except for coal mining, where he's got something of a point about the problems, if not solutions.) 

Correlli Barnett is going to live rent-free in my head for my whole entire life. I've made my peace with it. Basically, this is a project in opposing an "industrial history of strategy" to a "production history of strategy," which further reduces to the claim that 50 fighters of a new design are much more than 1% of the production cost of a run of 5000, but be a gain, in that 50 MiG-17s are more useful than 5000 F4Us. 

Also, maybe it matters to the way we live our lives today, what with the technological change and the tech bro billionaires and all. 

Friday, May 6, 2022

The Bishop's Sea: From Cuba to the Canaries, Mining Language

 Shoutout to Allison Margaret Bigelow. I thought about using the frontispiece to her new book from the University of North Carolina Press* as the thumbnail image, but Paler Rider is a well-shot movie. Although at this late date I can't extract the shot of Megan riding down to the pelton wheel from the production's worst features. 

To be clear, we're here for the pelton wheel at the gold mining camp, although there's something to be said for Sydney Penny. I wonder if she could have had a career if the director had cared to do his duty by his teenaged co-star instead of burnishing his own legend?

This is going to be a short post about mining, language and the peopling of the colonial Caribbean, because I am so tired from a goofy work week that I had to look up how to spell "cinematography."

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Postblogging Technology, January 1952, II: Niobium and Zirconium and the Flying Enterprise

R_. C_.,

Dear Father:

For those in peril on the seas and skies. Captain Carlsen is back in America receiving a ticker tape parade for staying aboard the Flying Enterprise, but the people who died in the Sandspit and (first two) Elizabeth crashes are still dead, and I am sending this before the details of today's third crash at Newark Airport in three months have a chance to sink in.  

But is there something more to it? As you'll hear below, Newsweek has heard a rumour that the cargo included 50 tons of columbite ore, and columbite is a "niobate" of niobium, iron and manganese, I learn by visiting the science wing and looking it up in a geological dictionary. Niobium is, as Newsweek says, used in the "super alloys" that they use in axial jet turbine compressor blades, and in very small amounts of about 0.1%, which means that even 50 tons of ore is a lot of blades. So it would be quite a blow to aircraft production, but why would it be such a secret, and why was an ore mined in Brazil sailing from Europe? Captain Carlsen's heroics were meant to prevent the rescue tugs from making a salvage claim, and that is certainly important to the owners, but why are people treating him like a national hero? My imagination leaps to secrets so secret they even have to be kept from the British! And, because I am not an atomic physicist, to the fact that columbite contains uranium and thorium and is "radioactive to some degree." That might make it an atomic secret, which we are keeping from the British. And, of course, from day to day we are expecting the super-bomb! Put them together and I glimpse the outlines of some unguessable secret, inadvertently revealed by the half-wits of Newsweek. Sure, it is all made up in my head, but people are trying to keep secrets, they say so themselves! And just to get back to the top, three air crashes in three months at one airport, with one airplane after another just missing schools and orphanages, doesn't exactly fill me with charity for the powers that be. 

Your Loving Daughter,